Tuesday, February 20, 2018

The Sacrifice of Regret

“The Holy Spirit also testifies to us about this. First he says:

‘This is the covenant I will make with them after that time, says the Lord. I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds.’

Then he adds: ‘Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more.’ And where these have been forgiven, sacrifice for sin is no longer necessary.” (Hebrews 10:15-18 NIV)

For years I internally berated myself for many of the sinful choices I made in my youth after I had decided to follow Jesus. I had no problem putting the sins of my pre-Christian days behind me, but found it very difficult to do so with those after I acknowledged Him as my Savior and Lord. I had not blasphemed the Holy Spirit (Matthew 12:31), nor intentionally went on sinning (Hebrews 6:4-6). No, I just kept on sinning in ways that were appalling to me.

Have you ever felt that way, guilt-ridden, ashamed, and stuck in a vicious cycle of sin and self-condemnation? It is a miserable place to be and, during my early life, I spent much time there. And it is where our enemy desires us to remain. He wants us to be so overwhelmed by our sin that we feel ashamed, guilty, and hopeless. He takes advantage of the sorrow that naturally follows for anyone who has a good conscience. We feel bad, but then what?

Paul identifies two types of sorrow—godly sorrow and worldly sorrow. He says the former brings repentance, salvation, and leaves no regret, while the latter brings about death. (II Corinthians 7:10It is easy to conclude that he is referring to the experience we have when we come to Christ and give our lives over to Him. That’s how I once interpreted it. However, repentance is not a one-off thing; just as we sin repeatedly as believers, so also we are called to repent of these various sins, and then move on without regret. This is only possible if we truly believe and understand what we read in this passage in Hebrews. Because of Jesus’ sacrifice through His death on the cross, nothing more is needed on our part but to humbly accept the grace that is freely offered to us.

Yet, what we often do, just like I once did, is to offer up repeatedly to Him our sacrifice of regret. We are so, so sorry and we tell Him as well as ourselves long after the sin has been confessed, and forgiven. We act in a way that suggests His sacrifice was not enough; that more is needed. So we offer up over and over the sacrifice of regret. It feels right because we feel so bad. This is the worldly sorrow Paul speaks of, and if we remain there, it only leads to a deep emotional and spiritual dark hole that will eventually destroy us. 

Today, if you find yourself feeling ashamed of your sin and in the habit of offering the sacrifices of regret, know they are not necessary or wanted by your Savior and Lord. The sacrifice He made on the cross was sufficient. No other is needed. As John reminds us, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (I John 1:9 NIV) That is all that is required of you, and if you can do that, then you can move on in freedom and grace without regret.

© Jim Musser 2018

No comments: