In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near...” John’s clothes were made of camel’s hair, and he had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey. People went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River.
But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing, he said to them: “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not think you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire."
Matthew 3:1-2, 4-10
There is a point of view that is popular today which people often express in terms like the following: "I refuse to regret my past because all of my collective life experiences make me who I am today. Without that experience I wouldn't have learned a valuable lesson. I wouldn't be who I am today." I believe wholeheartedly that this point of view is foreign to the Bible. All throughout the New Testament we find the theme of repentance. We are called to repent of our sin before we turn to Christ, and in fact, Scriptures like the following indicate that without true repentance we are not Christians at all (Acts 2:37-39, 3:19, 20:21, II Peter 3:8-10). Repentance has often (and aptly) been described as turning our back on sin and turning towards God. It is a 180-degree turn in our life's orientation. But this is not all it is. Repentance also includes feeling a sense of sorrow and regret for our sin. It is this sorrow and even repulsion at the ways we have ignored and defied God which leads us to turn our back on our sin. How can anyone say they love God and want to serve Him with their whole heart without regretting the ways they have sinned against Him?
While I agree that we should not wallow in regret and self-guilt our whole lives, this attitude (which refuses to regret anything) goes too far. We should regret our sin. Regret is a healthy, natural emotion that we should feel when we hurt someone else or ourselves. Let me give you an example. Imagine a convicted murderer glibly saying this motto to the parents of his victim. Do you see the depravity in that? Or more commonly, imagine saying this motto to your friend after you betrayed and hurt them. Surely, you can see that any true friend would regret such actions. In either of these scenarios it would actually be wrong to not feel regret. So sometimes regret is good. In fact, it is a necessary part of the Christian faith. How can one repent of sins he does not regret committing? Regret only becomes unhealthy when we refuse to move on, when we refuse to accept forgiveness from God, others, or even from ourselves.
Is there sin in your past or in your present that you need to repent of? Don't thumb your nose at God by saying you refuse to regret the ways you have rejected His lordship. Don't trample His grace underfoot by refusing to acknowledge that His way would have been the better all along. Mourn for your sin. Come before the Lord with a broken and contrite heart and ask for forgiveness. Then, if your sin has been covered in the blood of Christ, rejoice in your forgiveness. Leave that sin and guilt behind as you press on towards the calling you have received. There is now no more condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus!
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