I cannot tell you how many people in the church today are living with a deep and abiding sense of remorse. The dictionary defines remorse as a deep and painful regret of wrongdoing; that “painful regret” is exactly what has a death grip on far too many Christians, keeping them from growing into the man or woman God is calling them to be.
Before we go any further, let me make it clear that I believe the Scriptures make it clear that wrongdoing should be followed by a godly sorrow (see 2 Corinthians 7:9-10); and in that godly sorrow we should go directly to God for two reasons: to confess our sin and to be cleansed from it (1 John 1:9). But when that confession and cleansing has been done, we are to be done with it. As Paul wrote, “One thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14). The goodness of God—not guilt—is to be the mark of the Christian life. Our loving Lord came to die on the cross to free us from shame and remorse, not to burden us with it!
We all have pasts that are littered with wrongdoing. We went wrong in our friendships. We went wrong in our marriages. We went wrong in our parenting. We went wrong in our careers. We went wrong in our finances. We went wrong in our nutrition. We went wrong in our exercise program (or lack of it). We went wrong in our education. And on and on and on. With all of this wrongdoing, we might easily think the die is cast and there is no hope in making things right. But that is simply wrong!
Wrongdoing is a part of life, because we are broken people living in a broken world. Instead of living with a sense of remorse, we need to chart a better course, one that is guided by the light of Gospel truths. Our past does not determine our present. Broken hearts can be mended. Distant relationships can be restored. Unfulfilled promises can be kept. Dead dreams can be resurrected. All of this is possible because of the power of the Gospel.
All the mistakes and misdeeds you committed in your past were nailed to that dirty tree on Calvary. All of them! Understanding this frees us from the trap of remorse to chart a better course. Because of the power of the Gospel, the die is not cast and hope is not lost. We serve a God of second chances . . . and third chances . . . and . . . ! Peter was charting a course of remorse after having fulfilled Jesus’ prophecy and denying Him three times before the rooster crowed. But Jesus charted a better course than remorse for Peter.
When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. (John 21:15-17)
The Bible tells us that after Peter denied his Lord he went outside the courtyard and wept bitterly. Peter was filled with a godly sorrow for his wrongdoing. He was broken by his sin, and this is the response that flows from the heart that loves Jesus. But Jesus did not leave Peter there! If it were left up to Peter, the course of the rest of his life would likely have been marked by groaning and guilt. Jesus changed all of that, and He did it by reconnecting Peter with the only thing that could remove his remorse: Jesus! Jesus reconnected Peter to Himself and the calling He had for him. And this is the power of the Gospel that is available to every child of God, regardless of the past . . . and that includes you and me.
So . . . where in your life has remorse been altering your course and keeping you from being all God is calling you to be . . . personally? Professionally? Relationally? Jesus is asking you the same question today that He asked Peter over 2000 years ago: “Do you love me?” And if your answer is “Yes,” then get on with the business of feeding His sheep in whatever capacity God has called you to.
This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!