The new year has come, and though the fad has mostly passed, several kids who didn’t get the memo will still be saying, “2014 ~ No Regrets!” ‘No Regrets’ became the slogan of the youth who wanted to live life without consequences—who wanted to sin and claim the unviability of a seared conscience. It was often paired with ‘Yolo!’ (You only live once) as an excuse to do whatever you wanted… and not feel bad about it.
Ironically, Jonathan Edwards had similar resolutions though not made at the new year:
52. I frequently hear persons in old age say how they would live, if they were to live their lives over again: Resolved, That I will live just so as I can think I shall wish I had done, supposing I live to old age. July 8, 1723.
55. Resolved, To endeavour [sic], to my utmost, so to act, as I can think I should do, if I had already seen the happiness of heaven and hell torments. July 8, 1723.
Of course, Edwards differs in that he attempts to constantly correct what he had done unworthily:
40. Resolved, To inquire every night before I go to bed, whether I have acted in the best way I possibly could, with respect to eating and drinking. Jan. 7, 1723
41. Resolved, to ask myself, at the end of every day, week, month, and year, wherein I could possibly, in any respect, have done better. Jan. 11, 1723.
So where do regrets sit? Are they appropriate responses to our past actions?
Scripture maintains two types of ‘regret.’
For godly sorrow produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.
There is the godly sorrow
And the worldly grief.
The first leads to salvation by means of repentance
And the second brings death.
Interestingly, Paul explains that godly sorrow removes regret. So “No regrets” may actually be quite biblical. Depending, of course on what we mean. For as Paul, Edwards, and countless Christians share, sin is never admirable or desirable—we ought to live in constant submission to the will of our Triune God. But what happens when we fail to do so? Paul says we have godly sorrow, repentance, and anticipate salvation—in this construct there is no room for feeling of regret. But why?
Regret is the feeling that your past has trapped your present and doomed your future; it is a debilitating mindset, controlled by fear and pride: fear because you cannot pursue what is good and beautiful without ‘mucking it up’; pride because you think you can live without the grace of God.
Regret Neglects the Work of Christ
This regret forgets that Jesus became incarnate—was born, lived, and died—that he resurrected from the death and ascended to be seated at the right hand of the Father, and that by the Holy Spirit indwelling you, he has brought the benefits of Christ’s work to your life. This means that really, actually, truly you are perfect in Christ… even when you fail to play that out in the day-to-day. Be freed from the bondage of regret that holds you back from being an agent of the kingdom of God in the world at large. Your identity is not founded on what you do but what Christ has done; who he is and who he has made you to be. When you sin, you suffer from an identity crisis, not identity theft: you remain a child of the most high God, co-heir with Christ, and temple of the Holy Spirit. And what he has done on your behalf continues to be the controlling core of your being—you did nothing deserving salvation in the first, and you will do nothing acquiring damnation in the last.
Regret Neglects the Sovereign Wisdom of God
Living in regret dishonors the sovereignty of a wise God who will so orchestrate all events to sing forth his glorious praises now and evermore. Just as Joseph said, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today,” and Paul after him, speaking ofsanctification, says, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose….predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son.” Regret denies you a future, but your future is secure in the wise plan of God: you are predestined for conformity to Christ, and all evil—even your own—will not separate you from your destiny: it will only use unlikely stones to mosaic a glorious picture.
Live 2014, and the rest of your life then, with no regret; only humble repentance when you have gone awry. Turn back toward the face of God and love him supremely by means of all life affords. Trust in the work of Christ and hope in the plan of the Father.
Resolutions taken from The Works of Jonathan Edwards with a Memoir by Sereno E. Dwight, Volume One, Revised and Corrected by Edward Hickman
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