Sunday, December 20, 2009

The Futility of Regret

I love reading books by A.W. Tozer. As a writer, he wasted no time in getting right to the heart of a matter. The man was a prophet who fearlessly declared Truth to a 20th century Church in need of hearing it. And his deep love for God, God's Word and the Church are obvious throughout his writings.

One of the most helpful chapters I ever read from one of Tozer's books was called The Futility of Regret from the book, That Incredible Christian. Until a few days ago, I hadn't read that chapter since high school, but I've always been able to recall the essence of it over all these years. Below is a sampling from the beginning of the chapter...

The human heart is heretical by nature. Popular religious beliefs should be checked carefully against the Word of God, for they are almost certain to be wrong.

Legalism, for instance is natural to the human heart. Grace in its true New Testament meaning is foreign to human reason, not because it is contrary to reason but because it lies beyond it. The doctrine of grace had to be revealed; it could not have been discovered.

The essence of legalism is self-atonement. The seeker tries to make himself acceptable to God by some act of restitution, or by self-punishment or the feeling of regret. The desire to be pleasing to God is commendable certainly, but the effort to please God by self-effort is not, for it assumes that sin once done may be undone, an assumption wholly false.

Long after we have learned from the Scriptures that we cannot by fasting, or the wearing of a hair shirt or the making of many prayers, atone for the sins of the soul, we still tend by a kind of pernicious natural heresy to feel that we can please God and purify our souls by the presence of perpetual regret.

This latter is the Protestant's unacknowledged penance. Though he claims to believe in the doctrine of justification by faith he still secretly feels that what he calls "godly sorrow" will make him dear to God. Though he may know better he is caught in the web of a wrong religious feeling and betrayed.

There is indeed a godly sorrow that worketh repentance, and it must be acknowledged that among us Christians this feeling is often not present in sufficient strength to work real repentance; but the persistence of this sorrow till it becomes chronic regret is neither right nor good...

And a page or two later, the following paragraph concludes the chapter wonderfully...

Regret for a sinful past will remain until we truly believe that for us in Christ that sinful past no longer exists. The man in Christ has only Christ's past and that is perfect and acceptable to God. In Christ he died, in Christ he rose, and in Christ he is seated within the circle of God's favored ones. He is no longer angry with himself because he is no longer self-regarding, but Christ-regarding; hence there is no place for regret.

© 2009 by Ken Peters


Essay said...

Thanks for sharing, your blog is worth reading, nice post. Keep it up.

Laurence said...

I am in awe! A. W. Tozer?!? I have been listening to his sermons lately at . . .

. . . its yet another connection to Ken Peters :)

Ken said...

Ken Peters? Who's he?! Let it be another connection to Jesus! :D
It's good to be in touch with you again Laurence!

Laurence said...

Its interesting, listening to your sermon June 8, 2008. . . and its about the body, and how we need the body... its the body of Christ... Christ the head working in and through the members of the body... A.W. Tozer was a member of that body here on earth, and now he's up there with Christ our Lord, and God our Father... listening to you preach is like listening to my own heart!

I'm so thrilled! Because if you're NOT around those who know Christ in their hearts its then that you begin to appreciate hearing Christ through those who DO know him...

I couldn't agree with you more, though, I am not one to quote books, or idolize people, or speakers... "even angels" as you said in this sermon June 8, 2008 :)

We have a real void at my church... I feel very much like God has sent me there... and yet I feel just as lonely there as I have ever felt in a church... the Sunday School class I teach is one which I was a part of all last year, and when the teacher didn't continue as teacher in this new school year of Sept '09 to June '10 . . . I stepped up and said, first to God, "here I am send me" then the pastor that morning preached a sermon saying, "we need people, is God calling you?" and then I offered myself to the elders and pastor to teach the class... then we presented the idea to the class... and I was accepted all around... a divine appointment.

I thought I was "done like dinner" Ken... and then God surprises me by putting me in the position of teacher... I am so inspired by members of HIS BODY!

I haven't begun to told you of the trial that has been my life since that day you stepped in to encourage me on 4th and Burrard in Vancouver, BC... that flame you brought... and gave me credit for... was a connection to Christ Jesus that I needed, to keep me going... and to keep me from giving up... and to keep me going in the direction of Christ!

Listening to you preach here, and reading what you write isn't doing anything more nor anything less than reminding me that God is alive and well in this world through the person of Jesus Christ through the ministry of the Holy Spirit, the comforter, the "parakalatos" (coming alongside one)