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