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Living Without Regrets

Last week I challenged you to do an experiment this first month of January – to live each day as if there’s no tomorrow. We talked about why this is a wise way to live. How the scripture say: Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. Psalm 90:11  Wisdom is the art of know how to live well. Last week we talked about how to live passionately—for what matters most, to love God, to love others, to follow God into that passionate purpose He created you uniquely to fulfill.

I imagine as the week went on you forgot, and you made mistakes. You failed to love God by putting him first, and you didn’t even love people all that well. You let fear, busyness, and worry rob your passion and purpose, and now you look back and have regrets. It’s not possible to live with no mistakes. It’s not possible to live your whole life without sin or failure, but it is possible to live with no regrets! Here’s how…

1. Live Clean with God Daily

Live a “no junk in the pipes” life every day. Keep your relational pipes clean every day, as if today were your last because life’s too short to let relational junk build up in your pipes. You have to start by learning to keep the relational pipes clean with God. Otherwise, you can’t really love people well and live with no regrets daily.

All people grow up under the condemning voice of shame. We all feel it because apart from God’s grace, it’s the truth. People know deep down the words Paul wrote:

I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing…What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me?Romans 7:18-19, 24

Shame drives us to feel wretched and condemned – full of regrets.  People naturally feel this hopeless sense of judgment, so they run from God – the Source of Love. Our pride makes us protect and defend and justify anything wrong that we do, but then we just stay stuck getting hurt, hurting others, feeling guilty, and feeling lots of regret.

When I used to do something I knew was wrong, I had one of two ways of dealing with it. Either I’d wallow in it for days, sometimes weeks or months—feeling guilty, unworthy, horrible. Then after awhile, I’d resolve to try, try, try harder (often resulting in even larger doses of guilt because I’d inevitably fail). Or the other way I’d deal with wrongs, I’d justify and rationalize them by lowering my standards. In reality, trying harder didn’t change the inside of me at all.

But there’s another way…

2. The Way of Forgiveness

God has paid to forgive us for all our wrongs—that’s what He foretold he would do through His Messiah to come. Isaiah wrote this 780 years before Jesus came:

But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.Isaiah 53 (700+ years before Jesus came, His efforts were prophesied).

As Jesus hung between two thieves who had likely even murdered someone, one mocked Jesus and demanded he prove He was the messiah by getting him off the cross. The other thief said, “We deserve to die for our crimes, but this man hasn’t done anything wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.” And Jesus replied, “I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise.” Luke 23:41-43 

It’s never too late, and it’s never too soon to be forgiven and set right with God. As the thief demonstrated, God’s ready to forgive and take back anyone, anytime, without doing anything except admitting they need Him.

Most all of us have relational pain in our past. Someone you’ve wronged, someone whose wronged you. With God’s help, there’s another way. The way of forgiveness. 

Jesus explained his last night on earth: 

As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.John 15:9-13

Love is a verb. Love gives, love serves, love sacrifices—that’s what love is. To love is a decision of the will, not an emotion. The power to act comes from God, the feelings follow from responding to God. None of it depends on the other person. It’s your choice!

3. God Wants to Lead Us to a Higher Love 

Here’s the secret: Jesus said, “As the father has loved me, so have I loved you.” We can’t give what we don’t possess. We don’t have it in us to love sacrificially because too much has been taken from us. We need too much. We more often love to get because we don’t have enough to give. We give, but there’s a secret pricetag attached, and when people don’t pay us back, or hurt us, wrong us then we get angry and resentful. When they hurt us then we live out of that hurt which hurts others, and we don’t even see it. As a result, we build up regrets. Instead, God wants to teach us a better way!

4. Live Clean with People You’ve Wronged

If you’ve wronged another person, don’t let another moment pass without seeking to clean it up. If you get in that habit, you will live a regret-free life.

Jesus said this is so important to God:

Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to that person; then come and offer your gift.Matthew 5:23-24 

Jesus says this is SO important. Don’t pretend to worship God and be this giving sacrificial Christian if you’re not willing to do what matters most to God—living at peace with others.

If you have accepted God’s forgiveness, God’s Spirit lives with you and will guide you to live clean with people you’ve wronged. If you listen to that tiny voice in your conscience and obey it, He will prevent you from relational regret.

If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.Romans 12:18 

If you ask God, he’ll show you—are there any people you’ve hurt, or the relationship has been severed, or you’ve wronged them, as soon as you realize it—don’t procrastinate, go immediately, call immediately, email immediately and ask forgiveness, make things right—even if they aren’t willing to make amends. You can live with no regrets—no junk in the pipes-you’ve done your part.

5. Live Clean with People Who’ve Wronged You

You’ve got to forgive and let it go when people wrong or hurt you. Martin Luther King Jr. once said: He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. Forgiveness is not optional for Christ Followers. In Jesus’ day, they had the 3 strikes you’re out rule too! Peter, thinking he was being magnanimous asked Jesus: “Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?” “No, not seven times,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven! Matthew 18:21-22

Forgive as God forgives you. Life’s too short to do anything else. Keep clean and live with no regrets.

Sometimes it may feel impossible, but nothing is impossible with God.

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ebryant@churchleaders.com'
Dr. Eric Michael Bryant serves with Gateway Church in Austin as the team leader for Central and South Austin and as part of the teaching team. Eric previously served at Mosaic in Los Angeles and his books include Not Like Me: A Field Guide to a Influencing a Diverse World and A Fruitful Life: Becoming Who You Were Created To Be. Eric coaches church planters and campus pastors, teaches on Post Christian Ministry, and leads a cohort for a Doctorate of Ministry in Missional Effectiveness through Bethel Seminary where he earned his Doctorate of Ministry in Entrepreneurial Leadership.