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Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The cross and regrets

We all have regrets.  I do.  And I know you do too (if you don't - does the word "psychopath" mean anything to you?).

Have you ever seen "The Shawshank Redemption?"  It’s a great movie.  Morgan Freeman plays a prisoner named Red.  And there’s a scene where Red is meeting with the parole board.  He’s been in jail for 40 years.  And the board asks him, "Do you feel that you’ve been rehabilitated?"  And Freeman says, "Rehabilitated? Now let me see." 

And the board tries to explain to Red what ’rehabilitated’ means.

But Red says "I know what you think it means.  But to me, it’s just a word you politicians use so that you can sign your papers.   And stamp your forms.  What you really want to know is, "Am I sorry for what I did?" Yes! Not a day goes by when I don’t feel regret. For the families I hurt. For the people I let down. I wish I could go back.  And talk to that foolish boy I used to be.  Talk some sense into him. Tell him how things really are.  But I can’t. And all that’s left is this broken down old man.   And I have to live with what I done for the rest of my life."

He was haunted with regret by a mistake he made 40 years ago.  Let me ask you: Is there something in your past that you wish you could take back?  Have you ever said to yourself, "How could I have been so STUPID back then?!!!!  What was I thinking?!!!  Why did I do that???  If only I knew then what I know now?"

If you’ve ever felt that way, then welcome to the human race. Everyone has regrets. Because no one’s perfect. We all make mistakes. Say stupid things.

Make bad choices. And hurt ourselves. And hurt other people.

Regret (the crushing sense that "I blew it") is as universal of an emotion as love or fear.

So a recent study asked Americans about their biggest regrets.

The most common regrets involved (in the following order) romantic relationships (including marriages), career choices, education, money, and parenting.

Not surprisingly, more women cited relational regrets and more men cited career-related regrets. The researchers also found that many people have intense regrets around "lost opportunities."

It's a timely study, especially in light of Good Friday and Easter coming up.

The cross is the safest place on earth for identifying and releasing our regrets.

In Jeremiah 31:34, he says, "I will remember your sins no more!" He’s not up there thinking of ways to make your life miserable just because you did something bad back in 1986. If you have truly repented, then He forgave and forgot that lousy sin way back in 1986! And all you have to do is to BELIEVE it!

Because it says so right here in the word of God! "I will remember your sins no more!"

So, this Easter season, ask for forgiveness and then forgive yourself. For some of you, this is the hardest part of all. You’ve been beating yourselves silly for years over things that God doesn’t even remember.

But Isaiah 43:18 tells us "Forget the former things. Do not dwell on the past."

Back in 1929, Georgia Tech played the University of California in the Rose Bowl. Just before halftime, a man named Roy Riegels recovered a fumble for California. Somehow, he became confused and he ran 65 yards in the wrong direction. A teammate tackled him at his own two yard line. When California attempted to punt, Georgia Tech blocked the punt and scored a safety.

The team headed off the field and went into the dressing room. As they sat on the benches, Riegels put a blanket on his shoulders, sat down in a corner, put his face in his hands and cried like a baby.

Right before the second half started, Coach price said, "Men, the same team that played the first half will start the second."

The players all got up and headed back to the field. Except for Riegels. The coach called for Roy. But he didn’t budge. So the coach said, "Did you hear me? The same team starts the second half."

Riegels looked up. And with tears in his eyes, he said, "Coach, I can’t go back out there. I hurt the team. I’m so embarrassed. I can’t go back out there and face the crowd."

Coach Price simply put his hand on Roy’s shoulder. And said, "Roy, the game is only half over. Get up and go on back."

Roy Riegels went back. And everybody who saw it said he played the greatest game of his life in the second half.

Like Roy Riegels, some of you have been running in the wrong direction. You’ve made mistakes. You have regrets. And maybe you’re thinking, "I don’t want to get up. I don’t want to try anymore. But God is here. And he’s got an arm around you. And he’s telling you right now, "Go on back! Get on back out there! The game’s only half over! What’s in the past is in the past. Get out there and move on with your life!"

I want to encourage you: "Don’t spend the rest of your life regretting your past. I invite you to come back to Jesus Christ. Admit your sin. Accept his forgiveness and be free from guilt. Free from sin. And free to move on with your life.

That's the message of the cross.

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