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March 31, 2015

Releasing Past Regrets

The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: “Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times.” And he went outside and wept bitterly. Luke 22:61-62 (NIV)

How do you handle past regrets? We can’t deny them or repress them. That would only lead to more regret. We can only release them into Jesus’ loving, nail-scarred hands. That’s what Peter did.

Think of the regret he must have felt when he denied Christ three times the night before the crucifixion. He had sworn his loyalty to Jesus. “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death.” (Luke 22:33, NIV).  

But, Jesus knew that despite his oath, Peter’s spirit was willing but his flesh was weak. Jesus told him, “I tell you, Peter, before the rooster crows today, you will deny three times that you know me.” (verse 34). That very night after Jesus was arrested, the Bible says Peter “followed Him at a distance. (verse 54). While warming himself by a fire the guards had lit, a servant girl noticed him in the firelight and pointed him out as one of Jesus followers. Denial one. After a while someone else looked at him and said, “You must be one of them!” Denial two.  About an hour later someone else insisted, “This must be one of them…” Denial three.  “And immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed.” (verse 60b) 

Before we come down too hard on Peter, I would imagine we’ve all heard our own share of roosters crowing. Who among us is without sin? Who hasn’t collected a regret or two in life? Isn’t there something you wish you had not done or something you wish you had done when you had the opportunity?

Luke describes the emotion of the moment like no other gospel writer. The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: ‘Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times.’ And he went outside and wept bitterly.”

Regrets like that fill us with remorse. Our hearts are broken. We want to run and hide. Shame overwhelms us. The burden of guilt is beyond what we can bear. It would be easy to give up and give in to despair. The good news is that regardless of the regret, God’s love is greater! His love is unconditional! The fact is, He doesn’t love you more when you do well or love you less when you fall. His love is unchanging!  It heals the brokenhearted and restores the soul!

Jesus was not through with Peter. We know the story. When Christ rose from the grave, the angel at the empty tomb instructed the women who came to anoint the body of Christ, to tell His disciples; including Peter, that Jesus would meet them in Galilee. (Mark 16:7). He knew Peter would feel disqualified, so God had the angel specifically include Peter by name with his charge to the women. Think how that must have made Peter feel. “He said what? He mentioned me by name? He still wants me to be there?” Then, when Jesus met Peter on the shore of Galilee, He lovingly restored the relationship and welcomed Peter with a new assignment to “feed my lambs”.

The book of Acts goes on to show us that Peter became the first spokesman of the resurrected Christ on the day of Pentecost. What made the difference? What transformed a man who denied even knowing Jesus to boldly proclaiming Him before a public audience in a hostile environment?  Grace! God’s grace is so much greater than our failures. You don’t have to live with regrets. You can release them to Jesus, just as Peter did, with confidence that His sacrifice covers them all. Then, move from regret to the greater purpose He has for you to do.  Just when Peter thought it was all over, Jesus painted a whole new picture for him. It’s no wonder that Peter closes out his second epistle with these words,

“Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.”  2 Peter 3:18a  (NIV).

Personal Challenge:

  1. What is the regret in your life that hampers you the most? Take it to Christ and release it to Him in prayer, trusting in His forgiveness and let it go.  Meditate on Philippians 3:12-14 and write down the things you need to forget. Then, take them to a safe place and burn the paper you wrote them on.
  2. Collect the ashes and read Isaiah 61:1-3.  God promises to give us beauty for ashes in verse 3. That means He can still make something beautiful out of our lives if we will trust Him. Just as Peter was given new opportunity for service, God is not finished with you. Ask Him to reveal His purpose for you and commit your availability to Him for His use whatever it is.