DEALING WITH REGRETS:

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 Regret is sorrow or remorse over something that has happened or that we have done. Regret can also be a sense of disappointment over what has not happened, such as regretting wasted years. To be human is to have regrets because making mistakes is a universal experience. The Bible gives much instruction that, if followed, will result in fewer regrets. God’s commands and boundaries are written down for us in His Word, and the more we adhere to them, the less we have to regret. However, in God’s grace and mercy, He has also provided a way to deal with regrets when we have not lived as wisely as He wants us to (see Psalm 51:12).

In considering what the Bible says about regrets, we should start with the fact that in a couple of places we are told that God “regretted” an action He took. The Hebrew root for the word “regret” actually means “to sigh.” Since we know God does not make mistakes, the concept of sighing is a more descriptive term for the kind of regret God experiences. Genesis 6:7 says that, after seeing the wickedness on the earth, God regretted making man. This does not mean that the Lord felt that He made a mistake in creating human beings, but that His heart was sorrowful as He witnessed the direction they were going. Since God knows everything beforehand, He already knew that sin would bring consequences, so He was not surprised by it (1 Peter 1:20Ephesians 1:4Isaiah 46:9–11). Instead, this glimpse into God’s character shows us that, even though He already knows we will sin, it still grieves Him when we choose it (Ephesians 4:30).

Human regret is different from God’s regret. Human regret occurs because we do not know all things and we do make mistakes. As we age, we often look back on decisions made in youth and regret our choices. However, those regrets usually fall into one of two categories. Our regrets arise from either foolish choices or sin choices, and each requires a different response.

First, we may experience regret because of foolish choices, situations in the past that we wish had been different. For example, let’s say we had chosen to attend Z College and major in X. After years of fruitlessly pursuing a career in X, we regret that college decision. The choice of college major was not a sin, and we may have thought at the time that it was a good choice, but we now realize it was not. We can deal with that kind of regret by claiming Romans 8:28 and asking the Lord to make it work for the good. We can choose to focus on the positive aspects of all we learned and trust that, if we were seeking the Lord at the time, nothing was wasted and He can use even our immature decisions for good if we trust Him. We can forgive ourselves for our immature decision and purpose to grow wiser from what we learned (Philippians 3:13).

Peter is one biblical example of someone who deeply regretted a foolish decision. Although Peter was committed to Jesus, his fear made him run away when the soldiers came to arrest Jesus, and he later denied his Lord. His actions did not come from a desire to sin, but from impulse, spiritual immaturity, and fear. He deeply regretted his actions and wept bitterly (Luke 22:62). Jesus knew about Peter’s regret and specifically asked to see him after His resurrection (Mark 16:7). We learn from this that our regrets are not hidden from God and He desires to restore us when we return to Him (Malachi 3:7Jeremiah 24:7).

Other regrets are due to sin choices that may have left scars and consequences. After a lifetime of selfish debauchery, some people in their later years are so overwhelmed by regret they cannot experience joy. The consequences of their sin for themselves and others may haunt them for years. The pain of regret can drive us to decisions we would not otherwise make. Judas Iscariot is one such example in the Bible. After he realized that he had betrayed the Messiah, Judas was so filled with regret that he tried to undo his actions by returning the blood money. When that didn’t work, he went out and killed himself (Matthew 27:3–5).

Regret can lead some to self-destruction, but God wants to use it to lead us toward repentance. It’s important to understand that regret is not the same as repentance. Esau deeply regretted his decision to sell his birthright, but he never repented of his sin (Hebrews 12:16–17). Regret focuses on the action that has brought sorrow; repentance focuses on the one we have offended. Second Corinthians 7:10 explains the difference between mere regret and true repentance: “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.” Rather than allow the regret to win, we can allow Jesus to transform us so that our past sin choices magnify His powerful grace. When we come to Him in repentance, believing that His sacrifice on the cross was sufficient payment for the debt we owe God, we can be forgiven (2 Corinthians 5:21Romans 10:9–10Acts 2:23).

Two men betrayed Jesus on the night He was crucified. Judas had worldly sorrow (regret), and his life was ended. Peter had godly sorrow (repentance), and his life was transformed. We have the same choices those men had. When we face regret, we can let it consume our lives, or we can lay our fault at the feet of Jesus, turn from it, and let Him restore us (Psalm 232 Corinthians 5:17).

Prophet Nathan Emol

WHAT DOES THE BIBLE SAY ABOUT HOLDING GRUDGES?

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We all have reasons to hold grudges. People wrong us. Situations hurt us. Even God does not always do what we think He should do, so we get angry. We hold offenses against those who have wronged us, and often against God who we think should have done things differently. A grudge is nothing more than a refusal to forgive. So, since this tendency is inherent in all of us and seemingly unavoidable, what does the Bible say about it?

God has such a strong concern about grudges that He included a specific command about them when He gave the Law to the Israelites. Leviticus 19:18 says, “Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.” It is interesting that God concluded this particular command with the words “I am the Lord.” In doing so, God reminded us that He is the Lord, not us. To hold a grudge is to set ourselves up as judge and jury—to determine that one person’s wrong should not be forgiven. No human being has the right or authority to do that. Romans 12:19 says, “Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord.”

Misunderstanding forgiveness often keeps us in bondage to grudges. We think that to forgive is to excuse sin or pretend the offense did not matter. Neither is true. Forgiveness is not about the other person. Forgiveness is God’s gift to us to release us from the control of someone who has hurt us. When we retain a grudge, we give someone we don’t like power over our emotions. Without forgiveness, just the thought of an offender can send acid to our stomachs and heat to our faces. In essence, we make that person an idol, giving him or her control over us (Deuteronomy 32:39). But when we forgive, we release to God any right to vengeance or restitution. Forgiveness puts our relationship with God back in proper alignment. We acknowledge that He is the Judge, not us, and that He has the right to bring about any resolution He chooses. Forgiveness is the choice to trust God rather than ourselves with the outcome of the offense.

We often hold on to grudges because we feel we have the responsibility to see that justice is done or that others know how badly we were hurt. But when we release the situation to God, along with the right to dictate the ending, we free the Lord to work as He sees fit without our anger getting in the way (Matthew 18:21–22).

It is important to remember that forgiveness and reconciliation are not synonymous. Forgiveness is a matter of the heart. It is an act of surrender to God’s will and is primarily between us and God. We release to Him our right to hang on to anger (Psalm 115:11). However, reconciliation depends on the true repentance and proven trustworthiness of the offender. For example, in the case of spousal abuse, the victim must forgive as part of her ongoing healing. She can release her anger to God. But, at the same time, she must keep protective boundaries in place until the abuser has proven over time that he is worthy of her trust (see Proverbs 26:24–25).

“The anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God” (James 1:20). We do God no favors by trying to “help” Him right a bad situation through our vengeance. He does not need our anger. He needs our cooperation as we submit to doing things His way (Proverbs 3:5–6). And God’s way is always to forgive as He has forgiven us (Matthew 18:35Ephesians 4:32).

We can release a grudge with a simple act of our will, by offering the whole situation to God and letting go of it. Forgiveness brings healing to our souls and allows God to build His strength and character into our lives as we allow Him to reign as our only God (Romans 8:29).

Prophet Nathan Emol

WHAT DOES THE BIBLE SAY ABOUT UNFORGIVENESS?

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The Bible has quite a bit to say about forgiveness and unforgiveness. Perhaps the most well-known teaching on unforgiveness is Jesus’ parable of the unmerciful servant, recorded in Matthew 18:21-35. In the parable, a king forgives an enormously large debt (basically one that could never be repaid) of one of his servants. Later, however, that same servant refuses to forgive the small debt of another man. The king hears about this and rescinds his prior forgiveness. Jesus concludes by saying, “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart” (Matthew 18:35). Other passages tell us that we will be forgiven as we forgive (see Matthew 6:147:2; and Luke 6:37, for example).

Do not be confused here; God’s forgiveness is not based on our works. Forgiveness and salvation are founded completely in the person of God and by Jesus’ redeeming work on the cross. However, our actions demonstrate our faith and the extent to which we understand God’s grace (see James 2:14-26 and Luke 7:47). We are completely unworthy, yet Jesus chose to pay the price for our sins and to give us forgiveness (Romans 5:8). When we truly grasp the greatness of God’s gift to us, we will pass the gift along. We have been given grace and should give grace to others in return. In the parable, we are appalled at the servant who would not forgive a minor debt after having been forgiven his unpayable debt. Yet, when we are unforgiving, we act just as the servant in the parable.

Unforgiveness also robs us of the full life God intends for us. Rather than promote justice, our unforgiveness festers into bitterness. Hebrews 12:14-15 warns, “Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root rises up to cause trouble and defile many.” Similarly, 2 Corinthians 2:5-11 warns that unforgiveness can be an opening for Satan to derail us.

We also know that those who have sinned against us – whom we may not want to forgive – are held accountable by God (see Romans 12:19 and Hebrews 10:30). It is important to recognize that to forgive is not to downplay a wrongdoing or necessarily to reconcile. When we choose to forgive, we release a person from his indebtedness to us. We relinquish the right to seek personal revenge. We choose to say we will not hold his wrongdoing against him. However, we do not necessarily allow that person back into our trust or even fully release that person from the consequences of his sin. We are told that “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). While God’s forgiveness relieves us from eternal death, it does not always release us from the death-like consequences of sin (such as a broken relationship or the penalty provided by the justice system). Forgiveness does not mean we act as if no wrong has been done; it does mean we recognize that grace abundant has been given to us and that we have no right to hold someone else’s wrongdoing over his head.

Time and again, Scripture calls us to forgive one another. Ephesians 4:32, for example, says, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” We have been given much in the way of forgiveness, and much is expected from us in response (see Luke 12:48). Though forgiveness is often difficult, to be unforgiving is to disobey God and to depreciate the greatness of His gift.

Prophet Nathan Emol

WHY SHOULD I FORGIVE?

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Forgiveness is a familiar topic in the Bible. In fact, God’s plan to forgive mankind of their sins is the major theme of the Bible (1 Peter 1:20John 17:24). So, when wondering why we should forgive those who sin against us, we need look no further than the example God gave us. Christians must forgive others because God has forgiven us (Ephesians 4:32).

Jesus gave a parable in Matthew 18:21–35 about why we should forgive. He tells the story from the perspective of a king who has forgiven a servant of tremendous debt. But then that servant encounters another servant who owed him a few dollars, and the forgiven servant deals harshly with his fellow servant and demands instant repayment. When the king learns what had happened, he is furious and orders the one he had forgiven to be punished until the huge debt was paid in full. Jesus ends the parable with these chilling words: “That is how My Heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart” (verse 35).

Forgiveness is mandatory for all those who have experienced the forgiveness of God (Ephesians 4:32). Jesus taught us to pray, “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors” (Matthew 6:12), reminding us that God holds us accountable for paying forward what He has done for us. Refusing to forgive those who wrong us is an insult to the Lord who has forgiven us much more. We forgive as an act of gratitude for all we have been forgiven.

Those who have been forgiven by God are transformed into forgiving people. To approach the Lord and ask for His forgiveness while at the same time refusing to forgive our brothers and sisters is the height of hypocrisy. If a person who claims to be a Christian refuses to extend forgiveness to others, that person is showing evidence that he or she is not truly born again. We forgive others because it is in our (new) nature to forgive (see 1 John 3:9).

Forgiveness is not letting an unrepentant sinner off the hook. Rather, it is an eager readiness to extend mercy to those who have wronged us. When we forgive, we free ourselves from the bondage someone’s wrong has created for us. It is impossible to live in complete obedience to God when someone else controls our emotions. Followers of Jesus are to be controlled by nothing but the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 5:18). In order to grow spiritually and live in submission to God’s Word, we must obey even the difficult commands about forgiveness (Luke 6:46).

Forgiveness is often a window through which the world glimpses the mercy of God. As the popular slogan goes, “You may be the only Bible some people ever read.” When we forgive, we model God’s teachings on kindness, mercy, love, and humility. People cannot see Jesus in us when we are walking in bitterness and anger. When all we can talk about is how we were wronged, how someone betrayed us, or the wounds we are carrying, we lose sight of our primary mission, which is to make disciples (Matthew 28:19). Unforgiveness makes us self-focused instead of God-focused and steals our love, peace, and joy (see Galatians 5:22).

Forgiveness comes more easily for some than it does for others, but we are all required to forgive if we want to walk in fellowship with God. Some find it hard to forgive because they have a misunderstanding of what it means to forgive. Forgiveness is not the same as reconciliation. We can forgive from the heart while keeping betrayers at a distance. Forgiveness does not allow unrepentant abusers back into our lives, but it does allow the peace of God back into our lives.

From the cross, Jesus prayed for His murderers: “Father, forgive them” (Luke 23:34). We reflect Jesus when we forgive the ones who wronged us, and for believers being like Jesus is the ultimate goal (Romans 8:29).

Prophet Nathan Emol

SHOULD A CHRISTIAN LISTEN TO SECULAR MUSIC?

Many Christians struggle with this question. Many secular musicians are immensely talented. Secular music can be very entertaining. There are many secular songs that have catchy melodies, thoughtful insights, and positive messages. In determining whether or not to listen to secular music, there are three primary factors to consider: 1) the purpose of music, 2) the style of music, and 3) the content of the lyrics.

1) The purpose of music. Is music designed solely for worship, or did God also intend music to be soothing and/or entertaining? The most famous musician in the Bible, King David, primarily used music for the purpose of worshiping God (see Psalm 4:1; 6:1, 54:1, 55:1; 61:1; 67:1; 76:1). However, when King Saul was tormented by evil spirits, he would call on David to play the harp in order to soothe him (1 Samuel 16:14-23). The Israelites also used musical instruments to warn of danger (Nehemiah 4:20) and to surprise their enemies (Judges 7:16-22). In the New Testament, the apostle Paul instructs Christians to encourage one another with music: “Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs” (Ephesians 5:19). So, while the primary purpose of music does seem to be worship, the Bible definitely allows for other uses of music.

2) The style of music. Sadly, the issue of music styles can be very divisive among Christians. There are Christians who adamantly demand that no musical instruments be used. There are Christians who only desire to sing the “old faithful” hymns. There are Christians who want more upbeat and contemporary music. There are Christians who claim to worship best in a “rock concert” type of environment. Instead of recognizing these differences as personal preferences and cultural distinctions, some Christians declare their preferred style of music to be the only “biblical” one and declare all other forms of music to be unwholesome, ungodly, or even satanic.

The Bible nowhere condemns any particular style of music. The Bible nowhere declares any particular musical instrument to be ungodly. The Bible mentions numerous kinds of string instruments and wind instruments. While the Bible does not specifically mention drums, it does mention other percussion instruments (Psalm 68:25; Ezra 3:10). Nearly all of the forms of modern music are variations and/or combinations of the same types of musical instruments, played at different speeds or with heightened emphasis. There is no biblical basis to declare any particular style of music to be ungodly or outside of God’s will.

3) The content of the lyrics. Since neither the purpose of music nor the style of music determines whether a Christian should listen to secular music, the content of the lyrics must be considered. While not specifically speaking of music, Philippians 4:8 is an excellent guide for musical lyrics: “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” If we should be thinking about such things, surely those are the things we should invite into our minds through music and lyrics. Can the lyrics in a secular song be true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy? If so, then there is nothing wrong with a Christian listening to a secular song of that nature.

However, much of secular music does not meet the standard of Philippians 4:8. Secular music often promotes immorality and violence while belittling purity and integrity. If a song glorifies what opposes God, a Christian should not listen to it. However, there are many secular songs with no mention of God that still uphold godly values such as honesty, purity, and integrity. If a love song promotes the sanctity of marriage and/or the purity of true love—even if it does not mention God or the Bible—it can still be listened to and enjoyed.

Whatever a person allows to occupy his mind will sooner or later determine his speech and his actions. This is the premise behind Philippians 4:8 and Colossians 3:2, 5: establishing wholesome thought patterns. Second Corinthians 10:5 says we should “take captive every thought and make it obedient to Christ.” These Scriptures give a clear picture of the kind of music we should not listen to.

Obviously, the best kind of music is that which praises and glorifies God. Talented Christian musicians work in nearly every musical genre, ranging from classical to rock, rap, and reggae. There is nothing inherently wrong with any particular style of music. It is the lyrics that determine whether a song is “acceptable” for a Christian to listen to. If anything leads you to think about or get involved in something that does not glorify God, it should be avoided.

Prophet Nathan Emol