The Three R's

Many people don't realize there is a huge difference between regret and repentance. Consider this illustration.

A man's shortcut home every day takes him past a string of adult bookstores. Having struggled with moral issues in the past, his stomach tightens every time he has to drive by the seedy parking lots. Gaudy neon advertisements in the boarded-up windows seem to pull at him with magnetic force and he fears he will eventually give in.

And one day he does.

The next time his trip takes him down that street, guilt pours over him and he loudly berates himself for his weakness. He calls himself every kind of name he can think of and promises God he'll tithe a double portion this week to make up for it.

That's remorse.

One week later, the temptation is still there and now he pictures the stricken look on his wife's face when she found the pornographic material in his briefcase. His stomach fills with acid. Shame washes over him and he wishes there was some way he could take his decision back. If only he hadn't done it...but it's too late now.

That's regret.

One stormy night, as he signals the right turn that will take him past the bookstores, an image flashes into his mind. Jesus is gazing at him. And although his eyes are filled with compassion, his flowing white robe is stained and bloody, smeared with filth, and in his arms he carries the pile of porn the man had bought.

Horror strikes him as he sits at the stoplight and for a moment he forgets how to drive. Cars honk and zoom around him while he sits frozen behind the wheel.

"Neither do I condemn you," Jesus says and his voice fills the car. "Go and sin no more."

The vision is gone as quickly as it came and now the only sound is the rain pelting down on the car hood. The man slumps over the wheel, stricken with a grief so great he thinks he's having a heart attack.

He glances to the right, down the neon strip where temptation lurks. With deliberate motions, he jerks the steering wheel to the left and shoots through the intersection. No matter how much farther it is, from now on he'll take the long way home.

That is repentance.

Two men betrayed Jesus on the night he was crucified. Judas felt remorse and his life ended. Peter repented and his life was transformed.

Don't settle for remorse or regret for the sins you've committed. Neither will absolve you of guilt. Only repentance brings you under the forgiving grace of God and has the power to transform your life.

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