Tag Archives: salvation

The Saddest Words of All

In John Greenleaf Whittier’s poem Maud Muller, a poor maiden and a rich judge, upon a happenstance meeting, imagine how different and better their lives would be if they left their own situations and lived like the other.  But their chance meeting was soon over, with neither having voiced their imaginations, as the judge closed his heart knowing his family would oppose him accepting a lower station in life.

He married rich; she married poor.  Years later, each recalled their youthful dream in an effort to escape the reality of their lives – the judge to escape the chains of responsibility and riches, the maiden to escape the drudgery of ordinariness and poverty.  The poem’s narrator concludes:

God pity them both! And pity us all,

Who vainly the dreams of youth recall.


For of all sad words of tongue or pen,

The saddest are these: “It might have been!”

Salvation Is Not Accomplished Via a Do Over

It’s no wonder that stories of time travel are so popular.  They represent a universal desire to be able to fix the past thereby erasing both the consequences of our decisions and the resulting regret.  In these stories, missed opportunities need no longer cause us sorrow as a second chance is offered. In them, the consequences of sin and evil are removed or altered via a sort of cosmic “do over.”

Time travel stories are appealing because in our imaginations we identify with a protagonist armed with knowledge of the future, pursuing a noble cause and having sufficient power to accomplish his purpose.  But these stories are vastly inferior to the real story unfolding throughout history.  They are vastly inferior to God’s story in which sinful people are redeemed and not merely rescued from the consequences of past actions.

Feelings of Regret Are a Poor Substitute for Thankfulness for Providence

And this is why words of regret are so sad. Regret searches for relief from our circumstances by dreaming of an alternate reality, one that might have been but cannot be. They are sad because they reveal a lack of understanding of God’s plan and his Providence. Surely we grieve and regret our sins against God that harm others and ourselves, but the Christian has the healing balm of forgiveness in his arsenal. Regret extended far beyond repentance and forgiveness paralyses us, preventing us from moving forward and assuring us of further failure.

Words of regret are sad because they don’t recognize and appreciate what God has given us.  They blind us to God’s redemptive and sanctifying work. Words of regret reveal a lack of contentment and they block our path to resting in Jesus.

We are tempted to kick ourselves over lost opportunity, but that only perpetuates the problem. Fretting over lost opportunities clouds our vision of God’s providence in the past and for the future. God is sovereign over our missed opportunities as surely as he is sovereign over those we capitalize on. He is in the business of making everything beautiful in its time (Ecclesiastes 3:11). He is a God of second chances, but not of the sort imagined in time travel tales. God is in the business of making things new (Revelation 21:5).

There Is No Greater Contrast Than That Between Regret and Salvation

One should not presume there will always be a second chance or a better opportunity when it comes to faith in Christ.  Today is the day of salvation.  Dying having missed the opportunity to believe in Christ results in the greatest regret of all, one that lasts for eternity.

For Christians, our sorrow over sin brings repentance that leads to a salvation without regret (2 Corinthians 7:10).  Let’s encourage one another to forget what lies behind and press on toward our heavenly calling (Philippians 3:13).


Rejoicing, Not Boasting, Is the Key to Loving Your Neighbor As Yourself


(Introductory note – This post is an adaptation of the “theological reflection” section of a paper I wrote years ago for a seminary class.  Since it represents my personal interaction with Scripture, it is written almost entirely in first person form.)

Saving faith changes the way I think and act. It has to. I am not the same person I was before I was born again. Romans 5-7 clearly delineates for me the difference in my spiritual condition before and after salvation. As an unbeliever, I was an enemy of God, under condemnation of death, a slave to sin, and powerless to escape from this predicament. As a believer, because of the work of Jesus Christ, I am reconciled to God, stand in a state of grace, have been justified, have eternal life, and am now a slave to righteousness. Though I will never be free from sin in this mortal body, God is working in my life, empowering me by the Holy Spirit to act as one dead to sin.

There is a oneness to humanity that I haven’t always understood or fully appreciated.  This is partly because American Christianity focuses on individuality. While it is true that each individual is accountable for his or her response to “what think ye of Christ?”, realizing my connectedness to Adam and the whole of humanity can change how I perceive my fellow humans. My attitude toward certain unbelievers sometimes reveals a disdain that is undeserved, at least when it comes from me. Despite knowing that my salvation is from God and is not by my own efforts, I sometimes, in uncaring fashion, expect an unbeliever who has never been liberated by a new birth in Christ to somehow, on his own, think like I do.

Unbelievers are not in a state from which I escaped, they are in a state from which God has rescued me. Similarly, oneness in Christ is often viewed among Christians only as our “personal relationship with Christ” without giving due consideration to our unity as a body of believers saved by grace, being changed by God.

How can identifying with both lost and saved humanity produce joy in the midst of the suffering I encounter at the hands of others? How can I love God and my neighbor?

It’s not wrong to long for a world without sin – it will come in the eschaton (2 Corinthians 5:1-5), but when I expect the present world to be a certain way rather than how it actually is, I am questioning God’s timing and his ways. He will make things right. He is the only one who can make things as they “ought to be.”  The unbeliever’s need for God is the same as my need for him even though he hasn’t acknowledged it. Other Christians’ struggles, though not identical, are basically the same as my own. I must accept the plight of humanity of which I am a part, and I must look to God as my hope and theirs.

Joy comes in the midst of suffering for doing good precisely because God is testing me and purifying me and by these means is accomplishing what I so long for – to be rid of my sin and to be able to rejoice at the revelation of Christ’s glory (see 1 Peter 4:12-19; Philippians 1:6). Trials are a sort of “stamp of approval” by God who is declaring through them – you are mine, I am preparing you for my kingdom (Hebrews 12:6,7,10).

The fact that “I once was lost but now I’m found, was blind, but now I see” should bring joy to my heart, not disdain for the unbeliever. I have a different standing before God and a different destiny than the unbeliever, not a different origin. Empathizing with the lost reminds me from where God has redeemed me and motivates me to reach out to them with the gospel. Identifying with his elect reminds me of where he is leading me and what he is accomplishing in me. I have no reason to boast or complain and every reason to rejoice.

My wishing for a better world won’t change it, my wanting professing Christians to behave at a higher standard than non-Christians won’t change the fact that they often don’t, and my desire to be free from being “the wretched man that I am” won’t cause it to happen.  Only God is able to open my eyes to the truth and change me and my view of life – and, thanks be to God, he is.