Repentance without shame or regret
“How kind the Lord is!” she exclaimed. “He has taken away my disgrace – Luke 1:25
11 While Zechariah was in the sanctuary, an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing to the right of the incense altar.
12 Zechariah was shaken and overwhelmed with fear when he saw him.
13 But the angel said, “Don’t be afraid, Zechariah! God has heard your prayer. Your wife, Elizabeth, will give you a son, and you are to name him John.”
17 “He will be a man with the spirit and power of Elijah. He will prepare the people for the coming of the Lord. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and he will cause those who are rebellious to accept the wisdom of the godly.”
18 Zechariah said to the angel, “How can I be sure this will happen? I’m an old man now, and my wife is also well along in years.”
19 Then the angel said, “I am Gabriel! I stand in the very presence of God. It was he who sent me to bring you this good news!”
24 Soon afterward his wife, Elizabeth, became pregnant and went into seclusion for five months.
Regret, repentance, remorse, contrition, anguish, and shame are all words that are used to reflect feelings or emotions of sorrow. People often use the terms regret and repent interchangeably as if they were synonymous. While there are superficial similarities, there are significant differences between regret and repentance.
Regret is a feeling of remorse that is a negative emotion. You feel sorry for your past actions or behavior. It leads one to recall to mind even visualize hurtful things from your personal history. This in turn causes more shame, guilt, anger, disappointment, embarrassment, etc. Regret is about feeling bad because of your mistakes.
Repentance involves recognition and a desire to change. In fact, repentance is actually a simple change of the mind. It often includes the determination to think and act differently. There is a commitment to change and become a better person. Repentance is an action, not a feeling that does not involve negative emotions. Repentance is a positive mental decision. However, in the process of coming to a point of repentance, people often feel sorrow, remorse, or contrition for some past action or behavior. Repentance is about learning from your mistakes and determining not to repeat them
Elizabeth the wife of Zechariah was childless. Imagine how Elizabeth felt and try to enter into her emotions. Her culture interpreted childlessness as a sign of the Father’s disfavor (1 Samuel 1:5-6). Despite being married for many years she and her husband Zechariah had no children. This was a source of shame and regret. In the story is clear that Elizabeth was a righteous, godly woman. Yet, without children she was undoubtedly viewed suspiciously by neighbors and relatives.
Regardless of their circumstances and the suspicions of others, Elizabeth and Zechariah served the Lord faithfully. Then a miracle occurred. The Father heard her prayer and dispatched His Angel with delightful news. They are going to have a child. And their child would be the forerunner of the promised Messiah (Isaiah 40:3-5). What a surprise and wondrous gift. Why did the Father wait so long? His timing is always perfect. The birth of John the Baptist had to coincide with the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ. The time of John’s birth had been scheduled from eternity past. The Father alone knows what is on His “daily activity list.” At the right time in human history, it occurred. Was it worth the wait?
Both Elizabeth and Zechariah were well advanced in years, past the normal time for childbearing (Luke 1:6). But this was absolutely no problem for the Father. Miraculous births are one of His specialties. In fact, there would be no Jewish people at all if He not done the same for Abraham and Sarah.
19 And Abraham’s faith did not weaken, even though, at about 100 years of age, he figured his body was as good as dead – and so was Sarah’s womb.
20 Abraham never wavered in believing God’s promise. In fact, his faith grew stronger, and in this he brought glory to God.
21 He was fully convinced that God is able to do whatever he promises.
Zechariah had his doubts and expressed them openly.
Luke 1:18 Zechariah said to the angel, “How can I be sure this will happen? I’m an old man now, and my wife is also well along in years.”
Gabriel’s answer is classic. Who can argue with someone who stands in the very presence of the Father, the living God? Further, the Father sent him to deliver His message.
Luke 1:19 Then the angel said, “I am Gabriel! I stand in the very presence of God. It was he who sent me to bring you this good news!”
REFLECT & PRAY
“Mary’s submission is a very lovely thing. ‘Whatever God says, I accept.’ Mary had learned to forget the world’s commonest prayer – ‘Your will be changed’ – and to pray the world’s greatest prayer – ‘Your will be done’” (Barclay).
Father take from me my sense of loss and remorse and give me a new spirit to live and serve you without regret or shame.
The Father has a special way of dealing with regret and shame and the consequent sense of inadequacy and self-doubt they produce. The Father turns it around by using the very sorrow itself to elicit repentance without regret.
2 Cor 7:9-10
9 I now rejoice, not that you were made sorrowful, but that you were made sorrowful to the point of repentance; for you were made sorrowful according to the will of God, so that you might not suffer loss in anything through us.
10 For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret . . ..
How did the Father make this possible? How did He do it? It is part of the atonement which was accomplished by the death of the Lord Jesus Christ on the cross. Ultimately, sin and its consequent feelings of sorrow, shame, regret, and guilt were dealt with once and for all by the cross.
3 He was despised and rejected, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief . . ..
4 Surely, he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.
10 But it was the LORD’s good plan to crush him and cause him grief. Yet when his life is made an offering for sin . . ..
Each child of the King is washed clean at the very moment they accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as their Savior. We have only to appropriate it by faith to make it real in our lives. The Lord Jesus Christ died not only for our sins but also our guilt, personal sense of shame, and inadequacy. When we are redeemed through His blood, our guilt is removed once and for all. Sadly, as we walk with the Father in this fallen world we will stumble. But shame and regret are totally optional. What great news!
The Father has given His children a marvelous gift of a clean slate. It is time to actualize it and put the past behind us.
Gabriel stood in the very presence of God. Where do you stand?