The Regrets of Life
Main Point: All of us have regrets from past decisions we’ve made. Only Jesus can give us a clean slate.
The Discussion Starter:
I want to show you a quick video clip that was shot on the streets on New York. Essentially, what you’re going to see is a chalkboard attached to a fence with the following question written at the top: “What is your biggest regret?” Passers-by were given chalk and the opportunity to answer the question…if they were willing. All sorts of people with all sorts of answers began to write all sorts of regrets on the board. In a moment, you’ll see them stand there and contemplate their regrets. Then the folks directing the video do something fairly powerful. I want you to take a look at what it was so we can discuss how the same thing can happen in your life.
The Video Clip:
The clip can be found online at the following link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R45HcYA8uRA
So, a lot of New Yorkers have regrets, don’t they? But…I bet the same is true of all of us in this room. We all have regrets, some big and some not so big, but we have regrets just the same. Even now, I bet you’re thinking of some of the regrets you have in life. Maybe it was a regret over something you’ve done, maybe it was over something you’ve not done. Either way, it leaves regret in your heart. But did you notice that the people who wrote on the chalkboard were given the opportunity at a clean slate? Did you see how that impacted their emotions and attitudes and dispositions? That’s the power of a clean slate. But how do we get that clean slate? We’re going to answer that question in our small groups right now.
Divide into Small Groups:
Let’s go ahead and split up into our discussion groups, and then afterward we’ll come back together for a final word.
CLICK HERE for a quick training article on how to maximize your small groups using our small group format—a great resource to equip your small group leaders.
- AROUND THE CIRCLE: As we get started, let’s all take a second to share our names and what you plan on doing after high school.
- ASK A FEW: Most people have regrets. Agree or disagree, and why?
- ASK A FEW: Do you think sharing those regrets publically is easy to do? Why or why not?
- ASK A FEW: Did any of the regrets written on the chalkboard stick out in your mind? If so, which ones?
- ASK A FEW: What did a lot of the regrets have in common? (Leaders – Though there were several different themes, the overarching one was the regret of not trying something or not accomplishing something.)
- ASK A FEW: What effect did the clean slate have on the people who had written their regrets on the chalkboard?
- ASK A FEW: What would you give or what would you do to get a clean slate concerning your regrets?
- ASK A FEW: Is it even possible to get a clean slate from our regrets? If so, how?
Read the following passages:
PROVIDE CONTEXT BY SAYING: The two passages that we’re going to read right now come from the night on which Jesus was betrayed and arrested. It was a dark time for Jesus; He was betrayed by a close friend and then tried by a mock court and sentenced to die. In the first few verses we’ll read, we’re going to hear Jesus make a prediction to one of His disciples named Peter before anything goes down. Then, in the second short passage, we’re going to see if Jesus’ words come true.
Luke 22:31-34 (NIV)
“Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. 32 But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” 33 But he replied, “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death.” 34 Jesus answered, “I tell you, Peter, before the rooster crows today, you will deny three times that you know me.”
FILL IN THE GAPS BY SAYING: Then Jesus shares a quick teaching, goes to the Mount of Olives to pray with His disciples, but is arrested by the leaders of Jerusalem. While Jesus is suffering all of these events, here’s what Peter does.
Luke 22:54-62 (NIV)
Then seizing Jesus, they led him away and took him into the house of the high priest. Peter followed at a distance. 55 But when they had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and had sat down together, Peter sat down with them. 56 A servant girl saw him seated there in the firelight. She looked closely at him and said, “This man was with him.” 57 But he denied it. “Woman, I don’t know him,” he said. 58 A little later someone else saw him and said, “You also are one of them.” “Man, I am not!” Peter replied. 59 About an hour later another asserted, “Certainly this fellow was with him, for he is a Galilean.” 60 Peter replied, “Man, I don’t know what you’re talking about!” Just as he was speaking, the rooster crowed. 61 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.” 62 And he went outside and wept bitterly.
We started our discussion on the topic of regret. We saw a bunch of people in New York share their regrets on a public chalkboard. Some of their regrets were small and some of their regrets were big. But in the end, their regrets were their regrets.
But then we talked about our regrets.
Our regrets are personal. Our regrets hurt. Our regrets keep us up at night and rattle around in our hearts. Our regrets cry out for a clean slate like the one we saw represented on the chalkboard. We want to know that everything has been wiped away. We want to know that our mistakes have been cleaned. We want to be set free from the shame or the guilt or the pain of our past.
But how can that happen?
I think the answer can be found in Peter’s story. We talked about Peter in our small group discussions. He was a disciple of Jesus who went everywhere and did everything with Jesus. Peter had faith that Jesus was God’s one and only perfect Son. Peter believed that Jesus was God, Himself, which was a big deal. And Peter was right about that.
But then, Peter did the unthinkable. Right when Jesus needed Peter the most, Peter turned his back on Jesus and denied even knowing Him! When Peter thought his own life was in danger, he did everything he could to try and save his own skin.
The last thing we read about Peter was this: “he went outside and wept bitterly.” But, praise God, that’s not where Peter’s story ends…or where yours needs to end, either. I want to read one more passage to you from God’s Word. It takes place after the story we just read. It takes place after Jesus has been found guilty and beaten. It takes place after He’s been crucified and killed. It takes place after Jesus was buried. And it takes place after Jesus rose from the dead. Yes, I just said, “Rose from the dead.”
Take a look at what Jesus did just as soon as He conquered death and the grave. He went looking for His friend Peter. Here’s what happened:
Read John 21:1-17
- Afterward Jesus appeared again to his disciples, by the Sea of Tiberias. It happened this way: 2 Simon Peter, Thomas (called Didymus), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples were together. 3 “I’m going out to fish,” Simon Peter told them, and they said, “We’ll go with you.” So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing. 4 Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus. 5 He called out to them, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?” “No,” they answered. 6 He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish. 7 Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, “It is the Lord,” he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water. 8 The other disciples followed in the boat, towing the net full of fish, for they were not far from shore, about a hundred yards. 9 When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread. 10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you have just caught.” 11 Simon Peter climbed aboard and dragged the net ashore. It was full of large fish, 153, but even with so many the net was not torn. 12 Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” None of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. 13 Jesus came, took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. 14 This was now the third time Jesus appeared to his disciples after he was raised from the dead. 15 When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.” 16 Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me?” He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.” 17 The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.
Peter knew what Jesus was doing. All Peter could do was try his best to answer Jesus. But don’t miss what Jesus was doing! Jesus was basically saying, “Peter, look, I know you messed up. But nothing’s changed. You still love me…and I still love you! And to prove it, you’ve still got a job to do. I want you to feed my sheep.” That was Jesus’ way of saying, “I want you to care for others the way I instructed you to, earlier. Nothing’s changed. I forgive you for what you did and said. I’m not kicking you to the curb. I’m not firing you. I’m not writing you off. I’m forgiving you. I’m giving you a clean slate because I can. I’m the only one who can.”
That, friends, is how we get a clean slate: from Jesus. Only from Jesus.
(Take a few moments at this point and explain what the cross of Jesus meant, what His death and resurrection gives us, and why Jesus is the only One who can grant forgiveness for our sins and regrets.)
Here’s my hope for each of you. Anyone in this room right now who is facing regret, listen closely: Jesus is the only One who can give you a clean slate. Your contemplation can’t do that. Your hard work can’t do that. You’re good deeds can’t do that. Only Jesus can give you a clean slate.
Those folks who got the eraser on the street corner in New York were able to wipe away chalk…but they couldn’t wipe away their regret. None of us can. Only Jesus can do that. You must turn to Jesus to overcome your regrets. I hope you’ll do that right now.
If you want to talk about this more after we close in prayer, please see me or one of our adult leaders. We’d LOVE to talk with you about Jesus erasing your regret.
Close in Prayer
Written by David R Smith
Jonathan McKee is the author of over twenty books including the brand new The Bullying Breakthrough; The Teen’s Guide to Social Media & Mobile Devices; If I Had a Parenting Do Over; and the Amazon Best Seller - The Guy's Guide to God, Girls and the Phone in Your Pocket. He speaks to parents and leaders worldwide, all while providing free resources for youth workers on TheSource4YM.com. Jonathan, his wife Lori, and their three kids live in California.