Author's bias | Interpretation: conservative
Inclination: dispensational
Seminary: Western (Portland)

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Vain Regrets
(K. Payne)

Welcome to disciple making:

This series on disciple making is Booklet 1 – Essentials, which is part of the program Transferable Cross Training (TCT) developed by Dr. Karl Payne. The purpose of TCT is to help equip men and women to be effective disciple makers. The materials are field tested with various proof verses that can be memorized, and each lesson is focused on transferability. It is our desire is for those who accept the challenge of discipleship that, with or without a Bible and notes in hand, each individual who has taken the time to master the concepts and principles in this series will have confidence to comfortably and biblically respond to common questions and comments from friends or enemies of Christ. By God’s grace we can make a difference in eternity by being actively involved in the most important job assignment entrusted to mankind. For more information about TCT or obtaining the booklet series, see

Please remember that the uniqueness of this discipleship series is its simple transferability. It is the expressed desire of the author that students actually use these materials after completing each booklet, by sharing them with others in a manner consistent with 2 Timothy 2:2.

How many times have you found yourself ruining the present because of something you did in the past? This struggle is with "vain regrets."

Why are they vain regrets? Because it is vain to think you can change the past. It can't be done. The past is history. Common sense should tell us that to destroy a second day because of yesterday's mistakes is shortsighted. It's bad enough we allowed yesterday to be lost.

The Apostle Paul referred to this problem:

"Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it [perfection in this life] yet. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead. I press on towards the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 3:13-14)

What did Paul have to forget? Plenty! Remember, he was the religious zealot who had taken it upon himself to imprison or destroy every Christian and Christian Church with whom he came in contact. After scattering the Christians is Jerusalem he had even been given permission to hunt them down in other cities. After becoming a Christian, how do you think he felt about his past actions? Guilt ridden, I'm sure. But Paul realized his past was just that - past (no matter how often he may have wished it was not true). If you cannot undo, redo or change the past, even if you wish you could, then why allow something you cannot change to control the present and future? Common sense says let it go.

The Apostle Peter, for all his early success preaching, had some days I'm sure he wished he could do over. I wonder how he felt the night he denied Christ three times. Think about it - the leader of the twelve, a man who lived with Jesus for three and one half years, a leader of leaders. But what happened that night when a teenage slave girl asked him if he was a follower of Christ? He denied he knew Christ with cursing. I am sure he wished he could relive that night. But he could not. Did Jesus forgive him? Did He still allow Peter to be involved in significant ministry? Yes He did!

Speaking of the guilt incurred from sin, have you thought how King David (a man after God's own heart) must have felt before, during and after his escalating failures of adultery, cover-up and murder? I wonder if David ever wished he could turn back the clock, or at the very least have willingly confessed his sins rather than have God send a prophet to expose his hypocrisy? Psalm 51 is a beautiful, but painful, testimony of David finally turning his heart back to God.

Remember that God will always forgive and cleanse us when we confess our sin. He has promised to do so in 1 John 1:9. Take a minute and read Psalm 32:5-6. God's willingness to forgive our sin when we confess it is not just a New Testament revelation. David clearly understood this concept and promise. If God is willing to forgive and move on, we are foolish if we don't.

To continue to relive the forgiven past is not only a waste of time, it is insulting to God. He has promised to forgive and cleanse us when we confess our sin. To live in the past may be human, but it also denies, doubts, or forgets that God always keeps His promises.

Do you have anything that would be harder for you to put behind and forget than Paul did after he participated in killing Christians, than Peter did after denying Christ in His hour of greatest need or King David did after committing adultery with a trusted friend's wife and then ordering a murder in a bungled attempt to cover-up his sin? If Paul, Peter and David could accept God's forgiveness and forget, so can you. If God was still willing to use them in active ministry, there is still hope for you too.

Forgetting what lies behind, I press forward...


  • The previous lesson on "Forgiveness" is designed to answer the "how" question. It deals with the basic mechanics of how a Believer should respond to sin.
  • This lesson on "Vain Regrets" is designed to answer the "why" question. It deals with the loss of hope. "How could God possibly forgive me, much less still love me, after what I have done?"
  • People struggling with vain regrets have lost hope. They need to change the tape of failure that plays non-stop in their mind. Use God's recorded dealings with Paul, Peter and King David to illustrate His willingness to cleanse, forgive and sustain sinners in divine service.
  • If God can forgive Paul, Peter and King David, He can forgive me and you. If He is willing to put them into His service after their failures, there is still hope for us.
  • It is foolish to allow yesterday's failure to ruin another day. God has cleansed you - let it go!

Karl Payne's personal note: I grew up in a home that would have been considered moral and ethical, but not religious. Both of my parents were teachers. Dad was a Mathematics / Science specialist for the Sacramento City School District and my mom taught grade school. My Dad would occasionally pray for our food, but we did not read the Bible or discuss religious topics. I decided my first Sunday of seventh grade that I had no real interest in church or Sunday school and informed my parents that I would no longer attend either. I assumed I was a Christian because I had been baptized as a child at my mom's request, but my primary interests were baseball, football and music.

On June 17th, 1970 I became a Christian while attending a youth retreat sponsored by Young Life, a Christian ministry focused upon reaching high school students. The two biggest hurdles I faced in that decision both related to honest assumptions. My first assumption related to what I had understood it meant to be a Christian. I assumed that I was a Christian because I had been baptized. Christians get baptized, I had been baptized, therefore, I was a Christian. I also thought that heaven, if it was real, was attained by being a nice person. I reasoned that since on a moral and ethical scale which had the Pope on one end and Hitler on the other, that my live style was closer to the Pope's than Hitler's, thus making me a shoe in for heaven if God was fair.

The second assumption I had made related to education. In eighth grade my science teacher told our class that "religious people were mental cripples who needed a crutch to get through life." I was very impressed by this teacher and took to heart what he said. In the eleventh grade, my physiology teacher told our class that "educated people believed in evolution." As I grew older my education had become more important to me. As a result of several teacher's comments I assumed that it was not possible to think deeply and still be a Christian. Religion in my mind was therefore something for nice people who were not too concerned about an academic education. My first assumption was to confuse churchianity with Christianity. Churchianity represents men and women making their best efforts to reach up to God and receive His approval, based upon their individual efforts to be found worthy in His eyes. Biblical Christianity is a message explaining how God has chosen to reach down to mankind through the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ, providing salvation by His grace as a free gift to all who believe, in spite of our unworthiness. Religion is essentially a message of man reaching up to God. Christianity is a message detailing how God has reached down to man. Religion exalts man. Christianity exalts God. I had received just enough religious training to confuse religion with Christianity and had rejected an honest consideration of Christianity in the process. My second assumption was to confuse naturalism, dialectical materialism and the suppositional baggage assumed to be true by both philosophical world views, with actual empirical data and good science, which provides conclusions based upon testing, observation and repetition rather than wishful thinking and naturalist / atheistic suppositional indoctrination.

On the 17th of June, 1970 at 8:00 P.M., I listened to a gentleman clearly explain that God's plan is that I have eternal life (John 3:16, John 10:10, Romans 5:1), but that my problem with sin (to miss the mark in word, thought or deed) had separated me from Him (Romans 3:23, Romans 6:23). This sounded more like bad news to me than good news. He went on to say that God had provided a remedy for my sin by sending His only son Jesus Christ to die on a cross as a payment for my penalty (2 Corinthians 5:21, Philippians 2:4-10, 1 Timothy 2:5, Romans 5:8, John 14:6, Ephesians 2:8-9), but that it was absolutely necessary for me to respond to His remedy for the remedy to be effective (John 1:12, Romans 10:9-10, Revelation 3:20). I bowed my head in that room and quietly asked Jesus Christ to become my Savior and Lord. Jesus came into my life and has made me a new person, from the inside out (2 Corinthians 5:17). That was nearly thirty-one years ago. Knowing Jesus is more than religious activism or academic curiosity. It is a real relationship. Spiritual maturity is a process (1 John 2:12-14) that should continue to develop and grow as long as we are alive.

God used a Campus Crusade for Christ high school ministry to teach me that aggressive, reproductive Christianity (2 Timothy 2:2) should be considered normal Christianity. Sincerity is necessary for Christian living, but it is not sufficient for impacting our world for Christ (Matthew 28:18-20, 2 Corinthians 5:17-21, 2 Timothy 2:15, 1 Peter 3:15). He has used several godly men, seminary and nearly twenty-five years of serving in church ministry to teach me that making disciples means far more than leading people to Christ and asking them to pray and read their Bibles. It is impossible to give what you do not have or share what you do not know. When people tell me that their Christian faith is boring, what they are really telling me is that they do not pray, they do not study and they do not give away what they have been given. The Christian life is an adventure that is exciting to live and share. To judge Christianity by people who sit on their hands, criticize others and turn a living faith into dead religion is to misrepresent Biblical Christianity. Christianity was never meant to be lived as a passive spectator sport.

Dr. Karl Payne, at heart, is an apologist who loves to train and equip Christians for spiritual service and warfare (Eph.4:11-16). He enjoys preaching, writing and retreat / conference / seminar speaking. He derives his greatest pleasure tackling the challenge of teaching Christian workers, interns and budding preachers / teachers at both the Bible College and Seminary levels. In addition, he has co-authored two books: A just Defense and Cross Training through Multnomah Press.

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