By Tom Dolinger
Have you ever been in need of a second chance? Of course you have. So have I, more often than I’m proud of. I believe that every single one of us has had those moments when we wish we could have a do-over and try again. If you have been given one, you can probably think right now back to the moment and the amazing feeling that you had. A fresh start to life. A brand new chapter that has yet to be written. You’re probably smiling right now thinking about it. Not only do that moment and the amazing feeling you had bring a smile to your face, but if you think of the person who extended grace (undeserved gift) or the second chance to you, I imagine the result is the same. Big smiles all around!
Sadly, in the world we live in it seems like second chances are great in theory and it stops there. Most of the people I know, and have even worked with over the years — particularly before my time in ministry — are always on the go, and if someone stumbles or veers off course, they are left on their own and often swallowed up in the chaos. Maybe you have been the one who has stumbled and been trampled on. Maybe you have messed up bad and even felt as if you deserved to get left behind, and now you are wondering if you will ever have another chance.
Have you ever taken the time and thought about your life and your relationship with God and how that all works? The truth is that we are all in need of a second chance or a new life, if you will. The Bible is very clear that we all have something in common. Hold on because it is not good news. All of us have fallen short of God’s standard, which is perfection. Tough standard, I know. That’s the point. The Bible tells us that we have all sinned and as a result are separated from God.
Maybe you are wondering right now why in the world I’m sharing all of this bad news. Coming up short and not meeting someone’s standard is bad. You’re right. I want to be clear on the bad news because it helps us understand and appreciate the Good News. Take a deep breath. Here comes the greatest news ever. We have a God who is the God of second chances. While it is true that we have all sinned against God and as a result of that are in serious trouble, He loves us way too much to leave us to be trampled on or left behind. God loves us so much that He sent His Son into this world on the greatest rescue mission ever. We have all seen the signs that are held up at the games or are written on the black out under someone’s eyes that have John 3:16 written on it. Are you familiar with that verse? Here it is.
John 3:16 (NLT) For God loved the world so much that He gave His one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.
Have you ever wondered if that verse applies to you? It does! Notice it says that He came for the whole world. I love that word “world.” It’s all-inclusive and so that means you and me! Good stuff. Not only did God send His son Jesus, He did that while we were down and out and didn’t wait for us to “clean up our act. “
Romans 5:8 (NLT) God showed His great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.
That has to be one of the greatest verses in the bible. Think back again to the person in your life that has extended grace or a second chance to you. Smiling? Good. That is just a small measure of what God has done for all of us and how much He loves us. I want us to look at a couple of stories that Jesus told that will illustrate this to us. They are found in Luke chapter 15 and are a series of parables that Jesus teaches. Jesus often taught in parables which are simply earthly stories so we can relate, but they always have a Heavenly truth. In the stories, there is always someone who represents Jesus and someone who represents us. Jesus begins talking to the crowd by telling a story about a sheep.
Luke 15:4-7 (NLT) If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them gets lost, what will he do? Won’t he leave the ninety-nine others in the wilderness and go to search for the one that is lost until he finds it? And when he has found it, he will joyfully carry it home on his shoulders. When he arrives, he will call together his friends and neighbors saying, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.’ In the same way, there is more joy in heaven over one lost sinner who repents and returns to God than over ninety-nine others who are righteous and haven’t strayed away.
As Jesus was telling this story, those listening were probably trying to figure out who in the story was who. Well, here we have Jesus who is the shepherd and we are the sheep. Jesus referred to Himself as the Good Shepherd. In this story He tells of the shepherd putting it all on the line for the one sheep (one and me). That is exactly what Jesus did for us when He left His perfect place in Heaven and stepped into this world in search of His lost sheep. Jesus risked it all and ultimately gave His life on the cross for you and for me. He paid the penalty for our sins which is separation from God, and offers each of us eternal life which is to have a relationship with God that starts now and lasts for all of eternity. The story doesn’t end with Him dying on the cross for us. His body was put in the grave and on the third day, He walked out of the grave proving He is who He said He is and that He has power of sin and death! That works for me.
When we turn our lives over to Jesus, He says in His story that there is joy in Heaven (i.e., A PARTY!) for you and for me. Jesus doesn’t stop with this story, though. He continues by telling another story about the prodigal son. This might be one of the most familiar parables that Jesus told and I hope that right now someone is reading this who thinks “that last story is nice but I have messed up too much for God to ever love me.” If that is you and that is what you are thinking right now, this is for you.
Luke 15:11-16 (NLT) A man had two sons. The younger son told his father, ‘I want my share of your estate now before you die.’ So his father agreed to divide his wealth between his sons. A few days later this younger son packed all his belongings and moved to a distant land, and there he wasted all his money in wild living. About the time his money ran out, a great famine swept over the land, and he began to starve. He persuaded a local farmer to hire him, and the man sent him into his fields to feed the pigs. The young man became so hungry that even the pods he was feeding the pigs looked good to him. But no one gave him anything.
I find it interesting that once his money ran out, so did all of his friends. He is no longer sitting high and in charge. He is of no use to his friends. They bail, and he is so down and out that the pig food looks good to him.
Luke 15:17-19 (NLT) When he finally came to his senses, he said to himself, ‘At home even the hired servants have food enough to spare, and here I am dying of hunger! I will go home to my father and say, “Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called you son. Please take me on as a hired servant.”’
He has finally come to his senses and he has even prepared a speech to give to his dad. You might be at a point in your life where you have recognized you have, in fact, messed up along the way, and you might even feel like the son in this story and don’t feel worthy of love. Well, let’s look at the father’s reaction and see what it means to us.
Luke 15:20a (NLT) So he returned home to his father. And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming.
Think back to the last story of the lost sheep. The shepherd went looking for the sheep. Notice the father notices the son while he was a long way off? That would not have happened unless the dad was looking for his son. How do you think he’s going to react?
Luke 15:20b-24 (NLT) Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him. His son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son. But his father said to the servants, ‘Quick! Bring the finest robe in the house and put it on him. Get a ring for his finger and sandals for his feet. And kill the calf we have been fattening. We must celebrate with a feast, for this son of mine was dead and has now returned to life. He was lost, but now he is found.’ So the party began.
There is so much awesome sauce in this story. Did you notice what the father did when the son tried to recite his prepared speech? He wasn’t interested in hearing it. All the dad wanted to do was celebrate that his son was home! He gave him the finest things that he had. The best clothes. Nice jewelry. Filet mignon. The party had officially begun.
The amazing love that is shown here by the father to his son represents the amazing love that our Heavenly Father has for every single one of us. He truly is the God of second chances! If you have run away or gotten lost like the characters in either one of these stories, please know that God has never left you. He has constantly been pursuing you and all you have to do is turn to Him right now. He will give you the second chance that we all desperately need and, as we have just read, there will be a party in Heaven over you. You can begin a brand new life with Jesus Christ right now, right where you are. Simply tell Him that you believe He is who He says He is. He is the Son of God and He died for your sins. Ask Him for forgiveness of those sins and acknowledge Him.
2 Corinthians 5:17 (NLT) This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!
If you have made that decision, allow me to be the first to say CONGRATULATIONS! Welcome to the family of God! Walk boldly in your new life with Christ. Now that you have received a second chance, let others know how they can get a second chance as well.
Pastor Tom (High Rock Church of Lexington)