When Mike, our pastor, first asked me to speak this past Sunday he let me know the sermon series I would be kicking off was called People Of The Second Chance. So me being the Step 1 2 3 type person immediately started racking my brain for stories in the bible of second chances, people who got to try again….”I’ll research different stories about second chances, tell my favorite, lay out a ‘so many steps’ sermon, close in prayer then head to lunch with the fam, done.” But as the days ticked by and I kept drawing a blank, hitting some major writers block, I started getting more and more nervous (side note: every time I have been asked to speak God has been faithful to keep me completely in the dark until just a few days before the event as a means of keeping me reliant on the Holy Spirit, why I allow myself to become anxious each time is a testament to our crazy human tendency to doubt and partner with fear, utterly ridiculous, I know).
And so the Wednesday before I am to speak I went to bed once again feeling nervous that I still didn’t have a clear cut message and fell asleep asking for His words. After a restless attempt at sleeping I finally gave up at 3am and popped my eyes wide open, listening to the quiet creaking of our little old house and the not so quiet snoring of Adam and our dog I suddenly heard God whisper “Who told you I number your chances?’…..
“Uhhh, well, it’s called a SECOND chance so that would imply someone is keeping track.” (I tend to be a little testy at 3am)
“Oh sure, PEOPLE keep track, but when have my ways ever been yours?”
And from there we dove right in……..
You see as people, humans, we are consumed with our sin. We’re either committing it, trying not to commit it, regretting that we committed it, asking forgiveness for committing it, not caring that we committed it, proud that we didn’t commit it or getting our dander up when others commit it. We are the ones constantly placing sin in front of us, focusing on it as something that needs to be fixed, gotten rid of, but in focusing on the sin we’ve lost sight of the real problem. We’re zeroed in on the symptoms, trying to cure them when we’ve lost sight of the disease, the root issue, what’s in the heart. You see our thoughts and actions come from the overflow of the heart.
It’s like being a star track athlete, primed and ready for the big race called life. But just as you’re about to approach the starting line you trip over something you never even saw and as you fall your leg is twisted at an impossible angle, your bone snaps and you fall to the ground. Instead of acknowledging the injury you drag yourself to the starting line and in great pain you manage to get into starting position next to the other runners. But when the gun fires instead of sprinting forward with speed your leg gives way and you crumple to the ground in agony. As you sit up you cry out to God “Why can’t I run, I gave it my all?! Give me another chance, I swear I can do it this time.” And crawling back to the starting line you prepare for the next heat to start, with great determination you wait for the gun to fire and upon hearing it you give all you have to spring off the line. Only the same thing happens again, face down on the ground you find yourself a hot mess just a few inches from the start. In tears you cry out “Why God?! Why did I fail again? I gave it all I had but give me another chance, just one more, I know I can do it this time.” And all the while God is saying “You can’t change the outcome until you acknowledge the problem, you can’t run on a broken leg no matter how many chances I give you.”
And as we’re beating our selves up trying to run the race we’re keeping track of all our “second chances”. Each time we ask for another chance we live in fear that we’ve already used our chances up. Chances that we invented because we as humans operate our relationships on a contract basis. Each time we enter into a new relationship we draw up a silent contract with that person that says “If you act like this, I’ll react like this. If you do this, I’ll do this in return. But if you do this, this, or this then I’m out, our contract will be voided and our relationship will end.” Both parties agree and we go about our lives with our mutual understanding. And when we let this contract mindset bleed into our concept of God we assume there’s really only so much God will take, only so many ounces of forgiveness He’ll dole out before we’ve gone too far, done too much or not done enough. Oh doesn’t the enemy love to keep us thinking that God still operates under a contract basis, that the old law wasn’t abolished…..
The old way was the Law, the contract God had with His people. And while the Law was good and holy the enemy quickly realized it could be used for his purposes too. “So I discovered that the law’s commands, which were supposed to bring life, brought spiritual death instead. Sin took advantage of those commands and deceived me; it used the commands to kill me. But still, the law itself is holy, and its commands are holy and right and good” (Romans 7:10-12) So while God set up His law to protect the ones He loves the enemy was using all the rules and regulations to shackle God’s people to their sin and brokenness. So God set about to change things, to fill the demands of His law once and for all. There had to be a sacrifice, the wage of sin is death. And so God sent His son, our Holy Redeemer. When Jesus hung on the cross it was for every sin that every person who was living and ever will live would commit throughout their entire life. Can we even comprehend that? EVERY sin, from the tiny white lie told by Jane Doe today at 9:36am to the brutal murders that will be committed by John Smith in the very distant future. When Jesus’ blood was shed it covered it all, it filled every contractual obligation and set it afire. It did away with the “second chance”, it abolished the counting system all together because even the sins you haven’t committed yet are already forgiven and covered in His holy blood. “So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death. The law of Moses was unable to save us because of the weakness of our sinful nature. So God did what the law could not do. He sent his own Son in a body like the bodies we sinners have. And in that body God declared an end to sin’s control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins. He did this so that the just requirement of the law would be fully satisfied for us, who no longer follow our sinful nature but instead follow the Spirit” (Romans 8:1-4) When He died we were released from The Law and placed under His covenant, and while a contract is a list of Do’s and Don’ts a covenant says Forever, it says no matter what you do, what you say, think, or feel you are mine for all eternity. He took away The Law and gave us Freedom. ”
So what does a life free to do whatever we wish look like? Why should we even care if we sin if it’s already forgiven and covered in Jesus blood?
Let me stress again that it’s not about the sin, the action, the behavior….it’s about the relationship. When Jesus left this earth He traded places with someone else, He sent the Holy Spirit in His place to reside in each and every one of us. As I spend more and more time in God’s presence, talk with Him and catch little glimpses of who He is our relationship becomes more and more intimate, the Holy Spirit fills my soul and heals my heart so that I am being changed more and more into His likeness. As my heart and mind are filled with heaping doses of who He is the “temptations” of this world begin to lose their shininess. Oh they will always be there, always tempting, but their lies become more easily recognized as God’s truths grow deeper roots in my soul. And there’s the truth that we are set free, terribly and wonderfully free, free to make mistakes, big mistakes and free to come crawling back under that beautifully quilted covering of His covenant, free to accept the forgiveness that’s already been given, that undeserved, mind boggling thing called Grace.