Summary: Our sins can never be greater than the grace of God. Our failure can never be greater than the love of God. Our failure in the past does not determine what we will become in the future.
God of 2nd Chances
Intro: A little boy went out to the ball field by himself, wearing his baseball cap and carrying a bat and ball. In his eye was the look of steely determination. He was so full of confidence that he put his bat on his shoulder, tossed the ball into the air, and said, “I’m the greatest batter in the world!” But he swung and missed. “Strike one,” he said. He picked up the ball, looked it over, and then threw it into the air again. As he watched the ball descend, he repeated, “I’m the greatest batter in the world.” But once more he missed. “Strike two,” he said with a puzzled look on his face, and he stopped to examine his bat to make sure there wasn’t a hole in it. A third time he picked up the ball, adjusted his cap, and tossed the ball into the air. As the ball went up a third time he repeated the refrain: “I’m the greatest batter in the world.” He swung with all his might, but he missed for the third straight time. “Strike three. Y’er out!” he said with the emphasis of an umpire. But instead of being discouraged, the boy began to jump and shout across the ballfield: “Wow! What a pitcher. I’m the greatest pitcher in the world!”
This summer and this year may have gone very well for you. On the other hand, you may feel like you have struck out. We have all struck out in some areas. But the good news is that you don’t have to justify it somehow, or call failure by another name, because even though you may have messed up, there is always another chance to begin anew, especially with God. Anybody here need another chance, a new beginning, a clean slate? We serve the God of second chances, and I, for one, am very grateful. Our sins can never be greater than the grace of God. Our failure can never be greater than the love of God. Our failure in the past does not determine what we will become in the future.
Philippians 3:13-14 Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
I want to highlight three attitudes today that lead to three actions we need to take to help us move forward. The first attitude adjustment that God wants to plant in our minds is:
1. Failure is not final.
If failure was final none of us would make it. None of the people of the Bible would make it. In fact, the Bible is one story after another of people who messed up repeatedly, and how they were coached along by God until they got it right. Names like Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Jonah, David, Paul and Peter come to mind — along with many others — including my own. If failures were not included in the Bible there would be no one there. If failures were not included in the church no one would be here either. But the Bible also shows us that failure is not final. The Lord says, “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more” (Jeremiah 31:34). That’s why the Bible says, “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).
It is wonderful that God gives us a chance to begin again! The Bible says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17). We serve a God of new beginnings!
The second attitude that God wants us to adopt is:
2. Bad results can be redeemed.
Bad choices lead to bad consequences. Many of us are living with the results of a wrong decision. It is true that God forgives our past sins, and that he heals the wounds with which sin has injured us. However, there are scars that remain even from a healed wound. But even scars can serve a purpose. They remind us of what happens when we rebel against God and try to go our own way. They also serve to help us relate to other people who have wounds. We can help them to know that wounds can heal and that the consequences of our actions can be redeemed. God uses everything in our lives — even our failures.
Peter was the most confident of Jesus’ disciples. He really believed that even if everyone fell away from Jesus he would still stand. But when it came down to it, he was the one who betrayed Jesus in his most difficult hour. Three times he denied that he even knew Jesus. Immediately after the cock crowed, red hot shame burned within him. He lived with that shame for several days — the day of the crucifixion, the days of Jesus’ burial, even after the resurrection — until one day he and some of the other disciples were fishing out on the Sea of Galilee. The risen Jesus called to them from the shore: “Friends, haven’t you any fish?” They answered in the negative. They were even failures at their old profession. They felt like they couldn’t do anything right. But Jesus called them “friends” — these who had deserted and denied him. Peter jumped out of the boat and swam to the shore, longing to be reconciled with the Savior he loved. When he came to the fire, Jesus looked him in the eye and asked: “Peter, do you love me?” The fire brought back memories of his betrayal and Jesus’ words pierced him like a knife. He said, “Yes Lord, you know that I love you.” But a second time the question is thrust into his heart: “Peter, do you love me?” Again, Peter agonizingly answers in the affirmative. Then a third time, Jesus asks the question again. Peter is distraught, but answers what he knows in his heart to be true, in spite of his failure: “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” It seemed to him like Jesus was asking repeatedly because he didn’t believe him, but here is another perspective: Maybe Jesus was giving him three times to affirm his love for him, after he had denied him three times. Jesus gave him a chance to redeem himself. He took his denial and turned it into a proclamation of love. And he wants to do the same for you.