THE GOD OF THE SECOND CHANCE
John 21:15 - 19
Many a time we grieve God by our sin and unfaithfulness, but again and again He gives us another chance. When the Lord revealed himself to Moses at Sinai He said He was “the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness....forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin.” We might very well call Him the God of the second chance. That’s what I want to speak to you about now.
We note how different He is from us. We are always ready to write somebody off when they disappoint us in some way. They’ve done wrong or disappointed us or hurt us, slighted us and we say we’re finished with them and we don’t give them another chance. If God treated us like that, where would we be? But God doesn’t turn away and refuse to give us another glance. Look at the record of how He dealt with his people Israel. He was fed up with their unfaithfulness after giving them many opportunities to change their ways and so he sent Nebuchadnezzar to plunder the very temple and carry off the people into exile in Babylon, but He took a second look at them sorrowing down in Babylon, with their harps hanging on the willows, and gave them a second chance. He was grieved that David, his choice as king, committed adultery with Bathsheba and punished him, but He took a second look at him, as David took Nathan’s courageous challenge to heart and repented, and God gave him another chance.
We rarely know the details of each other’s lives, so maybe I speak to someone and your heart is hard and unyielding and set against someone - a member of the family, a friend a workmate. Yes, you can quote chapter and verse of what they have done and been and make out an impregnable case to justify yourself and your attitude, but I ask you to remember that our God is the God of the second chance and He is our model in life. His character is our destiny. Remember, too, that our Lord taught us in the Family Prayer that God’s forgiveness for us is dependent on us forgiving others, “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Ah, if only we would bend a little, how few the disputes would be, how greatly reduced would be the world’s burden of bitterness and suffering. So I ask you to look with me at how our God is the God of the Second Chance. First, He gives -
A SECOND CHANCE TO MANKIND
God’s great work of salvation through Jesus Christ His Son is always described in scripture as a work of grace. It is undeserved mercy shown to rebels and sinners, a second chance to a race that had blown all its great opportunities and possibilities and lost all claim on God’s favour. How different it was at the beginning! God made us to live in friendship and fellowship with Him, to live constantly under His care and protection and with His perpetual blessing upon us, but in that representative act of rebellion by Adam in the garden, in the words of the Catechism, “all mankind lost communion with God, are under his wrath and curse and so made liable to all miseries in this life, to death itself and to the pains of hell forever.” That is the succinct summary of the misery of that estate into which mankind has fallen because of rebellion and sin. Adam’s banishment from the garden in Genesis was symbolic of mankind being cut off from God and that symbol is fully illustrated in human history as mankind, cut off from God, sets out to live in separation in a sullen rebellion which almost immediately results in resentment, murder and death in the case of Abel. We look around us today to see the state of man cut off from God, living in rebellion and defiance, and can we doubt his fallen condition? Every news bulletin brings us new details of the depths of depravity to which he has sunk in spite of all the education, social provision, culture and refinement with which we seek to cover the sinfulness of the human heart. Yes, traces of his high origin remain and show themselves in great kindness and goodness, like the Children in Need appeal, yet part of the great human tragedy today is that some of the most enlightened among us are those who want to break all fences down so that we can descend deeper and deeper into the pit of shame and degradation and in their ‘enlightenment’ they call vice virtue and virtue vice..
But our God is the God of the second chance and again and again in scripture we see Him taking another look at his fallen creation. He looks again and gives another chance at the time of Noah. And when that ends in failure, we see him looking again and giving another chance at the time of Abraham, when He calls out a people through whom the whole world is to be blessed. The centuries pass and that initiative breaks down because of the unfaithfulness of that people and ends in exile in Babylon. Yet once again, He takes another look and brings them back to the Promised Land to give another chance.
The years pass and this time that people fail Him again by turning to the arid formalism of Phariseeism, but the God of the Second Glance and the Second Chance looks once more at his lost children. In the most amazing demonstration of his condescending greatness, He sent His divine and only Son to take on human flesh, to accept humiliation and to die an atoning death in the place of sinners, in order to reconcile man to God and to lift him to a new and greater destiny than ever he had at the beginning.
The history of God’s dealings with man is the story of grace - the undeserved mercy of the God of the Second Chance. Sometimes we listen to this story with ears that have grown dull through frequently hearing it. Ghandi, the Indian patriot listened to the story of God’s love in Jesus and said, “as a Hindu, I do not believe all that you do about Jesus, but if I did, these old legs of mine would never rest until all India had heard.” He saw the significance of God’s grace in Christ. The mercy of God is the greatest of all wonders which includes the wonder of the incarnation, atonement, resurrection and the sending of his Spirit. Martin Luther said once,” If I were God and the world treated me as it has treated Him, I would have kicked the whole thing to pieces years ago.” But not God! He is the God of the second chance. He gives a second chance to mankind. He also gives -
A SECOND CHANCE TO FAILURES
Abraham, one of God’s great men whom scripture describes as “ the friend of God” was a failure. He was knee-deep in lies. He had got himself into a terrible mess in Egypt through spinning the lie that Sarah his wife was his sister. For a start, God never told him to go into Egypt and when he went there, he feared that Pharaoh would take a fancy to Sarah and get rid of him, so he said she was his sister. It was cowardly and selfish and untrue. What a mess he got himself and everybody else into, but God gave him a second chance and extricated him from the situation and he went on to greatness.
David, too, the one chosen to be king, was a failure. He was guilty of both adultery and murder. I think few of us, knowing his case, would have given him a second chance. ‘He’s a lost cause, a man like that will always be like that’ So we would reason. But God took a second look at David and gave him a second chance. Listen to David rejoicing in this experience,” Oh the happiness of the man whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Oh the happiness of the man when the Lord lays no sin to his account.” David was rejoicing in a second chance after failure.
Peter also was a failure, guilty of cowardice and treachery in the hour of temptation. He disowned his lord. And he had been specially warned about the coming trial. Jesus had told him, "Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail.” He had been warned in advance and he had made a solemn promise, “Though all the rest deny You, yet, I will not deny You.” It is so easy to be strong when there is no pressure, but when the test came and he was challenged about being a disciple of Jesus, he denied that he ever knew Jesus. What a failure! Yet, the Master took a second look at him. He saw the true repentance in Peter’s heart and so, even as He comes from the grave, outside the tomb, he has a very special word for this old failure and tells Mary,” Go tell the rest and Peter.” Then later at the lakeside, He singled out his old, downcast, fallen disciple, “ Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” And He drew from Peter a threefold confession to match his threefold denial and sent him into the world to be a leader among the disciples and to help establish the Church.
Do you see how God gives a second chance to failures. Maybe someone here feels a failure and I speak to someone whose heart is full of guilt because you feel you’ve let the Master down. You’ve broken vows, dishonoured the confession you once made., That old temptation rose again and grabbed you by the throat and you gave in once more. Well, I say to you that our God is the God of the second chance.
Maybe I speak to someone who once began to follow Christ but you found it wasn’t easy. Doubts arose, circumstances came about, pressures came on you and you gave in and today you’re little different from any other unbeliever. And yet, as we speak of these things, you have deep regrets in your heart. You know that the way you walk now is a lower way, that His way is the higher and better way. Well, I tell you again, our God is the God of the second chance.
Perhaps in your case the failure is of much longer duration. Like so many, you can look back over the years to a young man, a young woman full of faith. But somewhere along the way, that faith died and the years since then, however happy they have been, have always lacked something. Youth has gone, the years have passed and that failure has been locked away in the memory but never really faced up to. Perhaps you would love to step out again with faith burning bright, but don’t dare take that step. Let me assure you that our God is the God of the second chance and He gives a second chance to failures. And He is waiting to lift you up, to put new joy in your heart and a new spring in your step, a new song on your lips. He will give you a second chance, if you will take a step towards Him. Take that step, for failure need not be the name written over your life for ever.
The God of the second chance gives a second chance to failures. Now listen carefully to my last point for I want you to notice well that he gives -
A SECOND CHANCE TO REPENT
Don’t you think that’s what the Lord was doing in the garden when Judas came along with the traitor’s kiss? How could He the pure, undefiled, utterly straight Son of God allow those traitor’s lips upon his cheek? Hadn’t He said in the upper room, “One of you has a devil?” He knew. And Judas had slipped out into the night to do the devil’s work in trying to cast God from His universe, to silence the prophet, to sacrifice the priest, to kill the king. Yet, in the garden, He who abhorred evil more than we can ever grasp and had come to establish righteousness forever by His victory at Calvary allowed the traitor and agent of Satan to kiss him. Was it not, as has been suggested, a last effort to win Judas, to save him from the pit, to give him another chance at repentance? Was it not the God of the second chance giving Judas a second chance of true repentance and true faith in Him?
And thus He comes to us. I don’t think too many of us would be Christians were He to knock at our door only once and go His way never to return. He might well look down and see the hardness of your heart and the things you’ve said about Him and his people and the excuses you’ve manufactured to justify keeping your distance from him and say, ‘That case is lost. No point in trying any more.’ But so often He comes again to take another look at us, has pity on us and in His great compassion, knocks again seeking entrance. So often He gives a second chance to repent. He doesn’t hold grudges against those who dither and hesitate at His first approach. He comes again. Go to St Paul’s Cathedral in London and you’ll see a picture that illustrates this. It is Holman Hunt’s wonderful painting of Christ knocking at the door of the heart.
And that person may be you. Once before you felt his knock on your heart’s door and heard his call to you, yet even now you have not let Him in to be your Saviour and your Master. You know who He is and recognise Him as the Saviour of the world but you’ve kept a distance between Him and you and never let Him in. And today He has come again to give you a second chance to repent and open that door. Once more you feel his knock and hear his call. Then I want to tell you to act. Open that door and let Him in now. You hesitate?
Let not conscience make you linger,
Nor of fitness fondly dream.
All the fitness He requireth,
Is to feel your need of Him.
I must warn you against hesitating and presuming that another chance will come your way. There are harbours where boats and ships must take the tide when it is high, for it will recede and entry will then be impossible. It is that way in this matter. The tide is in and opportunity beckons when you feel His knock on the door and hear His call. But that tide can go out and you can miss your opportunity. You must not presume upon the mercy of God. Perhaps you’ve had the chance before and refused. Today, He gives another chance. You must take that chance while it is there. Remember the warning of Scripture, “Today if you hear my voce, do not harden your heart.” Has He come again to take another look at you? He hasn’t given up hope for you as yet. Rise up then. Let the past go. Look to the future, to what may yet be, to what you may yet become and open that door to the God of the second chance.