The God of Second Chances

There is a common myth in the church that whatever happens is God's will. And, let me reiterate, it's just a myth. The Bible never says that everything that happens is God's will. God never wills evil to happen. However, he does give us the promise in Romans that whatever happens, He will work those happenings for the good of those who love him. He is guiding history for the benefit of those who love him.

However, we have an arch-nemesis that keeps us from experience the complete life that God has planned for us, sin. When we sin, it is an act of stepping out of God's will. Sin is a proclamation to God that we think our way is better than His way. When we do that, we don't deserve to be taken back. We've betrayed Him, but God is forever gracious and takes us back time and time again. He is a God of second chances.

He was with Moses. In Exodus 2:11-15, we see Moses step out of God's will and kill an Egyptian. It appears that Moses was trying to force God's hand into liberating the Hebrews. Moses failed by taking God's will into his own hands and not waiting for God's timing. However, we see throughout the rest of the first five books of the Bible that God continued to use Moses to help bring about His will on earth.

He was the God of second chances with David. In 2 Samuel 11, we are told the story of David committing an affair with Bathsheba. Not only did he commit an affair, but he didn't come clean right way. He then proceeded to try and cover up the act. When the cover-up failed, he proceeded to have the husband murdered. But we see that God was gracious once again and didn't stop using David to bring about His will.

And He was the God of second chances with Jonah. In Jonah 1:1-3, we see Jonah running away from the call God placed on his life because Jonah had no desire to love the people God wanted him to love. But by the end of Jonah, we see that God had used Jonah to bring about His will.

Despite all of their failings, God continued to use those who turned back from their sin and began to follow Him again. God is a gracious God of second chances.

A few weeks ago, there was an episode of Lost that perfectly illustrates the concept of second chances. If you haven't watched Lost at all, it is the story of the survivors of a plane wreck who find themselves stranded on an isolated island in the middle of the ocean. It's like Gilligan's Island with a lot more drama and not as much comedy. By this point in their life on the island, they have given up all hope of being found. Because of that, they have to begin life anew on the island. It was constantly brought up that they have all been given a second chance to be whoever they want to be. Their pasts matter no longer. They can be new people. The tragedy that struck them can be the greatest thing to ever happen to them, a tangible second chance.

Sometimes it takes tragedy for us to reach the point of surrender and accept our second chances from God. Sometimes we have to feel like we are stranded and alone to return to the way God has planned for our lives. I hope we don't have to reach that point. I hope that no matter what happens we are always willing to do God's will when we make mistakes. I hope that we don’t continue to walk away from God and hit rock bottom, but even if we do, God will pick us up as soon as we want him to.

But I would be mistaken to not mention other cases from Scripture. There is a drawback to our sinning and stepping out of God's will. If I were to just paint a rosy picture, I would be doing a disservice to the word of God. Although he will always graciously accept us back, there are time when our turning away from Him causes us to miss the window of opportunity to be a part of His will. There are times when our actions prevent us from receiving the blessing that God had intended for us. A few stories come to mind.

In Numbers 20:1-13, we see Moses, who was told that he would be the man to take the Hebrews to the Promised Land, be removed from that role because, in anger, he took credit for an act of God.

In Numbers 14:20-25, we see the Hebrews remove themselves from the plan God had of them being the people to live in a land flowing with milk and honey. God is patient and will bring about His will with another Hebrew generation rather than use those who have constantly been in rebellion to Him.

And we also see it with the story of Adam & Eve. God planned perfection for them in the garden. However, their sin removed them from the perfection that was planned.

God doesn't break his promises. Humans do. And sometimes when we do, we remove ourselves from the blessing that God has intended for us. We serve a God of second chances, but sometimes, our actions prevent us from being the people that God wants to bring about His will.

And that leads us to the big question, "What does God want out us?" "What is God's will for our lives?" "How do we live in such a way that we can be a part of God's actions here on earth?"

I can't help you figure out the personal stuff of where God wants you to work and live - or if you're younger where he wants you to go to college and whether he wants you to marry - and if so, to whom. But I can share with you some things that I definitely know God wants out of you.

When Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment was, he replied in Matthew 22:37-39:

"You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.' This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'"

He wants you to love Him, and He wants you to love those around you. Loving God and loving others isn't only an emotional thing of the heart. John 14:15 says, "If you love me, you will keep my commandments." I John 2:3 says, "Now by this we may be sure that we know Him, if we obey His commandments."

And concerning loving our neighbors John wrote in I John 3: 17-18: "How does God's love abide in anyone who has the world's goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help? Little children, let us love not in word or speech, but in truth and action."

Love is not some abstract concept. It's action. It's tangible. When we live out the greatest commandments and love God and our neighbors, it is something that transforms the world into what God intends for it to be.

We will continue to find ourselves in God's will if we focus on doing those two things. And when we find ourselves in the center of God's will, we will find ourselves being the solution to society's ills. God's will is brought to earth through the lives of those committed to Him, and he want us to be completely committed to following Him no matter what the cost. We can't expect to be used by God to bring about His will if we aren't completely dedicated to following Him.

God also wants us to be not just individual Christians but a family of believers filled with love for one another and the lost around us. If we truly and genuinely live out a life of love, we will be brought together with others on the same path. That is what the church should be, a group of believers united together under the headship of Christ to continue living out His life here on earth.

As I mentioned at the beginning, our society has relationship problems. Friendships betrayed. Dysfunctional families. Children growing up unloved. Marriages crumbling. The church needs to be the answer. Sadly, I don't think we have been. The church in America has failed to be different than the world when it comes to healthy relationships. George Barna did a study that showed born-again Christians are just as likely as non-Christians to get a divorce. Pedophilia runs rampant throughout all denomenations of the church.

But we do serve a God of second chances, a God who is willing to help us be the people to bring about His will. All we have to do is repent and come back to Him. God wants the church in America to be a church that loves the world like he does. And that is what he wants us to be in Antwerp.

The lost people throughout Antwerp will see the light that shines among us and be guided to the Lord if we completely devote ourselves to, not just being another church with a more modern worship style, but to being a church that is completely devoted to following God in our finances, in our worship, in our Bible study, and in our lives together outside of this building. If the extent of our relationships is only what happens inside this building on Sunday morning, Wednesday night, and in our small groups, then our relationships are a joke. People in the business world have relationships with one another at business functions. The step we have to take in order to be a light shining throughout Antwerp is to make our friendships real and more than just business relationships that we have when the whole group gathers together. We will never be an effective light if all we offer is belief statements and not lives that are transformed by the grace of God.

God has a plan for us as individuals, for our church, and for this town. But we have the option of stepping out of that will, not being part of God's work, and not receiving the blessing he intends for us. He isn't going to force His will on us. But he is longing for a group of people that will step up and place themselves in a position to allow God's will to come about. We always have a choice. We can either choose to be like the world, not completely love God and our neighbors, which will result in the continuing downward spiral of dysfunctional relationships, or we can make our second chances count and step into a transformed life that will change us, our church, and our town. No matter what we have done or what we will do in the future, that option is always there. God is the God of second chances.

Watch out for the potholes.