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Grateful for Do-Overs
Scripture: 2 Corinthians 5:14-17
Track 3 of 8 in the Persuasive Words: Living So Others May Know series
Running time: 28 minutes, 17 seconds.

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Chuck Sackett Speaker: Chuck Sackett
Dr. G. Charles Sackett is minister of Madison Park Christian Church.

View all sermons by this speaker.

Sermon for Sunday, November 20, 2005

Words to Live By
Persuasive Words
Living So Others May Know

(2Corinthians 5:14-17)
Copyright 2005 G. Charles Sackett

Lamentations, a little five chapter book sandwiched between Jeremiah and Ezekiel is one of my favorite texts. In fact, I would say it's a rare day that I don't, in some way, either pray about this text, or actually pray this text when I get up in the morning.

Lamentations 3:22 If you're trying to find it, it's probably pretty close to dead center in your Bible, but it's hidden back there because it's such a obscure book that we pay so little attention to.

In the midst of a great deal of lamenting over Israel's sin comes this statement from Jeremiah. Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, "The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him."

The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.

I love the fact that God's mercies are new every morning. I make just enough mistakes during the day to realize that I need to start over every day. I'm glad that God has the willingness to allow that kind of "do-over" to occur. "Second chances!"

This lady's name is Genelle Guzman McMillan. She was featured in the Time Magazine's first annual response to 9/11. It was an article called "Eleven Lives". It featured those who were survivors of the attack on the World Trade Center. She was actually the last living survivor to be recovered from the rubble of that particular event. Buried there for over a day, she was quoted as saying in a New Jersey newspaper, "I was praying to God. God please save my life. Give me a second chance. I promise I will change my life and do your will."

I don't know. A hundred-million people may have prayed that same prayer under similar circumstances. She did ah. . . .she did become a Christian. She was baptized at the Brooklyn Tabernacle in New York. I don't know what her life has turned out to be. I don't know if she, in deed, continues to do His will, but I am struck by that sense of wanting a "second chance". Just give me a chance to start over.

I suspect that most of us have had those kinds of opportunities to ask for "do-overs". My grandson calls them "re-dos". I don't know where that has come from. Maybe that's just a new generational term. But it all works out the same way.

Every Wednesday afternoon at 4:00 o'clock, it's time to play. "Grandpa can you come over?" "Well of course I can." So we play kick ball and we play basketball and we play baseball, but I don't know what we're going to do when it gets so cold outside that we can't do this any more. But, I have learned that if the ball does not go exactly where he desires it to go, it's time for a "re-do". I don't know how this works. I haven't learned the rules yet because I don't get "re-dos". If Grandpa's out, he's just OUT!

"Do-Overs." Ever wanted one? "Second chance." Ever needed one? Hoped for one? Longed for one?

The apostle Paul understood that concept of "do-over", "start-over". Ah, just, if you want to follow along, I'm going to read three passages here about the apostle Paul.

Over in the book of Acts Saul of Tarsus stands and holds the garments of those who are stoning Stephen. He tells the story of his own conversion in Acts 9 and he retells it in Acts 22. It's that retelling in Acts 22 that I want first to read.

He been arrested and in his defense of his arrest, he's making a comment about who he is. In Acts 22:19 in reflecting on his own conversion he says, "Lord," I replied, "these men know that I went from one synagogue to another to imprison and beat those who believe in you. And when the blood of your martyr Stephen was shed, I stood there giving my approval and guarding the clothes of those who were killing him."

This is his previous life.

Acts 26:9 In giving a recount and experience again, only this time before King Agrippa, as he's being condemned to go to Rome for trial, again in that same context of defending his own life he says in Acts 26:9 "I too was convinced that I ought to do all that was possible to oppose the name of Jesus of Nazareth. And that is just what I did in Jerusalem. On the authority of the chief priests I put many of the saints in prison, and when they were put to death, I cast my vote against them. Many a time I went from one synagogue to another to have them punished, and I tried to force them to blaspheme. In my obsession against them, I even went to foreign cities to persecute them.

And then you read a bit later in 1Timothy as Paul reflects on his own life. You hear in this opening chapter of 1Timothy, this statement.

1Timothy 1:12-17 I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me faithful, appointing me to his service. Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.

Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners - of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life. Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.

Do you hear the apostle Paul recounting his own experience of recognition, "I, in ignorance and unbelief, persecuted the church, opposed Christ and did everything I could to put an end to Christianity and God, in his absolute grace, saw fit to give me a second chance."

That's our text, 2Corinthians 5. Lacey has already referred to the fact that we're spending some time this fall just looking at this one particular chapter 2Corinthians 5. You've heard now, two sermons based on a portion, at least, of this text. We're picking up at 2Corinthians 5:14 For Christ's love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.

So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!

And then if you come down to 2Corinthians 5:21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

That theme pervades Scripture. That Jesus became sin so that we wouldn't have to endure our own sin. It's located in 1Peter 2:24. It's repeated again in Hebrews 9:24-28. He took upon himself our sin so that we wouldn't have to bear it ourselves.

C. S. Lewis said it this way. "It cost God nothing so far as we know, to create nice things; but to convert rebellious wills cost Him crucifixion."

The flip side of that is a theologian that I quoted for you a couple of weeks ago, Ted Turner in a 1993 issue of USA Today. I don't know if he still believes this but at that time he says, "I don't want anybody to die for me. I've had a few drinks and a few girl friends. If that's going to put me in hell, then so be it."

"Second chances!"

I guess what I'm wanting to ask is, what in the world does it mean to be given a second chance? At least in this context, what does it mean? To have a chance to start over. I think Paul says it well a book or two over from 2Corinthians. A book over from 2Corinthians in Galatians 2. He summarizes that whole sense of having this second opportunity in these verses Galatians 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.

I think the King James says it this way. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.

So what does it mean? To have been crucified with Christ, to have been given a second chance. Well, it means that we give what we have received. "Second chances!"

I read my Bible and I come to the Lord's Prayer in Matthew 6 and I hear Him saying, "Forgive us as we forgive others."

I read the apostle Paul in Colossians 3 and Ephesians 4 and he says, "We will forgive even as we have been forgiven."

I think what it means to have been the recipient of "second chances" is that you become the giver of second chances. At least that would be my appeal this morning. Give preachers a second chance because we're just really bound and determined to mess it up. Oh, I suspect that we never do it intentionally, but we guarantee that we're human and we'll mess it up. It might be as simple as introducing myself to you for the third time saying, "Oh, is this your first Sunday here and what's your name?" And you begin to wonder, does this guy have any memory whatsoever? And the answer is, "NO". So I'm never offended if you introduce yourself to me and say, "my name is. . . . . ." I'll forget it in three minutes. Not intentionally, it just happens. It's a distinct possibility that you might see me and I would not wave at you. I'm really not a snob by nature. Could be that I just didn't see you or didn't recognize you. It could be that I will do something far worse than that. Like fail to hear in the tone of your voice that you have a need that needs to be met and I just didn't pick up on it and you wonder where in the world is this guy? Doesn't he care? I'm just here to promise you that there's not a person on our staff who will not, at some point, make a mistake. And what we will need from you is a "second chance."

See, my guess is that's true about the leadership of the church. I can't imagine that the elders of this body have made every decision in exactly the way that you would like them to make it. Don't nod your heads. We don't want you to give it away. But I know them well enough to know that they have never made a decision in this body that they didn't think was the right decision. And I think all they want from you is a "second chance" when you don't agree with them.

I think, frankly, that giving second chances is, in fact, what life is about. I've never asked this question because, frankly, I'm a coward. My wife has never threatened me. So there's been no formal second chance. I don't even want to know how many second chances I've had informally. When she didn't bother to say something to me that "I'm going to give you one more chance to get this right". But isn't that what marriage is about? Is the giving and receiving of "second & third & fourth" and well, you know, I can't count that high.

And isn't that what we want from our children? Oh, I, I know that's what we give to our children. Huh! We're in a constant state of giving our children second chances. But as a parent, frankly, that's all I want is a second chance. I know I've blown it. I don't think it's ever fair to be a first child. You can start praying for Sidney Mae today because they're going to make a lot of mistakes. You know, by the time you get the third or fourth one, you're starting to get the hang of how to do this and by then, man, it ought to be too late. And all you want from your kids is just a second chance to do a better job, to undo some of the mistakes.

Isn't that what we want in the relationships that we have with each other around here? To simply give to each other second chances? But it's bigger than just that, I think. I think it's bigger than just simply allowing each other to have second chances within the community of faith. I have a sneaking suspicion that there's something incredibly important about giving other people "second chances" in their relationship with God. See, that's the nature of this text.

2Corinthians 5 is all about those of us who have come to know Jesus and have been recreated in His image becoming ambassadors for Him out in our communities. That's what the whole nature of this paragraph is about in 2Corinthians. We have become ambassadors for Christ. Therefore, he says in 2Corinthians 20 We implore you: Be reconciled to God.

I had the experience again yesterday sitting at a stop light watching cars go by. Actually if I'd been sitting at a stop light I would have been better off. I was sitting, trying to get across the street on Broadway from a non-stop light. You'd think I'd know better. Cars just kept going by and going by and going by. And I kept sitting there thinking, "I wonder if those people will be in church somewhere tomorrow? I wonder if those people will know Jesus?" I don't know how many people do. I mean there are a lot of churches in town. I suspect that there are not 50,000 people attending church this morning, however.

And I have a sneaking suspicion that this image of "second chances" is a word that needs to hit the street that God is a God of second chances. Now I understand that some people don't know that they missed the first one, that they even messed it up. But I am absolutely convinced that the people who know about second chances have to be the ones to tell them because they'll never figure it out on their own.

See, it's the power of the personal testimony. It's not like you've got to have the Gospel memorized. It's not like you have to have a college or seminary education. All you have to know is how you became a Christian. What happened to you! You can tell that to somebody can't you? I mean, it doesn't even have to take long.

I was raised in a non-Christian home. When I was eleven or twelve years old I used to walk to a little church on the corner and two old people, Mr. and Mrs. Rhinerd (??), began to pray for me. And every day for twelve years, they prayed, by name, for me, that I would come to know Jesus.

When I was fifteen or sixteen years old I started riding motorcycles and I ran into a kid that had a motorcycle and so we rode together and I discovered after a little while that he was a believer. And I decided he had something I wanted. I didn't know what it was. I just knew that whatever he had in his life, I didn't have and I wanted it; so, I started going to church with him. I met people who cared, that thought I mattered. And I came face-to-face with Jesus. And in late October, I gave my heart to Him and was baptized. Now that didn't take long to tell. It's just my story. It's not your story, it's my story. I don't know how you became a believer, but you became one. You can tell that story standing on a hospital elevator. It doesn't take long to just give people a word about what God has done (is doing) in your life. If that doesn't work for you, then how about just being available to just open the door for the Gospel.

I guess you know that this is like, November. That means Christmas is coming. And for two nights we're going to do a Christmas program here that is gonna just "blow your socks off". But if you're the only people who hear it, then, it's nothing but entertainment. But the power of the invitation. To go to your neighbor and say, "listen, I'll buy you a ticket. Would you come sit in my row with me and hear this Christmas story, one more time, told in a little different way.?" Or to say, "hey, you know, weird things are kind of happening this year. Christmas is going to be on Sunday. Can you believe that? Who fixed that calendar? Would you come up with me to church and let's celebrate the birth of Christ together." Or Christmas Eve. It's the power of an invitation to say, "would you just join me in my life experience? You don't even have to like what we do. You don't have to agree with what we do. But, it's who I am; so, would you just come and be a part of what I'm doing this year at Christmas?"

If we don't offer those opportunities for "second chances" to people, I guarantee you they're not going to figure it out driving down the street. See, it's the power of the change in your life. It's the power of opening your life to somebody else.

I learned something this last weekend. And my son-in-law is one of those bright guys who knows a lot about how to reach out into communities and one of the things he's learned in his study that I am beginning to understand more than ever is that it is not enough for a church to be friendly the first time a visitor comes. What really matters is whether they get the same treatment the second, third and fourth times. Because the assumption is that if you're friendly the first time you see me it's because you're conditioned to do that. You've been told, you're supposed to. If you see a stranger, say "hi" to them. But the real question is, do you really care enough about me to greet me the second time and the third time and the fourth time that I come? Do you care enough about me, is what they're asking.

The power of the Gospel of Christ is so utterly incredible. And those of you who have come to know Jesus personally know that power in your lives. You know what it means to wake up in the morning and believe that you were given a second chance and to really appreciate it.

And the only question is, "are you going to give that 'second chance' to somebody else? Will you extend that as a brother or sister to the rest of the Christian community? Yes! But beyond that would you give that Word to those who are out there who really need to know that God is, in fact, the God of "second chances". That He specializes in "second chances". If you're a committed Christian, if you know what God has done for you, then the challenge this morning is really simple. Just begin to pray that God will open up doors for you to share that. And if you don't want to pray that about yourself. Pray it about me, will you? 'Cause I'm really lousy at this thing. It's just hard. I am by nature, not an outgoing person. I find it difficult to engage strangers. And so, I just pray, "Okay, God, whatever it is you're gonna do, you do it because I don't know what I'm doing." And some of you know this.

Five o'clock Tuesday morning and I was getting coffee at a convenient store, which shall remain nameless, less the competition be aggravated, and a lady asked me, "Is that car still in the parking lot?" And I said, "Yes!" And by the time this conversation is over, she says, "This is going to be a really strange question, but is there any chance you could just drive me a block down the street so I don't have to walk out of here in the dark with that car in the parking lot?" And I said, "No, but I'll take you wherever you need to go." "Well, I'll buy your gas. I need to go three blocks." We got in the car. We drove out of the parking lot. She says to me, "Do you believe in karma?" I said, "I don't know much about karma, but I do believe in God." And she says, "Ya know, I'm just starting to search for Him."

I thought, you know, this could be providential because I'm a preacher. Now that's as far as the conversation went. I don't know what will happen with that. What I do know is that there are people out there who need to know about God. Would you pray that God will open that door for you and if not for you, for me?

Now some of you are Christians. You may have been Christians for a long time. But your walk isn't where it needs to be and you know it. You came here this morning needing a "second chance" and that's why we're here. To be given those kinds of "second chances" to just come before God and say, "I blew it this week, would you give me another chance?"

Maybe you need for us to pray with you about that. If that's the case, then we want you to come and let us pray. We'll put you with somebody and you can go someplace and just pray together about what you need in the way of re-commitment in your life.

Some of you came here. You've been on that search for God and you know what you need to do. You just haven't done it. And one more time, we are going to say, this is the time to do it, to respond to the Gospel of Jesus. We're not trying to push you. This is a word of encouragement. God is a God of grace. Don't put Him off.

Some of you are here, maybe for the very first time, and you're thinking, "what in the world is this guy talking about and that communion thing; what was that? It's not even a good lunch; makes a lousy snack." Could I encourage you to come back. I am convinced and so are some of you, that if you just hang around Jesus long enough, it will start to make sense. Give Him a "second chance" to begin to make sense out of your life because He will.

Would you join me and let's stand. We're going to sing. If there are decisions that you need to make that's public, we're here. Come. If not, talk to us later. We'll be glad to talk with you.