My Scripture Today Comes From Matthew 18:21-35
I have to be honest with you all…..There have been a few times in my life where I’ve wanted a do-over.
• The time I wrote an “anonymous” love note to a Harold Smith in junior high, only to have him figure it out and tell all of my classmates. I could have died.
• The time I locked my knees in my wedding ceremony and almost fainted.
• The time I wore heels for the first time and caught my choir robe on one and fell down three flights of stairs at church and landed right in front of a boy I was trying hard to impress. Yeah…I impressed him alright!
These are just a few of my many embarrassing moments that I’d like to have a second chance at. But what about the more important times in our lives when we’ve messed up. You know….
• Maybe someone has fallen into an adulterous relationship, bringing disastrous consequences upon the family.
• Maybe someone broke promises to God that they would break a nasty habit.
• Maybe anger has gotten us into trouble again at work or at home.
Wouldn’t it be nice if you could just yell “do-over” and get a chance to do it again? If everything that happened in your life was written on a white board, wouldn’t it be great if you could just walk up and erase the board, and make it clean again? Well guess what Midway….
I’ve got good news for you. My God specializes in do-overs.
• He can take a broken life and set it straight again.
• He can take a hopeless situation and infuse it with hope.
• He can offer perfect love and forgiveness to people who have broken their promises over and over.
• He is the God of the do-over.
No matter what has happened in your past, Jesus Christ can make you new – he can give you a do-over. If you doubt it, listen again to Matthew 18:21-22…..these are scriptures that show us loud and clear…. God’s heart of forgiveness:
”Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.
Luke 17:3-5 tells us…..“If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him. If he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times comes back to you and says, ‘I repent,’ forgive him.” The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!”
I don’t know about you….but I find I must chime in with the apostles, “Increase our faith!” I absolutely cannot fathom that type of forgiveness. We can understand forgiving someone 7 times. But 77 times? Or 7 times in one day? Come on! But this is God’s heart. God heart is so wide and so loving that he can and does forgive everyone who comes to him asking for his forgiveness. And he doesn’t keep track of how many times it has happened, either.
If I were required to forgive someone multiple times in one day, I can tell you that by the end of the day I might be mouthing words of forgiveness, but my attitude would not be so great. The amazing thing about God is that even though he knows in the most intimate detail how we fail him – he is still so happy when we come back to him. How do we know this?
In Luke chapter 15, you can read 3 stories, placed back to back to back for emphasis, that communicate the grace-full heart of God. In stories about a lost coin, a lost sheep, and a wayward, rebellious child, there is one picture that stands out: the image of God as jumping-up-and-down-happy over the return of one of his children to his care.
Let me read the first 2 of those stories from the Bible:
Luke 15:1 Now the tax collectors and “sinners” were all gathering around to hear him. 2 But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” 3 Then Jesus told them this parable: 4 “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? 5 And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders 6 and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ 7 I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.
Luke 15:8 “Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Does she not light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? 9 And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’ 10 In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
Both of these stories end the same way: there is rejoicing in heaven when one sinner repents. I think that is true when they repent for the first time and submit their life to the Lordship of Jesus, but it is also true when a sinner repents for the 2nd or 4th or 15th or 100th time. That’s because God is a God of do-overs.
After these two stories about the lost sheep and the lost coin, Jesus goes into one of his more famous parables, hitting home the message that God is a god of do-overs in a powerful way. Over the years there have been many retellings of this parable, but my favorite is one I discovered in a wonderful book by Philip Yancey called “What’s So Amazing About Grace”. I’d like to share it with you now:
Read p 49-51 in the chapter “The Lovesick Father”
“Welcome home.” If you need a do-over for any reason in your life, you need to hear those words. “Welcome home.”
Is. 55:1 “Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. 2 Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare. 3 Give ear and come to me; hear me, that your soul may live.
Though the church in general is viewed as a judgmental place full of “holier than thou” hypocrites, here at Midway I have found that we welcome home anyone who needs a do-over. Welcome home.
If you are willing to repent – there is a do-over waiting for you. A fresh start. Yes, it’s true that there may still be consequences of sin from your past – but it need not control your future. You can be set free from having to stay in that place – you can start anew. In this very room….at this very moment….there are people who have failed God and other people in many ways. But as a body of believers we have discovered that we can be made new in Jesus Christ.
The cost for such renewal is quite simple: humility. In order to experience a do-over and the new life that Jesus Christ can bring into your life, you will have to humbly admit you’ve messed things up. And then you’ve got to be willing to come back to his ways.
This can be a long journey for some or a quick step for others. But it is the key. Is. 57:15 For this is what the high and lofty One says — he who lives forever, whose name is holy: “I live in a high and holy place, but also with him who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite. Need a do-over? There is no time like the present.