Tuesday, July 13, 2010

A God of Second Chances

Most Christians struggle with at least one "sin issue" that, at least occasionally, tempts us to think, "I know God can redeem anything--but maybe what I did is the exception to the rule." It doesn't matter whether it's a single heinous act we never would have thought ourselves capable of, a long pre-conversion record of being as antithetical to Christianity as a person can get, or some issue of attitude that keeps getting the best of us despite our efforts and prayers: in our moments of discouragement we seriously wonder if we've managed to out-sin God's grace. In some ways the "minor" problems--the worry habit, the bad temper, the prayerlessness--are worse torment than the obvious physical sins; the latter are, at least, easier to never do again! We get tired of accepting repeated apologies for the "same old thing," so it's natural to wonder if God also thinks in terms of "if she really wanted to change, she'd have done it by now."

The difference is that God knows when we're really sorry, as opposed to just saying so in the hope of staying out of trouble. Moreover, He fully understands our weaknesses and ignorance, what we literally can't help, what we aren't yet mature enough to manage--and His full understanding is what enables Him to be compassionate and forgiving toward us. (See Psalm 103:8-14.)

When it comes to long-term change, most of us have trouble understanding the boundaries of our own responsibility and at what point we should "let go and let God." Maybe it's humanly impossible to understand; every Bible scholar knows about the paradox that you can't choose God's way unless He calls you, and yet He holds you responsible for refusing His way. Two things can be stated with certainty, though:

1. God doesn't expect us to instantly eradicate our own tendencies toward sin--or to wipe out our sin's consequences--by our own willpower.

2. God would always rather receive back a sinner than punish one.

We serve a God of second chances:
However deep our sin may be,
We cannot sink beneath His mercy;
He ever longs to set us free.

We serve a God of second chances:
However far our souls may fall,
He reaches down to lift us upward,
And longs to pardon each and all.

We serve a God of second chances:
However black our hearts may grow,
He longs to heal us with His cleansing,
And change that “black” to “white as snow.”

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