This is another installment in my discussion of “coffee cup verses” and “Christianese phrases.” This one is inspired by a sermon I heard by Nate Schlomann, a pastor at Village Church in Midlothian, VA. You can listen to the sermon here http://www.villagechurch.cc (and yes, for those of you who may not know, Nate is my son).
It is an often-heard phrase–articles, tweets, even books, proclaiming that God is the “God of second chances.” Often the underlying intent is to instill hope that there is no one who is beyond God’s reach to save. And that is true. All have sinned. . and are justified freely by his grace (Romans 3:23-24). But God does not treat His justice and our sin like a cosmic baseball game where we get “3 strikes” or get on base with a walk or by getting hit by a pitch.
Romans 2:1 Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things. 2 We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who practice such things. 3 Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God? 4 Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? 5 But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.
6 He will render to each one according to his works: 7 to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; 8 but for those who are self-seeking[a] and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury. 9 There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, 10 but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. 11 For God shows no partiality.
Our decisions matter. We are responsible for our actions. Every sin is cosmic treason, punishable by eternal death. We don’t get a “by” because we didn’t understand the rules of the game.
That is why the gospel is such fantastic news! All have sinned, but Jesus paid the price. Jesus took the wrath I deserve so that I can experience God’s love, mercy and acceptance.
The “second chance” concept implies that one of the times I will be up to bat and get a hit. Paul reminds us in Romans that there is none righteous, no not one. . .I will never be good enough to save myself. Not with a second, third, or even a millionth chance.
God is not the God of second chances. He is the God of reconciliation. “For our sake He made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” 2 Corinthians 5:21
And that is the best, most hopeful news of all.