Second and Third Chances
When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh (worldliness, manner of life), God made you alive together with Christ, having [freely] forgiven us all our sins, having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of legal demands [which were in force] against us and which were hostile to us. And this certificate He has set aside and completely removed by nailing it to the cross.
A few years ago, Chuck Swindoll asked his sister, “What’s your favorite emotion?” After a minute of reflection, she replied, “Relief.” I agree. If we are honest with ourselves, we have to admit that we have some rotten thoughts, desires, and actions. Sure, we put on a mask of competence and respectability, it underneath, we hide some ugly traits. We often sin against God and against people at home and at work- and we feel terrible about it.
But we don’t have to live under the guilt that comes as a result of our sin. The central, paramount truth of the Christian faith is that God, in His amazing grace, forgives us. He doesn’t excuse our sin by saying, “Well, it’s not that bad” or “It doesn’t really matter.” No, He calls it sin, and He has paid a high price to forgive it.
In his letter to the Colossians, Paul uses the metaphor of a Roman debtor’s prison. When a person couldn’t repay a debt, he was thrown into a cell and a parchment scroll of all his debts was nailed to the cell door until the debts were paid. Jesus saw us in the prison of our guilt, and He took the list of our sinful debts and nailed the, to the cross, where He paid for them in full.
Freedom is never free. Christ’s grace is free to us, but it cost Him His life. His sacrifice shows us how much He loves us, and we are wise to gratefully accept His wonderful forgiveness. When we do, we’re set free to experience relief, and we’re motivated to honor the one who freed us.
This is the mystery of the riches of divining grace for sinners, for by a wonderful exchange our sins are now not ours but Christ’s, and Christ’s righteousness is not Christ’s but ours.
Anxiety, fear, worry, doubt, frustration, and guilt all weigh heavy upon individuals at times. Everyone is subject to them. Many have learned to cover them up or to respond to them, sometimes in a way that adds rather than mitigating them. Our first step to having these burdens lifted is to acknowledge they exist. One of the stages of grief is the stage of denial and so it is with all these things. Not only do we need to learn to admit that we have these things weighing heavily upon us, we also need to discover the root and source of what it is that is causing us to be anxious or fearful or causing us to worry or doubt of to be frustrated.
I can tell you that for me anxiety usually accompanies an unknown outcome to some situation. For example, anxiety may accompany you when you’ve gone to the doctor and you’re waiting on test results. Anxiety may come when you’ve done all you can with something and you’re waiting for the outcome. It can be there in almost any situation where you have little or no control over results. Parents may experience it if their children are out away from them and they don’t know exactly where they are or what they’re doing. My point is that most everyone has those things in life that can push anxiety into the room. The other things usually accompany anxiety and most of the time they run in packs. Anxiety can lead to fear and doubt which can elevate our levels of frustration and when we make the wrong decision or move guilt rushes in to condemn us.
So let’s just admit that these are things that we struggle with. There is no help for those who refuse to admit that they are doing these things. Many of us read the scriptures and when they talk about not being anxious or fearful or doubtful and such, we think to admit to being so is some indicator of our faith or that lack of it. Many Christians pretend that they have no such struggles and many are unwilling to admit they need help from God. But, oh the beauty of relief when we bring our cares to Christ, holding nothing back. Let me share with you today some beautiful scriptures to help you.
But now, this is what the Lord, your Creator says, O Jacob, And He who formed you, O Israel, “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you [from captivity]; I have called you by name; you are Mine! “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they will not overwhelm you. When you walk through fire, you will not be scorched, Nor will the flame burn you. “Because you are precious in My sight, You are honored and I love you, I will give other men in return for you and other peoples in exchange for your life. “Do not fear, for I am with you; I will bring your offspring from the east [where they are scattered], And gather you from the west. “I will say to the north, ‘Give them up!’ And to the south, ‘Do not hold them back.’ Bring My sons from far way And My daughters from the ends of the earth, Everyone who is called by My Name, Whom I have created for My glory, Whom I have formed, even whom I have made.”
Trust in and rely confidently on the Lord with all your heart And do not rely on your own insight or understanding. In all your ways know and acknowledge and recognize Him, And He will make your paths straight and smooth [removing obstacles that block your way]. Do not be wise in your own eyes; Fear the Lord [with reverent awe and obedience] and turn [entirely] away from evil.
No man will [be able to] stand before you [to oppose you] as long as you live. Just as I was [present] with Moses, so will I be with you; I will not fail you or abandon you. Be strong and confident and courageous, for you will give this people as an inheritance the land which I swore to their fathers (ancestors) to give them. Only be strong and very courageous; be careful to do [everything] in accordance with the entire law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, so that you may prosper and be successful wherever you go. This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall read [and meditate on] it day and night, so that you may be careful to do [everything] in accordance with all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will be successful. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not be terrified or dismayed (intimidated), for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
Come to Me, all who are weary and heavily burdened [by religious rituals that provide no peace], and I will give you rest [refreshing your souls with salvation]. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me [following Me as My disciple], for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest (renewal, blessed quiet) for your souls. For My yoke is easy [to bear] and My burden is light.”
Do not be anxious or worried about anything, but in everything [every circumstance and situation] by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, continue to make your [specific] requests known to God. And the peace of God [that peace which reassures the heart, that peace] which transcends all understanding, [that peace which] stands guard over your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus [is yours]. Finally, believers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable and worthy of respect, whatever is right and confirmed by God’s word, whatever is pure and wholesome, whatever is lovely and brings peace, whatever is admirable and of good repute; if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think continually on these things [center your mind on them, and implant them in your heart].
Let your character [your moral essence, your inner nature] be free from the love of money [shun greed—be financially ethical], being content with what you have; for He has said, “ I will never [under any circumstances] desert you [nor give you up nor leave you without support, nor will I in any degree leave you helpless], nor will I forsake or let you down or relax My hold on you [assuredly not]!” So we take comfort and are encouraged and confidently say, “ The Lord is my Helper [in time of need], I will not be afraid. What will man do to me ?”
The remedy for anxiety, fear, worry, frustration and the like is the turning to God, admitting our need, asking forgiveness when it’s required, asking for direction, asking for strength and hiding nothing from God who loves you. Don’t live another moment in guilt of the past but bring it to Christ and let Him nail it to the cross and receive the gift of relief, knowing that Christ has removed the burden of sin and that He will face every situation with you. My final scripture today is one that will relieve our stress and fear:
What then shall we say to all these things? If God is for us, who can be [successful] against us? He who did not spare [even] His own Son, but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against God’s elect (His chosen ones)? It is God who justifies us [declaring us blameless and putting us in a right relationship with Himself]. Who is the one who condemns us? Christ Jesus is the One who died [to pay our penalty], and more than that, who was raised [from the dead], and who is at the right hand of God interceding [with the Father] for us. Who shall ever separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? Just as it is written and forever remains written, “ For Your sake we are put to death all day long; We are regarded as sheep for the slaughter .” Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors and gain an overwhelming victory through Him who loved us [so much that He died for us]. For I am convinced [and continue to be convinced—beyond any doubt] that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present and threatening, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the [unlimited] love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Dr. John Thompson