Hymn: Does Jesus Care?
The God of the Second Chance
I’d like to start today’s sermon telling you some disturbing news I’ve heard about a few holy workers. You may have heard this too.
Some might consider this gossip, but I feel I have a responsibility to expose these people publicly so that no one is misled by them.
The first worker….he’s not in this church…I hate to say it, but he’s an alcoholic. When he’s standing on the pulpit, he looks fine, but he’s been known to drink heavily in private, and when he gets drunk, its humiliating to God’s name...
The second worker…he's not fit to work for God because of his hot temper…when there’s a meeting, and his temper flares up, nothing gets done. Try as other people might to keep the discussions peaceful, he refuses to lower his voice. God’s name is not glorified whenever he’s involved in a meeting.
Worst of all is…the third worker…I think most of the people in this congragation probably know him well. He was unfaithful to his wife. I don’t need to say anymore. He is unfit to serve.
I bring these people to your attention, because I don’t believe these men are worthy of serving God. They are a disgrace to our faith, and the sooner we can get these men out of our church, the quicker our church will grow.
In fact, when I wrote this sermon, I thought I’d keep their names anonymous, but in this case, I feel that I must divulge their identities.
The name of the first man is Noah. The name of the second is Moses. The name of the thidd is King David.
The purpose of this, of course, was to illustrate a few things. First, that God is the perfect Judge. Second, that you and I are not.
If it were up to us, all humanity would have been destroyed by the flood, The Israelites would never have left Egypt, and Jesus Christ would never have been born because his ancestors in the kingdom of Israel would have been crushed by the Philistines.
If it were up to us, we would have stripped Peter of his church leadership because he denied Jesus three times. We would banish Paul because he persecuted Christians.
In today’s world, we’re conditioned to come to quick judgements.
Let me read a couple names to you and think of the first word that pops into your head. OJ Simpson. The parents of Jon Benet Ramsey . Al Gore. George W. Bush.
Chances are words like the following popped into your head: murderer. Child abusers. Egotistical. Goofy.
Nearly everyone in this room has already passed judgement.on these people. These are not fictional characters, these are real live human beings.
Now the question isn’t whether or not these people are guilty or innocent of these things. The question is…what information did we use to base your judgement on?
Maybe a newspaper headline
In this age of 24-hour news channels, tabloid journalism, and the internet, we have been conditioned to make judgements. We have been trained to hear things and become emotional…become outraged. After all, when we’re outraged, we go out and buy more newspapers, and watch more TV. If they reported every day on stories that didn’t play with our emotions, we’d probably spend less time watching TV and more time doing more productive things with our time.
But here’s something to think about: did you ever consider that when we rush to pass judgement of the people we hear about on TV, we’re commiting a sin?
Now, on the final day of judgement, if our worst faults are a rush to judgement of OJ or W Bush, those are probably not the worst sins in the world.
But think about whether use the same measure by which you judge folks on the TV to judge the person sitting to your left, or to your right right now. That’s when things become a little more serious.
If you notice that someone’s just bought a beautiful new house…is the first thought in your mind…that person is so full of themselves and just wants to show off.
If you notice a brother talking with a sister, is your first though…hmmm I wonder what’s going on THERE?
If you notice that someone comes in late to church, is your first thought…how dare this lazy person deliberately mock the importance of coming to church on time..
If you notice that someone is being contentious in church, is your first thought…this person doesn’t really care about God…he’s just using church to boost his own sagging ego.
Again, this isn’t to say that people don’t show off, and people don’t talk to members of the opposite sex with the wrong motives, or that people don’t come late to church because of pure laziness, or that people don’t deliberately try to cause trouble in church.
When Jesus says in Luke 6:37…Do not judge, and you will not be judged”, some people interpret this as saying that there should be no judging at all. There should be no courts, no laws, no juries, no pleas of innocent or guilty….that’s judging. Teachers shouldn’t correct their students…that’s judging. Parents shouldn’t correct their children…they’re judging them. If you see someone doing something theshouldn’t do in church or elsewhere, mind your own business. Otherwise, you’re judging.
Of course, this is ridiculous. Our society and indeed our faith is based on the notion that certain actions are right, and others are wrong. People must face consequences for their wrong actions, or chaos will ensue.
The Bible says that a divisive person should be warned, not once, but twice (Tit 3:10). And the Bible does say that if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently (Gal 6:1). In fact, in I Corinthians 6, Paul actually rebukes the Corinthian church for NOT judging trivial cases within the church…instead letting members sue members in public court.
So Jesus wasn’t telling us not to discern right from wrong. So what was he saying?
He was telling us to be very careful in how we do it.
But what this does say is, do not be quick to rush to judgement. Give people the benefit of the doubt. Show compassion and true love when you deal with them, behind or in front of their backs.
Note the use of Jesus’s words. Because the measure you use to judge others will be measured to you. In the same way you judge others, you will be judged. If it happens that you do the same things of which you judge, then at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself.
I find it amazing sometimes that we humans are so quick to deny others the benefit of the doubt…so quick to ostracize…so quick to condemn. We do so not only to celebrities on TV, but to our family, to our friends.
And it seems this is happening in increasing measure to holy workers. And this plays right into Satan’s trap. Sometimes it seems that Satan has the system worked out pretty well. He doesn’t tempt weak members of the church…he already has them under control. No, he puts all his focus on the ones who can make a difference. He tears apart their lives, just as he tore apart the life of Job and sifted Peter like wheat. Just as he did when Jesus was starting his ministry, he puts into these holy workers’ lives temptations that the average human being could not possibly withstand. And yes, every now and then, he gets a worker here or a worker there to stumble.
Then he wins a double victory. The holy worker loses heart. And then the weak members of the church start casting judgement…perhaps doing so lets them believe in their minds that they’re not so weak after all. They say things like "This holy worker is supposed to set us the example. How dare he breach our trust of him." Or “why should I behave when even this holy worker doesn’t behave”. Or “I came to church because of this holy worker…now that this holy worker has fallen, the church must be flawed”.
And then, slowly, the church falls apart. Holy workers decide that they do not want to put themselves or their families through the hell of slander and gossip. And those who stand in judgement are quick to wag their tongues, but slow to even pray to God in humility for the holy workers, much less do anything else to help them.
The church quickly unravels. The strong are beaten down to ineffectiveness. The weak do not attempt to become strong or even to support those who are falling. Satan wins. Souls are lost.
It all sounds kind of hopeless, doesn’t it. Where, then, do we go as a church?
Well, the funny thing is that we can see how to handle these situations by looking to the past. The Bible proves that there is nothing new under the sun. This has all happened before.
When you read the old testament, you see the same things happening. Moses, or so the gossip around the Israelite campe went, was unfit to serve God. In one instance, his own brother and sister spoke against him because he married a Cushite. In another instance, 250 well-known community leaders and council members accused him of arrogance. Because of these things, they were ready to oust him out of power as leader of the Israelites.
Now Moses probably shouldn’t have married a Cushite…and Moses, while a humble man, had an anger probably came off as arrogance. But in Moses’ heart, he loved God. He may have slipped up here and there, and for those sins he will give an account of himself to God, as will we all. But God was willing to forgive.
But the people were not. And in doing so, they weren’t only rebelling against Moses. They were rebelling against God, all the while believing that they were on God’s side.
They were essentially saying…I’m right and God is wrong. I know better than God how fit Moses is for the job.
You see what happeed to Miriam. Instantly, leprousy came upon her. You see what happened to the 250. Korah and his men, the leaders of the rebellion, were buried alive. The 250 men…as they were offering incence to God, fire from God came out and consumed them.
It is this sort of arrogance and hypocrisy that God hates the most. Because it shows a basic lack of understanding of God and the nature of God.
God is absolute justice, and God is absolute love.
Now it’s fun to say that, but whne you think about it, it’s an oxymoron. A contradiction. It’s like saying that this board is both white and black. Or that those windows are both open and closed. By definition, you’d think that one who judges unconditionally cannot be swayed by something like love, and one who loves unconditionally cannot be swayed by something like what’s right or wrong.
But God is almighty, and in God’s wisdom, he found a solution for this condundrum. And the name of this solution is the Lord Jesus Christ.
Here is my servant, whom I have chosen, the one I love, in whom I delight. I will put my spirit on him, and he will proclaim justice to the nations. He will not quarrel or cry out. No one will hear his voice in the streets. A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out, till he leads justice to victory. In his name, the nations will put their hope.”
So with the arrival of Jesus on this earth 2000 years ago, suddenly came the concept of the balance between complete love leading to complete justice. As long as sinners were covered by the blood of Jesus, they had a mediator.
In Old Testament times, if you read Exodus, only priests were allowed into the Holy Place of the tabernacle. The robes of the priests had bells on it, and when the priest went into the Holy Place, they took a length of rope, tied one end to the preists’s anke, and another end remained outside. If, while the priest was in the Holy place, they didn’t hear the bells, they could pull on the rope to test whether or not he had died.
Today, to get the same access as the priest did, all you need to do is to wait until the end of his sermon, kneel down, and say ‘in the name of Jesus Christ I pray”.
With Jesus came for the first time the notion of the second chance. The do-over. The try again.
A woman caught in adultery who by all laws of man and of God should have been stoned to death, suddenly was forgiven, with a word of advice…Go now and leave your life of sin. And you can be pretty sure she did.
A man who his whole life preyed on his countrymen…collecting their money for the government of the nation that they were subject to, and in the process extorting money for himself…this man was pinpointed by Jesus. not to expose him or condemn him as an enemy of Israel, but to welcome him as a friend…Zacchaeus…come down immediately, I must stay at your house today. And without prompting, Zaccheus turned his life around and found salvation.
A man who swore an oath that he had nothing to do with his master, not once, not twice, but THREE times, at the time his master needed help and comfort most…this man was not reprimanded or concemned. No, he was asked by his master to become a leader and to carry on his mission, not once, not twice, but THREE times.
You see, God is the God of the second chance.
There are those, of course, whose hearts have become so hard that even the mercy of God does not touch them. You know these people…they’re the ones who like a dog returning to his vomit, returns to their sin over and over again, they’re the ones who sit in condemnation of others, and in doing so are blind to the sin in themselves. They’re the ones who, after being warned not to commit certain sins that are an affront to God, do so anyway, and in doing so as it say in Hebrews 6…deliberately crucify the Son of God all over gain and subject him to public disgrace. They’re the ones we don’t want to be. These are the ones that Paul describes in I Corinthians 5:11, that we don’t even want to associate with.
But there are others. Far greater numbers of others, who slip. But their hearts are still turned to God. And they repent. And they ache to serve the God whom they love. But they are not allowed to, not by God’s will because of Human will and rash judgement.
This man cannot serve because of something he did 30 years ago that would set a bad example. This young woman cannot serve because she is inexperienced and untrustworthy and immature. This man cannot be trusted with holy work because of his family background. This woman cannot serve because she associates with shady characters.
It goes on.
It is imperative in this church that we do not let human appearances get in the way of God’s will. Because we judge by human standards, and we base our judgements on a limited view of things.
It’s no mistake that the land Abraham chose turned out to be better than Lot’s land. Or that the runt of Jesse’s family turned out to be the greatest king of Israel. Or that Jesus Christ was born to the lowly house of a carpenter in a smelly, dirty cave and not to someone in the Roman elite.
Because as Paul says in I Corinthians 1:27… God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise…God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of the world and the despised things…and the things that are not…to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.
And so if you happen to be one who gossips, watch out.
Gossiping is one of those things that people generally don’t realize they’re doing until it’s too late, if at all.
People don’t wake up in the morning, and say “today, I’m going to gossip”
No, gossip usually disguises itself as other things.
Sometimes the gossiper is just making conversation.
Or maybe the gossiper thinks he is acting out of concern for the person that’s being talked about.
Or maybe the gossiper feels a need to “warn” others…especially with news about a worker of God. After all…a worker of God must be upright and holy…but if this one did such and such, I have a duty to expose him or her to the public, right?
Paul warns Timothy about a group of people in his church:
1TI 5: 13 Besides, they get into the habit of being idle and going about from house to house. And not only do they become idlers, but also gossips and busybodies, saying things they ought not to.  So I counsel younger widows to marry, to have children, to manage their homes and to give the enemy no opportunity for slander.  Some have in fact already turned away to follow Satan.
This is a natural progression. Idleness leads to being a gossip and sticking one’s nose into business that isn’t theirs. And the natural progression from there is a turning to Satan. The road to hell is paved with good intentions. If you find yourself betraying confidences, or fanning flames into a quarrel, or aching to pass on some juicy morsel of inforation, watch out.
And if you happen to be one who judges, especially if you feel that your spirituality is strong, watch out, it may not be.
Paul says it quite clearly in I Cor 10.
For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers, that our forefathers were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea. They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. They all ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink, for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ. Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them; their bodies were scattered over the desert.
So if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!
If you were to go to each of the Israelites who ate the manna and passed through the parted Red Sea and drank of the water from the rock, chances are they would think pretty highly of themselves. Le says that God was not pleased with most of them.
Likewise, if you go to most of the people in the True Jesus Church, who have been baptized in the manner 100% according to the Bible, and partake of the Holy Communion, and speak in tongues when they pray. Chances are most of us would think pretty highly of themselves. And once we think a little too highl;y of ourselves than we ought based solely on the fact that we received God’s grace…that’s when trouble begins.
The True Gospel is important, but Once we believe that merely having the truth alone is more important than following the teachings that naturally progress from that truth, teachings such as love and compassion and forgiveness and true humility (wchich is different than hypocritical deference)… once we believe that we’re looking for trouble.
Because having the truth without comprehending the fulfillment of the teachings of that truth leads to hypocrisy.
The church in Romans had this happen to them. Their church had the truth. But still, There were certain people in the church who passed judgemnet on those who ate food they considered unclean.
Roman 14:10 You them, why do you judge your brother? Or why do you look down on your brother? For we will all stand before God’s judgement seat. It is written:
As surely as I live, says the Lord,
So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God.
Therefore, let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, meke up your mind not to put any stumbling lcock or obstacle in your brother’s way. “
…let us therefore make EVERY EFFORT to do what leads to peace and to MUTUAL edification. Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food.
15:1 we who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves.
So if you consider yourself strong, do not treat those who are different…who look different than you…who speak a different lanmguage than you…who may not be as articulate as you, or as clean-cut as you, or who may not be as responsible as you…treat those people with patience and love and a spirit of building them up, not tearing them down.
That is the sure way to please God.
And if you happen to be one who could use a second chance.
Maybe you have tried and failed to resist a certain temptation.
Or your heart has been broken into pieces, and there’s within you a deep pain that just won’t go away.
Or you have faced difficulty in your quest to serve the Lord.
Maybe there’s something in your life that has gripped you with fear, or dread of the unknown.
If you are one of these people, remember this:
God is the God of the Second Chance.
Because there will be a time for judgement. A time when the game is over. A time when it’s time to look at the scoreboard and see what the final score is.
While it is still day, while there’s still a chance, while God’s grace is still available to you, use it.
And if your church happens to be one that could use a second chance
Think on this.
The church in NJ is at a crossroads. We have had a lot of failings, to be sure. We have injected a lot of human thought into areas where only God should lead. Many have fallen away or are falling away because of a lack of love or because of discouragement or because of disillusionment.
But a smoldering wick he will not snuff out, till he leads justice to victory.
We are going to have a vote today, and indeed many decisions in the near future regarding our church branching. We can do one of two things. We can continue to be led by our on human reasoning or thought. We can continue to bicker, to accuse, to mistrust.
Or we can get down on our knees and plead to God to forgive and allow us to hear his voice clearly again. We can repent and ask God for a second chance. To be with not one, but two new churches as they start a new chapter in their histories…
It is a time for new beginnings. It is a time to not think back and say “why were the old days better than these”…it is a time, with wisdom, to bring back the love, and the comeraderie, the teamwork and the self-sacrifice of the old days. Because the Holy Spirit that led us in those old days is the same holy spirit that leads us today.
Let’s turn to the words of the Lord when another new church building was established a few thousand years ago. After years and years of planning and hard work, the building was finished.
2 Ch 7:11.
When Solomon had finished the temple of the Lord and the royal palace, and had succeeded in carrying out all he had in mind to do in the temple of the LORD and in his own palace, the LORD appeared to him at night and said.
I have heard your prayer and have chosen this place for myself as a template for sacrifices
When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people…if my people, who are cal;led by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forive their sin, and will heal their land. My eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayers offered in this place. I have chosen and consecrated this tample so that my Name may be there forever. My eyes and my heart will always be there.
May there be a day, very soon, when both the church in Elizabeth, and the church in Hillsborough be consecrated by the Lord with these very words.
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