Second Chances

Christmas is the celebration of the Gift of abundant and eternal life through Christ Jesus and the escape of believers from God’s righteous judgment. In the most amazing manner, the baby Jesus entered the world so that redemption would be offered and that we would enjoy many second chances in our lifetimes to believe the Christmas miracle – to believe in the Son of God, our Redeemer.

But, we are very good at ignoring second chances. We let ourselves forget the true Christmas story. We endure so many narratives these days that we often drown in an ocean of falsehoods. It is difficult to swim against the powerful tide of our irreverent culture. If I’ve learned anything from God’s enduring Word, it is that there is still unlimited mercy offered by God. He is faithful to give us so many opportunities to turn away from darkness and believe in Him. With the help of the Holy Spirit, we must block out the noise of the godless and give ear to God’s truth this Christmas and always.

The secondary tidal wave that pulls down on Truth-believers is a kind of minimalism – the temptation to simply succumb to the crushing wall of culture that rebels against the Holy God of the universe, even while still believing in Him. It is the temptation to have minimal or no redemptive influence in the world. Genesis 18 and 19 records the story of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. If you know the story, then you might identify with Lot. (Please don’t bristle at such a parallel). There is truly “a lot of Lot” in all of us.

In the surrounding Genesis story, God gives multiple opportunities for Lot’s community to repent before the pronouncement of final judgment. The same is true today. The true Christmas narrative is surely a story of second chances. We stand at the same crossroads, belief or unbelief, redeeming influence or wasted legacy. Lot is a sad example of a believer characterized by the “everlasting reality of a wasted life.” Minimal influence. So distracted by the world, so distracted by the culture, so absorbed by the eternally insignificant that Lot exercised no redeeming influence among his family or friends.

Although God preserved Lot (sigh of relief), Christmas reminds me that my days as a believer can either be fruitful or unimaginably fruitless. I am reminded that my expression of love for God involves the valuable act of obedience. The valuable act of being prepared for eternity with Him. The valuable act of being a recipient of His preparation of me for glory. I should not waste another second on earth by not studying and not taking to heart His Word, or not taking on His attitude toward others, or not taking on His heart to spread His gospel, or not taking on His heart to save.

Christmas is the story of our Redeemer. As I ponder the second chance I’ve been given today, I pray that Jesus Christ removes the legacy of Lot from my life so that I really can be a believer who exercises a redeeming influence around me. I pray that I don’t get comfortable with marginal belief and no interest in heart transformation. I pray that I don’t let culture win and thereby become a reflection of culture – self-centered, rude, all about comfort, all about self-preservation, all about recognition, all about hating and judging…

Christmas is a heart check. It is a call to make use of another second chance to move away from minimalism in faith and toward joining God in His redemptive work.

Titus 2:11-14 says, “For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope — the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for Himself a people that are His very own, eager to do what is good.”

Sign Posts

Christmas is our great sign post that God Himself took upon Himself a great personal cost by placing the consequences of sin on His Son Who was purposefully sent into our world to provide redemption to us through His death and resurrection. The price got paid. What an amazing gift! We were given a second chance at true life. Not just physical life, but more importantly eternal life. What a great cause for celebration!

True life! True life is found in Jesus Christ and the truth that comes from the Word of God. Yet, since Adam and Eve, we have struggled with the Word of God. We simply do not like limits. We don’t like boundaries, even if they are meant to protect us. We are more comfortable with the denial of truth and the priority of personal independence. Genesis 3:2-3 says, “The woman [Eve] said to the serpent, ‘We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’ ” And then, we know what happened… Sign post ignored.

Hmmm. More than a decade ago, probably two decades ago, I got two speeding tickets in the span of one month. The month was April. Both were local traffic zones that had recently reduced their posted speed limits from 45 mph to 35 mph. I was stuck in a 45 mph habit and was on autopilot both times. Guilty, I simply paid off the first ticket, and then I went to traffic court for the second ticket, hoping for some mercy. What a hassle! But what a lesson about the consequences of ignoring sign posts!

Since that time, I am much more aware of speed limits and have realized there is no need to rush anywhere, especially at such a cost. It is more than that actually. Freedom to operate a car and travel at will comes with responsibility. I have always loved to drive, especially because of the freedom to just “go.” My car is my freedom. My freedom to go places. My place to be alone. My way to escape. My insurance policy against isolation. The car has always been my ticket out. It’s like sitting in the back row of a meeting room – easy to slip out.

Nothing has highlighted the value of personal freedom more than the 2020 pandemic. Yes, I can go places and still drive anywhere I want, but I have to be so mindful of protective limits – where I can go, how long I can stay, what time I go, what safety protocols must be prepared for, what are the risks, and will I be mindful of others in the process? There are plenty of sign posts. Risks are now more apparent than ever as are the elements of freedom that I have generally taken for granted.

In the Garden, Adam and Eve defied the limits that God gave them and tumbled mankind into a world of sin sickness. The first man and woman exercised their God-given freedom, while not taking responsibility for observing God’s loving limits. Life is so like this, isn’t it? We enjoy that same God-given freedom, but drift easily into the 45-55-65-75-85 mph avoidance of limitations, at terrible costs. We hurt ourselves and others constantly by refusing to regard sign posts placed there for our safety, especially our eternal safety.

Just as speed limit signs were posted for all to see, God has given us His Word for all to see. But, do we embrace God’s truth and honor His loving limits? I guess you first need to be convinced that His limits are loving… A story for another day, another blogpost.

Don’t get stuck in a habit of disregarding God’s truth. God’s loving limits. God’s fence of protection around those who have faith in Him. Remember the reason for the celebration of Christmas – the birth of God’s Son and subsequent provision of salvation for those who do not drift into deception on the autopilot of sin. Real wisdom is possessing faith in God and His promises – the culmination of which greatest promise was the baby in the manger who went on to the Cross on our eternal behalf. Therein lies true freedom.

2 Timothy 1:10 says, “But it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.” Christmas is the great Sign Post we must not take for granted! The great freedom that salvation gives us – freedom from sin, freedom from death, freedom to exalt our Righteous Savior – leads us to the responsibility to treasure Christ by following Him faithfully.