Monday, October 05, 2020

Anonymous Asks (113)

“Does God give second chances?”

Absolutely. You might be having one right now.

By human standards of fairness, God gives people an inordinate number of chances. He is far more gracious when wronged than we are, and he is being wronged millions of times every moment of every day.

He made Noah a herald of righteousness, giving evil men an undeserved opportunity to save themselves from the Flood. He would have pardoned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah if only ten righteous men had lived there. He sent Israel to Egypt, giving the Amorites over three generations in which to repent and be saved from his judgment. He sent the prophet Jonah to preach to some of the wickedest people alive. He allowed over 30 years to pass after the Jews murdered their own Messiah — the single biggest insult to God in the history of this planet — before the Romans sacked Jerusalem.

God’s Marvelous Forgiveness

When Peter asked Jesus if it was reasonable to offer forgiveness seven times to a person who had sinned against him, Jesus replied, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.” That is what God is like. He is orders of magnitude more likely to give someone a second chance than you or me. Peter once wrote that God is not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. He had gotten the Lord’s message: judgment is God’s last resort.

But that is probably not what we are really asking, is it? Because anyone who is the least bit concerned about getting a second chance from God would go ahead and seize that opportunity while they have it. If you are still breathing right now, then you are not being judged yet. Well then, you are right in the middle of a second chance, or third, or fifty-seventh. Take advantage of God’s grace right now. “Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.”

No, when people ask “Does God give second chances?”, what they usually mean is something like this: “If I go on living my life exactly the way I want to right up until I die, and then regrettably happen to find out that the Christian faith is true, that God exists, and that I am about to be subject to his judgment, can I ask for a do-over?”

Getting a Do-Over

A do-over? Hmm. That would be a great big no, for a couple of reasons.

One is that without exercising faith it is impossible to please God. He is not the least bit interested in the sort of man who, by the greatest of coincidences, happens to completely agree with him for the first time in history the moment after he dies, because such a “conversion” involves no trust in him whatsoever. The work that God requires of human beings is that they “believe in him whom he has sent”, and that they do it now, not when a whole array of incontrovertible evidence is presented to them.

When you come to God on your own terms, you are offering him nothing he needs or desires. Why should he accept the insincere repentance of a man or woman left with no other choice? If God accepts post-death requests for a second chance from people who have repeatedly ignored his grace all their lives, then he sent his Son into this world to suffer and die for nothing.

A second reason is that when you refuse God’s grace repeatedly, your heart gets hard. That chance you want later will never come, because you will not ask for it. We can debate whether a person hardens his own heart, or whether God does it for him, or whether it just happens as a natural consequence of saying no to God repeatedly; all three occur in the Bible, sometimes to the same person. A person with a hardened heart could see the most amazing miracles without ever repenting. Pharaoh did, over and over again.

Unconvinced

Jesus spoke about people who have the testimony of his written and spoken word. He told his disciples, “If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.”

And then Someone did, in front of numerous witnesses. And still there are men and women who choose to die in their sins, who refuse to allow themselves to be convinced by the evidence God offers them in this life.

Second chances for those folks? I’m sorry, the Bible offers not even a hint that will be the case.

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