(this teaching can also be watched by scrolling to the bottom and clicking play)
Everyone needs a second chance in some area of their life. It makes for a great comeback story, and who doesn’t love an inspiring narrative about a second chance?
Well, get this: Today can be the start of your comeback story—the beginning of your second chance—if you’re open to it.
I invite you to pray this before you read on: Father, thank you so much for how awesome you are. I pray that the power of your greatness will invade my life. Would you meet me at the point of my need? Meet me at my point of pain. I ask you this in Christ’s name. Amen.
What Would Jesus Say About Second Chances?
Let’s journey back to 1998, where there was a major scandal that blew up between President Bill Clinton and a young woman named Monica Lewinsky. It was a sex scandal, and Clinton was so passionate in his statement, insisting he “did not have sex with that woman.” Then the truth unraveled, and President Clinton had to come clean.
Eventually came this apology in his confession: “I did have a relationship with Ms. Lewinsky that was not appropriate. In fact, it was wrong. I know that my public comments and my silence about this matter gave a false impression. I mislead people, including my wife. I deeply regret that.”
When you dissect president Clinton’s statements, you’ll find that there was an apology and a confession—two key ingredients of a second chance. When President Clinton left office, surprisingly, his approval rating was 66%—higher than any other modern-day American president.
Why is this relevant? What am I saying?
I’m certainly not approving of his behavior. What I am pointing to is this—America loves a good comeback story.
Everything about the Gospel message is a comeback story. It’s a great second chance story of God’s redemptive love and desire to restore. Think about it this way—if you have ever experienced a sense of brokenness, loss and fragmented relationships, you’ve likely felt like your life was falling apart. Maybe you’re in that place now and it’s causing you to wonder: “God, can I ever be restored?”
His answer for you is an absolute “YES.”
It’s like God has a defibrillator, except His defibrillator doesn’t use electricity to jump-start your heart. God’s defibrillator is repentance, then restoration. You repent, and God restores. Here’s the heart of this: God wants to jump-start your heart today so you can experience a second chance.
I love a quote from author Melody Carlson on second chances—“I have been convinced that God thoroughly enjoys fixing and saving things that are broken. That means that no matter how hurt and defeated you feel, no matter how badly you have been damaged, God can repair you. God can give anyone a second chance.”
I want you to know, God wants to give you a second chance.
I also want you to understand how second chances work. There are certain things we must do to warrant God’s second chances. In the same way, there are certain things people in our lives must do to warrant a second chance from us.
The Prodigal Son
Let’s camp out looking at one of the most powerful comeback stories in all of the New Testament, the prodigal son.
In Luke 15:11-24, the Scripture reads, “Jesus continued: ‘There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, “Father, give me my share of the estate.” So he divided his property between them. Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living.
After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.
When he came to his senses, he said, “How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.” So he got up and went to his father.
But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. The son said to him, “Father, I’ve sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.” But the father said to his servants, “Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.” So they began to celebrate.’ ”
What a moving story in this parable of Jesus. A parable is a story with deep significance and two levels of meaning, earthly and heavenly. As Jesus shared this parable, He made it clear what He has to say about second chances.
Here’s the breakdown: In this story, the prodigal son; the younger son; the reckless son; the wasteful son—he’s representative of you and me.
We’ve been wasteful with God’s goods. We’ve been reckless with our lives. We’ve fallen short of God’s standards, and for many, we’ve just sinned and lived sinfully apart from God. The prodigal represents you and me. It represents my story and your story. And the father in the parable represents God.
The father is so abundant with his love. He is so madly in love with his son and one way he shows this is through his willingness to give his son a second chance. Now I’d like you to look closely at how second chances work. Why? Because you might need a second chance or someone in your life may need a second chance from you.
What Would Jesus Have Said to This Boy?
As we deepen our understanding of second chances, another question to explore is: What would Jesus have said to this boy? What we see from the story is Jesus essentially saying the choice is yours.
What do I mean by that? The love that the father had for his son was so overwhelming. It was genuine love. Agape love, the God kind of love, so deep that he did not put restraint and try to force his son to stay home. His posture was—“Son, it’s your choice.”
See, love gives free will. Love recognizes that there can’t be true love if there’s no freedom of choice. And so here we see something was churning inside of this young man—the enticement of the world, the lore of whatever was out there. He looked and he thought the grass was greener on the other side, and somehow, he thought his father’s love was restrictive and restraining.
When the boy asked his father for his portion of the inheritance, that was one of the most disrespectful things that a young man can do in Middle Eastern society because what it meant culturally was, “Father, I wish you were dead.” This is the case because it was only when the father was on his deathbed, that he would give out the inheritance.
One-third of the inheritance would go to the younger son and two-thirds would go to the oldest son. The oldest son is supposed to take care of his mother and the other siblings with his inheritance. So the father, because he loved his son so much, had to put up with the disgrace and the shame of hearing his son say, “Father, give me my portion of the inheritance.” Why did the father let him go? Because it was the son’s choice.
I love what Dr. R.C. Sproul says, “Something terrible has happened to us. We have lost all desire for God. The thoughts and desires of our heart are only evil continuously. The freedom of our will is a curse. Because we can still choose according to our desires, we choose sin and thus we become accountable to the judgment of God.”
The prodigal son; the reckless son; the wayward son; the wasteful son—he misinterpreted the father’s love, which reflected safety and security. He misinterpreted it to be stifling and suffocating, and as a result, he leaves.
The Choice Is Yours
I want you to see that the choice is yours. Oftentimes when we make choices, those choices can lead us down the wrong path.
For the prodigal son, it seemed as if his path was going to be a delight, but all it did was create depression. I want you to see that though we have the choice, sometimes our choices create a spiral that take us down into a hole of pain, and this prodigal son experienced that.
The good news is there’s always an opportunity to experience a second chance.
Are You in a Distant Country?
Now let’s take a trip back to 2009. It was then the clean-cut, golden boy image of highly respected golfer, Tiger Woods, was greatly tarnished. Tiger was forced to come clean and address the world because his choices had created a lot of pain.
Here’s what Tiger said, “I knew my actions were wrong, but I convinced myself that normal rules didn’t apply. I never thought about who I was hurting. Instead, I thought only about myself. I ran straight through the boundaries that a married couple should live by. I thought I could get away with whatever I wanted to. I felt that I had worked hard my entire life and deserved to enjoy all the temptations around me. I felt I was entitled, thanks to money and fame. I didn’t have to go far to find them.”
That’s exactly what happened when the prodigal son got his inheritance. Scripture says he went to a distant country. A distant country is not necessarily a far place where you’re a foreigner. It’s a place where God’s a foreigner to you. See, a distant country is a place where you’re outside of the eyes and the connections of your family and your faith. A distant country is where you’re far away from God and far away from faith.
My question to you now is this: Are you in a distant country? You may have never left home, but you’re far away from God. You may have never left the comfort of your family connections, but you’re far away from your faith.
God wants your heart and he wants to give you a second chance. He wants you to be a part of his family. He wants you to be strong, vibrant and flourishing as a follower of Jesus.
This young boy, like Tiger, was in a distant country because of his choices. A distant country where family is out of sight, and God is out of mind. I want you to see that in a distant country—that’s where you lose your creed, your convictions, your credibility, your character.
If you’re in that distant country, Jesus wants to allow you to come home and experience a second chance. But first, I want you to see what’s necessary for a second chance.
What Is Necessary for a Second Chance?
In Luke, we read that after the prodigal son had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country and he began to be in need.
So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.
See, sin deceived this young boy. When he went to that distant country, he thought he was about to get all of the pleasures he had been fantasizing about. But instead, the deception of sin makes pleasure seem as if it’s right around the corner. But you know what’s really around the corner?
See, sin is deceptive. It promises happiness, but instead, you experience sadness. This young boy lost all of his money with wild parties and sex—that’s what verse 30 tells us—and that he had all kinds of experiences that he never would’ve attempted at home. Why? Because home was his place of security and there, through the protection of his family, he was free from those kinds of vices.
After he blew his inheritance, this young boy had to work with a pig farmer. Can you imagine a Jewish boy that hires himself out as a servant, so he can work for who? A Gentile pig farmer. In order to do that he had to stuff his feelings down every day. He had to ignore his faith every day. He had to then feed the pigs and this was especially demoralizing because Scripture says that he longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating.
Pods come from a Carob tree. Interestingly, it’s called a poor man’s food because it has no nutrients. So, he longed to fill his stomach with the pods, the food that the pigs were eating, but no one gave to him. In essence, the farmer had rationed out and knew specifically how much food the pig should eat—and he made sure that no one, not even the boy, would eat the pigs’ food. Not just because the farmer was concerned for his pigs. No, because he was very stingy and limited with his love.
So this boy is hungry all the time, he’s working all the time, he’s stuffing his feelings down all the time, and he’s stuffing his faith down all the time. I want you to see how sin is a very difficult thing. It’s emptying. It leads to suffering.
Proverbs 13:15 puts it succinctly, “…but the way of the sinful is hard.”
If you have been away from God, I know it’s hard. It’s hard when you’re living in sin. It’s hard when you’re away from God. But I want you to see God always gives second chances. What would he say to the prodigal son as he’s there in the pigpen? I believe the thoughts of Jesus, and that the words would be:
The door is always open.
What door? The door back home. See the boy came to his senses. Scripture says in verse 17, “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death!” He was awakened in the pigpen.
He had to reframe and take a fresh look at the father’s love. He recognized—wait a second! My father’s love is not stifling. My father’s love is not suffocating. It really brings security, and it really provides safety. I want you to see he reframed his perspective on the father’s love and he recognized—hey, the door home is always open.
The Tiger Effect
May I bring you back to Tiger Woods’ story? When he’s giving his global apology before the media, he continued by saying, “I was wrong. I was foolish. I don’t get to play by different rules. The same boundaries that apply to everyone apply to me. I brought shame on myself. I hurt my wife, my kids, my mother, my wife’s family, my friends, my foundation, and kids all around the world who admired me.”
He ends his apology in confession, with these words—”Finally, there are many people in this room and there are many people at home who believed in me. Today I want to ask for your help. I ask you to find room in your hearts to one day believe in me again. Thank you.”
I want you to recognize the power of, and the courage it requires to humble yourself, apologize and confess. We all can be sympathetic to the shame and the disgrace that Tiger and his family went through. But have you ever heard of the Tiger effect?
When Tiger Woods plays golf, TV ratings, attendance and general interest in golf skyrockets. When he doesn’t play, the interest sags. According to Golf Digest, when Tiger returned for the 2018 British Open, TV ratings increased 38% from the previous year. When he returned for the 2018 PGA Championship, ratings increased 69% from the previous year.
Your Comeback Story
What am I saying? I’m saying that we all love a comeback story.
Today I believe is the start of your comeback story. I believe it’s the beginning of the time when you are going to initiate a second chance. God is going to use His defibrillator on you. As you repent, you’ll experience restoration. God is going to shock your heart so you can come alive again, bounce back and experience a second chance.
I want you to see that you must be able to do the first part, which is repentance. It includes making an apology and confession. They’re different. See, an apology expresses regret. It may be like this—”I’m sorry…”, but what you’ll see missing from an apology is you’re not taking ownership of what you’ve done and how it has hurt others.
Confession is different. It adds a dimension to apologizing, and a confession is an admission of guilt. It’s an admission of wrong. It’s an admission of sin. A confession may go like this—”I’m sorry that I hurt you. It was my fault. I sinned. I created a mess.”
That’s why when the prodigal son was in that pigpen, he started to rehearse his apology and confession. He said, “I’m going to go back home. I’m going to say to my father, ‘Father, I’ve sinned against heaven, God, and I’ve sinned against you. In other words—I created a mess.’ ”
The prodigal son is owning his sin. He’s owning his offense. He’s not blaming. He’s not deflecting. We have to do the same when we fall short. You have to own your sin. Then you can see you are ready for God to use his defibrillator and jump-start you into that place of a renewed relationship with him. This is how you come home.
What Would Jesus Say to the Young Man?
The young man comes to his senses as Luke 15:20 reads, “So he got up and went to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.”
Do you know what Jesus would say? Jesus would say, “Welcome home!”
I love what Aristotle said regarding the mindset of Middle Eastern thinking. He says, “Great men never run in public.” Running in public represented shame, but the father? His actions were insane—because he loved his son with a radical love.
That’s how God loves us. The father pulls up the hem of his garment and runs toward his son. When he sees him, he begins to kiss him. The son is preparing his apology confession. He says, ” ‘Father, I’ve sinned against heaven and I’ve sinned against you. I’m no longer worthy to be your son. Make me like one of your hired servants.’ ”
The father stops his speech and says, ” ‘Quick, bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For the son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.”
The father ran toward his son and threw his arms around him. The son apologized and confessed, “Father, I sinned against God and I sinned against you. My junk, my mistakes, my mess—I own it, father.”
The Difference Between an Apology and a Confession.
There’s a difference between an apology and a confession. An apology says I have regret. A confession says I have guilt and shame. I did you wrong and I’m owning it. An apology is not fully manning up. A confession is when you really own your stuff. When you do that, God puts his defibrillator on your chest. He jump-starts you back into a second chance.
The father did that with the son. In Middle Eastern society, the servant would kiss his master on his hand or his feet, but you kiss an equal on the cheek. The father kissed his son on the cheek to say, you’re not a servant. You are my son.
He threw a robe around him. Not because he was naked. He threw a robe around him because the robe represents that you are restored. I cover your sin. I forgive you of your sin. He put a ring on his finger, not to make sure he had jewelry. The ring signalizes trust. The ring signalizes authority.
You’re not a servant, you’re a son.
You’re not a hired servant. You are my son. Then he was saying to the community in general, this is the way I’m dealing with my son who has sinned, who has apologized, who has confessed—I’ve given him a second chance.
So he said, kill the fattened calf and let’s celebrate. In other words, let’s have a big community-wide party. My son, who is lost, is back home. My son, who is in a distant country, is back home. My son has been given a second chance. The father was essentially communicating to all, “If I forgave him if I restored him and if I’m celebrating him, then you as a community should do the same.”
I want you to see the power of second chances, but the son had to first apologize and confess. When you make a confession, you’re giving your power back to the person that you’ve offended. That person now has the freedom to either give you back the power to restore you or not.
When that son said to his father, “Father, I’ve sinned against heaven and I’ve sinned against you, make me like one of your hired servants,” he was giving the power of sonship back to his father. The father then gave it back to him by kissing him on the cheek, putting a ring on his hand, throwing a robe over his shoulders, putting sandals on his feet and celebrating.
Your Second Chance
I want you to know when you ask God to forgive you, and you make a confession to God, God will make your heart beat again. That young boy received a second chance with his father, and today I want to give you an opportunity to receive God’s second chance.
If you’re looking for a second chance, pray below:
Prayer: Father, I’ve sinned against you. I’ve done my own thing. I’ve gone my own way. Only to be left frustrated, empty, and ashamed. Forgive me of my sins. Wash me, dear God. Jesus, come into my heart.
Change me. Help me to live for you every day of my life. Starting right now, I ask you this in Christ’s name. Amen.
If you just prayed that prayer with me, congratulations, God has now given you a second chance. Welcome to God’s family!