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            I don’t know about you but there are times when I have said to myself, “If I knew then what I know now, things would be different”.  When I find myself in difficult times that very phrase comes to mind.  I think that if I had just done things differently as a child or a young adult; if I had only made different choices how much better my life would be like now.  I have done some things that haven’t been too smart and I wish that there was a way that I could just have a second chance to do everything over and get it right.  Well, unfortunately there are no ‘do overs’ in life.  Mistakes have been made from the very beginning.  Ever since Adam and Eve we have made mistakes.


            When God created the world and created the first man and woman, Adam and Eve, He looked over all that He had made and said that it was good.  That’s what Genesis 1:31 tells us, “God saw all that He had made, and it was very good.”  Not just good, but very good.  Everything was right in the world.  There wasn’t any fighting, hunger, wars, high gas prices, etc.  Adam and Eve didn’t have husband and wife spats.  It was a great place to live.  That is, it was until temptation came into play.  Adam and Eve had everything.  They had a total one on one with God, the creator of the universe.  They did have hunger or any cares.  God took care of everything.  God said that they could have anything but one thing.  They were not to eat of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil.  So they were content.  They had everything that a person could ask for.  Well that is until the serpent came into play.  He played on their minds.  He planted the seeds of doubt.  Look at Genesis chapter verse 1, “Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made.  He said to the woman, ‘Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden?”  He was planting the seed of doubt in their minds.  A little further on we can see that the serpent tempts them even further.  Verse 4 reads, “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”  You will be like God!  What a temptation that is.  So, giving in to the temptation, Eve took a bite and then gave some to her husband, Adam.  The text doesn’t say that Eve had to go looking for Adam or go to where he was.  He was there with her all along.  Verse 6 says, “She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.”  A lot of people blame Eve, the woman, for caving into the temptation of the serpent and causing the fall but it wasn’t her fault.  Adam was the head of the household and I would probably say that he ‘wore the pants in the family’ but he didn’t have any.  But taking care of Eve was his responsibility and he blew it.  He didn’t tell her not to listen to the serpent.  He didn’t tell the serpent to ‘take a hike’.  He just stood there and listened along with Eve.  So if anyone is the blame, it’s Adam.


            Because of the sin of disobedience committed by Adam and Eve two things happened that we need to know.  Sin entered the world not because of the actual eating of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil.  It’s not the fruit of the tree that caused sin.  It entered in through the disobedience of Adam and Eve in the doing something they were told not to do.  They disobeyed God and because of that disobedience two deaths occurred.  Chapter verse 19 says, “By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return”.    Man was created to be eternal and have eternal companionship with God the Father but now physical death comes about.  Our bodies grow old and decay.  Our lives are now finite.  We will all at some point in time die.  God said it when He said that from dust you were taken and to dust you will return.


            And not only is physical death now a reality but there is a second death.  We became separated from God.  In the garden we had total communion, a total companionship with God.  He walked right beside Adam and they discussed things.  Adam didn’t have to program God’s number in his cell phone or reach a switchboard in attempts to talk to God.  They had a one on one relationship.  But because of their disobedience not only is there a physical death there is a spiritual death – a separation from God.  Verse 23 says, “So the Lord God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken.  After He drove the man out, He placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree life.”  Man was now physically separated from that one on one relationship with God.


            Since then man has tried time and time again to restore that relationship with God the Father.  The early Israelites built altars, sacrificed animals, and so on to try and restore that relationship.  And these were God’s chosen people, the Israelites, and they couldn’t restore that one on one relationship. Other races of man tried different things.  They built statues, worshiped idols, sacrificed other people and so on and none of this could restore that relationship with God.  All of this was our attempts to try to reach God and no matter how hard we try or what we do, there is no way for anyone of us to restore that right relationship with the creator of the universe.  No matter how hard we reached up we could not reach God.  But God in His infinite wisdom knew what had to be done to restore that relationship – He reached down to us.  He reached down to us in the form of His Son, Jesus Christ.


            That’s what John 3:16 and 17 are all about.  “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.  For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.”  God reached down to us.


            How many of us as children played games or tried to accomplish different tasks and could just not get it right?  And many times we were given more time or another crack at it to get it right.  We were given a second chance.  When Adam blew it in the Garden of Eden, he blew it for everyone.  Because of his disobedience each and everyone of us are born with what is called the “sin nature” – the capacity to sin – and guess what?  We barely get the pacifier out of our mouths and we sin.  It’s not because we want to, it’s not because someone tells us to – it’s in our nature to sin.  I don’t care who you are, you are a sinner.  The Apostle Paul tells us that he is the chief of sinners.  Billy Graham is a sinner, I am a sinner and so are you.  The only difference is that we are forgiven sinners. 


            That is my main focus here tonight.  It’s about second chances.  We all have been given a second chance.  What I would like to do is relate some second chances that are evident in the Word.  Let’s turn to Matthew chapter 14 and we will begin reading at verse 25.  But first let me give you a little background surrounding this reading. 


            Jesus had just a little earlier learned of the death of his cousin, John call the Baptist and he tried to get a way for a little while but crowds of people followed Him.  And Jesus being who He is, healed the sick, and ministered to them.  There were five thousand people and they got good and hungry.  So Jesus fed them using just five loaves of bread and two fish.  After they were done, Jesus sent the disciples in a boat ahead of Him to the other side while He withdrew to be by Himself to pray.  Later in the evening, the boat the disciples were in was being tossed about by the waves.  Verse 24 says the boat was ‘buffeted’ by the wave because of the wind.  Now I have been out on a boat some distance out and the wave cased the boat to rock and let me tell you that is not a fun experience.  I consider myself a fair swimmer but even with a life preserver, it’s not a pleasant experience.  So let’s pick up the story at verse 25.  Here we read, “During the fourth watch of the night Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake.  When the disciples saw Him walking on the lake, they were terrified.  ‘It’s a ghost,’ they said, and cried out in fear.  But Jesus immediately said to them: ‘Take courage!  It is I.  Don’t be afraid.’  ‘Lord, if it’s you,’ Peter replied, ‘tell me to come to you on the water.’  ‘Come,’ He said.


            Let’s stop here for a second.  How many of us have said something and then someone called on us to put up or shut up?  I have.  Here is Peter.  Peter is the brash one who blurts out things without thinking.  And Jesus calls him on it.  Jesus told him to come on out, the water’s fine.  Can you imagine the look on Peter’s face?  Jaw hanging open, a shocked look on his face.  It had to be priceless.  He probably starts to look for what Jesus is standing on under the surface of the water.  It kind of reminds me of a story of three guys out fishing. 


A minister, a rabbi and a priest were out fishing.  The minister and the rabbi had been fishing partners for a long time and this was their favorite fishing spot.  After a while the minister gets a bit thirsty and stands up, steps out of the boat, walks across the water, gets a sandwich and walks back and gets in the boat.  The priest just stares but doesn’t say anything.  A little while later, the rabbi, stands up, steps out of the boat, walks on the water to the shore, gets a sandwich, walks back and gets in the boat.  Now the priest is even more astonished but doesn’t say anything for fear of looking dumb.  After a little longer the priest starts to get a bit hungry and not to show his ignorance, he just steps right out of the boat and splash – sinks like a stone.  The minister and the rabbi just stare at him but don’t say a word as he crawls back in the boat and sits down.  Well, the priest is still hungry and still not wanting to show his ignorance, stands up, steps out, and splash and down he goes again.  This time the minister and the rabbi reach out to pull him back in the boat.  As they are doing so the rabbi asks the minister, ‘Do you think we should tell him about the rocks?’


Well Peter was probably looking for the rocks but he didn’t see any.  But Peter trusts Jesus so much that he does what he says.  He steps right out.  Let continue reading in verse 29.  “Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came towards Jesus.”  But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and beginning to sink, cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’


This passage reminds me of us today.  We trust in the Lord and we heed his call.  And in doing so we find ourselves doing things that we couldn’t imagine we could do before our trusting the Lord.  We step out in faith.  But like Peter, who took his focus off of Jesus and looked at his circumstance and surrounding and began to sink, we begin to try to do things on our own or we get sidetracked by our surrounding and the world.  They are a lot of things in our society that tries to make us focus on the world instead of the creator of the world and consequently we begin to sink.  We feel ourselves separated from God.  But when we find ourselves beset by the things of this world – when we find ourselves foundering – we have to react like Peter did when he started sinking.  He cried out, “Lord, save me!”  He didn’t have to go through and mumbo jumbo or any special ceremony, he just realized his need for Jesus.


The verse continues, “Immediately, Jesus reached out his hand and caught him.  ‘You of little faith,’ He said, ‘why did you doubt me?’  And when they climbed back in the boat the wind died down.”  Do you see what I see?  Peter didn’t reach up, he just cried out.  Jesus was faithful and reached down and lifted Peter from the problem that he found himself in.  Jesus didn’t wait until Peter recited special prayers or did something.  Jesus reacted immediately.  Jesus lifted Peter up and together they walked back to the boat.  Jesus walked with Peter through the wind and the waves.  It wasn’t until they crawled into the boat that the wind died down.  Jesus was there with Peter all the way.  That’s the way He is with you and me.


When I was a bit younger I trusted Christ as my savior.  I was about eighteen years old but after I joined the military I started to trip over the snares of the world.  I began to fall away and try to walk by myself.  I tried to fulfillment and enlightenment in the ways of the world.  But I found myself sinking deeper and deeper in despair and misery.  I looked around and found that I was no longer walking towards God – just nearer to disillusionment, desolation, unhappiness, and grief.  But God is faithful and He reached down to me because there was no way that I could ever reach Him on my own accord. 


How many here have heard of Veggi Tales?  Veggi Tales is an animated video series that star talking vegetables who relate Bible stories.  They recently made a movie called “Jonah” which related the Biblical account of Jonah and how he ran away from God when God wanted him to go to Nineveh to preach.  So Jonah took off in the opposite direction and God had him swallowed by a great fish.  Now in the movie, while Jonah was in the belly of the fish, a song was sung called ‘God is the God of Second Chances.” 


            That’s the point that I want to make here tonight.  That God is truly the God of second and third chances.  He’s toe God of third and fourth chances.  He will forgive and forgive as long as you truly turn to Him and desire his forgiveness.  Every day, every morning we need to be seeking God for forgiveness as I know that somewhere along the line during the past 24 hours I have messed up.


            King David of the Old Testament was considered one of the greatest kings of Israel ever.  He was chosen by God and anointed by the prophet Samuel as a child, killed Goliath as a young boy and later became King of Israel.  But King David had a serious problem – he broke just about all but one of the Ten Commandments.  He lusted after Bathsheba, committed adultery, committed murder, and so on and so on.  After all he wasn’t any better than you or me.  But he realized that he did wrong and he prays a great prayer in Psalm 51 and it’s one that we can use also.  Turn with me to Psalm 51 and begin reading with me at verse 1.  Here we read, “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions.  Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.  For I know

my transgressions and my sin is always before me.  Against you, you only, have I

sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are proved right when you

speak and justified when you judge.  Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the

time my mother conceived me. Surely you desire truth in the inner parts; you teach me wisdom in the inmost place.  Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.  Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you

have crushed rejoice.  Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity. Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.  Do not

cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me.   Restore to me the

joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.”


            We tend to beat ourselves up about making mistakes and committing a sin once we have accepted Christ as our Lord and Savior.  And in a way you are right.  We should strive for excellence.  We must strive to be holy.  1 Peter 1:15 and 16 say, “But just as He who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy.”  We need to walk on water just like Peter.  But the problem is that Peter sank when his focus was distracted from Jesus.  We all get distracted from what we need to be.  Even the greatest evangelist in history had problems.  Paul wrote in Romans 7:14 & 15, “We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sol as a slave to sin.  I do not understand what I do.  For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.”


            A few years ago, ok so it more like 15 or so, I was stationed in Korea and had the opportunity to attend a weekend retreat called Tres Dias.  It was a three-day spiritual walk that helped to focus my relationship with the Lord.  I look at that time as my spiritual reboot.  It was the time that God gave me the nudge in the direction that He wanted me to go.  It was three days away from computers, telephones, TV, the hustle and bustle of life and to grow closer with God.  It was great but then came what we call the fourth day.  It was when we left that mountain top of emotion and spiritual oneness and returned to the world at large.  Back in the world I found that walking on the water was not as easy as it was on top of that mountain.  The wind and waves of the world kept crashing on my life and it became harder and harder to keep my focus on Jesus.


            What I found out was that I needed to keep that ‘eye contact’ with Jesus.  I needed to cry out to Him just like Peter did but only constantly.  But how was I to do that?  How could my focus remain on Jesus when I found myself constantly tripping on the snares of the world?  We need to be in the Word.  We need to study the Bible.  The Word of God is alive and can shape and guide us.  Hebrew 4:12 says, “For the Word of God is living and active.  Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”  We must hold ourselves to a higher standard; the standard set by God in His Word.

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