“A Second Chance”
Sometimes, life is challenging for those who choose to follow Jesus Christ. After submitting their life to God's Son, they deal with feelings of guilt. They wonder how God could love and forgive them in spite of past sins and mistakes. In other words, they have a hard time accepting God's free gift of salvation. On the other hand, there are some who meet with all kinds of opposition because of the decision they made. Those people are ridiculed or persecuted because of their loyalty to the Lord. They wonder whether or not they made the right decision, and if God will take care of them in the midst of being rejected. Certainly, those are valid concerns, and yet those concerns are not new. Some of the early followers of Jesus experienced the very same thing. In our lesson today on "Key to the Kingdom," we will look at a message that offers hope and encouragement. Written almost 2000 years ago, the words of the apostle Peter still apply today. If you find yourself struggling in some aspect of your spiritual life, I hope you know that God loves you, and you are very special to Him. You are precious in His sight, and He cares about how you feel and what challenges you face. More than anything else, God wants you to be reassured that He will provide the strength you need to overcome feelings of guilt or rejection. I hope you will stay with us for the next few minutes, as we are encouraged through a study of God's Word.
In the letter of 1st Peter, the apostle wrote to some men and women who had recently received God's free gift of salvation. They lived in various places throughout Asia, and they were some of the very first people in that area to begin following Jesus Christ. Their sin had been washed away when they became Christians, and yet they were still trying to understand everything Jesus had done for them. They had that second chance, but they needed to be reminded of exactly what that meant. Now, some of these people were also being persecuted because of their faith. They had made that decision to put their trust in Jesus Christ, and other people made them feel bad about that decision. They were being made to feel inferior or insignificant, and that created some sort of identity crisis. Oh, these believers struggled to continue to put their faith in Jesus, and they wondered if that sacrifice was really worth the effort. Now, what these followers of Jesus experienced in the first century still happens to some followers of Jesus in the world today. Many are trying to understand fully God's love and salvation, and others are being persecuted or are suffering because of their faith in Jesus Christ. You know, perhaps even our sins make us feel guilty. The mistakes that we have made in the past make us feel inferior or unworthy of God's free gift of salvation. We have a hard time forgiving ourselves, or perhaps, we even have a hard time asking others to forgive us of something that we did to them. We might even wonder, "Is there any way I can overcome my past? Is there any way I can overcome those mistakes and have them forgiven and move on to a better life?" Well, maybe that is the way you feel right now. You wish someone would give you a second chance. You are looking for another opportunity to get things right, to move beyond the mistakes of the past and to embrace a brand new life. Maybe you have recently become a follower of Jesus. You're experiencing some persecution. People make you feel inferior or insignificant. You might even also be wondering, like these first century Christians, is the effort you're making to live Jesus really worth the sacrifice? Well, if any of those things describe the way you feel today, I want you to be encouraged by the words from the apostle Peter. Listen closely to what he writes in 1st Peter chapter 2, beginning with verse 4. <As you come to Him, the living Stone -rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to Him- you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For in Scripture, it says: "See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in Him will never be put to shame." Now to you who believe, this stone is precious. But to those who do not believe, the stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone, and, a stone that causes people to stumble and a rock that makes them fall. They stumble because they disobey the message -which is also what they were destined for.> To many people, Jesus was, and still is, nothing more than a rock that gets in the way. Jesus is nothing more than a pebble in the bottom of a shoe. He is nothing more than a stone in the path, that they try to get around Him and to pursue their own direction in life. And in their minds, Jesus is not worthy of their consideration, and the very last thing they would do would be to go to Him for consideration or even for their salvation. And yet on the other hand, to those who know and who understand God's love and salvation, Jesus is the rock of their life. He is the foundation upon which they build their life and anticipate the future. And as Peter points out, He is the cornerstone. These first century Christians needed to read those words. They needed the reassurance that they had made the right decision when they receive God's salvation and when they made Jesus Christ the cornerstone of their life. Perhaps we need to hear that very same message, don't we? We need the reassurance, at times, we made the right decision. When we suffer and when there are problems and when there is pain and trouble in this world, we need to be reminded of the fact that Jesus is our foundation. He will not be moved, and we won't be moved either. Yes. When we make the decision to come to Jesus and receive His salvation, we are made into someone special. There is no need to feel inferior or insignificant. There is no need to feel shame or rejection. Our sin has been forgiven. We are now a part of God's family, as Peter points out. Jesus is the cornerstone and the foundation of our life, and we trust Him to provide. We trust Him to offer that salvation. We trust Him for our significance and for our purpose in this world. I am told that oftentimes a cornerstone is the very first stone that is laid in the construction of a building, and all of the other stones and all of the other material is placed in or around that particular cornerstone. That cornerstone provides the foundation for the design and for the direction of that particular building. Yes, the cornerstone of a building is important, and likewise, when one makes the decision to allow Jesus to become the cornerstone of his or her life, then that person will never be put to shame, according to the words of Peter. And as a result, followers of Jesus demonstrate God's holiness. They offer sacrifices to the One who has saved them. They then become His representatives out into the world, to those people who have never before experienced God's love. Now, based upon their decision to trust and obey Jesus, these Christians received some very special blessings and promises. Let's go back to 1st Peter, chapter 2, and pick up right where we left off and read verses 9 and 10. <But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's special possession, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.> Isn't that a beautiful passage of Scripture? At least six different things are identified. At least six different blessings or promises were made to these people. You are holy. You are royal. You are God's special possession. Can you imagine how it made those people feel? In the Old Testament part of the Bible, God's chosen people were the Jews or the Nation of Israel. They belonged to Him. They were His special people. In the New Testament part of the Bible, however, that distinction belongs to all of those who put their faith and trust and obedience in Jesus Christ. We might call them the Spiritual Nation of Israel, and they are set apart to belong to Him and not to the world. They are recipients of God's mercy. And now, as we just read, they have the privilege of telling other people what God has done for them and the salvation they have received. Well, these words describe what happened to those 1st century Christians in Asia, and they needed to be reminded of that. They needed to be reminded that yes, we are special to God. We are His special possession, a holy nation, a royal priesthood. Verse 10 seems to drive home Peter's point. Notice it again: "At one time you were not a people, but now you are the people of God. At one time you had not received God's mercy, but now you have received God's mercy." Look at the contrast. At one time you were on the outside looking in, but now you belong and you are a part. In the Old Testament book of Hosea, God's people were cut off from God for a period of time. Because of their disobedience to God, because of their rejection of His will for their life, God placed them in captivity. They began to worship and serve the various gods of the foreign nations around them, and God said, "You are not My people. You do not receive My mercy." But then in a passage of hope and reassurance, there was a time when they did come back and receive that mercy and were a part of God's people once again. And that is the point that Peter makes from the Old Testament; "Now, you have received His mercy. Now, you are a part of God's family." And he points out that it makes no difference if one is a Jew or a non-Jew, a Gentile. That person can belong to God. He or she can receive God's mercy and God's forgiveness. And everyone, no matter who we are and no matter where we live or what our nationality might be, can be God's special possession. No matter how we might feel about ourselves, and no matter what kind of opposition we might face as followers of Jesus, we have been given that second chance. And through God's grace, we can leave the spiritual world of darkness and we can move into the glorious light of Jesus Christ. Now, I want to pause right here for just a moment. I want you to think about what we have said thus far, and these Scripture verses here in 1st Peter, and I want to ask you a question. How do Peter's words make you feel? Oh, I hope these words make you feel encouraged. I hope they remind you of who you are in Jesus Christ. I hope these words make you feel strengthened, to know that as you build your life and your future upon Jesus Christ, you're building it upon a cornerstone, and He is your foundation. And, you are special to God. You belong to Him, and you have received His mercy. The apostle Peter knew a man by the name of the apostle Paul, and many of the things Peter wrote came from Paul's previous writings, but both of these men remind us of some great truths. What I want to do now is to share some passages of Scripture that were written by Paul, which perhaps Peter used in writing what he just did. We go, first of all, to Colossians, chapter 2, and verse 13, where Paul writes: <When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us our sins.> Well, that's what Peter wrote. Look at the contrast. We go from being dead in sin to being alive in Jesus Christ. And that curse of sin is no more because of what Jesus Christ did on the cross for us. Our sin is forgiven. Well, through Jesus Christ, because our sin is forgiven, we can now live a guilt-free life. We can have that burden of guilt removed and done away with because our sin is done away with. It is washed away in baptism. It is forgiven and forgotten by God. And both Peter and Paul say, "That's how you are to treat the sin in your life, if you are now a child of God." Paul puts it this way. In Romans, chapter 6, verses 5 through 7: <If we have been united with Him like this in His death, we will certainly also be united with Him in His resurrection. For we know that our old self was crucified with Him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin, because anyone who has died has been freed from sin.> Now, those words come on the heels of verses 1 through 4, there in Romans chapter 6, where Paul simply describes what happened to Jesus; He died upon the cross, He was buried in a tomb, and then, He rose up from the grave. And likewise, when we die to the sin in our life, we are buried with Jesus in baptism and then we rise up to walk in a brand new life. Yes, as a child of God, now, we are special to Him. Others may look down upon us because of our faith, because of our commitment to follow Jesus. They might even try to make us feel as if we are inferior in some way. But again, notice Paul's words to that effect. In Ephesians chapter 2, he writes: <You are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God's people and members of God's household, built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In Him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple to the Lord.> Paul says, "Yes. At one time, you were a foreigner. You were on the outside looking in. You were an alien to those covenant promises. But now look at who you are. You are a member of God's house. You belong to Him." And then there's the statement there about the chief cornerstone, from which Peter writes what he did. Your life is being built upon the chief cornerstone, Jesus Christ and you are joined together and you rise up into a holy temple that brings glory to God. Without a doubt, Paul, just like Peter, states, "You are special to the Lord." When you respond to Jesus Christ and that free gift of salvation, you are a part of His family. You are somebody special. You have received God's mercy. And then finally, we still may suffer at the hand of the enemy. We still, like these Christians in the first century, might experience some persecution and hard times because of our faith. But we can never forget this one fact; God's hand is greater than the hand of the persecutor, and He will always provide. He has already provided the victory through His son, Jesus Christ. And that's good to know, isn't it? We need to be reminded of the fact that there is a future home waiting for us, that things are going to be better someday, than what they are right now; and, we can anticipate that. We can look forward to what God has in store for us in that eternal and heavenly kingdom. And here are his words to that effect, from Romans, chapter 8, verses 17 and 18. <Now, if we are children, then we are heirs, heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in His sufferings, in order that we may also share in His glory. I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.> What did Paul say? Yes, your sufferings and your persecution right now might be hard, but there is coming a day when all of it will seem as nothing compared to the eternal glories of heaven. All of it will quickly and forever vanish away, and it will be gone. You won't even remember it because you will be at home with the Lord. Oh, these verses here in 1st Peter, chapter 2, and these various writings from the apostle Paul describe the second chance that God gives to those through His son Jesus Christ, who respond to Him. And without Him, we would still be lost in our sin. Without Him, we would still have to bear the burden of the guilt of the mistakes in days gone by. Without Jesus, we would feel inferior, as if there is no hope for our future. And as both Peter and Paul point out, Jesus is that life-giving stone. He is the Chief Cornerstone upon which we can build our lives and our future. He is the Living Water. He is the Bread of Life. He is the Living Way through which we draw near into a relationship with God. Oh, even though many people, still today, reject Jesus and reject His free gift of salvation, God chose Him to bring that salvation and that peace into our lives. And we have the opportunity to receive that free gift of life. We have the opportunity to receive that second chance and to experience what it's like to be a special possession to Almighty God, the Creator of this universe. My prayer for you today is that you will not allow your past to dictate your future. You may have made some mistakes in days gone by. You may have messed up, and you're struggling with how to overcome. The answer seems to be, from Scripture, allow Jesus Christ to make you into somebody special. Turn to Him and receive that life-giving Spirit that He offers. And I also pray today that whatever challenging situations you might encounter, whatever persecution or sufferings that you have to deal with, realize that you are special and you are precious to God. He knows what's going on in your life, and He will always provide. And there is a special home reserved for you, and all of who put their faith, trust and obedience in Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Yes, I pray today that you will embrace the second chance that God offers to you.
In a few short months, this space will look totally different. On this site, a brand new baseball park is being built. Now, many people throughout this area are looking forward to coming here and enjoying a baseball game. Yes, it is an exciting time in this part of the city. Until that time takes place, however, it is a mess trying to drive in this part of the city. There are all kinds of road closures and detours and construction going on, as you can see behind me. But we know that something better is coming. Something exciting is going to take the place of all of this construction very soon. You know, sometimes there are some detours and construction and problems going on in our life. We have all kinds of obstacles to deal with and try to overcome, and that's quite challenging. But yet as people who belong to God's family, we know that something better is coming. We know that a home in heaven is waiting, and we anticipate that. We look forward to it. And so we can deal with these temporary problems and temporary detours and obstacles that seem to get in our way. And when we think about that, it's easy to overcome them because we have our sights set on something new and something better. We have our sights set on that eternal home with God in heaven. I would encourage us today, when we find ourselves being overwhelmed by the detours and obstacles of life, that we set our sights on being at home with God in that heavenly kingdom.
Thank you for tuning in to today's broadcast. I trust this message about second chances encouraged you in your walk with the Lord. If you would like to hear or view it again, please visit our website at keytothekingdom.com. This message, along with many others, is available in a variety of formats. They are absolutely free and require no commitment. Hopefully, you will access any that might be of interest. While on the website, take a few minutes to look at some of the other things we offer. Study questions are found at the end of each lesson, offering additional thoughts to consider. Two-minute videos and one-minute devotional messages are available as well. They provide insight to the Scriptures and encourage personal application. You are also invited to find, like, and follow us on Facebook®. On a regular basis, new messages are uploaded that will hopefully bless you spiritually. Share them with others, so they too will become familiar with this ministry. If you have not already downloaded our free app onto your smart phone, I hope you will do so. It is free and allows easy access to all aspects of our ministry. And finally, if you would like to call the number on the screen and leave a message, please do so. We will be happy to visit with you about any spiritual need you might have, or any of our messages. It is a privilege to share these weekly lessons. They're always biblically based; and hopefully, provide something that will assist you in drawing closer to the Lord. You are invited to join us again next time on this same channel, as we continue to study the Bible, on "Key to the Kingdom."