Support us on Paypal
Contact Us
Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Mark Batterson » Mark Batterson - The God of Second Chances

Mark Batterson - The God of Second Chances

Mark Batterson - The God of Second Chances
TOPICS: Second Chance

It's one of my earliest memories, five years old, give or take. I was at my grandparents' home, most precious people on the planet. Oh, makes me smile thinking about them. They had a home on the Mississippi River, Fridley, Minnesota, and so you could play outside, and then you could come inside to this old home. And we would play hide the thimble with my grandma, and play hide and seek, all these nooks and crannies. They had this little drawer, and they put lifesavers in the bottom drawer of the dining room credenza. And that's where all the grandkids went, first stop. But there was one rule, and the rule was this, do not play with grandpa's fossils. We'll call them the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. And you can call me Adam. 'Cause I will never forget a fossil slipping through my 5-year-old fingers. And when it broke on the ground, my little 5-year-old heart broke with it.

I remember the flash flood of emotions. I felt guilt, because I had done what I knew I shouldn't do. I felt shame, I felt regret, 'cause I couldn't undo it. And I felt some fear, because I had no idea how my grandfather would react. That moment is stamped in my memory, in part because emotion enforces memory. And so I'm waiting for the longest two minutes of my life. And my grandfather coulda reacted in anger, right? I mean, and he could have disciplined me, and that would've been warranted.

I'll never forget it, he walked in, assessed the situation, without saying a word, walked over to me, picked me up, and just held me. Never have no words spoken louder in my life. If you wanna impact someone, love them when they least expect it and least deserve it. There are lots of definitions of grace. By definition, grace is undeserved. The only way you qualify for it is by not qualifying for it. But here's my definition of grace, if you're taking notes, you can jot this down, grace is loving people when they least expect it and least deserve it, and no one is better at it than Jesus.

Welcome to National Community Church. What a joy to gather together. Shout out to our NoVa campus, those online, our extended family. We are celebrating Second Chance Sunday at NCC. And so you'll find message notes in the NCC app. Ready or not, here we go. I want you to meet me on a hill outside Jerusalem. Luke 23, there are three crosses waiting for their victims. It's been less than 24 hours since his betrayal and denial, a kangaroo court falsely accused. He's mocked, he's flocked, and now Roman soldiers drive nine-inch nails through his hands and his feet. You blink, and Jesus of Nazareth is nailed to a Roman cross.

And we pick up the story in Luke 23:33, "When they came to the place of the skull, they crucified him there along with the criminals, one on his right, and the other on his left. And Jesus said, 'Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.' And they divided up his clothes by casting lots". That last little detail may seem insignificant, may feel like a footnote, but it is actually a fulfillment of an ancient prophecy. Luke's gospel is referencing Psalm 22:18. It's a Psalm of David, and as prophetic passages are, it's a double entendre. It's David's real experience. He's a fugitive, he feels forsaken. But it's also a pointer to the Messiah, identifying the Son of God, and not coincidentally, the Son of David.

I'll show you a graph, there are more than 300 prophecies identifying the Messiah, Old Testament to New Testament. It's quite the elaborative infographic, if you will. It takes a lot of work to connect all of these dots. More than 30 of those 300 prophecies are fulfilled in the final 24 hours of Jesus' life. And I think it's worth taking just a moment to highlight a few of these. By the way, about a dozen of them come from Psalm 22. In fact, verse 1 starts, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me"? Those words were not chosen out of a vacuum.

Jesus is quoting Psalm 22:1. Now there is a former professor of mathematics, Peter Stoner once applied the science of probability to Scripture in general, prophecy in particular. And he isolated eight prophecies, just eight. And I'll tell you which ones. Here they are real quick, crash course in prophecy. One, that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem, Micah 5:2. Two, he would enter Jerusalem on a donkey, Zechariah 9:9. Three, he'd be betrayed by a friend, Zechariah 13:6. He'd be betrayed for 30 pieces of silver, Zechariah 11:12. The betrayal money would be used to buy a potter's field, Zechariah 11:13. His hands and feet would be pierced, Psalm 22:16.

By the way, I don't have time to deep dive this, but you do know that execution, in Jewish terms, was done by stoning? This predates crucifixion by the Romans. So the fact that the death would involve pierced hands and feet is pretty unbelievable. Seven, and here's the one that we're isolating, his clothes would be gambled away, Psalm 22:18. And eight, he would be assigned two graves, one with the poor and one with the rich, which is such an interesting caveat, it's Isaiah 53. And it actually happens, because if you were crucified by the Romans, they assigned you a grave with the poor. But it was Joseph of Arimathea, who at the last minute, a rich man steps in and says, "Why don't we put him in a borrowed tomb"? 'Cause he's only renting it for three days. Whoo. That just got me fired up.

Wow, so the probability of just eight prophecies being fulfilled by one person, taking into account total population of the world, all time, is one in 10 to the 17th power. That that is one 100 quadrillion. And we're just talking about eight prophecies outta more than 300. If you took 100 quadrillion silver dollars, and put them in the state of Texas, the entire state would be two feet deep in silver dollars. Now, if you just put an X on one of 'em, and then just blindfold, you can walk wherever you want. You can go over to Amarillo, or San Antone, Dallas, Houston, but you have one shot, one shot, let's get that little coin, your chances would be the same as these eight prophecies being fulfilled in a singular person.

Now, part of why I share that is to share this, I think sometimes, there are plenty of people, people who try to poke holes in Scripture. Like, what about the apparent inaccuracies or the seeming contradictions? I kinda chuckle at that, and I wanna be careful because I think sometimes those are very honest questions that deserve honest answers. And I'm not saying that this is not not complicated. But do you know how few and far between those are? And they're getting fewer and fewer. Well, what do you mean? I'll give you a fun example. Like recorded human history is only 5000 years, right? And for most of human history, it was believed that the Earth was flat. And so for most of human history, Isaiah's reference, Isaiah 40:22, "God sits enthroned above the circle of the Earth," caused some problems, apparent contradiction, seems to be inaccurate.

So what was an argument against the reliability of Scripture is actually now an argument for, because it predates our discovery of the spherical nature of planet Earth. How amazing is that? And by the way, I have to be, so I geek out on this, and I have a whole 'nother message, but I think it's worth the effort. Do you know there are some prophecies that are just, they were impossible when they were written. And I'll give you an example, Revelation 11:19. It says in a future period of time called the tribulation, that there will be two witnesses who will be martyred. They will lie dead in the streets for 3 1/2 days. And it specifically says that every people, language and nation will gaze on their dead bodies.

And we read it and we don't blink. But before planes, trains, and automobiles, how are all of these people getting there to see it? That doesn't make any sense, before satellites, and television, and smartphones. See, what I'm saying is like, this just seemed like a dumb statement before smartphones. But now we know that this can be fulfilled in the blink of an eye. See, 'cause technology is catching up. Are you tracking with me? So I don't wanna just read over. I believe in the inspiration of Scripture, as a God-breathed book. And while there are those who poke holes, I just wanna tell us, family, that there is a preponderance of evidence that Scripture is credible, that there is a credibility, an integrity, a veracity, a reliability, and a believability.

You don't have to apologize for that, what a book, what a book. All right, I'm gonna change lanes, how are we doing? That was a little sermon within a sermon. "Now when they came to the place called the Skull," we just read it, "they crucified him there, along with criminals, one on his right, the other on his left. Jesus said, 'Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.'" Okay, some words carry a little extra weight because of who, when, and where they were spoken. Is that a fair statement? One of my heroes is Stanley Tam, founder of the United States Plastic Corporation. He spoke at NCC 15 years ago when he was in his 90s, just a young man. He passed a year ago, April 17th, 2023.

But a few weeks before that, I had the joy of calling him on his 107th birthday. We prayed for each other, I'll never forget it. Three minute prayer? No. The cumulative effect, the compound, it felt like the full weight of 107 years praying for me. He was praying out of God's faithfulness. He was praying out of his lived experience. Some words carry a little bit more weight. And I would suggest all Scripture is God-breathed, every jot and tittle. But red letter words, come on, what Jesus said, they hit a little different, right? But I'm gonna go next level. There's seven sayings on the cross. And part of why they carry so much weight is because Jesus was carrying the weight of the world of our sin.

And do you know the word excruciating in English, the etymology comes from crucifixion, because the Romans designed this execution to be as torturous as possible. So most victims of crucifixion died from asphyxiation, because your diaphragm, at some point, just gives up, and the pain of every inhalation and exhalation, and then you multiply it by spoken words, the pain of every word, every word would send shooting pain. And part of me wonders why these seven sayings, if that's why these seven sayings are so short, because every word was so physically painful to speak, each one carried so much weight. What are those seven statements? He says, "I thirst". He's not only sleep deprived, he's dehydrated. He says, "Behold thy son, behold thy mother".

Unbelievable, he's experiencing this crucifixion, and he's concerned about his mom, and the disciple John. Like, "Hey, look out for each other," wow. "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me"? Sin is separation from God, don't miss this. It distances us. Jesus, because he's carrying the sin of the world, feels the separation that we sometimes feel. He says, "Into your hands, I commit my Spirit". He said to the criminal on the cross, "Today you will be with me in paradise". He says, "It is finished," and we'll come back to that one. But do you know the longest statement? And it's why I think they're the 10 hardest words Jesus ever said, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do".

They just nailed him to the tree. They're mocking him, they're cursing him. They're gambling for his clothes. Would you waste your breath, your few precious words, to extend forgiveness? Oh, but wait, that's precisely why he went to the cross. For those Roman soldiers who nailed him there. And I'll tell you this, if he can forgive those who physically nailed him to the cross, I'm confident he'll forgive me. They carry so much weight.

Listen, I think that this singular statement might be the most amazing miracle in the gospels, that this to me is the most amazing sermon Jesus ever preached. Let me take a minute, talk about pre decisions, and what that has to do with forgiveness, 'cause the goal today is for each of us in person, at NoVa, online, to make sure that we forgive others, forgive ourselves, and forgive reality, that there's no unconfessed sin, and no unforgiven sin, so that we can really live the life that God destined us to live. Just no unforgiveness. Come on, let's just make sure it's all nailed to the cross today. That's where we're headed. But I tell you what, forgiveness is a pre-decision, is it not?

Lemme back up the bus a little bit and say the most important decisions you ever make are pre decisions. They're the decision you make before you have to make the decision. If you wait until all the emotion of the moment, if you wait until the hormones kick in, you are gonna make some bad decisions. You gotta make some decisions before you make the decision. "Well, Mark, gimme an example". Okay, when when Lora and I get a paycheck, or a royalty check, we don't sit down every single time and decide what to do with it, 'cause we made that decision 31 years ago. We will never not tithe, we will give God the first fruits. And our goal is to reverse tithe, to eventually live off of 10%, give 90%. And the way you do that is you increase your percentage of giving.

But what I'm saying is it's a pre-decision, and one of the best pre decisions we ever made. I'll give you another example, there was a moment, 'cause I just wanna keep it real today, that Lora said to me, "This isn't what I signed up for". That was a hard moment. I'd just written a couple of books. I was going here, there, and everywhere, traveling all over the place, speaking at conferences, doing this, pastoring the church, and then making sure that my family got the leftovers. I was so convicted, and Lora was so gracious. I'll tell you what I did, I made a pre-decision. From that moment forward, I won't do more than 12 overnight speaking trips, and then that wasn't enough, and I dialed it back. Currently, seven overnight speaking trips, that's it. You have to make some pre decisions. It'll save your sanity, it might save your marriage.

What pre-decision do you need to make today? I would suggest that forgiveness is a pre-decision. So when I wrote "The Circle Maker," I had no idea that God would bless that book. And by the way, one of my great joys is I had no idea that literally tens of thousands of books would be read behind bars. And there are prayer groups, there are prayer ministries, there are people circling things, 'cause prayer'll get you out from behind those bars. So I had no idea that God would use that book that way. And so what I'm about to share is like not a pity party, a lot of five-star reviews. When it came out, I was not prepared for like some one-star reviews, for some harsh words, for being branded a heretic.

I think there were some people who woulda burned me at the stake, 'cause I dared use a story that wasn't in the Bible, but is true, to demonstrate prayer. And so in God's providence, it was right before that book came out that I chose a verse of the year. And I look back on it now, and what a gift from God. Because I'm thinking to myself, like, "Why did I choose this verse"? Proverbs 19:11, "It is to the glory of a man to overlook an offense". Okay, be careful what verse you choose for your verse of the year, because God will give you plenty of opportunities to put it into practice. And, but you know what? I'm convinced that it was that pre-decision. I'm gonna be un-offendable, I'm gonna overlook the offense. It saved me so much sideways energy, so many sleepless nights, so many counseling sessions, so many unhealthy, unsanctified emotions.

Did some of those things get under my skin? Yeah, but I didn't let 'em get into my spirit. Okay, so how do you overlook an offense? Well, that is easier said than done. So let's keep it simple, put it to prayer, that's it. By the way, I don't have time to talk about this, but remember when Jesus pulls Peter aside, and by the way, he reverts back to his old name, "Simon, Simon, Satan is asked to sift you like wheat," which is so curious to me. But he says, "But I have prayed for you". Can I just ask the obvious question? The guy that you call The Rock, that hey, you're gonna be a key player in this thing, who then denies him three times, how does Jesus forgive him? I think it's because he had already prayed for him. Now I'm gonna tell you when, and where, and how I learned this lesson, and all of us have to learn it the hard way.

When we first bought a crack house, it is now Ebenezers Coffeehouse, believe it or not, some of our neighbors were not excited about this. And I'm like, you gotta be kidding me. We're gonna take a dilapidated property, turn it into an amenity for the community. We'll invest millions of our dollars to just create this place where we can caffeinate the world, right? Holy Spirit plus caffeine equals awesome. And but there were some people that started spreading rumors, and were saying things that were untrue, in part because we were a church. Well, listen, every business is owned by somebody, and they have a worldview, and a face system of their own. Everybody does, and I was ticked off, but I started praying for them by name.

For months, I'll never forget, Adam Mayor, you were there, you helped lead the charge. We went to the zoning hearing, and the whole thing hinges on this. If we don't get this baby rezoned, it's over. And we had 100 people pack that zoning hearing, and the opposition had three or four people. And so internally, I'm kinda chuckling, and we're over here, and they're over here. And so I looked over at them, and did the Caitlin Clark, the Angel Reese. I'm kidding, I did not, I did not, did not do that. Hand on Bible, I looked over at them with so much pure love you wouldn't even believe it. Not an ounce of animosity, no ill will, why? 'Cause I've been praying for you.

There's a boss you've been bad mouthing. I'm not excusing bad behavior. You better start praying for 'em. There're friends and family, can I tell you who I need to pray for this week? People who walk their dog, pick up the poop, and put it in my garbage can. This is not a hypothetical, folks. Pray for me. It is a pet peeve. As soon as I'm totally sanctified, I will let you know, but I would not hold your breath. Let me get where this is going. George Woodruff said, "The test of Christianity is not loving Jesus, it's loving Judas". Who needs to go on your prayer list? Now, can I just say this? Don't you go and try to get on my prayer list by doing something that gets under my skin. There are easier ways, there are better ways. You just ask for prayer, okay?

Man, I love, let me jump to hyperspace, okay, and see if I can't connect some dots. Jesus was on a hill overlooking the Sea of Galilee when he delivers the Sermon on the Mount. And there are six antitheses, and we talk about 'em all the time, love your enemies, pray for those who persecute you, bless those who curse you, turn the other cheek, go the extra mile, and give the shirt off of your back. I love the Bible so much, I studied it my entire life. I have the joy and privilege of sometimes during a normal week, spending 20 hours just studying the Word. And when you do this over decades, you start connecting dots.

But there was something I had never even seen. I had no idea that Jesus fulfilled all six in this one moment on the cross, think about it. Love your enemies, he is literally crucified by Roman soldiers. Pray for those who persecute you, that's precisely what he's doing. Bless those who curse you, that's what he's doing. He's breaking the curse. By the way, talk about connecting dots, do you know that crown of thorns? Don't miss this, when the ground was cursed in Genesis 3, what was the byproduct of the curse? Thorns. They put a curse, a crown of curses on his head. And Jesus says, "Watch this, I'm gonna break the curse, and you're gonna drink the cup of blessing because of what, you want me to save myself? No, I'm here to save you". Then he goes the extra mile.

"What are you talking about"? He carries a 300-pound Roman cross, 600 yards down the Via Dolorosa. He turns the other cheek, the cheek whose beard had been plucked, which Scripture is never unintentional. These details are significant. A beard symbolized a Jewish man's masculinity. They are not just dehumanizing him, they are emasculating him. And then finally, give the shirt off of your back, and they're gambling for his clothes. Are you? Jesus embodies the Sermon on the Mount in this one miraculous moment of unbelievable forgiveness. Last thing he says is, "It is finished". Now don't miss this detail, I think I have time. Jesus does not say, "Father, forgive them for what they have done," past tense.

It's not easy forgiving things that happen past tense, but it's a whole heck of a lot easier than forgiving something that's happening in real time right now. "Father, forgive them for what they're doing right now". Religion is spelled D-O, do. It's all about what you can do for God. Christianity is spelled D-O-N-E, done. It's all about what Christ accomplished on the cross for us. When Jesus said, "It is finished," it's three words in English, it's one word in Greek, tetelestai. It was a legal term, an accounting term. It referred to the final installment on a debt owed. Archeologists have found ancient receipts with this word written across it, tetelestai. Debt canceled, debt free. I owed a debt I could not pay, he paid a debt he did not owe. It's done, it's finished.

I'll tell you one last story and connect the dots, years ago I was at a conference speaking with Bob Goff, and we were both on a panel on parenting, and I thought I was crushing it, you know, saying some pretty profound things to parents. And then Bob pulls out of his back pocket one of the most unforgettable stories I have ever heard. Before Bob's daughter was born, he wrote a note forgiving her for crashing their car. I mean, I guess it's a just in case. He took the note, put it in a jar, buried it, made note of the latitude and longitude of where it was buried.

And 17 years later, sure enough, his daughter crashes the car. He says, "Here's a shovel". Gives her the latitude and longitude. She digs it up, opens the jar, reads the note and discovers that her father had forgiven her before she was even born. Whoo, your sin is forgiven, friend. Now be careful, 1 John 1:8-9, "If we confess our sin, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sin, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we claim that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and call him a liar. All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God".

I'm a sinner in need of Savior. But don't miss this, 2000 years ago, Jesus wrote a note, and it's called the Bible. And the latitude and longitude is a cross on a hill called Calvary. And all we have to do, 'cause it starts with if, if you confess your sin, it's called a conditional promise. The promise is guaranteed, friends, but we have to meet the condition. If we confess our sin. Today is your day, today is your day to confess your sin, to profess your faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and to walk away forgiven.

I wanna give you one homework assignment. It's an assignment my counselor gave to me about four years ago. I was struggling, COVID, political polarization, racial tension, trying to lead through it. Felt like no matter what I said, it was always too much, and never enough. Just felt like the whole world was on fire. And sometimes, you just, you feel it. And I just, like, the emotional tank was empty. Like, there is just not much left to love people. My counselor said, "Mark, I wanna give you an exercise. Is there anyone or anything that you need to forgive"? He said, "I want you to just set aside some time to just ask that question, is there any unconfessed sin? Is there any unforgiven sin"?

And I'm gonna give you the same assignment. And I remember thinking to myself, "That should be easy. Take a few minutes, I'll mark off five minutes and knock that out". Hours later, the Holy Spirit did a deep work in my heart. Can I tell you, I don't like, but I love the conviction of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit began to surface things that were unforgiven, things said, things done. And I had allowed them to reside in my spirit. And if you aren't careful, that seed of bitterness, it'll take you down. Would you set aside a few minutes this week? Is there any unforgiven sin? Is there any unconfessed sin? Would you allow the Spirit to just set you free, so that you can live in the fullness that he has called you to?

Let me see if I can find it, where are you, where are you? Where are you, Corrie ten Boom. I put my faith in Christ, about five years old, watched a movie called, "The Hiding Place," and it powerfully impacted me. Corrie ten Boom said, "Forgiveness is setting the prisoner free, only to find out that the prisoner was me". God is gonna set some captives free. She survived a concentration camp, and this I will close with, I promise. Her father died, her sister died, how do you deal with that? And she would travel the world and share her story, of not just surviving, but thriving, of experiencing the forgiveness of God, the grace of God.

And there was this moment where at one of those meetings, one of the prison guards, she remembered, she saw his face and it triggered every emotion, 'cause he was one of the most cruel prison guards in that concentration camp, the things he said and the things he did. And after her talk, he came up to Corrie, and he said, "I need to hear you say it, do you forgive me"?

Corrie said it is the hardest thing she had ever done. As an expression of forgiveness, she reached out his hand towards his. And in that moment when their hands clasped, this is what she said, "A current started in my shoulder, and raced down my arm, and sprang into our joined hands. And then this healing warmth seemed to flood my whole being, bringing tears to my eye. 'I forgive you, brother,' I cried. With all of my heart, I had never known love so intensely as I did then, but even then I realized it was not my love, it was the power of the Holy Spirit".

This is you, not you mustering willpower, this is you allowing the Holy Spirit to do through you what Jesus did. I've gotta think that the moment he spoke those words, I just, I'm living in this moment, that I'm thinking about these soldiers, and it's hard to have compassion for those who are so cruel. About 1000 crucifixions a year in Judea in the 1st century, so three crucifixions was par for the course. And I'm thinking to myself, "How callous must your heart be"?

You gotta sell your soul if every single day, all you do is nail people to a cross. Then you have to go home, and be a husband to your wife, and a father to your kids? How did they do this? I think they are some of the most hardened people on the planet, the least likely to experience grace or forgiveness. But what does Jesus do? The only way they're gonna ever experience it is to receive it from the guy that they crucified. And so he says, "Father, forgive them". And he says to you today, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do," in Jesus name, amen.
Are you Human?:*