Robert Jeffress - The Curtain Doesn't Come Down When You Mess Up
Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress and welcome again to Pathway to Victory. Well, aside from Jesus, no man or woman has ever lived a perfect life. Sometimes to our embarrassment, all of us make mistakes, but because of God's grace, our failures don't have to be final. Today we're starting a new series titled, Second Chance, Second Act. And over the next couple of weeks we'll discover life-changing principles for enjoying the second act God wants you to experience. My message is titled, "The Curtain Doesn't Come Down When You Mess Up", on today's edition of Pathway to Victory.
One Saturday I was at the airport waiting anxiously for my flight to be called so I could get back home and so I decided to make one final stop at the restroom. And while I was washing my hands, I looked over and saw a woman suddenly enter the restroom. She looked at me, I looked at her and she just froze, I mean in embarrassment. She started to apologize profusely for being in the wrong restroom. And I said, "That's okay, don't worry about it. It happens to me all of the time". So she quickly darted out of there. I continued drying my hands, straightening my tie, I left the restroom and for some reason I just happened to look back and on the wall next to the entrance there was this little stick figure, a feminine stick figure. And the words women written underneath it. I'd been the one in the wrong restroom the whole time. But at least I made her feel better.
You know, mistakes, we all make them don't we? All the time. But I would just imagine the reason some you are interested in this new series, Second Chance, Second Act is not because of some minor mishap in your life like going to the wrong restroom. I imagine that for most of you here today or watching on television or listening by radio, there is a major blunder you can point to in your past. Well today I have as the old joke begins, some bad news and some good news for you. Let me give you the bad news first. You can't rewrite history. Life has no rewind button on it. Have you discovered that? That's the bad news, but here's the good news. God has the ability to take your worst mistakes and turn them into stepping stones for even greater success in life.
The novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald once said, "There are no second acts in American history". Fitzgerald was absolutely wrong. The Bible says there can be a second act, a second chance in your life if you follow the biblical principles we're going to discover in this series. Today, in this beginning message in our series, Second Chance, Second Act. We're going to talk about why the curtain doesn't come down when we mess up. And specifically today we're going to talk about mistakes and we're going to discover three real and biblical truths about the mistakes that we all make.
I want you to jot down these principles from God's word. Principle number one is this, mistakes are inevitable. Mistakes are inevitable. We all make mistakes and as we talk about mistakes in life, I think it's important to note that not all mistakes are the same. Mistakes come in a variety of different shapes and sizes and so today we're gonna talk about three kinds of mistakes. I call them slip-ups, secondly, there are mess-ups and ultimately there are screw-ups, okay?
Now let's talk first of all about SLIP-ups. Slip-ups are minor mistakes we make that have few consequences whatsoever. Recently we were having a dinner with the pastor. This lady raised her hand, a guest, and said, "Pastor, what is the most embarrassing experience you've ever had preaching"? Well, I paused for a long time, not because I couldn't think of one, but because I thought is it really proper for me to share this with the audience or not? And I decided, well, since it was a matter of public record, I could go ahead and share my most embarrassing moment preaching.
It happened in my last church. It was the Sunday before Christmas, and I tell you, I was so pumped up and energized by the large crowd. I was preaching with great gusto and the place was packed and I was trying to make the point about how ironic it was that the Son of God would be born in such an insignificant place. And so I was talking about the city of Bethlehem and with great gusto I said, "It was the tiniest city in all Judea". But instead of saying city, I slipped and used a rhyming word. You know where I'm going with this. It wasn't any place good. I just kept right on preaching, never acknowledged the mistake.
Well, Amy happened to be home that day, sick and she was watching on live television and she watched me say that and she thought, "Did Robert just say what I thought he said"? And then she thought, "No, that couldn't be 'cause he never changed expression". But she said suddenly she saw the choir behind me start to convulse trying to suppress the laughter and then finally it was all over in the service once they started laughing. Now that was a slip-up, but it had few consequences except being replayed at the staff Christmas party every year for years to come. But you know, we all have slip-ups like that. That's not what we're talking about in this series.
There's a second kind of mistake we make. I call them MESS-ups. Now mess-ups are mistakes that usually carry more painful consequences with them. A few years ago, a couple came to see me and they told me about the mess-up they had made. One Sunday afternoon they were driving around in a new neighborhood and they drove past this home that was for sale and it was a beautiful home. And they said, this is our dream house. We want to have this house. And so they went to the real estate agent, they said, "Could we purchase this home"? And he said, "You better purchase it, but you better do it very quickly 'cause the market's really hot right now and it won't stay on the market long". They said, "Well, we have an existing home right now". He said, "Don't worry about it, the market's hot, you'll be able to unload that house soon. You better put your offer in".
Well, six months later, they were still the proud owners of two homes and two mortgages. Now eventually this couple though they went through months of financial pain they eventually sold their former home and now they don't experience the consequences any longer. The consequences were real, but they weren't long-lasting.
But for third category of mistakes are the ones we're talking about in this series. I call them SCREW-ups. They are monumental mistakes that seem to have unending consequences. While on a brief business trip, Jerry met Sarah at an industry trade show and I bet you can write the rest of the story. Their one-night affair turned into a three year prolonged relationship and it would have continued if Jerry's wife had not found a hotel receipt in his coat pocket. When she confronted Jerry about the affair, he admitted it. He asked her forgiveness, he asked God's forgiveness, but when he came to see me, he had a question. He said, "Pastor, why am I still having to pay for this mistake"? He went on to say that his wife continued to hold this mistake over his head, wouldn't let him forget it. Not only that he confessed their sex life was sporadic and unsatisfactory and he said in addition to all of that, he felt like there was still a barrier between himself and God. That's the kind of mistake I'm talking about.
I imagine somewhere in your past is a mistake like that. It may or may not be a mistake of morality. Perhaps you accepted a job offer to another city, and even though you felt like it was God's will at the time, the move proved to be disastrous for your children. You know, when I think about people who've had major mistakes in their life, I think about the apostle Peter. You know, Peter's name means rock, the rock, and yet Peter could have been just a shifting of the sand many different times. Think about all the mistakes Peter made. There was the time he was trying to walk on the water, but because he took his eyes off Jesus, he began to sink. Or think about the time he was in the garden with the Lord and he impulsively cut off the Roman soldier's ear. I think about the fact that Peter kept not believing that God could save gentiles just as much as he could Jews.
But the failure for which Peter will always be remembered is the one that happened that night and early morning before Jesus was crucified. We find that mistake recorded in Matthew 26. Peter failed and he failed miserably. But you know what? Jesus was willing to forgive him. Isn't it interesting that three days later when Jesus was raised from the dead, the very first apostle he returned to and appeared to according to 1st Corinthians 15:5 was Peter. It was God's way of saying, I forgive you. And not only that, a mere six weeks later, Peter who had disappointed the Lord found himself standing before thousands on the southern steps of the temple in Jerusalem, preaching perhaps the greatest sermon that has ever been preached about the resurrection of Jesus Christ and thousands that day came to faith in Christ.
Ladies and gentlemen, I don't care what failure you have experienced. Your failure, your sin doesn't have to be the final word about your life story. God is not only willing to forgive, he's also willing to use you again. That's what happened to Peter. You know, sometimes the biggest screw-ups in our life are things we do. But sometimes the big mistakes we make is not what we do, it's what we fail to do.
A few years ago, I was on a program with motivational speaker, Les Brown and Les said something I wrote down on an index card. I thought it was so rich. He said, "The richest ground on planet earth is not found in the diamond fields of South Africa or in the oil fields of west Texas. The richest ground on earth is the cemetery for in the cemetery we find bodies containing speeches that were never given, books that were never written, songs that were never sung and dreams that were never fulfilled". We can't turn the clock backward. We can't regain opportunities we've squandered. We can't remake decisions we regret. We can't redo parts of our life that are so embarrassing to us.
Here's some good news. Even though mistakes are inevitable. The second truth I want you to write down is, our mistakes are forgivable. Have you ever wondered why is it that we consistently slip up, mess up and screw-up in life? There's a simple answer. It's a one word answer. It's called sin, S-I-N. The word, Greek word, sin literally means, to miss the mark. To sin in God's eyes is to miss the mark. That is to miss the bullseye. God's perfect plan for your life. When Paul says, we all sin and fall short of the glory of God, what he's saying is we fail to hit the bullseye a hundred percent of the time, or even most of the time and God's plan for our marriages, for our careers, for our finances, for our parenting, for every area of the life we all fall short of God's ideal, sin. That's what it is, falling short.
Well, how did we get that inclination to always fall short? What is it that makes us always fall short? We've looked at this in the last few weeks. Romans 5:12 says, "Therefore just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned". I don't understand exactly how that happened, but here's what I know. Because of Adam's sin, we have bodies that are now contaminated with sin and because of that, we are habitually drawn to mess-ups in life. We continually fall short of God's plan because sin has contaminated our lives. But you know what? God has made an offer to us. He said, you know, "Even though I'm not responsible for your sin, I'm gonna pay the cost of your sin". And that's why he sent Jesus to die for us.
Jesus not only paid the penalty for forgiving us of our sins, but he offers to make us brand new people from the inside out. He offers us a brand new beginning if we're willing to accept his payment. You know, it may seem unfair that we would have to suffer the consequences for Adam's sin, but what is even more unfair is that Jesus would suffer the consequences for our sin, but that's something he was willing to do. Listen to how Paul said it in Romans 5:15 and 16 from the new living Bible, "But there is one great difference between Adam's sin and God's gracious gift. For the sin of this one man, Adam brought death to many. But even greater is God's wonderful grace and his gift of forgiveness to many through this other man Jesus Christ. And the result of God's gracious gift is very different from the result of that one man's sin. For Adam's sin led to condemnation, but God's free gift leads to our being made right with God, even though we are guilty of many sins".
You know why he offers to forgive us our sins and give us a brand new being and a fresh start? One word, grace. I love this definition of grace. Grace is God's burst of undeserved generosity. A burst of undeserved generosity for by grace you have been saved through faith.
I remember I was told one time about a teenage girl who had been sent to an eating disorder clinic. Her situation was very dire. She was facing death. She had become withdrawn from her family and her family asked me if I would write her a letter of encouragement. And as I was writing her a note of encouragement to remind her that God loved her, I remembered some words from Max Lucado that I included in my letter to her. Max wrote, "There are many reasons God saves you. To bring glory to himself, to appease his justice, to demonstrate his sovereignty, but one of the sweetest reasons God saved you is because he's fond of you. He likes having you around. He thinks you are the best thing to come down the pike in quite a while. If God had a refrigerator, your picture would be on it. If God had a wallet, your photo would be in it. He sends you flowers every spring and sunrise every morning. Whenever you want to talk, he'll listen. He can live anywhere in the universe and he chose your heart. Face it, friend, he's crazy about you".
Ain't that great? That's the kind of God we serve. One who loves us, one who understands our mistakes are inevitable, but he also says they are forgivable. Remember what he said through the prophet Isaiah. Isaiah 1:18, "Come now and let us reason together, says the Lord. Though your sins are as scarlet, they will be white as snow". Our mistakes are inevitable, they're forgivable. That should be enough, but there's even greater news. Our mistakes, thirdly, are redeemable.
Now, think about it. If God's grace, his undeserved generosity simply means we don't go to hell when we die, that'd be a pretty good deal, wouldn't it? I mean, think about it. Even if your affair cost you your marriage, even if your bad financial decision resulted in bankruptcy, even if the crime you committed meant life imprisonment, but you knew that because of God's forgiveness, you'd be in heaven rather than hell. Wouldn't you thank God for that? But God doesn't stop just with his forgiveness. God actually offers to redeem your mistakes. By that I mean God is willing to take the worst things you have done, the worst mistakes you have made, and still use them in some inexplicable way for your good and his glory.
Isaiah 61:3 says, "God will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair". Do you have a hard time believing that? God is willing not only to forgive you of your mistake, but also redeem your mistake to use it for your good and for his glory. That's what redemption is all about.
I want you to do something for me in closing, I want everybody to raise your right hand, okay? Got it? Take your right hand and place it over your heart. Hopefully you feel a heartbeat. You know what that heartbeat signifies? God's grace. The fact that he didn't strike you dead the moment you committed that mistake is a sign of his grace. That he's given you time not only to receive his forgiveness, but he's actually given you the time you need to recover from that mistake. Your pulse is your greatest plus as somebody once said. And that's what we're gonna be talking about over the next few weeks. We're gonna discover the five biblical principles for turning your biggest messes into incredible successes.