Finding The Grace To Start Over

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A country-western song came out many years ago that said, “You’re not the has-been you used to be.” Renewing the Church is like remodeling your house: it takes longer than you hoped, costs more than you planned, and makes a bigger mess than you ever thought possible.

(Genesis 6:1-2) When men began to increase in number on the earth and daughters were born to them, the sons of God saw that the daughters of men were beautiful, and they married any of them they chose. The “sons of God” was another term for the fallen angels; (when Lucifer and 1/3 of the angels left heaven.) We know in the Book of Job that they have to come and given an accounting. 2PE 2:4 “For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell, putting them into gloomy dungeons to be held for judgment….” The “daughters of men” were people like you and me, normal people. Human beings and in this case very sinful.

GEN 6:5 “The Lord saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time.” So God decided that He would destroy all of humankind, except for Noah and Noah’s family. Beyond the fact that the people Noah was dealing with were sinful, they thought that Noah was nuts. He was building an ark and talking about rain. It was believed that it had never rained on the earth until that point. Water came from fountains and springs from under the earth. GEN 2:5 says that no plant of the field had yet sprung up, for the Lord God had not sent rain on the earth and there was no man to work the ground. To spare the animals, God sent them two by two to Noah. Then it rained for 40 days, which in the Bible means a long time, “however long it takes to flood the earth.” Jonah was at Nineveh for 40 days, in other words, a long time. It took 150 days for the flood waters to subside.

Human renewal takes place by the power of God’s hand. What is it that makes the difference between Noah and Jonah? The people in Noah’s day are without remorse, unrepentant. The people of Nineveh are confronted with their wrong and repent.

Recently I decided not to renew my subscription to an excellent magazine. There followed one renewal notice after another. Three times I received a letter indicating that this was absolutely my last opportunity to renew at the least expensive rate. Someone even called on the telephone and asked if I was certain about letting the subscription lapse. Their persistence finally led me to examine carefully my motives for not renewing the subscription. Ultimately I renewed, and I have been pleased with this decision.

The Bible speaks of renewing experiences. Indeed, the Bible insists upon them! The Bible does not present merely philosophical ideas about personal renewal. It tells about the actual struggle of people searching for a reliable source of joy, health, and strength. In a host of different ways, the searchers find God as the source of renewal. ISA 40:31 says, “but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.”

It has been said that God is a God of a second chance because He gives us a second chance. The Bible teaches three R’s! Remorse, Repentance and Renewal. If we want renewal, if we want a second chance, if we want to start over, it must be preceded with remorse and repentance.

In seminary I ministered the Mt. Zion Christian Church. They only had a piano and the young girl who played it had only been taking lessons for a couple of years. She would sometimes mess up in the middle of a song and would say, “Whoops, lets try that again.” Starting over means trying it again.

Her car was stalled at the intersection, the hood was up, and she flagged me down to help. “I can’t get it started,” she said. “But if you jiggle the wire on the battery, I think it will work.” I grabbed the wire on the positive battery cable and it came off in my hand. Definitely too loose. “The terminal needs to be tightened up,” I told her. “I can fix it if you have some tools.” “My husband says to just jiggle the wire,” she replied. “It always works. Why don’t you just try that?” I paused for a moment, wondering why her husband didn’t ride around town with her so he would be available when the wire needed jiggling. “Ma’am, if I jiggle the wire, you’re going to need someone else to do it every time you shut the engine off. If you’ll give me two minutes and a wrench, we can solve the problem and you can forget about it.” Reluctantly, she fumbled under the front seat and then extended a crescent wrench through the window of the old car. As I tightened the battery terminal, it occurred to me how many times I try to get the “quick fix” from God. “I have this problem, Lord, and if You’ll just jiggle the wire, things will be okay. I’m in a hurry, so let’s just get me going again the quickest way possible.” But God doesn’t want to “jiggle the wire”. He wants to take the time necessary to deal with my real problem and fix it.

To get the long-term solution to the pressing needs in my life requires a complete surrender to God and a willingness to proceed on His terms. I must cooperate with Him in whatever it takes for as long as it takes. Renewal must be preceded with remorse and repentance. To be remorseful means to be sorry. And repentance means to change, go in a different direction. MAT 9:17 “Neither do men pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst, the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.”

You’ve heard the story about the Atlanta soda fountain where the nerve tonic syrup was mistakenly mixed with carbonated water instead of plain water. The result was a drink now known as Coca Cola. Among the people who came to Asa Chandler’s drugstore to enjoy the new taste was a businessman named B.N. Thomas. Thomas felt that there might be a future in bottling the drink for home consumption, but Chandler thought it a futile idea. So Chandler sold Thomas the right to sell Coca-Cola by the bottle…for the grand total of one dollar; Chandler gave away a multi-million dollar industry because he could not see its future. How much of what God has for us do we fail to realize because our vision is so limited? (Ephesians 4:22-24) “You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.”

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