Ezekiel 36:24-30 24 “‘For I will take you out of the nations; I will gather you from all the countries and bring you back into your own land. 25 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. 26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. 28 You will live in the land I gave your forefathers; you will be my people, and I will be your God. 29 I will save you from all your uncleanness. I will call for the grain and make it plentiful and will not bring famine upon you. 30 I will increase the fruit of the trees and the crops of the field, so that you will no longer suffer disgrace among the nations because of famine.
54 year-old, Jim Morris, has received many second chances during his life so far. Years after injuries cut short his professional baseball career, the high school baseball coach agreed to try out for the major leagues if his under-performing players (that’s a nice way to say they were losing) made the playoffs. When the Reagan County Owls in Big Lake, Texas, won the district title, he kept his promise and tried out.
To the amazement of scouts, Morris threw 98 miles per hour and wound up signing a contract with the Tampa Bay Rays as a pitcher. At age 35, he made his major-league debut in September 1999, striking out the first batter he faced.
Take a look at this clip of him describing what that moment was like for him.
You can see how much the second chance meant to him. He recalled it like it was yesterday. Morris played for two years, and he pitched in 21 games over two seasons. Not only did he have a second chance at baseball, but the film highlights a breakthrough between him and his father, giving them a second chance at a father-son relationship, something they never were able to enjoy as Morris was growing up.
But Morris’ journey didn’t end with the film’s dramatic climax. Based on the movie’s heartwarming final scenes, it seemed Morris, his wife, Lorri, and their three young children would live “happily ever after.” Real life proved more complicated, though, and the couple divorced.
At spring training with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2001, Morris said, he received a frantic call from his son, Hunter, who was ten at the time. He described some things that had been happening at home and asked his dad how long he would be gone. Morris packed his Jeep and went to tell his manager, “I appreciate it, but I am out of here because my kids are more important than the game.”
After his first marriage fell apart, Morris accepted a blind date with his future wife, Shawna, a single mother and member of the Preston Road Church of Christ in Dallas. All his life, Morris had believed in God and respected the strong Christian faith of his grandparents, he said. But after he met Shawna and began attending the Preston Road church, his own faith grew.
More than ever, he opened his eyes — and his heart — to God’s direction, he said, when he gave his life to Christ. He baptized his son and one of his daughters at the Preston Road church. He had gained a second chance to be the husband and father he truly wanted to be which led him to ask this question of the preaching pastor at his church? “Why couldn’t I have started here?” to which his pastor replied, “Jimmy, you don’t know how ‘good’ good is until you see how ‘bad’ bad can be.”
Jim Morris went on to be a Christian motivational speaker and is inspiring thousands of people to pursue their second chances as they put God at the center of their dreams.
Everyone here today has needed a second chance by now. Whether is a second chance at a career or a second chance at a relationship or a second chance to prove yourself in some other way, each of us knows what it is like to want and need a second chance. Israel needed a second chance. Fortunately for them, they were in a Covenant relationship with the God who gives second chances a second, third, fourth, fifth, and unlimited number of times. What I want everyone here to know beyond a shadow of a doubt is that God is willing to give you another chance.
Let’s walk through Ezekiel 36:24-30 and look at the ways God was not only willing, but the ways God was committed to giving Israel a second chance.
If you back up in Ezekiel 36 you will see in verses 23-35 that the Israelites had blown their relationship with God and had blown their witness in the world. They had polluted God’s land, the land He gave to them by worshipping idols and putting up images to pagan gods. They had profaned God’s name by saying they were God’s people while they lived like people who didn’t know God. God sent them in exile to Babylon. They were going to have a good, long time out to think about what they had done, but more importantly, they would be able to reflect on who they were and what they wanted to become. Even though it sounds harsh that God allowed them to be taken captive into Babylon, it was what they needed to realize how good they had, had it. They didn’t know “how good, good was, until they saw how bad, bad could be.” In order to be the people of God, they were going to need a do-over, a fresh start, a second chance.
Ezekiel 36:24-30 24 “‘For I will take you out of the nations; I will gather you from all the countries and bring you back into your own land.
I don’t know where you are spiritually, how far you may have wandered away from God’s dreams and designs for your life, how much you have chosen the world’s ways over God’s, how hypocritical or apathetic you have been while claiming to be a child of God, how much God’s name has been perverted instead of praised because of your actions, affections, and attitude, but I can tell you without a doubt that God is willing to bring you back.
If you find yourself in exile this morning, if you feel far away from God, if your life has gotten derailed and your relationship with God is off track, please know that God will take you back unto Himself and help you establish something new, something holy, something exciting with Him.
25 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols.
These verses tell me that God is willing to help you put the past in the past. The reason we need a second chance is because we have blown the first one. We can only put our past to rest by allowing God to wash away that which has stained us, that which has defined us, that which has boxed us in and limited us. God says, “I want to put your sinfulness, your brokenness to rest. I want to put it in your rear-view mirror.” So many times, people try to make a fresh start but with the same weights, the same sin that caused them to mess up before. They try to step into their future with the habits and hurts of their pasts. It won’t work. Until we allow God to fully cleanse us, until we are clean from what ruined our relationship with God, we can’t start off on the right foot with Him.
26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.
God is so good, so loving, so generous, that He promises not only to cleanse us, but to change our hearts so that we don’t want the things that led to our previous failures. I mean, if you continue to want what messes up your relationship with God, if you continue to want what messes up your relationship with other people, if you continue to want to do what got you fired in the first place or what caused you to get kicked off the team or to lose your integrity or whatever it was that you have lost, if you continue to desire the same things that led to your demise, you will just continue to repeat the past.
But when you give yourself completely to God, He promises to change your desires so that the things you once wanted that were perhaps short-sighted or selfish or sinful altogether are no longer the first thing you crave. He promises to transform your desires by giving you a heart that desires what He wants for you and from you.
27 And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.
That is pretty significant right there. God promises to empower our second chance by giving us the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is God, and God cannot fail. If we stay yielded to the Holy Spirit, our second chance at a new life with Christ and many new opportunities will be fueled by God’s power. Romans 8:11-And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who lives in you.
When you are possessed by the Spirit of God, you can overcome anything because it was Holy Spirit power that gave Jesus resurrection power, and if death can be overcome, there are no other enemies left that could not be overcome with the Spirit’s help.
Some people are afraid of a second chance because they are afraid of failing again. The Word of God says that if you will allow the Holy Spirit to empower your comeback, you will not fail. You might falter. You might experience a setback from time to time, but you will have the victory.
28 You will live in the land I gave your forefathers; you will be my people, and I will be your God. 29 I will save you from all your uncleanness. I will call for the grain and make it plentiful and will not bring famine upon you. 30 I will increase the fruit of the trees and the crops of the field, so that you will no longer suffer disgrace among the nations because of famine.
Don’t miss the importance of the bold and italicized words. When you get and take a spiritual second chance, God says He will claim you as His own. Your second chance comes with an identity. You will belong to God. You will be His chosen. You will be His beloved. You will be His child. And He will be Your God. Let’s unpack that. What does it mean that He is our God?
What does verse 29 say? It says He will save us from our uncleanness. We have been known by and identified by our sin, but God says He will save us from all of that. Verse 29 goes on to say the grain will be plentiful in the land in which we live and that there won’t be famine. What could that mean? It means that God will provide for us. He says in verse 30 that he will increase the fruit of the trees and the crops of the field.
He says at the end of verse 30 that he will end disgrace in our lives. He will remove shame. We can hold our heads high. There will be favor on our lives. Does anyone need a second chance like that? God will save you. God will provide for you. God will remove your shame. What an awesome depiction of the second chance God gives.
Maybe it was hard for you to come in here today because you feel like you have been a disappointment to God. You weren’t sure if you were still a candidate for His love and grace. Let me assure you that God’s grace, mercy and love never run out.
The Bible is filled with stories of people who were given a second chance. Jonah was a prophet who was told to go to Nineveh and preach. Jonah didn’t go. In fact, he ran in the opposite direction and boarded a ship that was headed even further away in the opposite direction. But God caused a terrible storm to brew, and when it was discovered that the storm was Jonah’s fault, the other sailors threw Jonah overboard. The storm stopped. The sea became calm, and a great fish swallowed Jonah whole! That nasty seaweed stomach of that fish became a sanctuary for Jonah as he repented for what he had done and cried out to the Lord. God allowed the fish to puke Jonah out onto the dry land, and guess what Jonah got? A second chance. Even though Jonah had disappointed God, he got a second chance.
How about Sampson? He was supposed to have been used of God to deliver the Israelites from the Philistines. He took vows that were supposed to symbolize his utter devotion to God. He broke his vows on more than one occasion. One such vow was that no razor would ever touch his head; that his hair would grow long. For the love of a woman, Samson’s vow was compromised, and his hair was cut. God allowed him to be stripped of what was once supernatural strength, and in Judges 16:21-22, instead of overcoming the Philistines, he was captured by them. They gouged out his eyes and put him into prison. But I love verse 22: But the hair on his head began to grow again after it had been shaved. God was preparing Samson for a second chance.
One day when Samson had been brought out to be made sport of, Samson requested that he be placed where he could feel the pillars that were supporting the temple. We pick up the story in Judges 16:27: 27 Now the temple was crowded with men and women; all the rulers of the Philistines were there, and on the roof were about three thousand men and women watching Samson perform. 28 Then Samson prayed to the LORD, “O Sovereign LORD, remember me. O God, please strengthen me just once more, and let me with one blow get revenge on the Philistines for my two eyes.” 29 Then Samson reached toward the two central pillars on which the temple stood. Bracing himself against them, his right hand on the one and his left hand on the other, 30 Samson said, “Let me die with the Philistines!” Then he pushed with all his might, and down came the temple on the rulers and all the people in it. Thus he killed many more when he died than while he lived.
Samson was given a second chance to take down the Philistines!
King David was an adulterer and murderer, yet he was given a second chance to become a man after God’s own heart.
There was a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery, something in that day that was punishable by death, death by stoning. She was dragged before Jesus in anticipation that He would condemn her, but what did she get? Not condemnation. Not death. But a second chance to go and sin no more.
Peter failed miserably as the one disciple who publicly declared he would follow Jesus even unto death. When push came to shove, Peter caved and pretended he had never met Jesus. Yet, on the other side of the crucifixion and resurrection, Jesus gave Peter another chance to follow Him and to proclaim the power of the Resurrection in such a way that 3000 people accepted Christ after just one of Peter’s sermons.
Saul was a persecutor and murderer of Christians, but God gave him a second chance and he became the most prolific preacher and church planter in the early church, not to mention he was the most prolific writer of the New Testament.
If you have breath in your body today, it isn’t too late for God to rescue you from your failures. What about the thief on the cross? How many of you know when you have been sent to death row without salvation, without the hope of Heaven, you need a second chance and in a hurry. There, while on the cross, Jesus gave the thief on the cross the opportunity to be with Him in Heaven. On an instrument of death being executed for things he had done wrong, the thief on the cross got a second chance at life, eternal life, the best life.
The passing of time doesn’t negate your opportunity for a second chance. Even if you have had second chances before and didn’t take them, it isn’t too late. Today might be your fifth time for a second chance. It’s all good. It doesn’t matter if you have made one wrong turn or if you have engaged in a series of sins and mistakes that have messed things up in the now. If God can bring life from the grave, if He can raise Jesus from the dead, He can give you a second chance in this very moment.
We can moan and groan about all that has passed us by or beat ourselves up for all the mistakes we have made and opportunities we should have taken but passed on or we can look to the God of second chances to redeem us again, call us back again, rescue us again, make us fruitful again. What do we do when we have gotten it wrong? We do the next right thing. That is how a comeback is created. That is how a new path is forged. Just do the next right thing.
Jim Morris had to prove himself in order to get a second chance. He had to earn the second chance. The amazing thing about God and second chances is that He offers them freely. You have nothing to prove. You only have to bring yourself, right where you are, and desire for God to do for you what He promised to do for Israel. Are you ready? Will you take a step toward your second chance this morning?