Here’s how it goes. You know it by heart, just as I do:
“I’m sorry, Father. I (insert sin here) again. Please forgive me. Have mercy on me, and give me another chance. Thank You that You are the God of second chances. Amen.”
I appreciate the sentiment behind the prayer. Goodness knows I’ve prayed it. There is truth there, in that prayer. An acknowledgment of sin. A plea for forgiveness. A desire to more fully obey. But despite these kernels of good, there is something sinister lurking behind a prayer like this. Look closely; you’ll see it.
What you’ll find, behind the white washed exterior, is that age old attempt at self-justification. It’s a denial of grace, for fundamental to grace is acceptance of the fact that there is indeed nothing I can do. And when we plead for the second chance, the basis of our prayer ceases to be the mercy of God and begins to be the ability of man.
I know I messed up. Again. But I can do it. I promise I can.
And yet we know the truth, even as we say the words. Despite the tears and promises, we can’t do it. We will be in this same position again, making grand apologies and yet knowing deep within ourselves that we’ll never live up to them. Oh, how we love to lay claim upon God; oh, how we hate to be purely at His mercy.
God is not the God of second chances. And thank God He’s not. Thank God He’s better than that. More loving than that. More merciful than that. Thank God He’s not looking for us to perform rightly the next time, but knows in His own heart that we will not. Thank God that He’s always known this and made provision for it in the gospel. When we throw ourselves, truly, at the mercy of God, there is no promise attached save the one He makes us in Christ:
“When you sin again – and you will sin again – my grace will still be big enough.”
(I’m thankful to my pastor, Scott Patty, for faithfully preaching the mercy of God, particularly in this sermon. Listen and be encouraged.)