Sunday, February 22, 2009

Take the "Mulligan"!

How many of you here tonight have ever played golf? I love the sport! I'm not very good at it, but I do love to play. One of the things about the game of golf is, that unless you're a professional, no one is really all that good. And as a result of that, there is a practice common to golf called "giving a mulligan." What's a "mulligan" you may be wondering? I'm glad you asked! To put it's a second chance. If you mess up the tee shot, often times those men you're playing with will just say, "take a mulligan." I've learned to accept this gift. Before I came in here, I lived on a golf course and nearly every hole had deep woods, water or 'out of bounds' on it. And my ball frequently found one of those places. Receiving a mulligan saved my score on a number of occasions.

You may be wondering what playing golf and this "mulligan" thing has to do with our walk with Jesus Christ. Since I've been at TCI, I've kept a sticky note in front of my Bible that lists a bunch of people that God gave a second chance to in the Scriptures. I was reading a book last week and one of the chapters was titled, "The Lord of the Mulligan" and I didn't have to read a word of it to know what the author was going to talk about. We serve a God who gives us a second chance...who gives us a "Mulligan". For that reason, my message tonight is simply called, "Take the Mulligan!"

You know, the Bible is a strange book for a Holy book. If I had been the author, I think I would have written different stories. I would think that it should be full of stories about "perfect people", but it's not. It would be a stretch to say that many of the people we read about are even least when left to themselves. But, the more I read this amazing Book, the more I understand that it's full of stories about people just like me...and you. And what I want to do tonight is take a look at a few of those people's stories.

One of the great characters of the Bible is Samson. When I was growing up, I didn't know a lot about the people in the Bible...we didn't go to church. But, I knew who Samson was. He was the strongest man around, and what boy wouldn't want to be just like him. I was no exception. He could beat everyone, even Hercules. We find the story of Samson in chapters 13-16 in the book of Judges. There are a few things about his story I want to touch on. First, Judges 13:5 tells us that Samson was set apart to God from birth. Like Isaac, Samuel and John the Baptist, Samson's birth was miraculous because his mother was sterile before God intervened. We read in Judges 13:24-25 that Samson was blessed by God.

Even though Samson was chosen by God and blessed by Him, he had a serious sin problem. He had a real problem controlling his sexual appetite. We read in Judges 14:1-2 that he decided to marry a Philistine, which was forbidden under Jewish law. We also read that he frequented prostitutes in 16:1. That wasn't Samson's only problem. He also had a problem giving into pressure, at least the pressure exerted by a nagging woman. He gave in and told his bride-to-be the solution to his riddle and gave the secret of his strength to Delilah after she nagged and prodded him day after day.

How many Samson's do we have here tonight? I'm not talking about those of you who have Samson's muscles...I'm talking about his weaknesses. Do any of you struggle with sexual sin? how about allowing yourself to be talked into doing something that you didn't really want to do, or that you knew was wrong? That was Samson's story.

But it's important that we read the rest of the story. Even in his sin, God didn't forget about Samson. We read in 16:21-22 that after his hair had been shaved off and his eyes gouged out and he was made a slave to the Philistines, his hair started to grow back. His hair that had been his strength when he was set apart to God. Samson could have just wallowed in his own self-pity and misery, but god had ordained a purpose for him from before his birth. God gave him a "mulligan", another chance, to serve God's purpose for Him. When given the opportunity to destroy more Philistines at one time than all the he had killed during his lifetime, he called on God for strength and toppled the temple on top of 3000 Philistines who were in it. God offered him a "mulligan" and he took it.

Another man described in the Bible is one many of us don't think or talk about very much, and I've never heard anyone say that they wanted to be like this man. His name was Zacchaeus, a tax collector and we read about him in Luke 19:1-9. During Jesus' time, tax collectors were a despised profession, much like it is today with the IRS. They were considered traitors by their fellow Jews and often were not men of integrity. But as we read his story, we find a man who is steeped in his sin, seeking to see who Jesus is. We know the story...Zacchaeus is too short to see Jesus over the crowd so he climbs a tree. And Jesus stops under the tree and called him to come down...that He wanted to eat at Zacchaeus' house that night. How did Zacchaeus respond? He took the "mulligan!" Zaccheaus repented, gave half of his wealth away to the poor and paid back all those he had cheated.

Do we have any Zacchaeus' here tonight? have you lived a life of selfishness? Have you cheated and stolen...extorted from those who trusted you? God is calling you tonight. "Take the Mulligan!" and live a new life in Christ.

I can't talk about second chances tonight without also talking about Peter. As we read the New Testament, we see him fail so many times. His sins weren't as obvious as those of Samson or Zacchaeus, but his sins are what most of us see in professing Christians every day. Peter relied on his own strength and his own way far too much instead of looking to Christ. He rebuked Jesus because He said He had to go to Jerusalem to die. He told Christ he would never deny Him, but he failed miserably. He walked on the water, but began to sink the moment he took his eyes off of Christ.

Is there anyone named Peter here tonight? Do any of you want to keep seeing things your own way instead of God's way? Do any of you deny Him by remaining silent when you have an opportunity to proclaim His power and majesty? John 21:15-19 is one of the greatest stories in the Bible about second chances. Jesus Christ gave Peter a "mulligan" and he accepted it. He'll give you one too...please take it.

Does everyone in the Bible who is offered a "mulligan" take it? There are several stories I could share, but I'll only mention one. King Saul was anointed as the first king of Israel. He was counseled by Samuel and God gave Saul his directions through Samuel. In 1 Samuel 13:8-14, we read that Saul was rebuked by Samuel for not trusting in the Lord when he made a sacrifice of burnt offerings instead of waiting for Samuel to arrive and do it. God was displeased with Saul but He didn't reject him. Instead, God directed him to completely destroy the Amelekites. But again, Saul failed, and didn't obey God's command. When confronted by Samuel, Saul made excuses instead of confessing his sin and repenting. We know the rest of the story...Saul is later killed in battle and the kingdom goes to David. Saul was offered a "mulligan"...a second chance, and he didn't take it.

The Bible is full of stories about people just like you and me. People who had the same human frailties we have. As we read the stories, so many of them are offered a "mulligan"...a second chance. Some accepted, some didn't.

Where are you tonight? You are hearing this message for a reason! God wants you to know that He can still use you. He's giving you a "mulligan"'s why you're here tonight. The second chance that He gives you might not be the shot that you want to take, but it's what God is giving you. Take the "mulligan" and renew your walk with Christ.

How many of you watched the movie over the weekend called "Gridiron Gang"? The story of teenage gangsters given a second chance to change their get away from the gangs. Sadly, not all of them accepted the "mulligan". I want you to look around this room right now. And later, look around your unit, and around the compound. Statistics tell us that of all the men on this compound, about 87% will re-offend and end up back in jail or prison. A sad number. But, I'll tell you what's even sadder. Of all the men on this compound who profess to be a Christian, who say they live for Christ, nearly the same percent, more than 80% will re-offend and end up back in a place like this. Eight out of ten in this room. Why? Because they are walking along with God, playing the game, but not accepting the "mulligan". They are not changing and starting over.

I want to leave you with a passage from 2 Corinthians 5:17. "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old is gone and the new has come." Tonight, you can become new. You can become a new creation. You can get a second chance. All it takes is surrendering completely to Jesus Christ as the Lord and Savior of your life. Don't be like King Saul and make excuses. Don't be like Judas and wait until it's too late. Take the "mulligan"...tonight...right now, and accept the new chance that God is giving you through His Son.

Let's pray...
Photo from Flickr

No comments:

Post a Comment