How many chances should you give someone who continually let you down! I think John Mark might think the Apostle Paul would say “One!” Some of us might be a bit more forgiving and extend the ‘Once bitten – twice shy’ policy out to two chances. And some very patient souls may even be prepared to give someone threechances before they said enough is enough. Before assuming that you would show plenty of grace and generosity to a perpetrator of disappointment, put yourself in the shoes of a spouse whose partner had betrayed them, not once, not twice, but repeatedly – all the while apologising profusely each time. How easy would you find it to give them another chance?
for the righteous falls seven times and rises again, but the wicked stumble in times of calamity. Proverbs 24:16
WOULD YOU HAVE GIVEN THESE PEOPLE A SECOND CHANCE?
Even good people make bad mistakes. Proverbs tells that even ‘The righteous falls seven times‘. Nearly everyone of the major characters in the Old and New Testaments whom God chose to use in His redemption plan, made a disappointing mistake. Think of Adam. We rightfully blame him for the fall of the human race from innocence into sin. But Scripture only records him sinning the once. Think of Noah whom God used to preserve the human race. After the floods waters subsided he sinned by getting drunk and shaming himself (Gen. 9:20-23). This was his only recorded episode of sin. Think of Abraham who denied that Sarah was his wife when he sought refuge with the Gerarites (Gen. 20:1-3). His half-truth nearly caused the violation of his wife! Think of David who committed adultery, lied, and then arranged the murder of a man (2Sam. 12:7). All of these received a second, third, fourth, (and more) chance. And these were the people who formed the human lineage of the Christ! (Matthew 1)
¶ Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Matthew 18:21
NEED A SECOND CHANCE?
Even though the level of offence and disappointment is immeasurably greater (than any disappointment we could ever experience), God’s ability to forgive and give people another chance is literally breathtaking. The one who asked Christ how many times should I forgive my brother who sins against me, would centuries later be described by Roman Catholics as their first ‘Pope’. Not only after he asked this question about how many chances he should give those who disappoint him, he would provide the Christ the greatest source of disappointment. This of course happened on the night of the Christ’s trial before the High Priest.
And when they had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and sat down together, Peter sat down among them. Then a servant girl, seeing him as he sat in the light and looking closely at him, said, “This man also was with him.” But he denied it, saying, “Woman, I do not know him.” … And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the saying of the Lord, how He had said to him, “Before the rooster crows today, you will deny Me three times.” Luke 22:55-57, 61
The depth of disappointment that Peter committed is difficult for any of us to appreciate. Peter was the first of the Christ’s disciples. He was meant to be their leader in the Church that Christ was about to establish. He was the one who first declared that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the living God (Matt. 16:16). If anyone ever needed a second chance, it was Peter.
It is one of the most beautiful portions of Scripture. Days after the resurrection of Christ, Peter and the other disciples begin to doubt. They go fishing. Out all night, they caught nothing. From the shores of the beach someone calls out to them to cast their net on the other side of their boat. Soon their net is breaking with the abundance of fish. Peter recognises that the one on the beach was the Christ. He dives into the water to swim to the Saviour. When he arrives he finds that Jesus has already prepared a fish breakfast. Having previously denied Jesus three times, in a matter of minutes, Jesus asks him three questions about his devotion to Him.
That disciple whom Jesus loved therefore said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment, for he was stripped for work, and threw himself into the sea. The other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, but about a hundred yards off. ¶ When they got out on land, they saw a charcoal fire in place, with fish laid out on it, and bread…¶ When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. John 21:7-9, 15-17
This beautiful transaction between the Redeemer and the one in need of redemption is one of the most touching scenes in the Bible. Peter had been sifted like wheat and nearly lost everything in the process if it wasn’t for the prayers of his Messiah (Luke 22:32). In a little under two weeks he would be assuming his appointed role as the lead apostle an standing before thousands upon thousands of pilgrims in the temple precinct and summoning them to repent and to turn to their Christ (Acts 2:38-41). He would be imprisoned for preaching the Christian gospel and then released by an angelic visitor in response to the prayers of the believers in Jerusalem. He would travel to the northern limits of Asia Minor to preach and plant churches, and then in 64 AD stand before Caesar Nero, King of Rome, and courageously bear witness to the redeeming mercy of the King of the Universe.
Peter’s testimony stands as a glorious reminder that our God is the God of another chance – not just a second chance! Who knows who God will bring across our paths or through our doors whom God will redeem by giving them another chance? But what we do know is that we live at a time when the need and the numbers have never been greater for people needing another chance. Perhaps you’re one of them? In Christ you will find the One who can put Humpty Dumpty back together again and give you another chance. You may feel all hope is lost. But it isn’t. No matter what you’ve done – how many timesyou’ve done it – or who knows what you’ve done – God’s breathtaking mercy is available to you if you will receive it. It just takes one prayer to reset your life.
A HORRENDOUS MISTAKE
Sometimes we Christians look at good people and think, “Now they would make a good Christian!” And other times we look at people who seem to care little about religion and God and think, “This person’s heart is so cold and indifferent, they could never be converted to Christ!” Both points of view are horrendous mistakes! God gave Peter another chance when he probably thought he’d blown it for good. His nemesis, Saul of Tarsus, the first and most violent persecutor of Christians, received mercy and another chance from God and ended up writing two-thirds of the New Testament! Let’s not make this horrendous mistake that thinks it’s easy for a ‘good’ person to become a Christian – and impossible for a ‘bad’ person to ever become a Christian. God is so unimaginably merciful that He is continually transforming both ‘good’ and ‘bad’ people into His adopted sons and daughters (and more often than we realise it’s response to another mercy-recipient’s prayers!). Maybe some of us need to repent of such horrendous thinking and ask our Heavenly Father for another chance.
“God, please forgive me. Help me to live the way I should. I need Your mercy and Your help.” Amen.
A simple prayer like that can change the rest of your life and put you back on your God-ordained destiny track – and for the love Pete, I should know!
“Aslan” said Lucy “you’re bigger”. “That is because you are older, little one” answered he. “Not because you are?” “I am not. But every year you grow, you will find me bigger.” C.S. Lewis, Prince Caspian
In the Chronicles of Narnia instalment, Prince Caspian, C.S. Lewis creatively depicts Aslan as appearing to the Pervensie children in differing sizes. Having longed to see Aslan for some time, Lucy encounters him at long last and remarks to The Lion that he appeared to be bigger. In effect, Aslan tells her that the bigger she gets, the bigger he will appear to be to her. In one sense C.S. Lewis has beautifully portrayed the believer’s relationship with Christ in a way that shows that when the believer grows, their vision of Christ also grows. It reminds me of the time when Kim wanted me to walk with her over the Ironbound range (a part of the famous South Coast Track). After a few hours of trekking, I made it near the top of the peak and thought, “That wasn’t so bad.” I’d heard how others had talked about how the Iron Bound was so difficult to trek up. And just as I was congratulating myself I reached the peak and looked up and to my horror realised I had just trekked the foot-hill of the Iron Bound – not the Iron Bound! (see the illustration below)
WHEN THE LION APPEARS
And one of the elders said to me, “Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that He can open the scroll and its seven seals.” Revelation 5:5
(Note how the Director of this scene cleverly portrays how Aslan appears to differ in size depending on who is looking at him)
Aslan says to Lucy in The Voyage of The Dawn Treader, “In your world I have another name. You must learn to know me by it. That was the very reason you brought to Narnia. That by knowing me here for a little, you may know me better there.” In this scene, C.S. Lewis has powerfully phrased what it is like to come to know Christ. He has taken the wealth of the Bible’s revelation about GOD in Christ and distilled it:
(i) Christ has a Name that represents who He is
(ii) We must learn to know Him by it
(iii) The very reason we live is to come to know Him better
Christ’s name first appears to us as Saviour. Did you that the name ‘Jesus’ (Yeshua in Hebrew) means Saviour?
She will bear a son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for he will save His people from their sins.” Matthew 1:21
But there is more to His name than Saviour and as we learn to know Him better we come to realise that His name encompasses exactly what every person needs and longs for.
LEARNING TO KNOW HIM BETTER
My mission as the pastor of our church is to minister the richness of Christ to you. It may appear that I am simply ministering His Word each Sunday as I stand before you. This requires study, research, preparation and presentation. But if this is all it seems I am doing then you may be missing my real intent. My intent is not merely to minister the Written Word of God to you – but to minister the Living Word of God to you. (see the illustration below for a fuller explanation)
If all I did was just minister the Word of God as a collection of facts, we would be at risk of drying up. If all I did was minister in the power of the Holy Spirit, we would be at risk of blowing up. The power of the Word of God ministered in the power of the Spirit is that it not just fills our minds, it heals our souls, and makes Christ bigger to us.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. John 1:1
Since Christ is the Word of God, when we gather on a Sunday to worship Christ and receive His Word, we are receiving Him. That’s why my preparation for a Sunday is not just my study of His Word but also my time with Him. I hope this Sunday that it is not just your minds which are enriched in the knowledge of God’s Word, but that it is also your hearts which are cleansed by the washing of the water of His Word (Eph. 5:26) and also your souls which are infused with a greater love for Him as the combination of our praise, reflection, teaching, and fellowship draws us to behold Him – and by beholding Him we are made more like Him.
And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord,are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. Second Corinthians 3:18
Does the Lion seem bigger to you? I hope so. If not, there’s more to your Christianity than perhaps you realise – there’s an invitation to behold Christ in a way that transforms your world and priorities. See you in the den this Sunday.
According to Greek mythology, Narcissus was the son of the god of water who was endowed with incredible beauty. While there are variations of the story, they all seem to agree that one day he was walking through the woods and came across a pond where he saw his own reflection. He was so enamoured with his own good looks that he couldn’t stop admiring his own reflection. Wanting to get ever closer to his object of desire (himself), he eventually fell into the pond and drowned. Before his tragic end, Narcissus had several suitors attempt to get closer to him. But his own opinion of himself meant that he viewed everyone else with contempt and refused to keep company with anyone else but himself. His name is now used by Psychologists to refer to people who are self-absorbed with themselves and completely indifferent to others. They refer to such people as narcissists. Narcissism, which is self-focus, makes a person incredibly prone to depression and unable to form a meaningful relationship with others. But there is a remedy and it doesn’t need to come in a bottle or an appointment with a counsellor.
¶ Then Jesus told His disciples, “If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me. Matthew 16:24
Most versions of the Narcissus myth describe him becoming increasingly depressed as he struggled to find anyone other than himself to satisfy his desire for beauty. The more he cut himself off from others, the more depressed he became. Technology expert, Brad Huddleston, writes in his book, Digital Cocaine, that today’s narcissists aren’t so much looking into ponds as much as they are looking into screens. But the effect is still the same. The most “socially-networked” generation in human history is ironically the most socially disconnected, and also the most depressed generation in human history! To make matters worse, the remedy that is often prescribed to those blighted by this malady is turning out to be the very poison that caused their condition in the first place! This means that we are now possibly witnessing the most hurt, broken, confused generation ever to live.
“Stolen water is sweet, and bread eaten in secret is pleasant.” But he does not know that the dead are there, that her guests are in the depths of Sheol. Proverbs 9:17-18
I can’t blame them for being confused, and neither should you – because they are doing exactly what culture tells them is right, normal, and good – and not only is it not working – it making them worse! (There was also a time when doctors thought arsenic was good for ill people!) Despite these false assurances from these false remedies, they are ending up feeling even more lost, lonely, unloved, and disconnected. The fruit of all this is evident. Some of these deeply wounded people have 5,000+ Facebook friends and yet no friends. Many of them are addicted to internet porn but have never experienced intimacy. All of them ‘chat’ digitally but never talk face to face with anyone.
THE MOVIE WE CAN’T ALL STAR IN
If Joan Rivers actually said this, she was wrong. In one sense, life is a movie. There is a script. History really is His-story. There is a Star in this movie. But we are not Him. The truth is that we all play a “supporting actor” role. Some of us only appear ‘on screen’ for a metaphoric 5 seconds. Others of us aren’t even on set for that long! But our role – no matter how long we appear for – is still the same. As supporting actors our role is to make the leading actor really shine like the star He is.
You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about Me John 5:39
And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself. Luke 24:27
Yet, many hurting and confused people have been further lied to about their role in this grand life movie. They have been told by well-meaning people that they “can be anyone they want to be“, or “do anything they set their mind to.” This is a cruel lie. The Producer of this grand movie has assigned to each of us a role that fits us perfectly – and it’s not the lead role, His Son has been cast for that role.
Take care lest your heart be deceived, and you turn aside and serve other gods and worship them; Deuteronomy 11:16
THE GOSPEL IS THE REMEDY
The Gospel calls us to worship the only One worthy of worship. This takes the focus off us and redirects it to where it should be – God. Perhaps the only way those infected with narcissism will come to realise this is exactly what they are looking for (and need) is when they see its beauty and power in the lives of those whom it has already redeemed. These redeemed ones are those who live lives of Godward worship and thus experience the peace and joy in the midst of life’s inevitable storms that result. By surrendering to God in worship, a person is coming home to where they have always belonged. We were all created to worship God – the One who is altogether beautiful and magnificent. Worship is offered by an act of surrender to our God and is an acknowledgment of His right to rule our lives. We can worship God in our car, in our home, in our workplace, in a shopping centre, by continually having our hearts surrendered to God. But the most powerful, beautiful, natural, form of worship is when we sing. Christianity sings its worship. This leads me to my concluding thought and the second (and essential) component for the healing and recovery of any narcissist.
THE THERAPEUTIC COMMUNITY OF THE REDEEMED
The Gospel is the remedy for people infected by narcissism. But its full potency can only be experienced within the community of the redeemed. This is why God has designed for everyone to be in a family.
Father to the fatherless, defender of widows— this is God, whose dwelling is holy. God places the lonely in families; he sets the prisoners free and gives them joy. But he makes the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land. Psalm 68:5-6 NLT
But not everyone’s experience of family has been what God intended. This is why the definition of ‘family’ in the gospel is much broader than just our immediate kin. It encompasses the community of the redeemed – the local church! This is why the New Testament uses family language to describe the members of a local church.
¶ Do not rebuke an older man but encourage him as you would a father, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, in all purity. First Timothy 5:1-2
This is why coming together each Sunday as the community of the redeemed is like good medicine for the recovering narcissist. It inspires them to lift their vision off of themselves and onto the One whom they were made for; and, it puts them in proximity with brothers and sisters with whom they can be seen and see which reminds them that God’s plan for them is to be a blessing to others in Jesus’ Name. Simply being in church on Sunday, even when you don’t feel like it, is good for our restless souls. And it is definitely something worth reflecting on for those whose souls are aching with the same deception that ended up drowning the mythological Narcissus.
“Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.” Augustine of Hippo, “Confessions”