"If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness." 1 John 1:9
Many of us have been enjoying watching March Madness, (which interestingly will still be going on into April). This annual NCAA basketball tournament started with 68 teams, and the Final Four were decided last weekend. KU, the last Kansas team in the running did not play well enough against Oregon to get out of the Elite Eight. Next weekend Oregon, North Carolina, Gonzaga and South Carolina will play to see who gets to compete next Monday night for the National Championship.
In the NCAA Tournament it's "do or die" for every team. Win and move on — lose one and be done. The season is at stake with no second chances. This inescapable fact weighs heavy in every game. Everyone gives it all they've got, because it might be their last game of the season. There are no second chances on the road to the Final Four.
Thankfully our God is a God of second chances. Because God loves us so much, He gave us a second chance (and a third, fourth, fifth…) by sending His own Son Jesus Christ. Most Christians I know are obviously thankful for this basic truth. But today I challenge you to live life like you are in tournament mode.
Don’t ever take for granted God's grace and mercy. Have you ever faced a temptation and fallen into sin partly because, in your mind, you were thinking something like, "Oh, if I mess up just this once God will forgive me … after all, He loves me unconditionally doesn’t He"? Do you ever take second chances for granted?
Don't let God's unconditional love be a mental and moral excuse to give less than your best effort. Know this; our salvation is not dependent upon how good we act (THANK GOD) but rather by what Christ has done for us on the cross at Calvary. But in response to that indescribable gift of God’s grace we strive to, as the old hymn suggests, “Give of our best to the Master”.
I encourage you to live life more like you are competing in March Madness. After all, if we really understand what the cross meant in terms of love, forgiveness, grace and second chances, we'd do nothing less than give our very best, playing with a passion and resilience that will not give up or give in.
Whether you are a college basketball fan or not, we all look forward to the madness of March ending and on April 16 embracing the most important event in all of human history; the celebration of Christ’s resurrection at Easter.
Your pastor and partner in ministry,