Better Than a Do-Over

Click to read part one of My First International Trip with GCC.

It seems to be a universal truth that most people like “do-overs.” How many of us have wanted a do-over when it comes to that mindless decision, that failed test...or that egregious sin? As a spouse, parent, and pastor, there have been countless times I wish I could have rewound that word, that whole conversation, or that entire course of action.

Perhaps nowhere is the impulse for a do-over more poignantly illustrated than in the game of golf. Inevitably, I will shank my very first drive off the tee into the drink (i.e., a magnetic body of water perfectly placed on the edge of the fairway for golf hackers like me). I will instinctively cry, “Do-over!” otherwise known as a mulligan.

What I find equally interesting is how American football has institutionalized the art of the do-over or what may be called a “mutual mulligan." In football parlance, it’s called off-setting penalties.

Whenever a foul is committed by both teams on the same play, that down is replayed. It’s essentially a redo. A do-over. And it’s all rather grand and magisterial. The referee turns toward the sidelines, looks squarely into the camera, and authoritatively declares as he raises his index finger, “Replay first down!” Voila! The football gods have spoken.

How many times have you wished God would grant you a do-over? Or how many times have you wanted to play the referee in your own life and scream, “Replay that parenting decision!” “Replay those high school years!” “Replay 2020!” “Replay my determination to travel to Africa in a pandemic!” (A purely hypothetical example, of course, as I wrote this from Rwanda.)

We can long for such do-overs in our personal lives, our own households, and we can long for such do-overs in our pastoring, our spiritual households.

And like a referee reviewing instant replay footage, it’s easy to find ourselves rewinding and replaying that call or personal decision in our minds. We analyze the play we made from sixteen different camera angles in ultra-slow motion—a luxury of perspective and time that we did not and could not have had when we made our real, game-time decision!

Granted, sometimes the review process can lead to clarity. Exposure of sin. Foolishness. Conviction. And godly grief that leads to repentance (2 Cor. 7:10). Amen! That’s a gift from God.

But an incessant desire to replay and redo can often lead to debilitating shame and regret. Fuzzy conviction at best and intractable regret at worst.

What if there was something better than a redo? I believe there is. It’s called redemption.

Instead of giving us a redo, God has his people redemption—plentiful redemption in Christ Jesus. And it’s powerful.

When I was a young teen, I spent the summer working on my uncle’s farm in Oregon. I didn’t know much of anything, but I knew this: an empty coke bottle was worth something! Embossed on the glass of each pop-bottle were these words, "Oregon Redemption Value 5 cents." Discarded bottles were my treasure, worth a free Mountain Dew—and on a good day of scavenging and redemption, a Hostess apple pie too).

I came to realize that every pop-bottle I found or used to slake my thirst had a history. The older bottles most likely had been recycled or reused. They had been redeemed, used to bring refreshment and satisfaction to multitudes of thirsty teenage boys and farm workers like me.

To say that Christ redeems us is to say he has purchased us from the wreckage and slavery of sin by his own blood (Col. 1:13; Eph. 1:7). Christ did it for his joy (Heb. 12:2). He did it to make us holy (Titus 2:14). And he did it to bless and save others as well, to slake their thirst and satisfy their hunger, the very good works for which he has redeemed us (Eph. 2:10; Titus 2:14). Nothing is wasted in God’s economy.

Think about this for a moment: Our redemption doesn’t erase our history. It doesn’t remove all the bonehead decisions we’ve made. Rather, redemption erases the record of sin’s debt by which we once stood condemned (Col. 2:14) but it does not erase all of sin’s earthly ramifications. We’re really on sacred and mysterious ground now!

Only God can recycle and reuse our mistakes, foolishness, weakness, and persistent sin in such a way to bring Him inestimable glory. Why? Because he owns us. And he chooses to employ all of our life activities and works for the purpose of his glory and grace.

Wow! Do you believe that? Do I believe that? God will not waste my sin and stupidity. Like, traveling around the world during a global pandemic and post-holiday COVID spike, all the while thinking I would return unscathed and on-time to my own family! (I’ve had plenty of time to press the rewind button and rewatch the game film on that decision.)

But I’m not asking God for a redo. I asked that he would redeem the time I spent in Rwanda under quarantine in ways that I could have never conceived of for the benefit of many, including my own family.

So where does this all lead? It leads us to the beloved territory and truth of Romans 8:28: "And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose."

For the redeemed, all things (despite the cries for a do-over or replay!) work together for good, for God’s ultimate saving purposes.

I don’t know how Romans 8:28 all works. I’m still not sure. But I’ve grasped the power of it. Rather than being embittered, I’ve been emboldened to think about such glorious truths. And my prayer is that it would lead you to worship our glorious Redeemer, who is Christ Jesus.

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