In fairness, I suppose, I had it coming. The simple truth is that if the shoe had been on the other foot, I would certainly have heaped on my fair share of abuse. And the good people referenced above know that well. But such is life in the Southeastern Conference!
What made it all so bad, though, was how it all happened. We initially jumped out to a 21 point lead. Thereafter, the lead slowly dissipated and we found ourselves about to lose. Then, with only 10 seconds remaining, we scored on long pass play to take the lead. All we had to do was kick off and tackle the runner and victory would be assured.
But alas, this was not to be. A penalty for excessive (and ultimately premature) celebration after the touchdown was enforced against us on the ensuing kickoff. This, when combined with a longer than expected return by the opponent set them up for one last offensive play with only 4 seconds left on the play clock.
The result? You guessed it! They snapped the ball at midfield and fired off what is often referred to as a (50+ yard) “Hail Mary” pass that was caught in the end zone with no time left on the clock! It was over! 80,000 people sat in shock - utterly speechless! We had literally snatched defeat from the jaws of victory!
Later, while we were discussing the game around the proverbial water cooler at the office, someone said to me: “You know, Pastor, we had to win that game twice to beat you guys!” To which I responded: “Yes, and for our part, we had to lose it twice!”
We had blown a 21 point lead and were about to lose the game when we scored with only 10 seconds left. Then, with a win all but assured, a mere 10 clicks of the clock later, we lost the lead again. And with this, we lost the game itself! Now, to lose once is bad enough; but to do so twice is terrible!
In the New Testament, the Apostle Jude refers to “ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord” as “twice dead” (verses 3-13). Specifically, he says they are twice dead in that they are “like autumn trees, without fruit and uprooted”.
The word picture is that of an unproductive tree that is apparently deemed worthless, and thus uprooted, discarded, and destroyed. He concludes by saying that it is for them that “blackest darkness has been reserved forever”.
Indeed, the Bible asserts that this is ultimately the fate of all who do not embrace the mercy of God offered through Jesus Christ. for the Bible speaks of two deaths.
The Old Testament Book of Job (chapter 14, verse 1) tells us that “man, who is born of woman, is short-lived and full of turmoil”. Wise old King Solomon agrees, reminding us that the grave awaits us all (chapter 9, verse 10). This is the first death – the one we must all inevitably face.
But the Bible has more to say about spiritual life and death than physical life and death. The Book of Hebrews (chapter 9, verse 27) reminds us that it is the fate of all human beings once to die, and then to face the judgment of God. And that judgment will determine whether or not we will face a second death, a spiritual one, that is far worse than the first.
For the last Book of the Bible, the Book of Revelation (chapter 20, verses 11-15), says:
11Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. The earth and the heavens fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. 12And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books.
13The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what they had done. 14Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. 15Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire.
To die once is bad enough, my friend. To die twice is terrible indeed. For the second death is completely unnecessary!
In the New Testament Gospel of John (chapter 11, verses 25-26), while comforting Mary and Martha before He raised their brother Lazarus from the dead, Jesus said the following:
“I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die.”
And he concluded the discussion with this penetrating question: “Do you believe this?”
That single question remains as piercing today as when Jesus first asked it. What about you? Do you believe in Jesus Christ? Do you believe He was the perfect Son of God? Do you believe in His atoning work through a sacrificial death on an old rugged cross for your sins? Do you believe in His resurrection from the grave, overcoming sin, death, and hell in the process? Do you believe in His power to forgive sin and to make all things new as a result?
If you do, you will die but once. If you do not, you will die twice! This is the message of God’s Word. This is also the message of grace. This is the message of hope. And ultimately, this is the message of love. I hope you have heard it. More than this, I hope you have embraced it.