Religion

Gold Medal Faith

gold medal

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.” – 1 Corinthians 9:24-27

Few things are able to capture the attention and the imagination of the world like the Olympic Games. Every four years there seems to be a new story, or a new athlete that captivates the hearts and minds of the people. It’s easy to understand why. The best athletes in the world train their entire lives for this one moment in history. The life of an Olympic athlete is one of drive, determination, and discipline. When they succeed and achieve their goals of Olympic Gold, we can’t help but rejoice with them. When they fall short, or tragedy strikes and they end up injured and fail to obtain that moment of glory they’ve worked so hard for, our hearts break for them and we too mourn.

As I ponder these things, I can’t help but be reminded of Paul’s words to the Corinthians in 1 Corinthians 9. He was quite fond of using athletic analogies to describe the Christian life. Paul speaks in 1 Corinthians 9 of a race in which all the runners run, yet only one can receive the prize. He speaks of the self-control and the discipline that an athlete must possess. He then speaks of the focus and self-control he himself lives out in order that he not be disqualified.

I believe one reason the Olympic Games and Olympic athletes capture our hearts and minds so powerfully, is because we all understand what it is to have a goal and to work hard to achieve it. There are few pleasures as sweet as working your entire life for something, and then achieving it.

Another reason the Olympic Games and Olympic athletes so easily captivate us is because we also understand the desire for glory. What small kid hasn’t dreamed of hitting the game winning home run or the game winning basket or goal? If athletics isn’t necessarily your thing, perhaps your goal is getting the highest grades, or being the best at your job. Maybe you want to be known as the greatest cook, or a great artist. The fact is we all have something we love to do, and if we were really honest with ourselves we would love to be known as the best.

Well, if we want to be the best, we know what it takes: Hard work, discipline, focus, and perseverance. So, when we watch the Olympics, we see people who have achieved, or are striving to achieve their life’s goal of being great and taking hold of Olympic glory. And the symbol of that glory is the Gold Medal.

But here’s the thing. Olympic glory is fleeting. For most of the athletes that capture the attention of a nation, in a few years most people won’t remember their names, or at best they will be simply a footnote in history. Even if they do achieve that ultimate glory and become household names as some do, even that doesn’t last for eternity. One day they will die, and their gold medals will end up lost or in a trash heap. Olympic athletes might no longer receive wreathes like they did in the day, but even a gold medal isn’t imperishable.

We however, don’t run for a perishable prize, as Paul reminds us. If Olympic athletes train so hard and exercise such discipline and live lives of such intense drive and focus in order to attain worldly glory, how much more should we as Christians live and work to take hold of Spiritual glory? An Olympic athlete can’t just drift through life, or breeze through training sessions and hope to win the gold…and Christian, we can’t just drift through life and think we will receive our crown of glory.

In an athletic competition there can be only one winner, and only one who will achieve glory. The good news for the Christian is that all who call upon the name of Jesus will receive an eternal prize, and will know the glory of God and share an eternal inheritance with Christ. The Bible tells us that at the cross Jesus secured the final victory already. How did this powerful truth motivate the Apostle Paul? He said, “So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.”

Knowing the imperishable prize that awaited him drove Paul. It ought to drive us as well. As an athlete must live lives of discipline and single minded focus, so should we. What is your focus? As those who are partakers of the eternal glory of Christ, then our focus must be on Him. We should live our lives to honor and glorify Him. We should live our lives in a way that shows that instead of living for this life, we are living for something far greater. We as Christians don’t live for the perishable, but for the imperishable.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith..” –Hebrews 12::1-2

An Ordinary Church

acts 2

“And they devoted themselves to the apostles teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of the bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.” –Acts 2:42-47

In Acts Chapter 2 we see the birth of the very first church at Pentecost. Now what I’m about to say about this church may catch some of us by surprise. Many of us have probably heard a few sermons on this passage and about what a powerful example this church is for how a church should look. This is certainly true. But in these same sermons we’ve probably also heard the preacher say something about what an extraordinary church this is.

Now certainly this church was birthed and came about through extraordinary means. This can’t be denied. But in my mind, this church isn’t any more extraordinary than any other church.

At the beginning of Acts Chapter 2 we see that the Spirit of God came upon the believers. We see in verse 14 of Chapter 2 how empowered by the Spirit of God Peter preached a powerful sermon. Peter preached Jesus. Peter preached Jesus crucified. Peter preached Jesus risen from the grave and ascended to the right hand of God the Father. Peter preached Jesus as Lord of all! Through the powerful preaching of Peter the Bible tells us that 3,000 folks were saved. So, certainly this was an extraordinary event. I’ve never preached a sermon in which 3,000 folks got saved. And not many preachers can say that they have!

But this being said, aren’t all churches pretty extraordinary? All churches are made up of sinners who have had the scales removed from their eyes and have seen clearly who Christ is, and have chosen to follow him. This is an amazing thing. It’s not natural. Salvation is all a work of God. This is true whether we are talking about 3,000 people or 30, or even 3.

So, even though this event was powerful. Even though we can say this was an extraordinary event…this first church was no more extraordinary than any other church. This first church was no more extraordinary than my church or yours.

And do you know why I can say that? Because the same Spirit that empowered Peter to preach on this day, is the same Spirit that empowers men today to preach. The same Jesus that Peter preached in Acts chapter 2 is the same Jesus that faithful preachers today preach. And the same Spirit at work through this Church that we read about working so powerfully in and through this church, is the same Spirit that will work through our own churches, IF we will faithfully preach this Jesus and be obedient to His Word.

So, yes. This church came about through extraordinary means. It was a wonderful event. But, in a lot of ways this church was simply an ordinary Church. The Church we see in Acts 2:42-47 was not some unreachable standard for us as the modern church to attain. The Church in Acts 2:42-47 was God’s ideal local church, and what God desires every local church to look like.

May it be so…

The Tragedy of Sin

bathsheba

I’m not sure there is a more tragic portion of Scripture than what we have in 2 Samuel 11. Most of us, even if we don’t spend a lot of time in the Bible know this story. David, one of the most loved and celebrated men in the history of Israel committed one of the most disgusting acts that we can imagine. This act I am referring to is his sin with Bathsheba, and the ensuing murder of her husband to cover up his sin.

The Bible says that, “In the spring of the year, the time when kings go out to battle, David sent Joab, and his servants with him, and all Israel. And they ravaged the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah. But David remained at Jerusalem.” This is an important detail that we might be quick to just pass over. As the stage is set for the Bible to relay the story of David and Bathsheba to us, we see that David should have never been in position to commit this sin, he was supposed to be out in battle with his men. David however has grown complacent, and instead is at home while his men go out and fight his battles.

This is an important detail for us, and the point in which I want to make. I’m writing today, not so much to talk about the tragic case of David and his sin, but I want to write about the nature of sin, and the danger of sin. I’m not writing just about David’s sin, but our sin as well.

Sin tends to snowball. One sin leads to another sin. In order to avoid the consequences of one sin we have to commit another sin to cover it up. Our sin ends up not simply impacting us, but the people around us. Very often, it isn’t only ourselves that suffer for sin, but those around us as well.

David’s very first sin in this scenario, is as I said slothfulness. He was supposed to be in battle with his men, yet he stayed behind. The next sin we see David committing is lust. David takes a stroll on his roof and he sees Bathsheba, a beautiful woman bathing. David then sent and inquired about the woman and discovered that she was the wife of Uriah the Hittite. One would think that a righteous man such as David, in whom we’ve seen God work so mightily throughout the Bible up to this point would then back away from the situation. Certainly an upstanding man such as King David wouldn’t pursue this relationship any further.

Sadly, this isn’t the case. David sends for Bathsheba and he commits adultery with her. Sometime later, Bathsheba informs David that she is with child. In order to cover up his sin, David sends for Uriah and makes several attempts to get the husband of Bathsheba to sleep with his wife. Uriah, being more righteous than David refuses to do so. He refuses to eat and drink and lie with his wife while the other soldiers are in battle. When David can think of no other way to cover up his sin, he sends word to put Uriah on the front lines of battle, then for the other men to fall back. To put it plainly, David has Uriah murdered. David then takes Bathsheba as his own wife.

Usually when we talk about the heroes of the Bible, we don’t associate a sequence of events like this with their lives. If we had only studied the life of David up to this point, and knew nothing of this story before now…we would be in utter shock!

But the Bible is very clear about sin, even the sins of those whom God in his providence chose to use in mighty ways. The Bible is very clear about the nature of sin. Sin is dangerous, sin is evil, and even the best of us are not immune to its disastrous effects and consequences. This window into the life of David is a powerful reminder for us all. When we crack the door, even a little bit and let sin into our lives we have no idea how tragic the results can be.

In David’s own life, what started out as sloth and complacence gave way to lust, which gave way to adultery, which gave way to murder. As a result of David’s sin a righteous man died. But not only did David’s sin cost Uriah his life, but several other of David’s men died. We know from further reading in 2 Samuel that the child whom was conceived as a result of David’s sin also died.

Again, David’s sin had tragic consequences that were far reaching. The depths of sin and the consequences of sin were far beyond anything that David could have imagined.

Truthfully though, this isn’t just true of David’s sin, it is also true of our sin. It is very rare that our sin impacts only us. Very often when we allow sin to take root in our lives, the end results are far reaching. As parents our sin affects our children. As husbands our sin affects our wives, and vice versa. The sins of children affect their parents – and we could keep going, but I think we get the idea. Sin is indeed tragic, and left to itself it kills and leaves a path of destruction in its wake.

But God in his grace has given us the remedy for sin. God offers mercy and forgiveness, for even the most tragic cases of sin. What is that remedy you might ask? Repentance. When we come face to face with our sin, when we see it for what it is God calls us to repent – to humble ourselves, admit our sin, and turn away from it and throw ourselves upon the mercy of God. We know that this is what David did. (2 Samuel 12, Psalm 51)

God’s forgiveness ultimately comes through Jesus Christ, the “Son of David” who willingly took upon himself the tragic consequences of our sin so that we wouldn’t have to. This is good news for us all. Again, if David can fall victim to the tragedy of sin, no one is immune. So, no matter where you are today, no matter what you’ve done, you have hope in Christ. Turn to him today and ask him to take your sins away and to pour out his mercy upon you.