Monday, October 19, 2015

October 19, 2015 - Play Loose

The weekend’s sports news brought the sad reminder of how out of order our priorities are in this country… a punter from Michigan blew it on a final play and turned the ball over giving the victory to rival Michigan State. These types of things happen often to athletes and we seem to always hear the same junk afterwards… hate-mail (which at least took a few days back in my day; but now is instant on social networks); threats of violence toward the kid that messed up… even murder; etc... In essence a kid or pro-adult can have his or her life ruined over a muffed play in sports.

Yet I guess this should not be a surprise. Picture yourself driving into just about any small town, USA… there will be a welcome to sign and probably another sign that mentions whatever sport their high school teams happen to have success in over the past hundred years; you know the signs, “Home of the 1962 State High School Softball Champions.”

Funny that we never see signs talking about the “home of the best ACT or SAT scores” or “home of an all-state violinist” or… I think you get the picture. Would you agree that sports tend to dominate our culture?

That is why another story from the weekend greatly encouraged me. A kicker on Georgia’s team had missed a field goal and then was put right back into a position to kick a field goal to win the game. Coach Richt was seen talking to the young man before the kick and the young man responded by hitting the game winner… When Coach was asked what he said I am sure the reporter was expecting some great “coach-speak” on strategy or philosophy; what the reporter got was a simple response. Coach said that he told the kid he loved him and that it wasn’t based upon whether or not the kick would be successful.

What a contrast… the punter in Michigan is receiving threats; the kicker in Georgia was told he is loved and it is not based upon performance.
That is the difference of religion vs relationship. It is the picture of making sure where our identity is found. It is the difference on whether or not we “play the game” and we are uptight or we “play” with joy. It is the difference in feeling like a slave vs feeling free.

Christ not only died to grant us forgiveness, He also rose again to give us life; and in the process His righteousness is imparted to us at the point of our faith in His finished work.

I often preach (and have often written over the years in these devotions) about the beauty of the letter to the Ephesians and how Paul (under the inspiration of the Spirit) reminds us of our identity in Christ before he ever writes about our performance.

I challenge you (even if you have heard me preach this or read our devotions about this) to go through Ephesians 1 and focus on all the times Christ is referred to based upon what He has done for us. I then encourage you to celebrate my two favorite words in the Scripture found in Ephesians 2:4… “But God”!

These words are repeated in Romans 5. We are reminded in verse 6 that “we were helpless” when Christ died for us… and then in verse 8 we again see “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Do you see it? His love was not dependent upon us; it was shown while we were screwing up!

Can I just encourage you this week that even if you have messed up, God loves you and it is not based upon your performance. That doesn’t mean that He doesn’t want you to be victorious in your choices; He just wants you to know that His love for you is not dependent upon them… I know, He told me so in His Word!

What we will find is that is a lot easier to “make the kick” when we “play loose and free.”

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