This sermon was given by Rev. Brian Dainsberg at Appleton Alliance Church on Jan. 10, 2015.
In my message yesterday, I attempted to demonstrate Christians are exiles. That is, what Christians believe is becoming increasingly strange to the culture around us. We don't need to fear this because God's people have been here before. In the Bible, we are called 'exiles,' 'strangers,' and 'foreigners,' dozens of times. There's plenty in the pages of Scripture to direct our thinking and our steps.
So how do we live as Christian exiles?
DON'T: Withdraw from culture. The evil inside our hearts is every bit as threatening as the evil outside us. Withdrawing from culture doesn't do us or the gospel any good.
DO: Seek the peace and prosperity of your city. Do your daily work with integrity and excellence and demonstrate compassion and generosity to those in need.
DON'T: Accommodate culture. Yes, we should bend and flex as much as we can to reach people, but eventually a line in the sand will be drawn.
DO: Live holy lives in obedience to God. On Judgement Day, only one opinion of you will count for anything: God's. Live in such a way that He speaks of you in glowing terms on that day.
DON'T: "Christianize" culture. Converting people to a value system saves no one. Hell will be inhabited by lots of people who held to "Christian" values.
DO: Lead with the gospel. The gospel is the power of God for salvation (Romans 1:16). It's what Jesus preached and called people to believe (Mark 1:14-15). He led with the gospel. So do we.
I think it's a good thing Christians are becoming strange to 21st century American culture. Historically, it hasn't been Christianity's "sameness" that has attracted people to it. People have been more attracted to Christianity's "strangeness." We can and will engage the culture with Christianity's strangeness as we: seek the peace and prosperity of our city, live holy lives in obedience to God, and lead with the gospel.
May it be so!
Found all throughout life, including sports, there is story. A plot is established. There’s a sense of anticipation. Good stories create tension, dissonance, and mystery. There are moments where the story is not going the way you would like. There are even times when the story doesn’t end the way you’d like it to; but then there are also times when it does and it brings you great joy and satisfaction. There are heroes for whom you cheer. Where does this interest in story and drama come from? I would say God put it there because it is ultimately a story he is writing and one that you’re a part of.
Sports also reflects this story: the story of redemption.
It begins with God. This infinite, all-powerful being. What will he do? How complicated will the plot be? Will there be any twists and turns? The story begins magisterially. He creates. He creates planets, and solar systems, and galaxies, and a universe. He creates plant and animal life. He then reaches down into the dirt on planet earth and creates human beings who come really close to reflecting himself. They can speak and reason and love and serve. All of creation is perfect. There’s nothing broken about it. No death, no illness, no broken relationships, no stress. This story begins wonderfully. You couldn’t script a better beginning. Your team is winning.
But then the opposing team begins to swing momentum back in their direction. The bad guys start gaining ground in this story. Creation is broken when human beings conclude they can find ultimate satisfaction in something other than God. This rebellion introduces brokenness into the creation. Now there is illness, conflict, hurt, pain, and death. The opposing team seems to be ahead. They’ve scored a couple of times and now your team is losing. What’s going to happen? This story goes back and forth. There are moments of great triumph where star players come to shine. There are moments of great setbacks where the opposition seems to have their way with the world. How’s it going to end?
There is a Hero to this story, but he’s not the typical hero. Most heroes are flashy, skilled, and their victories are also flashy and skilled. The Hero of the story of redemption was born in a barn and his bed was a feed trough. His victory wasn’t won through unbelievable displays of skill. In fact, his victory wasn’t apparent to everybody. Most thought he had lost because he was nailed to a cross and executed. There wasn’t a lot of pomp surrounding the Hero of this story nor the victory he won because he did it through means we don’t typically associate with victory. Now we as the spectators and participants in this story have a choice to make. Did Jesus win? Will he ultimately triumph? When we look at our world and our own lives we see and experience defeat at times. There are moments when the bad guys seem to have the edge. Conventional wisdom seems to indicate maybe we aren’t going to win. How’s this story going to end? Is Jesus really the superstar? Is he the Hero? Will he win? Do you trust him? Do you have faith in him? Is he your only hope for future victory?
Every game points to this story of redemption. Every superstar points to a greater Superstar. So the next time you’re enjoying watching a game, let it point you to the greater game. When your team wins and you feel the joy of it, let that point you to the greater win and the ultimate win that awaits those who belong to Jesus. When your favorite player becomes the hero of the game and admiration for that hero swells within you, let that point you to the greater Hero and an even greater admiration for him. For those who admire Jesus Christ above everybody and everything else, victory is certain. Every sporting event points to the story of redemption. Every victory points to the greater victory. Every star player points to the greatest Star Player. Let the joy you experience in winning point you to the greater joy found in the greater victory Jesus has won through his death and defeat of it.
This is one of the things I love about sports. When you watch them through spiritual lenses, you see how a football game points to something much bigger, better, more important, more satisfying, more invigorating. It points to Jesus, the Star Player, victorious and giving that experience of victory to all those who belong to him.
And for even more on the similarities between sports and the Gospel, this week I will be giving away three copies of the book, The Reason For Sports: A Christian Fanifesto by Ted A. Kluck. To enter, simply sign in to the Rafflecopter giveaway below and enter either by following me on Twitter, on Instagram, or on both! Winners will be chosen and notified by email. At this time, I do ask that only those living within the 48 contiguous United States enter the giveaway. Thank you for understanding.