I love sporting events. Especially the rarer ones, where people are competing for national pride, such as the Olympics, that only occurs every four years, and now, the World Cup. In all honesty, I am not even a Soccer—or as the rest of the world refers to it, a futbol fan. Like many Americans, it is not that I dislike the sport, I have just never played it, and, therefore, have never been interested in the sport. Also like most Americans, “real” football is where the action is—but with that said, there is something special about the event.
From an athletic standpoint, I marvel at the incredible talent of these men who are able to demonstrate such an immense control of a pneumatic circular object with their feet! I have enough trouble controlling things with my hands.
More Than Talent As always, whenever I am in awe of an athlete, my thoughts immediately flow toward the immense amounts of time, hard work, and dedication to training, it must require to achieve such an elite level. Heck, most of us have played sports, or at the very least enjoy sports.
For those of you who have “played the game,” consider how much time and effort you have spent developing the athletic talent you either possess or once possessed. With that in mind, let me speak for a brief moment to the majority of you, who like me, do not possess the physical attributes of the gifted athlete such as LeBron James or Michael Jordan.
Perhaps you more closely resemble Larry Bird in your level of athletic talent. Hey, don’t get me wrong, Larry was as great as the others, but most will not argue that he needed to be much more dedicated to the study of fundamentals and positioning, than his lightning quick opponents whose recovery speed doubled that of “Larry Legend.”
Dedication I remember as a child, I loved basketball. There is also a special place in my heart for American style football, but basketball was my true love. I rarely went anywhere without my basketball, and unless I was riding a bicycle, I never just carried it. I dribbled it everywhere. This was purposeful. I knew the chances of my growing to 6’10” tall were slim to none. Therefore, I needed to be able to handle the “rock.” So I trained for it—obsessively!
Eventually, my skill level reached the point where I was being recruited by a host of NCAA Division I college basketball teams. Although I wound up attending none of them, and you’ll have to pick up a copy of my new book God Culture to find out why, I had to give up everything in order to achieve the level of success that I did. I am sure this is true of any world class athlete. But you do it because you love it.
When I was growing up we had a motto. 12/7/4! 12/7/4 meant that if you wanted a shot at the N.B.A., and I had every intention of going for it, you needed to dedicate your life to basketball for a minimum of 12 months per year, 7 days per week, and 4 hours per day!
While my High School buddies were hanging out with their girlfriends, I was on the basketball court. When they were at the beach, I was on the basketball court. When they were huddling inside from the cold and snow, I was shoveling the road in front of my house so I could uncover none other than—the basketball court. I had given everything for the sport I loved, and never gave it a second thought.
Giving it All! While recently spending some time meditating on the truth of God’s Word, I began to ask myself, “Would I give up everything for the sake of Jesus Christ?” Do I really love Him more than basketball, or my house, or whatever it is that you consider to be important?
This is no easy question to ask, and to make sure you know that I am keeping it real, seeking an honest answer takes a great deal of courage. In all honesty, I struggle with the answer. My prayer is, and will continue to be, that anytime God calls, and for whatever reason, He will empower me to deny myself, pick up the cross and follow Him. (Mark 16:24) To follow Jesus this radically requires the infilling of the Holy Spirit. It simply cannot be accomplished through the flesh.
With that said, now more than ever in my life, I am coming to the conclusion that Jesus really is worth it. Nothing and no one else can compare. Therefore, I challenge you to ask yourself the same question I have, “Do I really love Jesus, or do I simply love me?” Am I using Jesus for personal gain? Is that what is reflected in my thoughts, prayers, and in my actions? Is Jesus merely a cultural icon to me, or is He the center of my universe? Is Jesus really my Lord?!
Answering yes, absolutely requires one’s life to change—and although it may not immediately feel like it, for the better. Isn’t that what training is all about? When an athlete, or anyone for that matter, weight trains, it is the breakdown of muscle tissue that allows your muscle to grow stronger. God intentionally designed your body to function this way, and spiritual training works in precisely the same manner.
Face to Face For a brief moment, consider what you might do if, like the Rich Young Ruler from scripture, you had the privilege of meeting Jesus face to face? Would your response be any different than his was? Let’s have a quick look at this encounter from antiquity:
Now as He (Jesus) was going out on the road, one came running, knelt before Him, and asked Him, “Good Teacher, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?”
So Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery,’ ‘Do not murder,’ ‘Do not steal,’ ‘Do not bear false witness,’ ‘Do not defraud,’ ‘Honor your father and your mother.’”
And he answered and said to Him, “Teacher, all these things I have kept from my youth.”
Then Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “One thing you lack: Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow Me.”
But he was sad at this word, and went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. (Mark 10:17-27)
Lack and Luxury How many of us have this same spiritual lack in our lives? Luxury, and the pursuit of happiness, (for more on this see the July 3rd post on the God Culture Blog) seems to be the death of the Gospel. Jesus said it this way to the church in Laodicea:
“I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth. Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’—and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked— I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see.
As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me. To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.
“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”’” (Revelation 3:17-22)
Lukewarm Upon first hearing this it may seem harsh. Your original response may be to reject what Jesus is saying to what I believe has largely become the plight of the American Christian. I have no doubt that most have graduated to the class of lukewarm. The simple lack of Biblical knowledge confirms this sad truth, while not even taking into account the multitude of sin the average Christian approves of in America.
We live in a world where 1.2 billion people live on less than $1.25 per day. Yes, we in America have become incredibly wealthy, while at the same time having fallen into abject spiritual poverty! Incredibly, as I am writing this my dog walked up in front of me and vomited on the floor! Is God trying to tell me something? Is our lukewarm spiritual poverty causing God to spit us from His mouth? (Revelation 3:16)
Therefore, I will ask again, is God worth giving everything? I am not only talking about material possessions. More than that, God wants you. He believes you are worth everything. To prove it, and to buy you back from the slavery of sin, God gave you His all. God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son. (John 3:16) Do you realize that out of love for humanity, while you were still filthy and wretched in His sight, the God of the universe killed Himself for you! But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)
12/7/4 Therefore, I will be bold and ask, do you really love Jesus? Would you be willing to spend an equal amount of time training for “the Kingdom” as you would watching football on Sunday, or even the World Cup over these next few days? How about truly becoming a doer of the Word, and not hearers only. (James 1:22) Would you dare 12/7/4 Jesus?
Jesus does not want us to simply add Him to our lives the way we would any other activity. He wants you to make Him the center of your life. Don’t just coexist with Jesus. Become one with Him.
Be honest, do you want more or less of God in your life? More requires a reckless abandonment of self. Less, simply requires staying the same. If you desire more, simply begin training like you want more. Become intimate with His Word, pray without ceasing, and worship your one and only first love. I have no doubt that once you commit to Him, He will fill you with His Spirit and the impossibilities of your flesh will become the miracles of the Spirit.
May God Bless you! Together we can change the world from pop culture to God culture.
Until next time…