Check out this testimony by Saro Davidian, a frequent attendee of the G3 Conference as he tells of how the conference has been a blessing to he and his family. Saro is not a pastor—and the G3 is a Christian conference for the local church and church leaders.
Faithful Theological Education — “Theological education abounds in America in a wide variety of churches, institutes, colleges, universities, and seminaries. The interesting question before us is: what makes for faithful theological education?”
Fall is quickly approaching, but prior to the changing of the leaves on the trees will come Friday night lights. If the Christian life is the pursuit of God— countless families are on a relentless pursuit of football. Obsession is an understatement. Fanaticism is normal. The sport of American football is perhaps America’s leading false god. Some 36.2 million children in America play organized sports. Out of that number, approximately 1.2 million boys play organized football in America. The game is played by young children in recreational leagues, middle and high school, college, and if you’re good enough—you can suit up and play on the Lord’s Day.
In case you’re wondering, I have no axe to grind when it comes to the game of football. I enjoy the game itself and I’m coaching my son’s flag football team this season. I was recently asked about this very issue in a pastoral questions and answers session, so I thought an article would enable a more full response. I am concerned with how passionate people can become over a game—far more so than they are about the gospel and their service for the Lord. When 7 of the 10 Commandments are frequently broken on an average NFL game—we should take note. Consider the way football changes the lives of so many people throughout America—even those within the church who profess to be children of God.
Football Determines Schedules
In many towns throughout history, athletic leagues looked to the calendar of the churches in town prior to organizing their events so that they would not overlap plans and regular worship schedules of the local church. Today, local churches are looking to the athletic leagues as they plan their yearly schedule to avoid overlap with the local football or baseball teams. In today’s culture—stadiums are overflowing while churches are empty. Many families have replaced the worship of God with the worship of football. In many ways, athletics as a whole has become an idol. Football has emerged as perhaps the largest false god among the group.
Not only the schedule of the local church, but football drives the schedule of the family who has children who participate in the game of football. Consider how many things are shuffled around to cater to the football schedule. In many cases, families are brought to a crossroads decision—will “little Johnny” go to church on Wednesday with the rest of our family or will he go to football practice or a game at the local school? Will “little Susie” attend the church’s gathering or the football game as a cheerleader? These are real decisions that are being determined on a regular basis by professing Christians. Such decisions are vital and will have a lasting impact on the spiritual lives of children and families.
Football is the Highlight of Sunday
After a long week of football practices, games, and maybe one church service on Sunday morning—the average evangelical family makes their way to the lunch table. Typically, the family gathers for the meal with the roar of the first of many NFL games on Sunday as the familiar background to the conversation. Conversation around the table is broken up as the father points out the long touchdown pass to the wide receiver. This may not be true of all evangelical families, but in the American south—this is quite the normal Sunday for Christian families (see David Platt’s vivid description).
Following lunch, the men of the house typically gather in the living room where they binge on every possible NFL game throughout the day. They flip back and forth through various different channels to keep up with the latest scores, the latest standings, and eventually land on ESPN late in the day before the evening games begin. In many cases, the family is too tired from a busy week to attend church, so they agree to rest and enjoy family time which involves more games in the evening. However, they know that Monday is coming—so they agree to get to bed before midnight in order to be rested for a long day of work followed by Monday night football.
When you view a list of the most viewed television shows from history, 19 out of the top 20 are football games. Specifically—the Super Bowl. What day are those games played? Sunday. It also happens to be one of the least attended worship gatherings for churches across the nation.
Football Confuses Priorities in Life
What is the purpose of Sunday? Certainly the Christian and the non-Christian would give different answers to this question, but how is that question lived out in life? Why is the Christian family more consumed with football than Jesus—especially on the Lord’s Day? This is a cutting question that must be addressed individually. One answer will not suffice to cover the entire population of Christian football families needless to say. However, anytime something is out of balance in life—whatever is causing the imbalance will likely confuse the priorities of children who are watching and playing.
I was recently made aware that a local church not far from where I serve organized an entire service around the beginning of football season—complete with a football theme. A football celebrity was invited to speak, the pulpit was draped with his jersey, and the entire service was about overcoming trials and never giving up. The Word of God was replaced with the word of a celebrity. Churches today are frequently inviting players, coaches, and team chaplains to speak in church services. After all—it draws a crowd! This is one more clear mark of a downgrade in evangelicalism.
Christian children need the gospel more than football. No amount of physical discipline on the football field can replace the spiritual discipline of deep rooted gospel discipleship, preaching, and teaching. No amount of physical perseverance in life can replace the need for spiritual perseverance in the gospel.
When fathers spend a large amount of time and large sums of money on football, equipment, tickets to the game, tailgating expenses, and spend very little energy in the body life of the church—such a testimony speaks volumes about the god the father worships. Either God is perceived as boring and irrelevant or the children of the family are left to discern if their father is actually worshipping the god of football rather than the God of holy Scripture.
Israel had to be warned over and over again about bowing to the false god of Baʿal. American Christians in our day must be warned about bowing to the false god of football. Eric Liddell may not have been a football player, but he did run fast. Priorities matter. Character matters. In short—God matters. The gospel is essential. It is my prayer that you will make gospel-focused decisions as you approach the upcoming football season. Charles Spurgeon said the following in a sermon in 1863:
O ye sons of men, think not that God is blind. He can perceive the idols in your hearts; He understands what be the secret things that your souls lust after; He searches your heart, He tries your reins; beware lest He find you sacrificing to strange gods, for His anger will smoke against you, and His jealousy will be stirred. O ye that worship not God, the God of Israel, who give Him not dominion over your whole soul, and live not to His honor, repent ye of your idolatry, seek mercy through the blood of Jesus, and provoke not the Lord to jealousy any more. 
1. Charles Spurgeon, “A Jealous God” — Sermon 502, March 29, 1863.
In an optional session at the Ligonier conference a few years ago, Steven Lawson gave an overview of his book on William Tyndale. You will hear a good overview of why Tyndale is so vitally important to us in church history.
Christianity is the pursuit of God. J.I. Packer in his excellent book, Knowing God asks, “What were we made for? Knowing God. What aim should we set ourselves in life? To know God.”  Unfortunately, today’s evangelical church would be quite pleased with religious platitudes, social gatherings, comedy presentations, moving testimonies, and motivational speeches from celebrities in place of a theologically rich sermon that engages the mind and heart with a biblical text. How do we as followers of Christ know God?
God has ordained that we know him in a very specific manner. First, only through the biblical text can we see God’s revelation of himself to the world. Through creation, we see God’s power on display in a general way. Only through the Word of God do sinners come to see the God of salvation in the way in which he has chosen to reveal himself—through words and sentences and paragraphs. This is the ministry of the Holy Spirit—the work of God in breathing out holy Scripture (see 2 Tim. 3:16 and 2 Pet. 1:21).
Secondly, God has intended to make himself known to us through flesh and blood. We read these powerful words in John’s Gospel:
And theWordbecameflesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth (John 1:14).
We come to know God in a saving way through the Son of God—Jesus Christ who died on the Roman cross to save sinners. Through the substitutionary death of Jesus, we as imperfect and guilty sinners come to know God as redeemed children. The person and work of the Son of God is the unique way in which God has made himself known to the entire world—especially to those who believe (1 Tim. 4:10; Jn. 17:3).
Do you know God?
It is possible to know a god of your own imagination rather than the God of all creation. Many people have crossed off into eternity with a false assurance that they knew God and that he knew them. What a tragic reality we see in Jesus’ warning in Matthew 7:21-23. The masses of evangelical Christianity in our day crave entertainment and push back against the idea that Christianity involves thinking. James Montgomery Boice stated it well as he called the evangelical culture and era of his day, “mindless times.”
Abraham Kuyper, famously said, “There is not an inch of any sphere of life of which Jesus Christ the Lord does not say, ‘Mine.'” If this is true of every sphere of life, as Kuyper argued, it certainly must be true of our minds. God desires that we know him and worship him with our intellect. That involves reading his Word, meditating upon his character, memorizing his truth, and all of this can find expression in a worship service where the mind is engaged in the singing, Scripture reading, prayers, and preaching. We find these familiar words from the Shema repeated in Mark 12:30:
And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heartand with all your souland with all your mindand with all your strength.’
Through the pages of Scripture we come to know the voice of God. We come to know his justice for the rebels and his grace for his children. We spend this life getting to know him through his Word and we will spend all eternity knowing him on a much more intimate level as we will dwell in the presence of our God.
Do you know God?
When we come to know God, we do so in very specific ways. As the divine being, God is relational and as created beings created in the image and likeness of God—we too are relational beings. We come to know our God in very specific ways as we see expressed in four biblical analogies.
We know God as a servant knows his King.
Psalm 24:10 — Who is this King of glory? The LORD of hosts, he is the King of glory!
We know God as a sheep knows his Shepherd.
John 10:27 — Mysheephearmyvoice, and I know them, and they follow me.
We know God as a child knows his Father.
Matthew 6:9 — Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.”
We know God as a wife knows her Husband.
Hosea 2:16 — And in that day, declares the LORD, you will call me ‘My Husband,’ and no longer will you call me ‘My Baal.’
God is not the distant “clock maker god” who assembles the clock with great precision and then stands far off and watches it tick. God is interested in the big picture and the small details of our lives. Just as God has created and named the stars of the sky (Is. 40:26), he has our very hairs numbered and is interested in every detail of our daily life (Matt. 10:30). In short, God knows his children and he has called us to a pursuit of knowing him. This is what the LORD said through his prophet Jeremiah:
Thus says the LORD: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the LORD” (Jer. 9:23-24).
J.I. Packer concludes his excellent book, Knowing God, with these words:
From current Christian publications, you might think that the most vital issue for any real or would-be Christian in the world today is church union, or social witness, or dialogue with other Christians and other faiths, or refuting this or that ism, or developing a Christian philosophy and culture, or what have you. But our line of study makes the present-day concentration on these things look like a gigantic conspiracy of misdirection. Of course, it is not that; the issues themselves are real and must be dealt with in their place. But it is tragic that, in paying attention to them, so many in our day seem to have been distracted from what was, is, and always will be the true priority for every human being—that is, learning to know God in Christ. 
Yesterday we continued our series through 1 John and I was privileged to preach from 1 John 2:7-11. As previously stated in this series, John the apostle is passionate that his readers know some things about God, about themselves, and about their faith. John does not focus on the “gray” areas or the “muddy middle”—he is interested in light or darkness.
The Light of the World
John begins this paragraph by pointing out an old command and then following it up by restating it as a new command. John was not seeking ambiguity or self-contradiction. Instead, he was pointing out that the Light of the world—Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of the entire law and has certainly demonstrated light and love to a fallen world.
In addition, John points out that those who have been saved by Christ are also shining this light of the gospel into the world. In verse 8, John writes, “At the same time, it is a new commandment that I am writing to you, which is true in him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining.” Notice the phrase, “in him and in you” in the middle of this verse. The new command was shining in Christ as he perfectly fulfilled God’s law. In addition, John points to the fact that the gospel light is shining in the lives of those who follow Jesus. This is essential to remember, just as we see in Matthew 5:14-16.
Last of all, it’s essential to notice that John claims that the Christians had been taught this truth from the beginning. Apparently they were not accustomed to attracting unbelievers into their churches with gimmicks and trickery only to unveil the deeper doctrine later on in hopes that they would not be offended or leave. Apparently the early church embraced an approach to preaching and teaching that insisted on people counting the cost up front before they commit to following Christ.
The Test of Light and Love
In verses 9-11, John alternates from negative to positive and back to negative again as he brings his thought to a close. The statements are pointed, and intended for self examination. John is not interested in allowing people to remain confused about the state of their own soul. He desires for true believes to possess assurance of their salvation and he likewise desires for unbelievers to know they are in need of salvation.
John uses the contrast of light and darkness and love and hatred through these verses to reveal the lifestyle and pattern of a person’s life. He insists that where there is hatred for brothers and sisters in Christ, such a person is living in darkness. Darkness is a symbol for spiritual death. It may be the opposite of the culture, but as John points out, Christians are to love one another. Notice what John said in his Gospel:
John 12:46 – I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness.
John insists that no true believer abide in darkness. He goes on to explain the true Christian life as a life of light and love. “Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling” (1 John 2:10). The person who claims to be a Christian but harbors hatred in his heart for others in the church (or outside the church) is a hypocrite who abides in spiritual death and will become a stumbling block—a hurdle for the gospel of Jesus. The world has seen enough hypocrites, as John demands, it’s time for the world to see real Christianity on display.
John concludes with a terrifying statement about the one who lives in darkness and has been blinded spiritually. John says that such a person “does not know where he is going” (1 John 2:11). What a terrifying position for a person to abide in spiritually. Such a person is on a broken road headed to an eternal hell and he has no idea where he is going because the god of this world has blinded his mind. Spiritually, he cannot see (2 Cor. 4:4).
Such a person needs Jesus and John’s goal is for you to know if this is where you are today. Do you stand in need of God’s saving grace through Jesus Christ? Are you full of religion, but lost and on a broken road to eternal destruction? Keep in mind, no amount of religion is capable of saving your soul. Only Jesus Christ can save a sinner. Don’t be one of those described by Jesus who will try to offer up their spiritual resume on the day of judgment. God isn’t impressed by anyone’s spiritual resume. The only means whereby God will be satisfied is the substitutionary death of Jesus.
Matthew 7:21-23 – Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.  On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’  And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’
Pastor Mike Reid from Iowa has attended the G3 Conference every year from the beginning. They organize a group from their church to attend each January. They’ve brought anywhere from 11-22 people each year and Pastor Mike explains how the G3 Conference has been used in the life of their church and talks about why it’s a conference for the whole church—not just pastors. You can hear his testimony in this short video below.
4 Painful Lies Stay-at-Home Moms Tell Themselves — A good article worth reading, especially if you’re a stay-at-home mom who is struggling with your identity. I really appreciate this sentence in the article, “The stay-at-home mom life doesn’t define me any more than my professional life defined me—Christ’s death on the cross does.”