Your Respectable Sin Is Your Achilles Heel

Your Respectable Sin Is Your Achilles Heel

The author of Hebrews sounds like a track and field coach explaining the need for proper attire and the danger of unnecessary resistance as he writes, “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” (Heb. 12:1). The Christian life is not a sprint—it’s a marathon. Who dresses in long jeans and bulky leather shoes for a marathon?

Not only is it essential to dress appropriately for a marathon or even a short race on the track, it’s imperative that Christians are properly clothed for the Christian life. Unnecessary baggage that clutters life can hinder us, harm our relationships, and create distance between Christian friendships in the local church. Much more severe than unnecessary baggage is the “respectable sin” that is often ignored because—after all, it’s not murder, child abuse, or embezzlement. Jerry Bridges, in his excellent book Respectable Sins, writes:

Those of us whom I call conservative evangelicals may have become so preoccupied with some of the major sins of society around us that we have lost sight of the need to deal with our own refined or subtle sins. [1]

What sin are you overlooking in your life that could be holding you back from a God glorifying pursuit of holiness? That one sin has become your achilles heel. Not only does it dishonor God, but it hinders you from shining for God, from serving God, and from pursuing holiness. Below are many respectable sins that often fly under the radar, but they should not be overlooked or ignored. Their poison is deadly too.

Respectable Sins of our Evangelical Culture

  1. The Sin of Neglecting God (lack of desire for God’s Word, for prayer, for worship, for the local church)
  2. The Sin of Flattery
  3. The Sin of Lust
  4. The Sin of Materialism (quickly runs to idolatry)
  5. The Sin of Overworking (workaholic, neglecting family and the local church)
  6. The Sin of Impatience
  7. The Sin of Anxiety
  8. The Sin of Pride
  9. The Sin of Doubting God (results in a lack of prayer and respect for God’s character)
  10. The Sin of Sloppy Doctrine (embracing false interpretations or being content in perpetual ignorance)

There are many different examples of respectable sins that we often overlook because they aren’t on the same level as open adultery or murder—but they’re just as deadly. Interestingly enough, the small venomous snake is often more deadly because they inject their venom without any restraint when they bite their prey. Larger snakes hold back some venom for additional strikes depending on the size of the prey. This makes the young snake more dangerous. When it comes to respectable sins, they can often be more deadly because they’re often overlooked for years.

Think about how many years you have considered eating better or getting more focused on a workout schedule. Those dreams never turn into reality. How many years have you continued to allow certain sins to remain comfortable in your heart and life while cautioning yourself, your family, and your church family against the “big evil sins” like homosexuality, murder, and adultery?

Beware of the respectable sins because they’re extremely dangerous and not very respectable at all. If you’re walking in the forest and you come upon a small venomous snake—remember the small snakes are dangerous too. If you ignore a small venomous snake—it could cost you your life. When it comes to the Christian life—don’t overlook the small sins. They’re full of venom and they can hinder you from running the race of life for the glory of God.

  1. Jerry Bridges, Respectable Sins: Confronting the Sins We Tolerate, (Carol Stream, ILL.: Tyndale House, 2014), 9.
Because I’m a Christian

Because I’m a Christian

Far too many people approach their religion as a checkbox religion — something they have to do in order to please their god. However, as a Christian, the life of a Christian is not bound up in a “must do” or “must perform” ideology, but rather a Spirit-empowered life of joy that finds ultimate fulfillment in God through Jesus Christ. Have you stopped to consider what you get as a result of being a Christian? What has God given to each of his children that we often overlook on a daily basis?

The Perspicuity of Scripture

The natural mind cannot fully understand the Scriptures because of the stain of sin. It is the effect of sin that prevents the depraved sinner from reading, understanding, and comprehending the meaning of sacred Scripture. This point Paul made clear in 1 Corinthians 2:14 as he writes, “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.” What does it mean that the Scriptures are spiritually discerned?

Spiritual discernment is a way of Paul referencing the work of the holy Spirit in illuminating the truths of God’s Word to his people. Remember, Jesus taught in parables not merely to place the cookies on the bottom shelf for everyone to understand freely — instead he utilized the parables to reveal truths to his disciples while concealing the same truths to the God-haters. In the same way, today God’s people can read and understand the truths of the Bible while those who reject God are incapable of seeing it because the work of the Spirit is not at work in their hearts.

The perspicuity of Scripture is an old phrase that isn’t very clear at all. Interestingly enough, it means the clarity of Scripture. As a Christian, it’s a thrill to open the Bible and know that I can read it, understand it, comprehend it, and obey it. All of this is the overflow of the Holy Spirit’s work in each of God’s children.

The Local Church

Contrary to popular trends, the local church is not for unbelievers. That may sound a bit harsh, but allow me to explain. First, let me explain what I don’t mean by that statement. I am not insinuating that unbelievers should never be invited to our church assemblies. What I am suggesting is that membership in the local church is for followers of Jesus only — and to deviate from that plan is to redefine the very word “church” as we see it in the New Testament.

Through the years, I have witnessed many professing Christians who approached church attendance more like an old family tradition rather than a joy and privilege. For some, attending church is a “checkbox” for their religious duty. Once they get that checked off by noon, they’re free to go on and enjoy their day. However, true Christians find joy and fulfillment in attending church for worship and fellowship. It’s through the local church that we serve God, worship God, fellowship with friends, and serve one another. Because I’m a Christian I have the distinct privilege of attending church — assembling together with the church on Sunday mornings, evenings, and Wednesday evenings (our regular scheduled gatherings).

The church is often referred to as the family of faith — and as a family of Jesus followers we gather together in the unity of the Spirit and the bond of peace (Eph. 4:3). What a joy and privilege to be a member of a local church (1 Cor. 12:27).

Temporal and Eternal Joy

Before regeneration changed my life, I had no true joy in God. The temporal joys of waking up in the early hours of the morning and just thinking about how good God is and how his love for me is all satisfying was non-existent. Those moments of gazing at the sky and considering how majestic God is in creation and how sovereign he is in ruling over the universe was not something that occupied my thoughts often. When I did think on those things, they usually were in conflict with my sin and resulted in fear and shame rather than joy and happiness.

As a Christian, I have the overwhelming privilege of looking at the birds of the sky, the flowers on the roadside, and the expanse of God’s creation with joyful eyes. As a Christian I have the opportunity to look beyond the temporal joys of enjoying God now to when I will have the privileges of enjoying God for all of eternity. When those temporal opportunities pass away, I will be welcomed into the presence of my God — and the beginning of a never ending happiness in the presence of God will suddenly come to pass. What has been visible only through a veil will become vividly clear in high definition focus. As a Christian — I get to enjoy God now and for all of eternity.

1 Corinthians 15:50–58 — I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:

“Death is swallowed up in victory.”
“O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?”

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.

Wigs and Wisdom

Wigs and Wisdom

Colonial America was filled with white wigs. The 18th century was ripe with the wig wearing men who from young ages were already desiring to fit in among the wise men of the day and it was the wig that created such a bridge of opportunity. Men wore them openly in order to make a statement. Their statement was not so much to do with fashion as much as it was to do with wisdom and knowledge. We see this all throughout our nation’s history as well as church history in America. Men such as George Washington (who reportedly never wore a wig, but embodies the iconic image of the wigs of that era) and Jonathan Edwards are depicted with long flowing gray curls—although undoubtedly fake—they were wigs worn to symbolize their wisdom far more than their age. We see this all through the Puritan age of church history.

Where are all of the gray wigs today? Why do we not see them worn openly in our culture today? The evidence may point to a shift in ideas—one that favors immaturity in this youth-driven culture. What exactly does the Bible say about this whole youth focused culture? Does the Bible say anything about age and how we should approach the inevitable?

Gray May Not Be Your Thing—But Wisdom Should Be

In recent years, I have addressed the need for the younger population of the church of Jesus Christ to know, be involved with, and attend the funerals of the elderly. Tragically, our society looks over the heads of the elderly in favor of the young, the strong, and far too often—the immature. Since we live in a culture that despises the aging process and thereby disrespects the elderly—it would be wise for Christians to consider what the Bible actually says about this matter rather than adopting the culture’s patterns.

In Leviticus 19:32, we see that the Law of God insisted on the honoring of the aged. Proverbs 20:29 says, “The glory of young men is their strength, but the splendor of old men is their gray hair.” In other words, the biblical text points to the idea of honoring those with gray hair, but not just for the sake of their hair color. The graying of the hair represented more than an aging process—instead it pointed to the wisdom that comes with age. In most cases, the aging process allows a person to accumulate a certain amount of wisdom through life circumstances (practical wisdom) and through the study of God in theology and walking with God in life.

When we see the words of Proverbs 16:31 and couple them with Paul’s words to Timothy (a young pastor in Ephesus) regarding how he was to address older men (1 Tim. 5:1-2)—it would be extremely healthy for us to learn to respect and honor the aged among us in society in general—but especially within the local church. We may not see gray wigs on sale in a center kiosk at the local shopping mall and they may never be en vogue in our culture at any day in the future—wisdom should be attractive to us—especially to those who are followers of Jesus (James 1:5).

Do Not Worship Adolescence

It should be plainly evident to all of us that we’re living in a culture that celebrates youthfulness and despises the aged. A trip down the cosmetics section in the supermarket will reveal many products designed to take away gray hair, smooth out wrinkles, and make the body look and feel young. Any trip through a major city will certainly reveal our culture’s love for shopping malls. When we examine the stores in the malls, the overwhelming majority are centered on young people who linger in the atrium of the mall for social purposes with their friends or gather for coffee and entertainment outlets such as theaters—largely designed to entertain young people. The men’s clothing or women’s clothing stores are few and far between these days because—quite simply—the profit margins simply don’t compare.

This cultural shift leaves much of the focus of our society centered on youth—and that spills right over into the context of the local church as well. We often hear much talk about how we have to focus on the youth of the church because they’re the next generation of members and leaders. While we certainly need to invest in young people and children within our church—the lack of respect for the elderly in society as well as within the church has done far more than remove men’s clothing and men’s shoe stores from the front street of our communities. It has likewise affected how we worship. In many evangelical churches, the worship is designed around the young people rather than adults—resulting in a concert with a sermonette attached to it or in some cases the feel is more like a VBS for adults—complete with all of the light-hearted entertainment and canned jokes.

Paul, in his words to the church at Ephesus, implores them to strive for maturity as God has given them leaders for that very purpose (Eph. 4:12). While there is nothing inherently sinful by shopping malls turning to the teens for profit margins—the church of Jesus Christ would do well to celebrate maturity and gospel-centered wisdom that comes with age. This is one reason for the title of the office of elder—driving home the point that wisdom is needed in order to properly lead God’s people theologically and spiritually. Fools despise wisdom (Prov. 1:7). We’re living in strange days to be sure, days when immaturity is championed among a culture demonstrating just how much wisdom is needed in the end. This, to be sure, is a tragedy. Remember what happened to Rehoboam when he despised the wisdom of the old men and gave his ear to the immature voices of the young men (1 Kings 12:8)?

Our culture and our churches are filled with wise older men and women who are overlooked because of their age. Gray is not proof of wisdom, but it would do us well not to view gray as outdated, expired, or irrelevant. Once upon a time young men wanted to look old. Today, old men want to look young while young men never want to grow up. Fashion may change, but it’s the heart that truly matters. May the Lord grant us wisdom and enable us to value the wise and aged among us in the life of the church in such a way that creates stability and maturity among God’s people.

Proverbs 4:7 — The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom, and whatever you get, get insight.

4 Reasons to Anticipate the Return of Jesus

4 Reasons to Anticipate the Return of Jesus

Does your typical day have an eschatological focus? Do you long for the return of Jesus? As we go about daily routines, too often our lives become routine. It seems as if there is a missing purpose at times to simple conversations in the community and other less-than-glorious responsibilities like changing diapers or mopping the kitchen floor. Are you anxiously anticipating the return of King Jesus or do you find yourself reading your Bible and doing life disconnected from the precious promise that Jesus will return? Consider these four reasons why you should anticipate the return of the King of the Universe.

Anticipating the Return of Jesus Impacts How We Worship

As John the apostle worshipped God on the Island of Patmos, he longed for the return of Jesus. In the second to last verse in the Bible, we find these words, “He who testifies to these things says, ‘Surely I am coming soon.’ Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!” (Rev. 22:20). As we look back at the promises of God’s redemptive plan and consider our place in that timeline of history—the thought of Jesus’ return should shape our worship.

When we sing songs in public worship that include phrases about Jesus’ return, it should cause our worship to be heightened. The thought that Christ could return today is a humbling thought, and to be singing and worshipping him and contemplating his return should make our worship of God more rich and meaningful. Charles Wesley penned the words to his carol titled, “Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus”—we see that we are to consider the Old Testament saint who was longing for the coming of their Deliverer. However, by the end of the short hymn, we see that there is an eschatological focus for us today:

Come, Thou long expected Jesus
Born to set Thy people free;
From our fears and sins release us,
Let us find our rest in Thee.
Israel’s Strength and Consolation,
Hope of all the earth Thou art;
Dear Desire of every nation,
Joy of every longing heart.

Born Thy people to deliver,
Born a child and yet a King,
Born to reign in us forever,
Now Thy gracious kingdom bring.
By Thine own eternal Spirit
Rule in all our hearts alone;
By Thine all sufficient merit,
Raise us to Thy glorious throne.

What about the Lord’s Supper, is your focus when you remember the body and blood of Jesus merely focused on what Jesus did in the past or do you also long for his return? Remember what Jesus said about observing the Lord’s Supper? He commanded that his followers would remember his sacrifice and anticipate his return (1 Cor. 11:26).

Anticipating the Return of Jesus Increases Our Confidence That the Righteous Judge Will Judge Sin

All through the Psalms, we see the Psalmist pleading with God to judge sinners and law breakers. Notice the language of the Psalmist as recorded in Psalm 69:3, “I am weary with my crying out; my throat is parched. My eyes grow dim with waiting for my God.” This is a common pattern that we see repeated all through the Psalms as we have before us the raw emotions of desperate people who long for God to bring judgment upon the wicked.

As we live in this broken world filled with sin—we too long for the day when Christ will return and judge with perfect and precise justice. On that day, the eternal Judge will judge judge everyone rightly and sin will be no more. When this judgment takes place, the celebration of sin and all of the ripple effects of sin will be brought to a sudden halt. There will be no mistrials, no mistakes, and no person who can make an accusation against the sovereign Judge who judges in perfect righteousness. Every ounce of injustice that we endure in this life will be completely satisfied in Jesus. For that reason, we should join John the apostle by saying, “Come, Lord Jesus!”

Anticipating the Return of Jesus Provides Renewed Zeal in the Area of Missions and Evangelism

Do you often consider the simple conversations that you have on a daily basis? What about that person that you talked with on the subway this week? What about the Uber driver that you talked with last week? What about the person in the coffee shop who talked with you as you waited on your Frappuccino to be served? The God who rules the Universe also directs the steps of us all—and there is no “chance” conversation that we have in a single day.

If we anticipate the return of Jesus—it will change how we look at such conversations, friendships, family connections, and work relationships. We will look at people through an eschatological lens and our conversations will suddenly have a much deeper purpose. We should not look at people as “projects” or opportunities for notches in our evangelistic belts, but a proper anticipation of Jesus’ return will cause us to engage in disciple-making at a much deeper level.

Furthermore, as we anticipate the return of Christ it will often redirect our priorities to be less self-focused and more Kingdom-focused. Why would we pile up resources to use for our own pleasure and temporal joys when the world needs to know the true joy of Jesus Christ? Longing for the return of Christ doesn’t make you hate taking vacations, but it will certainly prevent you from wasting your resources without any care for the lost world that is perishing around you.

Anticipating the Return of Jesus Causes Us to Long for the Day When All Things Will Be Made New

Life is full of broken roads. We have all walked difficult paths and experienced the effects of sin. We all stand before caskets of friends and loved ones with tears streaming down our faces. We know what it’s like to say good-bye to people we love. Have you experienced the feeling of loneliness and pain when the doctor provides you with a troubling health report? Such broken roads are difficult to walk—and yet we must endure as we anticipate the return of Jesus.

We live in-between the already and the not-yet reality of the rule of Jesus. While Jesus has defeated death and paid for the sins of all of his people, we still live in the world of brokenness and sin. Such reality is heavy and burdensome at times. But, we live with hope of a Christian that Jesus rules today from heaven’s throne and that he will one day return in visible victory for the whole world to see. When Christ returns—all things will be made new.

At the end of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, C.S. Lewis depicts the lion (Aslan) walking off into the sunset. Lucy runs to the balcony and sees him walking away and with a sad countenance, she is comforted by Tumnus who says, “We’ll see him again.” Lucy responds, “When?” Tumnus reassures her, “In time…you mustn’t press him, he isn’t a tame lion.” Lucy responds, “No, but he’s good.”

We can live each day with the reality that Jesus is not a tame Lion—but he is good. When the Lion of the tribe of Judah returns he will make all things new. There will be no more death, no more tears, and no more pain for the former things will have passed away. Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

3 Reasons Why Younger Christians Should Attend the Funeral Services of Older Christians

3 Reasons Why Younger Christians Should Attend the Funeral Services of Older Christians

When was the last time you attended the funeral service for a young person?  The funeral home was most likely swarming with people of all ages—young, old, and middle aged.  This is the typical pattern for such funeral scenes.  However, it’s not terribly uncommon for you to walk into the funeral service for a 90-year old church member and find the funeral home nearly empty.  Where is the disconnect?  Where are all of the young people from this person’s local church?  Sure, school is in session and work is not stopping for the majority of the church—but what message are we sending to our children when we check them out of school for the funeral service of a 16-year old who died in a car accident but we miss the funeral service of a 90-year old man who finished his course well for the glory of God?

In our present culture, it’s almost as if we expect the older generation to die—so attending their funeral isn’t really that important.  As we consider such matters, I want to urge you to reconsider the importance of being present for the funeral service of older Christians in your local church.  Sure, you may have to miss work and your children may have to miss some school on that particular day, but it’s worth it in the long run.

Children Need to Hear Godly Eulogies

Far too many funerals contain ungodly music, shallow meaningless stories, and often shower praises upon people who were rather ungodly and loved the world more than God.  The word eulogy is derived from a Greek origin “eulogia” meaning praise.  The English word means—high praise.  Your children will attend far too many funerals that do not honor God and do not have Godly eulogies.  Your children will witness people receiving high praise who certainly do not deserve it.  Our culture is notorious about lavishing praises upon the dead even if they didn’t deserve it.

As young people grow up in our spiritually confused culture, they will hear people being praised and preached into heaven who had no desire for God in this life.  With all of the confusion that abounds, young people need to hear solid eulogies that make sense (Rom. 12:2).  They need to hear older people highly praised for a life well lived for the glory of God (Ps. 116:15).  As they sit and hear good eulogies that are directly connected to verified lives of older saints who go before them in death—it builds up and strengthens their faith.  The children in the local church need to hear examples of faithful saints who served and invested their lives in the ministries of the local church. They need to hear 1 Corinthians 6:11 testimonies that emphasize the past tense of loving sin contrasted with a present tense love for God that never ended.

Children Need to See Faithful Church Members Finish Well

Voddie Baucahm, in his book, Family Driven Faith, shared some startling statistics.  He said, “70-88% of teens, who profess Christianity, walk away from their faith by the end of their freshman year of college.” There are many factors that lead to such tragic statistics, but one thing to remember is that children from a very early age need to witness older Christians finish their course well—persevering to the end in the faith (Phil. 1:6).  Children will see too many people enter the church and drop out, fall away, and prove their faith wasn’t genuine (1 John 2:19).  Young people need to see real Christianity put on display in relentless and faithful perseverance (Luke 13:24; Heb. 4:11).

Sure, it’s a horrible tragedy when a student is suddenly taken in a car accident.  Such funerals are worthy of attending and can provide numerous teaching opportunities.  However, consider the value of putting before your children faithful older Christians who refused to deny the faith, stayed the course to the end, and died as faithful followers of Jesus after walking with Jesus for many years.  That’s worthy of missing a half a day of school—right?  Young people who are bombarded with a constant stream of the trivial and temporary need examples of faithful people who looked beyond this life to a city whose maker and builder is God (Heb. 13:14; Heb. 11:10).

Children Need to Learn to Honor the Seniors

As a pastor, it grieves me to see many church plants that look like a Millennial coffee club rather than a local church.  Where are the aged?  Are they needed to plant churches too?  Younger Christian parents—you want your children to have other examples to imitate in the faith besides you (1 Cor. 11:1; Heb. 6:12; Heb. 10:36). I’m afraid that we often devalue the older generation in our local churches.  We place a great deal of emphasis on youth, young families, and reaching the younger generation while at the same time overlooking the goldmines of knowledge and wisdom who sit near us on the Lord’s Day during worship (Job 12:12).  Sure, they style their hair differently (what hair they still have) and wear clothing that is not suitable for the younger generation, but they have a treasure chest of experience as older Christians to share with the church—if we allow them into our lives.

One way to teach the younger generation the importance of missing the second half of the school day to attend the funeral of an older church member is by spending time with such members before they die.  Look for ways to teach young people to honor seniors beyond pressing them to read and understand 2 Kings 2:23-24. Look for opportunities to overlap in life, ministry, worship, and fellowship (see Titus 2).  Consider bringing such church members into your home for lunch after church and providing intentional opportunities for your children to know the older generation in your church.  Face it, when we want our children to excel in a specific sporting event—we often put good examples before them on YouTube or ESPN. We should desire for our children to learn to value the older Christians in our local church in such a way that they will cherish the opportunity of honoring them on the day of their funeral.  The next time a 90-year old faithful Christian within your local church dies—take the day off and take your children to the funeral with you.

Football: America’s Leading False god

Football: America’s Leading False god

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]

1. Charles Spurgeon, “A Jealous God” — Sermon 502, March 29, 1863.