Thursday, October 20, 2016

Fight to Win

             I am a competitive person. Ever since I was a little girl I was always involved in some sort of competition. I played volleyball, soccer, basketball, football, and even ran track. When High School rolled around I became a cheerleader, and four more years of competition lined my athletic years. Even today I find myself wanting to compete, even though these old knees remind me that I am not 16 years old anymore! I don’t play many sports today, but I run and I bike as often as I can. I do like sports, and I am an avid football fan. I am borderline obsessed with the game, according to my friends. I watch College and NFL constantly and consistently. I never miss a game.
             My competitive spirit gives me a drive to compete at everything. It drives me to compete in the business world, and it pushes me to win at every cost. It’s not always a good thing to have though- this competitive spirit of mine. If I don’t bring it under the power of the Holy Spirit and place this drive in His hands, I can very quickly become prideful and puffed up, pushing my way over people until I win, no matter the cost. But, on the other hand, when I place this competitive spirit in His hands, He turns it for good. He takes my drive and determination and uses if for His glory and for my good.
             This drive and determination of mine has turned towards the area of holiness and obedience in my daily life. I have been listening to J.C. Ryle’s book on Holiness and some of the other classic pastors of the Reformation. One thing that has continually stuck out at me, not only through their words, but in the Bible as well, is that holiness in the life of a believer is not an option. It’s not a fruit we can put on display whenever we want. Holiness is a command. Holiness is a direct command of God and we, as His children, are to obey His call to live a holy life.
             There is this doctrine in the church that is widely accepted as truth, when in fact it is the very death of so many in the congregations today. That doctrine is the doctrine of easy grace. Throughout the history of the church there has been this teaching that since we are saved by grace through faith we can live our lives however freely and loosely we choose. We can sin it up on Saturday and ask God for grace on Sunday. We are saved, and once saved always saved. God sees our sins, but He looks past them. He doesn’t care how much we sin, as long as we believe in Jesus. I am not here today to discuss the theology of salvation or of grace. What I am here to show you is what I believe God is calling us to do, and that my friend, is to fight the good fight of faith.
             “But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you have made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.” 1 Timothy 6:11-12 ESV
             Being the competitive person that I am, whenever I see something written in the Bible about fighting, running, or pressing towards a goal my spirit within me becomes excited. There is nothing more I like better than a good, down in the dirt, last minute, last second victory! I love a good, well fought game. Unfortunately, I see too many of my fellow church goers believing they don’t have to fight, they only have to believe. This belief, my teammates, will be your ruin. Let me go back to where this all started. Let’s go back to Leviticus where God tells His children they must be holy, because He is holy.
             “For I am the Lord your God. Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am holy. You shall not defile yourselves with any swarming thing that crawls on the ground.” Leviticus 11:44
             God does not ask us if we want to be holy. He commands His children to be holy. Peter references these words as well in 1 Peter 1:16, and even Paul, throughout his writings encourages us to choose the life of holy living. But holiness doesn’t come simply by believing you are holy. Holiness is a choice we make. Holiness is the race we are to be running and the fight we are to be fighting. Holiness is the competition and perfect, eternal life with the Father in Heaven is the crown we strive for.
             When you become a follower of Jesus Christ you became a child of God. You are now held to a higher standard than those who are in the world. You are called to come out from among them and no longer live a life of fleshly desires that lead you on every whim and fancy that catches your eye. You are called to a higher life, a higher standard of holiness, and you have got to fight if you have any hope of winning this game.
             Paul tells us that if we want to win this race, or if we have any hope in competing for the imperishable crown, then we have to flee these things that are not holy. What are these things? That depends on you. For some of you it may be the sin of gossip, or lust, or pornography. For some of you it may be the sin of procrastination, or some other sin that has a hold, has a grasp upon you and is keeping you on the bench instead of in the game. Paul encourages us to run away from this sin and death that lead us away from holy living and run towards those things that lead to everlasting life. Turn your eye towards those things that produce righteousness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness; all these things build you up and edify you. They grow us and ground us, they give us the strength to keep fighting, and the desire to run and to win.
             But it doesn’t end there. We can flee and run towards all these things, but unless we put it into practice, unless we get off the bench and in the game, it is all in vain. We have to fight. If you want to win this game and hear the words, “Well done My good and faithful servant” then you have got to fight. You can’t expect holiness to magically appear in your life. God is not a genie. He doesn’t wave His magic wand over your life and poof you are a perfect, sinless child of God, living your life anyway you want because you gave your life to Him. You have to want holiness, you have to desire to compete in this game, for that crown, no matter what. You have to fight the good fight of faith. If you don’t, then sin will have its way and you will have lost this race.
             I have never watched a football game where the team stayed on the sidelines because they believed they had already won. No, they got out there and they fought, they competed and pushed and persevered until the whistle blew and the game was won. When I played soccer, I didn’t stand on the field and believe I made a goal. I competed. I pushed and I fought my way to the net.

             It breaks my heart to see so many people in the church today just believing and not putting up a fight against the deceitfulness of their flesh. They are believing themselves straight into hell. My friend, listen to me please, if you do not stand up and fight the good fight of faith, then when the whistle blows and those final seconds of your life tick away you may find yourself sitting on an empty bench- alone. Those who fought and competed will already be in the locker room celebrating the victory we have in Jesus Christ. Fight my brothers and sisters, fight the good fight of faith! Fight the sin and death that holds you to the bench and get out there and win this game! Fight that craving for unholy and unrighteous living. Get your helmet on, get off the bench and win this game! Amen?