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<< Discover the Book, with Dr. John Barnett

Discover the Book - Feb. 22, 2009

  • 2009 Feb 22
  • COMMENTS
 

 

Christ Abiding in My Actions

 

As Paul sat to write the words we will read this morning, he may have glanced out the window of his room along the busy streets of Corinth, watching the flow of athletes relentlessly pursuing Greek athletic glory. Each day they devotedly streamed into the Greek gymnasiums to train their minds and bodies to be completely given over to mastery of their sport at the local Isthmian Games that fed the Olympic Games of the 1st Century.

 

Paul lived in the land of the Olympics. Paul lived and worked each day among the sights and sounds of athletes that were a part of the already ancient tradition of Olympic Games. In the middle of the 1st Century as Paul served in Corinth just outside of Athens, he was writing about sports. The Olympics were already ancient as he wrote, having been launched for over 800 years; tens of thousands of spectators had made their way to the Games and no doubt had passed Paul on the roads of Greece.

 

For 2800 years (except for the lapse from the 5th century to the 19th century) the world has equated the Olympic Games with the best of the best. Human bodies that have been mastered by a disciplined mind to run, jump, swim and perform extraordinarily well in athletic contests.

 

Anyone, including Paul, who lived in Greece in the 1st Century had seen many athletes in either practice or performance. Comparing the best of the best in sports, Paul exhorts those early followers of Jesus to participate in the Christian life the way that the Greeks competed in the Olympic races. As Paul wrote the Epistle to the Romans from Corinth in the middle of the 1st century AD he only had to look out his window to use profoundly Olympic terms. In Romans 12:1-2 Paul writes about a body presented in unreserved devotion to Christ. He says give your body to Christ; keep Him in control; fight anything that hinders you from pleasing Him. He used a blend of worship ideas (a sacrifice offered) and athletic images (a living body devoted) to convey the way we are to look upon life for Christ while we live on earth.

 

We are looking at the fourth area of our lives that Jesus wants. We have seen in days past that Jesus wants to abide in our time; He wants to abide in our treasures; and that He wants to abide in our attitudes. This morning – Jesus wants to abide in our actions.

 

Romans 12:1-2 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies (Those words frames what I would call our invitation to the ultimate games – living life for the Glory of God).

a living sacrifice, (total devotion)

holy, (set apart) acceptable to God, (obedient to Him)

which is your reasonable service. (the true offering of devotion and worship is our body in service to Jesus)

And do not be conformed to this world, (resist the breaking of any of the rules the Heavenly Umpire has laid down for your life)

but be transformed (get in shape, cut the junk, work out until you are able to compete regularly)

by the renewing of your mind, (exercised each day for godliness and fruitfulness)

that you may prove (experience and win for your life’s work)

what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. (Get the gold medal at Christ's Bema Seat!)

 

God expects fruit in the life of His children. That fruit comes from a good heart. That good heart is made good by God in a process called the new birth.

 

 

Christ Wants to Abide in My Actions

 

  • Hebrews 12:1–2 “Wherefore seeing we have encircling us [The stadium/circus crowd of saints and prophets encircles the athletes competing in their contest] so great a cloud of witnesses, let us put off all bulk weight, and the loosely fitting sin [Greek athletes competed in the nude], and let us run with patience the race [The agon signified the setting where the games were held or the assembly of spectators.] that is set before us. Looking unto Jesus, the leader and finisher of the faith.” [Christ ran and finished the race before us, and yet he is also in some sense above the games, governing them, and the one in whose honor and by whose beneficence the competition of faith is held, like many of the great provincial or city magistrates. The meanings of the word as “magistrate or ruler” and “first or initiator” are compatible and offer a double meaning in the context of the games. Not only does Jesus start the runner on his course, but also he demonstrated how the race was won.

 

Paul then singles out four of the original events of those Olympic Games as the model of our lives in Christ.

 

Remember our context is the world of the New Testament? In order to participate in the Greek games, the athlete had to be a citizen. He did not run the race to gain his citizenship. In Philippians 3:20, Paul reminds us that “our conversation [citizenship] is in Heaven.” Because we are already the children of God through faith in Christ, we have the responsibility of “running the race” and achieving the goals God has set for us.

 

All of the metaphors Paul uses for the Christian life allude to opposing forces we struggle against. Hence, his word pictures of warfare, races, struggles, and building. So all of life is a struggle [an agony] to please Christ.

 

Paul was particularly fond of the figure of the Race. He uses such phrases as “run in a race” (1 Cor. 9:24), “running well” (Gal. 5:7), and “run in vain” (Phil. 2:16). This is also the figure used by the writer in Hebrews 12:1-3.

Of the different games the New Testament mentions four: foot racing, boxing, chariot racing, and wrestling. The footrace is mentioned most frequently. In each of these pictures of athletic life as employed in the New Testament there is a prominent special viewpoint of the spiritual life and effort.

 

        The Foot racing looks forward to the heavenly prize, and nothing can be tolerated that may disqualify (1st Corinthians 9.24-26a).. “Do you not know that those running in a race-course all run indeed, but one attains the prize. Run thus, that you may win. Everyone who contends is self-disciplined in everything, that they indeed might win a perishable victor’s crown [cf. Gal 2:2], but we an imperishable. Therefore I run thus, not as if uncertainly; I box thus, not as if shadow-boxing; but I punch my body and I treat it harshly [like beating a slave], lest perhaps having proclaimed to others, I myself should become a failure” (1 Cor 9:24–27).

 

        Boxing points to our opposition to the enemy in us (1st Corinthians 9.26b-27). I box thus, not as if shadow-boxing; but I punch my body and I treat it harshly [like beating a slave), lest perhaps having proclaimed to others, I myself should become a failure” (1 Cor 9:24–27).

 

        Wrestling refers to our fight with the powers of darkness around us. Ephesians 6:12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.

 

        Chariot Racing looks at the intense focus needed to finish the race. Philippians 3:13-14 Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, 14 I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Bible students are not agreed as to the exact sport Paul is describing, whether the footrace or the chariot race. Either one will do, but my own preference is the chariot race. The Greek chariot, used in the Olympic Games and other events, was really only a small platform with a wheel on each side. The driver had very little to hold on to as he raced around the course. He had to lean forward and strain every nerve and muscle to maintain balance and control the horses. The verb “reaching forth” in Philippians 3:13 literally means “stretching as in a race.” The idea is stretching to reach the mark of conformity to Jesus. Rom. 12:2 Are you stretching?

 

For more from Discover the Book Ministries, please visit  discoverthebook.org.

 

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