Christians believe that Jesus forgives us. It is a simple act of faith. Nothing that we can do to earn or work for this forgiveness. It is a gift of grace.

 

When Jesus saw their faith, he said, "Friend, your sins are forgiven."

Americans have a cultural value of working for and earning what we get. The salvation that Jesus taught is an enigma to our culture. Surely we must do something to earn it. We often struggle with other aspects of the gift of grace. We are, Jesus says, forgiven. But we cannot forgive ourselves. We cannot forgive others.

 

God no longer sees our past sins, but we still live in the past. I have seen that real forgiveness releases the past and allows us to live today. I have made many mistakes in my past. But I am praying that I can continue to learn that God cares about what I do today. You plan for tomorrow but you live in this day. That is all we are guaranteed. And frankly, the rest of this day is not sure. So I join with Paul as he write this to the church at Philippi.

I don't mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us. NLT

I pray that I will finish strong. Allow me to take Paul's athletic metaphor and put it into my world. For twenty three seasons I have directed Major League baseball games. I am the faceless guy (actually I have a face, it just isn't on camera) that selects the camera shots that you see during a televised game. Over the years I have learned this valuable spiritual lesson from the National Pastime: I have learned how important it is to be a good closer.

 

In baseball parlance the closer is the pitcher who comes into the game in the last inning to protect the lead and finish off the win. It all comes down to the closer. If he does well the collective efforts of nine position players and the pitchers that proceeded will have a happy ending. If the closer fails all of that effort is wasted. So what is the spiritual lesson learned from a baseball closer?

 

Closing out well is critical as a follower of Christ. Sadly that is not a given. Many great men of the Bible did not finish well. They allowed the efforts of many around them to end in frustration and anguish because they did not close well. The honest portrayal of human success and failing is something I love about God's Word. It is one important aspect that makes the Bible unique and real. The Bible does not spin the failures of godly men and women. Would you write a book attempting to persuade others to your beliefs and choose to have it detail many adherents who failed miserably? With all due respect to Mr.O'Reilly, the Bible is the original "no spin zone". The successes and failures are equally displayed. Men with great stories still managed to not close well. Examples? How about the story of Saul? How sad to hear words like this at the end of your journey:

"How foolish!" Samuel exclaimed. "You have disobeyed the command of the LORD your God. Had you obeyed, the LORD would have established your kingdom over Israel forever. But now your dynasty must end, for the LORD has sought out a man after his own heart. The LORD has already chosen him to be king over his people, for you have not obeyed the LORD's command."  1 Sam 13  NLT

Imagine when the prophet came to Eli and proclaimed this dire message. What a kick in the spiritual gut this must have been: