Thursday, September 10, 2009

baseball and the great commission

i have been writing a bi-weekly column for a couple of local newspapers for the past few months. writing is something i never really aspired to do- i just sort of stumbled into it thanks to a particularly relentless case of insomnia that lasted for weeks several years ago. i started a blog with the hope that clearing out my head would help me sleep. i don't know that it did, but over the years i have kept writing at the lowercase and have had a few bible studies and articles on christianity and culture published by a couple of different magazines. the following is an article that will be in a future issue (2010) of stand firm magazine. (the "charlie chasing birds" article that i wrote about here will be in an upcoming issue of homelife magazine ).

even if you don't like baseball, i hope you will find it helpful/encouraging. (and yes, it is capitalized.... they make me do it or they won't publish it...)________________________________________

I am a lifelong St. Louis Cardinals baseball fan. I was raised to be one and have embraced the team that I was taught to love as a child. I have seen the Cardinals play in person dozens of times and I have watched them on TV or listened in on the radio hundreds more. My father and uncle groomed me to be a Cardinals fan. They bought me t-shirts and caps (not “hats”!), took me to games, and watched games with me on TV.

I remember my uncle showing me how to read box scores in the newspaper and how to fill out a scorecard. I vividly remember my first game that my dad and uncle took me to when I was in elementary school. The Cards played the Mets- and lost. But I remember the smell, the largest crowd I had ever seen in my life, and seeing my heroes in person for the first time.

Now, as a grown man with children of my own living far away from my family, I still watch whenever a game is on (which is rare where I live) and listen in my office on the internet. I have memorabilia and souvenirs at the house and in my office. I cried literal tears of joy when they won their 10th world series in 2006. I am and always will be a Cardinal Fan.

But the thing is- I can make my own decisions now. There are several things my family enjoys that I do not- I have different tastes and opinions. but I am still a Cardinals fan- because I want to be one. I don’t just love them because my family taught me to have them as my favorite team- they *are* my favorite team because I willingly give them a place in my attention and affections- and that brings me joy.

A lot of us grew up in “Christian Homes” where we were taken to church and taught the songs and stories about Jesus. We were given Bibles, told to consider church as important and enjoyed things that took place there. We remember VBS and Sunday School and all of the sights, smells, and sounds of church meals, pageants, and other activities. These are good things and things we should be grateful for. However, the danger is that we might grow up and try to live life with our parents faith-only valuing Christ because they do/did, attending church because it is what they think we should do, and only knowing about the Bible what we were told by someone else. The danger is that in doing this we will find that we have no passion for our faith because it isn’t ours!

That is why Scripture exhorts us to not only know “about” God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, Church, etc., but to grow in that knowledge and embrace the faith as our own! [1 Cor. 14:20; Heb. 5:12; 6:1; 1 Peter 2:2] We do not achieve salvation on borrowed faith. Salvation is based on individual repentance and faith.[1] Our faith must be our own.

When you embrace your relationship with Jesus as your own and are fueled by your own passion for who He is and what He has done (i.e. the Gospel), then you will find that you can’t help but share and spread your joy and its object to others. As C.S. Lewis noted, our joy is at its fullest and most complete when it is expressed or shared[2].

That is why my dad and uncle wanted me to love St. Louis Cardinal baseball-because it brought them joy and they wanted me to have joy in it as well. That is why my children already have St. Louis t-shirts, onesies, baseballs, cups, caps, etc. I hope they will have a lifelong joy of being a fan of their favorite team. But the proof of *their* fanhood will be the joy they get out of following the team that is not out of duty or loyalty to me.

I hope my children will say of me that I loved the Gospel and my Savior more than anything else. My wife and I pray for and with them, take them to church, and teach them about Jesus. We want them to know He is the most important thing in our lives. We want them to have memories of Sunday School and VBS and Children’s Choir musicals. We want them to remember fondly all of the activities and people they grow up with and encounter at church. We want to pass on to our children a passion for the glory of God and the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

But our hope is not that they will carry on our “religious traditions”, believing what we believe out of nostalgia or blind obedience to us. But rather we hope and pray that one day their passion for him will exceed our own- that they will lay claim to it for themselves! And that is how the Great Commission will be accomplished- God’s people spreading the Gospel that they themselves have embraced and grown to love, and spreading it out of their joy.

[1] This is not to say that we *make* our own faith. Obviously there are things within historic and orthodox Christianity that true believers can disagree on yet remain in the faith. However, there is but one Gospel and we are not free to pick and choose and make our own faith a’la carte. The point is, it is not enough to have been told to believe the gospel, and to know the lingo and all that comes with it. It is not enough to have been “brought up in church”. We must repent of our sin (sin as defined by christ and the bible, not ourselves or the culture) and trust in Christ for the forgiveness of our sin and have His righteousness applied to us for salvation. This is what is meant by “making our faith our own”.

[2]“ I think we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment; it is its appointed consummation.” C.S. Lewis, Reflections on the Psalms, p. 94

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