Wednesday, June 20, 2012


I'm in the process of giving a couple of suggestions for the avoidance of the creation of idols in your life whether in the arena of sports or any other venue. This is the third and final such post. 

[A personal word...I'll be away from the ability to check the comments made for a few days , but I'll eventually respond to all.] 

The first suggestion, in the last post, was that we learn to see ALL things as gifts from God [1 Corinthians 4] and as resources for making life better, but only God is the source for what makes life worth living. That means that all things in our life will have a proper place, whether it's some activity or a relationship, but they [things or relationships] will neither suffer from neglect nor control you. In other words, they NEVER become a substitute for God in your life.

Now for the second suggestion to help us with idol making. It is that we learn to understand that  Christianity is NOT something you do, Christianity is who you are by the grace and life of God Himself. He is NOT FIRST in some hierarchical list of things you do, but He is your life.  

To reinforce and illustrate this point, I'm going to change metaphors in this present post from the last two. You may recall the illustration of the hub and spokes that I used in the last two posts, I want to use an old illustration now that I first heard in a message by my friend Rich Anthony, pastor of the Grace Fellowship Church, in Norman Oklahoma. No illustration is perfect and, in fact, any would leave something to be desired. But they help I think. 

Think of a one gallon jar. [Picture this in your mind as we go along.] Think of a number of stones laying beside it. Each stone has a name. Wife, [or husband] kids, job, church attendance, financial giving, recreation, physical exercise, school, paying debts, social activities, favorite sports teams, you name it, it's there. Now place all the stones in the jar. [Do you see it?] 

Let's assume the jar is big enough to hold ALL of them although the stones may be of differing sizes representing differing levels of significance that each may have to you. 

Now, [in your mind] slowly pour water in the jar until it is full to the brim. What you wind up having is a jar, stones, and water. Now the interpretation.

The jar is YOU in union with Christ. [You are Christ's and Christ is God's. 1 Corinthians 3:23.] He IS your life and He is your source for life worth living. He's your all and in all because He is the essence of life itself and you are IN UNION WITH HIM. 

The stones are things you do and relationships you have with people and possessions like money, time, marriage, job, church people and so forth. No one is saying each is the same in importance. They're not obviously. But you will see in a moment that all are to be viewed as sacred because of who you are. 

The water is the Holy Spirit [in you] who permeates and touches every thing and every relationship that is part of your life. He touches everything. There is no separation from anything that is you. Because He is the essence of your life ALL OF YOUR LIFE IS SACRED. [Remember, no illustration is perfect and cannot completely show the truth of spiritual things.]

Now___whatever it is that you DO, you will always be DOING it as a Christian. Where you GO, you will always be GOING there as a Christian. The Christian experience is NOT doing different kinds of THINGS such as bible reading/prayer as opposed to movies, golf or yard work, or going to different kinds of PLACES, such as church/revival meetings as opposed to work, sporting events, or fishing.  

This is why the things done in life or places you go in life CANNOT be called sacred as opposed to secular, because all of your life experiences are sacred experiences by virtue of WHO YOU ARE IN CHRIST. This was made clear in my last post. 

Some things you could choose to do and some places you could choose to go might be chosen against, it is true. But this is NOT because they are secular as opposed to sacred, evil as opposed to godly, or unchristian as opposed to Christian. You and I would do or not do, go or not go, because of something entirely different. We do all things we do for His "glory." [Doxa] That simply means we recognize Him present and real in it all. You are free to go or do on that basis biblically. It is NOT declaring things good or bad.

Paul the Apostle clearly had this understanding when he warned against adultery or fornication as a Christian. In 1 Corinthians 6:15 he says this, "What? Know you not that he who is joined to an harlot is one body? For two, said He, shall be one flesh." Then in verse 20 he said, "for you are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body and your spirit, which are God's."

Sex is neither sinful nor holy within itself. For the Christian, if sex is performed as the celebration of marriage, it is a holy action. [Hebrews says the marriage bed is undefiled.] For the Christian, if sex is performed outside the celebration of marriage, it is an unholy act. 

 So it is whose/who we are that makes something good or bad, right or wrong, helpful or hurtful, not whether it's a sacred or secular thing or place. That kind of dualistic thinking may make it easy to measure how YOU think you're doing spiritually, but it DOESN'T measure anything spiritual in reality. Paul the Apostle declares in 1 Corinthians 2:14-16 that you ARE spiritual.

So seeing all things as gifts from God to you, and seeing that being a Christian is NOT something you do, but who you are, which impacts ALL you do, will keep ANYTHING from being a substitute [idol] for God in your life because He IS YOUR LIFE. [Read this statement again.]

I will summarize with this concluding word....

1___All things are yours as a Christian. [1 Corinth. 4]

2___Nothing is to be done out of FEAR, [If He's not first He will be angry, if He's not first, I won't be blessed.]  but because of FAITH. [Perfect love casts our fear]

3___Sports and sporting events are, as are all other things, just tools or resources for the Christian and can make life a little more pleasurable, but are not secular or evil things within themselves.  

4___Religious things like church attendance, bible reading, giving, are just tools or resources for the Christian to make life a little better but are not sacred or spiritual things either. They have their time and place in your life but don't measure your spirituality by them. 

[If you go to church MORE or LESS than you go to football games for example or if you read your bible MORE or LESS than you read the newspaper you're more spiritual than someone else.]

5___The Christian life is Christ as my life. Now I can choose to go places and choose to do things not because some are sacred and some are secular, but because I'm a Christian in ALL THINGS and NO THING will be an idol in my life.  I can do ALL THINGS for His glory. 

Paul B.


Aussie John said...


And that is what worship is all about!

Steve Miller said...

Thanks Paul,

Great illustrations. I trust I have your permission to share these in the appropriate setting. There is such freedom in knowing that with God as the HUB or the source for all I need, that I am with Him all day in communion and not just tied to a specific time. It is better to have the wheel continually rolling along if you will rather than me continually trying to set up a ladder of priorities. Makes it kind of difficult to "abide". As someone has stated, "worship is all that I am in response to all that He is."


Victorious said...

Well, after I finished reading another article this evening, I definitely felt like garbage. He implied that as a response to grace, we would "passionately" pursue "Bible intake, prayer, worship, evangelism, serving, stewardship, fasting, silence and solitude, journaling, and learning" and that anything less falls short of “living worthy of our calling.”

I remember many years ago someone asked Kathryn Kulmann how often or how long she spent in prayer each day. Without hesitation, she said, "my whole life is a prayer."

I love your jar illustration, Paul. 1 Tim.6:17 says our hope is in God "who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy." NASB

Still the guilt laying sermons are difficult to ignore. ....sigh....

I'll have to re-read your 3-pt. series to digest it completely. Thank you very much for your words of wisdom.

Paul Burleson said...

Aussie J, Steve, and V,

I'm back from a week in Florida without my computer and not too good on my I-Phone, but, glad to get to respond to all of you today.

V, I wrote them and will probably need to re-read them to remember what I said. LOL

Thanks to all of you for your faithful reading and commenting. I love writing a blog and not sure all the reasons, but it does keep me thinking. Maybe that's enough!