The Pryor Times

Religion

March 15, 2012

‘March madness’

Basketball fans are excited; it’s time for “March Madness!”  Teams work hard all year to get into the NCAA tournament.  Some surprising teams will be “bracket-busters.”  Yet, everyone knows that only one team will emerge as the champion.  All the other teams will end up losing their last game of the season.  There is a lot of discussion about who will make the final four and who will eventually win the whole tournament.

The Bible often uses sports as a comparison to our lives on earth.  For example, in I Corinthians 9:24, Paul writes, “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize?  Run in such a way that you may obtain it.”  Athletes make tremendous sacrifices and work extremely hard to be crowned as champions.

In the game of life, winning is even more important.  Paul states in I Corinthians 9:25, “And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things.  Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown.”  The prize we are all seeking is the crown of life.  We want to live eternally with God in heaven.

The fact is that Jesus died for all of us so that each one of us has the opportunity to win that prize.  This is a special prize that is available for everyone.  However, Jesus says that most people will fail to receive it (Matthew 7:13-14).  Since that is the case, we cannot just go along with the crowd and expect to receive the prize, or go to heaven.

What did Paul mean when he said to run in such a way that we may obtain it?  For one thing, we must abide by the rules.  2 Timothy 2:5 says, “And also if anyone competes in athletics, he is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules.”  Can you imagine a team entering a tournament, but deciding that they would make up their own rules?  How far would they get?

Yet, many people think they can make up their own rules when it comes to seeking the crown of life.  The Jews of Paul’s day made that mistake.  Paul knew that they were lost because they tried to establish their own righteousness, rather than submitting to the righteousness of God (Romans 10:3).  Although they were zealous and worked hard, they did not obey the rules.

When it comes to worshiping God, many today feel that they can worship Him any way they choose.  The first person to ever make that mistake was Cain, way back in Genesis 4, and God rejected his offering.  God tells us exactly how He wants us to worship Him, and we must not try to substitute our own methods.  Jesus said in Matthew 15:9, “And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.”

Our worship to God must be according to truth (John 4:24).  God’s word is truth (John 17:17).  Remember that God’s ways and thoughts are higher than ours are.  The temptation is to seek worship that pleases us rather than God.  But, James 1:12 says, “Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.”  

We are warned in Proverbs 14:12, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.”  The New Testament is Christ’s final will and testament, and man has no right to try to change it.  Paul wrote in Galatians 1:8-9, “But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed.  As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.”  If we want to receive the crown of life, we must obey God’s rules.

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