Jesus Loves Me, This I know

Well, it’s February, and the luster of the “Holiday Season” has faded. Somehow, Groundhog Day just doesn’t inspire the worldwide fervor that Christmas and New Year’s do. Fifty years ago, the age-old focus on Valentine’s Day was no doubt the highlight of this month for most people, especially those in love. And then came the first Super Bowl in 1967, with #50 coming up on the 7th of this month. And you’re thinking: “OK, how can John possibly tie together Groundhog Day, Valentine’s Day, and the Super Bowl?” No problem.

First, let’s strip away the confectionary commercialism from Valentine’s Day and the MEGA-MONEY MANIA from the Super Bowl and talk about true love and true camaraderie. I’ll tie in “Punxsutawney Phil” at the end.

Pure love is what God showed in giving us His Son, and which Jesus displayed in giving his life, not only on the Cross but also day-by-day in each sinless encounter with his fellow humans, even those who murdered him. Knowing how often I fail to treat people like he did only serves to magnify my admiration for my Savior. In the revelation the Lord Jesus gave to the Apostle Paul, he summed up that pure love as follows:

1 Corinthians 13:4-8a
4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 8 Love never fails.

Our Adversary’s gross perversion of that magnificent kind of love is a self-centered, often sexually based relationship devoid of genuine, selfless commitment. At its pitiful peak, it’s you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours. And too many people seem to think it’s you scratch my back, I’ll stab yours.

Whether or not they realize it, the members of the winning Super Bowl team next Sunday will have, for at least the past seven months, put into practice a myriad of biblical principles. Chief among them are love for the game, commitment, mental focus, obedience, selfless teamwork, playing with pain, spurring on one another, and a genuine camaraderie (brotherhood) that leads to sacrificing one’s ego in order to achieve a team victory and the rewards that go with it. And as they exhaustedly savor the joy of victory, it will all have been worth it.

Surely you are grasping the strikingly amplified parallels to the spiritual contest in which we Christians are engaged day by day. Seven months ago, the Super Bowl victors set their sights on the goal of holding the Lombardi Trophy and cashing their enlarged paychecks, and during the excruciating moments along the way they translated that focus into work—blood, sweat, and tears that enabled them to reach their goal. How about you and me, who are competing for infinitely higher stakes?

2 Corinthians 4:17-18
17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

You may have heard it said that, “Christianity is a team sport.” Sure you have—I just said it—and 1 Corinthians 12:12-27, with ten uses of the word “members,” makes that very clear. Ephesians 2:19 says we are “members of the household of God,” and 4:25 says we are “members of one another.” Therefore, it’s a great idea to RE-member our members (Gal. 6:10).

I am inspired to exposit for you six phenomenal verses of Scripture (Heb. 10:19-25) that encapsulate a number of magnificent truths that are germane to the theme of this letter. Sit back and soak up the brilliance of the Word of God. Hebrews 10:18 confirms the spine-tingling truth that YOU AND I ARE FORGIVEN. Therefore…

Hebrews 10:19-22
19 Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.

You and I have signed a lifetime contract with The God Team. Not only do we have a “No trade” clause, but we can go into the Owner’s office at any time to say whatever we want to. Our Player-Coach shed his blood to make us who we are in him and give us that unlimited access to the Front Office. As a player who mastered every position, Jesus was challenged in every way we are, he feels our pain, he appreciates our desire to live for him, and he is superb at instructing us in the nuances of the game to help us maximize our performance. So let us make every effort to take full advantage of the privilege and provision we have as members of the greatest franchise in His-story.

Hebrews 10:23
Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.

We DO WIN in the end, and THERE WILL BE a rather l-e-n-g-t-h-y victory celebration. Whatever it takes for you and me to persevere in spiritual excellence WILL BE WORTH IT in ways proportionate to GOD’S UNFATHOMABLE GOODNESS, and thus beyond our wildest dreams. One big difference between the competition we face and the two teams squaring off in the Super Bowl is that we know ahead of time who wins—they don’t.

If you have ever played on a team, you know that there is a lot of “reproof and correction,” especially in the heat of a critical moment during the game. As a basketball point guard in college, I grabbed more than one larger person’s jersey (the same color as mine) and lovingly exhorted him, “Set the (expletive) pick next time!” Why? Because I cared about him, and I cared about WINNING, as I knew he did. I also learned about my teammates and how to deal with each one according to his individual makeup. You can’t believe how that makeup runs when you sweat during a game.   

Hebrews 10:24
And let us consider [deeply think about] how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds,

In verse 24, the words “spur one another on” are one Greek word from which we get the English medical term “paroxysm,” which is a seizure. It basically means to prick someone and make him respond. It’s like Proverbs 27:6, “Faithful are the slaps on the butt from a friendly teammate.” “Come on, bro, you’re better than that! Get your head in the game!” But how could you encourage me if I were not at the venue and in the game? You couldn’t, and the team would suffer the loss of my abilities. 

Hebrews 10:25
not giving up meeting together [episunagoge], as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging [parakaleo] one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

The word episunagoge is used only one other place in Scripture, 2 Thessalonians 2:1: “Now, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him…” Think about the context of each of the only two places where God uses this word. Could we not conclude that heart-to-heart fellowship with our teammates is to be the sweetest thing this side of the appearing of Christ to take us all out of here? I think so. Biblically speaking, we are supposed to be addicted to such fellowship. That is, we refuse to live without it. Were you ever that way? Are you now? If so, and if not, what changed?

So, with whom are you engaged in what spiritual endeavor for the sake of Christ? Of course, there are many ways to do that. Optimally, you would be part of a thriving local fellowship that is building up its members in quality and quantity, in part by continually showing the One Day With The Creator class. So what can you do to help make that happen? Short of that, you could be a regular and active participant in our weekly and monthly online fellowships. You could get together with some guys or gals for lunch once a week and talk about what the Lord is doing in your lives. You could at least be diligent with a prayer partner. You could run the ODWTC class for one person. Take stock of your life, and if you have been too removed from your Christian family members, then MOVE YOURSELF into koinonia with them.

Seriously, dear brethren, God’s Word makes it clear that this is not optional behavior, and when we each appear at the Judgment Seat of Christ, he will accept no excuses about why we did not obey him in this regard. Yes, the bottom line is obedience. Furthermore, if you are not heartily engaged with other believers on The Mission, you are depriving them of your ministry, and being deprived of theirs.

“And starting at quarterback, Number 2, a twenty-three pound rodent from Pennsylvania, Punxsutawney Phil!” So how does Groundhog Day relate to all of the above? Simple. Sometimes the Groundhog sees his shadow, which supposedly means six more weeks of winter. But with the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom comes “every good and perfect gift,” there is “no variation or shadow of turning.” Our Father’s pure love is unconditional and unwavering, come rain or come shine. And our Lord Jesus, the Head of our spiritual union, helps us knit our hearts together as a winning team. 

What is it that you and I are part of? The Greatest Love Story Ever Told. The Camaraderie of the Committed. The Ultimate Band of Brothers. Think about that as you listen to the apropos lyrics of Bill Withers in Lean On Me. We know that our Lord Jesus Christ is The One we can always lean on, for he is our Rock. He is also the glue that holds our team together as we cleave unto him, and the one in whom we find our true unity. And so, as per Psalm 61:2, I will close with what to you may be a familiar phrase: “See you at THE ROCK!”

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