We Chose The Clowns

A lady who worked for CBS said online that she had a hard time sympathizing with the victims of the Las Vegas shooting because most of them probably were against gun control.

Pat Robertson, a televangelist who has made a career out of saying things that are unbiblical, linked the massacre to NFL players taking a knee during the national anthem.

These statements were made by people with completely different worldviews but the root of their words are the same. Both statements are grounded in self-righteousness.

Jesus addressed this mentality during his ministry on earth. For everything that has changed in 2,000 years, not a lot has changed. We still like to think of ourselves being better than we really are.

A tyrannical government official had used his power to conduct his own massacre. While a group of people were worshiping, he had them killed. In response, people came to Jesus with the same basic mentality as the girl from CBS who had no sympathy for the victims and the televangelist who had no biblical clarity.

Self-righteousness is nothing new.

The thinking in Jesus’ day was that if anything bad happened to you it was because you had it coming and God was punishing you. So the group that was not massacred was somehow better than the group that was. That was the way that many people saw it, at least.

But it wasn’t the way that Jesus saw it.

And he answered them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.” Luke 13:2-3 (ESV)

In her own way, the media executive was putting herself above the victims because of her progressive views on gun control. And the televangelist was elevating himself because he has done such a stellar job of respecting the president.

Jesus’ words, as usual, give us cause for self-reflection. Rather than asking why a loving God would allow the massacre in Las Vegas to happen, we need to ask a different question. But it is a question that we’ll never ask in our self-righteousness. This question requires humility.

I don’t love God like I should. I certainly don’t always love my neighbor as myself. And yet, I woke up this morning and got out of bed without the assistance of anything other than my alarm clock. I had a great breakfast with my wife and sons. I arrived safely at a men’s Bible study where I taught without fear of persecution. So here’s the better question.

Why would a just God allow someone like me who routinely breaks the Great Commandment to carry on as I do?

We are no better than the Galilean victims, the victims of the tower in Siloam that fell (Luke 13:4) or the victims in Las Vegas. We deserve much worse than what they endured. The fact that we haven’t received our just rewards is a testimony, not to our complete moral purity but to the grace of God.

Grace.

That’s something that we can always count on when tragedy hits.

Whenever disaster strikes, grace strikes with it. Always. You just have to be humble enough to slow down and take a look.

In the case of the murdered Galileans, grace was seen in Jesus’ compassionate call. There is, he was saying, a way to be rescued from perishing. But it comes through repentance. It requires laying aside our self-righteousness and taking on the perfect righteousness of Christ. No amount of political progressivism or religious babble can save us from our impending doom. We aren’t righteous enough. Jesus is. That’s what Jesus was telling his misguided inquisitors. And his message is just as true for us today.

In our world where everything is offensive, being told to repent or you will perish isn’t exactly the best way to win over a crowd. People are drowning in a sea of self-righteousness and they’re too comfortable in their despair to even consider the drastic changes that are necessary and the hope that can be found in Christ.

All of my life I’ve been told that Christians are self-righteous. I can’t disagree with that. We are. But it doesn’t stop with us. There are those who seek to atone for themselves through political action, violent action, or no action. There are those who claim to be compassionate and loving and are willing to prove it to you by demonstrating how cold and hateful than can be to people on the other side.

We all need to repent.

We all need Jesus.

Otherwise, we will all perish.

Jimmy Kimmel, we are now told, is America’s conscience. That should tell you how far we’ve gone in the wrong direction. When a nation abandons God and absolute truth, it looks to a comedian for direction. TV critic Hank Stuever writes, “Lacking leaders, we look to class clowns to guide us.”

It’s like we’re living in the Upsided Down of Judges, the book that begins with people asking, “Who will lead us?” and ends tragically with, “Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.”

Our eyes are telling us that our righteousness is enough.

Our words and actions are proving our eyes wrong.

We don’t need more politicians, money grabbing TV preachers or calloused crusaders hiding under a thin veil of faux compassion. At some point in the future, when an honest account is given as to what went wrong with our society, two simple sentences will suffice.

We needed a Savior.

But we chose the clowns.

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Stopping The Cycle Of Self-Righteousness

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It’s called passing the blame. We all do it. We do it because it makes us feel better about ourselves. It gives us a sense of righteousness. But it’s a false sense of righteousness and Jesus doesn’t care for it.

Person A does something terrible and he gets caught. Red handed. There’s no getting out of it. He could repent but that would require a measure of humility, a lacking quality in the character of Person A. So Person A does what seems most logical. He takes a look at Person B and finds that Person B has done the exact same thing. Or, even better for Person A, something much worse. Problem solved. At the very least, Person A is no worse than anyone else on the planet. But most likely, as he sees it and in spite of his wrong doing, he’s actually much better than everyone else.

The problem here is that we are not called to meet the standard of Person B. We are called to meet the standard of a holy God. And we all fail miserably. So when we carry on about how much better we are than the other fellow we sound an awful lot like the out of shape man in his 30s who can’t quit talking about how good his high school football team was. No one cares. It doesn’t matter.

Jesus told a story to get across just how much he hates this type of self-righteousness (Luke 18:9-14).

A well-respected religious man went to the temple to pray. He would have been better off staying at home. Rather that pleading with and worshiping God, this man used his time of prayer to show God what a great guy he is.

“God, thank you for making me so awesome. I am so much better than all of the sinners out there, especially that heathen on the other side of the room. Oh, and I also wanted to remind you that I make the effort to tithe even more than I’m supposed to. I’ll bet you don’t come across very many people like me. You’re welcome.”

On the other side of the room, another prayer was being spoken. But this one was different. It was much more simple. And much more humble.

“God, I deserve death but I ask for your mercy. I am a sinner.”

The man who prayed the first prayer was a member of the religious establishment. He was well-respected and well-taught. The crowd listening to Jesus’ story was most likely expecting Jesus to commend this man, simply because he belonged to the right group.

But instead of commending him, Jesus condemned him.

It was the second man, a hated tax-collector, who Jesus said went home justified. His humble cry for mercy was heard and the transition was made from sinner to justified.

Pay attention the next time a politician or one of the toddlers living in your home does something foolish. You won’t have to wait long and, chances are, you’ll have a hard time telling the difference between the toddler and the politician. Notice the response when they get caught. More than likely, the response is something closer to self-righteousness than genuine humility.

“But he did it too!”

Now pay attention to your own tendency to respond in the same way when you are convicted or exposed in some particular sin. Remember, that you are not called to measure your sin against the sins of another. No matter how much better than the other guy you convince yourself that you are, you still fall short of God’s standard.

And that leaves you with only one logical prayer.

“God, be merciful to me, a sinner!”

Sin will always be your master until you come to grips with your need for the Master’s mercy.

“I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” Luke 18:14 (ESV)

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The Myth Of White Privilege

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We need to have an honest conversation about white privilege. The current one just isn’t working.

Yes, there is such a thing as white privilege. It’s quite common for a white thief to get away with simply paying back his victims while a black person who does the same thing get 3 to 5 years in prison and ten years of probation.

But the myth is that privilege is somehow confined to one particular race.

There’s just something funny about the Black Lives Matter activist drinking a $12 cup of coffee while typing away on his $2000 laptop about the horrors of white privilege. The white kid in Boone County, West Virginia where they are about to close one third of their elementary schools might wonder where his white privilege has run off to. He might even have something to say about Activist Privilege.

I did my graduate work at an evangelical seminary. During my time there, I got to know guys who were certifiable geniuses. While I was writing papers just do get them out of the way, the papers these guys wrote were destined to one day become books. It was interesting to hear what these guys were going to do next. Many of them planned on continuing their education and getting doctoral degrees. They dreamed of getting accepted to Yale or Harvard or some other prestigious east coast school.

Most of them didn’t get in. But why? It wasn’t because they weren’t smart enough or didn’t work hard enough. Their rejection was due to the fact that those prestigious schools had a quota of how many evangelicals they would accept into their school of theology. My genius, evangelical friends suffered from Liberal Theology Privilege.

That’s one reason why our current conversation about white privilege needs to change. It acts as though no one else is or can be privileged.

The current remedy to white privilege is guilt. Beat yourself up for being white and avoid commenting on any social issues for a while and maybe, just maybe, you can appease the political correctness gods before it’s too late.

The Bible gives us a better remedy.

 

Contentment.

Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. Philippians 4:11-13 (ESV)

Contentment is the enemy of greed and the opposite of guilt. When I am content, I rejoice with my neighbor when he works hard and saves wisely to pay cash for an automobile that I can’t afford. Contentment prevents me from looking down on him and from thinking that I’m somehow better than he is simply for having less.

But we aren’t content. We don’t know how to live when we are brought low. We think that everyone else needs to be brought low with us and that if they don’t they are evil. And we don’t know how to abound. We place our identity in what we have and we always want more. Without contentment, whether you’re poor or rich, white or black, male or female, you will always be greedy. Always.

There is a secret to successfully navigating our way through failure, success, privilege and greed.

Christ.

Doing all things through Christ’s strength wasn’t written to help football teams win state championships. It was written for entitled people who think that they deserve more and who are tempted to hate others who have more. It was written for you and me.

In one way or another, we are all privileged. And we’ll do anything we can to both deny our privilege and keep it.

Jesus took a different approach with his privilege.

He gave it up. He didn’t give up being God. He didn’t give up his personhood or the essence of who he is. He just gave up his privilege.

Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Philippians 2:4-8 (ESV)

Maybe if we followed that example, instead of living in a perpetual state of guilt or self-righteousness, we would all start getting along a little better. All of this guilt and self-righteousenss is preventing us from loving one another. It’s a breeding ground for hate. But if we live with the mind of Christ (Philippians 2:4), we can begin to love our neighbor and pursue his good. Otherwise, when injustices happen to him, we’ll just think that he got what he deserved.

If you want to play the I’m Bigger, Badder, Richer and More Important Than You game, you’ll never win. There is always someone with a little more. Even Donald Trump can’t win that game. The same is true of the other game, the one called, I’m More Abused, Harassed, Rejected and Poor Than You Are. There is always someone with a little less. You’re not going to win.

So instead of basking in your privilege or seething at the privilege of others, be content with who you are and where God has you. Come to grips with the fact that, no matter your color, you are privileged. But instead of comparing your privilege to others, follow the example of Christ.

Put it to the side.

And move toward others in love.

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You Are Going To Sin Today

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There’s no question about it. You are going to sin today.

Here’s the real question.

What are you going to do about it?

My son asked me a good question the other day. His soccer game was about to start and we were talking strategy.

“But dad, what do we do if the other team comes up with something that messes our plan up?”

That’s when I explained to him that any good strategy always takes into consideration what should happen if that strategy falls apart.

You should always have a strategy to avoid sin. You should have a plan for what to stay away from and how to do it. But Satan is pretty good at messing up that plan. Even if Satan left us all alone, we would still find a way to mess things up all by ourselves. One way or another, weaknesses in both your strategy and your flesh will be exposed. You will sin. What then?

You can cover it up by comparing yourself to others who you figure are much worse off than you are. You can say along with the Pharisee in Luke 18, “God, I thank you that I am not like other men. I’m not gay. I’m not an adulterer. I don’t do drugs. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.” And you’ll start to feel pretty good about yourself. Maybe even real good. Good enough even to forget that you have a sin problem.

When you forget that you have a sin problem, you also forget about the One who came to remedy that problem. Sure, you’ll talk about Jesus a lot. You may even pray to him and sing about him. But he’ll always just be your buddy and never your Savior. Only sinners need a Savior, remember?

That’s the problem with self-righteousness. It’s always based on your standard of righteousness and your standard always has something to do with how much better you are than someone else. But no matter how much better you are than the rest of the world, you’re still not good enough to meet God’s standard. Jesus told us what that standard is.

“You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Matthew 6:48 (ESV)

If you feel like you’ve somehow met that standard on your own, please stop reading now and go ask God to have mercy on your soul.

Self-righteousness isn’t the only way to react to the sin that will inevitably come your way. You can embrace your sin. You can even build an identity around it. And all the while you’ll tell yourself that you’re just being real. So when you stay up all night looking at pornography, you don’t really have a lust problem. You’re just being authentic. And in your own self-righteous way, you’ll thank God that you are not like other men who are, well, self-righteous.

While you’re busy being so authentic, you’ll forget something. Sin is never authentic. At it’s core, sin is always built on a lie. We saw it in the first sin where Satan convinced Eve to question God’s command (Genesis 3:1). And you see it today when a man believes the lie that there is somehow more fulfillment in having sex with his secretary than with his wife. It is impossible to live an authentic life that is at the same time devoted to sin.

Real authenticity means that you come to grips with your sin. You acknowledge it. But instead of building your own little kingdom around it or covering it up, you confess it to Jesus and ask him to help you to make war against it.

Following Christ is an act of spiritual violence. It involves continually putting to death the sin that you would rather cover up or embrace.

Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. Colossians 3:5-7 (ESV)

A strategy is important. But it is only as good as its reaction when things start to unravel.

Before one of his fights, reporters were asking Mike Tyson about his opponent. They wanted to know how Mike would respond to the other fighter’s speed. They wanted to know Mike’s plan for winning the fight. That’s when Mike Tyson rattled off this gem.

“Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.”

You will get punched in the mouth today.

Please don’t pretend that you’re not getting hit.

And please don’t build your identity around the fact that you get hit a lot.

By the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit, fight back.

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Ephesians 6:12-13 (ESV)

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Simon And The Prostitute

We’ve gotten grace all wrong.

Once I heard a preacher say that churches needed to start putting altars in the parking lot so that people could get their act together before coming in. That little zinger got a lot of Amens. But it wasn’t grace. Self-righteousness? Sure. But not grace.

Many people have grown up under this kind of gracelessness. Do more. Try harder. That wasn’t quite enough. This guy did it better. Work, work, work, so that Jesus will love you more. This is the exact opposite of the grace that Jesus modeled, taught and distributed.

As a result, some have swung too far the other way and mistaken grace for apathy. They have managed to convince themselves, and others, that grace means that Jesus doesn’t care about sin. At least not your sin. He certainly cares about the sins of whatever group you happen to not like very much but he’s cool with your sin. In this faulty view, Jesus is like the the parent at the park who can’t quit texting while his kid pushes other kids off of the slide and takes candy from strangers.

The Bible gives us a much better picture of grace in Luke 7:36-50.

Jesus had been invited to the home of a religious leader named Simon. Most likely, Simon wasn’t looking to spend some quality time with his Lord. He was probably looking to trap Jesus or find some sort of dirt on him. During the dinner, Simon seemed to have the perfect opportunity to expose Jesus as something less than the promised Messiah.

A “woman of the city” came into the room where the people were eating and began washing Jesus’ feet. “Woman of the city” doesn’t mean that this lady liked to shop at Bloomingdale’s and drove a smart car. It was first century talk for a prostitute. This woman sold her body for sex. And now she was washing Jesus’ feet.

Clearly, this was all of the proof Simon needed that Jesus wasn’t God. If he was, he wouldn’t let a woman like that even come close to him. That’s what Simon thought to himself (v. 39). But here’s the thing about thinking something to yourself. Jesus always knows what you’re thinking. So he confronted Simon in his self-righteous skepticism.

He rebuked Simon for his smugness and lack of hospitality. And then Jesus did something no one was expecting.

He forgave that woman of the city. He took away the sins of the prostitute. Not because she washed his feet or somehow loved him first but because of his love. He forgave the woman because of his grace.

The words Jesus says about the woman as he forgives her are interesting.

“Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” Luke 7:47 (ESV)

“Which are many.”

Jesus didn’t excuse her sins. He didn’t look past her sins. He stared them in the eye. And then he forgave.

For many today, grace means that Jesus should have ignored this woman’s “mistakes,” started managing her clientele and told her to continue on with her business. But that wouldn’t be grace. Jesus didn’t come to affirm us in our sins and he didn’t die for people who could get their act together on their own. He came for sinners. He came for the women of the city. He spent time at tables with sinners on earth so that they could spend eternity at his table (Revelation 19:9).

It’s is often pointed out that Jesus ate with sinners. In the account of Luke 7:36-50, this is true. He ate with sinners. Plural. That “woman of the city” wasn’t the only sinner he ate with. He ate with another sinner named Simon. And there were more differences between Simon and the prostitute than their gender and means of income. What really set them apart was what they did with the sins that they both had.

Simon’s sins were socially acceptable. But socially acceptable sins still send people to hell. They keep people from seeing Jesus for who he really is.

The prostitute’s sins were many. But she took her many sins to Jesus. And he took them away. Sins, both great and small, keep people from Jesus. Until Jesus’ grace intervenes. And when he takes aim for a sinful heart, no matter how broken, his grace is always enough.

Grace isn’t working hard to get it all together so that Jesus will love you more.

And grace isn’t covering over your sins and convincing yourself that Jesus either doesn’t know or doesn’t care about your sins.

Grace is when Jesus sees the depth of your depravity even better than you do. And then he forgives you.

Your sins keep you from God. We all know that.

But so does your self-righteousness.

Whether you’re a Simon or a woman of the city, you need grace.

Your Church Needs Holy Water

If there’s one thing that is missing in protestant churches, it’s holy water.

I’m not talking about the kind that Catholics put in a bowl in the back of their sanctuary. I’m talking about a different kind of water all together. The kind that Jesus commends.

“Blessed are the pour in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” Matthew 5:3-4 (ESV)

Tears. They are the holy water that grows in a heart that is broken before God. They make up the holy water that pour from the eyes of those who are truly broken over sin. And not just the sins of our friends, co-workers and countrymen. Our sins. God is pleased when we are broken over our own sins.

But we have grown comfortable. Our sin isn’t sin anymore. It’s love. Or a medical condition. Or a misunderstanding. Anything but sin.

A while back my son had something in his eye. Whatever it was, it wasn’t good. Judging from the way he was crying, I’m guessing that there was a Lego in there somewhere. The tears kept coming. They didn’t stop until they had done their job. In the process of crying, my son’s tears had cleaned out whatever foreign object was in his eye.

That’s how brokenness over sin works. Tears clear our spiritual eyes of all of the self-righteous clutter that’s been blocking our vision. They are evidence that we are beginning to see the gospel more clearly.

It’s not that Jesus wanted us to cry as an end in itself. Anyone can cry. And it wasn’t his aim to convince his people to live in a state of continual depression over their sin. Jesus knew that we would never see the beauty of the gospel until we first saw the ugliness of our sin. In him, our tears of brokenness over sin are transformed into tears of joy because we have been forgiven.

But we have no tears because we have convinced ourselves that we have no sin. And as a result, we have no genuine forgiveness. Who needs forgiveness when all that we’re guilty of is a misunderstanding or a medical condition? Oh, what good Pharisees we make.

Jesus didn’t just die for sins.

He died for your sins. And mine.

The cross is not a giant plus sign reminding us of how awesome God thinks we are. The fact that it took the death of God’s Son to take care of my sins, should move me to tears of horror over my brokenness. That fact that God’s Son willingly took my place on that instrument of torture to change my identity from sinner to saint should move me to tears of joy over God’s love and grace.

Sin is not what separates genuine followers of Christ from all others. Sin is the common link that all natural men share. What truly separates Jesus’ followers from his enemies is the reaction to sin.

The self-righteous choose to ignore their sin, looking only to their qualifications and the shortcomings of others. And they miss grace.

Those who truly trust in Christ’s perfect righteousness, cry out to their Savior, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner! (Luke 18:13).” They are well aware of their sins. And they are well aware of God’s grace.

In Jesus’ story, things are upside down. The good, religious man misses grace. The bad guy goes home justified. But that’s how things work in God’s economy.

The broken are blessed with the gospel of grace.

Those who have it all together are the ones who are really broken. And they don’t even know it.

Which are you?

Trampoline Grace

We bought a trampoline. And now, every moment outdoors has been spent on it. Once we save up enough money, my wife and I might get one for the kids.

I’m not the type of parent that buys a lot of things for my kids. My favorite word is no. My second favorite word is not now. That’s two words but you get the picture. But it does make me happy to give things to my kids. Things that they enjoy. They spend hours every day enjoying that trampoline. And they enjoy it so much that they feel like they have to do their part to earn what was given to them.

Last Sunday afternoon, my son came up to me with his hands behind his back. He had a grin on his face and he said that he had something for me. He pulled his hands out from behind his back. They were both together, making one fist. When his tiny fingers opened up there was money laying on the palms of his hand. One dollar and fifty cents.

“Dad, thank you for buying us that trampoline. Here’s something to help pay for it.”

A smile came to my face as I lovingly explained to him that this was nowhere near enough money to pay for that trampoline. But we set up a payment plan and, with the 30% interest that I added, he should be in the clear by his 35th birthday.

There’s something inside of all of us that wants to make things even. It’s the reason why you say, “No, I got it!” when your friend offers to pay for lunch even though you really want him to pay. And it’s the reason why Peter wanted to go back to keeping Jewish dietary laws (Galatians 2:11-16) even after God had told him not to (Acts 10:9-16). We just have to feel like we’ve done something to earn God’s favor. We have to have some form of effort on which to hang our spiritual hats.

But grace doesn’t work that way.

In his grace, God gives life to dead men (Ephesians 2:1,4). In his grace, God makes his natural enemies his children (Ephesians 2:2-7). In his grace, God saves us through faith. And even that faith is not our own doing. It too is a gift from God (Ephesians 2:8).

You would think that there’s no problem with that. As if we could just say thank you and go on with obeying our new Master. But our natural desires are at odds with grace. We prefer a paycheck from God instead of grace from God because we want something to boast about. But grace takes away any reason for boasting. Grace gives us something better instead (Ephesians 2:9).

I told my son thank you for his money. And then I told him to keep it. After that I explained that sometimes you do things for people without expecting something in return. You even do things for people that you know could never pay you back. And you do it because you love them.

The next day, my sons spent the morning bouncing on their trampoline. A trampoline that they didn’t earn. And with each bounce there was a bigger smile on their faces.

A smile because they were enjoying a gift.

A gift from someone who loves them.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16 (ESV)

Settle Down, Sport

Earlier this week the Atlanta Falcons played the Denver Broncos on Monday Night Football. In an absolute shocker to the experts on ESPN, the Falcons won. For once, I was proud of my favorite team.

I had a blast watching the game, not just because of the outcome but also because of my conversations with friends on Facebook and Twitter.

There were jabs from my friend Shane, who would cheer for the Taliban if Peyton Manning was their quarterback.

There were the usual shots from my friend Stormy, a guy who finds the most evil team in any particular sport and makes them his favorite.  He would cheer for the Taliban even without Peyton Manning.

And my friends Dave and Jamie who, although they didn’t have a dog in the fight, were just enjoying a good game.

During a big game like this, there’s always another group of people who are using social media. These are the people who are appalled that NFL fans paint their faces and carry signs to games but do not paint their faces and carry signs to church.

Their status updates read something like this.

Donnie Dravecky When’s the last time you gave someone a high five at church? Oh, but you’ll do it over a field goal?!!!!  SMH

Patricia Sullingham I’ll bet 80,000 people wouldn’t show up for a church service on Monday night.  :\

There’s no doubt that sports is an idol in our culture.  People spend too much money on it, athletes are worshiped and kids are brought up believing the false gospel of sports that says a scholarship will bring salvation. I get that things are out of whack. But is it just sports? Isn’t family, or even church an idol for some people too?  While we’re blowing up sports, should we aim our social network nuclear arsenal at those two institutions as well?

Patty Samson Donaldson Oh, so you’re taking pictures of our food again. And I see you had chicken. If only we would feast on the Scriptures instead of fowl.

TaylorAnd Trevor Thornbury So you had fun at the park with your kids, huh? Well, while you were playing Christians were being persecuted. But have fun.

Instead of using nukes, Jesus used a scalpel.

In John 12, Jesus is enjoying a meal with friends. His friend Martha was doing her usual serving while Lazarus was sitting with Jesus. Another friend, Mary, did something crazy.  She took some really expensive ointment and used it to clean Jesus’ feet. Jesus’ disciples were there and one of them responded in a way that, on the surface, seemed very missional.

But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (he who was about to betray him), said, “Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?”  John 12:4-5 (ESV)

“Yeah,” we might have tweeted along with Judas, “doesn’t she realize how many mouths she could have fed if she sold that stuff instead of pouring it all over the floor?”

SMH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 🙁

But John clues us in on the motive behind Judas’ attack.

He said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief, and having charge of the moneybag he used to help himself to what was put into it. John 12:6 (ESV)

Judas didn’t care about the poor and he wasn’t being missional.  He was trying to cover up his own sins by accusing Mary.  The same thing can happen when we use big sporting events as our own personal platform for reminding people of how much they don’t love Jesus.  But where does it all end?  How many people went to hell in the time it took to tweet, “How many people went to hell during that last touch down?”  And why even bother with Facebook and Twitter anyway?  Shouldn’t the Internet just be used to watch Billy Graham clips on YouTube?

Jesus, with scalpel in hand, tells Judas to back off by digging beneath the surface to the source of the problem.

Jesus said, “Leave her alone, so that she may keep it for the day of my burial. For the poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me.”  John 12:7-8 (ESV)

Jesus knew that there was more to the story than perfume, money and the poor.  He knew that Mary was worshiping him. And he knew that it is possible to talk a good game about helping the poor and still not worship him.

We can try as hard as we want to remove idols but unless we’re replacing them by worshiping Jesus they will simply sprout back up in a different form. This is why Paul tells us to “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you” (Colossians 3:5) as well as telling us to, “put on the new self” (Colossians 3:10). And then he tells us, “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Colossians 3:17).

If you’re not a football fan, have a great weekend doing what you do and do it for the glory of God.

If you are a football fan, enjoy this weekend’s games for the glory of God.

Unless, of course, you plan on cheering for Denver.

This post was originally written on September 20, 2012. It was updated on August 29, 2013.