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Be The Champion ()

Rev. Dr. William A. LewisRev. Dr. William A. Lewis, February 4, 2018

February 4, 2018 Be His Champion

2 Timothy 4:7-8

This morning I’d like to make some correlations between Super Bowl champions and Christians. The Super Bowl is the most watched event on Television annually. 120 million people watch the game with more snacks being sold on this day than any other. More beverages consumed, more people will gather in front of the T.V.

I apologize to the women here for having a primarily sports oriented sermon. It’s necessary for a preacher to speak the language of all in the audience. A woman walked into the kitchen to find her husband stalking around with a fly swatter. She asked, “Kill any flies?” He said, “Yes 3 males and 2 females.” Intrigued she asked, “How can you tell them apart?” He responded, “3 were on the beer can and 2 were on the phone.”

Last week I said the Bible mentions Eagles 33 x’s and Patriots never. However, a patriot fan pointed out goats are mentioned 35 x’s in the Bible. Goat standing for: Greatest of all time—Tom Brady. What do you say to a New England Patriot football player dressed in a 3-piece suit? “Will the defendant please rise.”

The spirit of competition is part of the fallen human condition. Before the Fall, all was in harmony. But once an option, Adam and Eve were lured into competing with God for supremacy. When the news Jesus rose from the dead was announced in John 19, the disciple mentions he outran Peter to the tomb. When Peter is being restored to his calling, he asked Jesus “what about John?” The drive to be the favorite, the best, and the #1 Christian.

The disciples would argue about who was the greatest. So, Jesus redirected them Mark 10:45 “Whoever is greatest is the one who is the servant of all.” Quarterbacks always take his linemen out to expensive dinners and buys them expensive watches because without their protection, there is no championship. Like Paul says in 1 Cor.12 “the lesser members of the body are most important.”

In Philippians 2, we are told to “Think of each other as more important than yourself and look out for the interest of others." In fact, the apostle Paul refocused the competitive spirit with the words, “Outdo one another in showing love!” How do we obtain the right attitude? John the Baptist circumvented the poke, Hey John more people are going to Jesus now than to you! John responded, “He must increase, and I must decrease.”

George Whitfield and John Wesley started out as close companions in the ministry, but soon doctrinal issues tore them apart. However, Whitfield was careful not to allow the theological issues to become public and hinder the gospel. When someone asked Whitfield if he would see Wesley in heaven, Whitfield responded, “I fear not, for he will be so near the eternal throne and I at such a distance I shall hardly get sight of him.” This can also be seen in Romans 14:4 “Who are you to judge the servant of another for the Lord is able to make him stand.”

It is sad the way we treat those who approach God differently than we do or have a different theological perspective. This is not to say we overlook incorrect doctrine. We cannot adjust God’s word or ignore Christ’s deity. For by Grace you are saved, not by your efforts. The cross of Jesus is the great equalizer for humanity.

Spiritual competition can be deadly. You might recall the situation in Genesis 4 when Cain and Abel brought offerings to the Lord, but God had no regard for Cain’s offering. The problem was not that Abel brought a blood sacrifice and Cain a grain offering. The key is in how it was brought. A gift offering is an expression of gratitude for God’s goodwill. The offering is to be given in gratitude, not duty or routine but in worship. Abel’s offering was brought in faith not works. It’s the difference between the person who comes to church out of obligation verses the one who comes to seek an encounter with God who has given them everything. Cain had the wrong understanding of God. Cain’s offering was of self-righteousness and works and attempted to justify himself. Interesting how grace was the foundational piece of the first human’s relationship with God.

2 Timothy 2:5” If anyone who competes as an athlete everyone who competes follows the rules.” The faith rules include: Jesus is God, He obtained your salvation by what He did for you. Read God’s word to know how to have a relationship with God. Talk to God in prayer. Forgive others. Ask the Holy Spirit to guide you—then follow the prompting to care for others. It is all about the amount of loving coming forth from you.

Examining the Super Bowl teams, we can see there are similarities between those teams and the New Testament Church. In fact, they dress alike: Super bowl champions wear helmets, we wear the helmet of salvation. They wear shoulder pads, we wear the breastplate of righteousness. They put on girdles and thigh pads, we girt our loins with truth. They wear cleats, we shod our feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace. They practice blocking schemes, we use the shield of faith.

A familiar statement in football is: Defense wins championships. The team with the best defense won 9 out of the last 12 championships. To win a championship, your defense must stop the opponent’s offense. In similar fashion, we must defend the faith: 1 Peter 3:15 “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you for a reason of the hope within you.”

Don’t underestimate your opponent: Eph. 6:12 “We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, powers, rulers of the darkness of this world against spiritual wickedness in the high places.”

Super Bowl champions have a good play book. The Bible is our playbook, telling us how to win the match against evil. Good football players know the playbook and we need to know ours. Charles Spurgeon was asked how a Christian could obtain a thorough knowledge of the Bible? He said, “There are 3 rules to follow to have deep understanding of God’s word: First, read it; Second, re-read it; Third, read it some more.” The Bible does not need to be rewritten, it just needs to be re-read. God told Joshua to meditate on it day & night. It’s having God’s thoughts in your head.

When I was at a church in Los Angeles, I made a basketball court and put a 3-point line on it. Everyone in the neighborhood came to play on my court. At midnight, a player would show up. He never missed. “Why aren’t you on the team?” I asked. “Because I have to learn their system and the ongoing drills” he would say. Drills have the purpose of making the playbook part of your second nature. When the UCLA Bruins were winning championships, they were merely running practice drills during the championship games. When someone offends us, it becomes automatic second nature to respond with grace.

Super Bowl champions have a good play caller called the coach. We have the Holy Spirit signaling in the plays from Jesus. The Spirit of Christ illuminates the Bible, so we know what to do when we get into situations or have opportunities. God speaks to us through His word, but it is a two-way conversation. The Spirit of God opens our minds to God’s ways, that is why it is called the living word. Don’t underestimate who is speaking to you. 1 Cor. 2:12 “We have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is from God that we might know the things that are freely given to us.”

Many a game is won in the mind and heart long before it is ever fought on the field. When I was a boxer, I’d find out the guy I’m about to fight had never lost and he’s from South Central or East L.A.—the toughest neighborhood! It would be easy to get psyched out, so I’d have to reflect on my victories and remind myself I’m smarter than they are. Of course, I’d ask God for help like Samson.

Sometimes I would win a fight by studying my up-coming opponents style. But other times, I would not have the luxury of knowing what he was like, so I’d have to figure him out as it was happening.

The important fact was showing up with the right perspective. I planned on going the distance. I wouldn’t cut corners in training. I would study my pro mentors. Champions are made not by osmosis or accident, but by a deliberate choice and purposeful resolve. Faith Champions who glorify God have the same disposition.

We have to be determined, 1 Cor. 9:26 “Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore, I do not run like someone who runs aimlessly. I do not box at the air…” Go into strict training. Run with a purpose. Don’t shadow box, train to hit the enemy hard, make your body a slave.

One of the things super successful athletes have in common is they are first to the gym and last to leave. Success usually goes to the one who is best prepared. Chi Chi Rodriguez, the golfer said, “I notice the more I practice the luckier I get.”

This has parallels in the spiritual realm. John Wesley arose at 4:00 every morning. Evangelist D. L Moody said, “We ought to see the face of God every morning before we see the face of humanity.” We had a motto: No Bible-no Breakfast. I always forced myself to be part of homeless ministries because I knew the poor were important to God. Players would never think of missing practice, yet Christians miss church or their devotions so casually.

For participants in the Super Bowl, this is the highlight of their career; the football players are trying to obtain a trophy, our reward is eternal. Paul was no stranger to competition as his world had the original Olympics! “They do it for a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.” The Super Bowl, the Olympics, the World Series, the World Cup and all other events combined will not compare to winning the prize of heaven. Once a Hall of Fame player spoke of winning the Super Bowl and how empty he felt afterwards—even suicidal. So now what? It’s important you have a goal in life. It is more important to realize your goal for eternity. We have two goals: spending eternity with God and bringing Jesus to everyone around us while on earth.

Hebrews 12 speaks of a great cloud of witnesses. The roar of the crowd and the accolades of fame seem to be so desirable, but it doesn’t leave the inside of us satisfied. But you need to know there is another cloud of witnesses with their eyes on you! According to Luke 15:7 “There is more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents.” Angels rejoiced when you give your life to Jesus. Your life began with a celebration, but another one is coming when God creates a new heaven and earth. and the wolf lives with the lamb, the leopard lies down with the goat, the calf and lion the cow and bear feed together, the infant will play by the cobra’s den and the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord.

Thursday night, Pastor Bill shared many the great men of God failed but were never disqualified from having an encounter with God. The cloud of witness around us all have a list of failures as well—Moses and David, Peter and Mark, and James and John.

Failure is not final. Failure is one of the most subtle and effective attacks the enemy uses to cause us to quit altogether.

Forgiveness is always the Christian’s new start. The Biblical characters were beaten and battered, yet they crossed the finish line and now they cheer us along. You are not a “has been” or a “used to be.” Keep pressing on. Even if you are retired, become a prayer warrior. The coach of the Patriots has 18 players not drafted by any team in the NFL. God knows your value and has drafted you onto His team wants to utilize you to be one of His champions.

The cloud of witness includes people on the field engaged in the game, on the sideline supporting those in the game, and folks in the stands cheering who are interested in the outcome. Then there are the no shows. Unaware of the cosmic battle underway.

We could be a nice little church on the side of the road, but we have a vision for ministry. At last week’s leadership meeting, the elders voted to reach out to the millennials around us who are untouched by the gospel. We want to bring or ministry intentionally to social media for a global reach.

Finishing is essential to winning the championship. I saw a stat that pointed out the Patriots won most of their Super Bowls by 3 or 4 points and could easily have been 0-8 in the Big game. Obviously, it was fighting all the way to the last seconds that made the difference Maybe we ought to fight for the souls of those in our sphere of influence with the same tenacity. Michael Jordan didn’t like winning, he hated losing. What if we wouldn’t accept someone’s soul being lost?!

Ultimately, the Super Bowl is about scoring. We need to score touchdown – Getting people into heaven, getting people baptized and taking Communion. Imagine coming to church and joining hands with people you don’t know, regardless of politics or what team they were rooting for in the Super Bowl, you have one thing in common: Jesus Christ. Church is not about getting my needs served, but how can I give and serve and make this world better through Jesus moving through me? Just as everyone is watching the Super Bowl, people are watching us to see if Jesus is the champion we say He is.

This leads us to Super Bowl Commercials. These are supposed to be the best of the year. But let’s be honest how often have we watched them and said “huh?” You just spent 3 million dollars for 30 seconds and I have no idea what you are selling. Reminds me of when Gerber’s first started selling baby food in Africa. They used the same packaging as here in the USA with cute little babies on the label. Later they found out that in Africa, companies routinely put a picture on the label of what’s inside because most people cannot read! When people see you can they tell what’s on the inside?

Miscommunication can cause confusion, with dropped passes and blown assignments leading to the opponent scoring. This is why the huddle is so important—to discuss the plan. We have a Holy Huddle in the church, so we know how to bring others to Jesus.

A man called his neighbor to help him move a couch that had been stuck in the doorway. They pushed and pulled until they were exhausted, but the couch didn’t budge. The man finally said to his neighbor, “Forget it We’ll never get this in.” The neighbor looked at quizzically and said, “in?”
It takes teamwork to be God’s champions and we need your prayers, your support, your involvement, your spirituality--flaws and all and we will celebrate God as our champion!

Sources: Andy Grossman, Michael Reeves, Jim Denison,

About Rev. Dr. William A. Lewis: Rev. Dr. William Lewis has been the Senior Pastor of Community Presbyterian Church in Celebration since 2009. Whether at a traditional service, praise service, or the more casual Thursday night service, you’ll find that Pastor William’s preaching brings the Word of God to life D.Min. McCormick Theological Seminary Th.M. Princeton Theological Seminary M.Div. Fuller Theological Seminary B.A. University Colorado
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