Wednesday, January 10, 2024

Rules to Live By

I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified. (1 Corinthians 9:27 NLT)

When athletes have the privilege of representing their countries in the Olympic Games, they agree in advance to play by the rules. This includes an anti-doping code. If athletes test positive for performance-enhancing drugs, even after they’ve won a medal, it will result in their disqualification because they didn’t play by the rules.

In the same way, God gave us rules to live by. And if we don’t live by them, the result will be disqualification. It is not for us to take the Bible and choose which parts of it appeal to us and then cast off the rest. 

For example, someone might say, “I like this part about forgiveness and God’s love and grace. But I don’t know if I really like these things that God says about personal obedience or taking up the cross.”

God gave us the Bible. And we are to live by everything that it teaches.

The apostle Paul wrote, “Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win! All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. So I run with purpose in every step. I am not just shadowboxing. I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified” (1 Corinthians 9:24-27 NLT).

Paul was saying, in effect, that he was afraid he would be a hypocrite. And what criticism do we typically hear about the church, and Christians in general, more than any other? It’s something along the lines of this: “There are so many hypocrites in the church. I would become a follower of Jesus, but I see so much hypocrisy.”

Of course, we know this is often an excuse that nonbelievers hide behind. But unfortunately, there is also truth to that statement. There is hypocrisy. And we all have been hypocritical at times.

Yet Paul was saying, “I don’t want to be disqualified in the race of life. I want to practice what I preach.”

The Christian life is like running a race—and it’s a long-distance run. We need to obey the rules, and we also need to pace ourselves. It doesn’t really matter whether we’ve held first place for nine-tenths of the race. We must cross the finish line. Otherwise, it means nothing.

Maybe you’ve been disobeying God. Maybe you’ve been compromising in an area of your life and have been doing things that you shouldn’t do. You know it’s wrong before God.

God is asking you to repent, to turn from it and get back on track again. Even if you’ve done things you regret, even if you’ve made a big mistake, God gives second chances.

If you are genuinely sorry and willing to turn from your sins, then God will forgive you. And you will have another opportunity to obey Him.

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