1. The Conviction of the Holy Spirit
2. Separation To The Lord
3. A Competitive Spirit & Aggression
4. Ego & Pride
6. Drunkenness & Riotous Living
7. The Forsaking Of The Assembly
8. A Christian Testimony?
Australians love their football. Whether it be Rugby League, Rugby Union, or Aussie Rules, huge crowds of devotees, both men and women, young and old, can be found every weekend, packing out stadiums and sports fields throughout the land, passionately barracking for their teams and their heroes. But, I want to raise the question: "Should Christians be involved in the 'game' of football, at any level? - whether it be physically as one of the team, personally attending the matches as a spectator, or simply as a 'Norm', or 'Couch Potato', watching the game at home on the TV?"
In my experience, asking this question of Christians has produced an assortment of responses, some quite emotional, and an increasing number strenuously defend their belief that there is no harm to be done by their involvement with the game, at any level. "What could possibly be wrong with footy?" they ask. "Surely God is not against Christians having a bit of fun and entertainment, is He?"
But what does Scripture indicate should be our response? What is God's mind on the subject of football as a sport, or as entertainment? Does He even really care? I believe He does care, for a number of reasons which I will outline below, and I base my belief, not upon my own personal likes or dislikes, but upon what I see in the Word of God. For us, as professing Christians, the Bible reveals God's mind and thoughts on any given subject and it must be our foundation for everything pertaining to life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3). The Word of God is the object by which we are to have our senses exercised to discern both good and evil (Hebrews 5:14).
The primary reason for my unpopular conclusions about football and for even bothering to write this article at all is because of my experience with a number of Christian brothers who were caught up in the exhilaration and competitiveness of the game, and my observations as to how it adversely affected their Christian walk and testimony.
May I say here at the outset, my desire is not that you, my Christian brother or sister in Christ, should simply follow me and conform to my beliefs and standards on this issue, but rather, that you should examine the situation, as it now escalates in the churches, with regards to football and similar sporting events, allowing the light of Scripture to reveal to you God's view of what is taking place. Pray, study the Scriptures and seek God's face, and come to your own conclusions as to what He would, or would not, have you believe and do.
1. The Conviction of the Holy Spirit
"Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: " (John 16:7-8).
It has been my experience, and that without exception, that every person I know who has been rescued from the darkness of this world by the light of the Gospel, if they were involved in football, within a short time of their conversion they testify that they have given the game away. When expressing surprise and questioning them as to why they have forsaken this great love of their life, they respond by saying something to the effect the Holy Spirit had clearly convicted them that football was a part of the world that God had called them out of and that it now has no place in their new life. They come to this conclusion, sometimes after great struggle, but never-the-less totally convinced that God wants them to forsake the attractions of their old life of football and commit themselves fully to Him.
By my observation, I saw that no particular person had to convince these young Christians that there was something wrong or worldly about the game of football. But as they began to walk in obedience with the Lord, to pray and read the Scriptures and fellowship with other mature believers, eventually they came to the conclusion that attempting to fulfill a longing to walk uncompromisingly with the Lord, as well as a desire to continue in their football, brought great conflict and confusion into their lives. They soon found that the two were incompatible. They became convinced in their conclusion that their love of football and their love of the Lord could not be reconciled one with the other, and by their own testimonies, usually given in front of church congregations, it was the Lord who had actually convicted them and convinced them that this was so. Consequently, they forsook the game and everything associated with it, and fixed their eyes upon the Lord.
It is worth noting that in all of the testimonies I have ever heard from young Christians regarding their conviction that God has spoken to them to forsake their commitment to football, I have yet to hear even one pastor or any other mature Christian try to convince them that it wasn't God who was laying this upon their heart. They all agree along with the young brother that it is actually God who is speaking to him. Perhaps this should be indication enough to those professing Christians who continue to support and promote the game, even as spectators, that something is amiss?
2. Separation To The Lord
" So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple." (Luke 14:33).
"As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy." (1 Peter 1:14-16).
"Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God." (2 Corinthians 7:1).
Sadly, on a number of occasions, I have witnessed Christian brothers who have already been walking strongly with the Lord for some time, return to the game, in contradiction to the profession that they had totally forsaken it. This has frequently been with disastrous consequences for the brother involved, and sometimes for those closely associated with him. Sometimes, there is some physical mishap which convinces the person to believe that he has made a wrong choice, and after prayer and repentance, they again determine to forsake the game and re-commit themselves to focusing upon serving God. Mostly, they come back, and because of the frightful consequences of being once again ensnared with the things of this world, they have an even more persuasive testimony than they previously had - that the game of football is a snare that needs to be avoided at all cost. Some, however, do not return to their former declaration of forsaking the game for Christ, and eventually they lose all interest in the things of God, or even being involved with their former Christian friends. Attempts to try and rescue them back to the Lord are, in most cases, futile, and they revert back to their pre-conversion condition of drinking, smoking, foul mouthing and cursing, gambling, fornicating and generally living a life of unbridled revelry.
The picture painted by Scripture shows that this world is a battleground and the Christian is engaged in a war. The world, along with all its pleasures and enticements, is not about to give up a convert to Christ so easily. With all its subtleties the world attempts to convince the new Christian that he has made a mistake - that he is paying too great a price in his commitment to serve the Lord Jesus Christ. Or else there will be the shrewd and subtle suggestion that he can have his cake and eat it as well - that he can continue with his former love of footy and still totally and uncompromisingly serve the Lord. The apostle Paul has warned us:
"Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 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." (Ephesians 6:11-12).
The forces of evil and wickedness prevail against many Christians because they fail in their duty as a soldier of Jesus Christ and become entangled again in the affairs of this world.
"No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him." (2 Timothy 2:4).
As God's people we are not to be entangled in this world's wickedness, but rather, engaged in warfare against it. God has called us to be holy, as He is holy.
"You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons." (1 Corinthians 10:21).
3. A Competitive Spirit & Aggression
"For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think." (Romans 12:3).
"Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 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…" (Philippians 2:3-5).
"The greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted." (Matthew 23:11-12).
Where in Scripture do we find God sanctioning competition and aggression among Christians - for whatever purpose? Competitiveness is diametrically opposed to the Spirit of God. It is flesh that wants to compete and exalt itself above others. How can a Christian be involved in this highly competitive and aggressive activity when God has called us to lift others up, not put them down. We are called to esteem others better than ourselves, not make every effort to display to everyone how much better and more skillful we are than those against whom we have been matched. If we have been skilled in certain areas of our lives then that is a gift from the Lord and we should be using that skill to promote and serve the members of Christ's Body, the Church, not as some kind of weapon to compete against them, nor to demonstrate how much better we are than others and put them down. Scripture teaches that we are to be concerned about others, to humble ourselves and project a servant's attitude, but with football, the pressures placed upon us by the necessity to compete and not let the side down demand that we do just the opposite, to get out there and do all in our power to win the "game", to beat the opposition at any cost, showing no concern, either physically or emotionally, for those on the other team. Is it any wonder that new Christians hear a voice that clearly tells them to come out of football and other competitive sports?
Some say that they're involved only for the fun and the benefits of the exercise. But, because of the very nature of football, it is impossible to be involved for any length of time without being affected by its competitiveness and aggressiveness, which, as Scripture demonstrates, is not from the Lord but from some other source. If a person does not have the "killer instinct" and the will to prevail over his opponents, whatever the cost, he will soon find himself sitting out on the sidelines with the spectators - and in professional sport, that means out of a job.
Besides, as I have mentioned above, this is a team thing and no place for individuals. The player has to perform and be just as aggressive as the others to keep his position. Perhaps a person does have a quiet and gentle nature, but once he becomes involved in the psychology of football, with its focus upon the "team", the group dynamics soon brings pressure to bear forcing him to conform with the others. Otherwise, like we said, he's out. And his quiet and gentle disposition is eventually hardened as he begins to think and act just like the group. The goal is to win the game, whatever the cost, either to yourself, your team mates or the members of the opposing team.
Christians, whether they be a player, or simply an enthusiast at home who gets caught up in the emotion by watching the game on the television, should ask themselves, "Where is there any room in the type of mindset that spurs a Christian to compete against, and prevail over someone else, to also bring forth the fruit of the Spirit as recorded in Galatians 5:22-26?" When examining these fruit, with an open and honest heart, we have to come to the conclusion that the beautiful fruit that God expects to grow in us, for the benefit of the Body, as we divorce ourselves from the world and its lusts, are at serious odds with the bitter and poisonous fruit that is produced in a life that continues to be influenced by the competitiveness and aggression that is common to football.
"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another." (Galatians 5:22-26).
My criticisms about the spiritually harmful nature of the fruit that can be expected to blossom in the life of a person who is continually involved in organised and highly competitive sport, such as football, is not meant to discredit the positive benefits that are the result of teams and working together in unity for a common goal. The Word of God has much to say on this subject. In Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 we read the following:
" Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken."
Also, as a member of the Body of Christ, no Christian can claim that he does not belong to the corporate group of believers. We are part of a "team" that is universal. In 1 Corinthians 12:12-26 we read Paul's analogy of the Church, comparing it with a physical human body.
"For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit. For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together."
Obviously, teams working together in unity to achieve a common objective is not the issue, but rather, what activities the teams see as necessary to achieve their common objective.
In these days of gross darkness and calculated and determined departure from anything even remotely Scriptural, the meaning of what teams are about has been abused and corrupted. There is a New Age philosophy that is currently permeating our society and the promotion of teams has some rather sinister intentions. There is an agenda to dissolve the God given unique distinctives of each and every individual into a global common consensus. Conformity to group consensus by the use of peer pressure is being implemented in practically all sections of modern society. This is about global control, not about God's design for His Body, the Church.
Unfortunately, organized, professional sport, such as football, is being infiltrated by the promoters of these New Age philosophies, causing the group to blend into one common personality. This is what the cursed "bonding sessions" are all about. You must fit in with the group. There is no place for individual expression - you must conform to the common consensus of the team - or else, you're out. In competition football, this means win the game whatever the cost. This is no place for the non-competitive and non-aggressive. Nor is this an appropriate environment in which a Christian can expect peace, gentleness, and meekness to be developed and demonstrated in his life.
The question will no doubt be asked, "Is there any room for competitiveness and aggression in the life of a Christian?"
There is absolutely no room for aggression in our dealings with each other as Christians or with the un-believers. Christ Himself made this plain in His teachings. For example, in Matthew 5:39-41, 44-45 we read:
"But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust."
On the subject of competition, however, we have an example from the writings of Paul which seem to suggest that competitive sport is sanctioned by him. In 1 Corinthians 9:24-27, we read the following:
" Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified."
However, Paul is using the principles of worldly and fleshly activities to illustrate a point about our struggles with the very things that involvement in competitive sport promotes. He is not promoting the competition of worldly sporting events, but rather the competition against the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. For the sake of the Gospel he was willing to forsake his rights as an Apostle (vs. 23). He was willing to die to himself, to put to death his ego and his pride.
The struggle with the flesh requires discipline. But this is not a struggle, nor a competition against some other person in which we get the recognition and a crown for prevailing and being victorious over him. Paul's illustration is about how we are to compete against ourself, personally. There is no one else involved. The world gets involved in competition, against each other, for the express purpose of winning the prize and being recognised by the crowd. But they do it "to obtain a corruptible crown." We, as Christians, however, run our race and fight our fight within our own minds and bodies to follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness, to lay hold upon eternal life, to which we are called, and have professed before witnesses. (1 Timothy 6:11-12). This is the crown we compete for, a crown that is incorruptible, stored in Heaven for us.
The person dictated to by the flesh strives and competes against others for temporal reward and recognition that simply feeds his ego. He strives for a crown that will fade away. We strive and compete against ourselves, to put to death our pride and ego, that we might receive from the Lord a crown that will last through all eternity.
"Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. " (Philippians 3:13-14).
It was distressing for me to read in the latest Scripture Union newsletter (SU News, Qld., November, 2001) that this ecumenical and liberal organisation intends to use competitive sporting events as an evangelistic tool to reach the children of Australia for Jesus. The worldly and fleshly desire to compete and prevail over others, to promote self, is to be tapped into for the purpose of bringing young people into the church. Quoting from page four of the newsletter we read:
All over the world, a radical new children's ministry is exploding with potential. Using the universal appeal of sports to bring churches and communities together, KidsGames is reigniting an interest in primary school children's ministry across 40 countries. [Australian KidsGames facilitator, Jim Dayhew] …said the KidsGames emphasis on sport was strategic for Australia. "More than 60 per cent of Australian children are involved in organised sport each week, yet research shows only 2 to 5 per cent are involved in weekly church-based programs," he said. "When KidsGames ran in Egypt, Sunday Schools grew by up to 50 per cent. The potential for what could happen in sports-loving Australia is enormous."
This approach to evangelism is no different from modern apostate Christendom's pragmatic use of popular, worldly music in order to draw the crowds and add huge numbers of young people to the "church". It's simply using the worlds resources to add worldly young people to the fellowship, and thereby, further approving them in their worldliness. People like Jim Dayhew use what, they have observed, appeals to the children in the world, and attempt to sanctify it with a bit of Bible teaching. Based upon my understanding of the Scriptures, the potential for what will happen in sports-loving Australia will be disastrous. How can you teach children that Jesus calls them to deny self, with all that that demands, and then turn around and assist them into a lifestyle dominated by competition, aggression, violence and self-promotion?
We live in perilous times, my friends, and some confidently tramp around in the darkness without a lamp.
4. Ego & Pride
"But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy…" (2 Timothy 3:1-2).
"The fear of the Lord is hatred of evil. Pride and arrogance and the way of evil and perverted speech I hate." (Proverbs 8:13).
"Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall. It is better to be of a lowly spirit with the poor than to divide the spoil with the proud." (Proverbs 16:18-19).
" Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world." (1 John 2:15-16).
How many times do we hear some sport celebrity say that they are doing what they are doing for their country? They get all caught up in the emotion of winning and declare to the crowd and the TV cameras that they won this for Australia, or wherever. Very patriotic.
However, pride is an insidious evil and can be either flamboyant or subtle. The beguiling and subtle pride of the heart is not so easily discerned, and God warns of it over and over in Scripture. More often than not we think we are doing something for the right motives, but a little searching of the heart can sometimes reveal a hidden aspiration. If we are honest, the real motives will be revealed, whether they be pure or otherwise. The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked (Jeremiah 17:9) yet we continue to imagine that we can trust it. "I am doing this for my country, for my family, for my workmates" they say, but mostly, the person is doing it so that he can be recognised by his country, his family or his workmates.
When internationally distinguished Australian jockey, Darren Beadman, was asked about his return to the racetrack, after his very public declaration that the Lord had led him out of horseracing to study theology and serve Him, Darren very honestly made the remark that "I really missed the camaraderie in the jockey's room, the challenge of riding, the competitive environment, the aggression and the will to win. That makes it all worthwhile."
Competitive sport, with its tendency towards aggression, is about, "Look at me." Look how good I can tackle, run, kick, etc. And let's face it, am I going to get picked for the team if I don't think like this? Especially with the selectors standing on the sidelines!!! Contrary to God's clear teaching that I should esteem others above myself, if I want to make the grade and be recognised in football I must promote myself above all others, even those on my own team.
This is contrary to true teamwork, even teamwork not based upon Christian principles, for Webster's Dictionary defines teamwork as, "Work done by several associates with each doing a part but all subordinating personal prominence to the efficiency of the whole."
We have a choice to make. Do we really want to be conformed to the image of Christ or do we want to remain conformed to the spirit of this world? We can't have both.
"Now the earth was corrupt in God's sight, and the earth was filled with violence. And God saw the earth, and behold, it was corrupt, for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth. And God said to Noah, “I have determined to make an end of all flesh, for the earth is filled with violence through them. Behold, I will destroy them with the earth. " (Genesis 6:11-13).
" The Lord tests the righteous, but his soul hates the wicked and the one who loves violence." (Psalm 11:5).
"If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men." (Romans 12:18).
"For the kingdom of God is … righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. Whoever thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding." (Romans 14:17-19).
The Bible exhorts Christians to peace, not violence. Any person who is honest enough to examine this issue and seek the truth about it will recognise that competitive sport (and not just football) is a fertile breeding ground for violence, which thing the Lord hates! Rather than encouraging and giving license to violence, either by direct participation in football or by our indirect support and promotion of it, Christians should be edifying one another and following after the things that make for peace. Do we want to please God? Why then do we try to kid ourselves that God will wink at a little bit of violence when His attitude towards it is plainly obvious? Perhaps we should seriously consider what would be God's opinion about people who profess to be Christians, but who unwitingly help to make popular and acceptable the very things that He declares in His Word He opposes?
Over the last few decades, and particularly since the advent of movies, television, and more recently, computers, our society has become more and more desensitized to violence. Bloodshed and violent activity is continually portrayed in graphic detail right before our eyes, day in and day out, until there is no longer any horror in witnessing someone being murdered or bashed senseless. A conditioning is taking place within a select group of people who are progressively coming to accept violence as a normal, and perhaps even an acceptable part of society. People who grow up in an atmosphere of violence will more than likely be violent themselves, or at least they will be more likely to be tolerant of it.
The subtle (or perhaps, not so subtle) message of football is that violence is the process for achieving desired results of self-promotion. And the crowds love it so. The more punch-ups and blood letting, the more the spectators roar, which only serves to further incite the "combatants". It's back to the coliseums of Greece and Rome, my friends. Does anyone really believe that the Lord Jesus, who called us to deny ourselves, to take up our cross daily and follow Him, would be involved in such violence and aggression? Then why do we pretend that He who called us to be conformed to His image, and to take His teachings into all the world, will approve of us being involved in it?
6. Drunkenness & Riotous Living
"But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God." (Galatians 5:16-21).
"Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God. For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry. With respect to this they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you; but they will give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. " (1 Peter 4:1-5).
If ever there was a time when young people needed good role models, surely it must be today. And yet, the young and impressionable are being constantly bombarded through the various mediums of modern technology with exhibitions of people who excel in sports or other types of competitive entertainment. But there is never any thought given as to what type of lifestyle these "heroes" promote. Is football really the type of thing we should be encouraging anyone, young or old, to be involved in? Are the people who play football really the type of people we could recommend anyone, young or old, to emulate?
The "game" of football has a documented history that continues to be registered as time progresses. The ungodly, and even diabolical, activities that the participants of football (and growing numbers of spectators) engage in are really not the types of activities Christians should be giving their approval to, surely?
It is no secret what these players get up to when "away from home" with the rest of the team during their victory celebrations or bonding sessions. The absolute drunkenness and disgraceful revelry have become more and more accepted by society as just part of the game. However, the excess of riot which God, in His mercy and grace, rescued some of us out of, and the debauchery and works of the flesh that God warns can exclude people from His Kingdom, are not part of the walk which God has called His people to. These things are of the world and of the flesh, not of the Spirit, and they have no part in the life of a Christian - either as a player, for then we must be partaker of them, or as a spectator, for then we give license and approval to them and to those who commit them.
Not only do these heroes of the sports fields promote drunkenness and riotous living as normal, but other sins of the flesh are part of the repertoire of football as well. The things that God clearly instructs the Christian to depart from are listed in Scripture for all who would live godly in Christ Jesus. Sexual promiscuity and immodesty, filthy language and blasphemy, etc. Some things are not specifically mentioned in Scripture but come under the category of the "and such like" of Galatians 5:21, which would include addictive substances such as drugs and tobacco, gambling, and anything else that is contrary to goodness and righteousness - all of which are a normal part of the football environment.
"Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him." (Colossians 2:6).
"You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.." (James 4:4).
Christians who are not willing to see the intimacy of football with the world and who will not sacrifice the game's worldly enticements suppose that they can have friendship with the world and friendship with Christ at the same time. This thinking is not from God, but from the one who would see us deprived of our great and precious promises in the Lord.
In Ephesians 5:3-16 we read:
"But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not become partners with them; for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says,
“Awake, O sleeper,
and arise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.”
Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil."
7. The Forsaking Of The Assembly
"Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near." (Hebrews 10:23-25).
"But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy," (2 Timothy 3:1-2, 4-5)
During my lifetime I have noticed a trend that, for Christians, should ring some warning bells. The thing that I have noticed is that Sunday used to be a day when the normal flurry and commotion of week-day life ceased. For Christians, Sunday was a day of dedication to the Lord and fellowship with the saints. For non-Christians, it was mostly a day of social activity with family and friends. Out in the streets of the towns and cities the shops were closed. Predominantly, in times past, it was on Saturday that all the sporting events took place. However, there has been a trend, over the years, to turn Sunday into just another day of the week, but with a focus, not upon God, but upon materialism and entertainment.
As our society has moved further and further away from its Christian roots, Sunday has become widely accepted as a day of commercialism, sport, fun and entertainment. I remember well, as a young person, the debates that took place in the media of the time when it was proposed that hotels and licensed clubs would trade on Sundays. It wasn't long before there was debate over whether it was good and proper to stage sporting events on the Lord's Day as well. Of course, these things were approved due to public opinion, and are now a commonly accepted part of modern life. But something tells me that this is not a situation that originated with the Lord, but rather, it has something to do with the warning of perilous times written of in the second Book of Timothy, chapter three. People will be lovers of self and lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God. There will be a time of great famine in the land,
"Behold, the days are coming,” declares the Lord God, “when I will send a famine on the land— not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord." (Amos 8:11).
Dedicating Sunday to pleasure, entertainment and commercialism is not a condition that encourages people to love and serve God with all their hearts, souls, minds and strength, but, in fact, it produces just the opposite effect. For a professed believer, who is involved in these things on a Sunday, whether as a player or spectator, it serves only to draw him away from worshipping and serving God and being in fellowship with other believers, as the Word of God encourages us to. For an un-believer it simply acts as a further distraction, or a diversion, to take his mind away from any thought of eternal issues to a preoccupation with the here and now. Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we could be dead. Make merry while the Sun shines.
Any observing person, who has been around long enough, can't help but notice how dramatically society has changed (for the worse) in the last couple of decades, and in a number of critical areas. It is obvious to me, since becoming a Christian, that a great number of these societal trends and conditions have a profound bearing upon a person's capacity to even consider that there might actually be a God who created them, let alone respond to the still small voice of God when He attempts to speak to them. There is so much activity and noise that surrounds us now, on every day of the week, including Sunday, that it is near impossible to find somewhere peaceful enough and quiet enough to even consider the things that God might be wanting to say. Who would you think is behind a plot to cause people to be preoccupied with self and pleasure rather than with God, who encourages people to forsake the assembling of themselves together where they can consider one another and provoke one another to love and to good works?
Unfortunately, for a vast multitude of professing, though undiscerning Christians, organised, competitive sport, such as football, is just one of the trends of modern society that can be directly attributed to people forsaking the assembly and making the Lord's Day just another common thing.
8. A Christian Testimony?
"Depart, depart, go out from there; touch no unclean thing; go out from the midst of her; purify yourselves, you who bear the vessels of the Lord." (Isaiah 52:11).
"Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, 'I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you,' " (2 Corinthians 6:14-17).
Quite a number of well meaning Christians see it as a good testimony for the Lord when a member of a winning team will speak out in front of everyone, attributing their win to the Lord's goodness towards them. But in the light of Scripture and recognizing the Lord's attitude towards competition, violence, and every other undesirable thing that goes hand in hand with competitive sport, does anyone really think that it is the Lord who helped the victor to prevail over the vanquished?
If God is really behind helping athletes and sports people to victory, then what do we make of people like Cassias Clay, and more recently, Anthony Mundine, who have excelled in the brutal sport of boxing, giving thanks to their Islamic god, Allah? Do we really believe that Allah helped Clay and Mundine?
What about the boxers who profess to be born-again Christians making such claims? Is it really a testimony to the Prince of Peace when a man who has just violently defeated his opponent publicly attributes his win to the grace and loving kindness of the Lord towards him? That somehow the Lord has rewarded him for his commitment to the thousands of hours spent in training just to show the world that he is better than the other person? And Christians around the world practically go into raptures when they see such a person profess before the TV cameras that God helped them to win.
In my way of thinking, based upon what I see in the Scriptures, I believe some people are making a grave mistake and when pointing out the Scriptural inconsistency of making such claims, the reply given is usually in the sense that at least the Name of Jesus got mentioned, and surely, that can only be a good thing? But is it a good thing? Think about that carefully. Is it a good thing that the Name of the Lord got mentioned in association with something that Scripture clearly indicates He condemns. What kind of confusing message does this send to the un-believers? It sends a false message that the Lord Jesus Christ doesn't mind a bit of violence, providing it's in the name of competitive sport. This type of thinking is in error, not originating from the holiness of God's throne but from the one who, through the subtlety of his lies, would love to see un-believers remain in their sin and those who profess to be Christ's stumble and fall just short of the finish line.
How can anyone who professes to love and obey Him possibly associate the holy and righteous Lord Jesus Christ with the things I have mentioned above? Things which are the direct result of competing against, rather than esteeming and considering one another, things such as competitiveness, aggression, ego and pride, violence, drunkenness and riotous behaviour, filthy language, the continual blaspheming of the Lord's Name, fornication and adultery, gambling, smoking and drug abuse, not to mention the sheer waste of time and effort that could be redeemed for more eternal purposes. All of these ungodly activities are common to the "game" of football and many other competitive sports. I don't believe that we can, or that we should associate our sinless Lord and Saviour with any of these things.
"Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you, " (2 Cor. 6:17)
"But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses." (1 Timothy 6:11-12).
Some may say that I am taking things too seriously, or that I am being legalistic in my views and only trying to impose my opinions upon others. But is it legalistic to see something dangerous, that another brother fails to see, and then, in the fear of the Lord, point out that danger to him? Is it legalistic to demonstrate your care and burden for a brother or sister by bringing the Scriptures before them so that they can see what God has to say upon a given subject? Is that not a valid purpose for the Scriptures? Are we not to consult God's Word to discern what is, or is not appropriate for Christians to be involved in? In 2 Timothy 3:16, 17 and Ezekiel 44:23, we read:
"All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, That the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work."
"They shall teach my people the difference between the holy and the common, and show them how to distinguish between the unclean and the clean."
I do not call for anyone to surrender their association with, or their support of football (or any other competitive activity which promotes the world and its ungodliness, for that matter) just for the sake of my opinion, but, as I have already said at the beginning of this article, I do suggest that professing Christians prayerfully consider what the Word of God has to say on a given subject and then make up their own mind as to what they will or will not do. However, just a final note of caution, be wary that your ultimate decision as to what is right and what is wrong is based entirely upon what the Word of God clearly teaches and not upon the bias and counsel of your own heart, nor upon the counsel of friends and associates whose desire to walk in the Spirit may not be as determined and unwavering as your own. Our justification for our actions should be based upon Scripture and our desire to serve the Lord as salt and light to the lost, and not upon our own, or someone else's, (fallen) human reasonings.
"Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter! " (Isaiah 5:20).
And, might I finally add that we should not consider him to be a fool who forsakes the spiritually polluting enticements and indulgences of this temporal life to gain the eternity of pleasures that are promised from the hand of God.
"If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. " (Colossians 3:1).
"Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said,
“I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you, and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty.”
Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God." (2 Cor. 6:14-7:1).
The Lord bless you as you prayerfully consider the things that I have written and as we work out our own Salvation with fear and trembling.
Your brother in Christ,