The Monday feature of the Worldly Saints blog focuses on a story from the sports world – current or historic. The point is to recognize athletes who are using their sports and athletic abilities to further the kingdom of God or to show how some athletes or teams are wasting their days by not giving God the glory.
In the past 6 months or so, I have been working my way through 30 for 30, which is an ESPN documentary series. There have been 2 sets of 30 movies made thus far, and I have seen 29 of them.
Recently, I watched Pony Excess is the story of how Southern Methodist University (SMU) assembled one of the best football teams in America during the early 1980’s. Unfortunately, this assembly came through a series of bribes and payoffs. Their cheating eventually led to the NCAA punishing them with what is now called “the death penalty” – which is a total shut-down of the football program for one year. SMU, to this day, hasn’t really fully recovered from such punishments.
Breaking the rules – and risking all consequences – took precedent for this football program. The “death penalty” was the final straw, for SMU had previously been punished on 2 occasions in previous years.
Winning became so intoxicating that the punishment was pushed aside as “worth it” by some athletes.
What a terribly scary place to get to where you are so enticed by something that is wrong that you are willing to invite judgment – just so that you can live “in the wrong” even for a brief period of time.
How does one get to this place? How does any person ever get to the place where he would willingly choose a sin knowing that it is sin?
The answer, I believe, is given in James 1:14-15. James writes, “14 But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. 15 Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.”
In these 2 verses, we see the progression from how a person can go from seeing something as sinful to seeing as something worth doing.
First, he is “lured.” This means, in his mind, he is convinced he is overreacting to the sin. He is told by his flesh, and he believes it, that the sin really isn’t as dangerous as he is perceived. He is taken away from his conviction of the sin being a sin.
Second, he is “enticed.” He is shown that the sin he is thinking about it could have some benefits to him. In SMU’s cheating scandal, the benefits would be wins, conference championships, better recruits, etc.
Third, he “gives birth to sin.” This means the idea of cheating is now visualized in a real way. Actions, words, and thoughts are now disrupting our life.
Fourth, and finally, our choice “brings forth death.” Once someone buys into the lie that any sin is permissible, he has invited death. SMU invited the death penalty. And the person who buys this lie has committed himself to live a hardened life that leads to eternal death. The only rescue for him now is repentance. A true believer will never get to this 5th and final state.
The Bible makes it so very clear for those who know sin is sin – “So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin” (Jas 4:17). Do what you shouldn’t do and know that you shouldn’t do it is clearly sin. This is especially the case because God always provides an outlet of obedience when we are tempted to sin (I Cor 10:13).