"No More NIKE Christianity"
January 27, 2014We've all seen the NIKE swoosh and know the NIKE motto: "Just do it!" In other words, what they mean by that is you can do anything. Just go on and do it. You know you can!
It's a very catchy slogan, but let's be honest with one another; that's not true about a lot of things! In fact, most things you can never will yourself to do. For example, I'm 6'3'' tall, and in high school I weighed 140 lbs. soaking wet, eating as much as I could and trying to lift weights faithfully, hoping to overcome what was a real stigma to me of being a skinny kid. But let it be known, I would never be a linebacker on my High School football team, let alone the Chicago Bears as much as I tried to convince myself that I could succeed in this if I only tried hard enough. Even today with middle age spread – and past – I still only weight 175 lbs.
In the same way, we often approach having a pleasing relationship with God with the NIKE motto: "Just do it!" We think we make God happy with us by doing the right things. And so, we develop all kinds of lists, some we get from the Bible and a lot we make up ourselves. The John Sale theology can become things like, if I'm kind to others that will cause God to like me. Or, if I go to church, read my Bible, or don't lie on my taxes, surely God will like me now.
Now those are all good things, but, there is a really big problem! Now, hang on, because this may shock you! In order to have an accepting relationship with God where He accepts you, you must be perfect. Now, I didn't make that up. I'm actually quoting Jesus from the famous Sermon on the Mount when He said "You therefore must be perfect, as your Heavenly Father is perfect" (Matt. 5:48). Perfect? You say, no one can be perfect! Well, you are exactly right. It doesn't matter how many New Year Resolutions you make, who keeps them perfectly? Or, how many times have you promised that you won't yell at your son again, or speak unkindly to your spouse, or be angry at the guy who cut you off on The Grade? But, before the day is finished or sometimes before we get to the bottom of The Grade, we're angry again or failed in our promise!
It doesn't take long before we get pretty depressed, or we establish our own set of rules that are a lot easier to follow, or we just give up and try to forget this idea of God accepting me.
Now, it is true that these things are not bad things to have as our goals and should strive for. However, the only way we know that we can have peace with God and meet the standard Jesus gave in the Sermon on the Mount is found in the beautiful words of Jesus when He says "Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes Him who sent Me has eternal life." And then notice carefully the next words, "He/She does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life" (John 5:24).
That is absolutely amazing, isn't it? There is another quote from the Bible that says the same thing a little differently "Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ" (Romans 5:1).
In Bible language, the way we have peace with God is to be "justified." That was a legal, courtroom term used when a judge would "declare you to be NOT GUILTY." What's different about this not guilty, is that I am guilty.
So how does this work? When God the judge declares us "NOT GUILTY", what He is saying is, "When you believe that the life Jesus lived was perfect, and that His death on the cross was for the payment of those who are guilty of not being perfect. He now declares you NOT GUILTY because the perfection of Jesus has been transferred to your account because your guilt was transferred to Him." Amazing!
You see, it is no more NIKE Christianity! Jesus did it for us! When you have believed in Christ and what he did, the Heavenly Father looks at you and says "In Christ, you are perfect! Your peace with God is not contingent upon how good you are or how bad you are; it's based on Christ's perfection for you." You are not guilty (Romans 8:1).
That is astounding! Now, that doesn't mean I live intentionally disobedient because of this Amazing Grace! No, the more I understand the depth of this grace and mercy, it moves me to live in desiring to obey Him with a heart full of gratitude, not NIKE Christianity (Romans 6:1-14; Titus 2:11-12).
John Sale is Lead Pastor at Valley Center Community Church, meeting at the Maxine Theater on Sundays. www.Vccc.org for more information.