January 28, 2014

Switching Teams
by Gary Bonikowsky

UNLESS YOU LIVE IN UZBEKISTAN (and probably even there) you're most likely aware, even if you're not a sports fan, that Superbowl XLVIII is just around the corner. I am reminded of an insight I had regarding our Canadian equivalent of the Superbowl -- the Grey Cup -- back in November. (We need to get this over with up here before the snow flies, although it does not always work out that ideally.) Hence we have had the Snow Bowl, the Ice Bowl, the Mud Bowl and the Fog Bowl -- which had to be played over two days when it became virtually impossible to see the ball during game day. It makes for some very interesting play, but probably not the best football.

Anyway, with the Semi-finals and the Eastern and Western Finals, my wife Sharon and I had watched a fair bit of football in the weeks preceding the Grey Cup Final. And not having followed the entire league too closely, I began to notice something as I saw a little more of the various teams in the finals. You'd see some big-name player you'd recognize and say, "I thought he was the BC Lion's star receiver. What's he doing in a Saskatchewan Roughriders uniform?" (If I were a more devoted fan I would know these things.) In fact, last season our Toronto Argonauts let go one of their star running backs for a better prospect and in the next game he appeared on the other side of the line of scrimmage in an Edmonton Eskimo uniform -- ready to prove what a big mistake that was!

Well, I got to thinking about this switching teams business on my daily hike and saw what appeared to be a significant spiritual application. In one sense this guy had died to being a Toronto Argonaut and had his football career resurrected as an Edmonton Eskimo. He belonged to them now. He wore their uniform. He studied their playbook. He had a new coach.

Isn't that what happened to us at our new birth? We died to being expressors of 'the spirit that worketh in the children of disobedience... by nature the children of wrath.' [Eph. 2: 2,3] and have come alive to being 'partakers of the divine nature' [2 Peter 1:4]. Out of one and into the other. We once belonged to Satan. We now belong to Christ. Our former 'coach', and our servitude to him, has been taken care of at the Cross. We have no relationship with him anymore. We're not obligated to play for him part time. We're no longer on his payroll and, though consistent through the ages, the wages weren't that good anyway. He has been dealt with and relegated to the sidelines, awaiting final judgment at the end of the season. Sure, he can yell at us from the sidelines, and does, but he can't come on the field or touch us -- and we don't have to listen to him. Of course we can chose to listen to him and often do, at our own peril, especially in our early walk, when we monetarily forget who we are now, but we always come back to our own team where we belong.

Imagine you're a wide receiver running down the sidelines near your opponent's bench as the ball is thrown. You hear your former coach's familiar voice shouting, "Hey, you idiot, you're going the wrong way!" You hesitate. You once trusted that voice. You played for him. He knows you. He knows your moves, your strengths, your weaknesses, your vulnerabilities. He knows all the right buttons to push. The ball sails over your head.

Well, they say there's no cure for stupid, but eventually we learn not to listen to that voice. It is the voice of the deceiver, the accuser, the enemy of our souls. He never had our best interests in mind, as he once pretended to -- only his own self-for-self agenda. He's a liar, and the father of lies. He told us we were okay when we weren't, and now he tries to tell us we're not okay when, in Christ, we are. He can still try to thwart our play from the sidelines -- and that's all he can do -- but he has nothing in us. There are no two natures -- no white dog / black dog within, though he would like to convince us it is so. We are on one team or the other. All our buttons belong to Jesus now. Thank God, in Christ, He has put us on His team. And guess what? Our team wins. I know that for a fact. I read the book and I know how it ends. Go team!