Every Wednesday we’ll post a message concerning doctrine and its role in our purity. Hope it’s useful.
Playing the Game – It’s Serious Business!
I often encourage my clients to enter into The Game, which is the contest you enter into when you commit yourself to purity. When you regularly give in to sexual sin, you in essence “go with the flow” of the world, the flesh and even Satan. No contest there – you surrendered. Paul describes this surrender pretty well to the Ephesians when he refers to their past:
“Wherein in time past you walked according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now woks in the children of disobedience, among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind.” (Ephesians 2: 2-3)
In other words, when you compromise, you cooperate with the Enemy. But when you turn away from that cooperation and enter The Game, you initiate a life long battle. Your flesh still exists, after all, the world is still a minefield of temptations, and Satan is alive and well and more determined than ever to snare you. So by deciding to change, you’ve offended all three, and you can expect to be duking it out them for as long as you, and they, exist. So let’s accept this hard truth right off the bat: When you pursue godliness by rejecting sexual sin, life gets tough, because now you’re fighting the very thing you used to indulge.
I like the way Paul puts it:
“Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in the lusts thereof. Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin; but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God.” (Romans 6: 13)
By yielding your members in a completely different way, you’re switching from passive compliance with sin to a race that now requires you to go against it. As the author of Hebrews puts it:
“—let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us.” (Hebrews 12: 1)
And again, Paul comments:
“Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that you may obtain. And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things —“ (I Corinthians 9: 24-25)
Temperate in all things – as in self controlled; consistent. That’s an athlete’s mindset. If you’ve been out of shape by letting a behavior rule you, then you, and it, will get used to it being in charge. But now you’re going to reject its authority in your life, which is like booting out a dictator. (Hint: Those guys don’t go down easily.) So needless to say, things will get a little rough when you play The Game.
“But Isn’t This Struggle Too Serious To Be Called a Game?”
Not necessarily. When we talk about growing beyond sin, we’re really talking about the Biblical concept of sanctification. After being born again, or saved, we’re continually, by the Spirit of God, being transformed into more Christ-like men:
“But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.” (II Corinthians 3: 18)
We’re also talking about spiritual warfare, mortification of the flesh, trials, temptations and God’s chastening, all of which are guaranteed in Scripture as part of the Christian life. We don’t normally think of them as games. They’re hard, at times, and serious.
But to call something a Game doesn’t necessarily make light of it. In his letter to Corinth, when Paul compared Christian living to the Masteries, he was referring to a series of contests that were technically “games” but were, in fact, taken very seriously by the culture they were played in. Jamieson, Fausset and Brown, in their excellent “Commentary on the Whole Bible”, have this to say about the games Paul referred to:
“The Isthmian games were of course well known, and a subject of patriotic pride to the Corinthians, who lived in the immediate neighborhood. These periodical games were to the Greeks rather a passion than a mere amusement: hence their suitableness as an image of Christian earnestness.”
Sanctification and the overcoming of sin can be viewed as negative, dreary aspects of Christian living. But I’d rather see them the way Paul did: as challenging and, at times, even exciting. And as a passion, like the commentators said, not just an amusement. So to me, the term “Game” is an upbeat, masculine, and accurate way of viewing what you’re trying to do as a man who wants to live a better life. It’s a war, certainly; a heartache, frequently. But it’s also a noble contest; a race we’re encouraged to run; a game we’re privileged to play. That’s why recommend entering wholeheartedly into The Game, a concept which I hope you’ll find to be acceptable and helpful.
(If you’re wanting to read more about this topic, check my book The Game Plan, available here)