This Fall the University of Michigan handed down strong sanctions against
its basketball program. The “Fab Five” era with all of its glory is as
though it never happened. The incredible number of wins achieved by the
“Fab Five”, as they dominated the hardwood, have been forfeited and are
now counted as losses. The championship banners no longer hang proudly in
their gymnasium. Any reference to the accomplishments of this great
basketball team will be forever removed from the history books of the
University of Michigan. The current U of M basketball tem will also
suffer by being banned from tournament play. Why? Most of the “Fab Five”
did not play by the rules. These amateurs received a large amount of
money as loans while they played basketball for the college team, a
violation of NCAA rules.
Though we may not like these sanctions and though we may not agree with
what has been imposed, surely we understand and agree with the principle
that to win you have to play by the rules. As a society, we see this
principle in sports, but we do not see it in religion. The common
thinking is that one can believe, live, teach, and worship as he pleases
and still make it to heaven.
However, when Paul explained to Timothy how he should live as a Christian,
he said, “If anyone competes as an athlete, he does not win the prize
unless he competes according to the rules.” (2 Tim 2:5). To the
church in Corinth, Greece, where the Isthmian Games (second only to the
Olympic Games) were held every three years, he
wrote, “I discipline my
body and make it my
slave, so that after I have preached to
others, I myself will not be disqualified.” (I Cor 9:27). The word for
“preached” comes from a Greek word meaning “to announce the rules.” Paul
realized that he could spend a lifetime announcing the rules to others,
but if he did not live by them himself, he would be disqualified from
receiving God’s prize. Therefore, he practiced great self-discipline to
live within the rules.
The gospel, the New
Testament, is the Rulebook men must live by and one day be judged by.
Paul spoke plainly about living by the Rules when he said about the
Judgment Day, “on the day when, according to my gospel, God will judge the
secrets of men through Jesus Christ.” (Rom 2:16). Jesus said that many
will profess to Him at the Judgment that they did many good things in His
name, but He will tell them to depart because they have practiced
lawlessness (Mt 7:21-23). They did not do the will of His Father. They
did not follow the Rules!
Since our society thinks that God may be served anyway one chooses, most
do not spend time closely examining the Rules to see what they are. They
see no reason to discuss the Rules and even condemn debating the Rules.
And, they put forth no conscientious and concerted effort to keep the
Rules. How sad it will be one day when, expecting to receive the reward
of heaven, they are disqualified, sent by Jesus to hell, the lake of fire-
the ultimate sanction for breaking the Rules- to suffer endlessly. Won’t
you give yourself to careful study of the Rules and strict obedience to
them that you might receive the prize of heaven?!!