Kicking some spiritual butt!

th-1I found a great illustration about the old way and the new way of our relationship with God in the sports section yesterday. The writer was speculating about Don Mattingly, manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers, a team that has surprised everybody by making it to the playoffs. So far they have won their division, defeated the Atlanta Braves in the National League Division Series, and start the best-of-seven National League Championship Series against the St Louis Cardinals tonight, the winner of which goes on to play in the best-of-seven World Series. (Marti wants to know if this will ever be over.)

In spite of all this unexpected success, the future of Don Mattingly’s managerial career is still in doubt. Not everyone, at least until now, has had total confidence in Mattingly’s ability to manage the Dodgers. As a rookie manager, he started his career in 2011 with the team, and though there are many factors other than his abilities that have lead to it, his first three years have been rocky. At least until the last three months, and the unprecedented turnaround this team has taken.

The point of the article was that Mattingly’s contract runs out this year, and no one — not the President, nor the General Manager, nor the team owners will say anything yet about whether he will be the manager of the Dodgers next season. “Their refusal to publicity commit to Mattingly beyond this season led to speculation that his return might have depended on how far the team advanced in the playoffs.”

“I really don’t want to speak about my contract at all,” Mattingly said. “I don’t think it’s the right time. We’re talking about winning games. That’s all I’m concerned about.”
Of course that’s the right thing to say, one of those diplomatic cliches all ball players learn to say when questioned by the media, but think about the added pressure on every decision, especially those decisions that can make or break a ball game — decisions that can make you either a hero or a goat — when his job is on the line.

So Mattingly plays through the playoffs knowing his job next year is tied to his team’s performance versus what could happen if they decided right now to extend his contract based on how the team has already performed. The front office would be in effect saying: “Here’s your new contract, Don. Whatever happens on the field, we want you to know you’re our man. You have proven that already. Now go out there and kick some butt!”

Would you like to be Don with a contract or Don with a contract to prove? The difference is comparable to our relationship to God. The old way is all based in our performance. Under the old way, God has given us His laws, now it’s up to us to follow them. Under the new way we’ve already got a contract good for eternity, signed in the blood of Jesus on the cross for our sins. We have the position. We are accepted already. Jesus declares us proven, not by our performance, but by Christ’s. The law is written on our hearts. It only remains for us to walk in the Spirit of His power, and He has given us everything we need for the job

“No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’” said the prophet Jeremiah about the new covenant, “because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest” (Jeremiah 31:34).

So how about it? You’ve got the contract. You’re the one. Now I expect you to all go out there today and kick some spiritual butt!

[Click on the picture in right column to jump into our new covenant series “Our New Relationship with God.” We will be posting one 45-minute video each week from now until mid-December. We’ve already got three up, but don’t worry about jumping in. You can catch up later.]

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8 Responses to Kicking some spiritual butt!

  1. KaT H. says:

    Poor Don Mattingly! Thanks for the inspiration, John.

  2. You HAD to bring up the Braves! Tell Marti I’d trade those late-night games with her right now if we could! Sports seems to be the one place you can excel and still lose your job. The Dodgers are doing themselves a great disservice to not put their trust in Don before the games. I guess, with the money he makes, maybe it doesn’t matter so much to him. I’d sure do a better job! I know when I feel God calling me to do something specific, I definitely feel better about it because I know he’s “commissioned” me to do that one thing. There’s definitely a freedom in that!

  3. Know what I think? Don WITH a contract now: sit back and take it easy. Pressure’s off, so now all I have to do is enjoy the ride. Don WITHOUT a contract now: I’ve got to kick some butt.

    I think as Christians, we underestimate the power of fear. Fear has lead mothers to lift an automobile off their child trapped under a wheel. It lead me once to climb up and over a cliff I may otherwise not been able to negotiate. It lead me to lift my car’s wheel off the edge of a bridge and back onto the road. Fear can accomplish a lot.

    The Bible says that we are to “fear the Lord.” That’s doesn’t mean we run from Him; it means we realize how powerful He is and that He is not someone to be messed with. That kind of fear, plus love, is a powerful combination.

    Right now, Manager Don fears his employers. If he already had his contract wrapped up, I don’t think he would. I think he would take advantage of their grace by being lazy, the way most Christians take advantage of God’s grace by being lazy. When the rent is due, somehow we find the means to put in that extra effort. When it’s not, we don’t.

    There is something to be said for deadlines, as well as having your paycheck be based on results. I don’t see that as “performance,” as the church interprets the opposite of grace. I see that as being results-oriented, the same way God says that He will reward each man according to what he has done. (Romans 2:6) Rewards based on deeds – now isn’t that a unique concept in our entitlement-oriented society. I wonder what would happen if we paid our taxes based on what our government has done? I’m afraid they would be paying us.

    • jwfisch says:

      The biblical fear of God has nothing to do with the fear of not being accepted or loved by God if I don’t perform properly. To quote the late Brennan Manning (and this is in caps because he always delivered it with such intensity): “DO YOU BELIEVE THAT THE GOD OF JESUS LOVES YOU BEYOND WORTHINESS AND UNWORTHINESS, BEYOND FIDELITY AND INFIDELITY, THAT HE LOVES YOU IN THE MORNING SUN AND THE EVENING RAIN, THAT HE LOVES YOU WHEN YOUR INTELLECT DENIES IT, YOUR EMOTIONS REFUSE IT, YOUR WHOLE BEING REJECTS IT? DO YOU BELIEVE THAT GOD LOVES WITHOUT CONDITION OR RESERVATION, AND LOVES YOU THIS MOMENT AS YOU ARE AND NOT AS YOU SHOULD BE?”

  4. Andrew P. says:

    Not a bad illustration, John. And to make it a tad closer, maybe the comparison isn’t just to a contract for the next X years, but a lifetime contract! Certainly, in that situation we would have the temptation to goof off that Waitsel so aptly points out, but people in sports want to win. Most of them, when having some degree of success, are dissatisfied and want to win it all. So I don’t think that’s too big a problem all that often (there are exceptions) in sports. (Yes, when they get off to a bad start and it starts to look hopeless, they often quit.) For believers, I guess the question is, do we want to “win it all”? If not, maybe we need to be asking ourselves why.

  5. Please give more importance to your underlying purpose, rather than the passing, contemporary illustration – “the old way” you refer to is clearly the Mosaic Covenant. Many good bible scholars acknowledge 8 covenants. Paul and author of Hebrews epistle makes clear the Abrahamic Covenant was not one of law or “performance” for salvation, but one of grace by faith. Correct? Too knit-picky?

    • jwfisch says:

      In 2 Corinthians, Paul uses broad strokes to talk about only 2 covenants, the old and the new. The old is of the letter on stone, the new is of the Spirit written on human hearts. He spends a couple chapters contrasting these two covenants (Chapter 3) and that is the basis for this study.

      • Greg says:

        is there a reference to 2 Cor. in your baseball entry? I’m having questions about lone-ranger bloggers who want perception of authority, especially in matters of the Gospel. Is there a reason you have no apparent affiliation with a congregation or denomination or any other accountability?

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