by Bill Byrnes
PART 1: The Plan
“Keep me from the snares which the wicked have laid for me…Let the wicked fall into their own traps, while I escape.” Psalm 141:9-10.
That’s right, it’s that time of year– the NFL will be starting up with preseason, and, of course, the myriad of analysts’ shows have been in full-swing for quite awhile. We hear explanations “ad-nauseum” about the pre-game planning by each team. But, no matter what the sport is–the participants MUST have a game-plan, or strategy, to defeat their opponents. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a team sport or individual opponents–all of them must have a game-plan! This holds true even for cerebral pursuits like chess, checkers–even Monopoly! To win consistently–you need a strategy for victory.
We’ve even heard “life-planners” talk about game-plans for achieving our goals in life. However, how many of you have a game-plan that gets you TO the rest of your life? I’m correct in my wording–I said “TO” it, not “thru” it. What I’m referring to is your life AFTER this one–the life that will last for all ETERNITY! It’s the life that begins AFTER we die! Would you like to have a beautiful and wondrous existence in Heaven, or suffer the pains of Hell? Whatever your choice, remember, there’s no second-chances—and it will last forever!
My assertion is not to be confused with previous articles in which I stated that we only live once. We do– but only in our existence on Earth. Forget about re-incarnation–it’s a non-issue! With that in mind, don’t you think you ought to come up with a game plan for your next life–the one that counts? And, even if you have one, you think you ought to review it to make sure it’s up to date? Of course! So, let’s keep up the sports analogy as we look at developing our strategies. What this means is a three-pronged approach: scoring, defense, and analyzing the opposition.
When it comes to Offense, or scoring, we won’t be subject to any kind of numerical score. For Christians–the only scoring play that counts is accepting Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. “Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me has eternal life….I am the living bread…whoever eats of this bread will live forever…”. John 6:47-48;51. But accepting Jesus is not a guarantee–it’s only the first step. That’s because we will always sin. God knows this…so he gave us a back-up. Ephesians 1:13: “…when you heard the word of truth, the Gospel of your salvation, and after which you BELIEVED, you were SEALED with the Holy Spirit of promise.” According to noted biblical scholar, Rev. C.I. Schofield, D.D., “ The Holy Spirit is Himself the seal. In Biblical symbolism a seal signifies a finished transaction.”. So, once we truly believe, and, accept Jesus Christ–he OWNS us. And, just as a parent loves and accepts the behavior of even the most troublesome children, God knows that we will continue to be subject to sin. But his seal–thru the Holy Spirit–will always act like a spiritual beacon that will lead us back to the flock. But there is this caveat: this doesn’t mean that we can say we believe, then go out and sin like we did before. Nope–it doesn’t work that way! If we really believe in, and accept Jesus, our desire to sin should significantly subside. Also, any transgressions should not be as severe because our seal (the Holy Spirit) will enable us to see where we are headed and avoid total relapse!
“…the only scoring play that counts…”
“…and lead us not into temptation…”
This leads us into another sports cliché: “The best Offense is a good Defense.” When it comes to Defense the phrase quoted above from the Lord’s prayer says it all. Once we’ve started on our path to eternal life–we must analyze our sinful pasts. Forget the embarrassment and guilt because we all have items “in the closet”. But our analyses must yield the triggers to sin. And here, I’m referring to anything appealing to our senses…anything corporeal…that starts the sinful process. For instance, are there certain people or places–even events–that trigger any type of negative feelings leading us to certain sinful and destructive behaviors, such as alcoholism, drug abuse, violence, gambling or even destructive sexual behavior? Once we start getting answers, then we must continue breaking things down until we get to that lowest-common-denominator ( LCD ). Just like in mathematics: we cannot stop “reducing” until we cannot reduce any further! For example,
John wakes up one morning to find himself sitting in jail. He cannot remember the drunken stupor that caused him to start a brawl while “cavorting“ with prostitutes in a downtown bar.. Fortunately, no one was seriously injured, but how is he going to explain this to his wife and children…and his boss?
“We must analyze our sinful past…”
It won’t be enough for him to promise to just stop drinking. The question he must face is—what CAUSES him to go out and drink. Once he discovers that cause, he’ll have to keep reducing it down to the cause of each succeeding cause he can uncover. If necessary, we must seek the help of others, preferably, other Christians who could help bring the Biblical perspective into play. Once we have our “LCD”, then our destructive behaviors can be dealt with. However, this process is not as easy as it sounds. Get ready for lots of trial and error, and probably plenty of emotional discomfort, at the least. But, it MUST be done! And I’m not just talking about applying “self-help” techniques either. Those techniques need Christian support. Just as there is “nothing new under the sun”, there is nothing that cannot be dealt with thru prayer, Bible-reading, and a support network of other Christians. There can be no doubt why Jesus included the phrase “…lead us not into temptation…” into his prayer for us!
Now, we come to the most speculative part of our game-plan…looking at our opposition! You know where I’m going here, don’t you? There’s only one opponent we must worry about–and the most formidable one ever–Satan! Make no mistake about it–Satan is definitely alive and well!
“Satan is alive and well!”
NEXT: Part 2– Did “the Devil make me do it?”