Saturday, August 31, 2013

Sports Fans, Don't Hate on Me...

Do not read not a fan. by Kyle Idleman if you want to coast through life.  If you are content in your spiritual walk, ignore this book.  If you do not like conviction, avoid it at all costs.  If you are stagnant and complacent, and you like that, then definitely do not pick up this book.  BUT, if you want to rock your world, to push your limits, to challenge yourself, and to grow immeasurably closer to God and to take leaps on your spiritual journey, this book is a MUST READ!

The premise of this book is to challenge those who profess Christ to be true followers of Him, not just fans.  "Here is the most basic definition of fan in the dictionary: "An enthusiastic admirer" " (Idleman, p. 24).  With the start of College Football season, I have found myself surrounded by fans.  As Idleman references in his book, these people are die hard about their chosen team.  They are committed to the coaches and the players.  The celebrate their victories, mourn their losses, and trash talk their opponents.  I am related to some intense UNC fans...I mean they know that school inside and out...all sports.  I am fascinated by these kinds of dedicated people.  You would think that they have a personal investment in the success of the team.  Idleman says that same mentality infiltrates Christianity...people get fired up about a conference, a retreat, worship, and even about Jesus.  They raise their hands on Sunday morning, they are at every Bible study and event.  I'm not knocking sports fans (believe me, I know better) friends and family members who are devoted to their teams are fans, but they aren't on the field getting battered on a weekly basis.  They aren't spending hours upon hours running drills or lifting weights.  They can show up on game day in their jerseys and face paint and make a ruckus.  They can raise their voices, pump their fists, and even get into fights with fans of other teams.  But, the rest of the week, they go about their normal lives and routines.  Idleman's parallel is that Christians do the same exact thing...they are fans of the Lord, not sold-out followers. 

"The biggest threat to the church today is fans who call themselves Christians but aren't actually interested in following Christ.  They want to be close enough to Jesus to get all the benefits, but not so close that it requires anything from them" (Idleman, p. 25).  Whoa!  How did that hit you?  When I read that, I felt instant conviction.  I won't tell you all this book covers, but if you are a Christian, I absolutely think you need to read this.  The book centers around Luke 9:23, "The He [Jesus] said to them all: "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me" ".  If you grew up in the church, or if you're a long-time Christian, you have heard this verse, and you may have become numb to it...I know I had.  Paul even says in 1 Corinthians 15:31, "I die every day..."  What a powerful message.  Paul is reiterating the command Jesus made.  In order to be a follower of Christ and not a fan, you have to be willing to deny yourself, to die to yourself daily.  That is not at all for the light of definitely wasn't what I wanted to read.

Everyone has some kind of hangup...public or secret.  There are those struggling with alcohol, drugs, pornography, sex outside of marriage.  Others battle overspending, gossip, or lying.  Some might deal with placing their spouse or children in the number one priority spot.  Regardless of the issue, everyone has something.  These struggles become a barrier in our lives.  They put a wedge in our relationship with the Lord.  They make it difficult, even impossible to grow or change.  With my career being in the ministry, I felt a very strong conviction that I needed to resolve this issue so that I would not be a stumbling block for the church or the people I serve.  To a fan of Christ, none of this makes sense.  To a follower of Jesus, it does.  We know the price Jesus paid for us to be able to follow Him.  When I read this book and revisited the Scriptures, God punctured my heart and mind with my issue.  There was one thing I didn't want to give to the Lord, one thing I didn't want to give up, and one thing I could justify having in my life.  But, it was a roadblock causing distance between Jesus and me.
This paragraph from not a fan. shook me to my core and prompted me to confess my issue to the Lord, to the other person it affected, and to my best friend/accountability partner.
"The reason Jesus is so adamant about followers surrendering everything is because the reality is this: the one thing we are most reluctant to give up is the one thing that has the most potential to become a substitute for Him.  Really what we're talking about here is idolatry.  When ware to be following Jesus, who is ahead of us, but find ourselves looking behind us, we are revealing that we are substituting something or someone for Him" (Idleman, p. 205).  In essence, we are telling the One who died for us that He isn't enough...that we still need that one thing to get us through life.  I encourage you to search your heart and name that struggle, confess it, turn it over to the Lord, and let Him start moving through you in a way you've never felt.  While giving my struggle to Jesus wasn't easy, I know He is going to use me and bless me for releasing it to Him.  I can't handle my battle on my own.  I have 2 very close accountability partners.  I also immerse myself in the Bible and books that will help me be a follower, not a fan.  Life is a battlefield, and I am extremely weak.  But, we are so blessed to have tools all around us to help us overcome any weakness!

Here is the "Not a Fan Prayer":

"I am not a fan.  I am a follower of Jesus Christ.  My past is redeemed, my present is Spirit-filled, and my future is secure.  I won't look back, fall back, or back away.  Where Jesus leads, I will follow-whenever and whatever.  I am finished with rebellious living, tame visions, and mundane talking, chintzy giving, purposeless living.  I will pick up my cross and follow Him.  When Jesus comes, He will have no trouble finding me for my colors are clear.  I am a follower of Jesus Christ, and I am not a fan."

Read that again.  If you mean it, if you are ready to change your life, and if you are up to the challenge, pray it to God...get ready, He's going to rock your world!

Idleman, Kyle (2011).  not a fan: becoming a completely committed follower of Jesus.  Zondervan
     Publishing, Grand Rapids, Michigan.
not a fan. (2011)

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