My head coach and my position coach, they were solid. I loved them, and I value them even to this day. Coach Spangler, my head coach, was a hardcore, old school-type coach. He wanted a little blood to drop before you finished. He only believed in taking the necessary breaks. He has a personal history that included some very elite and high-quality football, and he wanted us to get as close to that as possible. Did he yell at me a few times? Of course. One time he told me in film that, “If you are going to be running down in coverage like that, we are going to need Punt Team Insurance because you’re a liability.” Coach Spangler was predictable because he never settled. He wanted the platinum standard, no matter what. Coach Haltiwanger, my position coach, was a character. He was sarcastic, and he was a perfectionist. No matter the snap time or kick or anything, it always needed to be better, faster, farther, higher. Coach Halt wanted me to be a leader, and I never was one. He used to ask me questions about my own teammates, in front of them, to see if I had done my due diligence as a captain. Needless to say, I often missed that mark. Halt used to ask me the most random spiritual questions, “… because one day, you gon’ have a church member coming in your office, saying, ‘my cat died… is my cat going to heaven?'”
The one thing I learned from these two men in particular, as an athlete, was to make sure you are never satisfied. If that snap was fast, it needed to be faster. If that squat was easy because you’ve gotten stronger, put more weight on. If you won the game, win the next one, more convincingly. It was never enough. I used to get so frustrated at times because I wanted to plateau out and cruise. They would never let me. They were constantly pushing me to be better, and I always wanted to settle.
I never understood the value of their coaching style until I preached a sermon series on 1 John.
You’ve said it. I’ve said it. We’ve all said it. We say, “Well, you know I’m not perfect…” or we say, “God knows I ain’t perfect, but…” We use this as an excuse to do two things. We either try and justify and recuse ourselves in regards to a sin we’ve just committed, or we use it to qualify something we want to say that may seem a little self-righteous. “Don’t get me wrong… I’m not perfect…. but he shouldn’t have done that.”
Two things can be true at once. The first truth is that admitting, “God knows I’m not perfect,” is perfectly honest and factual. God does in fact know that you aren’t perfect, just like anyone with the ability to breathe and access to the internet could affirm, as well. The second thing that is true– while also being false– is that the intention in recusing yourself is absolutely an unbiblical thing to say. Yes, God knows you aren’t perfect. But you probably say that, thinking, “But He lets that go.” And that’s not true.
God does know that you aren’t perfect. We all do. The issue is that you think that can be dominating standard of your lifestyle. God will get over it, won’t he? After all, I am a Christian.
Myth: God knows I’m not perfect, and in light of that, he doesn’t expect me to be.
Reality: that is absolutely, totally false.
Check this out first:
My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. 2 He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. 3 And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. 4 Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, 5 but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: 6 whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked. 1 John 2:1-6 (ESV, my emphasis)
Now, I’m not going to deep-dive here into some nerdy hermeneutical lecture about Greek words, even though by now, I know a few. But I find these six verses to be extremely compelling. They have change my entire perception of what it means to be a believer. There are a few phrase I want to pull out and emphasize in this passage.
For starters, what are the “things” John is referring to in 2:1? He is referencing right back to 1 John 1, where he makes a few claims. John tells them that Jesus was a real person (1:1-2). John tells them (them being house churches and members) that this person they testify about, Jesus, is the Messiah (1:1-2). John also points out the nature of God (1:5). Lastly, John really drives home the point that sin and God cannot coexist both in the life of the believers and in reality itself (1:5-10). So, now that John has laid these things out, let’s look at his words in chapter 2.
He says, “I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin.” He told them the things of chapter 1 in order that they choose not to sin. There is no major nuance here. Many preachers and “Christians” will try and play this off into some self-help nonsense, but they are yanking your chain. “I am writing these things so that you may not sin.” Now that you know these things, that should prove to you that you shouldn’t sin. Being a Christian means being perfect. No, I’m being serious. Being a Christian means being perfect. Jesus said, “If anyone wants to come after me, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.” John writes, “whoever says he abides in [Jesus] ought to walk in the same way in which [Jesus] walked.” If you claim to know Christ, you should strive to be like him. End of story. Now, the follow up response is always that God knows you will mess up. That’s true. He does. That doesn’t make it acceptable. I know that mayonnaise is hot garbage. I also expect that it not be put on my sandwich. If the guy at Subway puts mayonnaise on my sandwich, that doesn’t make it acceptable because I watched him do it. That’s called being satisfied. And if I have learned anything from my college football experience, I have learned to never be satisfied.
We spend too much time justifying our own sins in front a God who asked us not to do it. Some people may think this topic of conversation is harsh, it makes God sound mean, it doesn’t give enough grace. Enough grace was given. What’s really mean is looking at someone who loves you and actively choosing to act contrary to their wishes. It’s only harsh if it is meant to harm. It isn’t mean to harm. It’s meant to free. Christ designed humanity to be perfect, to live in perfect harmony with himself, and to live God-breathed life to its fullest extent. The only thing that ruined his perfect design was the decision of man. It’s not God’s decision that you sin. So, the fact that He asks us not to do it is more than perfectly justified.
Now, you’re not perfect. The elephant in the room is that this is an impossible standard for you to uphold. That is precisely where the Gospel takes over. God’s love is like this: while we were yet still sinners, Christ died for us. We know, that if we do sin, Christ will step in on behalf of those who are his children, owning up to our sins— for Jesus has none. God is asking you to not sin. He knows that you will. There is no excuse for it. Yet, God graciously covers those sins even still. We must pursue excellence. Sure, you’re going to sin. That’s the point. If you were capable of eradicating all sins, all the time, for all time, then Jesus would be superfluous. Don’t sin. Don’t do it. But even when you do sin, Jesus Christ the righteous steps in as your advocate. And that is really pretty cool.
Tommy Spangler taught me as an athlete to never be satisfied. Neither should you, Christian. Don’t settle for routine, volitional sins. Don’t waste your own time making excuses because “that’s just the way God made me.” No. It isn’t. He made you so that He could love you, and so that you would know Him. If you know Him, act like Him. And you know what you would be if you acted like Christ?