Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Sanctification: Starting from Higher Ground

One of my favorite pastimes (addictions) is surfing message boards related to Alabama football, predominantly TiderInsider and BamaOnline. I love scouring the threads for inside information about player development, recruiting, coaching changes, and SEC rumors.

The world of football message boards can be toxic, erratic, and exhilarating all at the same time. When Alabama loses a recruit of a football game, the board spirals into a meltdown. After Alabama lands a major recruit, particularly at the expense of a rival, electric euphoria fills the air.

Over the past five years, much has changed with Alabama football, but little has changed in the culture of the message board. Since Alabama hired Nick Saban in 2007, the Tide has risen from an historic national power (with little to show for it on the field from 1997-2006), to now being one of, if not “the,” preeminent power in college football. In the ten years before Saban, Alabama accrued five losing seasons, only one SEC title, and three ten win season. In four years with Saban, Alabama has three ten plus win seasons, a national title, an SEC title, and two SEC West titles. Alabama has won more games in the past three years than any other program, and they have been ranked #1 for nearly half the year in 2008 & 2010. Few expect this overwhelming success to stop any time soon with Alabama racking up their third #1 recruiting class in four years and with nearly all early prognostications pointing to the Tide as having a preseason number two ranking behind the favorite Oklahoma Sooners.

Still, with the new identity as baddest boy on the block, the tone and behavior on message boards has changed little. People still flip out after a loss and attack the coaching staff. Panic ensues when a rival has success. Fans get downright nasty when a recruit de-commits from Alabama and heads to another school. Fear, venom, and complaint still generally define the culture of message boards. (Posters call this “Shula-itis,” referencing the dismal Shula era at Alabama, where the Tide mustered one winning season in four years.)

At times, I just want to scream (or post), have you guys forgotten who we are? We just signed top recruiting class in America. Why are we freaking out over a four star linebacker going elsewhere? We just won the national title in 2009 and probably will again in the next two years. Why are we having a panic attack over the success of another team? We have who many call the best head coach in college football. Why panic over play calls and schemes?

In essence, I am saying that true recognition of our identity in the grander scheme of college football- a national power- naturally should warrant a change in our behavior, compared to the struggling program we were ten years ago.

So it goes with considering sanctification in the Christian life. Too often student ministers teach sanctification as self-improvement or becoming a better person.

This tone suggests that Christ’s work on the Cross was insufficient to make us holy and work is still left to be done. Truly, Christ’s death makes us without blemish in the eyes of God, fully righteous. Jesus makes us a son of the King. As Anglican theologian, Ashley Null, said at Rooted 2010, “God is not interested in making you a better person. He’s interested in helping you live like the person you already are in Christ.”

Hence, recognizing our new identity and status should influence the way we live our lives. In football terms, the top program in football does not have to worry about this recruit or that recruit: we’re going to have our needs met. We don’t have to freak out about other programs: we’re going to beat them most of the time.

In terms of Christianity, a son of the King does not wallow in the things of the world but is above them. A son of the King does not live in fear and anxiety, but walks in the peace and assurance of his or her impenetrable, inherited status.

In no way do I suggest that this article gives a complete theology on grace and the pursuit of holiness. It does not address the reality of helping kids with their everyday sin. I simply say that our starting point for consideration of and conversations about the pursuit of holiness must begin with a recognition of what Christ already has done and who we are through his blood. Hence, the conversation begins focusing on Jesus and His work and lays the Cross as the foundation.

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