If you don’t like playing the game of life very much, it might be because of your coach. In football, there are two “types” of coaches: the disciplinarian and the players’ coach. Both can be very effective at extracting performance on the field, but they have different effects in the hearts of the players. A good example of a disciplinarian is Jimmy Johnson, former coach of the Dallas Cowboys. He was famous for his harsh actions such as kicking players off the team for falling asleep during team meetings or fumbling the ball during meaningless moments at the end of a game. His players performed for him because they were terrified that if they didn’t meet his expectations, the consequences would be severe! But there are also many very successful players’ coaches like former Texas Longhorn coach Fred Akers. A friend of mine played for Texas in the mid 80’s and told me that Akers instructed his players to say, after messing up, “that’s not like me” and then get ready for the next play.
Although many Christians view God as a harsh disciplinarian, our heavenly Father is in fact a players’ coach. We have relationship with Him, not just a giant set of rules with painful consequences. Have you heard Christians SHOULD go to church every time the doors are open…. Christians SHOULD NOT drink…. Christians SHOULD wear their best clothes to church… Christians SHOULD NOT support businesses open on Sundays….? A list of shoulds and should nots sounds a lot like the Law. If you need a refresher course on the Law, go and read Exodus, Leviticus and Deuteronomy in the Old Testament of your Bible, where you will find all kinds of Dos and Don’ts—over 600 of them, in fact. The Law was given to a specific chosen people, at a specific time in history…. people who were not ready for a personal relationship with God. But you, friend, are not living in that time. Here’s a verse that describes the time God’s people are in right now:
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. (Romans 8:1-2 NIV)
Placing yourself under the Law is like being coached by a harsh disciplinarian. It makes you aware of your faults and fearful of punishment. It may change outward conduct, but doesn’t make you a better person in your heart. As a matter of fact, it can make you paranoid or bitter as you suppress your natural desires in order to perform. It can frustrate you as again and again that you are unable to control your impulses. And when you do master some area of your life, it’s tempting to be intolerant of other people who struggle in that area.
Fear is not God’s desire for you. He would rather you receive the offer of forgiveness through Jesus when you fall short, and a personal relationship with God’s Spirit. Knowing that you are forgiven, loved, and accepted no matter how many times you drop the ball can remove much of the pressure to perform. In essence God is saying, “Rather than give you a list of dos and don’ts; I will walk with you and mold you into a person who resembles My character and My likeness.” Then when we drop the ball, we can simply say “that’s not like me” and line up for the next play.
So stop living in fear of getting cut from the team, you redeemed people! Enjoy freedom, forgiveness, and relationship that makes every day a new opportunity to fulfill the potential that our Coach sees in us. For more on Law vs Relationship, take a look at my blog posts: Covenants, Old Covenant and New Covenant.
Do you have any examples of shoulds or should nots that relationship has freed you from?