I suspect many of you were glued to the Olympic Games from Rio over the summer. The Olympic Games are always a fantastic spectacle; an event where athletes chase glory rather than financial rewards and where (usually!) the camaraderie and sportsmanship shine through in a way we don’t see in professional sport. (It’s even better when GB win so many medals of course!)
But all that success comes at a cost both in time, effort and money. There’s been lots in the press about the amazing effect that Lottery Funding has had on the facilities and support available for the athletes—but that’s only a small part of the story. Without the total dedication of the athletes, the team work of the support staff and the encouragement of friends and family, none of the athletes would have made it to the games and none of those medals would have been won.
In some ways the Christian faith is very different to winning medals and it’s certainly different to all other religions.
Ephesians 2:8-9 tell us that:
It is by grace you have been saved, through faith…, not by works, so that no one can boast.
None of us are good enough or moral enough to earn the gold medal of forgiveness and eternal life but the good news of the Christian message is that God’s full pardon and the certain promise of eternal life is offered to us as a gift. It’s free of charge to all who ask, no matter what our background or age or failures! It’s like—although far, far better than—being given a gold medal at the Olympics with all the honour and glory that comes with it without ever doing a days training.
Of course that’s only half the story…
Firstly, that wonderful offer may be free to us but came at a huge cost to Jesus. To win our forgiveness Jesus left the glory of Heaven, lived a perfect life and then went to the cross where he suffered and died the death we deserve so that we can go free. Forgiveness may be free but it isn’t cheap.
And secondly, God’s offer doesn’t mean we can live as we like. If we are truly sorry for the way we have treated others and the way we have ignored God then when we receive his forgiveness we will seek, with God’s help, to live differently from that moment on. So as we read God’s Word the Bible each day (which we must!) and learn more about the God who made us and saved us, we will want to change and live more in a way that pleases him. And bit by bit, with God’s help, we will change.
And just like those Olympic athletes that takes a serious effort, commitment and sacrifice. It also takes team work—which is where Church comes in. Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian, but if we claim to be a Christian but don’t have time for church, then not only are we missing out on a great gift of God, but something is seriously wrong.