Summary: Stand up as ambassadors of Christ, gladly sharing the good news with those who haven’t yet heard. And pray that those who hear the gospel will respond today while the opportunity is there.
I guess everyone knows that home ground advantage can be a significant factor in a game of football. Sydney is much more successful at the SCG than in Melbourne. Brisbane is close to unbeatable at the Gabba. But what is it that gives them that home ground advantage? It can’t just be the football ground. After all, most football grounds are alike. The SCG may be a bit smaller than the MCG but that doesn’t explain the difference. So what is it?
Is it perhaps the fact that the home ground crowd is mostly barracking for the home team? Is it a psychological factor, that when the crowd cheers you on you want to do better? When the crowd boos, you get discouraged? Well that’s what I think it’s about anyway. It’s to do with our inclination to respond to positive reinforcement with greater effort.
Now I’ve never played before a big crowd like that, but I do remember playing rugby when I was younger. I remember one game where someone commented at half time how exciting it was when I picked up the ball at one point in the game and ran straight through the defence. Well, how do you think I played in the second half? I was inspired! If I could do it once then maybe I could do it again. And maybe our team might have a chance of winning for once! You see, just like a home team, I began to perform to the grandstand.
It’s true in most spheres of life in fact isn’t it? In fact it’s almost a truism: if someone tells you you’re doing well, you’ll do even better. If they tell you you’re a failure there’s every chance that’s what you’ll be. And if you’ve grown up in an atmosphere where one or the other is the norm then there’s every chance that that’s going to affect the way you behave throughout your life.
It’s called the grandstand effect. Every one of us tends to perform to a grandstand made up of a variety of people. It may be your parents who were always telling you "you could do anything you put your mind to". Or it could be a parent who told you you’d never amount to anything. It could be your first love who ditched you for someone else and you’re still trying to make yourself loveable or avoiding close relationships in case you get hurt again. It could be a teacher who encouraged you to study or a minister who encouraged you in your faith. It could be your mates who laughed at you when they heard you’d become a Christian. And depending on the various experiences you’ve had, the various people who’ve been important influences in your life, you’ll have a grandstand full of people who are pulling you in one direction or another.
So let me ask you, who are the people who are sitting in your grandstand watching you live your life? Are they approving, or are the critical of the choices you make?
And having asked that question, let me ask an even more important question. Are you letting those people control the choices you make? This is important because those people had a whole range of motives for the way they dealt with you. Some were good and some not so good. Some of them were probably responding to people sitting in their own grandstands. But now you have to decide how you’re going to live and that means you have to find the best motives for yourself. And that’s what we’re going to be talking about today. What is it that motivates you and me in our Christian walk?
In fact we began to think about this last week didn’t we? In ch4 and the start of 5 we discovered 2 motives for Paul’s ministry of the gospel. The first motive was the fate of those who have been blinded to the gospel. They face God’s judgement. A day is coming when God will judge the world in righteousness and truth. But then we saw that there’s also a positive motive: on that day, God will raise those who follow Christ, will give them a new body to live in, not a tent any more, but a house, a building with a solidity that’s made to last. But that promise is to those who, in this life, turn to Christ for forgiveness. There’s a grave seriousness about this prospect. God is to be feared, because he alone will judge the way we’ve lived our lives.
Of course the problem with this sort of motivation is that most people today aren’t worried about what will happen in the future. Most of us are engrossed in the present. This is the "now" generation. If our desires can’t be gratified immediately we’re not interested. But this is one of those areas where the gospel draws us away from our natural inclination to think the way God does. And when we do that we realise that this future thinking does in fact touch on the present. The way we think about the future has a huge impact on the way we behave now. In that passage from the sermon on the mount that we read today (Matt 6:19-21) Jesus says "where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." If our treasure is our pleasure, then that’s where we’ll put our energy. If our treasure is our career or our family or our home or our car, or whatever it is, that’s where our energy will be put. If our treasure is the sort of lasting treasure that Jesus speaks of, stored up where moth and rust don’t destroy, where thieves can’t break in and steal, then our energy will be put into things of the kingdom. If we’re conscious of the future hope of the gospel then we’ll work hard towards that future.