Just Announced: Philippians Sermon Series

Summary: Jesus reveals the four essential plays He is going to use as He competes in the real super bowl of life.

By tonight, the endless hoopla, the frenzied advertising and, almost incidentally, the football game itself will be over. Super Bowl Sunday will have come and gone for another year.

One more observation: The Super Bowl wouldn't be a true sporting event without an endless string of both pre-game and post-game interviews. Fair or not, we have come to expect our sports professionals to be as articulate as they are athletic. There are probably only about three different interviews available to any athlete. We've all heard them, and we've heard them all.

First there is the "I'm the greatest; nothing can stop me" interview. This is usually, but not always, a pre-game display ... as players psyche themselves up

and hope to psyche out the competition. These are big guys, in the big leagues, earning big bucks, and they have big egos to match. At their worst, these pre-game boasting contests are the ones we cringe at and hope our kids don't hear.

The second type of interview is usually a post-game display. Typically the star player praises his teammates, his coaches, throws a gnawed-bone compliment to the opposition, and then admits that, "Yes, I played a great game. I was able to do what I do best." These interviews are really about giving a star more

on-camera time.

The third type of interview is increasingly rare and makes a lot of people uncomfortable. This is the Christian-athlete interview. In it the athlete uses his player-podium to offer a bit of Christian witnessing. With humility and sincerity, these Christian-athletes praise God and thank Jesus for their game performance. They don't boast or brag; they know they're good, but they point to a different source of power for their abilities than the coaching staff, or the weight-training regimen, or their individual determination.

These Christian-athlete interviews seem to be getting less frequent because these muscular witnesses often find themselves censured by both believers

and nonbelievers alike. Nonbelievers first laugh and then get huffy ... claiming these Christian-athletes are not appreciative enough of their coaches or fellow team mates.

NBC reporter Jim Gray, who holds the mike after many sports events, says: "If they want to talk about God initially, that's fine. But I do think we should be leading the conversation to other things ... I did the [first] Holyfield-Tyson fight, and Ferdie Pacheco had Evander [for an interview], and he started talking about his faith and everything else. Ferdie just said to him, as only he can, 'All right, Evander, enough about God, what about the fight?'"

Another network reporter, who asked not to be identified, said, "I think it's a disgrace. I don't think it's the right time or the right place. I believe in God, but I'm going to save my prayers for something I consider much more important than a football game." --- Quoted by Leonard Shapiro, "In God They Trust," Washington Post staff writer, Washington Post, D-1.

Notice how it's okay for high-ego athletes to yell and say, "I'm number one; I'm the best; am I good or what?" They can dance and strut their stuff all they want.

But if high-character athletes give glory to God rather than to themselves, if they thank God rather than their genes, they get criticized.

Amazingly, believers are often the most uncomfortable with this kind of post-game confession of faith. We back off and button our lips or look embarrassed.

Perhaps we believers don't want Jesus to take the blame the next time this guy plays lousy, or drops the winning touchdown pass. But it is probably more likely that we are turned off by the notion that the Lord of the universe, the Savior of all creation, is sitting down this Sunday watching a football game.

Does God have a favorite NFL team? Does Jesus root for special players? What do we do and say when a big, burly football player claims that Christ helped him win the big game or make the big play? Is there a Christian way to celebrate Super Bowl Sunday?

Right up front, let's agree that no, God does not have a favorite team and that Jesus really doesn't care who wins the big game today. But our Lord and Savior does care about how the game is played; even more importantly, about how all of our seemingly so important life-games are played. At all times, in all places, in all our "game," Christians are to play like Christians ... win or lose.

This brings us to our text for this morning.

Here Jesus reveals the four essential plays He is going to use as He competes in the real super bowl of life. How is Jesus playing the game?

First, Jesus declares that He brings good news to "the poor." Second, He seeks the release of those bound in all types of captivity. Third, He offers new vision to those who have been living blind, healing for those who are wounded and diseased. Finally, He gives freedom to those who are oppressed.

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