9 Reasons to Watch the 2014 World Cup


Should Christians Watch the World Cup?

The short answer (for me) is “Yes.” Whatever we do, we do all to the glory of God.  Can the 2014 FIFA World Cup be watched to the glory of God?  Each Christian will want to answer that question for himself.  As for me, I have answered the question with 9 ways to watch the World Cup to the glory of God. (By the way, we are planning World Cup parties both for fellowship and outreach purposes). Here we go…

World Cup Christians Glory God

(c) Getty Images

9.     The World Cup—like no other sport really—focuses our attention on the world.  I have a tendency to be “parochial,” meaning that I tend to think like an American, but Christ is reigning over all the earth.  So, watching Brazil, Iran, and South Korea play soccer causes me to think of the Christians I have met from those places, remembering the sweet fellowship we share which cannot be separate by oceans, skin color, language, or cultural peculiarities.  Soccer unites the world like no other sport, (though such unity is but a dim reflection of that secured by the Christ of John 17).

8.    Soccer is more fun when watched in a group.  Bars and pubs everywhere draw great crowds for futbol cheers.  Christians can join together, too, to watch soccer.  While doing so, Christians join together with fellow believers all over the world.  Just imagine that in every country represented in the World Cup, there are Christian brothers and sisters.  Even in Iran, for instance, there are brothers and sisters in Christ.  Indeed, it might be a good reminder when we see those countries to pray for the believers who certainly are alive there.  They are often in grave danger from persecution.  Christians can be found in each of the 32 countries of the World Cup because Christ has purchased them from every nation, tribe, and tongue.

http://www.espnfc.us/fifa-world-cup/4/video/1870852/united-states-chances-at-the-world-cup

7.    The World Cup provides a very stiff level of competition, and competition is indicative of the reality of life in a fallen world.  Concentrating on the defense and the incredible power and precision necessary to break through it allows me to think of the manner in which Christ has broken through the most potent forces marshaled by the prince of the power of the air.  Competition and struggle are but dim reminders of the one Christ who has defeated all enemies—including sin and death—and is now waiting as they are becoming a footstool for His feet.

6.    The World Cup is not shy to pronounce a winner.  As in most sports, the goal is to be the champion.  The World Cup will not allow everyone to go home a winner.  There is but one trophy.  There will be one winner, and the other 31 teams go home losers.  The reason this is helpful to me is that it reminds me that Christ was tolerant in many ways that His fellow religious leaders were not, but, in the end, He made it plain that there is 1 way and 1 way only that leads to life (John 14:6).

5.    Related to the “1-way” post above is the reality of triumph.  As Christians, we tend to shy away from concepts of triumph, thinking that we ought not to gloat.  While it is certainly true that we must not gloat, it is also true that triumph itself is glorious.  Christ has triumphed over His enemies and made a public spectacle of them (Colossians 2:15).  I hope the U.S. triumphs over the competition in the 2014 World Cup.

4.    Related to triumph is glory.  One of the greatest lessons in all sports is the lesson of glory.  If sports is about anything, it is about glory.  While it Brazil World Cup Christian Glory Godmay be true that most of the athletes in the 2014 FIFA World Cup have their eyes fixed on a “perishable wreath,” nevertheless, glory abounds. There are so many stories of athletes like Julio Cesar (goalie for Brazil) who had to overcome injury, defeat, and rejection, but now seeks redemption and gives glory to God.  In truth, most of the FIFA athletes are pursuing glory, while more than a billion people are watching—hoping to see it.

3.    Related to glory is the suffering required to achieve it.  In Christ, the greatest suffering resulted in the highest glory.  The stories of agonizing workouts and overcoming both enemies and injuries reflect—even if only to a small extent—the glory of the triumphant Christ.  These World Cup athletes are suffering injury and ridicule in their pursuit of glory.  By the time the U.S. wins the World Cup (!), there will have been many trials suffered through and overcome.  Their perseverance will be exalted along with their skill.  No matter who wins, perseverance will prove to have been a key element of their glorious triumph.  And, again, this perseverance is what Christ calls us to and what He Himself modeled perfectly in overcoming sin, death, temptation.  According to Philippians 2, this perseverance ends with his being exalted to the highest place of Heaven.

2.    Related to suffering and perseverance is the constant reminder in soccer that we live in a fallen world.  So often, referees will get the calls wrong.  They are human, and they fail.  Unlike in other sports, soccer leaves these errors in as part of the game, and I am glad they do.  They are part of life.  If you can’t overcome the errors made by yourself and others, you won’t accomplish much in this fallen world.  In other words, FIFA allows injustice to be part of the game because it forces teams to overcome.  This is real world stuff.  Life does not offer us a “further review.”  Once a word is spoken or a deed is done, it cannot be overruled or undone.  Thankfully, it can be redeemed.

1.    And speaking of redemption, the number 1 way to watch the World Cup to the glory of God is to watch for the cross.  The cross makes soccer “the beautiful game,” as Pele was quick to call it.  I agree.  Soccer is a beautiful game.  A central aspect of that beauty is the cross, which causes one player to expose himself to the defense, then sacrifice his ability to score so that someone else receives the goal and the glory.  What could be more beautiful?  Christ drew the enemy to Himself, took all the venom and poison the enemy could muster, then, at the cross, he sacrificed Himself so that others might become partakers of His glory.  Not even soccer is more beautiful than the cross of Christ.  Soccer is the beautiful game, but Christ is the beautiful Savior whose light eclipses all the lesser glory of sports.

Watch a beautiful cross here:

A Tale of 3 Men


The first man is Adam.  He is called this in the Bible (Genesis 2:20; Romans 5:14).  This man introduced sin into the world.  God immediately called him to account for his sin.  Adam was to be the steward over all of creation.  All of creation was under him.  So, when he fell, it all fell apart and went under a curse.  Pandora’s box could never unleash the evils which Adam unleashed in his fall from grace.  However, when God called him to account for his evil, Adam blamed Eve (that woman); then, he blamed God (you gave me).  His response has been representative of sinful creatures ever since.  Blame others, blame God.

Thus, we read with little surprise that Adam’s son killed his own brother.  Murder came into the world in the very first generation after Adam and Eve.  The account of Cain killing Abel is still a bit surprising.  It isn’t surprising that he killed his brother, but it is surprising that Cain is so insolent toward God.  God subjects Cain to futile labor (which appears as part of the curse on all mankind) and tells Cain that he will be a nomad—a wanderer—the rest of his life.  Cain cannot believe that God would be so harsh.

How insane!  Cain should have been wrecked by God’s mercy.  He should have been broken and contrite before the perfect justice of our Holy God, but, instead, he thinks his punishment is too much to bear.  Because of their lack of trust in God, sinful creatures will cry out that it is too much for them to face the consequences of their own sin (even though God is usually extremely merciful in making the load lighter than it ought to be—just as we see Him doing in the case of Cain).  Adam points to the sin of others.  Cain cries against God that his circumstances are unbearable.

There is a third man whose sins come before Almighty God.  His name is Isaiah.  Isaiah—like Adam and Cain—was guilty of sin.  He was born under the curse, and he sinned against God.  Yet, compared to others, he was a pretty swell guy.  He was from the upper crust of society, related to royalty.  He was a prophet.  So, there was nothing outwardly about Isaiah that would cause us to suspect him of anything “really bad.”  In other words, Isaiah was a righteous man who sought to please the Lord.  He was upright in all his ways.  And he was willing to serve the Lord.  When the Lord commissioned Isaiah into service, He gave him a glimpse of His glorious presence.  When Isaiah caught a glimpse of the glory of God, he cried out, “Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts” (Isaiah 6:5).

The difference in the 3 men is the difference in seeing the glory of God.  Adam and Cain turned away from God’s glory (hid themselves from it).  As a result of not seeing God rightly, they also could not see their sins rightly.  Instead of recognizing the uncleanness of their own lips (like the righteous prophet saw), both Adam and Cain saw only injustice from God.  They accused God of being unfair and putting unjust burdens on them to bear.  Isaiah—more righteous than either Adam or Cain—did not see any injustice with God.  He did not sense any unrighteousness on the part of God.  When Isaiah saw the glory of God, he also saw the depths of his own sin (see also Ezekiel 1:28).  In seeing God’s holiness, Isaiah knew of his own wickedness.  He knew he was ruined.  He had no recourse but to plead for the mercy of God.  He received mercy—and cleansing—from God.

Obviously, what we need is the cleansing mercy of God.  It comes just after we see a glimpse of his glory and come undone from it.  We never outgrow our need to be reminded of the simple truth that we present no righteousness before a holy God.  With that view of reality fixed in our minds, we see that the mercy of God is enough.  We can live if we have mercy from God.  Just as a leach can live only if it is attached to a life-giving source of blood, so, too, we can live well (or live eternally) only if we are attached to the purifying mercy of God.  Through Christ, we have that mercy.  Since we have a great high priest before the throne of God, let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith.

To the extent that we are seeing fault with others (like Adam), we aren’t seeing either God or ourselves rightly.  To the extent we think sin has made our circumstances unbearable (like Cain), we aren’t seeing God or ourselves rightly.  To the extent we see our need for the mercy of God to cover us or else we are ruined (like Isaiah)—to that extent, we are beginning to see the healing mercy of God.  We are getting glimpses of his glory.  Such a view of God will make us more merciful toward others and cause us to seek to be changed and cleansed by God Himself.

Should Christians Watch the World Cup?


Should Christians Watch the World Cup?

The short answer to the question is “Yes,” provided that we want to and that we can watch it to the glory of God.  Whatever we do, whether we eat or drink, we must do all to the glory of God.  Of course, the issue is whether or not the 2010 FIFA World Cup glorifies God.  Does it?  It seems to me that each Christian will want to answer that question for himself.  As for me, I have answered the question with 10 ways to watch the World Cup to the glory of God.

10.     The World Cup—like no other sport really—focuses our attention on the world.  I have a tendency to be “parochial,” meaning that I tend to think like an American, but Christ is reigning over all the earth.  So, watching Brazil, Nigeria, and Cameroon play soccer causes me to think of the Christians I have met in those places, remembering the sweet fellowship we share which cannot be separate by oceans, skin color, language, or cultural peculiarities.  Soccer unites the world like no other sport, but it cannot unite people like the Christ of John 17.

9.    Soccer is more fun when watched in a group.  Bars and pubs everywhere draw great crowds for futbol cheers.  Christians can join together, too, to watch soccer.  While doing so, Christians join together with fellow believers all over the world.  Just imagine that in every country represented in the World Cup, there are Christian brothers and sisters.  Even in North Korea, there are brothers and sisters in Christ.  Indeed, it might be a good reminder when we see those countries to pray for the believers who certainly are alive there.  They are in grave danger from persecution.  But Christians are everywhere because Christ has purchased them from every nation, tribe, and tongue.

8.    There is also fellowship with some of the players in the World Cup.  If you do a little homework, you can find the names of the believers in the World Cup.  On the U.S. squad, for instance, the starting goalie, Tim Howard, is a believer with whom we share fellowship.  It is always fun to cheer on a brother or sister.  (I think that is one reason so many folks became fans of the Florida Gators).

7.    The World Cup provides a very stiff level of competition, and competition is indicative of the reality of life in a fallen world.  Concentrating on the defense and the incredible power and precision necessary to break through it allows me to think of the manner in which Christ has broken through the most potent forces marshaled by the prince of the power of the air.  Competition and struggle are but dim reminders of the one Christ who has defeated all enemies and is now waiting as they are becoming a footstool for His feet.

6.    The World Cup is not shy to pronounce a winner.  As in most sports, the goal is to be the champion.  The World Cup will not allow everyone to go home a winner.  There is but one trophy.  There will be one winner, and the other 31 teams go home losers.  The reason this is helpful to me is that it reminds me that Christ was tolerant in many ways His fellow religious leaders were not, but, in the end, He made it plain that there is 1 way and 1 way only that leads to life (and most would not find it).

5.    Related to the “1-way” post above is the reality of triumph.  As Christians, we tend to shy away from concepts of triumph, thinking that we ought not to gloat.  While it is certainly true that we must not gloat, it is also true that triumph is glorious.  Christ has triumphed over His enemies and made a public spectacle of them (Colossians 2:15).  I hope the U.S. triumphs over the competition in the 2010 World Cup.

4.    Related to triumph is glory.  One of the greatest lessons in all sports is the lesson of glory.  If sports is about anything, it is about glory.  Granted, most of the athletes in the 2010 FIFA World Cup have their eyes fixed on a “perishable wreath,” while Christians seek the greater glory of eternity.  Nevertheless, glory abounds as most of the FIFA athletes are pursuing it, while more than a billion people are watching—hoping to see it.

3.    Related to glory is the suffering required to achieve it.  In Christ, the greatest suffering resulted in the highest glory.  The stories of agonizing workouts and overcoming both enemies and injuries reflect—even if only to a small extent—the glory of the triumphant Christ.  These World Cup athletes are suffering injury and ridicule in their pursuit of glory.  By the time the U.S. wins the World Cup (!), there will have been many trials suffered through and overcome.  Their perseverance will be exalted along with their skill.  No matter who wins, perseverance will prove to have been a key element of their glorious triumph.  And, again, this perseverance is what Christ calls us to and what He Himself modeled perfectly in overcoming sin, death, temptation.  According to Philippians 2, it ends with his being exalted to the highest place of Heaven.

2.    Related to suffering and perseverance is the constant reminder in soccer that we live in a fallen world.  The U.S. goal in the game against Slovenia is only the most glaring example of bias and/or error; it isn’t the only example.  So often, referees will get the calls wrong.  They are human, and they fail.  Unlike in other sports, soccer leaves these errors in as part of the game, and I am glad they do.  They are part of life.  If you can’t overcome the errors made by yourself and others, you won’t accomplish much in this fallen world.  Landon Donovan got it right when he said that these things are part of soccer.  Sometimes you benefit from them.  Sometimes you suffer loss because of them.  But every time you must press on to overcome them.  In other words, FIFA allows injustice to be part of the game because it forces teams to overcome.  This is real world stuff.  Life does not offer us a “further review.”  Once a word is spoken or a deed is done, it cannot be overruled or undone.  It can, however, be redeemed.

1.    And speaking of redemption, the number 1 way to watch the World Cup to the glory of God is to watch for the cross.  Central to the game of soccer is the cross, a move in which the competition is lured outside to the ball so the player can quickly cross it back into the box and threaten the defense with a goal-scoring opportunity.  The cross makes soccer “the beautiful game,” as Pele is quick to call it.  I agree.  Soccer is a beautiful game.  A central aspect of that beauty is the cross, which causes one player to expose himself to the defense, then sacrifice his ability to score so that someone else receives the goal and the glory.  What could be more beautiful?  Christ drew the enemy to Himself, took all the venom and poison the enemy could muster, then, at the cross, he sacrificed Himself so that others might become partakers of His glory.  Not even soccer is more beautiful than the cross of Christ.  Soccer is the beautiful game, but Christ is the beautiful Savior whose light eclipses all the lesser glory of sports.

The Limits of Sin


Reading through Genesis 3 leaves the impression that sin is essentially explained in that chapter.  The first sin of the race offers the framework by which all other sin can be assessed and understood.

For me, one of the most striking aspects of sin as pictured in Genesis 3 is just how limiting sin proves to be.  Notice that the tempter had to take Eve’s mind away from the infinite blessings God had bestowed upon her.  The tempter caused Eve to forget the infinite bounty that was before her just awaiting her exploration; instead, the tempter got Eve to focus on a single tree with a single fruit in view.

In essence, all sin works this way.  It makes one very small piece of creation become more important to you than all of creation.  The whole earth belonged to Eve and Adam, but that was not enough.  They traded it all for a single fruit.  Whether our “fruit” is a pill, a woman, a man, a bottle, a juicy bit of gossip, or an extra dollar worth lying for–our fruit is the same as Adam and Eve’s; it is one little tiny part of creation which we have made ourselves to believe is worth all of creation.  We make very small things large in our own eyes.

This means our lust is fueled not by reality, but by our appetites.  We want to believe in the bigness of the little fruit.  We make it big by pursuing it with heavy panting and constant craving.  God is not fooled, however, and still sees the little thing for what it is: very small indeed.

If we would but turn to God in Christ, we would see what a massively glorious creature He is.  Then we would know BIG!  Then we would pant and crave to capture his inexhaustible glory.  Then we would be fulfilled because whatever bigness we ascribe to God would prove not to have been big enough.  He will always exceed our expectations of Him.

How ironic that sin limits us to such very small realities and blinds us to that reality which is gloriously abundant.