Two Articles on Tim Tebow and Their Significance

I’d like to draw your attention to two articles recently shared on the Wall Street Journal’s online site that deal with the recent publicity about Tim Tebow, the forthrightly Christian quarterback for the Denver Broncos pro football team.

The first article, Does God Care Who Wins Football Games?, is by Fran Tarkenton. Tarkenton is a former pro football quarterback for the Minnesota Vikings and New York Giants, and is arguably the best quarterback in the NFL that never won a Super Bowl. He puts a wonderfully positive spin on what has been happening this season with the attention that Tim Tebow and his outspoken Christian faith has received. That Tim Tebow finds reason to praise God in a touchdown pass is wonderful; that he finds time and joy in visiting death row inmates and sharing the gospel with them should encourage every believer in Christ. 

The second article, The Secrets of Tebow Hatred, by the conservative Jewish commentator Michael Medved, has some more sobering thoughts. It reminds us that if we follow Christ, we may attract envy and hatred from others, especially if we show Christlike purity in our lives, and remain faithful to him even under intense scrutiny. In some people it comes down to Schadenfreude – the desire to see an upstanding, virtuous person fall, and to gloat over that person’s misfortune, especially if that person seems too good to be true. Medved mentions the discomfort that someone who seems to have so much going for him can do to make people who feel their imperfections and limitations more strongly.

This kind of schadenfreude is something that believers also need to be aware of as they live and work in this world. Certainly it’s possible for some believers to have been blessed with physical and intellectual capabilities that others do not have, just as some receive adversities. Certainly it is possible for some believers to excel and to prosper in this world, especially in the Western world, and  especially if they work hard and act with financial wisdom, and escape such financially ruinous situations as divorce and addiction. But just as certainly, we need to make sure that this kind of Schadenfreude does not infiltrate our churches and our relationships with other believers. And here’s why.

If I am a believer in Christ, Tim Tebow and I are both members of the body of Christ. His prosperity is in some way mine also, and any scorn or rejection heaped on him is mine also.

It was the same way also with the scorn and hatred that came to the Rutgers women’s basketball team as part of the Don Imus controversy. I listened to the coach and the women on that team express their strong Christian convictions as the controversy heightened, and I realized that what they experienced affected me in some way also.

So this also applies to the brothers and sisters in Christ in our church fellowships. What they go through in either blessing or suffering is in some way that of us all. And this is a reason why when there are social competitions and jockeying for position, rivalries and guerilla wars in our churches, they are so cancerous, and why even those who are not directly involved are affected. And this is a reason why when something happens that signifies honest blessing to one of us, that it also blesses the rest of us. “And if one member suffers, all the other members suffer together. If one member is glorified, all the other members rejoice as well” (I Corinthians 12:26).

Body Life For a New Generation

Ray Stedman’s book Body Life is still in print, and it had much to do with church renewal in the 1970’s. I think that some, unfortunately, missed the whole message of the book and had a particular type of ‘Body Life’ church service that mimicked what took place in Stedman’s church. The Biblical basis of church fellowship throughout the book seems to have been missed and definitely neglected today in many church fellowships.

The other resource I would recommend is Henry and Melvin Blackaby’s A God Centered Church: Experiencing God Together. It parallels but does not repeat what is in Stedman’s book. Together they would remind many in the church that being the church of Jesus Christ is not about playing church.

Church Cliques

A clique among believers is a carnal counterfeit of the true unity in Christ. It is an alliance of believers in Christ intended to protect, promote and defend selfishness among the members by the power and authority of an immoral collective.

Its characteristics are:

  • Its mutual defense of the members from outside criticism and correction.
  • Its mutual protection of the personal interests of the members.
  • Its mutual promotion of the personal ambitions of the members.
  • Its divergence of authority from those in legitimate positions of authority and leadership to the self appointed leader(s) of the clique.  Its justification among the members of self seeking, self protective sins and exhibitions of adolescent immaturity by the body by the group.
  • Its dependence upon a self appointed leader generally unfit by character for legitimate authority and a place of servanthood ministry in the body of Christ.

The self appointed person may be outwardly charming and apparently compassionate but the covert instigator of the immoral actions of the clique. The leader is often the person with the most to gain from the presence of the clique and something to hide and to protect. The promotion of the clique may be the compensatory advancement of a broken dream, a failed agenda, or a regretted choice which causes continued, underlying regret, self blame and blame shifting, and self-pity.  A positions within the church is seen as an opportunity for self promotion and self protection. This person is thus dysfunctionally and carnally ambitious ( see Diotrephes, III John).

Sometimes the leaders of a clique are men but I’ve noticed that they can also be women who are disappointed in their marriages. Their expectations may have been unrealistic in the first place and eventually disappointed, or they have have entered their marriages by foolish or immoral choices. Rarely is there family stability and the family order of the Bible among the leaders and perpetrators of a clique. In this kind of situation the church may be seen as a steppingstone to personal ambitions, but rarely is there any kind of real love for the pastor or people in the church. There may be actually an underlying resentment and vengefulness toward the church and the pastor, particularly if they had any influence in the choices which led to the disappointing family life.

Cliques and false teaching: The carnality of the clique may actually be a festering ground for false and unbalanced teaching!

Note and compare the characteristics of the false teachers from Jude:

  • v. 4: a licentious and light attitude toward sin.
  • v. 8: self indulgence, rejection of authority and an unhealthy fascination with spiritual warfare
  • v. 10: carnal knowledge of spiritual matters, most often by parroting the godly
  • v. 11: envious opposition to the righteous like Cain, use of spiritual ministry for personal gain like Balaam, and instigation of rebellion against God’s legitimately appointed authorities among his people like Korah.
  • v. 12: unashamedly ambitious for personal interests
  • v.16: critical of others at some times, manipulative at other times, as it fits their needs.
  • v. 19: divisive because of the dominion of the flesh over them

Dealing with a clique

  • Identify the leader of the clique.
  • Identify the hidden interests of the members of the clique.
  • Draw away the vulnerable followers (often those under continued disdain from others of the clique but prevented from leaving or working against the clique for some reason), to constructive activity and actions.
  • Publicly confront false teachings if sponsored by the clique.

Building Each Other Up: A Scriptural Survey of the Ministry of Edification in the Body of Christ

Building up one another is the demonstration of the love of Christ among believers.

John 13:34-35: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

Jesus had just given the twelve disciples a demonstration of servanthood love. He had just performed a humbling task of washing the feet of the disciples, even Judas, who was betraying him at that moment. The continuing expression of servanthood love among the disciples would be the mark of their submission to him as Lord and Savior. It would be the basis of their credibility as his disciples. The world apart from Christ would then learn the reality of their salvation by whether they would truly love one anothers.

Something to consider: suppose I were there beside the side of Jesus, and at some point after he had started to wash the feet of the disciples, he had stopped and told me to take over. What would be my reaction? How am I actually reacting to the servanthood opportunities which are already being placed in front of me by Jesus?

Galatians 5:13-14, 6:2: “You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge your flesh; rather, serve one another in love. The entire law is summed up in a single command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ . . . Carry each others’ burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”

Since Christlike love for our fellow believers is the will of God, the very credibility of one’s salvation from Jesus Christ is at stake in whether one is building up fellow believers in servanthood love. What then can be done to make our love for each other more visible? Even more — doesn’t this require more than attendance at church services, and an occasional greeting to someone else?

Building up one another is necessary because of our spiritual unity with each other as fellow believers.

I Corinthians 12:26: “If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.”

Because of the spiritual unity of believers, the suffering or success of other believers affects our own suffering or success. At the very least we miss the possible contributions of the sufferers, and we miss the possible fruitful ministry to their lives when their needs are ignored.

Building up one another provides the atmosphere for growth in the body of Christ among believers.

The atmosphere where growth in the body of Christ takes place is that of ‘speaking the truth in love,’ where each member’s ministry based upon his or her spiritual gift plays a part. The ‘work’ of each part is the divinely willed and empowered gift through the Holy Spirit for the building up of each member. Each member has a place; each member is necessary for the growth of the whole. Apart from this ministry, truthful and loving edification through the spiritual gifts of each member, churches tend to be cliquish, closed and unaccepting, and believers stifled, stunted in their growth, and superficial in their post conversion experience of the working of God in their lives.

Do you know what your spiritual gift is? Have you studied Romans 12:3-9, I Corinthians 12 and 14, and I Peter 4:10-11, and asked God to show you where your place is?

Building up one another happens with prayer for other believers.

Ephesians 6:18: “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.”

The ministry of fellow believers to each others in prayer, both in their private times and public gatherings, is the foundation for making the ministry of building each other up spiritually and eternally effective. Before even approaching someone else with correction and encouragement, pray for the person and for wisdom for yourself. Also find someone else who is trustworthy with whom you can share your own heart and pray for each other’s needs: “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you can be healed” (James 5:16). Be sure to pray in faith, expecting God to answer, and to keep matters confidential. A prayer ministry must not degenerate into a gossip hotline!

Consider then: what people come to mind when I think of those for whom I can pray? What people are there with whom I can pray confidentially for my needs, and even confess my sins?

Building up one another with believers who listen to and understand fellow believers.

Listening to fellow believers must come before any speaking to them. This is to avoid needless and destructive criticism, insensitive and inept advice due to false impressions and mistaken information, and subtle insinuations against anyone else’s reputation through gossip: “He who answers before listening — that is his folly and shame” (Proverbs 18:13). Be careful to get to know the person for whom you are concerned through firsthand knowledge; don’t assume that a secondhand account of a situation shows genuine understanding of someone else’s situation. Love will abound in “knowledge and depth of insight” (Philippians 1:9) not only from learning the Word and being with the Lord, but from taking the time to get to know fellow believers and their situations.

What reasons can you think of why you personally make not take the time to listen and understand other people? What can you do to correct these tendencies?

Building up one another happens when believers lovingly correct each other.

Matthew 18:15-17: “If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him even as you would a pagan or a tax collector.”

Galatians 6:1: “Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted.”

To avoid the destructive practice of gossip, scripture gives these guidelines:

  • Correction should be personal — not through uninvolved third parties — avoiding triangulation.
  • Correction should be confidential — only with those actually involved.
  • Correction aims at restoration: the repudiation of any genuine sin, and renewed and deepened fellowship among believers.
  • Correction needs to be done with gentleness, sensitivity and a willingness to listen (James 1:19-21), and not self righteous judgmentalism.
  • Correction needs to be based on scripture (II Timothy 3:16-4:2) and not personal pique.

See also Proverbs 10:12 and 26:17. How do these scriptures suggest that we should deal with these matters if uninvolved parties seek to pry or others seek to enlist us as allies in their personal conflicts?

See also Romans 14:7-12, and Ephesians 4:1-3 and 4:23. What do these scriptures say that would guide us on how to deal with differences of opinion? Remember: among believers differences of opinion are not to degenerate to become a battle of wills.

Building up one another happens when believers comfort each other.

Romans 12:15: “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.”

I Corinthians 1:3-4: “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.”

What ways has God comforted you over the years?

What situations are there which call for us to comfort fellow believers?

What ways are there that we can show comfort in those situations, and pass on the comfort that we ourselves have received from God?

Building up one another happens when believers share scriptural counsel and encouragement.

Romans 15:4: “For everythnig that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope.”

II Timothy 3:16-17: “All scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

Hebrews 10:24-25: “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another — and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”

The Word of God is the proper source of counsel, encouragement and correction among believers. The goal of Scriptural counsel is to direct others away from sin and to follow the will of God in Jesus Christ. It must be used sensitively to the need of each person.

What can be done in your life and in the life of your church to provide better opportunities for personal counsel and encouragement?

Building up one another happens when believers share materially with those in need.

Romans 12:13: “Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.”

Hebrews 13:16: “And do not forget to do good and share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.”

I John 3:17: If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?”

This is many times the greatest test of the reality of our love and commitment to each other as believers. This was one of the greatest signs of the spiritual vitality in the earch church (Acts 2:44-45, 4:32-37). Its absence will falsify the profession of love for each other.

What opportunities are there for this kind of giving in your life and in partnership with your church? What guidelines should be followed in giving?

Prepare yourself for the ministry of edification; be settled with the issue of the Lordship of Christ in your own life, receive his Word into your heart, continue in prayer, purify your motives, and live to love as Jesus loved.

All scripture references taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION, copyright 1973, 1978 by the International Bible Society and used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers