“that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit,” (Ephesians 4:22 NASB)
When I was a kid we played a lot of baseball. Not organized baseball. we didn’t have uniforms or sponsors. If you wanted a snack after the game you went home and asked for one. Oh we had organize baseball, everything from t-ball to little league. But it was common for a bunch of us to get together and simply play. I don’t see much of that anymore. I’m all for organized sports and teaching proper mechanics. But I think there are some valuable lessons in learning how to get along and play as kids as well.
When we played, you couldn’t just play. ou had to be somebody. And as a kid growing up in the 70’s just 45 minutes to an hour north of Cincinnati, everyone wanted to be one of the Reds. After all, they were the Big Red Machine. The best in baseball. And we all wanted to be just like them.
Now we had enough sense to know everyone couldn’t be Johnny Bench, or Joe Morgan so you had to pick early. And you had to bat, field and run just like them. Loyalties switched from game to game, but there was one rule we always held to. Only the best player got to be Pete Rose. Nobody loved to hit and win like Pete Rose. You had to run to first and slide head first into every base.
This past weekend Pete Rose was inducted into the Reds Hall of Fame and had his number 14 retired. I watched with a lot of nostalgia as they played video over and over of Pete. Hitting running crushing Ray Fosse at the plate in an All Star game. Rose played as if a demon was chasing him. Which it turns out, it was.
Rose’s battles with gambling and major league baseball have been well documented, even by Rose himself. While it certainly seems that Rose has a gambling problem, it seems to me that his greatest addiction is to winning, to beating someone, of being better than another person. During his playing days a team charter flight hit a storm and major turbulence. Rose turned to his seatmate and said “If we die, I have a .303 lifetime batting average. What do you have?”
In the end Rose has been his own worst enemy. He lied, continued to gamble and show up in Vegas for autograph signings. The desire to be the best, to win to have his own way, kept him from seeing that his life needed changing. He seems to assume that the world would eventually change to accept him, not the other way around.
And I get it. Transformation is hard. It’s why we in the church struggle so much with it. I read a poll recently that asked non-churched people to give their opinion of what Christians are like. Their number one answer: Hypocritical. Now before we get too defensive lets embrace the truth there. The reason they world thinks the church is hypocritical is because they don’t see anything different in how we live our lives than how they live theirs. What they expect, but don’t see is a transformation.
It would seem there is more Pete Rose in us than we would care to admit. All of us would rather God simply be satisfied with who we are rather than submit to being transformed by the Holy Spirit. We like the old bumper sticker mentality “I’m not perfect, just forgiven” As if being forgiven is all that God has to offer us. We’d rather sheepishly admit we have some problems, but we’re still good people (just like good old Pete) than to face our sin head on, face the demons that pursue us and allow God to gain a victory for us.
Our Scripture reminds us that God has more to offer us than forgiveness. He wants to do more than pat us on the head, pat us on the back and say, “well I know you meant well.” God wants to transform us, vanquish the power of sin and give us victory.
Transformation begins when we stop being hypocritical, ad admit our demons chase us and far too often has caught us. We must come to God and simply admit our powerlessness to defeat our demons on our own. We need to lay claim to the victory and transformation God promises us. And then settle in for the battle. Transformation isn’t easy. You’ll stumble. But God is faithful. God can change you. We can lay aside the old life and be given a new one.
Rev. Dr. Brian Jones <><