Don’t get mud on your face

mudTom Brady and Bill Belichick have built a partnership that has made the Patriots a great football team. Belichick is a coach of amazing insights. Brady, a record holding quarterback. Yet both have ‘mud on their face.’  A few years ago the coach made a stupid choice to cheat that brought dishonor to himself.  Brady sat out the first four games of this season after the NFL concluded that footballs were tampered with for some small advantage.  Why would men of such abilities make choices like that?  Because they are just men, subject to the same failures as the rest of us. These blots will be part of their legendary records. Let’s be careful as we consider this.

Making dumb choices, choosing to do the wrong thing, is not such a rare thing that we should be surprised.
Remember Bill Clinton, the President? He was an amazing leader whose name is forever linking with predatory sexual behavior.
Remember Jimmy Swaggart? The evangelist was touched millions when it was revealed that he had real issues with lust.
How about Alex Rodriguez, the Yankee who marred an amazing career by using performance enhancing drugs?

Those people deal with having their sin in headlines. But, let’s not forget – temptation is common to us all!   Decades of stellar work can be eclipsed by a single choice to cut corners, bend the rules, indulge the Self.  These people who have found their failures in headlines should remind you and me that we are all quite human.

If we want to avoid wearing mud on our face, we need to kneel humbly before our God, ask the Holy Spirit to guide, and rise to make the choice for integrity every day! Before the temptation presents itself, before the pressure to ‘win again’ makes itself known, before the opportunity to enrich ourselves with ‘just a little thing that no one will ever know about’ comes knocking at the door – it is important to admit our humanity and accept the guidance of God’s Spirit. The defeat of the world, the flesh, and the Devil demands a daily infusion of Divine strength. We cannot simply resolve to overcome temptation with our own will. We need the Spirit of God to live in us, to keep our hearts true, and our minds clear.

The writer of the hymn puts it well –
“Let Thy grace, Lord, like a fetter,
bind my wand’ring heart to Thee.
Prone to wander; Lord, I feel it.
Prone to leave the God I love.
Here’s my heart; O take and seal it.
Seal it for Thine courts above.”

Jeremiah takes quite a dim view of human nature, accurately reflecting the state of the person who lives without the Light of God, without the powerful Presence of the Spirit. He says, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9, NKJV) It is true! But there is hope. We are not victims of our depravity because there is a Savior, a Deliverer, who stepped in.

Part of what we celebrate in this season of Advent is the arrival of the Warrior whose love purchased our salvation.  We join another spectacular sinner in a humble prayer that depends on the mercy and grace of our Father – Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin … Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” (Psalm 51:1-2,10, NIV)

The same writer of the hymn says in the next verse –
“I know Thy hand will bring me,
safely home by Thy good grace.
Jesus sought me when a stranger,
wandering from the fold of God.
He to rescue me from danger,
interposed His precious blood.”
– Come, Thou Fount

Got mud on your face? God washes us, makes us clean, and gives new hearts for old.
Don’t walk in fear of your sinful nature! Instead, remember that ‘the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.’ So, fear God, not man.
Walk in grace, not guilt. Live wholly and holy and when the game is over, you will wear the victor’s reward.

__________

Joy to the world the Lord is come
Let earth receive her King
Let ev’ry heart prepare Him room
And heaven and nature sing
And heaven and nature sing
And heaven and heaven and nature sing

No more let sins and sorrows grow
Nor thorns infest the ground
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found
Far as the curse is found
Far as far as the curse is found

 He rules the world with truth and grace
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness
And wonders of His love
And wonders of His love
And wonders wonders of His love

Isaac Watts

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