Thursday, January 20, 2005

The Mediated Life Part 2 - The Game Plan and the Game Face

We have a saying in our small group and in our chuch - "the 1% solution". This means that if I learn the Mediated Life about 1% of my day, then I am doing pretty good. When I am at about 1%, I am having a good day. Then, having learned 1%, I will make it my goal to learn to grow to 2%. That said, let me attempt to describe the experience of the mediated life.
(see part 1 - Sanctification the Mediated Life) if you missed it..

Part 2: The Anatomy of The Game
One of the more enjoyable activities of life is playing games. When we are playing well, we say we are "in the zone" or that we have "our A game". When we are in these places, where we are focused and yet detached and where our performance is at a high level, we feel as if we are living (or at least performing) as we ought.

Hemmingway, for example, romanticized the game and saw in games the existential moments which define the essence of being human and being free. Americans love their games and for good reason.

Though only 'make believe', games are in many ways a metaphor of war, and the language of war is often used to describe our spirituality. "The flesh is at war with the spirit and the spirit with the flesh". Jesus speaking of the attitude necessary to enter the kingdom said, "The kingdom of God suffers violence and violent men take it by force." A loose paraphrase of this verse might go something like "the kingdom is entered through violence and violent men forcefully advance it". In other words, do not think that spiritual progress can be attained through leisurely attitudes toward the obstacles of your soul. Spiritual advance is made by soldiers not by citizens. God does not want tax paying citizens in the kingdom; God is after soldiers. I call this attitude of "spiritual violence" being militant. We need to approach our sanctification with a decidedly militant attitude.

The Game Face is a Militant Attitude toward the Obstacles of our Spiritual Advance
The relationship between the language of war and the language of the game is self-evident, so too, if we look at the life of a soldier or the life of the professional athlete, we can learn some lessons about how we ought to approach our personal quest for holy (beautiful) living.

If you look at the week in the life of an NFL football team, you find that the team studies film on Mondays. They create a strategy on Monday night and then practice and revise the plan on Tues-Friday. They rest a little on Saturday, and, then, they execute the plan on Sunday. If you hear the winning quarterback in a post game interview, he will inevitably say, “We went out there and executed our plan. We stuck to the game plan, kept our focus and executed our game.” The path to victory is this balance of planning followed by focused execution.

In the above diagram, you see the daily cycle. The day begins with a time of worship and planning. This is our time of personal or, in some congregations, corporate prayer. We have spoken extensively about this planning time of personal prayer using the model of the Lord’s Prayer. Planning is good, but an athlete wouldn’t be worth a plumb nickel if he could not execute that plan. We need to learn to approach the day just like an athlete approaches game day with an expectation and confidence that we are going to execute the plan. The "DO" of this cycle is the only part that really is the point. The rest is planning to DO and reflecting on our DOING. The point again is the execution.

The anatomy of a successfully executed battle:
1. The Mediated Life: As I stated in part one of this series, to be in the game is to have a conscious, active orientation of my heart toward Christ in the moment of my doing. We must first learn to consciously bring Jesus Christ into the situations of the day. If we do not know how to allow Christ into the situation in the immediate present and practice His presence in the moment of the battle, I do not believe the Christian will find victory in the battle. "The eyes set on the flesh is dead but the eyes set on the Spirit in life and peace". I am applying this principle to the actual moment of the battle itself. I do not think it can be experienced any other way. The mind set on the natural faculties of the self will lead to failure, but the mind, the awareness, set on the empowering life of the Savior Himself will find freedom and liberation from the impulsiveness of the flesh and the bondage of sin. This principle of the Experience of the Mediated Life needs to become a well worn path and a common (many times a day) experience for the Christian if we desire to walk in victory.

2. A Soldiers Abandonment to the Plan. When I am in this moment of inviting Jesus into my battle, He will "bring to my remembrance all that He has taught me". In other words, I need the Spirit of Christ to remind me of my morning plans for victory. In my case for example, "He who controls his tongue is a mature man". But remembering is not enough, I must have the attitude of a soldier in an army. Soldiers do not question the plan in the midst of the battle. Now is not the time to allow oneself to rationalize. I must have my game face on. The word is a clear command of scripture which I have, in a very prolonged and sober moment, seen as vital to my spiritual growth. Do not doubt in the dark what you saw in the light! This principle is so helpful. In the moment, I always find my mind will say, "No, speak up. Your point is valid, and who cares what they think anyway. You are free to speak your mind as you please." This rationalization makes perfect sense, but it fails to see the big picture of the war at hand.

These principles seem difficult, but the reality is, when practiced together, they bring peace. The mind set on the Spirit is life and PEACE. When I invite Christ into my awareness in a given situation, I become confident. My gracious Savior is for me and with me. He is all-powerful and all-loving, and He is here. This calmness comes with the command when the command comes from His presence. That is the anatomy and the experience of the mediated life. In this place, the cross is taken up, the moment passes, and for a moment, in my person, the rule and reign of Christ has been experienced. He is indeed Lord of all. One moment passed. One battle won by His grace.

God Bless,

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