You guys. It’s almost here. Dreams will come true. Hopes will be lost. Stars will be born. Expectations will be shattered. Legends will be made!
What in the world could I be talking about, you ask? That’s right, sports fans…
“March Madness, baaaaabyyyy!” (Dick Vitale impression)
Yes…it’s the NCAA Division 1 Men’s Basketball tournament where 64 of the best teams in the country compete for glory. In this exhilarating, live-or-die tournament — one of the most anticipated sporting events of the year — it’s simple: Win or go home!
Once March hits, many avid sports fans begin counting down the days until the first game’s tip-off. Other bandwagon fans get hyped up about some team they’ve never heard of and they cheer for whomever has the coolest mascot, like the University of California at Santa Cruz’s Banana Slug. Or perhaps the University of Arkansas at Monticello’s Boll Weevil (Yes, those are actual mascots).
This tourney also has the power to bring out a competitive side in even the most apathetic of sports folk. People come out of the woodwork every single year to fill out a bracket and see how far their luck takes them while stacking up against their family, friends and coworkers.
My guess is that a lot of you fill out a bracket every year just for fun. In college, there were a couple of years where I watched A LOT of college basketball. I’d watch as many games as possible in order to overload myself with statistics so I could increase my chances at filling out a perfect bracket. Now, a quick side-note about this “perfect bracket” thing. The odds of filling one out are basically 1 in 9 quintillion. That’s a 9 with EIGHTEEN zeroes behind it. Yeah, let that sink in for a moment. It’s an essentially ridiculous impossibility!
Perfection in sports has always fascinated me. In 2011, I remember Dirk Nowitzki was 24-out-of-24 from the free throw line in a playoff game. Other examples include a pitcher tossing a perfect game in baseball or a tennis player winning a golden set. All achieved without making a single error.
I got to thinking about this idea of perfection and it made me reflect on the single greatest act of “perfection” in history — the perfect love that was displayed for us by Jesus on the cross. In Romans 5:8, it says that God demonstrated his love for us while we were still sinners through Christ giving up his perfect life. Wow.
But something else struck me…
I was reminded of the verse in Hebrews 10:14 that says this: “For by one sacrifice, he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy”.
Did you catch that? Because of Jesus’ sacrifice, if we put our faith in Jesus, God sees us as perfect. Blameless. Spotless. Sinless. That’s weird to hear, isn’t it? I don’t know about you, but I don’t know that I ever feel perfect.
So, real talk: Some of us have wanted to walk away from God at times because we read this verse and, instead of feeling perfect, what do we feel? We feel guilty. Shameful. Unworthy. We say things like, “I don’t pray enough”, “I don’t read the Bible enough” or “I don’t share my faith”. Do you ever feel like God is just disappointed in you over those things? If you do, you’re not alone.
I’ve definitely wanted to avoid God at times because I feel guilty about being me. Because we’re all human we’ll have a bad week and then we’ll get to the end of it and say “I haven’t done anything for God yet this week”. Then we begin to doubt that verse about us being perfect because we are making it about our own guilt and our own condemnation. We forget that because of God’s grace and Christ’s sacrifice — we are perfect!
Can’t you just picture Satan laughing at us when we start doing that? When we start down that pattern of thought that’s telling us we’re unwanted or useless because of some past sin or because of what we haven’t done? Satan has some of us so bound up by our own guilt that we get to the end of a week where we haven’t devoted any time to God and we say to ourselves something like “Man, I haven’t done anything for God all week…he couldn’t possibly want to listen to me right now”. Satan would love to keep you in that vicious cycle, but all God wants you to do is focus on the cross. Where perfect love was displayed. Each and every time we feel condemned for past mistakes, God just wants us to fix our eyes on Jesus and remember that He is a God that doesn’t care about your past…only your future.
Jesus’ one sacrifice covered everything! It doesn’t mean that we don’t still fall short of God’s glory or that we’re no less broken than anybody else. It is only through Christ that God forgives us and restores us to be blameless and perfect in His sight. We are nothing by ourselves.
Jesus didn’t defy death so that we would wallow in our own guilt and shame. No, instead He conquered the grave so that we can be both holy AND perfect in God’s eyes.
Yes, that’s right. The Creator of the universe thinks that YOU are perfect.