May 16, 2012

Bowling and Heaven

Bowling can help us understand the Bible’s message about salvation. A perfect score in bowling is 300. To get this you need to throw a strike in all ten frames plus the two extra balls at the end. If you leave any pins standing, your hope of a perfect game is shot.

Now, imagine that you’re in a bowling contest and the prize for bowling a perfect 300 in one game is a million dollars. If you find yourself in the middle of the game with several open frames and gutter balls, you have no hope of a 300. At that point it won’t help to get serious and bowl perfectly from then on out. You can improve your score, but your chance of winning the prize is totally gone.

Many people treat their lives like a bowling game they are trying to salvage. We look back on our lives and realize that we have thrown a lot of gutter balls and left a lot of pins standing. We get convicted and realize that this isn’t a score that we would want to bring before God one day. So we decide that from here on out were going to turn over a new leaf. We think that if we can get very serious and try for perfection from this time forward, we can salvage the final score and please God in the end.

We can’t.

The truth is, God demands perfection. Jesus actually said this. He didn’t say, “Try your best and it will be okay.” Jesus said, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). James 2:10 states, "whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking it all." Only perfect is perfect. Yet, we have not been perfect. We’ve sinned, and trying hard from here on out can never erase the gutter balls in the frames of life we’ve already played. 

Think of it another way. What if each of the ten frames were one of the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:1-17).  If that were the case, would you have a 300 game going? I know I don’t. In fact, when I really think about God’s commands, I don’t think I’ve had a strike in any of them. Have you? Have you consistently kept God number one in your life (commandment #1)? Have you always honored Him with your words (#3) and your time (#4)? Have you ever told a lie, even a small one (#8)?  

Maybe you’re proud because you have a few strikes because you have never murdered someone (#6) or committed adultery (#7).  Okay, but Jesus taught that if you hate someone you have murdered them in your heart (Matthew 5:21-22). As far as adultery, Jesus also said, “everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:28). There go those strikes.

This is bad news because not only does our score fail to win the prize, but it also earns us a penalty. The Bible says that “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). What we earn—what we deserve—from our life of sin is spiritual death—eternal punishment and separation from God.

That’s the bad news. The good news is that Romans 6:23 goes on to say, “…but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

God demands perfection, but he knows that we’re not going to be able to give it. We come into this life with a bad score from the first frame. To be right with God, He needed to make another way. That is why God came into this world.

Jesus Christ is the only human being to ever throw strikes in all ten frames. The Bible says that Jesus was tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin (Hebrews 4:15). He always knocked down every pin and never left any standing. Jesus, the Son of God, was the only person to ever get the perfect 300. He is the only one to win the prize rather than the penalty.

When we look at the score board, we see our gutter balls and Christ’s perfect game. The amazing thing is what Jesus offers to do for us. Jesus offers to switch scores.
The Bible states, “We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:20b-21). In effect, Jesus offers to erase His name from His score and to put your name there. In exchange, He agrees to claim your failed score. You get His prize. He takes your penalty. That is what the sinless Son of God was doing on the cross. The Lord died on the cross in the place of everyone who will trust Him as their substitute. Because of what Christ did, God is willing to look at you and see Christ’s 300 rather than what you threw.

Will you turn to Him and accept Christ’s offer? Or will you keep trying to get your own perfect score?

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