The Holy Spirit Heisman

Randal Brewer, Stonepoint Member

The title is a misnomer. We’re not giving away an MVP award for the most spirit-filled person. Not sure who the judges of that contest would be. The reference is not to an award, but to an action—the stiff-arm. D070315012.JPG

For the gridiron un-initiated, (if you pay no attention to things regarding the sport of American football) the Heisman Trophy (if you don’t know what that is, Google it) depicts a player in an elusive running motion, holding a football with one hand, and the other hand is thrust outward with the elbow locked. It is a technique called the stiff-arm. It is an effective way to ward off or push away would be tacklers, or opposing players that desire to stop the progress of the runner, and/or relieve him of possession of the ball. Correctly performed, the runner thrusts his hand into the chest of the would-be tackler, causing him to fail in his attempt to grab any part of the runner or his jersey, and eventually the tackler will lose his footing and fall away as the runner continues to proceed toward his goal.

The image of the Heisman Trophy has been appropriated in some circles to describe the act of giving someone or something the stiff-arm. Perhaps another word to use would be shunning. This shunning doesn’t have to be a physical act, nor does it have to be against a physical person, though it often is. For example, if a young man were to desire to dance with a girl at a social function or in a public setting, but she declined his invitation, it could be said that she, “gave him the Heisman.” (Perhaps if she was polite and had an excuse like she just had hip surgery it could be said she ‘stepped out of bounds,’ but let’s not confuse our metaphors.)  

Additionally, the Heisman could also represent an intellectual act. If an idea or thought is rejected, one could describe the dismissal as, “I’m giving that the Heisman.”

So now, we have arrived at our question. “Are you giving the Holy Spirit the Heisman”?

Christian conversation often finds itself circling another question: “Is that person really saved?” The question comes up because there are people who claim to be believers, or that regularly attend church, singing the songs and speaking the language, but in other settings sing completely different songs and speak a completely different language. I confess I do not know the answer for any other person. I know the apostle Paul said, “…for what I want to do I do not, but what I hate I do” (Romans 7:15). 

Chapter 7 of Romans has a lot to say about sin and it would be better to read that for yourself than to continue reading this with the danger that I am misapplying a verse that wasn’t even the whole verse, however…I’ve been giving the Holy Spirit the Heisman. I believe a lot of others are guilty of the same. I have a ball in one arm, and I am carrying it – cradling it, protecting it, running as hard as I can, and I resist most, or many, or all attempts by the Holy Spirit to relieve me of my duty to keep it close.

We had a practice drill when I was playing football. Players lined up facing each other, about a yard apart, and a ball carrier would run through their gauntlet as they tried to get the ball away – to cause him to fumble. The ball was carried in one arm, close to the chest, one hand over the point of the ball, the arm clamped down hard. The ball is precious. Everybody wants the ball. You can only win if you have the ball. Don’t fumble the ball.

I feel like changing my metaphor in mid-run, or at halftime. I’m really juggling a lot of balls. They’re all important to me. They are puzzle pieces of the life I envision. They are puzzle pieces of a me I envision. My life. My work. My family. My fun. My personality—what I want to do and see and have. The Holy Spirit wants me to drop them, and I am holding Him at bay, protecting what is precious to me. You see, I’ve never really wanted to drop it, whatever it is. It’s me. I don’t want to see me die. I love me…except…the thing I hate I do. And this juggling…I’m worn out with juggling. 

I try and make an unspoken deal with God: You save me from eternal damnation, give me a hand around here in the meantime, and I will confess Jesus as Lord and Savior, and I will help out around the church and give money, post spiritual memes, read the Bible and pray, and even do it consistently with conviction when I’m in a bind, only, don’t make me have to die!

The Holy Spirit. That is the thing isn’t it – that word Holy. Holiness…Be holy for I am holy…Holy! Holy! Holy! 

I’m not holy. I can’t hold onto and protect all that is precious to me and be holy, I can’t finish this puzzle of my life and die, I am…unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin…I do not understand…what I hate I do…it is sin living in me…good itself does not dwell in me…I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out…the evil I do not want to do, this I keep on doing…it is sin living in me…evil is right there with me…What a wretched man I am!

What are we trying to keep alive? How many verses can we quote about life and death? How many songs do we hum along to proclaiming a Holy God that has saved us from death, yet we keep resuscitating ourselves? We keep waking up on Monday morning and push the Holy Spirit toward the passenger seat of the car and engage our hearts and minds in the exact same things that have engaged us all along.

I don’t think I’m not saved, I just think I’m a coward, afraid to die. 

This process of sanctification is a slow tortuous death, a gauntlet I’m running through, and I’m afraid to let go of all that the wretched man has in store for me…down there…at the end. That would be admitting failure. That would be fumbling the ball away. Maybe I could just step out of bounds…or can I say yes to the dance? 

Honesty, the Holy Spirit doesn’t seem that attractive in this light to the unspiritual person, and people are watching and my hip is a little sore…from all this running.

Routines 

Mark Johnston, Connections Pastor

I am a creature of habit.

I eat the same thing for breakfast every day, a Seinfeldian mixture of three different types of cereal (ask me for the details—it’ll change your morning!) I even put the cereal layers in the bowl in the same order every time. 

check-boxes-largeOn the days i shave, i start in the exact same spot on my face, straight down from my left sideburn, and have ever since i started shaving. (I tried to start on the other side once, and it just felt weird.) When i find a pair of shoes i like, sometimes i order a second pair, to transition to when the originals wear out. (Manufacturers discontinue things or alter them from time to time, and, as you may have gathered, i hate change!)

I keep a detailed calendar on my computer, which syncs with my laptop, watch, and phone (thanks, Apple!) and the alerts simultaneously dinging all over the place tell me where i need to be and what i need to be doing, and i really do adhere to it pretty closely. Not like Groundhog Day close, but i do have certain things that i do on certain days of the week, enough that a Monday holiday throws things into a complete mess.

How about you? Are you a free spirit with your time or do you have a set clock that you run on?

What about Sundays? Have you become so routine in your spiritual journey that everything sometimes becomes ‘going through the motions,’ showing up at church most weeks because you feel like you’re supposed to, not out of any real need to connect with God or with your fellow believers?

I did that for years. I’d ‘faithfully’ show up on Sunday mornings, regardless of what my Saturday night looked like, thinking that God was somehow pleased because i made an appearance again that week, rarely paying heed to the fact that my heart was far from Him.

Truth is, my ‘offering’ was not acceptable to God.

Early in Genesis, we see the offerings laid before God by Cain and Abel: “In the course of time Cain brought to the Lord an offering of the fruit of the ground, and Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat portions. And the Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard.” (Genesis 4:3-5)

That sounds harsh, but Hebrews 11:4 explains that Abel brought his offering ‘by faith’ and Cain did not. Cain did not offer his sacrifice according to God’s instructions, so God rejected his sacrifice and worship, since it was not “by faith.”

Later in the Old Testament (Amos 5:21-24), God tells the people that their very acts of praising Him are unacceptable, because their hearts are not where they should be. 

“I hate, I despise your feasts,

   I take no delight in your solemn assemblies.

Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings,

    I will not accept them;

and the peace offerings of your fattened animals,

    I will not look upon them.

Take away from me the noise of your songs;

    to the melody of your harps I will not listen.

But let justice roll down like waters,

    and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.”

Makes you think about checking your heart before walking in the doors on a Sunday morning, doesn’t it?

Some routines are good: you could have a Bible study that you do every morning at the same time, or set aside a few minutes every day for a ‘quiet time’ with the Lord. But far too often, our set times become simply checking off a box so we can tell the folks in our Journey Group that ‘yes we did a quiet time,’ and don’t really connect with God the way we should. We become content with the action and don’t find real contentment in spending time with our Creator.

In Matthew 13:44, Jesus tells us “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.” 

I like to picture the field as some place the guy walked through on a regular basis, maybe on his way to work. He trudges along through the same routine, day after day, and then finally stumbles upon a great treasure that has been there all along…he just never noticed it. So, finally realizing its value and importance, he sells all his possessions, so the field, and the great treasure will be his.

Now, i know the point of the parable is that there is infinite, unmeasurable value in the Kingdom of God. It’s something we should totally sell out for, and be willing to give our lives for it. 

But what if the story can be stretched a little to also be used to paint a picture of us, diligently, obediently, but Pharisaically attending church? There we are, week after week, without really noticing the value of it for years, until one day, hopefully, we see it for the great treasure it is.

Look—as believers, our eyes have been opened to the greatest ‘capital T’ Truth there is in this world, and most of the time we behave like being a Christ-follower is just part of normal, everyday life. It’s so easy for us, here in America, to ‘walk through the field,’ as i did in my twenties, and not let the fact that there is great treasure right in front of us change the way we live, the way we deal with the world, except maybe when a crisis happens. 

So, again, how about you? Are you plodding along in your routine or on a search mission for something God has for you? Do you see the treasure we’ve been given and want to share it with others? Have you opened your eyes to the prize that is set before us, and see this time on earth for what it is—mere moments in the timeline of eternity? Are you just checking things off your list or are you living out the Gospel as Christ has called us to do?

There’s really nothing wrong with having routines…just don’t put your time with God in the same category as breakfast and shaving.