Grace Baptist Church Decatur, IL


 God's First Half

This page must remain open to continue listening. To browse the internet while you listen, open a new browser window by clicking on "File", then "New", then "Window".
Click here after starting sermon to bring up slides and visual aides which go along with the message. Use the arrow keys to advance slides. [May take 1-5 minutes to open.]

God’s First Half

1 Cor. 9:24-27; Philip. 3:12-14

Tonite’s festivities will go on as usual, rain or shine.  We’ll call it “God’s First Half,” and we’ll make Him top priority tonite w/ Pastor Jeremy preaching.  We’ll have a 'ball' tonite and he will probably choose to run with it…hopefully it won’t be offensive.  I suggest you choose to receive tonite as he is choosing to 'defend' the faith.  We will meet in the youth chapel on 2nd floor, and I suggest you come down closer to the front by the heat vents so you have the 1st “draft” choice.  As you can see in your bulletin, the 2nd half will be a “finger-food fellowship” with games on 3rd floor and some of us watching the game in HD on the 7' wall screen, free from the commercials we aren't interested in and free from any wardrobe malfunctions.

Pastor Jeremy will be officiating for the 1st half.  His main points will be audibles but there may be some cool visuals as well.  Prior to the offertory special, a full congregational “hand off” will take place using offering baskets.  Feel free to fumble thru your wallet as a simple coin toss is not enough!  Any young people found to be in illegal motion will be assessed a five pew penalty or half the distance to the front.  Just camp out on your own end zone for the service.

Here’s our promise if you come back:

We promise not to “go long.”  This will be a special service because, unlike most of his sermons, tonite there will be no extra points.  A sermon in excess of thirty minutes will be regarded as a flagrant "Delay of Service."  At that point the avid fans will look at their watches in plain view…which will constitute the 2 minute warning.

This is your Sunday Ticket!

Tonite a football game will be played.  Millions of people who desperately need exercise will sit and watch a few guys who desperately need rest.  In each play these large men will face off across a line of scrimmage. A call will be made, leather will slap, and bodies will collide and crash. For four 15 minute quarters men will expend enormous energy and Herculean efforts to move a piece of pig skin up and down a field of grass. In the end one team will emerge victorious.

What does it take to become a Super Bowl champion?
Can you tell me?
Let me tell you who will win. The winner of tonight’s game will be the team that exhibits 5 specific traits.
The team that has the greatest desire,
The team that is the most disciplined,
The team that has the most determination,
The team that is willing to practice self-denial,
The team that possesses the greatest distinction and character.
That team, whoever it may be, will win the Super Bowl!

In football, many people play the game. But there are only a few that rise to the status of a Super Bowl Champion.  Do you know where the rest of the NFL will be tonight?  At home watching the game along w/ most churchgoers. What separates a Super Bowl Championship team from the team with the worst record? It is desire, discipline, determination, denial, and distinction, applied day in and day out.

Vince Lombardi, former coach of the Green Bay Packers, and the winning coach of Super Bowl I, stated in a speech called "What it takes to be number 1":
"Winning is not a sometime thing; it’s an all the time thing. You don’t win once in a while; you don’t do things right once in a while; you do them right all the time. Winning is a habit. Unfortunately, so is losing.
Every time a football player goes to play his trade he’s got to play from the ground up-from the soles of his feet right up to his head. Every inch of him has to play."

I want you to know that another game is being played right now, and you are a part of that game. But, unlike the Super Bowl, your game has eternal consequences.

And, like the NFL, only a few Christians will rise to the level of play exhibited by a Super Bowl Champion. So my question for you is what does it take to be a Super Bowl Christian? What separates a champion from a bush leaguer?

The five traits of a Super Bowl Team are the same traits that define a Super Bowl Christian: desire, discipline, determination, denial, and distinction.

We find these traits in two passages of scripture.

1 Cor. 9:24-27

    Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. [25] And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. [26] I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: [27] But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.

Philip. 3:12-14

    Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after…I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, [14] I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.


In the Corinthian passage Paul is speaking of the Isthmian Games which were held every two years in Corinth. There, athletes would compete for crowns made of leaves. However, Paul was encouraging Christians to compete for a prize with more lasting significance.


Paul says "Run to win!"

Desire is to want something. Great desire is to want something so badly that you can taste it.

Psalm 42:1

    As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God.

That great Bible teacher J. Vernon McGee said that "the highest desire that can possess any heart is a longing to see God."

Such a desire for God should compel us and propel us to run with all that we have. Unfortunately, instead of going for the gold, we too often settle for silver or bronze. In fact I’m convinced that most believers never venture too far past the starting line. Instead of straining and pressing on, we get comfortable on the sidelines.

Lombardi said,
"The difference between a successful person and others is not a lack of strength, not a lack of knowledge, but rather a lack of will."

Paul had such a desire. He was the Bart Starr, the Vince Lombardi of early Christianity.

Until you are saved, you have no desires of value.  Once saved, you receive worthwhile desires.  Yet, desire alone is not sufficient. Desires only take shape when they are accompanied by discipline!
(A lot of us desire to get in shape; but, without discipline it won’t happen.)
James 4:2
Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain:

I may have the ’wanna’,
But if I don’t have the ’gotta’,
I’m never going to have the ’getta’.


Discipline is the fuel of success. You may be the prettiest car in the show room, but without gasoline you’re going nowhere.

Without discipline in the Christian life you will never grow. You will be forever doomed as a spiritual weakling, easy prey for Satan and his team of evil minions. Worse, you may be so weak that he decides that you’re not worth his efforts.

To attempt to live the Christian life without spiritual discipline would be like me climbing into the ring with Lennox Lewis. Somebody’s going to get hurt - real bad!

Paul tells us that a competitor goes into "strict training".
He beat his body into subjection.
He strained and pressed on.

Like a body builder who adds more weight and extra reps in order to increase his muscle mass, Paul felt the burn and pushed on past it.

Maturity in Christ doesn’t just happen. It takes hard work.
1 Tim. 4:7

    …exercise thyself rather unto godliness.

Hebrews 12:7

    If ye endure chastening [hardship], God dealeth with you as with sons;

As there are no short cuts to peak physical condition,
there are no short cuts to peak spiritual condition

Tom Landry, late coach of the Dallas Cowboys said,
"The job of a football coach is to make men do what they don’t want to do, in order to achieve what they’ve always wanted to be."

Most of us want to win, we just don’t want to be disciplined.  And until you're saved, not only do you not have good desire, you don't have the discipline to accomplish anything of value.

Discipline puts feet to a Christian’s desire to become a Super Bowl Christian. Yet, to perform at the highest level, a Christian has to be determined.


Focus and commitment…in other words, determination, will determine whether or not you view Christianity as a recreational sport or a serious full time competition.

Unfortunately, commitment is a dying quality in American life. It is a quality known to prior generations; yet, woefully lacking in the Baby Boomers and the younger generations. (the younger generations learned well from their Baby Boomer parents/g'parents)

When life gets tough, they check out other options and alternatives. We see this trend in every area of life. Determination and “stick-to-it-iveness”, have become passé. Yet, a super bowl quality performance cannot be achieved without determination.

All life activities have their ups and downs. Only those who are committed to riding out the crests and the troughs will succeed.

In Phil. 3 Paul said that he pressed on toward the goal. He was focused and committed to completing his own Super Bowl. He didn’t give up on "4th and long". He kept the end game in mind.

In 1998 Quarterback Tony Rice led Notre Dame’s football team to a national championship. Before the season, sportswriters wondered whether Notre Dame could beat the tough teams with a quarterback like Rice, whose passing often was inaccurate. They didn’t know that coach Lou Holtz had bought Rice a dart board and told him to practice throwing darts an hour a day. Rice didn’t see how that would help his passing, but he did as his coach said. He was committed and focused. Soon he began to throw passes with more accuracy and confidence--both of which were evidenced in a banner season.

This step is crucial. Without laser point focus and determination we fracture off into too many areas. We become double minded. The book of James tells us that a double minded man is unstable in all his ways.

Well, if saved, we can have desire, discipline, and determined commitment. The next trait to becoming a Super Bowl Christian is a natural out-growth of the first three.

DENIAL.  [go into denial...self-denial!]

The key to success in any venue is a willingness to sacrifice self.

Like Tim Tebow, when we are told we aren't good enough and we can't measure up, we should agree, saying, "No, I can't, but God can!"  "And I can do all things thru Him!"  And like Tebow, once God gives us success, we should again remember how we got there, and give Him the glory, denying ourselves.


Tebow could make a lot more endorsement money if he would compromise his convictions.  He could have any girl he wanted, if he would drop his standards.  And he could earn respect from his many 'haters' if he would take their hint and stop taking his stand...a stand he can only take by self denial!

Hebrews 12:1

    Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,

To sacrifice is to give up something for a specific purpose.
To sacrifice you pay a price.

Lombardi said, "Success is like anything worthwhile. It has a price. You have to pay the price to win and you have to pay the price to get to the point where success is possible. Most importantly, you must pay the price to stay there." "Football is a great deal like life in that it teaches that work, sacrifice, perseverance, competitive drive, selflessness and respect for authority is the price that each and every one of us must pay to achieve any goal that is worthwhile."

A Super Bowl Christian will sacrifice.
There are things that they will give up, and things that they will take up.
They will give up pet sins, They will take up burdensome crosses.
They will give up freedoms, They will take up submission
In doing so their time, their thinking, and their actions will be radically changed.

The beauty of sacrifice and the burden of sacrifice, is that it’s not just a one time event. The Super Bowl Christian, like the Super Bowl athlete, continually trains and sacrifices. There is no off season, and no retirement. Paul did not rest on his laurels, not even when he was old. He continued to press on. He knew that the goal line was still a few yards ahead. He wouldn’t reach it until he closed his eyes in death.

The final trait is an element that ties the previous four together and gives them shape.


Tebow's sideline prayers are what make him a champion on the field, but they are obviously rooted off the field.  That prayer is stands out.  But it is rooted in character.

Charles Reade, English novelist and dramatist, wrote, "Sow an act, and you reap a habit. Sow a habit, and you reap a character. Sow a character, and you reap a destiny."

Without exception every successful super bowl team has a game plan that integrates all the elements of their training into a winning strategy.

For the Super Bowl Christian character is the element that integrates desire, discipline, determination, and self-denial together.  This will make you a Christian of Distinction…making a distinctive difference!

Distinction/Character for the Christian can be defined as Christ-likeness. To look more and more like the Savior was why Paul trained so hard.

Philip. 3:10

    That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death;


Paul acknowledged that he was not yet there. But he was moving in that direction. Each day he drew closer because
He had the desire, He was disciplined, He was determined, dedicated, committed and focused, He was willing to deny himself,
And he was developing godly character distinction.

Paul lost his life to a Roman sword.
With the drawing of his last breath he crossed the goal line of glory. The time clock sounded and he had won the game. Paul was a Super Bowl Christian. Waiting for him on the other side was a prize…A prize greater than any super bowl ring.  For Paul there would be crowns that will last for eternity.  And it can be that way for us!

In a little while the game will be over.  In the end one team will emerge victorious.  A trophy will be rewarded, Rings will be presented, Cash will be given, Glory will be bestowed, Advertising contracts will be awarded,
And one team will have bragging rights for a year.

Yet today a greater game of importance is being played, and you are a key player on the field. You have the opportunity to play for eternal rewards. You can win a prize that will never dim. The outcome is up to you.

Will you choose to be a bush league Christian, or will you choose to become a Super Bowl Christian.

[Outline mine, some content by Mark Land, SermonCentral.]