Jump Start # 2459
1 Corinthians 9:27 “But I buffet my body and make it my slave, less possibly, after I have preached to others, I myself should be disqualified.”
Paul’s words in our verse today are about finishing strong. He borrows illustrations from the world of sports, particularly boxing and track and field. Run in such a way, the apostle tells us twice in this context. In our verse he tells us why he does these things. These are not just lessons for others, but for himself. He was not exempt, or better than others. He had to do what we have to do. He understood, that he too, could possibly be disqualified.
Disqualified—not a happy word one wants to hear. Some do not qualify for a loan. Their credit score is not very good. And, that often means that they cannot buy the car or the house that they had their eyes set on. They did not qualify. In auto racing, if a car does not qualify, it is not in the race. In last year’s Kentucky Derby, the horse that crossed the finish line first was disqualified for blocking other horses. A winner in the Derby being disqualified had never happened before. Lawsuits followed. Many folks got upset.
But there is always another year. There is always another house. There is always another race. What Paul has in mind is missing Heaven. A person doesn’t get a second shot at that. There isn’t the expression, “There’s always next year,” for those who don’t make Heaven. It is the most important thing. All attention, all energy and all effort must be placed in making this first in our lives. This is why Paul “beat” his body. This is why he made himself the “boss” of his body.
A couple of thoughts:
First, if it was possible for Paul to miss Heaven, then it is possible for us to miss it as well. Paul was not guaranteed a free ticket to Heaven. He wasn’t a sure pick. He had to walk by faith, as we do. He had to resist temptation, as we do. He had to invite Christ into his heart, as we do. Preaching doesn’t mean you get a fast pass to the front of the line. Being an apostle did not mean that one was above sin and could do whatever he wanted.
One of the major reasons for the start of the reformation movement in Europe in the 1500’s was because of the scandals and abuses of the Catholic church. The reformers came from within the Catholic church. They were Catholic. Popes were fathering children. The hierarchy was corrupt. Bribes were being offered. Positions of authority were being offered for a certain price. There was very little “holiness” to it. The leaders were acting as if they were above the law and untouchable. Power seemed more important than godliness. And, that started a culture of reform that led to the protestant movement.
For us, elders, preachers, any of us or all of us, are to walk the same path and abide by the same principles as everyone else. No one gets a pass. No one gets to bend the rules because of who they are, how much they give, or what position they hold. If Paul could be disqualified, we could to.
Second, what would it be like to be disqualified, especially from Paul’s perspective? What would it be like if you lost your soul? What would it be like to be cast eternally from God’s presence? What is Hell like? Those are the questions that come from the thoughts of being disqualified. God help us that this never happens to us. We need God’s help.
There would be people who expected us to be in Heaven, but we wouldn’t be there. Now, this always brings up the idea of grandma who didn’t make it and there won’t be tears in Heaven and how is that all going to work? I don’t know. If God can say some words and create this massive universe, He can see to it that I will not be crying in Heaven. But there are people right now, who are expecting you and I to be in Heaven. What a disappointment if we were not there.
The choices and sins that kept us from Heaven would haunt us for an eternity. A moment’s pleasure darkens the heart, and unrepentant and unmoved and unchanged and lacking remorse, we happily dance through life until we stand before the judgment of God. Lost. “I never knew you.” “Depart from Me.” Those words would sting forever. Why did we do what we did? Why were we so dumb? We knew better. Why did we not stop? Why did we not repent? Why did we not seek the grace of God? And, now, forever, we dwell among humanity who lived without God. We knew better. Punished. Suffering. No pleas to be answered. No prayers to be heard. No hope of things getting better. No end in sight. The wages of sin is death. A death that never ends. A death that has no happy ending. A death that we didn’t have to die.
Disqualified. Banished. Lost. Guilty. An apostle in Hell. Paul understood it could happen. It did happen. Look at Judas. And, if an apostle could be in Hell, so could a preacher. So could an elder. So could you. So could me. Nothing could be so terrible as being disqualified by God. One minute in Hell, and you’d offer everything you ever owned to have another chance. All your tears, all your begging, all your promises would fall upon the ground.
More and more folks are moving away from the concept of Hell. Modern preachers never mention that word in sermons. It’s not talked about and people don’t fear it. And, because of that, sin doesn’t seem to be such a bad choice. What’s the worst that can happen, some say, not living on in Heaven. So what? I’m having a blast here. But you can’t remove Hell without removing Heaven. They are linked together by Jesus in the same sentence. No hell means no Heaven. If there is a Heaven, then there is a Hell. You can’t have one and not have the other. It’s not a matter of missing out on Heaven. It’s Hell. You will either be in one or the other. There is no third option. There is no just ceasing to exist.
Disqualified. Failed. Lost. Hell bound. You won’t find any hymns about Hell. You won’t find any pleasant thoughts about Hell in the Bible. Hell was designed by God for the devil. We are not supposed to be there. It wasn’t made for us. We are supposed to be in Heaven. But some will be disqualified. Some won’t make it.
We need to put Hell back into our preaching and the fear of God back into our hearts. Paul said, it could happen, even to him. Because of that, he ran in such a way as to win. He buffeted his body to make it his slave. He didn’t serve his passions and emotions. They served him. He was in control. He was making the right choices to please God.
What would it be like if you didn’t make it? Have you ever thought about that?