Summer 2024

Daily Devotional: Thursday, October 6 - Legalism, Baseball & Dirty Words

“All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away.” — John 6:37

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I can still remember that evening at the Optimist Baseball Park in Pampa, Texas. The year was 1961 and I was 11 years old. I played for C. R. Hoover Oil Company.

The week before, I had read an article in the paper about a boy who had been accidentally killed in a Little League baseball game. He had been struck in the helmet, but instead of deflecting the ball, the helmet broke and punctured him in the temple. The story had totally shaken me.

That night was my first game after reading the article, and late in the game I came up to bat with the outcome potentially on the line. I can still remember the umpire’s call after the first pitch. “Strike one!” I thought it was way outside, but that didn’t change the outcome. I was so ticked off that under my breath I said, “Blankety-blank!”

Before the next pitch, the article about the boy who died came to my mind and a truckload of fear overwhelmed me. I quickly called timeout, stepped out of the batter’s box and began to pick up some dirt and rub my hands with it. My hands weren’t wet; I just didn’t want anyone to know what was going on inside. I was scared to death.

I couldn’t get out of my mind that on the next pitch, I could be hit in the helmet and killed. I didn’t want anyone to know how afraid I was, but that fear couldn’t hold a candle to the fear that exploded as I stepped back into the batter’s box. Then it registered to me that if I did get hit with the ball and died after I had just said “Blankety-blank,” surely I would go to hell. That was my view of my relationship with God back then.

The next call: “Strike two!” Before the third pitch, I called timeout again, stepped out of the box and reached down for another handful of dirt. This time, I prayed, “Lord, please forgive me for what I said. Amen.”

Suddenly, I wasn’t afraid anymore. I stepped back into the batter’s box and I believe I hit a single. But the hit isn’t what is still so vivid in my mind. The fear of dying and the fear of going to hell is what is still so clear.

Is it wrong for a Christian to use bad language? Yes.

Is there really a place called hell? Yes.

Is God grieved when His children use speech that contains curse words? Yes.

Does God kick us out of His grace and do we lose our salvation every time we mess up? No!

We must teach our children about the assurance of salvation in Christ. An 11-year-old Christian should never be terrified when they slip up and say a bad word. Should they know that God disapproves of His children using those words? Yes. Should they know that God wants them to eliminate those kinds of words from their speech? Yes. But that is different than the legalistic teaching that every time Christians sin, God kicks them out of His saving grace until they have prayed for forgiveness.

A walk with Jesus isn’t a series of daily jumps into and out of His loving arms. Judgment isn’t some scale where all of our good is piled up on one side and all of our bad on the other, and whichever way the scale tilts is where we go. If that were the case, there would be no hope for anyone. We must teach kids the magnificent Biblical truth of the assurance of salvation for the believer.

Why is it so important for our children to know about assurance? I don’t want any child to ever be as controlled by fear as I was that night in 1961. So parents, grandparents and Sunday School teachers, teach children about God’s love and the assurance of salvation that our Heavenly Father wants His people to enjoy. Now, also teach them about how God wants them to live and how He feels about dirty words. They need both, because both are true.

— Mike Sublett, Pastor of Hi-Land Christian Church, Pampa, Texas

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