Wednesday, August 16, 2017

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By : Lonnie Branam [ Sermon Touching All The Bases ]

Lonnie Branam

In the early spring when the shrill cry of the bluejay is heard and the warm sun bestows its benedictions upon the earth, the voice of the baseball umpire can be heard as he steps up to the plate and cries, “Play Ball”. This sound is familiar to most Americans as the game of baseball is one of the most popular in our country. When Abner Doubleday laid out the first diamond for baseball in Cooperstown, New York in 1839, little did he realize that within the lifetime of his grand—children all of America would be playing the game. It is interesting to notice several comparisons between the game of baseball and the game of life. In baseball there must be an umpire to direct the game and to see that it is played according to the rules. I served as an umpire a short time in my home state and worked with a man who had umpired some in the Minor leagues. Therefore, I know what it feels like to stand behind home plate and direct a ball game. In baseball the players must accept the fact that the umpire directs the game. In the game of life there is also one Great Umpire who directs our activities. The Bible says in Jeremiah 10:23,
“Lord, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walks to direct his steps.” This is why the Lord must serve as our Umpire to see that our spiritual efforts are directed into the proper channels. Otherwise, our efforts are wasted. The Apostle Paul used one of the sporting events of his time to illustrate the importance of following the rules of Christ. 2 Timothy 2:5 says, “And if also a man contend in the games, he is not crowned, except he have contended lawfully.” In I Corinthians 9:25 Paul said, “Know ye not that they that run in a race run all, but one receives the prize? Even so run; that ye may attain. And every man that strives in the games exercises self-control in all ~things. Now they do it to receive a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible.” Paul used the track events of his day to illustrate certain principles of the Christian life. I would like to draw a parallel between the game of baseball and the game of life. We shall center our thinking around the subject, “Touching All The Bases.”

First of all the game of baseball is governed by a set of rules. The game must be played according to the rule book. The players have a set of rules by which they are governed, and they do not receive the pennant of victory unless they abide by those rules. We also have a set of rules in the game of life,. and we shall not receive the crown of eternal life unless we abide by the divine rules given us. The Bible says of man's sports, “A man is not crowned except he strive lawfully (2 Timothy 2:5). This statement implies that Christians will not win the crown of heaven unless the rules are kept. In the last book of the Bible the Great Umpire said, “Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have a right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city”(Revelation 22:14). The words of Christ are the rules by which the game of life is played. Jesus said, “He that rejects me, and receives not my words, has one that judges him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day” (John 12:48). The New Testament is the only rule book for the game of life today, and all who live from the death of Christ till the end of the world shall be judged by the 27 books of the New Testament.
Furthermore, in the game of baseball the objective of each player is to score. The umpire steps to the plate and cries, “Play Ball”. The ball is delivered and the batter knows that to score he must at least make a one base hit. If he does not swing but stands there until three strikes are called on him, then he is out. Or he may knock the ball into the field, and then must strive with all his might to reach first base. The player knows he cannot cut across the diamond to second base for he cannot score without touching all the bases. I attended a baseball game once and a player hit the ball and ran to third base instead of first base. The crowd roared with laughter. Of course, this man was a clown. You must touch forst base before you can go to second base, and you
‘. you cannot go to third base until you have touched second base. It is the rules. If the batter has three strikes called on him, or he is thrown out we say, “He never even reached first base.” In the great game of life there are many who have the gospel delivered to them, and they hear it; but that is all. They do not make the proper contact with the word of God that faith might be produced in their hearts. Such people never even reach first base. The very first base we must touch in becoming a Christian is to believe unquestionably. and unless we can believe what the Bible says about Jesus and his love we cannot score in the game of life. To have faith in Christ is like reaching first base in the game of baseball, but if you never get to first base you can never score. Jesus said, “If you believe not that I am he, you shall die in your sins”(John 8:24). Furthermore, John the apostle said, “But these are written, that you might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you might have life through his name”(John 20:31).
It is not enough to that Jesus was the best man, the greatest teacher, and the wisest philosopher that ever lived. Indeed he was all of these. However, we must believe that He is the divine Son of God. In the game of life, faith is first base, and no man can score who does not touch it. The atheist and the skeptic are among those who never reach first base in life. Both reason and revelation testify to the fact that, “The heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament shows his handiwork” (Psalms 19:1). They ignore the evidence within the Bible itself which points unmistakably to the divine origin of the universe. The Bible says in 2 Peter 3:5, “For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old.” Others never reach first base because they simply wait for God to give them faith. Faith is a gift of God, but it comes through our hearing the word of God. The Bible says, “So then faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God.”(Romans 10:17) We must take a swing at the gospel before we can believe. The Lord will not hit the ball for us. Still others will never reach first base because they close their eyes and harden their hearts when they hear the gospel. In this condition they let the gospel of Christ pass them by and in the hour of death the great Umpire calls, “strike three”. It is sad to see a batter retired to the dugout who never even took a swing at the ball, and it is much sadder to see people who have never taken the first step toward going to heaven.
It is also a well known fact that many baseball players who reach first never reach home plate. A player cannot run to first base and demand that his team be given a score. No ball player ever yet scored while he remained on first base. Accordingly, in the game of life we cannot stand on the base of faith only, and expect the great Umpire to give us a score. We have examples in the New Testament of people who reached first base, and yet never scored. The word of God says in John 12:42, “Nevertheless among the chief rulers also many believed on him; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue.” In the New Testament book of James we read these words, “You believe that there is one God; you do well, but the devils also believe, and tremble. But will you know 0 vain man, that faith without works is dead? Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? You see then how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect;See then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only. For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also (James 2:19—22; 24,26).
The Bible plainly says that we are saved by faith, but it does not say that we are saved by faith only. The man who tries to be saved by faith only would be like a baseball player trying to score on first base. The fact that one may sincerely believe that he can be saved by faith alone cannot change the divine rules. It cannot be done. Paul warned one contending for the crown of eternal life, “He is not crowned, except he hascontended lawfully”(2 Timothy 2:5). After touching first base in the game of baseball, you must next touch second base. It is absolutely essential to touch all the bases. Players have been known to knock the ball out of the park and fail to score. They have been called out for not touching second base. The fact that a player thinks he touches second base is not good enough, for the umpire knows and he will call you out. In the game of life we must also touch second base which is what the Bible calls repentance. Jesus said,”Except you repent, you shall all likewise perish”(Luke 13:3). The Apostle Paul preached a famous sermon in the city of Athens and said, “God now commands all men everywhere to repent, because he has appointed a day in the with he will judge the world in righteousness”(Acts 17:30). Repentance is a change of will brought on by godly sorrow for sin and which leads to a change of life. The unbelief which leads a man to think that his sin is too great for Christ to pardon is not the repentance meant here. It is a false repentance which says, “I have done much evil; there is no hope for me, and I will not hear the Bible anymore.” If such people could once get the thought that God would forgive them, their hearts would flow in rivers of repentance. Instead they feel a kind of regret that they did wrong, but yet go on living the same, yet feeling that there is no hope. Hence they continue to enjoy the pleasures of sin. Listen to the Bible and have faith in it! Jesus Christ saves the sinner, not by what the sinner feels, but by his own finished work, his blood and righteousness which God accepted on the sinner's behalf. The repentance demanded~ by the Bible is a change of mind regarding the bad life you have lived. We should feel bad and weep because our sins made it necessary that Christ should die. By an unreligious and immoral life we have hurt God and wounded Christ. Repentance means you have decided to cease to sin and have decided to lead a holy life because Christ loved you and gave himself for you. No man can score and receive the crown of life who does not touch second base and that is to publicly confess Jesus as the divine Son of God and repent of a life which has hurt God and wounded Christ. When one views a ball diamond he observes that after second base comes third, and he learns when he studies the rules a runner must not only touch~ first and second but must also touch third. In becoming a Christian one must also touch third base. Let us call this base baptism. Jesus said, “He who believes and is baptized shall be saved”(Mark 16:16). There are three particular examples of conversion recorded in the New Testament which illustrate the importance of touching all the bases. When the Roman jailor in the city of Philippi asked Paul and Silas what he must do to be saved, they told him to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ(Acts l6:3l). They instructed him to believe~ because that was first base and he had to touch it first. After Paul told the jailor that he must touch first base, he preached to him the word of the Lord so the man would know that he must also touch second and third base. And this is just what happened. After Paul preached God's word the jailer repented and was baptized the same hour of the night. The Roman jailer was not saved by faith alone for he touched all the bases (Acts 16:32,33).
In the second chapter of Acts we have the sermon recorded which Peter preached to the men who helped crucify Christ. The sermon produced faith in their hearts and when they asked the apostles what to to to be saved the answer is recorded in Acts 2:38, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins...” On this occasion the apostles did not tell the people to run to first
base because they were standing on first when they asked what to do to be saved. They were already filled with faith in Christ when they asked the question, “What must we do to be saved?” They were told to run to second and third. Peter commanded them to repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of sins. When the apostle Paul was converted the preacher Ananias said to him, “Now what are you waiting for? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.(Acts 22:16). It was not necessary for Ananias to tell Paul to believe in Christ and repent of his sins, for he had done those things. He had already touched first and was standing on second base. But he could nto score without touching third, and so the Lord instructed him to be baptized. He had to touch all the bases.
Finally, in the game of baseball the runner who stands on third base has not scored. He must yet go to home plate to score. Let us call home plate heaven. Christians must realize that in the game of life they must touch home plate before they can score. One who bleieve in Christ, repens of his sins, and is baptized has not scored. The Bible teaches that faith, repentance and baptism constitutes a part of the a part of the foundation on which we can build a life(Hebrews 6:1,2). After the foundation is laid, we must go on unto perfection or spiritual maturity. After one becomes a Christian, there are certain necessary things which must be done in order to go to heaven. The Bible says to new born Christians in 2 Peter 1:5-11 that they must add to their life: virtue, knowledge, self control, patience, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love. If the Christian will do these things Peter said, “An entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior. Jesus Christ.” In Matthew 10:22 Jesus said, “He who endures to the end shall be saved.” When the ball player touches home plate the umpire cries, “Safe at home.” And when the Christian has played the game of life by the Lord's rules and has touched all the bases, remaining faithful to Christ till death, then and only then will the great Umpire say, “Safe at home.”

When you come to the end of your days and look back upon your life, you may not be able to boast that you have accomplished anything of particular importance. You may not be able to say that you are one who attained, while on earth, more than the average run of glory, fame, and fortune. But you should be able to say that you were a Christian and were acquainted with the rules of life which are found in the New Testament. You should be able to say that you had done your best to live up to the rules of life and that at no time in your life after becoming a Christian, that you deliberately allied yourself with the forces of evil and destruction. Paul at the end of his life looked back on it and made this statement, “For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight; I have finished my course; I have kept the faith: henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day; and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.”
(2 Timothy 4:6,7)

In the game of baseball every member of the team may score, and in the game of life we all have that privilege. The Lord is no respecter of persons for the Bible says, “In every nation he who fears him and works righteousness is accepted with him{Acts 10:35). If you fail to score, if you fail to get home, the responsibility rests squarely on your shoulders. Once a godly man lay in his bed, with his family gathered around him. He felt his life ebbing away and called his children to him, one
by one, for a word of farewell. As each one bent closer, he whispered, “Good night. I'll see you in the morning.” The last one to come was the “black sheep” of the family, a boy who cared nothing about hs soul. As he knelt beside his father, the old man whispered softly, “Goodbye, son.” The boy drew back and asked in a troubled voice, “Why do you say goodby to me and goodnight to all the others, Dad?” The aged Christian answered sadly, “My son, I say goodby to you because you are making no plans to meet me again in the better land.” The boy sank down by his dying father and sobbed, “Oh, Dad, don't say goodby to me; say goodnight.” Friends, the Bible tells of a better life after this one, and the Lord promised that life to all who will obey him. His offer is for everybody, for the black sheep and the white. No one need be left out in that day of glad reunion. If we live righteously by touching all the bases we can all score, and when we leave this world of human activity we may say, “Goodnight” but never say, “Goodbye.”

This message is a reproduction of a sermon preached many years ago by James D. Willeford on the Herald of Truth Television program.

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