March Madness

John Hill

"You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.  Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die.  But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us."  Romans 5:6-8 (NIV)

March Madness: it happens every year.  No, it is not a contagious disease that causes one to lose their mind.  Rather, it is when 64 NCAA Division 1 colleges begin a basketball tournament that takes the better part of March to complete.  At offices all around the country, people create pools and brackets predicting who will win it all.  The people who get the closest often win prizes, praises, and respect for their prowess as basketball “prophets.”

Meanwhile, the teams actually playing the games each hope that it is their time to win the sports most prestigious tournament of the year in an effort to be crowned “National Champs.”  The players, in turn, collectively hope that they can perform at their highest levels at the right times.  The experts say it takes a combination of skill, talent, timing, and just a little bit of luck to win it all.  One can imagine why it is called “madness.”

As I reflect on the craziness that is the college basketball national tournament, I can’t help but think of the craziness of God’s love for us.  While it is fun to watch teams compete for the ultimate earthly prize in hoops, there is a greater prize that God had in mind over 2,000 years ago when His Son, Jesus, dared to do the unthinkable: die for those who were His enemies.  Now, that is madness!

Paul reminds us of this in Romans 5:7 when he writes that it would be rare for anyone to die even for a righteous person let alone people who are sinners and estranged from the one doing the dying.  Yet, that is exactly what Jesus did as He demonstrated God’s love for us and funded a sin-debt that we were powerless to repay.  Jesus became a righteous substitute for ungodly debtors.  And Paul states that it all happened at “just the right time.”  There was no guessing by God; no game of chance, for He knew exactly what He was doing and when He would do it.

In Jesus’ work on the cross, we can find a confidence of God’s love for us.  He did not love us because He was impressed with us, or felt lonely, or even because He saw some potential in us; He loves us because it is part of His nature.  The madness of the cross stands as the ultimate expression of His love and at the same time the ultimate satisfaction of His holiness and justice.  For at the cross, God proves Himself to simultaneously be the One who saves us and the One from Whom we need to be saved.  “This,” as John writes in 1 John 4:10, “is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”

Will you revel in God’s love for you?  Do you daily take time to reflect on how amazing it is that a Holy God would invite you into a relationship with Him and then forgive you of the very sins that kept you from enjoying that relationship in the first place?  Maybe this week you can find new ways to thank God for His love.  Maybe you can be a conduit for expressing God’s love to others.  Have you filled out a “7 for Heaven” card?  Are you still praying for the names you wrote down?  How about brainstorming some “Acts of Kindness” (ARK’s) that you can perform?

Lastly, don’t allow anything that you have heard or experienced in the past sway you from an absolute confidence in God’s love for you.  People will say and do things throughout your life that will attempt to erode your trust in the love of God, but don’t let them.  Instead, bring them to your Lord and leave them at the cross.  Also, don’t let sin, whether yours or someone else’s, stand in the way of enjoying deep fellowship with the God Who loves you and died for you. Practice regular repentance and confession so that you may remain upright and faithful before your Lord.


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