From the Gridiron to the Gospel
While at home in February of 1989 after completing my third season with the Chicago Bears, I sat in church out of respect for my preacher father on a Sunday evening, and the sermon grabbed me. I had grown up in church all my life and called myself a Christian, but the honest truth was that there was no evidence that Jesus Christ was my Lord and Savior. That night, my life changed as I got serious with God.
I was born and raised in Edmond, Oklahoma. My parents were wonderful Christians and my father was a bi-vocational preacher. At the age of six, I walked the aisle in our church and made a public profession of faith in Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior and was baptized shortly thereafter. I was a pretty good kid growing up with a pretty good testimony and never really gave my parents much trouble.
Football was very important as my family loved the game and loved the Oklahoma State Cowboys (my Dad had attended Oklahoma A&M after World War II). My dream was to play for OSU and hopefully beyond, but my high school career was not spectacular. Being a “late bloomer” and a “kid with a big frame that had potential”, Jimmy Johnson took a chance on me in 1980 and extended a scholarship offer at the last minute which I gladly took. Fear is a great motivator and I was scared to death that I would get killed when I got to OSU, so I lived in the weight room. I grew a full inch in height that off-season, gained thirty pounds, while improving my 40 yard dash to 4.9. In six months, I went from being a risk to a sure fire prospect. OSU had graduated some linemen the previous year and I was fortunate enough to make the varsity as a true freshman. In 1981, making the varsity as a freshman was not a common occurrence.
As much of an honor as this was to me personally, it also proved to be a challenge for which I was not ready. I was an 18 year old big kid who had never been away from home before and now my varsity peer group and friends were a group of 20 and 21 year old young men. Instead of me influencing them toward Christ, I allowed them to influence me. For the next eight years, including my first three of professional football, I called myself a Christian and could even talk Bible with you, but there was very little evidence that Jesus was the Lord of my life.
Christianity is not simply a creed to recite, a club to join or a ritual to follow. Christianity is a restored relationship between a sinful man and a Holy God through faith in Jesus Christ. Of all God’s creation, man was different. Man was created in God’s image to walk in fellowship with God for the glory of God. But a loving God does not force us to love and obey Him, we have a choice. Adam disobeyed God and sin came between God and man.
The Bible says, “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.” (Romans 5:12) As descendents of Adam, we are sinners by nature and sinners by choice and the consequences of sin is death – both physical and eternal.
God is perfect and just. God will not simply just overlook sin. No earthly judge or police officer would be considered “just” if he simply looked the other way when a crime was committed. Certainly a perfect and Holy God cannot simply look the other way. Every sin must be paid for.
Not only is God perfect and just, but the Bible says that God is love. In perfect justice, He must punish sin, but as a loving God He desires our forgiveness and restoration to Him. That is where Jesus comes in. Jesus is and always has been “fully God”, but He also came to this earth 2000 years ago as “fully man.” Listen to what the Apostle John wrote, testifying as to who Jesus was: “In the beginning was the Word (Jesus), and the Word (Jesus) was with God, and the Word (Jesus) was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him (Jesus); and without him was not anything made that was made…and the Word (Jesus) was made flesh and dwelt among us and we beheld His glory.” (John 1:1-3, 14)
Jesus left His pre-incarnate glory and became a man. He lived a perfect, sinless life while performing countless miracles proving His deity. Then He willingly went to the cross as our substitute and took responsibility for our sins, and gave His life for ours. “But God commendeth His love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)
Then to prove with one final declaration to all of humanity that He was who he said he was and did what He said he’d do, after three days and three nights, Jesus came out of the tomb. “And declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead.” (Romans 1:4)
Of all the great political and spiritual leaders throughout history, only one promised to come out of the tomb – and He did. Because He lives, we too may have eternal life by placing our faith and trust in Him.
The choice is ours. God won’t force Himself upon us. Jesus said, “He that believeth (puts their faith and trust) on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he has not believed in the only begotten Son of God.”
Jesus paid for our sins nearly 2000 years ago and offers to us the gift of eternal life if we choose to make a conscious decision and place our faith in Him. The Bible says, “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God has raised Him from the dead, THOU SHALT BE SAVED.” And the Bible goes on to make this promise, “Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall and rose again. I ask you to forgive me of my sins and I am trusting in you alone to take me to Heaven when I die. Thank you Jesus for your promise that “Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord, shall be saved.” I am claiming that promise and calling upon you to save me today. Thank you Jesus for saving me. Amen.
You have just made the most important decision of your life. You have given your life to Jesus Christ as your Lord. You have a new boss. The Bible says that you have been “born again” into the family of God by placing your faith in Jesus. As a new “babe” in the family of God, let me give you some Biblical advice for your first steps in your New Life.
Tell the best Christian that you know about your decision (for encouragement and guidance) and also tell others. I was proud to tell everybody I could that I was an OSU football player and then a Chicago Bear. Likewise, I have always been proud of the fact that I am a Christian. “For I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ…” (Romans 1:16)
Go to a solid Bible believing church and tell the pastor about your decision. Talk to the pastor about scriptural baptism. The water does not wash away sin, but Baptism is an important act of obedience and identity. Then get actively involved in church as we need the teaching, fellowship and encouragement. (Hebrews 10:24-25).
Grow in your faith by reading your Bible and praying daily. (2 Timothy 2:15, Philippians 4:6). As you become more aware of sin, you will want to turn from your own sin and live a life that bears testimony to Jesus’ presence within you.
Although I had walked an aisle and been baptized as a child, although I was a member of a church, although I called myself a Christian, this 26 year old professional football player recognized that there was little evidence that Jesus was truly the Lord of my life. I walked the aisle that Sunday evening in February of 1989 and got down on my knees and asked Jesus to come into my life and save me. From that day forward, I have truly been a new creation in Christ Jesus.
I hope and pray that you will join me in being a member of God’s team.
If you made the decision to trust Christ as your Lord and Savior, we would like to send you free of charge, a Bible and some literature to help you get started in your Christian life.
Paul K. Blair