Remember the basics

I think I first read this account in Jerry Kramer’s football classic, Instant Replay, though it has been retold many times in many contexts (and several times by me as well).

At the beginning of training camp for the Green Bay Packers in 1961, coach Vince Lombardi wanted to remind his players of the importance of understanding and paying attention to the basics of the game.  So on the first day of training camp that year, Lombardi walked onto the field, gathered the players around him, and said, “Gentlemen, this is a football.”  (To which one of the men sarcastically replied, “Hold on coach, you’re going to fast.”)

Lombardi’s philosophy was that when the players learned the basics so well that they could act instinctively rather than thinking, “what should I do?” then they would play better and the team would succeed.  So Lombardi relentlessly practiced the same few plays over and over — until a coordinated perfection among the 11 players was achieved.  Lombardi was unafraid to return over and over to the essential parts of football — and that relentless attention to the basics of the game made him one of the most successful coaches in the game’s history (and why the Super Bowl trophy is named after him).

The apostle Paul has a similar idea in mind as he nears the end of his letter to the Romans.  In Romans 15 he commends the readers for their goodness, knowledge, and exhorting care of one another (15:14).  Then he admits that he has written boldly in the letter (doing the very act of admonishing and warning which he found commendable in them).  Why did he write so boldly about some of the truths that he did?  He wrote daringly, “so as to remind you again…” (15:15).  He was clear and strong so they would not forget what he said.  He wanted his words to be boldly fixed in their minds and hearts. 

That we are prone to overlook the phrase “to remind you” is still another reminder of the significance of reminding one another of the truth.  Often, our ministry is not to unfold new truth, but simply to reinforce old truth, or to communicate known truth in fresh ways that help each other to live in redeemed ways.  Whether we are teaching Sunday School or AWANA, leading a home group, discipling two young men, preaching, or counseling a couple, our task is often to simply reaffirm the truth the person already believes.  Regularly, our job as teachers is not to confront with a teaching that will lead to a dramatic reversal of life direction, but to remind of truth that leads to a small course-correction that puts one back on a direct path towards Christlikeness. 

John MacArthur says something similar about this reminder:  “He did not speak forcefully because those believers were untaught and immature but, to the contrary, because they were spiritually strong and well-equipped. He was not bold because they were carnal and vacillating but because they were uncompromising and steadfast.”

We just don’t want people to forget, so we keep reminding them:

  • Remember the humility of full confession (2 Cor. 7:11)
  • Remember the healing of forgiveness (1 Jn. 1:9)
  • Remember the power of the gospel to free one from the Adamic curse (Rom. 5:12ff)
  • Remember the power of the gospel to free one from the power of sin (Rom. 6:4ff)
  • Remember the gift of the Spirit to enable you to live the Christian life (Rom. 8)
  • Remember the prayers of the Spirit given for you at God’s throne (Rom. 8:26)
  • Remember the prayers of Christ given for you at God’s throne (Rom. 8:34)
  • Remember that nothing can separate God’s people from Christ’s love (Rom. 8:35ff)
  • Remember the folly of sin and being attracted to it (Rom. 6:1-2; also 1:18-32)
  • Remember the hope of glory and final redemption (Rom. 8:18-19)
  • Remember the unalterable promises of God to all His redeemed people (both Jews and Gentiles, Rom. 9-11)
  • Remember the encouragement of being part of and used for the church body (Rom. 12:3-8ff)
  • Remember the joy of corporate church unity (Rom. 12:10, 16; 13:8; 14:1 – 15:13)

Remember.  Remember.  Remember.

What are you forgetting that your heart needs to live unrelentingly for Christ?  What do your disciples need that you are neglecting to reaffirm?  What are we assuming and not actually doing?  From what priorities have we strayed (even a little)?  (You might make a list of important things to remember that you — or your disciples — are prone to forget.)

Be intentional to remember the essentials because we are prone to forget.

Remember the essentials because they are the pathway to spiritual success and victory.

Success! You're on the list.

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