I thought I would reprint this – it’s in my book, “On the Field of Life: Baseball Devotionals”. We’re all sinners, saved by the grace of God. It doesn’t do anyone any good to redefine any of the sins listed as “not sins.” Jesus told the Pharisees that He came to be a Physician to those who are sick – the sinners of His world (and over all of history). He was a friend of sinners, but not by telling them that they weren’t really sinners. The Pharisees problem was that they were as “sick” as anyone else they were condemning, but their condition was far worse because they wouldn’t admit that they were sinners.
Bill Robinson: Retread
Scripture Reading: 1 Corinthians 6: 9 – 11
Key verse: 1 Corinthians 6:11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (ESV)
Retreads. That’s what they were called.
Retreads. And the Phillies of 1973 and 1974 seemed to be the home for them.
Who were they? The Retreads were players who were highly touted young players for other franchises who had crashed and burned. Guys like Bill Robinson, Del Unser, Jay Johnstone, and Ollie Brown. Pitchers (in some ways) like Jim Lonborg, Ken Brett, and Gene Garber were considered retreads.
For example: Del Unser came to the 1973 team from Cleveland, where he had played in 132 games and had 444 at-bats, turning in a weak batting average of .238 and – horrific for an outfielder – 1 lonely home run. Ouch! And Jay Johnstone came from the 1973 Oakland A’s where he batted a less-than-majestic .107 – three hits in 23 games with no home runs. He had been a great disappointment in his 5 years as a highly-touted young member of the California Angels and two years for the White Sox, where his second year batting average of .188 stands out as a sore mark.
Ollie Brown put up a few decent numbers early in his career with the Giants and the Padres, but was more of a disappointment than a success. He bounced from San Diego to Oakland to Milwaukee, finally landing in Houston early in 1974, where he posted a .217 batting average with three home runs in 27 games. The Phillies got him off waivers in June of that year.
Jim Lonborg? He actually had a good year in 1972 for the Brewers, with 14 wins and an outstanding ERA of 2.83. But that was after years struggling to get back to his amazing Cy Young winner form, leading the 1967 Red Sox to the World Series. A skiing injury in the off-season put his career off-track for four more years in Boston. Ken Brett also was a disappointment in Boston, where the young pitcher was 10 and 15 with a 4.58 ERA over three less than stellar seasons; 1972 in Milwaukee saw him with no real improvement at 7 and 12 with a slightly less horrible 4.53 ERA. Gene Garber was purchased by the Phillies from the Royals in June of 1974, posting a 1 and 2 record and the almost standard pre-Phillies terrible ERA of 4.82.
The classic case of a retread, though, was Bill Robinson. A highly touted 24-year-old rookie for the 1967 New York Yankees, his career basically tanked. Over three seasons with the Bombers, he hit a grand total of 16 home runs, with batting averages of .196, .240, and a pathetic .171 in his late season for them in 1969. He sank to the minors, never to be seen again… well, until he resurfaced with the Phillies in 1972 at the age of 29. He seemed to add a spark to an essentially bad team (except for the spectacular pitching of Steve Carlton). He hit well, especially in games pitched by Super Steve, who won 27 games for a team that only won 59. Not a great batting average, at .239, but 8 home runs and 21 RBI’s at critical spots made the team take notice. In 1973 he broke out – a .288 average and 25 home runs. He was traded to the Pirates after the 1974 season, where he became a key player for a strong franchise, starting in left field for the World Champion 1979 Bucs. Quite a turnaround for a guy who looked completely gone!
These are great examples of players who looked like they were done, who got new life. That’s exactly what our verses today are about – sinners who have been rescued by Jesus. First Corinthians was written to a church that was, frankly, a mess. They had all kinds of troubles, things seeping into the church from the pagan culture surrounding them. They had divisions in the church… they had serious problems with their worship… they were accepting immoral practices, presuming on the grace of God. They were arrogant – Paul had to use sarcasm (like in Chapter 4) to show them the depths of their sin in this area. In Chapter 6, he has to severely rebuke them for their sinful practice of bringing lawsuits against other believers, in front of worldly judges. Then, in verse 9, he describes these unbelievers – he gives a list of sins that cannot characterize the life of a true believer in the Lord Jesus Christ. If these sins form the unbroken pattern of life for a person, that person cannot inherit the kingdom of god – that is, they are not saved.
While it’s not a comprehensive list of evil lifestyles, it is a good overall view that includes various kinds of immorality, to thieves, the greedy, drunkards, swindlers, and so on. But here’s the kicker – “And such were some of you.” While not all Christians were guilty of these sins, every Christian is an ex-sinner who needed to be saved to be cleansed from all of our sins. Jesus offers salvation to all sinners – from the most wicked to the least – because, without His grace and forgiveness, all would be condemned.
But isn’t that great? No matter where a sinner is coming from, they can be saved by the blood of Jesus. When we came to him, “you were washed” – we were sprinkled clean of our past sins – “you were sanctified” – we can now live a sanctified life, a life of obedience and holiness… not perfection, but having that as our goal – “you were justified” – we have a new standing before God, clothed in the righteousness of Jesus, the only perfectly sinless man who ever lived. And how? “… in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” We can’t live the Christian lives by our own strength; we need the Holy Spirit to live a genuine Christian life.
In this way, then, we’re really all spiritual retreads. We have failed, in this world, to live up to God’s standard – some more than others, but all equally condemned sinners. We need to be retread – we need to be regenerated by God. He can truly remake us. It doesn’t matter where we came from; we all need the gift of salvation.
Welcome to the retread pile! Keep faithful; live by His Spirit every day! No matter how badly you failed, you can be useful to God.
Thought: The church is a collection of sanctified sinners – we’re all retreads!