It hasn’t been that long ago that I carried my sons to watch one of their favorite NBA stars, Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks. Giannis is one of the up and coming stars of the NBA. We arrived as early as possible so we could watch the teams in their pre-game drills. As we watched, my sons were so surprised to see an NBA star doing the same drills that they do in their practices. They watched as he spent almost half an hour on dribbling drills and another half an hour on just freethrows. Why is it that these NBA stars were spending all this time on the most simplistic basketball drills, the same drills that you would find being done by any rec league coach? Hall of Fame basketball Coach John Wooden once said, “It’s the little details that are vital. Little things make the big things happen.” Those little things are what we consider as the fundamentals. Coach Wooden would know how to make the big things happen because he led UCLA to ten National Championships in twelve years. But it isn’t just Coach Wooden that believes in the fundamentals; Michael Jordan once said, “Get the fundamentals down and the level of everything you do will rise.” This philosophy doesn’t just work in sports but is applicable to everything we do. Even Jesus said in Matthew 6.33 “…seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things shall be added unto you.” Church, fundamentals matter!

It is so important that we as Christians do our best to focus on the fundamental principles of the Christian faith, so we will be able to resist those fiery darts the devil may hurl at us. Sadly, most of us are not even familiar with these fundamentals. They are so elementary and basic that we typically take them for granted. Most of us see things like the Bible being Divinely Inspired, the Omnipotence of God or the unconditional love of God as being some of those fundamental principles. However, those are considered more of truth than they are of fundamental principle. That would be like saying a fundamental of the game of basketball is that the free throw line must be 15 feet away from the basket, or the basket is 10 feet tall. Those are not the fundamentals but are rather more of the parameters of which we are working under. Nothing we can do will improve God’s unconditional love or his omnipotence. We can read and study our Bibles 24/7 but that is never going to make the Bible more inspired. Those are simply stated Biblical truths that can’t be changed. For our discussion, we need to be focused on those fundamental principles that we can practice over and over, so that they become second nature to us. What are those fundamentals that we can work on that will help us live more productive Christian lives?

To answer that question, we must direct our attention to Matthew 16. Jesus had just come to Caesarea Philippi and was asking His disciples who people thought He was. His disciples gave the usual answers of Elijah, Jeremiah, or one of the other prophets, but Jesus wanted to know who they thought He was? Peter responded, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God” (Matthew 16.16). Jesus commends Peter’s confession, and in doing so lays out some of those fundamental principles that we can practice daily to help us reach our fullest potential. Just listen to the words of Jesus,

“… on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Matthew 16:18-19)

The first fundamental principle that we can put into practice is to remind ourselves daily that He owns us! Jesus told Peter, it is “My church”! He is the Creator, the Founder and the Chief Cornerstone of His Church. Now remember, the church isn’t a building but rather the people that make up the church are “the church”, or as Jesus said, “My Church”. It is His because He purchased it with His blood (Acts 2:28). So, how do we practice this fundamental principle? Daily, we should be reminding ourselves that we are not even the owners of our own lives. When He purchased us by His own blood, at the point of our salvation, we gave up control of our lives and allowed Him to live with us. How does that help us? Well think about it – what if someone asked you to watch over something of theirs that was of great value? Wouldn’t you pay extra close attention as to how you kept up with it or what you did with it? You can’t treat it as your own, because you are not the owner. However, you must keep watch over it and use it effectively until the owner asks you to return it. Jesus owns us! Paul said it this way, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20). We practice this fundamental by allowing that principle to dictate every decision we make. By reminding ourselves that we are living for Him and not ourselves, that will affect even the smallest of our decisions. Then, if we can consistently make the little decisions of our lives correctly for Him, the big decisions will just come naturally. To help remind ourselves of this, maybe we should begin each and everyday with the statement “Today, He owns me!”

Once we understand that He owns us, the next fundamental premise comes in what Jesus says to Peter: “I will give to you the keys to kingdom.” (Matthew 16:19). Jesus wanted Peter to know that based on His confession, He had something in mind for Peter to do. Peter was going to take the lead, as the Lord opened the doors of His Church in Acts 2 on the Day of Pentecost. Not only does Jesus own us, but He needs us to do something for Him. Just as Christ needed Peter to use those keys to open the church on Pentecost and later to Cornelius in Acts 10, He needs us to do something for Him today. It feels good to be needed, doesn’t it? It helps us find purpose and meaning to what we are doing with our lives. Wait…I know what your thinking…” how can God use me, a sinner?” Remember what Paul said in 2 Corinthians 4:7, “But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.” We know that God created man from the dust of the earth, therefore Paul compares us to simple clay jars. Imagine if every one of our imperfections and flaws were illustrated in a clay jar. I don’t know about you, but mine would be covered with cracks and holes and have pieces missing. However, due to the fact Christ lives within me, His light can shine, despite my flaws. Jesus can use me even when I am broken. Knowing that He needs me in this world, I can become the hands and feet of Jesus while on this earth and help Him accomplish His goals.

“Today, He owns Me! Today, He Needs Me!”

Thirdly, and maybe the best of all the fundamentals we can practice, comes in what Jesus says to Peter next. Jesus said of His church, “the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it.” Jesus lets us know that nothing either in this world or beyond it will be able to stop His church and His will. That makes our next fundamental principle such a blessing to practice, “Today, I can’t lose!” If I am making my decisions based on the practice of Jesus not only owning me but needing me to help Him accomplish His purpose, it helps me in knowing that if I live my life based on those two premises, I cannot fail! It may be difficult, and I might even have a few setbacks, but in the end, if I live my life with those two statements in mind, I cannot fail. This fundamental reminds us of passages like Philippians 4:17 and Ephesians 3:20-21, that with God all things are possible. This fundamental also gives me the strength and the courage to step out of my comfort zone a little bit, in knowing that His church will never fail. He has already claimed the victory and nothing I can do can prevent that. So… “Today, I Cannot Lose!”

Today, He Owns Me!

Today, He Needs Me!

Today, I Cannot Lose!

If we begin to work on practicing these fundamentals in our everyday decision making, the tough decisions will just come naturally. These are the fundamentals and if we affirm them every day, we will also not be able to keep the message about Jesus to ourselves, but rather seek to share it with as many people as possible. So yes…Fundamentals Matter!