The Games People Play

by Jeannette Haley

The older I get, and the more I see the world growing increasingly troubled and wicked, the more thankful I am for the wonderful childhood I had. I was truly fortunate to grow up in a safe and clean environment, in a decent neighborhood in north Seattle. The neighbors, for the most part, were friendly, hospitable and helpful to one another. My dad started his own automobile tune up shop, and my mother was a full-time homemaker. The kids I played with were as full of imagination and creativity as I was, so there was no end to the fun and games we played. I can still see in my mind’s eye all the home made stick horses “tethered” to our fence, the Bedouin “tent” we made out of the lawn swing, the collection of little toys we collected out of a gum machine that served as buried “treasure” (which we waited three weeks to “discover” and unearth) and the roads, tunnels and dirt “cities” we created in a section of Mom’s flower bed for our toy cars (made of metal, I might add. No plastic junk in those days!) I can still recall the sound of a child’s voice, calling out, “Ready or not, here I come” while playing hide n’ seek. Scenes from the dozens of television Westerns that my generation grew up with were reenacted as we played cowboys and Indians, “bad guys,” “good guys,” and, my all-time favorite, Zorro.

While decent childhood make-believe games are an important part of a child’s early development, they become an entirely different matter in adulthood. Children learn how to play “people” games by watching others, especially their parents. They quickly learn how to subtly manipulate and control both people and situations to benefit their own selfish desires. Such games eventually lead to broken promises, broken relationships, broken dreams, and broken hearts. The Apostle Paul wrote, “When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.”

One of the things that makes the world such a frightening place is the games people play. Who can you really trust? Who is telling the truth? Who genuinely cares about you? Therefore, it becomes natural for people to develop games for self-serving purposes whether it be to attract the opposite sex or to con others into doing things their way such as give them certain things they want. People play games to gain attention, come across as a “good old boy,” or exalt themselves into positions of power. Driven by fear, people with a street mentality, i.e. I must survive at any cost, are experts at game playing. In addition, let’s not overlook those who are driven by demons—and make no mistake, demons are great game players.

When I was young and way too naive, I had a romantic idea that the one place on this earth that would be safe and secure from all the unsavory elements and dangers of the world could be found in a church. All you had to do to escape the howling storm and terrible blast of sin, temptation, and its horrifying result, was to run to a church, fling open the door, step into the sanctuary and there, at last, with sunshine streaming through the windows heavenly music would flood your soul with peace, hope, joy and love while God’s people warmly welcomed you into their paradise on earth. (You can stop laughing now.) Maybe the longing for such a place, orsuch a feeling, is one reason the paintings of Thomas Kincade have been so extremely popular as they invite you into another world where there is no need for games.

As for the Church, is it not the Body of Christ and not any particular building or denomination? Paul wrote,“And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning of the firstborn from the dead: that in all things he might have the preeminence” Colossians 1:18. The Church of Jesus Christ is made up of members of His Body, wherever they may be. But, our place of true refuge is the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. “That by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us: Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast…” Hebrews 6:18, 19a.

If we are truly born again, there is no greater comfort than to know that we do have a secure, eternal place of refuge in Jesus. He never plays cruel games with our minds or hearts. He is holy, immutable (unchanging), all powerful, all knowing, everywhere present, and faithful. Therefore, when we “go to church” on Sunday, or any other time, we must seek Him and His presence above all else. Yes, we are to love, encourage, exhort, and edify one another, fellowshipping in the Lord, but if His presence is not manifest in our meeting place, in the teaching, worship, and message, then how can we be built up in Him? Our desire should be that of the Greeks who came to worship at the feast in Jerusalem, and who came to Philip and said, “Sir, we would see Jesus.”

It would be a wonderful thing if in every gathering or body of Christians there were none who played games. Unfortunately, this is not reality. The Lord Jesus distinguished four dispositions of people that we need to discern, not only outwardly, but inwardly as we examine ourselves. They are as follows: Goats, (Matthew 25:32, 33); swine, (Matthew 7:6); wolves, (Matthew 7:15) and sheep (Matthew 9:36).

I realize that the content of this article is not “politically correct” nor is it “ear tickling” nor is it a “feel good” message. The bottom line is this: truth and the Word of God are not politically correct, and when all the so-called “politically correct” Marxist-Communist nonsense is consumed in the fire of God’s wrath, truth and the Word of God will remain standing. Therefore, we need to choose what we believe: either God’s Word and His truth, regardless of how it makes us feel, or Satan’s lies. The truth of the Word of God is powerful. Consider whatHebrews 4:12, 13 tells us, “For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do.”

       We can’t play games with God and get away with it. Remember, Adam and Eve were the first to play “Hide n’ Seek” with God in the Garden of Eden. The Lord knows our disposition, and attitudes towards sin. Therefore, it is natural for the fallen disposition to hide from the searchlight of God’s truth. We have all been there. So, with that in mind, may the Lord give us a willing heart and open mind to consider what Jesus wants us to understand about these four dispositions for our own benefit, both in our own personal relationship with Him, and as a discerning Christian in the Body of Christ. It can’t be emphasized enough that it is our attitude towards sin that determines the position we take at any given time. Following is a brief overview of the four categories:

Goats: Goats can be likeable, decent, hard working, generous people, full of good works and helpful to others. They mingle with the sheep, which can make it hard to distinguish that they are, in fact, goats. However, goats have certain traits that characterize them. One such trait is independence, and strong determination to only let people, and God, in so far. They will feel threatened and uncomfortable if you intimidate their independent way of thinking and doing. The reason for this is that they either have not truly repented of some sin, or they have not totally consecrated their lives to God. Goats like to perch on their “pinnacle” of self-sufficiency, where they view themselves as being somewhat “above and beyond” the boundaries of God’s Word. They want to maintain their “king of the hill” stance, picking and choosing their own area of service, and will balk at “going the extra mile” for somebody because they usually have other interests. Goats, even though they have many good works, won’t go so far as to lay down their life for someone, and they will throw up a wall if challenged to deny self, pick up their cross, and follow Christ. If confronted along these lines, the “b-u-u-u-t-s” began to be heard. “B-u-u-u-t, I believe in God. B-u-u-u-t, I am a good person. B-u-u-u-t, I have my own way of doing things. B-u-u-u-t, I know that God loves me. B-u-u-u-t, I don’t ‘interpret the Bible’ the way you do! B-u-u-u-t….!” Goats may claim to believe in Jesus, but they play a dangerous performance-oriented game that allows them to maintain their prideful independence, instead of submitting to God and allowing Him to truly transform them from the inside out. The fruit of their lives may resemble the fruit of the Holy Spirit outwardly, but it is void of the anointing that only a touch from heaven can give.

Swine: Swine play a game of outward conformity, but their lives remain a moral and spiritual pig pen. They are like the old wineskins that cannot hold new wine, tacking Christ on to their old life, and claiming that they are “okay.” They have no desire whatsoever to change by getting real with God, and allowing the Holy Spirit to transform them into the image of Christ. Instead, they believe that God’s love will save them in their pig pen, never considering that Jesus came to save them from their pig pen if they stir themselves up to repent and make the right decisions. Swine are blissfully unmindful of the fact that the father of the prodigal son did not chase him down and drag him out of the pig pen; instead, he waited until the wayward son humbled himself in genuine repentance, returned home, seeking forgiveness. Swine are deluded, complacent, and unregenerate people who talk the talk, but who don’t walk the walk. They are complacent about their sin, complacent in their life in Christ, complacent in their dealings with others, and complacent about the things of God. They expect people to either enter into their pig pen with them, or else leave them alone, and accept them right where they are. Otherwise, if confronted on the slightest issue, they become angry and annoyed, “trampling your pearls underfoot.” After all, they may be lonely and miserable, but they are comfortable in their pig pen and have no desire to put forth the effort to leave it, repent, take responsibility for their spiritual life, and humbly allow the work of regeneration to take place.

Wolves: Wolves among the flock play the religious game (with the help of religious spirits) because they have their own agenda for self-aggrandizement, recognition, dominance, power, and a following. Therefore, you usually find them in visible positions of “importance.” Wolves should be the easiest to discern among the flock in spite of their “sheep’s clothing.” However, they are good game players, subtly working in darkness, looking for those who are vulnerable while eliciting sympathy for themselves on the one hand, while using flattery on the other. They do not possess a servant’s heart, but instead desire to be looked up to, and served themselves. Wolves like to set themselves at the “head of the table,” are usually first in line, and love to be seen, and heard. Because they have such a high opinion of themselves and want all the “glory,” (praise of men) you won’t find wolves volunteering for menial work, nor are they the type to “give their alms” (good works) in secret. Their fruit will eventually tell on them because wolves have no genuine, unfeigned love for others. Wolves are touchy, jealous, unforgiving, and prideful. Being predators, they are where they are to get what they can get, even splitting churches simply to get a following. Wolves do not care who gets hurt by their wicked games because in their mind they are right. It goes without saying that they are not truly born again, and are dangerous and destructive.

Sheep: Finally there are the sheep. These are the people who do know their God. They are the people who have been truly broken at the foot of the cross over their sinful state, and who have received with joy the forgiveness and salvation of the Lord. Real sheep have no plea other than this: “God forgive me, a sinner.” These people have truly been born again, and have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. (See Galatians 5:24.) They walk after the Spirit, and their fruits bear witness of their life in Christ, and His life in them. Such people are not merely playing games to conform, perform, or reform, but have been transformed, “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost” Titus 3:5. They are not perfect, but they do know the voice of the Shepherd, and follow Him.

As I consider my own life, I can see times when I was a goat, doing my own thing instead of coming under Jesus’ yoke. There were times when I found myself in the stench of a pig pen, until I embraced the cross in shame and repentance, and received the cleansing that only Jesus’ blood can give. As Rayola says, God wants us to discern our own disposition so we can get out of the way and really follow God. Time is short! Are you willing to take up the challenge, and allow the Lord to change your disposition?