When Royce Gracie won the first mixed martial arts cage fighting tournament in 1993, he was an underdog on paper. He was undersized, tall, thin, and came from a little known discipline called Brazilian Jiu Jitsu . he world knew little about Gracie Jiu Jitsu as it came to be known and Royce was thrown into the cage with martial artists who came from wrestling backgrounds and the more celebrated styles of Kung Fu and Karate.
Who was Royce Gracie? How would he fare? The world would soon learn as this David “tapped out” all kinds of Goliaths over the next three years with his sinewy style of fighting. Today mixed martial arts is the fastest growing sport worldwide. “Tap out” is a term of surrender where a fighter slaps the mat several times in submission and defeat to his opponent. The term is seen on T-shirts and bumper stickers across the nation, sported often by those who don’t have a clue about martial arts but want to get a little power.
Nobody can be a Royce Gracie in everything. We all have to tap out and submit to something. We have to stop at lights, let in people in traffic (often unwillingly), get in line at the grocery store. Our rebellious nature is constantly abraded by authority and order somewhere, and though painful, the humility is good for us. The questions are, “are you tapping out to God, are you doing it willingly, or are you rebellious to Him”? Scripture says that “every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Christ is Lord”. Submitting to Christ is inevitable and eventual for everybody. The issue is when will you tap out to God? If you do it in this life, you will get credit for it and it’s “accounted to you as righteousness”. If you wait until after you die, you will tap out grudgingly, with gnashing of teeth in eternal defiance and misery.
All rage, bitterness, and rebellion is sourced in resisting the realities declared into existence by the mouth of God, the Word of God. The Old Testament phrase, “thus declared the Lord” or “the mouth of the Lord has spoken it” is so powerful that whatever is in the context is declared into existence and is as good as done. Isaiah says, for example, in verse 20 of chapter 1, “‘… if you refuse and rebel, You will be devoured by the sword.’ Truly, the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” Consider it done. There is no way around it or prevent it from happening. The overture from Handel’s Messiah “The Glory of the Lord” beautifully captures the emphasis of God’s judgment in the chorus “and the mouth of the Lord has spoken it”.
No matter how humble he packages Himself, by definition God’s holy nature is abrasive to human depravity. Our sin nature is aberrant, twisted, marred and bent towards empty darkness. Even naturalism and scientific materialism may not lead to a submission to God necessarily. Nature is not supreme and living by what comes natural doesn’t equate to life in Christ. Human nature has to be confronted with a Holy God. We have to cross the tracks as an act of the will and tap out to God. It’s not an outward thing. It’s a heart thing. It’s not just ritual or behavior modification, it’s a complete exchange of the affections of the soul. Some of the most benevolent people in the world on a horizontal level can give to charity, be diplomatic in social graces, and still shake an inward fist at God all the way to the grave.
Self righteousness is the religion of pagan man. One doesn’t have to be religious to be self righteous. Prison is full of self righteous people, holding to their sinful attempts to take matters into their own hands all the way to the electric chair. The ability to submit would have changed their destinies. Even Royce Gracie eventually submitted to someone greater. In 2006, he tried a comeback and in a sad affair got tapped out easily by UFC legend Matt Hughes. The self righteous, whether religious or not, simply prefer themselves as their own sacrifice to atone for the guilt of sin. And sometimes it’s a bloody affair.
Timothy McVeigh, the Oklahoma City bomber who killed 168 people in 1995, refused to tap out and admit his sinful way of resolving a personal problem. In fact, he insisted that on his grave be inscribed a few lines from a poem by 19thcentury humanist William Earnest Henley called “Invictus.” Here’s what came natural to McVeigh and reflects our times:
Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.
As no man is self existent, I don’t think McVeigh is the master of his own fate. And no man chooses the consequences for sin either. Defiance gets exactly what it wants: hell. The problem is hell is worse than bargained for. To this day McVeigh may be cursing, weeping, and gnashing his teeth at his tortured existence. But he’s also forcefully submitting. For the dead, their state is final. For the living, there is still a chance and a choice to avoid that end.
Unfortunately difficult circumstances will not cause some people to tap out their sin nature to the King. They will never fall to their knees and rethink their premise for life, but desire to continue in what is natural. Chaos seems to strengthen their self righteousness, preferring disintegration darkness all the way into hell.
Nature is not supreme, especially the sin nature. Don’t let it reign or it will deceive you. The sin nature always gets it backwards, it resists what is right and submits to what is wrong. Though painful on the ego, to admit failure and tap out to God is the least humiliating entity to submit to. He attends to the terms of our surrender in the most respectful of ways where other masters wouldn’t. Won’t you humbly accept the righteousness of Christ on your behalf and tap out daily to the Creator? It’s the only way to be protected from judgment and abide the day of His coming.