In countries around the world, including the U.S., personal and religious freedoms are being lost at unprecedented rates. Texts, e-mails and cell phone calls are monitored. Surveillance videos are virtually everywhere. Increasing numbers of people are being injected with ID chips in their hands. Posts on social media and the Internet are removed if not consistent with current mores.
I wrote the following for a message shortly after 9/11:
We have lost many freedoms in America since the September 11 terrorist attack. The day and age of privacy has come to an end. Being anonymous anymore is almost impossible. We have seen increased security at airports, sporting events, concerts, schools, malls, government buildings, and public events. Surveillance cameras abound and even scanners that see through clothing.
While advanced technology for identification and surveillance appears to be a necessary fact of life in this increasingly violent and information- saturated world, soon virtually every person on this planet will be monitored – and eventually controlled. More sophisticated methods of identification and the compiling of background information on every single human being on this planet are being developed.
A global leader will arise, revealed in Scripture as the Antichrist, but coming in the guise of goodness and peace, for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light! Every person who identifies with his regime will have an identification mark in their hand or forehead in order to be able to buy and sell in the global economy.
The time approaches when the powers that be will impose a test of loyalty and means of identification in Antichrist’s regime with the actual 666 foretold and forewarned in Revelation 13. Many will be quick to take the mark of the beast so strongly warned against in Scripture (Revelation 13:16, 14:11, 15:2, 16:2, 19:20, 20:14). Following the rapture of the true Church, everyone alive during the Tribulation period will either take the mark or be eliminated.
You and I are living in strange times! We are actually living at the very end of the age – and as a result, we are going to see and experience things that no other generation has ever witnessed. Some things will be so far-fetched and bizarre that as rational, thinking people, we will find it incomprehensible. Indeed, to many of us, it already seems that common sense has been thrown to the wind on various fronts, replaced with irrational beliefs that are cheered on by a morally delinquent culture. But as those born to live in this hour, we must simply accept it as fact. You and I will be witnesses to strange developments as we near the end of this last-days time frame.
– How to Keep Your Head on Straight in a World Gone Crazy, Used by permission.
After leaving the Temple complex and crossing the Kidron Valley, Jesus sat on the Mount of Olives, giving His disciples (and us) an astonishing panorama of the end times (Matthew 24). He forewarns that the time just before His return would be the most difficult and distressing in all of human history. Leading up to those desperate days will be what Jesus refers to as the “beginning of birth pains”: great deception; wars and rumors of wars; earthquakes, famines and pestilences in various places (Matthew 24:6-8; Mark 13:5-8; Luke 21:8-11; see also Revelation 6:1-8 concerning the four horses with riders).
These “beginning of birth pains” are followed shortly by: unprecedented natural disasters across the planet; escalating activity of evil spirits, wickedness, immorality, violence and persecution; an increase in lawlessness which “will cause the love of many to grow cold”; widespread apostasy (falling away from the faith); a totalitarian government led by a world leader (Antichrist) and a deceptive religious leader (False Prophet); along with terrors and great signs from heaven. This may not be the scenario we want, but it is what Scripture reveals and is a sad commentary on this generation.
The good news is that in spite of the hatred, betrayal and persecution of Christians, the Gospel will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations. The greatest revival in history will occur at this time of tribulation.
Heading To Judgment
While the term “last days” refers to the entire church age since Pentecost, the apostle Paul gives indicators that will proliferate as we near the end of the church age: But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness [religion] although they have denied its power. Keep away from such people as these (2 Timothy 3:1-5).
The depths of depravity to which our nation and this world are descending is disheartening to those who love Christ and His Word and cherish truth and righteousness. As our decadent society free-falls into the chaos of unrestrained, out-in-the-open, uninhibited, gratuitous immorality, brutality, sorcery, thefts, lies and profanity—the masses will ignore these prophecies foretold in the book of Revelation and throughout the Old and New Testaments.
As Jesus’ promised return draws near, God’s Spirit is bringing as many to salvation as will heed His beckoning call. God is loving, merciful and long- suffering and has already delayed the unleashing of His wrath. In His desire for people to come to repentance, He is orchestrating increasing and intensifying signs of impending judgments spoken of in Revelation and other prophetic Scripture, intended to bring those who will to repentance while cleansing the earth of the evil that has defiled it.
The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up. Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat! But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells. Therefore, beloved, since you look for these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless (2 Peter 3:9-14).
Open your eyes and you will see clear indications that cataclysmic events are on the horizon, to be meted out to a world that denies its Creator, blasphemes His name, distorts His truth, perverts His ways, disobeys His commandments, rebels against His standards, opposes His Word and persecutes His followers! Unless there is widespread, genuine repentance, this generation is rapidly heading to judgment.
Scripture indicates that Jesus will return for His Bride (true believers) before the Great Tribulation commences, rescuing us from “the wrath to come” (1 Thessalonians 1:10). The Rapture could occur anytime (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; John 14:1-3; 1 Corinthians 15:51-53) so be ready!
Dr. Ed Hindson, former professor at Liberty University eloquently stated: “‘Nobody knows the time of My coming.’…The point is that nobody knows the time, so don’t waste your time trying to guess the time, be ready all the time because Jesus can come anytime.”
Philippians 3:20-21 encourages us with words of promise as we await the rapture and the transformation of our mortal bodies into immortality: Our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself.
Will Christ Find Faith On the Earth?
In His parable of the Woman and the Judge, Jesus asks a relevant question for today’s generation, “When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8). The sad reality is that in the case of many supposed Christians the answer will be, “No.” Yet for believers in Christ who love Him, study His Word, look for His coming and are empowered by His Spirit to walk in faithfulness, the answer will be an emphatic, “Yes!”
The question put to you today is: When Jesus Christ returns, will He find faith in you? Are you crying out to God for help and deliverance in the midst of these difficult times or are you looking to someone or something else such as science, technology or New Age techniques to rescue, protect and guide you?
Are You Distressed?
Although Lot was living in corrupt Sodom, God rescued him from its devastating judgment because Lot “was a righteous man who was distressed by the depraved conduct of the lawless (for that righteous man, living among them day after day, was tormented in his righteous soul by the lawless deeds he saw and heard)” (2 Peter 2:7-8).
The LORD commanded Ezekiel, “Go through the midst of the city, even through the midst of Jerusalem, and put a mark on the foreheads of the men who sigh and groan over all the abominations which are being committed in its midst”(Ezekiel. 9:4).
Is your soul tormented? Do you sigh and groan over what is going on in America and the world? Are you sorrowful and remorseful by what you see?
May our hearts cry out: “Come Lord Jesus! No longer let Your name be blasphemed. No longer allow Your truth to be perverted and twisted. No longer allow violence and murders to devastate this nation. No longer let lies and corruption prevail. No longer stand by as sexual immorality and sorcery seduce this generation. May truth and justice triumph! May Your name be exalted in all nations and Your will done on earth as it is in heaven. Come Lord Jesus and establish your kingdom of righteousness, peace and joy!”
The inhabitants of this earth will either fall on their knees in repentance or be brought to their knees in judgment. My continual prayer is: Lord, use me and this ministry to turn the hearts of the people back to You. Help me to prepare them for what is coming and to inspire them to walk in faithfulness until You return!
Lift Up Your Heads
The prophetic book of Daniel states concerning the time of the end: “Many will be purified, made spotless and refined, but the wicked will continue to be wicked. None of the wicked will understand, but those who are wise will understand” (Daniel 12:10). While many people waste their time viewing images on the Internet and watching movies laced with violence, immorality and sorcery, others study Scripture and end time prophecy. Who will have discernment as prophetic events continue to unfold?
Jesus said, “Now when these things [signs of His coming] begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near” (Luke 21:28). In the day and age we live it is of utmost importance to get our hearts and lives right with the Lord and study His Word— then, no matter what happens, we will have discernment, wisdom, peace, courage and strength in the midst of it.
Be assured, Jesus Christ will come again and reign as King of kings and Lord of lords over the entire earth and all creation. Those who have put their faith in Him as the promised Messiah, Savior and Lord, will experience indescribable peace and joy throughout the millennium and eternity!
May all God’s people, with eager anticipation, be “looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13)!
Orthodox rabbis are reading the signs of the times and calling their people to prepare for the Messiah’s immediate appearance. Meanwhile, the Church is asleep, ignoring God’s Prophetic Word and refusing to pay attention to the Signs of the Times.
What an irony! The first time Jesus came, it was the Jews who refused to believe. Today, it’s the Church that is caught up in unbelief while the Orthodox Jews are anxiously watching for the Messiah while making fervent preparations for Him. The Lord’s Second Coming is not going to catch the Orthodox Jews by surprise. What is going to surprise them is His identity.
– The Lamplighter – May-June 2021, Used by permission.
“Those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize. Run in such a way that you may win.” 1 Corinthians 9:24
Next time you are tempted to quit, remember the words of the apostle Paul, who among all people knew adversity and obstacles: “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13). The qualities, which make for a good athlete, will also help you in your personal life. Choose to be a GREAT ATHLETE. Remember, sports are only for a season, but attitude and faith will last a lifetime.
Does not play fair
Does not give 100%
Gives up easily
Has a bad attitude
Is out for himself / herself
Complains, makes excuses, or blames others
Lets himself / herself be defeated by frustration
Loses like a poor sport
Thinks they are a loser if they lose a game
Gives 100% all the time
Never gives up––NEVER
Has a good attitude
Is a team player
Does not complain, make excuses or blame others
Overcomes frustration by being the best he / she can be
Loses like a good sport
Realizes that if they play to their maximum potential, then they are a winner – whether the game is lost or won
I have experienced hundreds of exciting witness encounters using insight through creative ideas and illustrations. Every encounter has its own approach and conversational style, but the final message is as simple as A-B-C and D:
A – Admit you are a sinner in need of God’s forgiveness. There is nothing you can do to pay the penalty of sin or earn your salvation (Romans 3:23). The penalty for sin is death, and only God’s righteous, sinless Son could pay that penalty. So, the only solution to your dilemma is to come to Jesus Christ in repentance, receive His free gift of salvation, and accept Him as your Savior and Lord. “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name” (John 1:12).
B – Believe in your heart that Jesus died for your sins and rose from the dead. Just believing in something doesn’t make it true, no matter how sincere you are. Nor is it the intensity of belief that makes something true. It is who and what you believe in that really matters. Jesus said, “…unless you believe that I am He, you will die in your sins” (John 8:24). To “believe in” is more than merely acknowledging the reality of Jesus Christ; it means “to trust in and rely on” – a belief that results in committing your life to Him.
C – Confess with your mouth that Jesus died and rose again. Tell others that you have accepted Him as your Savior and Lord. “If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation” (Romans 10:9-10).
When you sincerely act on A, B, and C, something amazing happens. God’s Spirit indwells you and begins to mold you into a new creation. Your name is written in the Book of Life! And when you depart this life, you will be welcomed into God’s eternal kingdom and receive all He has prepared for those who love Him.
D – Demonstrate your faith by growing in your personal relationship with Jesus Christ through regular Bible study and prayer, fellowshipping with other believers, and being a witness to those who do not yet know Him. Demonstrate a changed life as His Spirit and Word transform you, molding you into the person you were created to be.
No Greater Love
Knowing and living for Jesus Christ is a wonderful spiritual journey with life-changing experiences and eternal blessings. Your acceptance of Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord will prove to be the wisest, most courageous, and most eternally significant decision you will ever make.
The apostle Paul told the Corinthians to examine themselves to see whether or not they were in the faith (2 Corinthians 13:5). Many people base their confidence in trying to be a “good” person and live a “good” life. Others believe they are saved by merely reciting the sinner’s prayer or responding emotionally to an altar call – and then living any way they choose. Still others think salvation is simply an intellectual acknowledgement of beliefs in God, Jesus, and the Bible.
These views of salvation allow many people to believe they are on their way to heaven, when in fact, they may not be. Jesus clearly warns that many will stand before Him claiming to be saved and He will say: “I never knew you; depart from Me …” (Matthew 7:23). So in light of this sobering verse, it is crucial that each of us can answer the question, “Am I really a Christian according to what the Bible says about a believer in Christ?”
The apostle John provides the answer to this question in his first epistle, “These things I have written to
you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life” (1 John 5:13). Consider the following points that John makes; indicators of the certainty of eternal life:
Admit and confess your sins (1 John 1:8-9).
Acknowledge Jesus as the Son of God (1 John 2:22-23; 4:15).
Live a life of obedience and keep God’s commandments (1 John 1:6-7; 2:3-6, 29; 3:7-10; 5:2).
Display love to others (1 John 2:9-11; 3:10, 15, 17-19; 4:7-9).
Possess the hope and longing for Jesus’ return (1 John 3:2-3).
Love other believers and enjoy having fellowship with them (1 John 5:1).
Forty-five years this August 2022 for Bill Rudge Ministries (BRM) and it is still going strong. Bill and Karen have ministered so long now that we forget they were once youngsters with a heart to work for their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Ever since the Lord sent me to this ministry back in the mid-eighties, I have always respected Bill’s wisdom and judgment. But I am sure many people just shook their heads that two recently saved “kids” in their early twenties would ever last for this long in a ministry that must look to the Lord daily for its survival.
I am reminded of Timothy whom God called to minister with the apostle Paul. Unlike our 21st century culture, which places great stress on youthfulness, the Greeks placed a high value on age and experience. Timothy was young by their standards (thirties) so Paul encouraged him: “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity” (1 Timothy 4:12).
Over the years God has provided many challenges for this ministry, and Bill and Karen have met them through God’s grace. I am an eyewitness to many of the ways the Lord miraculously intervened as they stood in faith in seemingly impossible circumstances. They have followed Paul’s dictate to set an example for believers (1 Timothy 4:12).
I came to BRM in 1986 looking for someone who could teach me to serve the Lord. I had a desire to serve but was not sure how to go about doing it. I understood from Scripture that Joshua had learned from Moses and Timothy had been instructed by Paul, so I knew the necessity of learning from someone who was following the Lord.
My first job at the ministry was using a hammer to put shingles on the new addition. Gradually, I began to proofread, do research, lead Bible studies, speak in area churches, write for the ministry newsletter and serve as Biblical Instruction Director.
In all of these activities, I was continually being taught by Bill as he imparted his knowledge and experience to me. I also learned by his example which is always the best teacher. Fortunately, I know Bill not only as a teacher and spiritual advisor but also as a friend. In all circumstances, Bill strives to honor God and maintain the highest level of integrity.
When I came here all those years ago, I could not have known the extent to which Bill would positively influence my walk with the Lord. I could not have learned from textbooks what I have learned from Bill:
Through prayer and fasting always seek to know God’s will before you do something.
Spend more time reading the Scriptures than you do reading supplemental books.
Continue a healthy lifestyle and diet so the body and mind can do God’s work.
Maintain the highest level of integrity in all spheres of your life.
Always seek to honor God in all you do.
I have followed the Biblical principles learned at the Bill Rudge Ministries while serving as a pastor and ministering in many other ways. I believe the Bible to be the last court of appeals in all matters of the faith, and the Word and the testimony of Jesus need to be the standard for all Biblical Christians.
Believers in Jesus were first called Christians at Antioch (Acts 11:26). The testimony to Jesus as the Christ (Messiah) was so strong in Antioch (the largest city of the Roman province of Syria and a center for missionary activity) that His followers and disciples were identified as Christians (a term of derision in the earliest days of the church meaning “of the family of Christ” but eventually, followers of Christ came to love and adopt this name).
Today, Christian has a much broader and often entirely different meaning than its original use. Many believe a Christian is someone who merely goes to church, believes in God, lives a good life, or tries to keep the commandments. While it is true that such things as church attendance, water baptism, living a godly lifestyle, and a loving attitude should definitely be marks of a believer, these should never be misconceived as the criteria for someone to become a Christian. We must examine Scripture and, based upon its authority, determine what it really means to come to faith in Jesus Christ.
Not by Works
According to Scripture, doing good works or keeping God’s Law does not make someone a Christian. The apostle Paul explains that one of the purposes of the Law in the Tanakh (Old Testament) was to show us that we all are sinners and can never achieve the standards required by God. Because of our sinful nature, we continually fall short of the mark. This dilemma reveals our need for a Savior (Galatians 3:24; John 6:28-29).
But by Faith
It is by faith in Jesus Christ, therefore, that we are saved (2 Timothy 1:9; Titus 3:4-7; Romans 9:30-33). Nothing is more tragic than someone pursuing a false hope of salvation through his or her good works when Jesus offers true salvation as a free gift (Ephesians 2:4-5, 8-9; Romans 3:28; Galatians 2:16; Romans 10:2-4).
Only through the shed blood of Jesus Christ is forgiveness available and a restored relationship with the Father made possible. Only Christ is the perfect sacrifice and substitute that satisfies a holy and just God (2 Corinthians 5:21; Colossians 1:22; Hebrews 9:22). The animal sacrifices in the Hebrew Scriptures were merely a foreshadowing of the death of God’s Son on the cross (1 Peter 3:18).
So Jesus paid the penalty for our sins; He suffered and died in our place. We don’t have to “perform” for God out of fear and guilt, but are now free to serve and obey Him because we know and love Him (Philippians 3:3-9; Acts 20:24).
Good works done after accepting Christ spring from a heart of gratitude. Because of what the Lord accomplished on the cross, a believer is enabled to do good deeds. These acts are the fruit and result of salvation, not the cause of it (James 2:14-26; Acts 26:20). The Bible is clear. We are not saved by dead faith (James 2:17) nor by dead works (Hebrews 6:1; 9:14), but by a living faith which results in “love and good deeds” (Hebrews 10:24).
We cannot expect to be accepted by God because of our own goodness. Romans 3:23 points this out emphatically: “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” This does not mean that we cannot do good, but according to God’s standard of righteousness, we all miss the mark.
In all the religions of the world, there are people seeking to establish their own righteousness to earn salvation. In Biblical Christianity, however, it is the righteousness of Jesus Christ which makes possible salvation as a free gift, through faith, to those who will receive it (Romans 1:16-17). Peace with God has been made possible by His own provision (Romans 5:1).
Religion vs. Relationship
The world is filled with religions, but salvation is found only in Jesus Christ (John 14:6; Acts 4:12; 1 John 5:11- 12). Religion is an attempt to reach God through human effort, traditions and ideas, but true Christianity is having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Religion is what one does for God, but salvation is what God has done for us (2 Corinthians 5:1).
Know the Lord
I was buying blueberries one day when the young woman selling them told me about the recent death of her father. She was still grieving, so I asked if her father knew the Lord. I wanted to gain some insight in an attempt to provide her some hope and encouragement. She said, “Yes, he made his peace with God.” I asked, “How about you?” She informed me she went to church but was not close to the Lord.
I said to her, “You can tell me about your father and even show me pictures, and although I can know all about him, I will never have a personal relationship with him like you had.” I continued, “Most people who go to church know about God like I would about your father, but God wants us to know Him in the personal way you knew your father.” Her eyes lit up as she told me that this is what she desired. After prayer, she hugged me, tears streaming down her face. She said, “This was not a chance meeting; I was meant to talk to you.”
Scripture teaches that we must know the Lord by having an intimate and personal relationship with Jesus Christ. A Christian is someone who has a restored relationship with God the Father through a personal faith and acceptance of His Son Jesus and His finished work on the cross. True Christianity is not a lifeless, external form of religion, but a living, vital, personal relationship with the Creator of the universe who is knowable and seeks to be known.
The qualifying factor for us to be pardoned by God’s forgiveness and declared righteous by Him is that we “believe in” the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 16:30-31). To “believe in” means to be persuaded of, and hence, to trust in, rely on, and be faithful to. To “believe in” is not merely acknowledging the reality of Christ, but a belief that results in your accepting His provision of salvation, having confidence in Him as the only way of salvation, and committing your life and eternal destiny to Him. It means trusting Him as your Savior and obeying Him as your Lord.
Jesus informed Nicodemus, a Pharisee and member of the Sanhedrin, that one could not see or enter the Kingdom of God without spiritual rebirth (John 3:3). One must be “born again” or “born from above.” Second Corinthians 5:17 says:
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.
This does not mean that once you accept Christ you become perfect and no longer sin. It does mean that your attitude of rebellion and self-centeredness begins to change to one of obedience and Christ-centeredness. You begin growing and maturing in this new life as you develop a whole new way of thinking and acting. As you yield and submit to Jesus Christ through obedience to His Word and Spirit, He begins to mold and direct your life. He starts working in and through you to fulfill God’s ultimate goal for your life – being conformed to the image of His Son (Romans 8:29; 2 Corinthians 3:18).
How good it is to know that your new birth is only the beginning of your new relationship with the Lord and the commencement of a continual growth process in your new life. You now have the assurance from Scripture that God “is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13), and that “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6).
The Book of Life
This world is not all there is to life. Jesus Christ will return as the victorious King of kings and Lord of lords. You can either come to know Him as Savior and Lord in this life or meet Him as Judge in the afterlife. Those who ignore or reject God’s provision of salvation—Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God—will be eternally separated from God’s presence. Those who receive Him will not come into judgment, but will pass through death into life (John 5:24; John 3:16).
When you accept God’s free gift of salvation your name is written in the Book of Life. Have you committed your life to Jesus Christ? Is your name written in the Book of Life? Revelation chapters 21 and 22 give a glimpse of the incredible things in store for those who receive the Lord Jesus Christ!
Experience His Reality
Years ago, by God’s grace, I chose to commit my life to Jesus Christ. Making a 180-degree turn, I began following Him as Savior and Lord. It is called repentance – dying to self and living for Christ. I asked His forgiveness for my life of rebellion and sin, and I acknowledged His rightful position as Lord of my life. I obeyed His Word by being baptized and developed a consistent life of Bible study, prayer, and fellowship with other believers. I strive to live for the Lord with all my heart, with all my mind, and with all my strength.
You, too, can have new life in Christ. Repent and believe in the Lord Jesus. As one whose name is written in the Lamb’s Book of Life, you will inherit all that God has prepared for those who love Him and obey His Word. Once you experience a life-changing faith in Jesus Christ, you will want to grow in this new relationship and begin uncovering the depths of the treasures of wisdom and knowledge in Him and His Word.
I do hope you will join me and the millions of others throughout history whose lives have been dramatically changed through the transforming power of the resurrected Christ. Surrender your life to Him today. Experience His peace and the joy that transcends your circumstances – and have hope for the life to come.
Is there credible evidence that the Bible is a reliable source of divine revelation? Does the Bible speak accurately on all subject matters or is it only authoritative in regard to spiritual issues? How can you trust the Bible when it was written two thousand years ago? How do you know that the Bible is not full of myths and fabrications? Are the canonical Gospels historically reliable documents on the life of Jesus?
It seems anytime I talk to others about the Christian faith I end up hearing one of these questions. For example, I was able to speak with an airline pilot about the evidence for the Christian faith. Although he claimed to be a Christian, he was uncertain about the accuracy of events recorded in the Gospels since they were written years after they actually occurred. He felt the Gospels were probably the result of men and women bringing together different legends and myths about Jesus of Nazareth.
There are numerous reasons we can appeal to in establishing the historical trustworthiness of the canonical (sacred books officially accepted as genuine) Gospels, including:
• The canonical Gospels are grounded in eyewitness testimony (Luke 1:1-4; John 19:35). The authors claim to have had actual contact with the events themselves (Matthew and John) or they had firsthand knowledge of the events through the testimonies of those who did (Mark and Luke).
• The Gospels were written too close to actual events surrounding the life of Jesus to be legend. The fact that they were in existence during the lifetime of both hostile and non-hostile eyewitnesses would have prevented fabrications or falsifications on the part of the Gospel writers.
• External evidence, such as archeology, has verified the accuracy of the New Testament Gospels in regard to what they say about historical people, places, and events.
Consider just the following two examples: First, all of the canonical Gospels record that Jesus was put on trial before the Roman governor Pontius Pilate (Matthew 27; Mark 15; Luke 23; John 18-19). Since there was no mention of Pontius Pilate outside the Gospel accounts, many scholars questioned whether Pilate was a historical person. Two Italian archeologists answered this question when they unearthed an inscription in Latin at the port city of Caesarea which stated, “Pontius Pilate, Prefect of Judea, has presented the Tiberium to the Caesareans.”
Second, three of the canonical Gospels mention Nazareth as the city where Jesus was raised (Matthew 2:23; Luke 4:16; John 1:45). Since the Old Testament, Josephus, and the Talmud do not list Nazareth among the villages and cities of Galilee, Nazareth was considered by many scholars to be a fictitious city. However, in an excavation at Caesarea in 1962, a Hebrew inscription was found, “which mentions it (Nazareth) as one of the places in Galilee to which members of the twenty-four priestly courses emigrated after the foundation of Aelia Capitolina in A.D. 135.”
Adding to this discovery, first-century tombs were uncovered around the vicinity of Nazareth, which has led archeologists to conclude that, “… Nazareth was a strongly Jewish settlement in the Roman period.” So archeology continues to demonstrate the canonical Gospels are consistent with what we know about first-century Israel.
A true examination of the evidence has proven that the canonical Gospels on the life of Jesus are historically reliable and allegations to the contrary are false. The canonical Gospels provide us with four different accounts on the life of Jesus. In these accounts, while the authors may stress different aspects of Jesus’ life and have different purposes for writing, they each present harmonious historical information about Jesus of Nazareth.
Everyone, sooner or later, comes to realize that youth and vigor fade like the waning summer days of September.
The most attractive people in the world will, in a few short years, lose much of their beauty. Their “perfect” bodies and good looks will give way to sags and wrinkles. Just visit a nursing home and compare the residents to their youthful pictures.
A Sports Festival I attended included men and women at their peak of perfection: massive muscles from steroids, chiseled bodies from intense training, youthful appearance, vivacious…. But looking beyond the glamorous surface, while witnessing and giving out my Reaching Your Maximum Potential and Who Is This Jesus? books, I noticed visible flaws from aging, sun damaged skin, over training and overdosing. Many who just a few years earlier were at their pinnacle, now limped while walking due to bad knees, hips or backs; had faces engraved with wrinkles, sculpted bodies with extended bellies and hernias, tattoos that looked grotesque from shrinking muscles and shriveling skin; varicose veins – the result of over exertion and straining; surgical scars on shoulders and knees from injuries caused by lifting excessive amounts of weight….
A lifetime of training in athletics, academics or the arts can be wiped out in a moment of time – an unexpected injury, debilitating accident or dread disease. The Book of Ecclesiastes says to enjoy each day to its fullest, but focus on the important priorities because life is but a passing vapor. A self-written obituary by 69-year-old Emily Phillips noted: “I was born; I blinked; and it was over.”
David said it this way:
As for man, his days are like grass, he flourishes like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more (Psalm 103:15,16).
Life goes by too quickly to disregard or even defy the Lord for a few years of fleeting indulgence. Chasing after worldly pleasures and possessions is – as Solomon learned 3,000 years ago through personal experience – futility and foolishness.
Why spend a lifetime developing skills and talents yet neglect that which has never-ending significance? Enjoy the temporary but focus on the eternal. Endeavor to develop attributes and qualities whose benefits last forever.
You have a lifetime (however long or short that may be) to determine your eternal destiny; an eternity to enjoy the rewards, or suffer the consequences for the choices you made in this lifetime. You have the final word in this life; God has it in the next life.
Wisdom from Solomon
It would be expedient to heed the wisdom of Solomon: His search in riches and pleasure inspired him to conclude the book of Ecclesiastes with the following admonition:
However many years a person may live, let them enjoy them all. But remember that days of darkness will be many. Rejoice while you are young, and let your heart give you joy in the days of your youth. Follow the ways of your heart and whatever your eyes see, but remember that you must give an account to God for everything you do. Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before you grow old and no longer enjoy living – before the days of trouble come and the years approach when you say, “I find no pleasure in them.” The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: Fear [Reverence] God and obey His commands, for this is the duty of every person. God will judge us for everything we do, including every secret thing, whether good or evil. (Adapted from Ecclesiastes 11:8,9 and 12:13-14.)
Change of Perspective
As we grow older, and hopefully wiser, our outlook changes. Enjoyment of the passions of this life fade like the flexibility and suppleness of aging joints. It is good that God uses the degeneration and deterioration of our physical bodies to divert our focus from the pleasures of this physical domain to that of our approaching destiny.
I often tell people that time is the great equalizer: It has a way of catching up with us and changing our perspective – as do our circumstances. If you have not yet discovered, you soon will, that what matters most in your younger years, matters little when you are older, and what matters little when you are young matters most when you get older. The things of this earth grow strangely dim as Eternity looms on the horizon.
Some of what was a fun time for me as a teenager is now foolishness. Some of what I considered boring and weak back then, I recognize as wise and strong today. Some of what I thought was a waste of time and irrelevant is now a priority and passion. Much of what I rushed toward then, I avoid today. What I fled from before, I embrace today. My perspective has dramatically changed since coming to know Jesus Christ. It is diametrically opposed to what it was as a teenager before accepting Christ. With years, comes experience, and through experience, comes a new viewpoint.
Some people turn away from the sins of their youth because they have come to know the Lord, experience the joy of being forgiven and the peace of walking with God. Others do so because they are forced by circumstances or advancing age to no longer indulge in them.
It is far better to make the changes while you have the choice and the ability to do so, than to wait until you are one day forced to. However, whatever it takes, I hope you have amended your attitude and behavior from that which is contrary to God’s nature and His purpose for creating you, to that which honors Him. True repentance means that you would not repeat sinful behavior if you were back in those circumstances or had the opportunity once again.
Nourish Your Spirit
It is inevitable that your physical body will wear out; muscles will shrink and bones will weaken. Your body will eventually cease to function and will return to the dust from which God created it – but your spirit will live forever.
Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly [physical body] we are wasting away, yet inwardly [the eternal spirit] we are being renewed day by day (2 Corinthians 4:16).
In light of this certainty, my suggestion is to spend more time nourishing your spirit through Bible study and prayer and less time pampering the flesh. You should be convinced by this point in your life that sinful behavior, really does result in the consequences warned about in the pages of Scripture. Hopefully, you have gained enough wisdom over the years to have learned what is pleasing to the Lord and acquired enough respect and reverence for God to avoid that which dishonors Him. David goes on to write in Psalm 103:
But from everlasting to everlasting the LORD’s love is with those who fear [reverence] Him, and His righteousness with their children’s children – with those who keep His covenant and remember to obey His precepts (Psalm 103:17,18).
David confidently proclaimed in the closing verse of his most famous psalm:
I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever (Psalm 23:6).
What Really Matters?
When all is said and done, what really matters? Ponder the following questions then make the necessary adjustments accordingly.
• Where will I spend eternity?
• Am I ready to meet my Creator?
• Did I honor Jesus Christ with my life (and ministry)?
• Was I a wise steward of the gifts and resources God entrusted to me?
• Did my life bear fruit by leading others to Christ?
• Was His will and purpose fulfilled through me?
May the longing of our hearts and the focus of our lives be to know and to exalt our Creator. May we inherit all God has prepared for those who love Him and obey His Word. May we rejoice because of the assurance that at Christ’s return believers’ bodies will be transformed into immortal, glorified bodies to rule and reign over a world returned to its original paradise.