A Life Defined by Authenticity and Love

by BJ Rudge, Ph.D.

Making a New Life Resolution for 2019, part 5

In the previous blog, I shared with you my fifth and sixth New Life Resolutions:  5) Conform my life to the standards of God’s Word regardless of what it may cost me in this life; 6) Start and end each day in communion with God so I can know Him more and what He requires of me.  Let us now examine New Life Resolutions seven and eight.

Resolution 7:  Reflect in an authentic way to others the transforming power and reality of Jesus Christ in my life.

In a conversation on religion, a friend of mine, who had emigrated to America from a Middle Eastern country, told me that he would never become a Christian. When I asked him why he said, “When I first came to America, I saw Christians living like the world on Saturday and then worshiping God in church on Sunday.” Like my friend, I have heard others say similar things as hypocrisy among those who label themselves as Christians has become one of the main reasons people reject the Christian faith.

This reality is why I want what to resolve to live out my faith in Jesus Christ in an authentic way. Living this way does not entail perfection, as all of us will fail in this life. What it does entail is allowing God to be Lord over every area of our lives, striving to be consistent in how we live both in public and in private; seeking godly repentance when we fall short (2 Corinthians 7:10; 1 John 1:9); and reflecting a transformed life marked by the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-24). As we live in a fallen world, may we all take to heart these words by the apostle Peter:

Dear friends, I warn you as “temporary residents and foreigners” to keep away from worldly desires that wage war against your very souls.   Be careful to live properly among your unbelieving neighbors. Then even if they accuse you of doing wrong, they will see your honorable behavior, and they will give honor to God when he judges the world (1 Peter 2:11, 12).

Resolution 8:  While I should grieve over the wickedness in the world, I will still approach non-believers with the same love and grace that Jesus has shown me.

We serve a holy and righteous God (Revelation 4:8) who grieves over the wickedness in the world, and one day He will come back to judge all that are ungodly (1 Peter 4:5, Jude 14b, 15; Revelation 20:12, 13). Therefore, we also should grieve over the wickedness in this world, and not find entertainment and pleasure in it. However, we also serve a loving and merciful God, who loves us so much that He sent His only Son to die for our sins (John 3:16). This reality should make all of us stand back in awe and wonder at the depth of God’s love for us.

And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God (Ephesians 3:18, 19).

Recognizing the depth of God’s love for me has helped me view unbelievers not as my enemies but as my mission field. This is the case because their ultimate need is no different than mine, which is we all need a Savior to set us free from our sins (Romans 3:23; 1 John 2:2). In fact, as Paul reminds the Corinthians, the very behaviors that sent Jesus to the cross, were once practiced by them, but now they have been cleansed, made holy and right with God through Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 6:9-11). Once we experience the grace and mercy of God, which we do not deserve, we should feel empowered to show the same grace and mercy to others. The most effective way to demonstrate this is through the same love that God has shown us. In fact, love is the most powerful way for us to show others an authentic and transformed life.

If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.  If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing.   If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing. (1 Corinthians 13:1-3).

In the next blog we will examine the final two New Life Resolutions. Until then, may we all continue to live a life of resolve.

Using Our Time with An Eternal Perspective

by BJ Rudge, Ph.D.

Making a New Life Resolution for 2019, part 3

In the previous blog, I shared with you my first two New Life Resolutions:  1) In all my decisions I will do that which brings the most glory to God; 2) To do a weekly spiritual examination to identify specific areas where I can grow in my faith with the Lord. Let us now examine New Life Resolutions three and four.

Resolution 3:  Live with an eternal perspective where I invest in those things that will outlive me.

Time is a precious commodity that can never be replaced. We all have a set number of days on this earth, so we must be intentional in how we use the time that God has given us. As Paul tells the believers in Ephesus,

“Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:15, 16).

My wife and I recently bought my oldest daughter a book about athletes who had to overcome great challenges. We thought it would be good for her to read since she had to undergo three surgeries on her ankle which hindered her from playing sports. As she was sharing with us about some of the athletes, it was amazing to hear how these individuals were intentional in everything that they did to accomplish their goals. From strict training, to eating properly, to making personal sacrifices, these athletes knew that they could not waste one moment of their day.

What a great analogy for the Christian life, as we too have a goal/prize to accomplish (Philippians 3:12-14). The major difference is our goal/prize is not made of gold, silver, or bronze that will wear away with time; instead, we are competing for a goal/prize that is eternal. This is why I have made it a resolution to live with each day with an eternal perspective. As you read the following words from the apostle Paul, may they inspire you to be intentional in what you do with your time, because every morning you wake up God has given you that day to run with an eternal purpose:

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.  Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.  (1 Corinthians 9:24, 25).

Resolution 4:  To not neglect my role as a husband to love my wife and my role as a father to intentionally invest in the spiritual development of my children.

I have recognized that the key to time is not just what I invest in but who I invest time in. In our lives we are going to have specific moments/seasons that will come. When these moments/ seasons come they will provide each of us with certain opportunities that when they are over, they are gone and may never come back.

Right now, I am in the season of investing in the spiritual lives of my children. My oldest is turning 16, and I realize that when she goes off to college the influence that I presently have is going to change. Therefore, I cannot waste this present season God has given me. I must be intentional in spiritually shaping the minds and hearts of my kids. This first starts in how I treat their mother, who as my wife, I am called to love her as Christ loved the church (Ephesians 5:25). Next, I must take an active role in instructing them in the ways of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4). A responsibility that I cannot delegate to anyone else, but with my wife must pursue with all my energy.

I don’t personally know what season you may be in at this moment in your life. Perhaps you are a student at a school, an employee for a company, a grandparent enjoying retirement, or like me, a parent raising your kids. Regardless, you are presently in a season in which God has raised people up in your life for you to impact spiritually. Don’t waste this season but approach it with an eternal perspective.

The time we are given in this life is truly more valuable than any precious stone or gem. As we use it, may we all remember the eloquent words of Jonathan Edwards:

“Resolved, never to do anything, which I should be afraid to do, if it were the last hour of my life.”

In the next blog we will examine Resolutions 5 and 6. Until then, may we all continue to live a life of resolve.

Early Traditions

by Dr. David Jeremiah

When he arose, he took the young Child and His mother by night and departed for Egypt. Matthew 2:14

Many of our Christmas traditions are very old. We typically date nativity scenes from the time of Francis of Assisi; Christmas trees from the time of Martin Luther; and greeting cards from Victorian England. But a few traditions are as old as the Nativity itself. For example, the singing of Christmas carols was started by the angels, and the custom of gift-giving was begun by the Wise Men. Their gifts had spiritual significance – the gold pointed to Christ’s role as King; the frankincense to His role as Priest; and the myrrh pointed to His role as Savior and to His redeeming death. But these gifts were also practical, for they conveyed financial value. Some scholars believe it was God’s way of providing Joseph and Mary the funds needed to flee to Egypt and raise their baby in a foreign but safe environment.

How wonderful when our gifts can be both meaningful and practical!

But wait! There’s a mistake in today’s devotion – did you spot it? Christmas gift-giving didn’t start with the Wise Men, did it? No, its origin is even older.

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son . . . .

 

You Say… But God Says…

Your Circumstances May Say

It is impossible.  Things are hopeless.  I can’t go on.  It is never going to work out.

God’s Word Says

All things are possible to him who believes. (Mark 9:23)

The LORD is my helper; I will not fear. (Hebrews 13:6)

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:13)

God causes all things to work together for good to those who love Him, to those who are called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28)

Bill Rudge

Don’t Quit

When things go wrong as they sometimes will,
When the road you’re trudging seems all uphill,
When the funds are low and the debts are high,
And you want to smile but you have to sigh,
When care is pressing you down a bit…
By all means pray, and don’t you quit.
Success is failure turned inside out,
God’s hidden gift in the clouds of doubt,
You never can tell how close you are,
It may be near when it seems afar.
So trust in the Lord when you’re hardest hit…
It’s when things go wrong that
You Must Not Quit!
Author Unknown

Keeping A Promise

by Bill Rudge

It was rush hour in Pittsburgh when Karen and I were walking across the bridge. I noticed a man just sitting there. Most people walked past him as though he wasn’t there – not even glancing at him. I made eye contact with him and said, “I don’t have anything now but I’ll catch you later.” He replied, “I appreciate you saying that.”

An hour and a half later as Karen and I walked back across the river, he was still sitting on the bridge. When he saw me he took off his hat and held it out. Putting some money in it, I asked, “Do you know why I came back?” He responded, “Because you have the love of the Lord in your heart.” I said, “That’s true, but I came back because I made you a promise.” With his eyes riveted on mine I continued, “Jesus promised He would rise from the dead – and He kept His promise. Jesus also promised He would return one day – and He will keep that promise.”

It was a brief encounter, but an opportunity to share the love of Christ, the promise of His coming and that as a believer in Jesus I kept my promise.

At this season of the year when we are focused on Jesus’ first coming, let us not forget that this same Jesus promised to return

Behind the Words

by BJ Rudge, Ph.D.

Sometimes more important than the words we use are the meanings behind those words. Let me explain. I opened my door to two individuals who greeted me with a smile. They said they were Christians and believed in Jesus. However, after asking them a few questions, it became apparent we did not believe in the same Jesus. While I recognize Jesus as the eternal Son of God (John 1:1-3; Colossians 1:16, 17), they saw him only as a created being. On another occasion a man walked into my office claiming to believe in Jesus, but after several minutes, I learned that his Jesus is simply an enlightened individual and not the Son of God and Savior of the world (Luke 2:10, 11; John 3:16, 17).

Define terms so you understand what the other person is saying and also communicate your faith clearly. Know what you believe so you do not find yourself, like the Corinthians, being deceived by a different gospel:

But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ. For if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the Spirit you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it easily enough (2 Corinthians 11:3, 4).

Consequences of Compromise

by BJ Rudge, Ph.D.

Instead of transforming our culture, the church is being transformed by the culture.

Sermons being promoted with sexual images, worship being infiltrated by secular songs, the preaching platform shared with Star Wars characters – yes, these are just samples of the efforts taken by many churches to make Christianity “relevant” to our modern culture. Church growth experts tell us these “adjustments” are necessary if we want Christianity to survive the tides of cultural change.

However, when we approach Christianity in the above manner, three drastic results follow.

First, Christianity becomes a man-centered system of beliefs. Like a person picking and choosing different foods at a buffet, each of us can pick and choose what we want to include in our own version of Christianity: If church is “cool” and “fun,” then we can be cool and still have fun enjoying the things of this world – a far cry from Jesus’ call of self-denial:

If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it (Matthew 16:24, 25).

Second, Christianity loses its power. The focus of bringing people to Christ begins to center around the latest trends and church growth methods. These are supposedly the key to unlocking the hearts of the “un-churched.” As our culture changes, these will also change so that we can maintain a message that is appealing to our audience. Definitely a different evangelistic approach than the Apostle Paul:

And when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified…and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God (1 Corinthians 2:1-5).

Third, Christianity loses its uniqueness. When the Gospel is presented with all of the regalia of cultural relevance and excitement, it loses its distinction. Instead of being a channel of transformation in our culture, it becomes transformed by the culture (see Romans 12:2). Thus, the Christian faith becomes merely another system of thought that blends into the cultural landscape. What a sad result when, in contrast, we have the opportunity to share with others the unique message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ:

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes… For in it the righteousness of God is revealed (Romans 1:16, 17).

So while we may adapt our method of presenting the Gospel we must never change, water down, distort or cheapen the message. We must not be so “open minded” that we accept virtually any practice, phenomenon or teaching. Instead, be “Bereans” who wisely question, evaluate and discern. Any methodology that alters the Gospel message itself or compromises the way we live out our faith must be rejected. The Lord Jesus will be the final judge of all methods, techniques and teachings, as well as those who propagate them (1 Corinthians 4:5).