Bridge Burning

by Bill Rudge

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Photo  by Bill Rudge

Suppose you and I were in the military and our commanding officer said, “Up ahead is enemy territory and the only way to get there is by crossing this wooden bridge. Underneath the bridge is a body of water infested with piranhas, alligators, and poisonous snakes. Once we cross into enemy territory, we are going to burn the bridge behind us so there is no going back: It’s either death or victory!”

Likewise, when you give your life to Jesus Christ, you make a bridge-burning commitment: No going back. So, when I gave my life to Jesus Christ at the age of 18, I burned my bridges; there was no going back to my old lifestyle.

Besides, had I turned from the Lord, where would I go? Back to the martial arts and involvement in Eastern Religions, or the power of ki and ch’i? Back to a pleasure-seeking life: immorality, lust, and violence? All are inferior to the power of God and the relationship I have with Jesus Christ! None can compare to the fulfillment Jesus Christ has given me! They are not options for me.

Could I return to pretending there is no God? How, when I know the reality of the God of the Bible and have experienced His goodness? Perhaps I could go back to New Age spirituality and just go with the flow of whatever I want to believe and do – jumping on the bandwagon with other “Christians” who have compromised or abandoned a commitment to Jesus Christ and His Word. Yet, how could I (why would I) deny the faithful God of my life, or reject the truth of the Bible, or forfeit God’s genuine power and lose the comfort that comes from knowing Him?

Therefore, I am in no dilemma: There is no other alternative for me. I have tried them all. I have evaluated them all. There is only one option, and that is total commitment to Jesus.

Egyptian with One Arm

While ministering to the U.S. military in what was then West Germany, I had an opportunity to speak in a large house-church. Among the many West Germans and American GI’s, there were also several people from East Germany, Russia, Poland, Romania, and Egypt. Speaking through an interpreter, I shared parts of my testimony and the requirement to be totally committed. Many raised their hands in response to this challenge.

Following the message I remained for over an hour praying and sharing with several of the people. One man from Egypt was formerly a Muslim, who spoke to me through my interpreter in a combination of broken English and German. Between us we were able to decipher what he said: We learned that when he became a Christian, his Muslim family threw him off a train in an attempt to kill him, which resulted in the loss of his arm. This man, who had paid a tremendous price for giving his life to Christ, was not requesting prayer for his difficulties; rather prayer for him to know and serve Jesus even more. This man had a strong desire to grow closer to the Lord, no matter what the cost – a desire all believers should have.

Gave My All

Before I was a Christian, I was totally dedicated to weight lifting, karate, and the pursuit of pleasure. I was 100% committed to serving myself. How much more then, should I commit my entire life to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords?

You see, I am an “all or nothing” person. I either want to serve the Lord wholeheartedly or not at all. Anything less is really not Biblical Christianity. If I am going to live for Christ, my desire is to live for Him with all my heart, with all my mind, and with all my strength. I will not settle for a superficial Christianity. I want everything God has for me. I believe you do, too. In this age of apostasy and compromise, God is raising up believers who refuse to live a nominal, shallow, or imitation Christianity. They are committed to the Lord and seek to walk in sensitivity and obedience to His Word and His Spirit.

Before I gave my life to Christ, I learned to use almost every part of my body as a weapon. I learned to use my hands, feet, knees, elbows, and fingers as destructive weapons. Should I not now seek to use every part of my life to glorify the Lord?

His Lordship affects everything we do and how we live. It affects:

• What our eyes see
• What our mouths speak
• What our ears listen to
• What our hands do
• Where our feet go
• What our minds think
• What attitudes we adopt
• What emotions we allow
• What our hearts desire
• How we care for our bodies (temples of the Holy Spirit)

His Lordship affects every aspect of our lives: physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.

Have I Achieved Perfection?

Not in this life! We all struggle with temptation. However, commitment to Christ enables me to overcome any temptation so that nothing but He, Himself, controls me. I am not trying to be a self-righteous person. In fact, if you could follow me around, you would see flaws and imperfections in my life, but you would also recognize the sincere desire of my heart: to live totally for the Lord by glorifying Him in all things; to fulfill His purpose for my life and ministry. My righteousness is not that of self, but by the righteousness of God’s Son: my salvation is not the result of works or self-effort but by faith in Jesus Christ.

We become Christians entirely by God’s grace and mercy through faith. (See my book, Who Is This Jesus?) And, as the apostle Paul reveals in Galatians 3:2-5, we continue to live by faith after we are saved. Paul states in Galatians chapter 5:

It was for freedom that Christ set us free [from unsuccessfully trying to fulfill the law to earn our salvation]; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery. For you were called to freedom, only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh. … Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit (Galatians 5:1,13,24,25).

Therefore, we must achieve a balance of God’s grace, and our responsibility to live under Christ’s Lordship by walking in obedience to His Word.

Had to Grow

After committing my life to Christ, I had to grow. Sure, I failed and fell many times, but I did not lay there and quit nor give up in defeat. I asked for forgiveness, and by God’s grace, got back up and kept on going.

1 John 2:1 (written to believers) says:

I am writing these things to you that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.

And 1 John 1:9 (also written to believers) states:

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

If a Sheep Falls in the Mud

I used to struggle with such questions as, “Does it matter if we fall into sin because we have Scriptural promises of forgiveness and liberty in Christ, or must we strive to live legalistically, trying to achieve perfection?”

A professor at Bible college helped to answer that with the following illustration. He explained that if a pig falls in the mud, it lays there and wallows in it because that is its nature. However, if a sheep falls in the mud, it gets out. It is contrary to its nature to lay in mud. So too, nonbelievers may wallow in sin without remorse or guilt, while believers who fall into sin will repent and come out as God’s Spirit deals with them and speaks to their hearts.

If you continue in willful sin, then you had better reevaluate your relationship with the Lord. I am not talking about making mistakes; rather if you have a pattern of continual, willful sin, there is something wrong. You need to examine your commitment to Christ:

No one who lives in Him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen Him or known Him (1 John 3:6).

Feelings Change like the Weather

Our commitment to Jesus Christ must not be based on feelings. We may not always feel like praying or reading our Bible or doing what God wants. Sure, we may get discouraged and want to give up, but nowhere does the Bible say we should base our relationship with Christ on feelings. We live by faith and walk in obedience to God’s Word and Spirit.

I feel great when the Lord blesses, but even when I don’t see the blessings and even when things are going wrong, I still serve Him. My feelings may change like the weather, but my commitment to Him is unchanging!

Excerpted from Reaching Your Maximum Potential in Christ which is being expanded for its third edition in book and E-book form. In a future newsletter we will discuss Walking in Obedience as we continue this series.

Total Commitment

by Bill Rudge

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Photo by Bill Rudge

Everybody wants it, but few are willing to give it: Coaches want it from their players; drill sergeants demand it from new recruits; teachers and professors love it in students; employers require it from their employees; husbands and wives desire it from their spouses. What is this characteristic most everyone wants from others? Total Commitment!

While speaking at a pastors’ conference I asked, “Do you believe in God? Everyone said a hearty Amen! So I asked again, “Do you really believe in God and Jesus Christ?” Same response as they all acknowledged they did. Then I asked, “Do you really believe the Bible is God’s Word?” They all enthusiastically affirmed they did. So I said, “If you really believe in God, Jesus Christ and the Bible, then it should radically affect your life: how you live, what you watch, what you say and what you do.” They got the message.

However, as I travel and minister throughout the U.S. and around the world, I find that many who profess faith in Jesus Christ – even many leaders and pastors – are not totally committed to Him as Lord of their lives.

Heart Commitment

When I use the words total commitment, I am not talking about what you say with your mouth, or what you appear to be on the surface. I am talking about a heart commitment. I have learned from experience that outward appearances and words can be deceptive. Man looks at the externals, but God looks at the heart. Are your heart, your motives, your will, your goals, and your desires fully committed to Jesus Christ?

Many Christians believe the Bible and live for the Lord, so long as it poses no difficulty and agrees with their preconceived beliefs and ideas. When Scripture contradicts what they want to hear or do, they discard, deny, compromise, or attempt to twist it to say what they want it to say. Many have a “dip and skip” mentality: They dip into all the promises, blessings, and miracles, but skip all the responsibilities, commitment, and obedience.

For every gift and privilege God gives, responsibility and commitment are required:

If you want the mountaintop, you must walk through the valley. If you want the benefit and blessing, you must pay the price of commitment. If you want the victory, you must fight the battle. If you want the gifts of the Spirit, you must develop the fruit of the Spirit. If you want spiritual power, you must develop spiritual muscle.

God Wants First Place

Throughout the Old Testament, God emphasized the principle that He wants first place in our lives: When He said, “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse,” He was saying, “I must be first regarding your finances.” When God said, “The seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work,” He was saying, “I must be first concerning your time.” When God said, “Bring the best of the firstfruits of your soil to the house of the Lord your God,” He was saying, “I must be first in regard to your business and livelihood.” When God asked for the firstborn of all cattle, He was saying, “I must be first regarding your belongings.” When God said, “You must give [consecrate] to Me the first-born of your sons,” He was saying, “I must be first concerning your family.”

God does not need your money, cattle, produce or your possessions; He wants you! Jesus said:

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven…. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also (Matthew 6:19-21).

When Satan tempted Jesus by offering Him all the kingdoms of the world, he said, “All this I will give You, if You will bow down and worship me” (Matthew 4:9). Then Jesus said to him, “Away from Me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only’” (Matthew 4:10). Jesus clearly revealed that God not only wants first place, but He must be the only Lord and God in our lives.

Why does the Lord not allow anyone or anything else to be god in our lives? Because not only has He created us and deserves that unique position, but He knows that anyone or anything else controlling our lives becomes our god – and eventually that god destroys us. In contrast David said, “Blessed are the people whose God is the Lord” (Psalm 144:15).

Take Up Your Cross

If you think total commitment is only for those in Christian leadership, look closely at Scripture. Luke 14:25-27 says:

Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them He said: “… Anyone who does not carry his cross and follow Me cannot be My disciple.”

Jesus is not saying we are to carry a literal cross around, but He is making it perfectly clear to the crowds that to be His disciple requires total commitment.

The disciples knew what Christ meant when He said:

If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for Me and for the gospel will save it (Mark 8:34,35).

Being well aware of Roman crucifixions, and of their context in the culture, they knew that Jesus was speaking of dying to self and of total commitment to Him.

Evaluating the Four C’s

There are acceptable and unacceptable types of commitment mentioned in the Bible. Which of the following four categories is most like your commitment?

Committed to Rebellion

Are you like King Ahab who, in outright rebellion against the Lord, did evil in His sight with no desire for repentance?

In the thirty-eighth year of Asa king of Judah, Ahab son of Omri became king of Israel, and he reigned in Samaria over Israel twenty-two years. Ahab son of Omri did more evil in the eyes of the Lord than any of those before him (1 Kings 16:29, 30).

Although Ahab was king of the northern tribes of Israel, he openly rebelled against God. Similarly, there are many who name the name of Jesus Christ outwardly, but according to God’s Word, their hearts are in outright rebellion in the way they live, the things they do and in their associations.

Committed – Sort Of

Do you serve the Lord halfheartedly like Amaziah, king of Judah?

Amaziah was twenty-five years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem twenty-nine years. His mother’s name was Jehoaddin; she was from Jerusalem. He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, but not wholeheartedly (2 Chronicles 25:1, 2).

Wholeheartedness matters to God.

Committed – Sporadically

Like Uzziah, king of Judah, when the Lord blessed him and he became powerful, he also became proud and turned away from the Lord.

Uzziah was sixteen years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem fifty-two years. … He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, just as his father Amaziah had done. He sought God during the days of Zechariah, who instructed him in the fear of God. As long as he sought the Lord, God gave him success. But after Uzziah became powerful, his pride led to his downfall. He was unfaithful to the Lord his God… (2 Chronicles 26:3-5, 16).

Do you want to serve the Lord wholeheartedly, but have not maintained that commitment your whole life?

So far we have three types of commitment: those who live in outright rebellion and do evil before the Lord; those who only halfheartedly serve the Lord; and those who wholeheartedly serve the Lord, but only for a short duration. Will you run the race for two, or even twenty years, then get weary and fall away?

Wholeheartedly Committed

Or are you like Abraham, Moses, Caleb, Ruth, Elijah, Daniel, Paul, and many others who made their commitment to the Lord, and served Him wholeheartedly all the days of their lives? It is this kind of commitment that God desires from those who name the name of Jesus.

Consider the words David spoke to his son, Solomon:

And you, my son Solomon, acknowledge the God of your father, and serve Him with wholehearted devotion and with a willing mind, for the Lord searches every heart and understands every motive behind the thoughts. If you seek Him, He will be found by you; but if you forsake Him, He will reject you forever (1 Chronicles 28:9).

Do not serve the Lord halfheartedly all your life – or even wholeheartedly half your life. Instead, serve the Lord wholeheartedly all of your life!

Beautiful Waterfalls

I believe the old adage, “You are only as good as your word,” and I do everything possible to keep mine. If you make a commitment to Christ today and then next week you give up, then it really was not much of a commitment. A true commitment isn’t for just one day or one week, but the rest of your life. It isn’t just one or two hours on Sundays, but twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. We should seek to live under His Lordship and glorify Him, not only when in church, reading our Bibles, praying or witnessing, but also when we are at home, at work, at school, engaged in sports or social activities, working out at the gym – anytime and anywhere.

When I was on a speaking tour in Tobago, in the West Indies, I learned there were two waterfalls on the island. One was an easy two or three minute walk. Although very nice, the other one was far more beautiful, but would require a 45-minute hike through streams, over stones and rocks, across slippery ledges, and through thick brush.

Having a few hours of free time, my ministry team decided to go with me on the longer excursion. The waterfall was awesome, forming three tiers of pools. When we swam in the cool and refreshing waters, it was like being in paradise.

Most people visiting Tobago avoid the more difficult way and are satisfied to see just the first falls. As one who is willing to pay the price for that which is truly worthwhile, I led the team into a breathtaking area, unsurpassed in beauty and serenity, rather than to settle for second best.

Too many people settle for convenient Christianity. But real blessing, power, and victory manifest in the lives of those totally committed to the Lord, with all their hearts. Believe me, it is well worth it!

Excerpted from Reaching Your Maximum Potential in Christ which is being expanded for its third edition in book and E-book form. In a future newsletter we will discuss “Bridge Burning” as we continue this series.

Count the Cost

by Bill Rudge

“No one can become My disciple without giving up everything for Me.” Luke 14:33

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Photo by Tom Lodge

Once you are convinced that Jesus Christ is the promised Messiah, God uniquely manifest in the flesh, and the only way of salvation, you must count the cost before you give your life to Him. In Luke 14:28-33, Jesus shared the importance of counting the cost before following Him. He said, “One should not start building a tower without counting the cost, lest he run out of money and be ridiculed when unable to finish it. Should not a king about to go to war first consider whether he is able with 10,000 men to oppose a force of 20,000?” In the same way, Jesus said, anyone who wants to be His disciple must count the cost of giving up everything for Him.

Before I was a Christian, I thought I was god. Not God the Creator, but god in the sense that I was invincible. I did some crazy things because of that philosophy. Deceived by the same lie Satan used on Adam and Eve, I was walking in rebellion against the one true God.

But I came to the realization that I was not god — that Jesus Christ was God’s unique revelation of truth. He was the One I needed as my Savior and Lord.

I Made the Choice

Once I examined the evidence, and was convinced who Christ is, I had to make a choice. Do I reject Him and walk away in rebellion and self-deluded pride? Or do I humble myself, admit my rebellion, and trust in Him for my salvation?

By God’s grace, I chose to give Christ my life. Making a 180-degree turn, I began following Him as Savior and Lord. It’s called repentance. It’s dying to self and living for Christ. We must dethrone self, quit playing God, and place Christ in His rightful position as Lord of our lives. Then His goals become our goals. His desires become our desires. His will becomes our will.

To illustrate, let’s pretend you are on one trapeze and Jesus is on another. You have one hand holding onto your trapeze, and one hand holding onto Christ. You want to live for Christ, but you also want to live for self. You want to obey the Lord, but you also want to have your own way and do your own thing. You want Him to be your God, but you also want to be your own god. You want to run your own life, make your own decisions, have your own goals, and fulfill your own desires. But you can’t hold onto both. Eventually the two trapeze bars go in opposite directions. If you try to both live for self and for the Lord it will tear you apart.

That’s why there are so many neurotic Christians walking around confused, depressed, and discouraged, not knowing what they believe or what God’s will is. When Christians are only half-committed (trying to live for self and trying to live for the Lord) they are the most miserable of people. They go out to witness and say, “Don’t you want what I have?” The non-Christian says, “No thanks, I have enough problems already.” Instead of having an impact on their world for Christ, as the first century believers did, their compromised lives tend to turn people off. That’s why we will never influence our world for Christ unless we ourselves are first totally sold out to Him.

There is no middle road. You can’t straddle the fence. You must totally accept or reject Him. And to not totally accept Him is to reject Him. Don’t let Jesus’ words in Revelation 3:16 be true of you:

So, because you are lukewarm – neither hot nor cold – I am about to spit you out of My mouth.

You must count the cost and then make a wise choice – total commitment to Christ as Lord!

Excerpted from Reaching Your Maximum Potential in Christ (which is being updated and expanded for its third printed edition and E-book).