The Mark of a Life

BJ Rudge, Ph.D.

The founder of a church which gained worldwide attention because of their protests at the funerals of U.S. soldiers, homosexuals and celebrities, passed away several years ago. While only God can judge this man’s heart, his life did not reflect that of a true follower of Jesus Christ, but a life affected by hatred.

We are called as believers to present the Gospel of Jesus Christ (Matthew 28:19, 20, Acts 1:8). Certainly, in the process of doing this some people will be offended and reject what we say (John 15:18, 19; 1 Corinthians 1:22, 23). However, while we share the truth of God’s Word and who Jesus Christ is, if we do this without love, then as the apostle Paul said, we are nothing more than a meaningless noise like a loud gong or a clanging cymbal (1 Corinthians 13:1).

Jesus’ life was defined not by hatred but by love. In fact, His love for mankind is what brought Him to this earth to give up His very life setting us free from our sins (John 3:16, 17). This is what drives us in sharing the truth of the Gospel message: love for God and a love for others (Matthew 22:37-39). We should not alienate non-Christians because of their sin (1 Corinthians 5:9-11), but rather seek to lead them to Christ and trust God’s Holy Spirit to clean up their lives.

As Christians we recognize the eternal reality that awaits every single human being who rejects Jesus Christ (John 3:18, 36) and lives a life contrary to His will (Ephesians 5:5). Therefore, if we are to be an effective witness, it will be displayed through selfless acts of love and compassion:

But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you (Luke 6:27, 28).

New Life Resolution

BJ Rudge, Ph.D.

Photo by Frank Rudge

Spending more time with family, getting into shape, quitting a bad habit and getting out of debt top the list of New Year’s resolutions. We make our resolutions with the best of intentions. Early in the new year we are like runners at the start of a race: excited to begin the quest toward the finish line. However, several months into the year, our enthusiasm wanes as motivation diminishes, distractions divert us, pressures and time constraints weigh us down, and apathy overtakes us. What started as a noble endeavor, often becomes just another New Year’s resolution that will have to wait until next year to be achieved.

So, too, in our Christian walk we start out with the best of intentions. We are enthusiastic in our faith and motivated to enhance our relationship with Jesus Christ. But if we do not nurture this desire and goal, in time motivation and enthusiasm begin to wane as trials and temptations take their toll. Many give up, beaten down by guilt, struggling to get back on track spiritually. As in other areas of our life, spirituality becomes just another resolution, indefinitely postponed.

Instead of waiting for another New Year, re-evaluate your priorities and goals right now. Rather than merely making a New Year’s resolution, make a New Life resolution – a lifetime commitment, through the power of God’s Spirit, to make Jesus Christ the center of your life. The following are some simple, but profound, principles to help you:

Live a life of prayer (Colossians 4:2).

Devote yourself to the study of God’s Word:

This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success (Joshua 1:8).

Be authentic in your walk with Christ (Ephesians 5:1, 2).

Commit to Him with your whole life:

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind (Matthew 22:37).

Take on this challenge of a New Life resolution – begin today, and keep the passion burning throughout the year. If you notice the flame burning low, rekindle it and keep on going – until the very end!

From Christian to New Age Spirituality

by Bill Rudge

During a recent flight I sat beside a woman who had graduated from a conservative Christian College where she met her husband. They first attended a Baptist church, then a non-denominational community church for many years. Yet, along with her profession of faith in Jesus and the Bible, she embraced New Age spirituality. I wanted to know why.

Meditation and yoga were the doorways through which her beliefs and practices were completely modified. Diane and her husband no longer attend church because “nature is her sanctuary.” She said she still has encounters with “Jesus” through her meditation and trance channeling. Judgmental people and “negative energy” are something Diane avoids, so if I was going to have an opportunity to share with her, it had to be in a non-confrontational manner. Several times she said how much she enjoyed conversing with me because I was such a positive person and also respectful of her beliefs.

Diane listened intently as I emphasized the uniqueness of Jesus Christ and the amazing credibility of the Bible through examples from history, archaeology and prophecy. She agreed, but went on to say that I was limited by the Bible: by looking within, through meditation, and to spirit beings, through trance channeling, she felt she has tapped into knowledge and experiences that surpass and transcend the Bible. In reality, however, her scope is limited to subjective experiences, while I possess the unfathomable depth and riches of God’s Word with its amazing evidence in backing up its authority and truth. It will take an eternity to discover the magnificence of God and the wonders of the universe He has created!

I asked Diane by what authority she based her beliefs and eternal destiny? She said it was her inner peace from harmony with nature, a love and acceptance of all things (except biblical Christianity) and her experiences with the spirit entities.

“What about those who never heard of Jesus Christ?” Diane asked. I told her, “God is a merciful God who would move heaven and earth to reach anyone who has a desire to know Him. Jeremiah 29:13 says: ‘You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.’” I then shared some accounts of miraculous conversions of Jews, Muslims, Hindus, atheists and others. “What would God have to do,” I asked, “to convince you that Jesus Christ really is the only way?” Unable (or unwilling) to answer she merely said that her experiences and the spirit guides she encounters through meditation and trance channeling affirm that all ways lead to God.

“Consider the possibility” I stated, “that according to the Bible, the entities you are encountering could be demonic beings who are propagating a deception.” She insisted this was an impossibility because they were so loving and peaceful in her experiences with them. “Besides,” she said, “I am also having encounters with Jesus through my meditation and channeling.” I responded, “The apostle Paul warned about another Jesus…” but she interrupted to say that Paul is negative and judgmental. I retorted that we all have to make judgments every day in the decisions we make concerning what we do or don’t do and what we believe or don’t believe.

I brought up the afterlife and the biblical requirement to enter Heaven. Diane indicated her belief in reincarnation. She will keep coming back until she gets it right just as Jesus was reincarnated several times before He became the Christ. I responded with Hebrews 9:27: “It is destined that each person dies only once and after that comes judgment.” Yet Diane assured me she will see me in heaven, as well as everyone else who believes in peace and unity. I said, “If you are right Diane, I will make it into your Heaven because of my positive faith and lifestyle, but if the Bible is accurate (and I am convinced it is) then those who do not accept God’s provision of salvation through Jesus Christ will be excluded. No wonder Jesus said that there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth when they realize what they have forfeited.”

In reply she said, “God would never say to anyone, ‘No, no, you can’t enter.’ He will welcome everyone.” So I countered, “Suppose someone walks into your house and decides to move in. You will say, ‘I don’t know you, so please leave!’ Likewise, a righteous and holy God must exclude sin from His eternal Kingdom. Without Christ’s shed blood we all fall far short.” It was ironic that exactly when I said, “The blood of Jesus is our only means of salvation,” she spilled tomato juice all over her lap. As she wiped up the spill with napkins I said, “This will serve as a constant reminder to you that salvation is only through the blood of Jesus Christ.” She smiled squeamishly.

As we reached our destination, we were both amazed how fast time passed, enjoying our conversation for the entire two-hour flight. While she felt the universe brought us together to “expand” my mind and beliefs, I am convinced God put us together for a greater purpose. I pray God’s Spirit draws her back to Jesus Christ – not a New Age Jesus but the Jesus of the Bible. And I do hope to see her again…in Heaven.

A Desire for God and His Word

by BJ Rudge, Ph.D.

Making a New Life Resolution for 2019, part 4

In the previous blog, I shared with you my third and fourth New Life Resolutions:  3) Live with an eternal perspective where I invest in those things that will outlive me.; 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.  Let us now examine New Life Resolutions five and six.

Resolution 5:  Conform my life to the standards of God’s Word regardless of what it may cost me in this life.

Growing up, soccer was a major part of my life. In fact, as I was moving into my senior year, I had scholarship offers by division 1 schools. However, a few weeks before my final high school season started, I tore a ligament in my knee at a soccer tournament. This event led me down a path of re-evaluating every aspect of my life. You can read the full story by going to our website and downloading the free e-book “Faith Through the Fire” (http://billrudge.org/store/e-books). One of the key lessons that I learned through this injury was that if I was going to be a Christian, I needed to serve God on His terms and not my own. In other words, I needed to completely yield my life over to Him (Matthew 16:24-26).

Being yielded to God means we must look to God, not ourselves or to the culture around us, as the final standard for our lives. Yet, just as it was with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:4, 5), this battle between personal autonomy and self-surrender to Jesus Christ continues to wage war within all of our souls. This is why I have made a conscious effort every day to look to God’s Word in setting the standards in how I live my life. As I do this, I fully recognize that I will face difficulties and challenges (2 Timothy 3:12); hence, my life will not reflect the patterns of this world (1 John 2:15-17). Being a person of resolve who is living His life to glorify His Lord and Savior, I must walk in obedience to His commands, even if I find myself walking alone. In the words of the Apostle Paul,

“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.   Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:1, 2).

Resolution 6:  Start and end each day in communion with God so I can know Him more and what He requires of me.

The key to living my life in accordance to God’s standards means I must know Him, a knowledge that is not just intellectual but is personal and intimate. As in any relationship, the only way that this can occur is by spending time with God. In fact, it is in those moments of being on my knees in prayer and reading the Bible where I feel closest to God.

Many people often get preoccupied with doing things for God and neglect the importance of just spending time with Him. While it is vital to be actively serving the Lord through external action (doing), we cannot lose sight of the fact that we should also serve God with our heart (being). In other words, our level of faith should be more than just carrying out duties (serving others, giving tithes, etc.), it should ultimately evolve out of a love and passion for Jesus Christ. This is why I have made it a resolve to start and end every day in communion with God. In both good times and bad times, I want to have the daily DESIRE to spend time with God and know His Word. Let us all have a heart like David:

“As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God” (Psalm 42:1, 2).

“O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you;
my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water”
(Psalm 63:1).

In the next blog we will examine Resolutions 7 and 8. Until then, may we all continue to live a life of resolve.

The Standard of Leadership

by Bill Rudge

Speaking at a pastor’s conference I asked, “How many of you believe in God? How many of you truly believe the Bible is God’s Word? How many of you really believe that Jesus Christ rose from the dead? Enthusiastic affirmation followed each question.

“Then live like you believe it.” I said. “If you really believe in God and Jesus Christ and that the Bible is God’s Word, it should affect every aspect of your life. It should influence the way you live, what you say and what you do!” Sadly, however, the words, beliefs and behavior of many believers and Christian leaders today indicate they do not really believe what they profess.

Repeatedly falling into immorality and harboring secret sins or addictions not only violate scriptural guidelines but disqualifies one for leadership in the body of Christ. While God forgives as Scripture promises: “If anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (1 John 2:1), every Christian leader needs to review 1 Timothy 3:1-12 and Titus 1:6-9.

God holds leaders to a higher standard. James 3:1 cautions: “Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment.” If we assume leadership positions then we must also accept the responsibilities that go with them – as well as the consequences if we fail. True repentance and the fruit of genuine repentance should be visible before restoration to leadership in the body of Christ.

The focus and ultimate goal of every Christian leader’s life and ministry should be, with the help of God’s Spirit, to be conformed to the image (likeness) of Jesus Christ (Romans 8:29).

Guarding One’s Life Against Immorality

BJ Rudge, Ph.D.

With a click of the remote control or a computer mouse, we can instantly enter a sexual fantasy world. Just checking our e-mail can result in a host of unwanted sexual words and images. The pervasiveness of this licentious culture has infiltrated the Church. In light of this reality, what steps can believers take to guard themselves?

I heard the following helpful insights in a chapel service (while working on my master’s degree) at Talbot Theological Seminary. A study based on 200 male seminary graduates who had fallen prey to sexual immorality revealed that there were four traits missing in the lives of these men.

First, these men did not spend personal time with God. They lacked an intimate prayer and devotional life. Perhaps, because of busy schedules and the demands of ministry, they felt they did not have time to pray and study God’s Word. However, we must meditate daily upon God’s Word (Joshua 1:8; Matthew 4:4) and live a life of continual prayer (Colossians 4:2). These “holy habits”were a trademark of Jesus’ ministry on earth (Matthew 14:23; 26:36-44; Mark 6:46; 14:32; Luke 6:12; 9:28).

Second, these men had no personal accountability. The Christian life is not to be spent in isolation, but lived out within the community of other believers. Every Christian needs the encouragement and edification of other believers. We all need at least one person who loves us enough to encourage us when we are feeling discouraged and to correct us when we are living in opposition to the standards of God’s Word.

Third, 90 percent of these men got involved in sexual promiscuity by counseling women. In order to avoid becoming emotionally and/or sexually involved with someone we are helping, we must not be alone with them. Paul told Titus it is the duty of older women to instruct/encourage younger women (Titus 2:3-5). Believers should stay away from inappropriate situations (being alone, “friendly” flirtation, coarse joking, etc.). We should conduct ourselves in a manner reflective of God’s holiness as we follow the examples of Joseph (Genesis 39:6-12) and Job (Job 31:1) to flee situations and avoid thoughts that may compromise us.

Fourth, these men had the attitude that they were immune or “too spiritual” to fall prey to the deceptions and lure of sexual immorality. May we never think we are invulnerable to the temptations of sexual immorality. Rather, may we humbly walk daily in the grace of God as we seek to live a life which reflects His holiness. Rather than being like those who seek after the pleasures and lusts of the flesh, God commands His children to pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace (2 Timothy 2:22).

My prayer is that believers will not be swept away by the promiscuity and perversions of our culture, but will stand firm on God’s Word, living a life that is characterized by self-control and that is reflective of the holy character of God Almighty.