The White Stone

by BJ Rudge, Ph.D.

The apostle Paul sets an example for believers in Jesus Christ to stand firm with conviction in regard to what the Bible has to say on sexuality. Yet, countless Christians are clueless concerning what it means to live a holy and righteous life. Many youth and young adults make their decisions about what is right and wrong based upon the relativity of circumstance rather than the absolute authority of God’s Word.

The message of the Gospel is compromised and weakened because of the sexual immorality among professing Christians. For example, a Muslim soccer coach confessed to me that he closed his ears to the Gospel message because of the rampant immorality that plagues the lives of many supposed Christians he has met.

If the church is unwilling to repent and continues to tolerate immoral behavior, its ability to be the “light of the world” will fade into extinction. Our Lord Jesus warned the church at Pergamum not to tolerate teachings that endorse sexually immoral behavior (Revelation 2:14-16).

Like the church at Pergamum in the first century, the church today needs to repent of its immorality. If we do, then just as Pergamum was promised a white stone for overcoming, we too will be given a white stone (Revelation 2:17). What is this white stone? An athlete at that time, after winning a competition, was awarded a white stone – an admission pass to the winner’s celebration. So too, believers who overcome will receive a white stone; their admission pass to Christ’s eternal Kingdom.

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.

Life Eternal

By Glen Rudge

My friend told me about a book, he said it’d set my soul on fire.

He said that it was good, and I know he’s not a liar.

I had known him all my life, and he had never steered me wrong.

He knew that I liked music and said that this was God’s own song.

 

I had heard about the Bible, but had never given it a read.

My friend told me that it was the most positive of seed.

 

There was a Bible that my mom had given me sitting on my shelf.

My mom had read it to me years ago, but I had not read it myself.

I took the book down from the shelf, blowing the dust off of it.

Then I sat down in my favorite chair figuring I’d read for just a bit.

 

The words they flowed like water, feeding my hungry mind.

I became so into it, I lost all track of time.

Yes, it was just like water, refreshing me to my soul.

It told me about such beautiful things, and a man I did not know.

 

My friend said it would save me; in fact he quite persisted.

I read the words carefully about that man I never knew existed.

It said He gave his life for me so that I would live.

And I couldn’t think of a greater sacrifice that anyone could ever give.

 

It was like a soldier risking his life for mine.

I thought about it and realized, WOW, how loving and how kind.

One life for many, a sacrifice so pure;

I could almost not believe all the pain this man endured.

 

Then a few days after his death he arose to glory,

Sitting on a holy throne, WOW, what a great story.

I think I’ll read it again, in fact quite a few times,

And maybe I’ll even speak of it in some of my rhymes.

 

Hey, let me tell you about a book that I just read.

It will save you from eternal death, like a friend of mine had said.

I’ll back up that statement, because I’ve become saved, too.

And consider this the best advice I could ever give to you.

 

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.