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.

The Issue of Love

by B. J. Rudge, Ph.D.

During family devotions, we have been looking at what it means to love. We found John chapter 13 to be an important passage. In this chapter Jesus washes His disciples’ feet, predicts His betrayal by Judas, then gives His disciples the following command:

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another (John 13:34, 35).

How Would Your Neighbors Describe You?

As we talked about this verse, I asked my kids to describe the people who live in our neighborhood. They mentioned some neighbors who would do anything to help you out, and other neighbors who were not friendly or complained or caused problems. I then asked them how they thought our neighbors would describe us. Specifically, would they describe us as a family who showed love?

I explained that we should not be surprised to find differences in how we live from the way many of our neighbors live. In fact, we should not be surprised to find some neighbors who may not even like us because of our Christian faith (John 15:18-21). However, we would never want anyone in our neighborhood to describe us as a family who does not live out our love for God and for others (1 Peter 2:11, 12).

How might your neighbors, coworkers, etc. describe you? Would they describe you as a person (or family) who lives out God’s command to love one another? In a time when our world is full of hatred, hostility, violence and discord, let each of us be reflections of Christ-like love.

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another (1 John 4:7-11).

How Much God Loves Us

by Bill Rudge

Daily I get a glimpse of how much God must love each and every one of His children. The following are just a few examples using my 11 grandchildren to reveal my love and enjoyment of them and how much I miss them when I am not with them.

When my 18 year old granddaughter left for college in August or previously sang for a Memorial Day Program or church services before I spoke…

When my 16 year old grandson works out with me on the obstacle course and then hangs out with me after and gives bear hugs before leaving…

When my 15 year old granddaughter asks me to play catch with the football or play basketball with her…

When my 14 year old granddaughter shared her testimony and wrote a story about her papa or sang before I spoke at the Salvation Army…

When my 13 year old granddaughter cut her long beautiful hair and donated it for wigs for cancer patients or received a special award for kindness at school…

When my 11 year old grandson asks me to sit beside him in a hammock so we can “shoot the breeze” or walks the West Hill with me and his cousin, thrilled by the stories from my youth…

When my 8 year old granddaughter smiled angelically as she bowed with perfect form after performing at a piano recital or laughs while I fly her through the air during a blanket ride…

When my 7 year old granddaughter holds my hand and arm tightly while walking through a dark hallway or asks me to tell her a story as we go on another “Papa Adventure” from my childhood or walks on her hands while I hold her feet…

When my 5 year old granddaughter is carried by me upstairs to bandage her left knee after she cut it running to the jumpy house, or after spilling something smiles at me when she realizes she is not in trouble or when we swing together…

When my 4 year old granddaughter cuddles up to me and wraps her arms around my neck and kisses me lightly on the cheek as she says, “I love you papa” then curls up under my arm and falls asleep or talks to me about Jesus and the Bible…

When my 3 year old granddaughter giggles in my arms when I tell her to go down the slide or while putting her head under water in the pool or while going through the tickle tunnel…

These are just a few of the countless times I get a glimpse and am reminded of how much our Heavenly Father loves each of His children and receives joy from a close relationship with each one of us.

Counterfeit Christianity

by Bill Rudge

We hear much about signs, wonders and miracles but very little about the need for discernment.

As a new Christian, I did not expect to uncover deception in churches and ministries such as I found in researching the realm of the occult. While I have witnessed genuine miracles and prophecies, there is often too much “flesh” and “fraud” being propagated in Jesus’ name. Consequently, as a new convert, I quickly learned the importance of discernment and integrity.

For instance, a popular evangelist who amazed young and old alike with his knowledge of Bible prophecy had a part in my coming to faith in Christ. A short time later he left his wife, ran off with his secretary, became an alcoholic and embezzled ministry funds, which resulted in prison time. Early experiences like this – that could have easily turned me back to the world – actually proved to be of profound benefit to my life and ministry. I had a crucial choice to make: Do I build my life on man or on God? I chose to build my life and ministry on Jesus Christ and His Word – and that has made all the difference.

In stark contrast, a pastor who had significantly contributed to my accepting Christ, has faithfully served Him all the days of his life. His example has been an inspiration to many.

Then there was the popular Christian singing group who performed at a large camp meeting I attended as a young believer. They sang, cried and moved many to tears with their songs and testimonies. Shortly thereafter, this same group went secular and began performing some raunchy songs. It was hard for me at that time to understand how they could sing about Jesus with such passion and so quickly turn, performing songs that led youth and adults down a path away from Him. It was not surprising to discover that even while on their Christian circuit, they had many illicit relations with girls and women who idolized them.

As a young Christian I had to make yet another important decision: Will I be influenced by surface appearance and emotionalism and use my position of leadership for personal favors or will I follow the path of wisdom and discernment? I chose to seek wisdom and discernment – and that has made all the difference.

Prior to a three-week mission to Mexico, God had impressed on Karen and me to go to Bible college. Upon our return from the mission trip, preparations were underway for our move when a so-called prophetess prophesied that we were to go back to Mexico. I said to her, “I’m still a relatively new Christian and do not know the Word very well yet, but I do know that if God told me to go to Bible college, if God told me to buy a mobile home, if God enabled us to find the very last mobile home lot on which we could put our mobile home in the city, then God wants me there. And that’s where I’m going!”

I had to decide: Do I follow the voice of someone telling me God’s will for my life, or do I follow God’s Word and what His Spirit has led me to do? I chose to follow what I knew to be the clear direction of the Lord – and that has made all the difference.

While attending Bible college, I worked at a window factory with several other students who had been Christians much longer than I. However, it didn’t take long to see the shallowness of their commitment. They mocked others, swore, used vulgar expressions and stole small items from work. So as a young Christian I had to make yet another crucial choice: Do I follow the crowd and live a compromised Christianity or do I, by God’s grace and power, live a life of integrity and discipline? I chose a life of integrity and have sought to honor the Lord in every aspect of my life – and that has made all the difference.

Many times I have reflected back on how ineffective my life and ministry could have been had I not chosen to follow the direction of the Lord during those crucial decisions. But because I obeyed God’s voice, He has produced tremendous fruit through our lives, done the impossible through our ministry and blessed us greatly.

What Then Shall We Do?

Over the years I have encountered in various “Christian” groups: false teachings, erroneous prophecies, faked healings, counterfeit miracles, financial misappropriation, lies, gossip, sexual immorality, drug and alcohol usage, and other un-Christlike behaviors. Some of this could be explained as weakness of the flesh; however, many were using the name of Jesus for personal gain while fleecing the people of God who, because of their lack of discernment and biblical knowledge, enabled them to do so. I have encountered countless people who said they rejected Christianity because of fakery and hypocrisy; for some theirs was a lame excuse, for others a true stumbling block. Turning anyone from the Gospel or hindering someone in their walk with Christ because of our example is something we must all, as believers, strive to avoid.

While I believe in the supernatural power of God and the gifts of the Spirit, I have witnessed too much imitation, manipulation, even demonic phenomena in Jesus’ name. Truly, the Church needs the power of God’s Spirit today – not the flesh or the counterfeit, but the authentic moving of God’s Spirit.

Does fakery and hypocrisy practiced in Jesus’ name mean we ought to reject Him and Christianity? To the contrary, His Word warns about such people and practices. You can be certain that those who resort to deception and manipulation will be held accountable for the Lord “will bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men’s hearts; and then each man’s praise will come to him from God” (1 Corinthians 4:5).

I have spent more than two thirds of my lifetime on an amazing adventure of discovering the truth, reality and faithfulness of the God of the Bible. Scripture encourages believers to be Bereans (Acts 17:10-12) – exercising discernment and examining all things by God’s Word. Imitation and counterfeit should motivate us all the more to earnestly seek the true and the genuine. Without a doubt, only Jesus Christ and Scripture have the answers to life and eternity.

There are some who use the name of Christ for personal gain or to merchandise the Gospel, and others are as deceived as the people who follow them; but there are many more genuine followers of Christ. Countless pastors, missionaries, chaplains and believers love the Lord with all their hearts, minds and strength. Their beliefs and lifestyles – both in the public eye and behind the scenes, the fruit of their ministries and personal sacrifices validate their commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ.

In the midst of a corrupt and wicked world, an increasing number of believers desire to live committed and disciplined lives of purity and righteousness. Instead of “liberalism” they walk in obedience; rather than “legalism” they are motivated by love and a desire to honor their Lord. Not perfect in themselves, but relying on the grace of the Perfect One, they press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of them (Philippians 3:12). They will be found faithful when Christ returns and receive the crown of life (Revelation 2:10). How about you?

Finally: Each believer should choose to develop a personal and intimate relationship with Jesus Christ, know the voice of His Spirit, honor His Word, and walk before Him and the world in love, truth, discipline and integrity.