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).

Two Rising Stars

by Bill Rudge

The Coming Antichrist and False Prophet

“None of the wicked will understand, but those who are wise will understand.” Psalm 101.3

The pages of history are laced with accounts of new movements generating such enthusiasm and momentum that a nation – even the world – was swayed.

As a teen in the late 1960s many of my generation got caught up in the sexual revolution, race riots, and rebellion against authority. Very few of us really thought about why we were involved or where these movements were headed. We were seized by the emotion of the moment and went with the flow of the crowd.

Hitler’s media propaganda and hypnotizing speeches influenced a nation and changed the world. Today, terrorists use slick social media to motivate youth and adults to join a regime that commits unbelievable atrocities.

The time is nearing when a prominent person will arise on the world scene. Carnage from terrorism, devastation from natural disasters, threat of nuclear annihilation, and the need to solve other potential global crises is motivating an increasing number of voices to cry for a global leader.

The majority of people on our planet will blindly submit to this compelling leader (revealed in prophetic Scripture as the Antichrist) who promises peace and prosperity. The Antichrist will appear to be the savior of the world and will acquire “authority over every tribe, people, language and nation” (Revelation 13:7). The masses will also readily embrace his cohort – an influential religious leader promoting love and unity, but Biblically identified as the False Prophet.

There is no denying that our world is ripe for such visionary leaders who will astound with apparent solutions to global problems. Their hypnotizing charisma, persuasive words, powerful speeches, pleasing promises, inspiring media visuals, moving testimonies, euphoric music, cheering supporters, incredible popularity, and displays of supernatural power will mesmerize the multitudes. According to Scripture these two “rising stars” will be demonically energized. They will take the reins of this world through deception and intrigue to ultimately lead humankind in a unified rebellion against the God of the Bible.

It is clear that a scenario is unfolding to create a global system of political power, economic control, military might, and religious unification. As Revelation foretells, we are moving toward a global society with a one-world government, a universal economy, and an ecumenical religious system offering tolerance and acceptance for all religions – except one, biblical Christianity. There is a growing movement of globalism, religious unity, and the celebration of diversity – along with a growing intolerance for biblical Christians who believe Jesus is the only way of salvation. Those who use the Bible to speak out against the immorality in today’s society and culture are often accused of bigotry and hate crimes with the aim to be silenced or eliminated.

Underlying the Antichrist’s facade is his ulterior motive to attain control over and receive worship from every human being on this planet. The False Prophet will attempt to help him achieve this – Satan’s ultimate goal.

All inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast [the Antichrist] — all whose names have not been written in the Book of Life belonging to the Lamb that was slain from the creation of the world (Revelation 13:8).

It is interesting to note that only two people in Scripture were possessed by Satan himself: Judas, when he betrayed Jesus, and the Antichrist, as he seeks to gain control over and obtain worship from everyone on this planet.

The Bible reveals that the Antichrist’s and False Prophets’s true intent will be concealed under a cloak of intrigue, diplomatic deceit and cunning manipulation. When the layers of glitz and glamour are peeled away, the shocking remains will be far removed from what was promised or anticipated. They will lead a world of undiscerning and biblically illiterate people down a deceitful path to global chaos and unprecedented devastation and destruction.

Words of Hope and Admonition

Although the days in which we live are becoming increasingly dangerous, treacherous, corrupt, and confusing, those who know the Lord in these end times will demonstrate wisdom and strength:

…the people who know their God will display strength and take action. Many will be purified, made spotless and refined, but the wicked will continue to be wicked. None of the wicked will understand, but those who are wise will understand (Daniel 11:32; 12:10).

Do not be seduced by the spirit of this age – whether it is in the political arena, social media, pop star realm, religious circles or any other venue. Do not be impressed, influenced or deceived by a well-turned phrase or the surface appearance of those who have ulterior motives and agendas. Do not reflect the values of an amoral society. Do not be a cultural Christian, motivated by feelings, desires and impulses, or influenced by every new and exciting trend or phenomenon that comes along.

Make certain you are, and remain, aligned with Jesus Christ and God’s Word. Follow the genuine leading of His Spirit. Be discerning. Examine all things carefully. Hold fast to that which is good and true. Live by the standards of Scripture. Stand rock solid as a biblical Christian in this day and age when Biblical prophecies of the end times and Jesus Christ’s return are rapidly lining up.

I close, as did Paul to the Corinthians:

Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong. Let all you do be done with love (1 Corinthians 16:13, 14).

Another Jesus Is Being Offered to the World

By Bill Rudge

There is an accurate saying that Satan will use nine truths to get one lie across. The primary lie he attempts to propagate concerns the identity of Jesus Christ – the One before whom every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that He is Lord. Satan’s ultimate deception is to suggest you do not need to accept Christ, or try to cause you to follow “another Jesus” other than the Jesus of the Bible (2 Corinthians 11:3, 4).

While some demote Jesus to merely a great teacher or prophet, others say we all have the potential to become another Christ, still others will simply substitute Jesus with someone or something else. Attempts are made to minimize, distort, deny or replace Him: All have eternal implications (John 8:24). Anyone who denies that Jesus Christ is the promised Messiah, God incarnate in human flesh and the only way of salvation can be scripturally identified as a false prophet or teacher (1 John 4:1-3; 1 John 2:22, 23 ). As Jesus ascended to heaven, two angels said to the disciples:

Men of Galilee, why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen Him go into heaven (Acts 1:11).

Please notice, it will not be another Jesus or a reincarnation of the Christ spirit, but the same Jesus who ascended into heaven from the Mount of Olives. He will be returning in all His glory. At His Second Coming, biblical evidence, cataclysmic signs and physical transformation of believers will undeniably confirm Jesus Christ to be the true Messiah.

The time is soon coming when “the kingdom of the world will become the Kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ” (Revelation 11:15). Jesus will establish His righteous Kingdom wherein true believers will rule and reign with Him for eternity and inherit all God has prepared for those who love and obey Him. Do not settle for an imitation or counterfeit when you can know the TRUE ONE Who leads to eternal life.

The Spread of Evil

by Bill Rudge

The senseless violence and unrestrained wickedness in our society reflects the glaring truth that evil exists. Satan, the powerful being described in the Bible, reveals himself as seeking to destroy God’s highest creation – human beings. He is the motivating influence for many of the atrocities humans commit against each other and for self-destructive behavior.

Chaos, confusion, decadence, depravity reveal that something is definitely wrong with our human experience. The Bible attributes this to the Fall (Genesis 3) – initiated by the rebellion and deception of Satan.

In his strategy to annihilate humanity’s allegiance to its Creator, Satan inspires both false religions and the delusion there is no Creator.

How better to explain the uninhibited immorality, unabashed greed and horrific violence than the malicious being in Scripture referred to as Satan (adversary), aka the devil (slanderer). He is the evil one, the murderer and father of lies – wreaking havoc on this planet.

Since Satan exists it is reasonable to conclude that the Creator-God, who threw him out of heaven, also exists. This Creator-God is seeking in every way possible to draw His creation into a restored relationship with Him through Jesus Christ.

The days prior to Jesus second coming are treacherous because of demonic deception and proliferation of evil. Scripture indicates we will see uninhibited, unrestrained and unrepentant immorality, sorcery and violence as we draw closer to Christ’s return. Wickedness will reach its crescendo right before Jesus Christ returns to subdue those who would destroy and pervert His creation. But evil and death will give way to everlasting peace and joy as all of creation is restored to Paradise when Jesus ushers in His Eternal Kingdom. Be certain you are a part of it!