One of my favorite sports related “persistent man versus all obstacles to reach his goal” films is Rudy. The 1993 film featuring Sean Astin as Rudy, Ned Beatty and Charles S. Dutton tells the true story with Hollywood embellishment of a boy from the blue collar Ruettiger family that dreams of playing football for Notre Dame. Obstacles to this include his small size, limited athletic and academic ability as well as the ridicule of a brother and pressure from his dad to follow them into the steel mill. Against all odds, Rudy is admitted to the school, makes the practice squad and gets to play at the end of one game. His teammates carry him off the field for his “heart.”
The film, Rudy, has been a tremendous source of encouragement to me over the years since its release as an aspiring strong man of God in the image of Jesus Christ particularly in my role as a servant to Him in the churches (Ezekiel 33:1-9). Going into the New Year, I want to share that encouragement with men who likewise aspire to be a strong man of God in Christ’s image. Without a doubt, the road to becoming a strong man of God is the most difficult, painful and lonely of any named among men (Matthew 7:13-14). Yet, God has called us to it! The obstacles (not the least of which come from within) are many and the odds totally against us in our own strength.
Praise be to God He calls us to mission impossible not to be accomplished in our own strength, but His alone (Ephesians 6:10)! We supply only the willingness in faith and obedience; following the example of our Lord Jesus Christ in everything and being made over into His image as we go to Him even “outside the camp,” (Luke 9:23-26; Romans 8:29; Hebrews 13:8-15, NKJV).1 Literally, to go outside the camp refers generally to the assembly of Israel anywhere, but most powerfully and in prophetic application to Christ, Jerusalem as the holy city when He was crucified for our sins on a hill outside of its gate (Leviticus 16:27-28; Numbers 12:14-15; John 19:16-20).
Outside the camp is a place of suffering and shame. Christ was willing to go there out of love for God the Father as a devoted Son, Disciple and Servant; as the Strong Man of God with a heart to please Him and do His will (Psalm 69:7-9; Isaiah 50:4-9; 53:3; Romans 15:3)! Spiritually, He was driven outside the camp by religious men claiming to know God as were His apostles who also left us an example to follow (1 Corinthians 4:6-17, 11:1). We go to Him outside the camp in the sold out heart of an aspiring strong man of God in His image driven there too in suffering and shame for His Name sake and Gospel cause by outwardly religious men--many as false and others willfully disobedient brethren--along with a rejecting world (2 Corinthians 11:22-26; Philippians 3:17-19).
The practitioners of manmade Christianity the religion from all backgrounds share commonly unbelief in the resurrected, presently living reality of Christ and the continuing veracity and power of God’s Word as it is written. They outwardly profess allegiance to Christ and His cause in the Gospel while denying both through their deeds (Titus 1:15-16). Truly, they are more loyal to their powerless, invented form of Christianity than the Lord Jesus! We are well warned to turn away from them since jaded by their corrupt and empty form of the faith, they do attempt to dissuade the sincere devotion of men freshly saved and discourage the faithful caught off guard (2 Timothy 3:1-9).
I have encountered these religious men and women all of my journey with Christ since 1977 and can readily testify that what is recorded in the Bible and nearly two millennia of history about them is true. As though my own weaknesses in the flesh have not been enough as painful obstacles to my goal of becoming a strong man of God in the image of Christ, professing Christian religionists like Rudy’s brother have sought to douse the flame of sincerity in me. In ministry, my “fellow yoke men” as Rudy’s father have urged conformity to the religious status quo while shown up teammates openly question whether serving Christ requires “all that” and not so subtly suggest I “dial it down a notch.” Of course, my years of failure to attain “success” in their eyes certify their counsel.
Even so, in the ways of unregenerate men, they have penalized me variously for not playing ball with them. From not inviting me to preach or teach in their churches to refusing to support our Ministry or purchase resources that will greatly help them and the men they supposedly care about the message is clear: you are rejected unless you do it our way. I made up my mind long ago and encourage you who would also aspire to become strong men of God in the image of Christ to do the same going into 2015 (Philippians 2:12-13). I will serve the Lord following Him outside the camp now, that I may also be with Him in the city He has prepared for those that serve Him (John 12:25-26, 14:1-6; Hebrews 11:8-16, 12:1-2, 18-24, 13:14-15)! In the day I faithfully finish my course, by faith I see the angels carrying me on their shoulders into glory with cheering from the saints that have gone before welcoming me home (Psalm 116:12-19; Luke 16:19-22).
1 I joyfully acknowledge being greatly inspired by the Lord through a message preached May of 2014 in a Portland church by Josh Sofaer with Jews For Jesus, Los Angeles
that included instruction on Hebrews 13:13 cited in this blog. Happy New Year!
Christians are to be physically in but no longer spiritually of or in love with the world (John 17:14-19; 1 John 2:15-17). We have been called out of it to become a holy (set apart, separated) people to God! And why is this so? We are to be and live holy because our God is holy (1 Peter 1:13-19, 2:9-10). Therefore, we are not to be “unequally yoked together with unbelievers” from the most intimate of human relations to the sinful things of worldly culture (2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1, NKJV). Yes, we are to “Pursue peace with all people and holiness,” but not in conformity to their wicked ways since we are warned that without holiness “no one will see the Lord,” (Hebrews 12:14-17, NKJV). Amazingly, in His permissive will God is now forcing the separation of His people from the cultures of host nations through their rising hate-filled hostility (John 15:18-16:4) leading to the foretold events presented in this edited conclusion to my 2013 blog post. Merry Christmas to you and yours!
Originally Posted December 15, 2013
While concerned and saddened to see in my time our nation’s secular culture carry on its campaign to extract the biblically drawn truth of Christ and His birth from the celebration of Christmas, I do not ultimately fault them. In accord with God’s Word, I fault those professing Western European Christians that created the holiday to begin with.
Rather than just simply deciding as a matter of devotion to mark the birth of Christ as a special occasion and invite the world for evangelistic purposes to come observe (as ostensibly we do in inviting the unsaved to our worship assemblies), professing Western European Christians in their manmade Christianity the religion attempted to Christianize an already existing pagan festival. As a result, instead of transforming this pagan festival with the overpowering worship of Christ, the world from that day to this has insisted on and been welcomed to add their stuff to what the professing Christians were doing.
For hundreds of years, there was seemingly, deceptively a peaceful integration of the religious and secular at Christmas time. However, one needed not to be a prophet to see the day coming when the world would seek to extricate itself from the Christian aspect of Christmas. Those that allowed the pagan world to introduce their story lines, characters and activities into the mix of Christmas to show themselves friendly, open, accommodating and culturally sensitive, should have remembered from the Bible that no matter how outwardly nice it is at any given moment, “the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one” (1 John 5:19, NKJV).
Satan could not have authentically offered “all the kingdoms of the world and their glory” to Jesus as a prize for selling God out if he did not really control them (Matthew 4:8-10, NKJV). Consequently, any and every deal done with the devil is bound to eventually go south for it is not without reason the Lord calls him “a liar” (John 8:44, NKJV). He is the deceiver; deceiving is what he does very well (2 Corinthians 11:3; Revelation 12:9).
The former years of apparent harmony between the religious and secular aspects of Christmas were just a satanic ruse waiting for this day (and going forward) of hostile, hate-filled and scandalous separation. It is another tragic outcome of subjecting the faith to the conditioning of culture. So, like Dr. Seuss’ tale of the Grinch who stole Christmas, Satan has now unmasked his seething hostility toward the Christ of Christmas.
He has unleashed his human cohorts to aggressively oppose what may have been well meant at one time as a “holy day” of celebrating the birth of the Savior of the world in order to denigrate and scoff at Him! Now, except for the persistence of faithful Christians, Christmas has degenerated into an eclectic humanistic mix of secular warm and fuzzy motifs carried along by ill-tempered shoppers and rank commercialism that measures the holiday’s “joy” in sales and cold, hard cash; where whiny and spoiled children complain that they did not get what they wanted for gifts.
Much more troubling are the many professing American Christians and their churches that as a jilted, lovesick lover refuse to face the truth that the relationship with secular culture is over. Desperate for cultural relevancy (translated approval) and members, they run after the world and adapt themselves to the world’s new politically correct and tolerant, “Happy Holidays.” They go all out in décor to create holiday cheer and drag dying and artificial trees into the sanctuary where supposedly the living God alone is to be worshipped to show the secular culture how in step with it they remain or worse: how completely they have done their work as its agents!
Never mind the God they claim to know has expressly forbidden such worldly accommodations that offend His holiness, pollute His house and corrupt His Word. All of these idolatrous things ancient Israel formally did too and were thoroughly condemned by God who warns us to pay heed (2 Kings 21:1-7; Jeremiah 7:29-34, 10:1-5; Ezekiel 8:1-6, 23:1-49; Hosea 8-9; 1 Corinthians 10:1-7, 14-22; 2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1).
Therefore, the Lord calls all who profess to be Christians and are guilty to sober up and repent from their adulterous harlotries with secular culture (James 4:4-10). For in days shortly ahead, not only American and Western secular cultures but also all the cultures of earth will seek to rid themselves of Christians and every vestige of Christian influence arising legitimately from the remnant and corruptly from manmade Christianity the religion (they will make no distinctions in their hate-filled hostility).
Led by the definitive Antichrist, the world with its final divorce decree in hand will seek to destroy Jews and Christians from the earth and serve as God’s agents of judgment on the manmade religion of both as has been foretold (Daniel 7:15-25, 8:23-25; Mark 13:13-23; 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12; Revelation 12:13-13:15, 17-19:4). Organized Christianity and its local churches as they exist today (especially as outposts of manmade religion, sinful flesh led government, opinions, rules, traditions, programs etc.) will be no more forever! In those days, what benefit really will allowing the cultural conditioning of the faith have gained for the causes of which professing Christians among the many tribes, tongues and nations of men have done so?
Nevertheless, the deceiver and the world he has deceived will not themselves escape the judgment of God that is to be brought in full measure by the belittled, scoffed at and blasphemed Christ of Christmas when He comes; Jesus, the Anointed One of God who grew up and fulfilled His mission to “save His people from their sins” when He died on the cross (Matthew 1:21; John 12:27-33, 19:17-30, NKJV). Buried and resurrected on the third day after, Israel’s King and Messiah ascended back to Heaven forty days later and was glorified as foretold (Isaiah 9:6-7; Daniel 7:13-14; John 17:1-5; Revelation 1:9-18). He soon returns as is also foretold not to deal with sin, but to display His very real existence and consummate the deliverance of His two-fold elect among many other things (Micah 4:1-5:5, 7:8-20; 2 Thessalonians 1:3-12; Hebrews 9:28; Revelation 1:4-8).
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