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!
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