Sheptock, Rudy

Pastor Rudy Sheptock.

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Charles Spurgeon, a great minister, once said, “Every Christian is either a missionary or an impostor.”

Jesus didn’t leave us here to live life on this earth as self-centered individuals. The greatest commandment was for men and women to love God with all of their heart, soul, mind and strength, and to love one another.

During a culture gone crazy, Christians who live for the Lord and put the spotlight on taking care of others should stick out like light shining in darkness. It is when we become too inward, forgetting that God’s call is about behaving outward, that the church gets its priority of purpose mixed up.

I have learned from my own experience that God will take care of you if you go out of your way to take care of others. If there ever was a season for followers to showcase our Savior, it is now.

I want to challenge all of us to ponder something before we each try to save the world. Before anyone of us opens up our mouths, we should be sure that we first open up our hearts fully to the Lord. There is nothing worse than trying to accomplish spiritual works in the power of our own flesh.

Peter bragged about what he was going to do for Jesus, but it only took a few hours to prove that he was not willing to back up his talk with his walk. We won’t give the best away to others or love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us without allowing God to do a miraculous work within our hearts.

Before I knew Jesus, I wasn’t a giving or merciful individual. I grew up in a large family, and as the oldest child, I just got tired of always having to look out for everybody else. I was expected to always share and care for my siblings at the expense of sacrificing my schedule.

I hated these rules. Just once, I wanted to tell everyone to take a hike, so I could do what I wanted to do without any responsibility for anyone else.

However, when I surrendered my soul to Jesus, God put a love in my gut that was never there before. I began to have a real burden, not only for those in my life, but for anyone God put in my path.

Many times, Christians are better at making excuses than truly following our Father’s will. I hear church people say, “I can’t love that person" or “I can’t forgive them after what they have done.” The truth is, we can, but we have to want to, and the Holy Spirit gives us the power to do it.

God will fill us with His love, so that He can spill us out to others. We can’t tell the Lord what we will do and what we won’t do, where we will go and where we won’t go when all He requires from us is an obedient, “Yes.”

God uses everyday people to accomplish extraordinary tasks when we surrender our lives to His leadership unconditionally. I can’t tell you how many times that I have prayed a prayer like this: “Lord, I wouldn’t do this for anybody else, but for You, I will do whatever You ask.”

My behavior flows from my deep love for Jesus. If we desire the works of the Lord to decorate our lives, then we will be devoted to the One who produces the fruit of glory via the dirt of earth.

Anonymity is a not a virtue. It seems that some people feel burdened, inconvenienced or uninterested in sharing their lives. Hardness of heart reflects itself in an unwillingness to open up our loves to others, invite them to know us, and to serve them from the bounty that the Lord has provided.

Perhaps, past pains create a guardedness, or selfishness erodes the desire to share. In any case, many people think of Christian living in exclusively private terms. If you ask me, there is too much “Jesus and me,” and not enough “Jesus, me, and everybody else.”

Have you reduced the faith to nothing more than “a personal relationship with Jesus” without recognizing either our union with other Christians or the necessity of sharing our faith and our lives with non-Christians? When that happens, the Body of Christ suffers, and the world we live in stays in the dark, rather than invited into the light.

Anonymity stunts the growth of accountability. It allows you to live a public life and still nurse a private persona. There needs to be a consistency between what we claim to be and who we are.

This change may need to begin with not telling others how much Jesus loves them until we are ready to love them, too.

Bob Goff says, “We grow where we are loved, not where we are merely informed.”

You can inform someone you have no intention of knowing or having any connection with, but you really can’t love someone you have no intention of knowing. How can we say we love others if we aren’t willing to listen to their hearts?

Too many of us are great at pounding people with the facts and figures of Scripture, but we never allow enough time for talking. Communication must be a vital component of education. How can you prove your love to the watching and waiting world if you have built a wall around your heart, complete with a mote that has hungry crocodiles waiting to pounce on anybody who dares to get close? Who in your life will you unlock the door and allow to come into your messy world?

The Great Commission may carry you to the ends of the world, but it starts in your apartment complex, dorm room, duplex, rental, bi-level, rancher or neighborhood. God has given you a perfect environment for demonstrating the gospel and advancing His mission, if only you’d open your eyes to it.

What if we made people more important than our projects? What if we decided that Jesus didn’t just call us to finish the race first, but He challenged us to make sure that we help those others running along the track with us?

As I write this article, we find ourselves amid a pandemic. Have you ever thought of it as a divine opportunity that could open a door to share the gospel?

The Plague of Cyprian, an earlier pandemic, afflicted the Roman Empire from A.D. 249 to 262. It caused a widespread manpower shortage for food production and the Roman army, severely weakening the empire during the crisis of the third century. The agent of the plague was much like smallpox, influenza, and a viral hemorrhagic fever similar to the Ebola virus.

History records how Christians kept the light on in such a dark period. The Church of Jesus Christ became a virtual army of nurses, providing the basic needs the suffering community needed to survive.

At the height of the epidemic, around 260, Dionysius wrote a lengthy tribute to the heroic nursing efforts of local Christians, many of whom lost their lives while caring for others.

“Most of our brother Christians showed unbounded love and loyalty, never sparing themselves and thinking only of one another. Heedless of danger, they took charge of the sick, attending to their every need and ministering to them in Christ, and with them departed this life serenely happy; for they were infected by others with the disease, drawing on themselves the sickness of their neighbors and cheerfully accepting their pains.

“Many, in nursing and curing others, transferred their death to themselves and died in their stead. The best of our brothers lost their lives in this manner, a number of presbyters, deacons, and laymen winning high commendation so that death in this form, the result of great piety and strong faith, seems in every way the equal of martyrdom.”

Having noted at length how the Christian community nursed the sick and dying, and even spared nothing in preparing the dead for proper burial, he wrote: “The heathen behaved in the very opposite way. At the first onset of the disease, they pushed the sufferers away and fled from their dearest, throwing them into the roads before they were dead and treated unburied corpses as dirt, hoping thereby to avert the spread and contagion of the fatal disease; but do what they might, they found it difficult to escape.”

Christianity spread to the world through the selfless acts of these early Christians. What will history write about us today?

Are our doors open? Have we given God our open hearts? Are we willing to sacrifice our very lives?

Something tells me we won’t have to wait long to discover the answers to those questions.

ED. NOTE: The author is the senior pastor of The Lighthouse Church, 1248 Route 9 South, Court House.