Kruckenberg delivers life-defining Chapel talk

Brian Kruckenberg of New City Church addresses Chapel on Monday. (Photo by Katie Severns)

For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. – Philippians 1:21

By Rick Vacek
GCU News Bureau

Brian Kruckenberg calls that a bumper sticker or coffee cup verse, “or a verse you might tattoo in Greek on your forearm if you’re really cool.”

And while the Philippians weren’t concerned with trying to affix it to their belongings or bodies, it had great meaning to a fledgling church that was being persecuted – just as it should have great meaning today.    

In delivering that message to Chapel on Monday morning at Grand Canyon University Arena, the Lead Pastor of New City Church in Phoenix also brought with him, essentially, two types of dictionaries – the standard one we all use, and the spiritual one God uses.

“Definitions matter,” he emphasized.

He began with this quote from Socrates: “The beginning of wisdom is the definition of terms.” Then he shared the Merriam-Webster definition of the word “definition” – “a statement expressing the essential nature of something.”

The essential nature of his talk was this:

“How do you define your life?”

It’s a question that affects your outlook on life:

Do you define your life by how many friends you have? By what you have accomplished? Kruckenberg warned against defining it by things of this world.

It’s even dangerous, he said, to make your definition something along the lines of “I’m a good person.”

“It’s right to want to do things that are morally responsible and correct, but if your life definition … depends on how well you’re doing at the moment, well, what happens when you have a bad day? What happens when you lie? What happens when you sin (because we all do)? Well, your life’s definition can’t hinge upon yourself.”

It’s a question that affects the order of your life:

The order of Paul’s life was pretty clear:

“Paul’s definition of life was Christ, so the order of his life wasn’t his plans, then God’s plans. It was God’s plans, then his plans,” Kruckenberg said.

He told one of his favorite biblical stories, that of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who chose to be thrown into a blazing furnace rather than obey King Nebuchadnezzar’s command to worship a false god. When they emerged from the inferno unharmed, the king said (Daniel 3:28-29):

“Praise be to the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who has sent His angel and rescued His servants! They trusted in Him and defied the king’s command and were willing to give up their lives rather than serve or worship any god except their own God. Therefore I decree that the people of any nation or language who say anything against the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego be cut into pieces and their houses be turned into piles of rubble, for no other god can save in this way.”

Kruckenberg’s view: “They said, ‘We know that our God can deliver us. We know that our God will deliver us.’ And here’s one of my favorite lines in the Bible: ‘But even if He doesn’t, we will not bow down, we will not change the course of our life,’ because their life was defined by the unchangeable, undeniable God.”

It’s a question that affects your partners in life:

Kruckenberg likened this idea to a three-legged sack race – you’re better off with someone who’s in step, who’s in rhythm with you. Christians definitely should have non-Christian friends, but …

“We shouldn’t be insular and have a holy huddle. We should be out, telling people about Christ in the way we live and the way we speak,” he said. “… Whether it’s best friends, whether it’s marriage, it’s why we counsel people really heavily on this one. … You want your closest partners in life to have the same life definition as you do.”

It’s like any good team, and it extends to the church in general, he added. Too often, the various churches are like two people who just can’t get the sack race right.

It’s a question that affects your opponents in life:

In Philippians 1:28, Paul urged his followers to not be frightened by people who didn’t care for their Christian message.

“Don’t be shocked when people are opposed to what we believe and teach,” Kruckenberg said. “Now it doesn’t mean that we try to pick fights with people. We’re not supposed to be jerks for Jesus, OK? … We don’t try to create opponents, we don’t try to pick fights. But we have to stand for the truth. And sometimes the truth means that people will oppose us.”

Just as a team’s biggest struggles often come from within, the same is true in the church, Kruckenberg said.

“We’re on the same team. Let’s act like it,” he added. “Let’s be united in the oneness that Jesus brings.”

Finally, and most importantly, it’s a question that determines the ultimate destination of your life:

“We don’t earn our way to God,” Kruckenberg said. “We can’t be a good enough guy or good enough girl to earn our way to God. We can’t go to church enough times. We can’t pray enough. The only way we get to God is through Jesus Christ alone … alone … ALONE!”

He concluded: “We live from Jesus, through Jesus, for Jesus, period. Because … to live is Christ.”

● For a replay of Chapel, including the music performed by the Worship Team, click here.

● Next week’s speaker will be blind “American Idol” finalist Scott MacIntyre

Contact Rick Vacek at (602) 639-8203 or [email protected].


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Bible Verse

Jesus taught his disciples, saying: "So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the law and the prophets." (Matthew 7:12)

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