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Tuesday
Jul272010

Keep Yourselves in the Love of God

The man named Jude who wrote a little letter that is situated near the end of the New Testament is likely one of the fleshly brothers of Jesus Christ. Although these brothers were skeptical about Jesus during his lifetime, they became believers after his resurrection and at least a couple of them became noteworthy pillars in the early church. James was a leader in the congregation at Jerusalem while Jude is credited with writing a boldly worded warning against the infiltration of false teachers among the saved. Jude provides us with a blueprint for overcoming the allure of error and maintaining our own fellowship with a holy God.

I. Kept for Jesus Christ

    A. Called, Beloved, Kept

        1. Jude addresses his letter to Christians, calling them “those who are called, beloved in God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ” (1).

            a. it can be argued that all people are called because the gospel is made universally accessible as it is preached and promoted, but in this case, “the called” has special reference to those who answer it (Romans 8:29-30)

            b. God foreknew from the foundation of the world the scheme of salvation that he would use to reclaim his people from the devil, and that his people would conform to the example and authority of his son, just as Peter wrote (First Peter 1:1-2, 17-21)

            c. clearly, the gospel call is not always effective, for some reject it and others make light of it through procrastination and poor priorities, but when the gospel call is effective, it is glorious (Second Thessalonians 2:13-14)

        2. moreover, it is true that God loves all his creatures and wants every man and woman to know his son and be saved, but there remains a special relationship between the Father and those who consent to become his adopted spiritual children by faith; they are beloved of God in a more perfect agape way (First Thessalonians 1:4-7)

        3. the objective of the letter is to secure that call and return that love by abiding in the doctrine and fellowship of Christ, even against such a great threat as false theology

            a. as Jesus prayed that his apostles might be kept secure from the evil one, so he seeks to protect all of us from fatal apostasy (First Thessalonians 5:23-24, see also John 17:11-15)

            b. as much as this warning was very specific when first given, it also serves to awaken us to the threat of any doctrine that promises license to sin without consequence

 

    B. They Are False Teachers

        1. the called, beloved and kept are at risk in a world where false teachers parade as ministers of truth and only careful comparison of their doctrines with the New Testament will reveal their true character (Jude 3-4)

            a. our common salvation is worth contending for because “many false prophets have gone out into the world” (First John 4:1).

            b. ours is a faith that was once for all delivered to the saints – it was even in the first century fixed and established and unchangeable even if an angel from heaven should seek to make revisions

            c. even before the canon was accepted, the inspired letters and histories were circulating among the churches and the identity of Christ, his church and his will were made plain

        2. false teachers, rather than angels or demons, sought to overturn the faith and soften it with licenses to sin (Second Peter 2:1-3)

            a. although their error is plain, many fall prey to them because the love of truth is simply not stronger than the love of wickedness, or the politically correct posture of tolerating every sin under a mantle of non-judgmentalism (Second Timothy 2:16-18; see also Second Thessalonians 2:1-12)

            b. error spreads like gangrene because people love a doctrine that allows for sin at no cost to the sinner

        3. today, Calvinist theology is chief among doctrines that promote false security, for there is a very real potential for apostasy and eternal damnation even believers who shrink back to perdition; Jude offers three test cases for Christians who fall under the sway of evil

            a. God saved the Hebrews from Egypt but then destroyed those who did not believe in the wilderness (5)

            b. God created angels to be ministering servants, but consigned the disobedient to chains until the day of judgment (6)

            c. the people of Sodom and Gomorrah were condemned for the same kind of behavior now being promoted by first century false teachers, not to mention twenty-first century denominations (7)

        4. the false teachers Jude was concerned about were those who rejected divine authority and introduced perversity into the church through teachings that seemed to promote peace and happiness, but which really insulted the God of grace (8-13)

            a. they are dreamers, blasphemers and carnal, greedy and lustful

            b. their character and their doctrine gradually reveal the flaws in their hearts, but not before seducing weak-willed people who feel oppressed by the will of God and appreciate the wiggle room (Second Timothy 3:1-9)

        5. Jude even references a first- or second-century B.C. Jewish work called First Enoch to prove the judgment upon false teachers who act in such an ungodly way (see Jude 14-16)

            a. he accuses them of being grumblers, malcontents and selfish people who boast and show favoritism to gain advantage

            b. these are people who often get their way, but not forever; if they wore horns and had long tails, we could recognize them for what they are, but instead they preach peace and recommend tolerance and few today have the stomach for anything more confrontational

            c. they are a threat to everyone who falls under their spell, for they do not go to Hell alone; we need a plan to defend ourselves against them

 

II. Staying in the Love of God (Jude 17-23)

    A. Remember Warnings

        1. Jude’s warning was nothing new, for the apostles had attempted to do the same, but people tend to forget about warnings over time if there is not enough evidence of the danger

        2. that kind of scoffing permeates our society and even the church which has been waiting for the return of Christ for almost two millennia (Second Peter 3:1-4)

            a. the scoffer says to go ahead and enjoy yourself because Jesus is not coming back for a long time and you will live long enough to grow out of your sin and repent in time to die old and full of fun days; the scoffer says that everybody does it anyway or that no one will ever know; the scoffer says God doesn’t care

            b. the scoffer’s ungodly passions lead him to become tolerant of immodesty, pornography, alcohol consumption, forsaking assembling, fornication, profane language, cheating, gambling and lying

        3. troublesome times are here for there are such teachers throughout the religious world and enough of them in the church to cause many souls to suffer the shipwreck of lowered expectations

        4. Paul warned about it too (Acts 20:29-32)

 

    B. Edify Yourselves

        1. we have been warned and now we must take action by beginning to build up our resistance to false doctrine (Colossians 2:6-8)

        2. the church exists, in part, to provide an environment for mutual edification and encouragement, so it is an organization into which we should throw ourselves with zeal, cultivating relationships and giving as much good as we receive (see Ephesians 4:11-29)

        3. no doubt, each of us will have to confront areas of our personalities in which we are weak and our resistance is tepid, but fellowship with other Christians can give us the strength to endure (First Thessalonians 5:7-11)

        4. this is a construction project that no one can do for you; you must build yourself up in the holy faith by study, practice and self-examination, brick by brick and day by day

 

    C. Pray in the Holy Spirit

        1. our success at growth and self-defense is dependent upon God, to whom we pray, and the wisdom of the Holy Spirit, in whom we pray

        2. praying in the Holy Spirit does not mean a loss of self-consciousness or falling into a trance, but rather it is praying in accordance with the Holy Spirit rather than shortsighted, self-serving passions (Ephesians 6:16-18)

            a. God will not grant our every whim any more than an earthly father should spoil his children by satisfying every curiosity

            b. we should always pray according to God’s will with a resignation that he knows better than we do what to do and when to do it (First John 5:13-15)

        3. furthermore, it is prayer that accepts our own inability to identify and articulate our true needs and the best solutions to them (Romans 8:26-27)

            a. dealing with false teaching is sometimes so obvious and easy that prayer seems unnecessary, but it will always be an occasion for divisiveness if we are not cautious

            b. when personalities and loyalties are involved, it gets more complicated

            c. we must pray for wisdom to confront the error and to help those who vulnerable because of earthly loyalties or personal weaknesses

 

    D. Wait for Mercy

        1. Christians keep themselves firmly in the hand of God by growing in knowledge, persevering in prayer and waiting on the Lord

        2. the true and faithful believer will not be lost, but the devil works through false teaching to exploit vulnerabilities in the idle, the fainthearted and the weak

        3. impatience and apathy can be chief among them, for waiting on the Lord to show mercy can prove exhausting, but there are times when the church needs to be purged very painfully of those who would teach and those who would submit to falsehoods

        4. the mercy of Christ leads to eternal life (Second Peter 1:10-13)

 

    E. Have Mercy

        1. the trickiest part of the equation is what we do about false teachers and those who follow them; we want to confront the error and dissuade people from falling for it, but an air of condescension can destroy our best arguments

        2. Jude suggests three methods of dealing with different people

            a. have mercy on those who doubt

            b. save others by snatching them out of the fire

            c. to others, show mercy with fear, hating the sins they have borrowed

        3. the point is to acknowledge that different people fall into error for different reasons and some of them are more easily retrieved than others

            a. “Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands, nor take part in the sins of others; keep yourself pure” (First Timothy 5:22).

            b. “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted” (Galatians 6:1).

            c. the three categories that Jude discusses deepen in the depths of their decline, but each is salvageable; only we should be cautious that we do not fall into sin or unproductive efforts that distract us from reaching the world

 

Conclusion

Jude’s letter closes with a sweet doxology, which also serves as a reminder of all he has written (Jude 24-25). The stakes are high and the danger is real, for the final perseverance of the saints depends upon their faithfulness and perseverance, even against false doctrines that would drag them back down to Hell.

 

Questions For Review

  1. Who were Jude’s likely famous relatives?
  2. What is predestination? What is foreknowledge?
  3. Are all called? How are some called in a special sense?
  4. What makes a teacher false?
  5. What had the apostles been warning about?
  6. How do we edify ourselves?
  7. What is praying in the Holy Spirit?

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