Words of assurance, adoration and praise

Jude - Fourteenth and final in a series

In trials affecting the church, we witness and experience disappointing behaviors, confusion, heartbrokenness, despair, anxiety, bitter revenges, and even more. In part these are evidences of Christian immaturity, but that is not the full explanation. The Evil One and his assistants work hard to destroy the body of Christ, the church.

Why would God permit their attacks, as Jude describes, that undermine our faith and peace? Because going through them, we look to the One who is able to keep us from falling, and we grow in grace and the knowledge of the Truth.

Now to Him who is able
to keep you from stumbling, and
to make you stand in the presence of His glory
with great joy,
to the only God our Savior,
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
be glory, majesty, dominion and authority,
before all time
and now
and forever.

(Jude 1:24, 25)

Jude encourages believers that when we meet the Lord face to face, we not only will bow— we will stand, for he not only saved and redeemed but also enabled us to persevere through all our days.

At times we feel we are in great danger of falling below any hope of returning, but then the Majestic One steadies us. We are again ready to be those in his church who would rescue the perishing.

Choosing tactics by the Spirit

Jude - Thirteenth in a series

In Jude 20 and 21 we are given three ways to build ourselves up in the faith: 1. Pray in the Spirit, 2. Keep yourself in the love of God, and 3. Look for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.

Prayer is an expression of the heart not limited to words; we know that the Holy Spirit prays for us in groans too deep for words. (Romans 8:26) Prayer is communication with God, yet there are aspects of it that do not fit that description. Without question, if we pray in the Spirit, prayer is not fully predictable nor definable, except that we have been promised by Jesus:

When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you. (John 16:13-15)

God hears and accepts many prayers that do not conform to his guidance on how to pray. However, in the goal to be built up in the faith, we must follow that guide. Study the Lord's prayer; read all that the Bible teaches about prayer. Then, pray respectfully and carefully. Like all other work in the life of faith, we can do nothing without Him. (John 15:5)

The second need is to stay in God's love. Life can be very cold and dark. The Christian walk is often a lonely one. How can we keep from shriveling up or hardening to bitterness? Only by being refreshed by the heart of God in Christ. Just as the life of prayer is a twosome even when praying silently, so the walk with God is with a friend who loves us. Even when following at some distance, we are not alone. Faith is needed to believe all these things. Have faith. When your faith is waning, pray in the Spirit. (Eph 6:18)

There are various translations of the third instruction:

  • keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. (ESV, NIV)
  • Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life. (KJV, ASV)
  • keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life. (NASB)

There seems to be a choice between keeping a lookout and doing so with desire or exuberant expectation, but in either case the object of our hope is God's mercy in Christ who died so that we may have eternal life. When possible, keep your hopes high!

Jude 22 and 23 give three tactics for rescuing souls from the cult that lured them from the faith, though at first glance there seem to be only two ways, and this is open to interpretation. And of some have compassion, making a difference: And others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh. (Jude 22, 23, KJV)

Compassion and aggressive action are obvious methods, so where is the third way? To understand, we need to look at the Greek. The phrase in verse 22, "making a difference," is diakrinomenouv or "to separate, make a distinction; to learn by discrimination, give judgment" by its initial definitions (Strong's No. 1252). In other words, as you evaluate your friend who has gone astray, decide whether to approach him with sympathy, or instead, fearfully, as you "carry him off by force," (Strong's No. 726) even as you literally hold your nose because of his filthy undergarments. Discerning and choosing which method to employ is in itself a tactic.

If you prefer, with regard to the first way, it may also be possible to interpret this phrase as having compassion while at the same time opposing him; to show love and patience even while contending against his deceived spirit.

It is important to take the right approach with friends. We all wither under rebuke, and some may become dangerously crushed in spirit. A wounded spirit, who can bear? (Proverbs 18:14) Therefore, compassion is essential in all cases. However, with some friends, no amount of loving expressions will soften the heart; if you would assist them to be delivered from evil, you must drag them or wrest them from it. Bold deprogramming measures are difficult to enforce. Perhaps fasting in advance will help, and needless to say, prayer.

Jude would have you to choose a way, should your church be under such attack with members falling away. If you have prayed in the Spirit, kept yourself in the love of God, and are looking for the mercy of Christ unto eternal life, you will know what to do.

Honest and dishonest sinners

Jude - Twelfth in a series

Jude gives three final defining points about the mockers… who walk after their own ungodly lusts. These be they who separate themselves, sensual, having not the Spirit. (Jude 1:18, 19)

Some commentators state that the concept of separating oneself from others in the church is to hold back from works of ministry whether by teaching or serving. Historically, at times certain tribes would not join in the larger effort to protect Israel. (Judges 5:16, 23)

Another, John Calvin, says, "He means that they separated from the Church, because they would not bear the yoke of discipline, as they who indulge the flesh dislike spiritual life."

It was not simply that they formed separate factions. Paul points out that there must be divisions in a church at times. The Lord uses differences in opinions to train us in good doctrine, for we must discern what is right in important questions. (1 Cor 11:18, 19) By hearing two sides we must choose, which is a strengthening action.

So, it was not simply that they held separate views; it was much more than that. Their lives were ruled by the flesh. To a new or non-believer, what does that mean? We all have flesh. We all have bodily urges and many needs to fulfill. We are all sensual to some end or desire and that is normal. So what is Jude's point? It is best summed up in Jesus' flat comment, The Spirit is what gives life, the flesh is of no use at all. (John 6:63)

The Spirit is God's Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity, given to believers to enable them to live in Christ. All believers have the Spirit, but it is a different matter to be FILLED with the Spirit.

I once heard a sermon that gave four points on how to be filled with the Holy Spirit. I wrote them down:

  • Put away all known sin.
  • Do not grieve the Spirit.
  • Do not quench the Spirit.
  • Be filled with the Spirit.

The first is not too hard to understand, and with the help of the Lord, not impossible to do. We are not conscious of many of our sins, so start with the things you are aware of. If you delay bringing your behavior in line with God's revealed will— the commands and enlightenment we are given in the Bible— you have made a choice to oppose God.

The second point reveals good things about God. Imagine, He is grieved if we fail to conform to his high standards. (Eph 4:29-32) Perhaps we envision him as angry, and this is true when people continuously rebel and commit extremely sinful deeds, but for the Christian trying to be obedient, taking one step forward and two steps back, the Spirit is grieved, an emotion attributed only to those who love us. Don't grieve Him further by giving up on your goal to make progress in your walk with the Lord; go back to step one-- put away your sin, and try again.

What is it to quench? Quenching is extinguishing a fire, to suppress, to stifle. Paul's instruction to the Thessalonians not to quench the spirit (1 Thess 5:19) was encouragement to stay strong in their devotion to Christ. The Spirit makes us zealous to serve and honor the Lord. We can put out this fire by being sensual and attending to the things that support the flesh rather than putting first God's kingdom and righteousness. (Mat 6:33)

Finally, seek greater fullness in your commitment to serve the Lord. We are told in Luke 11:13 that we must ask for the Spirit. Though we receive Him when we first turn from sin and confess belief in Christ, we need to continually be filled: Ask and you shall receive. Be earnest in your desire to have more life! (Eph 5:18; Ps 51:10-12)

The Christian is under strict instructions to be wholly committed and devoted to the Lord:

  • Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me. (Mat 10:37)
  • No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God. (Luke 9:62)
  • Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead. (Mat 8:28)
  • Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Mat 5:48)

Can the flesh assist us to fully give our hearts to God? No, only the Spirit can move us to zeal and total devotion.

The abundant life promised and flowing freely from Christ (John 10:10) requires being full of the Holy Spirit. The flesh comes under the rule of the Spirit, making it much easier to (mostly!) obey God's commands. And we are promised strength for this goal to follow Christ wholeheartedly: For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him. (2 Chr 16:9)

The intruders did not have the Holy Spirit. (Jude 1:19) Like the sincere Christians, they were sinners, but unlike them, they did not worry about putting away their sin. In that sense they were dishonest sinners. The honest sinner acknowledges failure and prays for help to be obedient. The dishonest one is settled in sensuality and sins willfully and without conscience. These ones are even more comfortable in their sin when they succeed in attracting followers. They honestly love it.

Attention Readers

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Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. -Mat 5:14

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