Tag Archives: Epistle

Jude’s Doxology

16 Mar

EndYou can listen to the podcast here.

Last week Jude told us to have mercy as we looked at three groups of people in the church under various levels of influence from the creepers. False teaching is happening in churches all over and we must do what we can to refute that bad teaching while consistently demonstrating the love of Christ to those that are around us. This morning, Jude gives us a closing expression of praise known as a doxology.

Jude 24-25 says, “Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless 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. Amen.”

Why not just say, see ya? Many letters on the Bible finish with a benediction or a blessing. 2 Cor. 13:14 says, “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you all.” 2 Tim. 4:22 says, “The Lord be with your spirit, grace be with you.” Heb. 13:25 simply says, “Grace be with you all.” The blessing is a nice, tidy way to wrap up a letter. It’s  a sign off with some comfort. A closing bit of encouragement.

So if the blessing is a bit of encouragement, the doxology reminds us of the heart and soul of our Christian walk of faith. Other writers have used doxologies instead of benedictions. In Rom. 16:25-27 Paul closes by saying, “Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery which has been kept secret for long ages past, but now is manifested, and by the Scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the eternal God, has been made known to all the nations, leading to obedience of faith; to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, be the glory forever. Amen.” In Eph. 3:20-21 he wrote, “Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.” Peter closed his second letter by saying, “You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, be on your guard so that you are not carried away by the error of unprincipled men and fall from your own steadfastness, but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.” (2 Pet. 3:17-18) Jude’s closing follows the same four point pattern as other doxologies.        God is the person deserving of the praise. Glory and honor are bestowed on Him. There is no ending to the praise ascribed to God. And finally, there is the traditional amen.

In looking at the first three aspects of the doxology, we see some things that need further evaluation. “Now Him who is able to keep you from stumbling.” This verse is not a contradiction to v. 21. Keep here is a different word than in v. 21, but the idea is the same. God provides what you need to enable you to keep yourself in the love of God. If you’re not remaining in God’s love, it’s not because of God, it’s because of you. Stumbling here does not mean sinlessness as some would argue. Peter used the same word in 2 Pet. 1:10 when he said, “Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble.” The concept is that if you are a true believer, you will never renounce your faith. You will not walk away like the people in 1 Jo. 1:19. God will provide strength to endure regardless of the circumstances. People rarely question their faith when times are good. But they sometimes wonder where God is when times are other than good. Jude is saying that God enables you to persevere, but it’s not all on Him. That’s the background behind his command to keep yourselves in the love of God. It must be intentional and consistent. Each of us has a responsibility to press on and not neglect or abandon the principles of the faith.

How do you handle creepers? Lovingly confront the issues with Scripture and then deal with it. The whole theme of this letter is to be on your guard against false teaching, to be continuously engaged in the faith. Jude is telling us to fight for the faith, not just sit around and enjoy the blessings and bounty of salvation. No one is called to sit on the sidelines, we’re all supposed to be in the game.Jude goes on to say, “And to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy.” This goes along with not stumbling. Since God gives you the power to remain in His love, when the day comes for you to stand in His presence, you will be without blame. This is an eschatological term that refers to the Day of Judgment. We stand before His throne perfect because the only way we can stand there is because of the perfect Lamb of God that was sacrificed on our behalf. Our redemption will be fully realized on that day. “To the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever.” Notice that God is identified as the Savior. This points to the false doctrine taught by the creepers when they denied Jesus Christ as Master and Lord. God is the Savior through the atonement of Jesus Christ. Glory refers to the splendor, beauty, and honor associated with God. Majesty denotes His greatness and how worthy He is of the honor bestowed upon Him. Dominion and authority are closely related. These indicate the vastness of His hand. His sovereignty and control knows no bounds. The attributes in the closing verse always and always will belong to God. Notice Jude says, “Before all time and now and forever.”

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Regardless of what people say or of the claims they make to the contrary, God is God. Nonsensical statements made by Christians and non-Christians does not change who He is. Either He is worth following and serving 24 hours a day or He’s not worth serving at all.

Another Contrast

17 Feb

BurgeYou can listen to the podcast here.

Last week we saw the triple edged dagger of death as Jude described the creepers with three additional terms found in verse 19. The creepers cause divisions, they are worldly minded, and they are devoid of the Spirit. That’s the reason they act and think the way they do – because they do not have the Spirit of God dwelling within them. This morning Jude gives us yet another contrast.

Jude 20 tells us, “But you beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit.”

And we’re back to the beloved. Verse 20 contains a very pointed two part command. Again, in contrast to the creepers, the church ought to remember the words the Apostles spoke. There is a slight shift though. In vs. 17-19 Jude emphasized how the creepers turned things upside down while the next verses provide some exhortations for his readers. Jude’s readers – us, are to be, “building yourselves up.” It’s present tense, this is what we’re to be doing right now. Building is an interesting word and there’s more to it than meets the eye. Here it is a verb so we’re not talking about a structure, but something we are to actively be engaged in. It presents the idea of a process. The process must begin with a foundation that is planted on solid ground. I recently discovered a series on the Science Channel called Strip the City. It analyzes how engineers and architects and other experts construct and develop our world’s cities in some very challenging areas. In Dubai for example, the skyscraper Burge Khalifa stands 2717 feet tall and has 163 floors. What’s even more incredible is that it appears the building is built on sinking sand. The key to holding up the building is the foundation. It contains numerous concrete columns that go all the way down to bedrock. A concrete pad is then placed on top of the columns and the building is built upon that. The building is held up because it is actually built upon rock.

The idea of building on a foundation is found elsewhere in the New Testament. Paul said the only suitable foundation for the church is Jesus Christ. In Eph. 2:20 he said the church is built upon the, “foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone.” Peter spoke of believers as living stones that are built into a spiritual house. (1 Pet. 2:5) In 1834 it was Edward Mote that penned the now famous words, “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness. I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly trust in Jesus’ Name. On Christ the solid Rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand; all other ground is sinking sand.”

So what do we build on? Jude says, “building yourselves up on your most holy faith.” Look at what Jude said back in v. 3. He wrote, “Beloved, while I was making every effort to write to you about out common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the which was once for all handed down to the saints.” It is not a universal faith, not some faith or one particular faith: it is THE faith. The is THE faith that was handed down once and for all. Jude is talking about all that the Apostles and Prophets talked about, the teachings, the doctrine, and the theology of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is the center, He is the focus. Notice who has the responsibility of building. It’s not the pastor, the Bible study teacher, the Community Group leader, the children’s church teacher, the church leader, the mature in the faith, the willing, or those with special gifting or ability. Absolutely those people can and should help. We have this idea that it’s someone else’s responsibility; someone else needs to do something. We work hard at school, or sports, our jobs, even our hobbies, but when it comes to Jesus, well that’s another story. We’re in an age where we seem to outsource everything from visitation, to outreach, to evangelism, to Bible study and prayer; it’s always someone else’s job. Jude says you keep yourself in the love of God; it’s your responsibility.

Remember the shift in the American church. People wrongly conclude the church exists to serve them. The church has become a place that you go instead of a living, breathing organism. No, the church is the vehicle through which we serve, the vehicle that we drive to fulfill the mandate to make disciples. Have you ever heard someone say, “I’m not getting fed.” Well then how about do something about it. When you’re hungry, you seek food. If you have a little one, they may cry and scream, and whine for nourishment. Why don’t we see that same drive for the nourishment of Scripture? We build ourselves on our most holy faith. It is holy because it comes from a holy and perfect God. The growth takes place in our minds and heart as we grow in our understanding of Scripture which causes us to grow in our understanding of the Trinity which causes us to live out our faith with authenticity.

The second command of this verse is that we are to be, “praying in the Holy Spirit.” This will likely cause some anxiety with people. Some will break out the secret prayer card, but if we compare this verse with other Scripture, we’ll see this should be our normal, fervent prayer. Paul said in Eph. 6:18, “With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints.” The context of Ephesians is not secret prayer languages or speaking in tongues. Chuck Swindoll said, “Noise and crowds have a way of siphoning our energy and distracting our attention, making prayer an added chore rather than a comforting relief.” The Holy Spirit is an essential element of our relationship with God through Christ.

The responsibility for individual spiritual growth rests primarily with the individual. Yes, others can and should help. A building cannot be built without a builder. The foundation of our lives must be built on the unchanging Rock of Jesus Christ. Only then can our faith be built higher and stronger so that when the storms, tornadoes, and hurricanes of life come, nothing can shake the building that is built on the rock that is Jesus Christ.

The Triple-Edged Dagger of Death

10 Feb

DaggarYou can listen to the podcast here.

Last time we were in Jude, he urged his readers to remember the words of the Apostles of Christ. They warned us that mockers would come following after their own ungodly lusts. These are signs that the last days are upon us. Jude, in his love for things of three, gives is the triple edged dagger of death in verse 19.

Jude 19 says, “These are the ones who cause divisions, worldly minded, devoid of the Spirit.”

Jude shifts again, but remember this short letter, like other letters in scripture are meant to be read in one sitting. It only seems like he’s jumping back and forth because we’re looking at a snippet of the letter each week. There’s so much here that we have to carefully march through it. I encourage you to start or continue a personal study into this letter.

What Jude says comes as no surprise. We should not be alarmed when people rebel against God. While it’s more surprising when it happens in church, it still should not freak us out. Rebellion has been happening since time began and it will continue until Jesus returns. Look at the three things they do in v. 19. They, “Cause divisions.” They are, “worldly-minded.” They are, “devoid of the Spirit.” Each one of those are pretty self explanatory, but what I have a hard time getting past is that these people are in the church and are even in leadership positions. Let’s look at each one.

First, the creepers cause division. It would be easy to pounce on this verse and conclude that’s why we have all the denominations and churches. We look back to 1517 when Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the door of Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany ushering in the Protestant Reformation where we saw the Catholic Church challenged on doctrine, theology, and tradition. What led Luther? Much of this was sparked by the church’s practice of selling indulgences – the practice of doing good works in order to speed entry into heaven following death. He questioned salvation by works after reading and studying Paul’s letter to the Galatians that emphasized salvation by grace through faith. Luther desired to return to the biblical fundamentals of the faith. Keeping it in context, Jude is talking about division with one another in the church. You don’t have to look hard to see this happening. In the church, personal agendas can sometimes be difficult to discern because they’re typically veiled in false spirituality. Individual agendas are pushed and if they’re not acted upon, the people either leave or make life difficult for others. I have seen this at other ministries and we’ve experienced this here. There doesn’t seem to be a spirit of cooperation or unity or putting others first. The application can be made in a broader sense as well.

Second they are, “worldly minded.” This phrase has been tossed around in the church as something we are not to be in accordance to what Paul wrote in Rom. 12:2 and what Jesus Himself said in Jo. 17. Ja. 3:15 compares earthly wisdom verses wisdom from above. This is more of an attitude or mindset and it is somewhat difficult to define if taken on its own. So let’s handle it properly by connecting it with that last phrase that will help us understand. “Worldly minded, devoid of the Spirit.” The creepers have an earthly mindset, an earthly bent, earthly desires and passions because they are entirely lacking the Spirit of God. That’s why they are the way they are. The ungodly man lives according to his own desires. There is no concern or thought to what is godly or pure or holy. It should not disturb you that people who do not know God have a bent toward earthly things. How else do you expect someone who has no influence from the Spirit of God to act? Why do we whine and complain when lost people think, act, behave, or say things that are ungodly? The desires of the ungodly are naturally bent away from God. The difference with Christians is we have a supernatural bent to God that should supersede our sin nature because we are no longer slaves to sin, but slaves to righteousness. We must remember the context of this letter. The people Jude is condemning as ungodly are in the church in leadership positions serving themselves and their own ungodly desires.

1 Tim. 4:1, “But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons.” 2 Tim. 3:1, “But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come.” We are in difficult days, but not impossible days. The Word of God is maligned and impugned by these creepers, by the false teachers of today, but that doesn’t mean you have to. We can still demonstrate the incredible love of Christ and we can still live authentically for Jesus.

A Time to Remember

20 Jan

RememberYou can listen to the podcast here.

Last week Jude spoke of the self centeredness of the creepers. They were only concerned about themselves and they grumbled, blamed others, and followed after their own lusts. In vs. 5-16 Jude has described in detail the reasons why the creepers should be judged. They’re given no benefit of the doubt and no mercy. If that seems harsh, the actions of these people and people like them were predicted years earlier. This morning, Jude shifts from the criticism of the creepers to the encouragement of his readers – us.

Jude 17-18 says, “But you, beloved, ought to remember the words that were spoken beforehand by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ, that they were saying to you, “In the last time there will be mockers, following after their own ungodly lusts.”

Jude now shifts back to the church. It’s obvious that Jude starts a new section by his use of, “But you beloved.” He’s showing his deep love for them, it’s a term of endearment. We know that Jude has been very critical of the creepers. There is just cause for that since they willingly and knowingly snuck into the church and taught things that were contrary to the fundamental tenants of the faith. He’s talked about the creepers and flips it around by using the word but. There’s the contrast. His readers, “Ought to remember the words that were spoken of beforehand by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Ought to remember here means duty. Jude’s readers are supposed to remember the words spoken by the apostles of Christ.

Mal. 4:4, “Remember the law of Moses My servant, even the statutes and ordinances which I commanded him in Horeb for all Israel.”

Eph. 2:20, “Having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone.”

2 Pet. 3:2, “That you should remember the words spoken beforehand by the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior spoken by your apostles.”

This is not just being able to recite Scripture from memory. The meaning is much deeper. When Scripture tells us to remember, it means take to heart so that it is imprinted on our lives. David said, Your word I have treasured in my heart, that I may not sin against You. (Ps. 119:11) Do you treasure Scripture? Do you hold Scripture as dearly as you do your child or grandchild? That’s the meaning David is conveying. God’s Word is so valuable and precious , but we seem to have cheapened it because it’s so accessible. What if your Bible was taken away? Would you notice or would you grieve over the loss? We do not worship God’s Word, but through Scripture, we get to know the One and only true God which should move us to continual worship of the One who is the Word. I wonder if Jude’s readers had held up the words of the apostles, would they have immediately recognized these men? Jude is specifically referring to the warnings regarding false teachers, but the application is much broader. We ought to remember because the Holy Spirit of God inspired His apostles to write down what we needed to know and understand.

So what did the apostles say? The warning was simple and to the point. “In the last time there will be mockers.” Are we in the last time? The writer of Hebrews thought so when he said, “In these last days.” (Heb. 1:2) Not maybe or likely, but there will be people who mock. 2 Pet. 3:3: “Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts.” Mock means to make fun of in a cruel manner. The intention is to cause harm. The last days will bring all sorts of criticism and harm to people that express and live by a code of Christian faith. Sadly this mocking can come from within the walls of the church. It can be as subtle as, “You don’t really believe that do you?”  Introducing a bit of doubt can shake the foundations of faith. It can be a bit more obvious such as the issue surrounding gay marriage. I saw a report a couple of months ago where a minister had gone against his denomination’s stance on this and officiated the same sex marriage of his son. He did it in secret and when his congregation found out about it, they reported him to denominational authorities. In a TV interview I saw he said, “Society is changing so fast that the church cannot keep up with it.” How can a mainstream minister say something like that? Well, in a Nov. 19, 2013 Washington Post article, a 30 year assistant choir director at that particular church is quoted as saying, “There was a drift from the Scripture.” When you morph Scripture to the needs of society, you fall into that trap we saw last week when Paul warned Timothy that, “The time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths.” (1 Tim. 4:3-4) These mockers Jude refers to follow, “after their own ungodly lusts.” They are driven by passion and desire. It’s not bad to be driven by passion and desire when they are godly. That’s not the case with these guys.

In the closing verses of Hebrews, the writer reminds us that, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” (Heb.13:8) Our methods change, but the Gospel does not. Society should have little influence on the church, but the church should have great influence on society.

Grave Danger

25 Nov

FoamYou can listen to the podcast here.

Last week we began to look at the woe oracles. Jude mentioned Cain, Balaam, and Korah as examples of rebellious men that God judged. They were destroyed because of their actions that stemmed from an unrepentant heart void of Jesus Christ. Jude touched on those three men comparing their actions to the creepers and now he provides some graphic descriptions to help us understand the creepers even more.

Jude 12-13 says, “These are the men who are hidden reefs in your love feasts when they feast with you without fear, caring for themselves; clouds without water, carried along by winds; autumn trees without fruit, doubly dead, uprooted; wild waves of the sea, casting up their own shame like foam; wandering stars, for whom the black darkness has been reserved forever.”

In v. 12 Jude mentions three of the creeper’s dangers.  First, “These are the men who are hidden reefs in your love feasts when they feast without fear.” That’s kind of a mouthful so we need to break it down. They are hidden reefs. Hidden reef may also be translated blemish, stain, or spot. The parallel verse in 2 Pet. 2:13 tells us the false teachers, “suffer wrong as the wages of doing wrong. They count it a pleasure to revel in the daytime. They are stains and blemishes, reveling in their deceptions, as they carouse with you.” Love feast sounds like something out of the 1960s, but was common in the early church. A love feast typically involved sharing a meal with a group of Christ followers. Following the meal, the Lord’s Supper would be observed. The creepers were, “hidden reefs.” If it seems like Jude is mixing metaphors, he is. A hidden reef is extraordinarily dangerous to ships and their crews. On the surface everything looks great right up until you run into the reef that lies just below the water. On the surface, the love feast looks awesome and wonderful, but not all is as it seems. The creepers were hypocrites, pretending to be something they were not. Remember they denied Jesus Christ. They misrepresented God’s grace and yet they were sitting there acting like they’re just one of the disciples. They snuck in pretending to be something they were not with the intention to lead people away from the truth.

Second they, “feasted without fear.” They ate during the love feast even though their lives were not characterized by the love of Christ. Do you see people today engaging in things that are not biblical or godly and there is no sorrow, no shame, no guilt, or conviction?  Finally Jude goes on to say the creepers are, “Caring for themselves.” What’s so wrong with that, everyone needs to take care of themselves, right? Other translations have this phrase as, “shepherds feeding themselves.” This phrase is reminiscent of God’s words to Ezekiel in 34:2, “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel. Prophesy and say to those shepherds, ‘Thus says the Lord God, “Woe, shepherds of Israel who have been feeding themselves! Should not the shepherds feed the flock?” The creepers had taken on a leadership role in the church even though they were not Christians. They looked like Christians, but their theology was unbiblical. How can one be a Christian yet deny that Jesus is the Christ? They were leaders that were unconcerned for the people they supposedly led, and they were in it only for themselves.

Jude now provides four illustrations of the creepers from nature. They were, “clouds without water, carried along by winds.” This area of the Middle East is dry and dusty. They need rain to sustain the people, the crops, and the animals. When we’re particularly dry, we anticipate the rain; we pray for the rain. We see the storm clouds come with the promise of rain, but the winds push the clouds away and when no rain falls; we’re left disappointed and discouraged. These creepers promised hope, but brought despair. They were, “autumn trees without fruit, doubly dead, uprooted.” Yet another example of promising something, but getting nothing. Jude’s not talking about missing the opportunity to pick fruit and it’s all gone. He’s talking about a fruit tree that is supposed to produce fruit and does not. Try not to think about the beauty of the fall colors. That’s not the purpose of the tree; it’s supposed to produce fruit. Doubly dead is a bit more difficult to understand. It could indicate the second death after physical death. It could mean that no one expects a tree to produce fruit if it is no longer rooted in soil. It could mean the creepers produce no Christ like fruit in their lives. The precise meaning is unclear, but Jude is attempting to convey the utter hopelessness of following these men. They were, “Wild waves of the sea, casting up their own shame like foam.” Shame can also be translated indecent behavior which lines up with the fact that they defile or pollute the flesh from v. 8. Think of a time at the beach where the waves are really crashing and all this foam builds up. Jude is illustrating that the creepers leave behind something that is not appealing.   He may be thinking to Is. 57:20 that says, “But the wicked are like the tossing sea, for it cannot be quiet, and its waters toss up refuse and mud.”

Finally Jude says they are, “Wandering stars, for whom the black darkness has been reserved forever.” Throughout history, the stars have aided people in finding their way. We know the wise men were guided by the star in the East to find the Christ child. (Matt. 2:9) Star comes from the same word that we get our English word asteroid and is also translated planet. Planets are not used for navigation because they orbit around the sun – a star. Stars are fixed in the sky; planets are not. If you want to get off course in a hurry, follow a wandering planet. That darkness points back to v. 6 and indicates wrath and judgment.

These creepers are bad news. Jude has gone to great lengths to graphically illustrate how these people are not what they appear. They snuck into the church without anyone noticing, but they should not remain this way. I wonder how many creepers are in the church today?

Woe, Woe, Woe

18 Nov

RebellionYou can listen to the podcast here.

Last week we discovered that the creepers slandered the way of the Lord; they reviled things they did not understand. They are unreasoning animals driven by instinct and passion rather than truth and reason. Their way of life leads to destruction. Jude now begins a three verse string that is known as the woe oracles. Remember this letter is designed to be read at one time. We won’t get through all three verses today, but we will look at three examples of people that were destroyed because of their actions.

Jude 11 says, “Woe to them! For they have gone the way of Cain, and for pay they have rushed headlong into the error of Balaam, and perished in the rebellion of Korah.”

What is woe? Woe is a word we hear Jesus say often. He used the word seven times in Matt. 23. He is consistent in His use of the word in that chapter referring to the Pharisees. Jesus spoke of their exclusivity. He called them blind guides, fools, and hypocrites. He said they focused on the minor and ignored the more important, weightier matters of doctrine. Jesus said they were clean on the outside, but filthy on the inside. He said the Pharisees were like whitewashed tombs – beautiful on the outside and full of dead man’s bones on the inside. On the outside they appeared righteous, but on the inside they were full of hypocrisy and lawlessness. Jesus called them vipers and serpents and asked them, “How will you escape the sentence of hell?” (Matt. 23:33) The word woe is an expression of grief or denunciation and it can also mean a terrible pain that is to come. Jesus used the term effectively denouncing the attitudes and values of the Pharisees. This is the same usage of the word Jude employs in describing the seriousness of lifestyle and behavior of the creepers. This is hardly the picture of tolerance that many people in the world and even in the church claim that Jesus represents. People that make this false claim of Jesus have not consulted the Scriptures. He is particularly intolerant of religious leaders that claim one thing and do another.

Jude calls out three Old Testament people that were severely denounced. “Woe to them,” woe to the creepers! The first example of woe. Jude starts out with the earliest example of poor decision making and sibling rivalry when he says, “They have gone the way of Cain.” If we go back to Gen. 4, we’ll see that Cain was the first child of Adam and Eve and grew to be, “A tiller of the ground.” Abel was the second born and, “Was a keeper of flocks.” All was going just great until Cain brought an offering from the ground and Abel brought an offering from the flock. God had regard for Abel’s offering and not Cain’s. God says to Cain, “If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it.” (Gen. 4:7) The word desire is the same one used in Gen. 3 when God told Eve, “Yet your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.” Sin wants to control you, and Scripture says we must master it. Cain didn’t and murdered his brother.

The second example concerns Balaam. The creepers, “For pay . . . have rushed headlong into the error of Balaam.” When we consider the Old Testament writings about Balaam, it can be a bit confusing. On the surface it seems like Balaam was a decent guy; a prophet of God. When Balak wanted to pay him to curse Israel, Balaam said, “Though Balak were to give me his house full of silver and gold, I could not do anything, either small or great, contrary to the command of the Lord my God.” (Num. 22:18) It took a donkey to reveal Balaam’s true character. We even see God speaking to Balaam and telling him what to say. But Balaam was anything but a true prophet. Peter said that Balaam, “Loved the wages of unrighteousness.” (2 Pet. 2:15) God concludes, “Your way was contrary to Me.” (Num. 22:32) and in we see in Num. 31:8 that he was killed fighting against Israel. Jude draws a comparison between the creepers and Balaam. The creepers rushed headlong into the error of Balaam and they did it for money. Likely they are traveling teachers seeking to make some cash. There are numerous companies and booking agents that will arrange to have a famous pastor/preacher/teacher for your event and they do it at a cost. There is nothing wrong with earning a living or being compensated for what you do. I often joke that I’m a professional Christian because I get paid to be a minister of Jesus Christ. The truth is I’ve been doing what I do for a long time and it is my privilege to do so. I have done, I do, and would do it without compensation. I still offer much of what I do for free. Counseling.     Weddings and funerals. Coaching. Home repair consultation. Much of what I provide is to people that may attend C4, but are not members. Most of the counseling I do is for people from other churches or people that are not affiliated with any church and may not even be a Christian. Scripture is very clear that the minister of God must not be in it for the money. There’s nothing wrong with paying your pastor or church leader. Paul told Timothy, “The elders who rule well are to be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching.” (1 Tim. 5:17) But Balaam was in it for the money and it looks like the creepers were too. This gives us the idea that the creepers knew what they were doing. Back in v. 4 Jude said they, “Deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.” How is it remotely possible that they got into the church and were teaching and still no one noticed that their theology was whacked?

Jude’s not done as he provides the third example of Korah. This is another O.T. reference. Jude obviously loves the O.T. providing some solid evidence that the O.T. is still applicable and relevant for today. Korah and two of his buddies formulated a plan to overthrow Moses and Aaron with the help of 250 others from the assembly of Israel. What is significant about this is that according to Num. 16:2 they were, “chosen in the assembly, men of renown.” Korah and the rest were leaders. God had chosen them. It wasn’t enough for them to be leaders they, particularly Korah, wanted to be in total control. They told Moses, “You have gone far enough.” (Num. 16:3) Korah rebelled against the leadership God had chosen for Israel. Numbers tells us that Korah gathered his 250 rebels with their sensors at the entrance of the tabernacle. Keep in mind the ceremonial procedures for the tent of meeting and incense and offerings were still in place. This attempted coup resulted in some serious consequences. The Lord told Moses to get back and for the people to get back. God opened the ground and swallowed Korah and the rebels. Korah and his people rebelled against the authority God gave them which means they rebelled against God. Three examples of judgment for rebellion of God’s authority.

Do not rebel against God or against the leaders He has appointed. No where are we saying blind obedience or devotion to the leader. The creepers were not wondering or questioning the leaders. They were intentionally undermining the authority of Scripture by teaching things that were not accurate. If you don’t understand something that is going on here or you wonder about something . . . ask! I enjoy a respectful conversation about Scripture, and I will easily admit I don’t know everything. I’m not sure about some things. Can God use you to show me something? Absolutely. The examples Jude mentions didn’t do that. Do not revile things you do not understand.

A Sinful Trifecta

28 Oct

CreepYou can listen to the podcast here.

Last week Jude gave us more proof that God is a God of His word. We saw the sin of Israel when they were released from bondage in Egypt, the sin of the angels, and those of Sodom and Gomorrah as Jude completed his trifecta of examples. The three examples of judgment serve as a reminder for us. We saw from v. 4 that the creepers turned the grace of God into license. This morning Jude talks about three specific sins of the creepers that will be judged by God.

Jude 8 says, “Yet in the same way these men, also by dreaming, defile the flesh, and reject authority, and revile angelic majesties.”

So what’s the connection? Jude is not haphazard in his writing. He connects this verse with the previous by the phrase, “In the same way.” That phrase connects the Israelites in the wilderness, the angels that left their domain, and the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. Remember Jude is arguing that God will judge sin and the creepers are no different than the people in history. Jude is not saying the sin of the creepers is the same as the three examples: he is using an analogy. Jude goes on to say, “These men, also by dreaming.” Before we look at the three sins, we need to understand this phrase. Dreams play an important part in God’s plan. We saw the importance of dreams from Jacob and his 12 sons that included Joseph’s ability to accurately interpret dreams. Joel 2:28 says, “It will come about after this that I will pour out My Spirit on all mankind; and your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions.” Acts 2:17 quotes the passage from Joel. In Matt 1:20, we see an angel of the Lord coming to Joseph the carpenter in a dream regarding the pregnancy of Mary.

Dreams are a part of Scripture, but like all good things, Satan provides a counterfeit to truth. If you can, I encourage you to read Deut. 13:1-5 and Jer. 23:25-32. Both passages provide some insight into biblical dreams. Just because someone may say I had a dream doesn’t mean that dream is from the Lord. Just like anyone who says, the Lord is leading me to_______ doesn’t make it true. We need to line it up with Scripture. “By dreaming,” Jude says. In other words, they make up things in their imagination. Their way of thinking; their doctrine is purely imaginary. So these men by dreaming do three things. Let’s find out what Jude says specifically.

Jude lists three sins of the creepers. First they, “defile the flesh.” Defile means to desecrate or profane. In the Old Testament, defile typically indicates sexual type sin. This certainly fits with what Jude said about the angels that left their own domain. It fits with what he said happened in Sodom and Gomorrah. The phrase is also found in early Christian writings describing sexual sin. The creepers pollute their own flesh. In 1 Cor. 3:16 Paul said, “Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” Our bodies are supposed to be holy.

Second they, “reject authority.” We need to keep it in context here and not go all crazy saying things that are not accurate. This phrase can only mean one thing – numerous applications, but it can’t mean more than it means. It would be easy to say this means human authority – the government, church leadership, parents, teachers, etc. The word translated authority never has that meaning in Scripture so it would be wrong to say that’s what it means. If that were to be accurate, authority would be plural, but here it’s singular. Most likely is that Jude means the authority of Jesus Christ especially given that v. 4 tells us the creepers, “deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.” The creepers reject or dismiss the authority of Christ. Of course, this isn’t new and we still see it today. If you’ve ever heard someone say, “I know what the Bible says, but,” they are dismissing the authority of Christ.

Finally they, “revile angelic majesties.” Of the three, this phrase is the most difficult to understand. We know revile comes from the same word where get blaspheme. Angelic refers to angels and majesties mean glories. So are these angels good angels or bad angels? Messengers of God or are they demons? I can emphatically say . . . I’m not sure. I have poured over the text and cross references and I am just not sure. So what do we do with this phrase? Let’s see what we do know for sure. These creepers are like the people of Sodom and Gomorrah, they are like the angels that left their appointed place of authority, and they are like the grumblers that left Egypt. They are disobedient, rebellious, and doctrinally flawed. They are sinners that have not accepted the gift of God through His one and only Son Jesus Christ. They were marked out for judgment because they reject the authority of Jesus Christ.        If that weren’t bad enough, they are in the church and no one noticed.

Perhaps this will clear up when we look at v. 9 next week. The message for us is clear. We need to know the Scriptures so that we can recognize when people teach things that are not consistent with the Bible. If they do it out of ignorance, we can help correct it. But if they intentionally teach things that are not consistent, we need to deal with that in a different way. Always in love, but not compromising on the truth.

Dear Christian

16 Sep

LetterYou can listen to the podcast here.

Last week we closed out Peter’s second letter. He challenged us to be on guard so we don’t get carried away by the nonsense of the false teachers and mockers. We are to grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ – it’s not an option. This morning, we shift over to the short letter of Jude. Some have called this brief letter the most neglected in the New Testament with 2 and 3 John being close behind. There is a reason we are following Peter’s letters with Jude.

Jude is sometimes overlooked because it is so short, just 25 verses. It’s found just before Revelation and maybe people come to this letter and see Revelation next to it and simply skip it. Since it’s in the Bible, it stands to reason that God wants us to read it, learn from it, and apply the truths that are found therein. Like Peter, the message of the coming judgment have led many to conclude the letter is intolerant and contrary to the love of God taught extensively throughout the Scriptures. So why does this letter exist? Are there any applications to be made? What truths does it contain that help us glorify Christ? We’ll answer these questions and more as we dig into the epistle of Jude.

Jude 1-2 says, “Jude, a bond-servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James, to those who are the called, beloved in God the Father, and kept for Jesus Christ: May mercy and peace and love be multiplied to you.”

Here’s some history about the human author. Verse 1 indicates the author to be none other than Jude. Who was he? We know a lot about Peter, James and John. We have tons of information about Paul and Timothy. In N.T. writings, no human author seems to be more mysterious than Jude. Little information is found in Scripture so let’s concentrate on what we do know. He calls himself, “A bond servant of Jesus Christ.” This is significant because of what the word means. It comes from the Greek word doulos meaning slave. It means pertaining to a state of being completely controlled by someone or something. Slavery played a divisive yet important role in America’s history. This is not the same thing. Jude willingly placed himself under the authority of Jesus Christ.

Jude identified himself as the, “Brother of James.” Jude’s readers must know who James is because no other identifier is used. Who was James? Identifying him is a little tricky because surnames were not prevalent in those days. People were typically identified by their home region, occupation, or whose son they were. Of course the best example is Jesus of Nazareth. Don’t forget Saul of Tarsus. The famous Mary Magdalene from Magdala. Simon bar Jonah – son of John. Remember Alexander the coppersmith that did Paul such harm. So in answering who is James, we need to use the Bible to interpret itself.

I encourage you to study this for yourself and when you do you’ll see James is a fairly common name in Scripture. James is mentioned in numerous places in Acts as a prominent leader of the church in Jerusalem. Paul called him one of the pillars of the church in Galatians. After the resurrection, Jesus appeared to James in 1 Cor. 15:7 and according to Matt. 13:55, he was the brother of the Son of the carpenter. Who was the Son of the carpenter? Jesus. So James is the brother of Jesus and Jude is the brother of James so Jude is also the brother of Jesus. So it’s interesting that Jude prefers to call himself a slave of Jesus and brother of James rather than identifying himself as the Lord’s brother. It’s also important to note that even though we know that Jude spent his life with Jesus the Messiah, Mark 3 and John 7:5 says that while Jesus was engaged in His earthly ministry, “Not even His brothers were believing in Him.” So when Jesus was alive, his brothers did not accept Him as Savior. It was at some point after His death that they believed. Jude writes with the authority of being a slave to Christ and a brother to James.

Who does Jude write to? We have seen in other studies where the author writes to a specific people. We studied Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, his letters to the Thessalonians. He also wrote to other local churches. Peter wrote to Christians that were scattered due to severe persecution. Jude doesn’t identify a church, but simply writes to, Those who are the called, the beloved in God the Father, and kept for Jesus Christ.” We need to break this verse into three parts to see just who Jude writes to because if we miss that, the purpose of the letter is lost. First is, “Those who are the called.” Some have used this phrase to prove that God will only save certain people He predetermined or predestined to save. I would conclude that saying that is a gross mishandling of Scripture. “Called” here is an adjective that describes the pronoun, “those”. Remember back just 6 weeks ago, Peter told us, The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.”  (2 Pet. 3:9) God’s desire is for everyone to respond to the Gospel and choose to accept the forgiveness for sin Christ offered on the cross. That’s His desire, but that’s not what actually happens.

Second is the phrase, “The beloved in God.” While we recognize that God loved the world and gave His Son (Jo. 3:16), this phrase describes, “those who are the called.”  The reason believers are called is because God first loved us. (1 Jo. 4:19) God loves us even if we don’t love Him back.

Finally, Jude writes to those that are, “Kept for Jesus Christ.” Peter said Christians, “Are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” (1 Pet. 1:5) Peter and Jude are conveying the same meaning. Let’s put together who Jude is writing to. Called. Beloved. Kept. This trifecta indicates that Jude is writing to Christians in general – the universal church. He finishes his introduction with another trifecta: “May mercy, peace, and love be multiplied to you.” Don’t overlook this simple greeting. God’s mercy means He doesn’t give us what we deserve – death. Mercy affords us the opportunity to receive salvation through accepting the forgiveness offered by Christ. That leads to peace with God because we have been reconciled through Christ. That reconciliation is manifested by love in the spirit of 1 Jo. 4:7-8 that says, “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.”

I’ve set it up this way to ensure you understand this brief letter. The things Jude is getting ready to say are not particular to a local assembly of believers like in other Bible books.  This message is for us and we need to pay close attention in the coming weeks. I guarantee this letter is going to knock your socks off.

What If?

8 Jul

What IfCheck out the podcast for this message here.

Last week we saw the empty promises of the false teachers. They promised freedom, but were themselves enslaved by greed. Their lives were a contradiction of their message. This morning, Peter enters what if land and provides a more beneficial scenario.

2 Pet. 2:20-22 says, For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world by the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and are overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. For it would be better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn away from the holy commandment handed on to them. It has happened to them according to the true proverb, “A dog returns to its own vomit,” and, “A sow, after washing, returns to wallowing in the mire.”

Look where true freedom is found. Peter says true freedom is found in knowledge of Jesus Christ. “For if, after they had escaped the defilements of the world by the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and are overcome.” The first thing we have to determine is who Peter is referring to. It’s either the false teachers or the recent converts. There are a couple of clues and if we read too fast, we might miss them. The first is the word “for.” This refers back to v. 18 and the people that were caught in the trap set by the false teachers. The second clue is the phrase, “have escaped” in v. 20. Who recently escaped from the ones that live in error? It’s the recent converts of the church. Given these clues and the fact the entire chapter is devoted to the false teachers, it’s reasonable to conclude Peter is talking about the false teachers in v. 20.

Why does it matter? Let’s break down the verse. It contains two phrases and if we take out the parenthetical phrase we’re left with, “For if they are again entangled in them and are overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first.” It is Jesus Christ and the knowledge of Him that sets us free. Take a look at John 8:31-36. If you have a personal knowledge of Jesus Christ and claim a relationship with Him, then there are expectations that result. Look at 1 Jo. 2:3-6. Peter’s argument is that if they had the knowledge of Jesus Christ and fell back to their old ways, they’re worse off.

There is a difficulty in the church today. This is a bit conditional clause and I want to clear up any misconceptions you may be having. People will use this verse as a proof text that one can lose his salvation. If they’re once again entangled in the, “defilements of the world” then how can they be saved? Verse 20 is talking about a true, conversion experience. It’s set off by the knowledge that Peter loves to talk about. Remember back in 2 Pet.1:2 in Peter’s opening remarks he said, “Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.” This is a clear indicator that he’s writing to people that have experienced that authentic transformation that only Jesus can make happen. Grace and peace are multiplied through the knowledge of God and Jesus. God’s, “Divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.” (2 Pet. 1:3) So Peter is clear that he’s talking to true believers because he talks about having escaped from the world in the past tense. What about the false teachers? These false teachers had escaped the pull of the world only to return to the world. The gospel they once confessed they now deny. The One they called Savior, they now reject.

So here’s the difficult part. V. 21 says, “For it would be better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn away from the holy commandment handed on to them.” It sounds like Peter is saying it would be better for them to have never heard the truth of the Gospel to begin with. It sounds like he’s saying forget about evangelism and missions because there must be some special caveat for people that have never heard the name of Jesus. It sounds like he’s saying you can walk away if you want to. We could apply it to many situations today too. You see people that are church goers, but are not converts. You see people that are church members that are not miraculously transformed. Peter is saying that they knew the truth and still turned away from God. Way back in the first verse of this letter, Peter said righteousness in our lives is an indication of God’s transforming power. If there is no transformation, there is no conversion. If there is no conversion, there is death. Pro. 12:28 says, “In the way of righteousness is life, and in its pathway there is no death.” I encourage you to challenge people that profess a relationship with Christ, but have no evidence in their lives. If they’re really saved, they’ll welcome the opportunity. If they’re truly saved, they won’t be offended, but grateful you talked to them. There are too many people that teach and preach a Gospel that that does not change people. There are too many people in the church today that have a profession of faith and no resultant transformation.

Peter illustrates what he’s talking about in a very graphic manner. There are two illustrations in v. 22 to help us understand. The first is, “A dog returns to its own vomit.” The second illustration is, “A sow, after washing, returns to wallowing in the mire.” These phrases should be taken together because they mean roughly the same thing. Dogs and pigs are unclean animals. People are sometimes called dogs as a derogatory term in Scripture. These animals go to what they know. Remember Peter called the false teachers unreasoning animals in 2:12. Regardless of how you dress them up, dogs and pigs are just dogs and pigs that act upon their instinct. Pro. 26:11, “Like a dog that returns to its vomit is a fool who repeats his folly.” Is Peter saying that these false teachers were saved and then renounced Jesus? The quick answer is absolutely not. The Bible does not teach walk the aisle, say a prayer, or become a church member to be saved. At the same time there are people that anchor their salvation to an event like that. Making a decision to be a disciple of Christ will necessarily mean things in your life. Peter laid them out in the first chapter of this letter. In 1 Pet. 1:5 he said believers, “Are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” You can clean up a pig on the outside, but inside he’s still a pig. These false teachers can be clean on the outside, but on the inside, they’re the same as always. They’re just like the Pharisees when Jesus when said, “You are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead man’s bones and all uncleanness.” (Matt. 23:27) Only Jesus can truly transform the inside of a person – the soul of a person. So what of Peter’s statement that they’d be better off not knowing the truth? Because these false teachers were still in the church, Peter addressed them with Christian type language. They had the appearance of faith, but Peter did not consider them to be Christians not because they lost their salvation, but because they never had a faith to begin with. It doesn’t make much sense to say they’d be better off not knowing if they were truly saved.

1 Jo. 2:19 is very clear that people who have a genuine faith will never walk away from Jesus. The only possibility for walking away means there was no salvation. These false teachers seemed to change, but they are just like the pigs that were washed on the outside only to return to the mud. They were always unclean.

False Teachers are Animals

10 Jun

Dragon AttackYou can listen to the podcast here.

Last week Peter told us that false teachers indulged their flesh. They despised authority and had very high opinions of themselves. The false teachers were bold and arrogant and because of this, God’s judgment of them is right, proper, and just. This morning, Peter wastes no time in telling it like it is.

2 Pet. 2:12-13 tells us, “But these, like unreasoning animals, born as creatures of instinct to be captured and killed, reviling where they have no knowledge, will in the destruction of those creatures also be destroyed, suffering wrong as the wages of doing wrong. They count it a pleasure to revel in the daytime. They are stains and blemishes, reveling in their deceptions, as they carouse with you.”

Peter describes these false teachers by saying they are, “Like unreasoning animals.” Remember they had a high opinion of themselves. The KJV translations calls them, “brute beasts.” Consider this phrase because it really is quite harsh. Peter says the behavior of these false teachers is, “like unreasoning animals, born as creatures of instinct.” The false teachers prided themselves on their intellect. They act on instinct rather than reason. They are controlled by their feelings. Animals act without reason. In the wild, animals don’t kill for fun; they kill when they’re hungry or threatened. These false teachers acted on their desires and feelings rather than upon reason. I’m not saying deny your feelings, God gave them to you, but don’t be like false teachers. We hear all the time people saying, “I feel like the Lord . . .” Don’t tell me you “feel” in a way that is contrary to Scripture. Don’t tell me some spiritual mumbo jumbo and cover it by telling me you have peace about it. I’m put on edge very quickly when people throw out that spiritual talk when it’s obvious they haven’t consulted God or His Word about anything. They’re not using reason, they’re using feelings. Feelings will typically get you in trouble when you allow them to control your actions.

Peter is considering what happens to animals. They are, “Captured and killed.” Think about this. Animals were designed by God for us to have dominion over, to provide meat for us to eat and skin to cloth ourselves. They’re captured and killed. The false teachers are like unreasoning animals. If that’s not bad enough, these false teachers revile, “Where they have no knowledge.” While Peter is talking about false teachers, I think this really describes the church world that we live in. Remember revile comes from the same word where we get blaspheme. Blaspheme in general, means to show a lack of respect, or to speak irreverently about God or His Word. People today do this frequently and perhaps may not even know it. They’ll tell me all kinds of things about God, the Bible, their behavior, their opinions, etc. where they have no knowledge. You’ve heard it too. God is love and therefore wouldn’t condemn people to hell. God wants me to be happy and He doesn’t want me to live like this. I don’t have to participate in the things of God to be a good Christian. I know it’s wrong, but I hope God will forgive me. These kind of statements are just like the false teachers that spoke wrongly about God. Before you say dumb things, at the very least check out what God says in His Word. Listen to what happens to them, “But these [false teachers] will in the destruction of those creatures also be destroyed.” The same thing that happens to the animals will happen to the false teachers. Destruction is coming.

Peter’s condemnation continues in the next verse. Sometimes we wonder when judgment will come. We don’t wonder about ourselves, but for others. When are people going to pay for what they’ve done? I don’t know the time or the place, but it will come. Peter begins a series of short sentences. He begins the series in v. 13 by saying, “Suffering wrong as the wages of doing wrong.” Wrong here actually means injure. In other words, they reap what they sow. When you sow bad seeds, you get bad crops. Gal. 6:8, “For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.” These people will be injured for injuring others. Jer. 4:22, “For My people are foolish, they know Me not; they are stupid children and have no understanding. They are shrewd to do evil, but to do good they do not know.” You get what you give. “They count it a pleasure to revel in the daytime.” Nothing good happens after midnight. They are so consumed with evil that they don’t wait until dark to engage in their illicit behavior.  Rom. 13:12-13, “The night is almost gone, and the day is near. Therefore let us lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us behave properly as in the day, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual promiscuity and sensuality, not in strife and jealousy.” The daytime is when normal people work and instead these false teachers are indulging in their pleasures. “They are stains and blemishes.” Remember these false teachers were in the church according to 2:1. What they engage in, what they practice, their manner of life leaves a stain on the congregation. “Reveling in their deceptions, as they carouse with you.” Revel means gain great pleasure from. Carouse means lively drinking party. These false teachers are not alone, they’re engaging in these activities with people from the church, because the people from the church have been deceived.

Once again, Peter declares that it really does matter what you do in life. Be careful who you hang out with and what they lead you to do. Know the truth and follow it. There are no excuses.