No Regrets

No RegretYou can check out the podcast here.

If we think about our lives even for just a moment, we’ll think of things we could have done differently; things we shouldn’t have done, decisions we’d like a do over on. I call it what if land and it’s not a good place to be. The Apostle Paul provides us some excellent insight in his letter to the Philippians. This letter differs in some respects from any of Paul’s other letters. It contains less logic and more of the heart. His letter to the Romans has incredible logic. His letters to the Corinthians rebuked certain prevalent sins. Galatians rebukes a dangerous heresy that threatened the welfare of the Galatian churches. Ephesians unfolds the mystery of God in reference to the Gentiles. This letter is the outpouring of the love towards one of the most affectionate and faithful of all congregations which he had planted. The church at Philippi was founded in A.D. 50 or 51 (Acts 16). On his second missionary journey, Paul, led by a vision at Troas, crossed into Europe, landed at Neapolis and went directly to Philippi. Why Philippi?  It was “a leading city of the district of Macedonia.” (Acts 16:12) It is interesting to note that this was the first church planted in Europe.

Take a careful look at the incredible words of Phil. 3:1-14.

Paul begins with what is not the Way. He starts by this third chapter by telling the church what the way is not. Religious ceremonies are not the way. Paul was, “circumcised the eighth day, of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the Law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to the righteousness which is in the Law, found blameless.”  (Phil 3:5-6) If anybody had a heritage to brag about it was Paul. He met all the religious requirements of a good Jew. “Circumcised the eighth day.” In strict compliance with the Law. “Of the nation of Israel.” He could trace his lineage as far back as any Jew. “From the tribe of Benjamin.” Remember that the tribe of Benjamin and the tribe of Judah were the only two tribes not to revolt under the leadership of Jeroboam and maintained their allegiance to God. The tribe of Benjamin was physically located next to the temple. “A Hebrew of Hebrews.” He belonged to a tribe that was as honorable as any other, and that had its location near the very center of religious influence; both of his parents were Jewish with no mixture of Gentile blood. Not one of his ancestors had been a proselyte, or of Gentile extraction. Paul says he was entitled to all the advantages which could be derived from it. “A Pharisee.” The Pharisees strictly adhered to every letter of the law. “So then, all Jews know my manner of life from my youth up, which from the beginning was spent among my own nation and at Jerusalem.” (Acts 26:4) If religion could save anyone, it certainly would have saved Paul. “Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law.” He was zealous in his persecution of the church who he thought was in great error in doctrine. As a Jew and a Pharisee, he believed righteousness was found in the Law.

Notice how Paul introduces his religion to the Philippians: “Beware of the dogs, beware of the evil workers, beware of the false circumcision; for we are the true circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh.” (Phil 3:2-3) Look at the warnings. Dogs – the greatest insult you could give someone. The Jews called the heathen dogs, and Islam calls Jews and Christians by the same name. The term dog also is used to identify a person that is shameless, impudent, malignant, snarling, dissatisfied, and contentious. Evil workers. Probably the same people Paul considered dogs – Jews who taught that religion saved you. False circumcision – from the Greek word meaning to mutilate. These dogs and false teachers were not truly circumcised. True circumcision comes after salvation as a sign of obedience; it does not cause salvation. But Paul says, “For we are the true circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh.” (Phil 3:3) We are the circumcision. We worship God the only way one can worship God – in Spirit. We rejoice in Christ Jesus and place no confidence in the flesh.

What is the way to God? You’ve got to look at verses 7-11 to find out. All things were loss except the knowledge of Christ Knowledge in this verse is the Greek word gnosis. This is head knowledge. Anything he had mentally. His seven religious credentials. In v. 8 Paul says, “I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ.” “Suffered the loss” comes from a Greek word that means to willingly give up. Paul gave up “all things.” Anything thing that someone might depend on for salvation: works, religion, heritage, earthly favor, position. Paul considered it rubbish. Rubbish comes from the word that means excrement. Just as you rid your body of waste, Paul wanted to rid himself all of the earthly advantages and Jewish privileges as a means of obtaining salvation. Why?  Look at what Paul says: “That I may gain Christ.”

In verses 9 and 10, Paul speaks of his own righteousness which comes from the Law. Paul wants the righteousness of Christ which can only come through faith. What is faith? Faith comes from the Greek word pistis meaning a strong and welcome conviction or belief that Jesus is the Messiah, through whom we obtain eternal salvation in the kingdom of God. “That I may know him.” This is a different know. This is from the Greek word meaning to know and understand. Paul wants to know Christ so he could share in His sufferings and be conformed to His death. This knowledge or understanding of Christ’s sufferings is obtained by experiencing the daily challenges and needs of ministry that will draw us closer to Christ. Sharing in the Lord’s sufferings will bring you into a more meaningful and intimate relationship with Christ. Comfortable or conformed unto death has a double meaning here. Just as Jesus died because of the sin of the world, Paul is dying more and more to sin in his daily life. Remember that Paul is in prison as he writes and is prepared to die for Christ if that is what’s necessary.

In v. 11 Paul desires to attain the resurrection of the dead. In v. 12 he denies that he has attained it. The word “attained” means to have arrived at the goal and won the prize, but without having as yet received it. Paul knows Christ, but not to the fullest extent possible. He has experienced God’s power, but not to the degree he desires. He has been made like Jesus in His death, but Paul can still die to sin and self. Paul walks in newness of life, but there is still room for improvement. Paul didn’t think he arrived after 25 years of serving the Lord, so we shouldn’t either. In verse 13 Paul says, “Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead.” Notice that Paul forgets those things that are in the past. The wrongs you have done. The sins you have committed. The things you should have done, but never did. The things Satan tells you cannot be forgiven. Put all of them behind you and forget them. In his pursuit to know Christ, Paul refuses to let guilt drag him down and doesn’t rest on past accomplishments. We don’t sail on yesterday’s wind. He’s pressing toward the mark. What is the mark? The mark is contained in vs. 10 and 11. Be like minded with Paul because his thinking comes from the Lord.  If you don’t think like Paul, the Lord will reveal it to you.

Are you living in the past or allowing Christ to renew and refresh you? Are you repeating mistakes or sins of the past? Rom. 8:1 reminds us, “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

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Jude’s Doxology

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

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

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

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.

Total Self-Centeredness

Narcissist

You can listen to the podcast here.

Last time we were in Jude, he spoke of Enoch’s prophecy regarding the second coming of Christ. Jesus is coming again to execute judgment. He will convict the ungodly for all their ungodly deeds that were done in an ungodly manner. He will also convict those ungodly sinners for the harsh things they said. This morning, Jude continues describing the creepers in some very graphic terms.

Jude 16 says, “These are grumblers, finding fault, following after their own lusts; they speak arrogantly, flattering people for the sake of gaining an advantage.”

Can it get any worse? Is Jude piling on? He’s blasted the creeper’s theology, he’s blasted their doctrine, he’s blasted their character and motives. Jude has compared the creepers to some of the most rebellious men of Scripture. Are you getting to a point where you’re thinking, enough is enough? The Holy Spirit through Jude wants to be sure we get it. Jude would be deemed intolerant by today’s standards. So the answer to the question is yes, it can get worse. For clarity’s sake let’s review. Verse 4 tells us that certain men snuck into the church and no one noticed. These men, these creepers turned the grace of God into a license to sin and denied the Lord Jesus Christ. Nobody recognized their impure motives, their unbiblical teaching, or their inconsistent lifestyle. It appears they were accepted into leadership without reservation and were serving themselves according to v. 12. Not only do we need to be aware of people like this, we must lovingly confront them with truth.

Jude’s not finished describing the creepers. To be sure, he is still talking about the same guys he first mentioned in v. 4. “These are” refers back to the men Jude began this letter talking about and he has something else to add. It also points to those people that Enoch prophesied about. If we move too quickly through these verses, we’ll miss the significance of this letter and potentially lose what God wants to show us. These men are, “grumblers.” The word means to complain. We don’t know exactly what they complained about. The point is that Jude characterized them by their attitude. These men “find fault” This is a very dangerous habit to develop. It’s very easy to point the finger at others and see how they don’t measure up. It’s very safe to believe that everyone else is messed up, that you’re the one that’s good, doing everything you should be doing, but those people, everyone else, well they just need to get right with Jesus. Remember these men are in the church in leadership type positions and they find fault. It’s always someone else. Have you ever had an opportunity to speak with someone like that, someone that is without fault; someone that had arrived?

They “follow after their own lusts.” Instead of discovering how they could invest in others, they did what satisfied their own pleasure. Instead of seeking how they could serve people, they were wondering and complaining about why they weren’t being served. When you are pursuing things with tunnel vision, with a total self-centeredness, it’s easy to see how everyone else around you will be ignored. They had a, “What’s in it for me” attitude. “They speak arrogantly.” Arrogant means having an exaggerated sense of your own ability or importance. Keeping in mind what you know about these guys, this makes sense doesn’t it. They snuck in and availed themselves of leadership and used that influence for their own gain. They think they are all that. If it weren’t for them, the church would crumble. The truth is the church is weakened because of people like this. Some people think they are God’s gift to the church. They think the church exists to fulfill their personal desires for fulfillment and satisfaction and when the church cannot meet their unrealistic goals, they leave or they force others to leave. We sometimes see this in churches where there are a couple of power people.

We’ve got to remember that the church exists for one primary purpose. Following His resurrection, Jesus gave His followers a very important two pronged mandate. He said, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matt. 28:19-20) So why have we complicated that simple instruction? In fact, some have misinterpreted the verse to emphasize the going part, but the Greek sentence structure actually emphasizes the disciple making process that is the most important thing we will ever do and it begins with the conversion decision. There likely is a lot of love and time invested in a person prior to the decision to become a Christ follower. When we fall prey to the idea that the church exists to provide for the material needs of the people instead of the spiritual needs, we’ve missed it. There are many wonderful things the church does and should do, but the focus must be on discipleship. That’s another reason the creepers were so dangerous: they really didn’t care about truth or people unless it was their version of truth or unless it somehow benefited them.

What’s the creeper’s motive? Fundamentally, Satan knows he cannot destroy us. That being said, there are tools he uses to negatively impact our walk with Christ. He uses doubt, discouragement, depression, circumstantial happiness, and busyness among a long list of other things to get us off track. Recognizing this fact is just the beginning. If you know it, but don’t act on it, what good does it do to know it? What motivated the creepers? At least one thing is greed. Peter said they, “loved the wages of unrighteousness” in 2 Pet. 2:15. Here Jude says they, “Flatter people for the sake of gaining an advantage.” This is yet another piece of evidence to support the idea that they really do know what they are doing. They say nice things about people or to people so they will be rewarded the comforts of life. They were charmers. Going back to v. 11, the advantage is likely money.

It’s funny how these men grumble and complain, yet they still manage to gain an advantage by talking. The people in the church do not recognize what is happening and they are being duped by these false teachers. 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) I wonder . . . is Jude talking about the same thing that Paul warned Timothy about?

Grave Danger

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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?