Sermons

Jude: Words of Praise & Glory – Jude 1:24-25

Jude 1:24-25

So, let me invite you to take your copy of God’s Word and turn one final time to the little epistle of Jude. We’ve been studying this tiny 25-verse letter for about eight weeks now and we’re here this morning, at the end of the journey. Jude, you remember, was not one of the twelve but was a child of Joseph and Mary and therefore a half-brother of Jesus Himself. He was used by God and inspired by the Holy Spirit to write this important epistle. And the conclusion is, in some ways, the high point of all of it. Let me read the final two verses:

24 Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of His glory with great joy, 25 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.

“Father, with our Bibles open, we ask that You grant us the enabling of the Holy Spirit to speak and hear and understand, to believe and obey and walk in the pathway of Your choosing. So, accomplish Your purposes in us, we pray. In Christ’s name. Amen.”

If I asked you what the most important truth in the whole realm of salvation was, what would you say? Which doctrine, would you say, is most crucial in the amazing, profound, blessed, and gracious mixture of doctrines that make up soteriology? (Soteriology is just the fancy theologian’s term for the study of our salvation.) Which part of God’s saving promise is most encouraging, most satisfying, most attractive, and most comforting to you?

Now, of course, all the doctrines of salvation are necessary and all the doctrines of salvation are precious. But one of them stands out as the most attractive of all, the most valuable of all. Of course, to some degree, this is a subjective question because the Bible doesn’t explicitly answer it for us but I believe the answer is eternal security, otherwise known as – and perhaps more accurately known as – the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints. Perseverance of the saints is that biblical truth that says once you’re saved, then you’re saved forever. Or to put it in the negative sense, if you’ve received eternal life, then you can never lose it. Now, I’m not diminishing the glories of the doctrine of justification. I’m not diminishing the glories of the doctrine of regeneration. I’m not diminishing the glories of the doctrine of conversion or adoption or reconciliation or redemption or ransom.

But I’ll tell you this; all those doctrines would be diminished, to some degree or another, if salvation was not forever. Take the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints away and all those other doctrines are depreciated. Take that doctrine away and your joy, confidence, assurance, rest, comfort, and hope are significantly downgraded and justifiably replaced with doubt, fear, anxiety, and worry.

The call to salvation is so demanding, so all-consuming that it involves the total commitment of everything I have to Christ. It’s an abandonment of all my efforts. It’s the end of me and I yield up everything to Christ. I come empty-handed. As the old hymn says, “Nothing in my hand I bring, simply to thy cross I cling” (Rock of Ages, Augustus Toplady). Having given up all that to be forgiven, having given up all that to be rescued from hell, having given up all that to receive the promise of heaven, only to be told that this deal comes without a guarantee is the epitome of hopelessness?

“You’re asking a lot out of me, Jesus. You mean to tell me that if I give myself up totally to You to be my Lord and Master, then You might not keep me? You might not hold onto me? You’re telling me there’s no assurance that I’m going to make it to heaven?” That makes it even more difficult, if not almost impossible, to make this level of commitment. That’s huge.

And believe me, there are many Christians who come from church backgrounds or are presently attending churches that espouse this. The theology in those churches would run something like this, “Yes, you’re saved by grace, but your salvation is ultimately up to you to maintain, and if you don’t do enough, or you do the wrong things, then you might just lose it, you might just end up in hell even though you repented of your sin and confessed Jesus as your Lord and Savior.” To that I say (and the Bible says), if the Lord can’t hold onto me, I have no hope. If salvation isn’t God’s work, then I’m not going to get there. If it’s not His work, and He doesn’t hold me, and He doesn’t keep me, and He doesn’t preserve me, I won’t make it. I can’t save myself. If He doesn’t sanctify me, I can’t sanctify myself. And if He doesn’t glorify me, I can’t glorify myself. If He doesn’t keep me, I can’t keep myself. I’m not good enough to save myself, and I’m certainly not good enough to keep myself. I will never be worthy of salvation. I wasn’t in the past, and I’m not now.

Let me put it another way. If you could lose your salvation, you would. If any part of my eternal salvation depends upon my power, and my ability, and my commitment, and my righteousness, then I won’t get there and neither will you. You have no capacity to save yourself (spiritually) and you have no capacity to keep yourself saved. You’re still fallen. I’m still fallen. I still have unredeemed human flesh. I’m prone to sin. I’m prone to doubt. I’m prone to unbelief. I’m prone to rebellion. I’m prone to pride. Frankly, I fall to those things, as we all do, and all sorts of accusations could be successfully brought against me.

Satan could go to God’s throne and lay out a formidable and increasingly longer list of the sins of Lee Norris. And the longer I live, the longer the list gets. All kinds of accusations could be brought against me by God Himself, who knows everything. All sorts of accusations could be brought against me by Christ. Every conceivable accusation could be brought against me by the Holy Spirit, who lives within me. And all kinds of accusations could be drawn out on a list that are brought to my attention by my own conscience.

And, frankly, the accumulated list would be horrific – and so would yours. For every one of us, there is a staggering list of indictments. There is a staggering list of disqualifications. We continue to violate God’s law. We continue to be idolatrous. We continue to be wicked. And believe me, the list is sufficient to condemn us all. If we can lose our salvation, then the purpose of God is thwarted, the power of God is diminished, and the plan of God is contingent. We would have to redefine election. We would have to redefine justification, sanctification, and glorification. It turns the entire gospel on its head. And like so many matters in life, it’s the guarantee that seals the deal.

“Gee, Pastor. Thanks a lot for this uplifting sermon. I mean, this is why people don’t want to come to church. They don’t want to be beat up on.” No, there’s a reason why we’re starting here. First, it’s true and biblical. Second, it’s only when we have a correct view of our sinfulness, as compared to God’s grace in redeeming any of us that we are brought to a place of praise and worship. Those who are keenly aware of their sin in light of God’s amazing grace are the ones who smile the most, sing the loudest, clap their hands, and want everyone to know about Jesus. Just talk to our Kairos Prison Ministry Volunteers or those who serve meals to the homeless at Slater Baptist or volunteer at Piedmont Women’s Center or Miracle Hill or Starlight at Tamassee.

And that’s precisely what happens to Jude. After instructing us to be vigilant and to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints, he finally bursts forth in praise to the only God, the only Savior who, through Jesus Christ our Lord, is to receive all honor, and all glory, and all majesty, and all dominion, and all authority forever, because He’s the One who is able to keep us and make us stand in His presence. So, we end by considering praise, preservation, and presentation.

Praise

The word “doxology” is a combination of the Greek words doxa and logosdoxa meaning “glory” or “praise” and logos meaning “word.” So, technically speaking a doxology is glory words or praise words. We’d clean it up and call a doxology “words of praise and glory,” and the Bible is filled with them. Each of the five books of Psalms – the 150 Psalms are divided into five books. At the end of each of the five books is a doxology (Psalm 41:13; 72:18-19; 89:52; 106:48; and the entirety of Psalm 150). So, the songbook of the redeemed was punctuated with responses of praise for God’s glorious work among His people. Not to mention David’s magnificent doxology in 1 Chronicles 29:10-13:

“Blessed are You, O LORD, the God of Israel our father, forever and ever. Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is Yours. Yours is the kingdom, O LORD, and You are exalted as head above all. Both riches and honor come from You, and You rule over all. In Your hand are power and might, and in Your hand it is to make great and to give strength to all. And now we thank You, our God, and praise Your glorious name.”

And what about the New Testament? Angels sang a doxology at Christ’s birth, remember? “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom He is pleased” (Luke 2:14)! On Palm Sunday, the crowd gave a doxology at Christ’s arrival in Jerusalem when they hailed Him as Messiah. “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest” (Luke 19:38)!

The New Testament is filled with doxologies. And none of them ever deal with mundane matters. They always deal with salvation. They’re words of grateful praise to God for saving sinners. Beloved, doxology is a foretaste of heaven. That’s what we’re going to spend forever doing – declaring doxology – ascribing glory and honor and majesty and power and dominion and authority to our great God.

In Galatians 1:3-5, Paul can’t even get past his introduction without saying, “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and Lord Jesus Christ who gave Himself for our sins that He might deliver us out of this present evil age according to the will of our God and Father to whom be the glory forevermore. Amen.” You find this kind of spontaneous Holy Spirit-energized doxology all throughout the New Testament.

I love the one at the end of the Epistle to the Romans where Paul says “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 but is now manifest 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” (16:25-27). And that’s how Paul doxologizes the end of the great Roman letter.

Writing his wonderful first epistle to Timothy, Paul says “Now, to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen” (1 Timothy 1:17, NIV). And what’s he saying that for? Where is it coming from? “Because I, the chief of sinners, foremost of all, found mercy” (1 Timothy 1:15, paraphrased).

Paul, writing at the close of his life, the last few strokes of his pen, says, “The Lord will deliver me from every evil deed and bring me safely to His heavenly Kingdom. To Him be the glory forever and ever. Amen” (2 Timothy 4:18). Paul knew he was secure. Doxology. Praise. Glory. And Jude does the same thing. He bursts into a doxology that calms our fears, and fuels our hopes, and gives us joy. And the first reason that Jude gives us for these mighty words of praise and glory is preservation.

Preservation

“Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling…” It’s a present active participle. It’s not “Him who was able.” It’s not “Him who used to be able.” And it’s not even the future, “Him who will be able.” It’s the present active participle “Him who IS able.” In any moment that you call “now,” God is able. The Greek word is dunamai. It’s the word from which we get the English “dynamite.” It means “to be able,” or “to have power.” Have you noticed the references to God’s power in Jude? Back in verses 5-7, Jude reminds us that our God delivered Israel from Egypt, He took the fallen angels and locked them up until the day of judgment, and He has the power to take Sodom and Gomorrah and overthrow it in a minute. God has done in a minute what Putin has failed to do in over 2.5 years. Our God is able.

And the New Testament is loaded with testimonies to the power of God. Listen to 2 Corinthians 9:8, “And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.” Wow! So, where sin abounds, grace does what? (Abounds all the more – Romans 5:20.) He is able to supply all the grace that’s needed to cover every sin.

Ephesians 3:20 says, “Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly 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.” Here’s another doxology right in the middle of a letter by Paul, and he bursts into doxology because he comprehends that God is able. Able to do what? (Keep us…)

It’s a military word – “to guard or watch over” – different from the word used back in verse 21, “keep yourselves in the love of God.” That word means “to hold or to possess.” This word means God is able to guard us. He’s at His post. We’re in safe custody while under assault; that’s what that word means. He keeps us from aptaistos, “falling, stumbling.” It’s the only place in the Bible where that word is used. He keeps us from apostasy. You can’t fall away because He keeps you from becoming an apostate. How does He do it? By the gift of a permanent faith, a new heart, and the indwelling Holy Spirit. He hangs onto us.

We know this because of so many testimonies in Scripture. I go back to John 10:28, “I gave eternal life to them and they shall never perish.” Does that seem to say it? “And no one shall snatch them out of My hand,” Jesus said. “My Father who has given them to Me is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.” Jesus says, “I won’t let go, the Father won’t let go, and no one is powerful to force us to release anyone.” That’s why Philippians 1:6 says, “He that begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.” Our Lord has the will and the power to preserve us.

Presentation

Secondly, to present us. This is just incredible. “Now to Him who is able to keep you from falling and to make you stand in the presence of His glory, blameless with great joy.” In the Greek, it’s “to set you or to present you.” Right now, we stand in grace (Romans 5:1-2,) but then we’ll stand in glory. This is the opposite of falling; this is standing. This is enduring to the end. This is the perseverance of the saints. True believers have been given a faith that endures. “And He who keeps us will set us in the presence of His glory.”

Back up a couple of pages into 1 John 2:19. This is a very important verse because, you say, “I know people who went to church and I know people that confessed Christ and they’re no longer around and now they deny Him.” Here’s what explains that. “They went out from us, they were not really of us. If they had been of us, they would have remained with us. But they went out in order that it might be shown that they all are not all of us” (1 John 2:19). When somebody leaves and falls away, abandons the faith, they were never true believers in the first place.

Ah, verse 20, “But you, you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you all know. I haven’t written to you because you don’t know the truth, but because you do know it.” And verse 23 says, “Whoever denies the Son doesn’t have the Father. The one who confesses the Son has the Father.” If you ever truly confessed the Son, you will always confess the Son. If you ever truly believed in the Son, you will always believe in the Son and the Father. When somebody falls away, it’s because they were never genuine followers of Jesus.

But the statement here is not about standing on earth. Being kept has to do with earth; standing has to do with heaven, standing in the presence of His glory. All this means is He keeps us here and takes us there.

Whenever you read in the Bible about somebody who was in the presence of God, it’s a horrific, traumatic experience, right? Isaiah pronounces a curse on himself. Ezekiel falls over like a dead person. Peter, James, and John on the Mount of Transfiguration fall over in a semi-coma. John, in the book of Revelation, sees the vision of Christ and is like a dead person. Just absolutely scared out of their wits so that they faint. Whenever anybody is in the presence of God in Scripture, it is a frightening experience because they know they’re sinful.

But someday we will stand in the presence of His glory. What’s the next word? (Blameless.) We will be blameless. We will be faultless. Not only will we not violate God’s law, but we’ll keep every bit of it all the time forever. It’s not just that we’ll be there in the absence of sin, but we’ll be there in the presence of holiness. Not only will we not be capable of doing evil, we’ll only be capable of doing right. We’ll have every power and every passion emancipated from evil and devoted only to holiness.

And we’ll be there with our heads lifted up, blameless before God. And instead of fear and trauma and panic and fainting, we’ll be overwhelmed with joy. Joy forever. Joy is another word that defines what heaven will be like. Zephaniah 3:17, tells us another aspect of heavenly joy. Listen to this, “The Lord your God will rejoice over you with joy. He will joy over you with singing.” Isn’t that great? Not only will we sing praise to God, but He’s going to sing praise concerning us. Jesus went to the cross for the joy that was set before Him. And what’s that joy going to be? Fellowship with us. He’s going to rejoice over us. God’s going to rejoice over us and we’re going to rejoice over the Lord and over the Father.

Let me close by quoting that great Victorian preacher Charles Spurgeon. He wrote, “I think that’s the most wonderful text in the whole Bible. God Himself singing? I can imagine when the world was made, the morning stars sang together, shouting for joy. But God didn’t sing. He said it was very good, that’s all. There was no song. But when all the chosen race shall meet around the throne, the joy of the eternal Father shall swell so high that God will burst into infinite song. [A]nd when I heard it said that the Lord would keep His people right to the end, when I heard it said that Christ said, ‘My sheep hear My voice and I know them and they follow Me and I give them eternal life and they shall never perish, neither shall any pluck them out of My hand,’ when I heard that said, I must confess that the doctrine of the final preservation of the saints was the bait that my soul could not resist. It was sort of a life insurance, an insurance of my character, an insurance of my soul, an insurance of my eternal destiny. I knew I couldn’t keep myself, but if Christ promised to keep me, then I would be safe forever, and I longed and I prayed to find Christ because I knew that if I found Him, He would not give me a temporary salvation, as some preach, but eternal life, which could never be lost, the living and incorruptible seed, which lives and abides forever, for no one and nothing could ever separate me from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Doxology. Praise and worship. Why? Well, among other things He is able to keep us from falling and to present us blameless before the presence of His glory. I like that, and I think you do too. Let’s pray:

“Lord, it’s to You, the only God, our Savior, a God who is by nature a Savior, to whom we come through Jesus Christ, our Lord. It’s to You that all glory, meaning, adoration, praise, and worship belong, before all time, now and forever. We give You all the glory and all the praise, and we say amen, amen, amen, let it be, let it be, let it be.

And if this were not true, all our praise for our salvation would be a prop for our fears. All of our praise, adoration, and worship songs would be a mental game to feel good and override our fears. But it’s true, You will keep us and You will present us in Your holy presence, faultless with great joy. It’s in that confident expression that our worship is rendered to You and we praise You in Jesus’ name. Amen.”

The Ultimate Promise Keeper – Joshua 21:41-45; 23:14

Joshua 21:41-45; 23:14

(GUEST MINISTER: Rev. Harold Parks)

We live in a world where promises are broken every single day. Promises to yourself – “I promise I am going to read my Bible every day.” Promises to your children – “I promise I’ll take to you the beach this summer.” Promises to your spouse – “I promise to love you ‘till death do us part.” The list goes on…promises to friends, promises to your employer and coworkers…and yes, even promises to God.

Here is a funny little story of man’s broken promises: A dying man gives each of his best friends — a lawyer, doctor and clergyman — an envelope containing $25,000 in cash to be placed in his coffin. A week later the man dies and the friends each place an envelope in the coffin. Several months later, the clergyman confesses he only put $10,000 in the envelope and sent the rest to a mission in South America. The doctor confesses that his envelope had only $8,000 because he donated to a medical charity. The lawyer is outraged, “I am the only one who kept the promise to our dying friend. I want you both to know I placed in the coffin an envelope with my own personal check for the entire $25,000.”

When promises are made, we expect them to be kept. But, as is often the case, they are often broken. Of course, I am talking about human promises. It’s another story, however, when God makes his promises. God always has and always will keep his promises. Like the old hymn says, “God’s promises are sure.”

God’s Promises

According to one of my resources, Dr. Everek R. Storms of Ontario, Canada, spent a vast amount of time studying the promises of Scripture. Writing in Contact Magazine, he said: “The Holy Scriptures contain a grand total of 8,810 promises. How do I know? I counted them. “All my life I have seen various figures quoted as to the number of promises in the Bible. The one most generally given is 30,000. Since this is a round number with four zeroes in it, I have always been a little suspicious about it. Furthermore, since there are only 31,101 verses in the Bible, it would mean that there would be practically one promise in every verse. I do not guarantee my count to be perfect, but it is the most accurate I know of.”

Dr. Storms goes on to classify the promises found in Scripture into eight kinds:
1. There are 7,487 promises from God to man (about 85 percent of all the Bible promises).
2. There are 991 instances of one person making a promise to another person.
3. There are 290 promises from man to God.
4. There are promises made by angels, most of them found in Luke.
5. There are nine promises made by “that old liar, the devil.” (For example, his promise to give Jesus all the kingdoms of the world if he would fall down and worship him.)
6. Two promises are made by an “evil spirit.”
7. Two are made by God [to his] Son.
8. Dr. Storms additionally found that one book of the Bible contains no promises at all—Titus. Ephesians has only six promises. On the other hand, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel have over 1,000 promises each.

What section of Scripture most impressed Dr. Storms? He wrote, “The most outstanding chapter as far as promises are concerned is Psalm 37. Practically every verse is a most wonderful promise.” (Preacher’s Sourcebook of Creative Sermon Illustrations, Robert J. Morgan.)

These are a lot of promises, for sure. And the ones that have the most meaning for each one of us has to do with God’s plan of salvation. The Word of God is based upon the promise that if we accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, he will save us and give us eternal life in God’s coming Kingdom. Without that promise, all the other ones are of little or no value.

God’s promises are a key aspect of His character. They are His covenant with us, His commitment to us, and His assurance to us. They are the guarantee of His faithfulness and love.

In the book of Joshua we see God’s promises being fulfilled in a very tangible way. The Israelites, after years of wandering in the wilderness, finally take possession of the Promised Land. This was a promise God had made to their ancestors, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. And despite the many obstacles and challenges they faced, God was faithful to His promise.

A reminder for us today: No matter what we’re going through, no matter how difficult or impossible our circumstances may seem, we can trust in God’s promises. He is a God who keeps His word. He is a God who is faithful to His promises.

What exactly are God’s promises?: They are His assurances to us, His commitments to us. They are His guarantees of His love, His grace, His mercy, His provision, His protection, His presence, and His peace. They are His promises of salvation, eternal life, and a future hope.

Not just for the Israelites in the Old Testament: They are for us today. As the apostle Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 1:20, “For no matter how many promises God has made, they are ‘Yes’ in Christ. And so through him the ‘Amen’ is spoken by us to the glory of God.”

All of God’s promises are fulfilled in Christ: They are guaranteed in Christ. They are secured in Christ. And they are available to us through faith in Christ.

As A.W. Tozer once said: “God is looking for people through whom He can do the impossible. What a pity that we plan only the things we can do by ourselves.” This quote reminds us that God’s promises often involve things that are humanly impossible. But with God, all things are possible.

God’s Faithfulness

I’m reminded of a quote from Josh McDowell, who once said, “Knowing that God is faithful, it really helps me to not be captivated by worry. But knowing that He will do what He has said, He will cause it to happen, whatever He has promised, and then it causes me to be less involved in worrying about a situation.”

When we delve into the concept of God’s faithfulness, it’s important to understand that it is an inherent attribute of His character. God’s faithfulness is the bedrock upon which we build our faith and trust in Him. It is His unwavering commitment to us, His children, that He will always fulfill His promises, regardless of the circumstances.

A demonstration of His faithfulness to the Israelites: He had promised them the land, and despite the numerous obstacles and challenges they faced, God fulfilled His promise. The Israelites took possession of the land and settled there, experiencing rest on every side. This was not due to their strength or might, but because of God’s faithfulness.

More than fulfilling promises: It’s about His constant presence in our lives. He is always there, guiding us, protecting us, and providing for us. Even when we are faithless, He remains faithful. In 2 Timothy 2:13, the apostle Paul reminds us, “If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.” This is a profound truth that should bring comfort and assurance to our hearts.

His unchanging nature: In a world that is constantly changing, God remains the same. His love for us never wavers, His mercy is new every morning, and His grace is sufficient for us. The writer of Hebrews assures us in Hebrews 13:8, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” This unchanging nature of God is a testament to His faithfulness.

His commitment to our transformation: God loves us just the way we are, but He refuses to leave us that way. He is committed to our growth and transformation into the likeness of His Son, Jesus Christ. This process may involve trials and challenges, but through it all, God remains faithful, using every situation for our good and His glory.

His justice: He is a righteous judge who will always do what is right. Even when we don’t understand His ways, we can trust in His faithfulness. He will always fulfill His promises and His word will never return void.

Understanding is crucial for our walk with Him: It builds our trust in Him and gives us the confidence to face any situation, knowing that our God is faithful and His promises are sure.

God’s Unfailing Love

As we look at Joshua 21:41-45, we see a clear picture of God’s unfailing love for His people. The Israelites had been through a lot – they had been slaves in Egypt, wandered in the wilderness for forty years, and faced numerous battles as they entered the Promised Land. Yet, throughout all of this, God’s love for them never wavered.

Joshua 23:14: Joshua reminds the Israelites that not one of God’s good promises has failed. Every single one has been fulfilled. This is a powerful testament to God’s unfailing love. Even when the Israelites were unfaithful, God remained faithful. His love for them did not depend on their actions or their faithfulness, but on His own steadfast love.

The same unfailing love that God has for us today: Just as He was faithful to the Israelites, He is faithful to us. His love for us is not based on our performance or our worthiness, but on His character and His promises. He loves us with an everlasting love, a love that never fails, a love that is always there, no matter what we do or don’t do.

The unfailing love of God: It’s a love that is steadfast, unwavering, and unconditional. It is a love that fulfills every promise, a love that gives us rest on every side, a love that delivers us from our enemies. It is a love that is always there for us, no matter what. This is the love that God has for us, and it is this love that we see so clearly throughout the book of Joshua.

The Ultimate Promise Keeper

Missionaries Dick and Margaret Hillis were caught in China during the Japanese invasion. The couple lived with their two children in the inland town of Shenkiu. The village was tense with fear, and every day brought terrifying reports of the Japanese advance. At the worst possible time, Dick developed appendicitis, and he knew his life depended on making the long journey by ricksha to the hospital. On January 15, 1941, with deep foreboding, Margaret watched him leave.

Soon the Chinese colonel came with news. The enemy was near and townspeople must evacuate. Margaret shivered, knowing that one-year-old Johnny and two-month-old Margaret Anne would never survive as refugees. So she stayed put. Early the next morning she tore the page from the wall calendar and read the new day’s Scripture. It was Psalm 56:3—“What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee.”

The town emptied during the day, and the next morning Margaret arose, feeling abandoned. The new verse on the calendar was Psalm 9:10—“Thou, Lord, hast not forsaken them that seek thee.”

The next morning she arose to distant sounds of gunfire and worried about food for her children. The calendar verse was Genesis 50:21—“I will nourish you and your little ones.” An old woman suddenly came to their house with a pail of steaming goat’s milk, and another straggler arrived with a basket of eggs.

Throughout the day, sounds of warfare grew louder, and during the night Margaret prayed for deliverance. The next morning she tore the page from the calendar to read Psalm 56:9—“When I cry unto thee, then shall mine enemies turn back.” The battle was looming closer, and Margaret didn’t go to bed that night. Invasion seemed imminent. But the next morning, all was quiet. Suddenly, villagers began returning to their homes, and the colonel knocked on her door. For some reason, he told her, the Japanese had withdrawn their troops. No one could understand it, but the danger had passed. They were safe.

This morning we’ve been reminded of the faithfulness of our God. Every promise He made, He kept. Every word He spoke, He fulfilled. That’s the God we serve. He’s not a God who changes His mind or goes back on His word.

Near the end of the book of Joshua there is a second verse that reminds us of God’s steadfast love and faithfulness toward us. It’s Joshua 23:14, “I am now going the way of all the earth, and you know with all your heart and all your soul that none of the good promises the LORD your God made to you has failed. Everything was fulfilled for you; not one promise has failed.”

As humans our promises are imperfect, but God is the Ultimate Promise Keeper. He is 100% faithful, 100% dependable, 100% trustworthy. He will not fail.

GOD IS THE ULTIMATE PROMISE KEEPER.

As we leave here today, let’s carry this truth in our hearts. Let’s remember that God’s promises are sure and His love never fails. Let’s strive to trust Him more, knowing that He is faithful to fulfill His promises.

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.

Jude: Reach Out – Jude 1:22-23

Jude 1:22-23

Let me invite you to take your copy of God’s Word and turn with me to the little book of Jude. If you’re visiting or haven’t been with us in a while, you can find this one-page 25-verse book immediately before the book of Revelation in the back of the New Testament. As I mentioned earlier, I will be out of town next weekend, so our last sermon will be on June 9. And I’m really looking forward to that because verses 24-25 make up one of the most beloved doxologies recorded in the entire Bible. In fact, if you bump into a Christian and ask them if they know anything about the book of Jude, assuming they know anything, then they’re likely going to recite verses 24-25. You, however, because of our time together, will be able to teach a two-month class (yeah?). Today, however, we’re going to consider verses 22-23. Let’s read them together, shall we?

22 And have mercy on those who doubt; 23 save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh.

“Father, what we know not please teach us. What we have not please give us. What we are not please make us. For Jesus’ sake. Amen.”

I don’t consider myself an art enthusiast and certainly not an expert, but Rembrandt’s works have always seemed to catch my attention. Perhaps that’s because Bob Jones University’s “living gallery” has tended to depict several of his masterpieces in their performances. Whatever the reason, one of Rembrandt’s most famous biblical scenes is known as The Return of the Prodigal Son (show picture).

It was painted between 1663 and 1665, near the end of Rembrandt’s life. As a young painter, he was popular in Amsterdam and successful with commissions to do portraits of all the important people of his day. He was known as arrogant and argumentative, but he participated in the circles of the very rich in society. Gradually, however, his life began to deteriorate:

First, he lost a son, then he lost his first daughter, then he lost his second daughter, then he lost his wife. Then, the woman he lived with ended up in a mental hospital and he married a second woman who also died.

Here was a man who experienced immense loneliness in his life. As he lived through these overwhelming losses and died many personal deaths along the way, Rembrandt could’ve become tremendously bitter, angry, and resentful. Instead, he became the one who was finally able to paint one of the most intimate paintings of all time. Two hundred years later, when Vincent van Gogh saw this painting he said, “You can only paint this painting when you have died many deaths.” Somehow, his loss and suffering emptied him so that he could receive fully and deeply the mercy of God. And that’s the last thing that Jude talks about before he closes his tiny letter with his wonderful doxology.

He has been sounding the alarm and warning the church (Christians like you and me) that certain people have crept in unnoticed, and they desire nothing more than to espouse false doctrines and undermine trust in Jesus. It’s worse than that, they really want to offer something different and lead believers into a position of denying the lordship of Christ. Then, he describes these people by offering us some bad images and examples of individuals from the Old Testament, before encouraging us to persevere, which is where we left off last week and where we pick up today.

Last week, Jude began his pep talk by telling us to remember to remain spiritually guarded. Remember that this is nothing new. Remember that the apostles said this would happen. Remember that it happened in Jesus’ day. And remember the gospel – people will make fun of you, people will try to get you to doubt, people will look down on you, but stay focused on the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus for the forgiveness of your sins. Then, he tells us to remain spiritually guided by growing in our faith, building ourselves up in the Word of God, praying, and loving God more than anything else. Today, he encourages us with another “R” word and that’s reach out: remember, remain, and now reach – or maybe we could use the word rescue.

You remember the Great Commission, after Jesus’ resurrection, where He says, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature” (that’s Mark’s version, 16:15). Perhaps you remember Matthew’s version better, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20). And that calling, that commission, that instruction is also meant for those who are our greatest threat and those who have gotten caught up in the trap of false teaching.

Now, there are three kinds of people, three categories of folks that Jude refers to here. I’ve mentioned throughout our study that Jude likes threes. He likes triplets. In the very first verse he identifies us as the called, the beloved, and the kept. He continues with a prayer for mercy, peace, and love. He illustrated these false teachers by using Israel, angels, and cities (Sodom and Gomorrah). He pointed to people like Cain, Balaam, and Korah. And now he’s calling out three types of people: the confused, the convinced, and the committed.

Mercy To The Confused

First, the confused. Jude says, “have mercy on those who doubt.” I take it that these confused people are folks that have heard the things that these false teachers were saying, and it’s not that they think it’s right, they just find themselves in a quandary. These aren’t people who are anti-Jesus. These aren’t people who are anti-gospel. These are just people who are confused. They’re doubting. They’re not sure what the truth is.

See if this doesn’t sound familiar. “Oh, no, I believe in Jesus. I mean, Jesus is whatever you want Him to be. If you want Him to be the Good Shepherd, that’s fine. If you want Him to be your Savior, that’s cool. But He doesn’t have to be your Master and Lord. Who uses that language anymore. That’s oppressive.” Here’s another line of argumentation that false teachers use, “Umm, I know you listen to sermons and attend Bible studies and all the rest, but have you ever considered your dreams? God has spoken to me in some pretty amazing dreams. They seem more direct and more spiritual than praying and reading the Bible.” And it’s possible that these confused folks were giving some consideration, but they weren’t sure.

False teachers always go after people who are weak, those who are vulnerable, those who are immature in their faith, “spiritual infants tossed to and fro and carried about by every wind of doctrine” (Ephesians 4:14); those who aren’t strong in doctrine, those who aren’t strong in fellowship with the Spirit of God, or strong in obedience; those who aren’t living with their eyes on the glory to come.

Where do they get introduced to this kind of false teaching? It might be in a book. It might be on the radio. It might be on “Christian television.” It might be in some seminar. It might be through some personal contact. It might be in literature that comes to their home. It could be a lot of ways. And maybe you’re sitting there thinking, “That’s me. I’m a little confused. I mean, I know that keeping the Ten Commandments doesn’t earn me any points with God, but I kinda thought not committing adultery was a good thing, and trying to be honest at work and not speaking falsely against people was a good thing, and trying to attend church and grow in my faith with a good thing, but there’s this guy I listen to on a podcast and he says there’s no need to get tied up with all of that, that I don’t have to be so serious, that I can lighten up and let my hair down.”

And what Jude is saying is “Love them to win them.” They’re not going to be won by argument. Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase (The Message) reads this way, “Go easy on those who hesitate in the faith.” Go easy on them. I’m not suggesting that you diminish the gospel. I’m not suggesting that we do anything other than contend for the gospel. But it says, “When you come across those who are really struggling with this, here’s your mentality – have mercy on them.”

And that mercy means that we don’t write them off because they haven’t made a commitment. We don’t write them off because they’re weak. We don’t write them off because they’re back and forth. We understand that they have eternal souls, and they need to hear the truth of the gospel, and so we extend mercy.

Mercy To The Convinced

The second group are the convinced. The work gets a little tougher with this group. Look at verse 23 again, “Save others, snatching them out of the fire.” This is a bigger challenge. Let me be clear. We can’t save anybody. We don’t save anybody. In verse 25 Jude clearly identifies Jesus as, “[T]he only God our Savior.” God does the saving. Jude isn’t violating that. God is the ultimate source of salvation. We’re just the means. He’s the primary cause of salvation, we’re the secondary means. God does the saving. We’re simply the tools He uses.

Do you remember who Jude’s brother is? (James, right.) Listen to the end of James’s epistle, “My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins” (James 5:19-20). Same concept. Same idea. Somebody who strays from the truth, somebody who wanders away into error needs to be rescued. They’re not just confused, they’re convinced.

They’ve bought the lie of liberal theology. Instead of embracing truth as being objective and universal and verifiable and ultimately proclaimed in Jesus Himself, they’ve succumbed to the idea that there are all kinds of truths. In fact, it seems far more appealing if you can have your own truth, if you can have your own spirituality, if you can put it together like a LEGO set but with no directions. Just believe what you want to believe. This is far more attractive. After all, it’s far more flexible. The other way is too restrictive.

Many of you are golfers, and if you aren’t then you’re at least familiar with the sport (this analogy works with any sport). It’s like playing golf with people who don’t have any pins on the green, and don’t have any red stakes indicating hazards, and don’t have any white flags for out-of-bounds, and think you can just drop your ball wherever you want and take as many swings as you like. (For some of you, I’m describing the way you play.) And you say, “Hey, this is great. I’ll be playing on the Tour before you know it.” Well, it’ll be your own tour, because what you’re playing isn’t golf. There’s no golf without a target on the green and out-of-bounds and limits on what you can/can’t do to advance your ball. The convinced have decided they aren’t going to let anybody, especially some outdated book that they half believe, tell them how they ought to live. “Nah! I’ll make my own framework and just use the pieces I like.”

And the imagery is very vivid: “snatch them out of the fire.” The Greek word is harpazō. It means “to take by force,” “to carry away,” “to attack.” This isn’t gentle language. It’s language that’s used in the Old Testament in Amos 4:11 and Zechariah 3. In Amos, God says to Israel, “You would have been consumed long ago had I not snatched you out of the fire” (paraphrased). And then He says at the end of verse 11, “Yet you haven’t returned to Me, even after I did that.” So that imagery comes from the Old Testament, God snatching Israel out of the flames of annihilation and destruction.

Most of you know that I enjoy the preaching of an old Scotsman by the name of Alistair Begg. Listen to what he wrote on this topic.

In 1972, when I was chasing down an American girl in Dallas at the Campus Crusade event, they had Billy Graham there, they had Johnny Cash there, they had Kris Kristofferson there, and they had LoveSong there. It was a full week! I’d never heard of the group LoveSong or Chuck Girard, but they sang a song called Two Hands and it went like this:

We’re all gathered here
Because we all believe.
If there’s a doubter in the crowd,
We ask you not to leave.
Give a listen to His story;
Hear the message that we bring;
[Place your faith in Jesus only];
Lift your voice and with us sing.

Accept Him with your whole heart,
And use your own two hands;
With one reach out to Jesus,
And with the other, bring a friend.

See, the reason we’re close to Jesus is because God has reached out to us in Christ. He took the initiative and took hold of our hand. When you meet somebody who’s convinced about their false beliefs, you don’t turn your back on them, you don’t push them away, you don’t shun them. You go after them with the Good News of the gospel of Jesus. In the first group we’re going easy on them. In this second group we’re going after them. We don’t get smart. We don’t get smug. We aren’t argumentative. We aren’t self-righteous. We extend mercy to the convinced by snatching them out of the fire.

Mercy To The Committed

And now we come to the third group; let’s call them the committed. Verse 23, again, “to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh.” I take it that these folks are so far gone that it won’t be possible to intervene without putting yourself in serious danger. In this group, we’re talking about the leaders of false churches. And yes, there are false churches. I’ll name two: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (better known as Mormons) and Jehovah’s Witnesses.

People in this third group tend to be very articulate, they’ve been trained to articulate their system. They know how to give the answers. They’re subtle. And as one pastor put it, “They are the missionaries of error; they are the advocates of deceit; they are the teachers of lies. And when you get near them, it’s a dangerous place to be.”

So, Jude says we must hate even the garment polluted by the flesh. The fear is that we might be corrupted by their evil. Their teaching, their beliefs, their doctrine, and theology is so evil that, if we get too close, we might be corrupted. Folks, trust me, I looked for other ways to make this sound easier. It’s not. The language here at the end of verse 23 is coarse, it is as graphic as any language anywhere in the Bible. He says this: “hating even the garment polluted by the flesh.” Hating means “to despise,” miseō, the garment.

There are basically two words for the clothing that people wore in the first century: chitōna and himation. Himation was the outer tunic, chitōna was your underwear – what you wore against your body. That’s the word that Jude uses. The analogy is this – I think you understand what it is: filthy underwear, stained by bodily function. You wouldn’t pick up somebody’s filthy underwear. You wouldn’t do that, because you wouldn’t want to be defiled by that. And he’s saying, “You have to treat these false teachers the same way, because what comes out of them is a filthy pollution, and you’re in danger if you get too close of being defiled by it.”

Isaiah put it this way: “All our righteousness is as filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6). That was the Hebrew word for menstrual cloth. And the apostle Paul said, “I look at the Judaism of my life and I consider it all dung” (Philippians 3:8, paraphrased). It’s very coarse language. Some people, I think, are given peculiar abilities in areas like this. It’s not for everybody to throw themselves into this. William Booth, founder of the Salvation Army, was one such person. He’s the one who said, “Some want to live within the sound of church and chapel bell. I want to run a rescue shop within a yard of hell.”

The point for Jude’s readers and for us is to hate the sin but treat the sinner with mercy – to realize that from our perspective the people in group three appear to be beyond hope, but they’re not beyond hope. You’re never too far from the grip of God’s grace. Jesus can save fully and completely those who approach God through Him. With God, failure is never final. It’s never final. We never give up.

The hands that you think are there to push you away are actually the hands that reach out to draw you in. Because the answer to every group is at the same place, in the same person: at the cross of Jesus, before whom we all come and bow down and say along with the tax collector, “God, be merciful to me; I’m a sinner” (Luke 18:13, paraphrased). Have you ever said that to God?

O God, You search us, and You know us (Psalm 139:1). You care for us. Your love towards us in Jesus is beyond our ability to grasp. Save us from self-righteousness, from a spirit of smugness. Help us to become more like Jesus and less like what we are by nature. For we ask it in His name. Amen.”

Jude: Contend for the Call – Jude 1:17-21

Jude 1:17-21

Let me invite you to take your copy of God’s Word and let’s return to Jude. It’s a little 25-verse letter found immediately before the book of Revelation. Before our study, many of you had never read the book of Jude and some didn’t even know where to find it. However, now, you can confidently say that you’ve read it and know where to find it because that page is worn out (I hope).

Dr. David Jeremiah is the pastor of Shadow Mountain Community Church just outside of San Diego, CA. Perhaps you’ve heard of him or listened to his sermons via radio or other streaming services. In 2021, he wrote a book titled Where Do We Go from Here: How Tomorrow’s Prophecies Foreshadow Today’s Problems. In that book, he quotes from an article he saw in The Business Insider dealing with Lebron James. Lebron spends approximately $1.5M on self-care, health, and wellness.

Before I go further, please understand that we all spend money on things that others might think are wasteful or over-the-top, and the more wealth you have, the more opportunities there are to spend it. So, I’m not sharing this as a critique or a negative review of Lebron. After all, some say he’s the G.O.A.T. I’m simply offering this to make a point. So, no disrespect to my son’s childhood basketball hero. But imagine having $1.5M (annually) to spend on anything, much less healthcare and fitness.

So, what does he do? Well, when he was part of the Miami Heat, he had a gym built in his house that was built to the exact specifications of the one they played in. And when he moved to Cleveland, he did the same thing. He also uses cryotherapy and hyperbaric chambers to aid in reducing swelling and muscle and joint pain. He hires the best trainers and physical therapists to massage his muscles and craft workouts. He hires the best chefs in the world, and they plan all of his meals, snacks, and dietary needs. (Again, if I was playing professional sports and had games every night of the week and traveled in between and made the money he makes, then perhaps I’d spend some money on these things too.) But here’s a guy who reportedly spends $1.5M on his health and fitness, and listen to what Dr. David Jeremiah says, “If a basketball player is that concerned about taking care of his body, shouldn’t you and I be diligent to take care of our souls?” And I might go a step further and say, “If Lebron James spends $1.5M a year taking care of his body, shouldn’t you and I do a little more than we do to ensure that we take care of the local body that we call Mountain Hill Community Church?”

That’s exactly what Jude is talking about. He’s not writing solely to the individual believer but also to the church (corporately), and he’s sounding the alarm and calling attention to the fact that “certain people have crept [into the church] unnoticed…ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ” (Jude 1:4). And, ever since verse 4, he’s been describing these people to us. But now, Jude shifts from his descriptions of “these people” and returns to us – his audience. Let’s see what he has to say.

17 But you must remember, beloved, the predictions of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ. 18 They said to you, “In the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions.” 19 It is these who cause divisions, worldly people, devoid of the Spirit. 20 But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, 21 keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life.

“Father, as we turn now to Your Word, we pray that the Spirit of God will illuminate it to us and bring it home to our hearts and lives in a way that causes us to have a divine encounter with You, the living God, that brings us to faith, to trust, and to obedience. We offer this prayer in Jesus’ name. Amen.”

Six weeks ago, I told you that the entire book of Jude could be summed up in one word. It’s found in verse 3. Do you remember what it is (contend)? That’s right. Contend. Fight. Struggle. Strive. The Greek word comes from the root agonizomai. It’s the word from which we get our English word “agonize.” “I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.” And beginning in verse 17, Jude gives us two things we need to hear, especially in our day, because the real danger is not outside the church. It’s not the government. It’s not the media. It’s not “big business” and corporations. It’s false teachers in the church. Now, don’t misunderstand me, the church and Christian values and principles are persecuted in the culture but the place we really need to be on guard is inside the church.

There’s a fellow in the New Testament that we’re introduced to three times. We don’t know much about him because Paul only makes passing reference to him. His name is Demas. Paul mentions him in Colossians alongside Luke (the physician and writer of the Gospel of Luke and Acts), and then he mentions him in the letter to Philemon as a “fellow worker,” and finally, in 2 Timothy 4:10 we read, “For Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica.” There are a lot of us who are more interested in going with the culture than contending for the faith once for all delivered to the saints. That’s what Jude is dealing with and that’s where we are in the church today.

In fact, I want you to listen to a guy by the name of Ron Sider. Ron died two years ago at the age of 82. He was a Canadian-born American theologian and social activist. He grew up as a Mennonite in Pennsylvania. Listen to what he says, “Scandalous behavior is rapidly destroying American Christianity. By their daily activity, most Christians, regularly, commit treason. With their mouths, they claim that Jesus is Lord, but with their actions, they demonstrate allegiance to money, sex, and self-fulfillment” (The Scandal of the Evangelical Conscience). Now, can anybody stand up and argue against that? No. We don’t like it do we? You’re not going to talk about this around the lunch table today. But deep down in our hearts, all of us know that’s exactly right.

Erwin Lutzer, in a great book titled The Church in Babylon says this, “A church that has assimilated the world cannot be a vibrant witness to that world. To adopt prevailing cultural values hardly gives the world a reason to believe that we are a viable alternative to lives of brokenness, greed, and addiction.” Have we made the same mistakes as the rest of the world? Sure. Do we still sin? Yes (hopefully, to a lesser degree). But there ought to be a noticeable change in our character and lifestyle. There ought to be some sense in which we push back against the world’s values and principles. That’s what Jude is urging us to do when he says, “[C]ontend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.” Stand out against the backdrop of our society and do so by proclaiming the gospel – the Good News – of Jesus Christ, that in Him is forgiveness of sin and a new relationship with God.

Now, let me highlight two things Jude says will help us in our pursuit of persevering in the faith and contending for the faith.

Remember to Remain Spiritually Guarded

The Bible has a lot to say about remembering – about fastening our minds on things. “But you must remember, beloved,” he begins in verse 17. He’s already reminded them back in verse 5, when he said, “I want to remind you, although you once fully knew it…” Jude says, “I need to just keep telling you these things.”

He sounds a lot like Peter in his second epistle. In fact, most commentaries will have these two books put together for this reason. Listen to what Peter says about remembering, “Therefore I intend always to remind you of these qualities, though you know them and are established in the truth that you have. I think it right, as long as I am in this body, to stir you up by way of reminder, since I know that the putting off of my body will be soon, as our Lord Jesus Christ made clear to me. And I will make every effort so that after my departure you may be able at any time to recall these things” (2 Peter 1:12-15).

But that’s not all. Peter continues (see if this doesn’t sound familiar), “This is now the second letter that I am writing to you, beloved. In both of them I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder, that you should remember the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles, knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires” (2 Peter 3:1-3).

Folks, I don’t have a new gospel to give you. I don’t have some other Jesus to preach to you. I don’t have any other means of salvation. All that I do Sunday after Sunday, week in and week out, month in and month out is come back to the Word of God and remind you – it’s ALL Jesus! And anybody who tries to give you something other than the perfect life, death, and resurrection of Jesus for the forgiveness of sins is a charlatan.

Listen to Paul in Galatians 1:6-9, “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel – not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.” That’s it. There is no other gospel.

There’s nothing new here, only a reminder, only a recounting of what we already know to be true – that “we were dead in our sins and trespasses…but God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which He loves us, made us alive together with Christ…for by grace [we] have been saved through faith. And this is not [of our] own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that none [of us] may boast” (Ephesians 2:1, 4-5, 8-9). That’s the gospel! It’s all Jesus! The fact that God, through Jesus, saves anybody is a miracle, let alone you or me. None of us are worth redeeming in and of ourselves (Psalm 14:1-3; 53:1-3; Romans 3:10-12). We don’t bring anything to the table except our sin. Isaiah says that “all our righteous acts are like filthy rags” (64:6).

Jude says, “[R]emember the predictions of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ…that in the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly desires.” People will try to get you and me to doubt Jesus, doubt our faith, doubt the gospel. That’s what scoffers do. They mock. They ridicule. The make fun of people and put down people. Do you remember the words of Psalm 1, “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on His law he meditates day and night” (1:1-2). That’s why we must remember the gospel. We must remember the warnings contained in the Bible. We must be spiritually guarded.

Look, let me give you one more illustration and we’ll move to the final point. Back in Mark’s Gospel, in the very first chapter, we read about Jesus going into the synagogue to preach and to teach, and in the midst of his teaching, “a man with an unclean spirit…cried out, ‘What have You to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have You come to destroy us? I know who You are – the Holy One of God.’ But Jesus rebuked him, saying, ‘Be silent, and come out of him!’” (Mark 1:23-25). And, of course, the spirit came out of the man. The point is this: here’s Jesus preaching (not some yahoo like your pastor or some other preacher, but Jesus) and even in the midst of His preaching the evil of Satan and ungodly people is present. It should not surprise us that this will happen. Remember the warning of the Word of God. Remember the Good News. Remain spiritually guarded.

Remember to Remain Spiritually Guided

Notice how Jude continues in verse 20, “But you…” That’s the same way he addressed them in verse 17 when he called them to be spiritually guarded, “But you must remember.” Now he says, “But you, beloved…” and he gives them four instructions.

“Build yourselves up in your most holy faith.” There’s a sense in which growing in our faith is our responsibility. There are many things that God, through the Holy Spirit, does for us – not the least of which is to actually redeem us, to save us, to make us new creations – but there’s also a part that we play in our sanctification. Hear me carefully. I didn’t say there’s a part we play in our salvation. That’s all of God. But there is a part that we play in our sanctification.

I can preach, teach, and study the Word of God and present it to the congregation, but I can’t make the congregation accept it. I can’t make the congregation apply it in their own lives. I can’t believe for you. Jude says that we must build ourselves up. There’s a clear inference here to construction, to building a house, to building anything, and in order to have a solid structure you have to have a firm foundation. And what’s the foundation? Paul says, “For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 3:11). If you’re building your life on anything else: on your accomplishments, on your financial portfolio, on your intelligence, on anything but the truth of God’s Word and Jesus Christ, then you’re in trouble.

Not only are we to build ourselves up… This isn’t some pre-game pep talk. This isn’t saying nice, encouraging, and confident things to ourselves in order to build our self-esteem. No, Jude says we build ourselves up “in our most holy faith.” He’s already mentioned this back in verse 3 when he called us to contend for “the faith once for all delivered to the saints.” He’s talking about sound, biblical doctrine. Paul warns us in 2 Timothy 4:3, “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching…” We have to be in the Word of God.

Secondly, Jude says that we should “pray in the Holy Spirit.” Now this is NOT praying in tongues. That’s not what Jude is talking about. Paul addresses that in 1 Corinthians 14. Praying in the Spirit does not refer to the words we are saying. Rather, it refers to how we are praying. Praying in the Spirit is praying according to the Spirit’s leading. It’s praying for things the Spirit leads us to pray for. Through the Word and prayer, you gain strength. Through the Word and prayer, you gain maturity, you can stability, you gain assurance. Listen, I have no assurance in myself. My assurance only comes through Jesus and God’s Word.

Third, Jude tells us to “keep [ourselves] in the love of God.” What does he mean by that? I think he means to remain obedient. This is a lousy illustration because many of our marriages don’t reflect the love of God as they ought to but think about a marriage (or really any loving relationship). How do you keep yourself in the other person’s love? Well, you serve them, you listen to them, you share your thoughts and dreams and aspirations and frustrations with them (you communicate), and you spend time with them. Similarly, to keep ourselves in the love of God we remain invested, we’re active in the community of faith called the church, we’re reading the Bible, we’re praying daily, we’re involved in the things that God loves.

Finally, Jude says we “wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life.” This refers to anticipation. This refers to expectation. This refers to hope. For what? Mercy and the Lord’s return. I don’t know about you, but I’m nowhere near perfect. Sometimes I’m shocked at how little I’ve grown spiritually. There are areas of my mind that still need to be cleaned up. There are words in my vocabulary that need to be deleted. There are attitudes in my heart that need to be swept out. There are things about me that still need to come under the lordship of Jesus Christ, and I’m so grateful for His mercy. Lamentations 3:22-23 says, “The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.” This is one of the reasons we thank God, in our prayers, for each new day. It’s not just something to say, although it can become a habit, but it’s because we’re reminded that He’s extended His mercy to us once again.

And I’m looking forward to the day that Jesus returns because then, and only then, will I know what it means to live without sin. I’ll never be hounded. I’ll never be hunted. I’ll never be followed by my own personal sins. I will live in the light of the risen Lamb, but until then, when I do sin, I experience the mercy of God. Jude, like Paul in 1 Corinthians 13, gathers up these Christian virtues: faith (including prayer), hope, and love, and presents us with a balanced pattern of Christian living.

Perhaps it’s been a while since you played checkers, but maybe you’ll recall that each checker has a crown on one side. That’s because each checker can become a king if it makes it to the other side of the board. But, the reality is that most checkers won’t successfully make it to the other side because the opposition will jump them and knock them out of the game. Whether a checker achieves its created goal of being crowned as a king is fully determined by the moves that are made underneath the hand of the one controlling it. Church, let’s remember to remain spiritually guarded and spiritually guided so that we might “contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.”

A Mother’s Crown of Joy – Proverbs 1:7-9

Proverbs 1:7-9

Let me invite you to take your copy of God’s Word and turn with me to Proverbs 1. That’s right; we’re skipping Jude’s little book today. I imagine some of you came today expecting we would pick up right where we left off. I’ve chosen not to do that for a couple of reasons; mainly because the text we’d be reading begins like this, “These are grumblers, malcontents, following their own sinful desires; they are loud-mouthed boasters, showing favoritism to gain advantage” (Jude 1:16). PS: Happy Mother’s Day!

So, as I was mulling that over and thinking about it, I said, “No, I can’t go there – not on Mother’s Day.” The other reason we’re turning to Proverbs is that some of you have become glassy-eyed – all this talk about people and events and things you’ve rarely heard about or know anything about – and I figured it would do you well to take a break. So, we’ll resume studying this amazingly fascinating book called Jude, next week (and if you happen to be visiting this morning and are looking for a church home, perhaps you’ll come back to study Jude with us).

But this morning is Mother’s Day and I want to take a moment and remind you that by the time the Lord made mothers, He was into His sixth day working overtime. An angel appeared and said, “Why are You spending so much time on this one?”

And the Lord answered, and said, “Have you seen the spec sheet on her? She has to be completely washable, but not plastic, have 200 movable parts, all replaceable, run on black coffee and leftovers, have a lap that can hold three children at one time and that disappears when she stands up, have a kiss that can cure anything from a scraped knee to a broken heart, and have six pairs of hands.”

The angel was astounded, “Six pairs of hands! No way!”

The Lord replied, “Oh, it’s not the hands that are the problem. It’s the three pairs of eyes that mothers must have!”

“And that’s just on the standard model?” the angel asked.

The Lord nodded in agreement, “Yes, one pair of eyes to see through the closed door as she asks her children what they are doing even though she already knows. Another pair in the back of her head to see what she needs to know even though no one thinks she can. And the third pair are here in the front of her head. They are for looking at an errant child and saying that she understands and loves him/her without even saying a single word.”

The angel tried to interrupt. “This is too much work for one day. Wait until tomorrow to finish.”

“But I can’t!” the Lord protested, “I’m so close to finishing this creation that’s so close to my own heart. She already heals herself when she’s sick, feeds a family of six on a pound of hamburger, and can get a nine-year-old to stand in the shower.”

The angel moved closer and touched the woman, “But You made her so soft, Lord.”

“Indeed, she is soft,” the Lord agreed, “but I’ve also made her tough. You have no idea what she can endure or accomplish.”

“Will she be able to think?” asked the angel.

The Lord replied, “Not only will she be able to think, she will be able to reason, and negotiate.”

The angel then noticed something and reached out and touched the woman’s cheek. “Oops, it looks like there’s a leak with this model. I told you that you were trying to put too much into this one.”

“That’s not a leak.” The Lord objected. “That’s a tear!”

“What’s the tear for?” the angel asked.

The Lord said, “The tear is her way of expressing her joy, her sorrow, her disappointment, her pain, her loneliness, her grief, and her pride.”

The angel was impressed. “You are a genius, Lord. You thought of everything; mothers ARE truly amazing!” (When God Created Mothers by Erma Bombeck, slightly altered).

Surely, you’ve found your way to Proverbs 1 by now. Follow along as I read verses 7-9: 7 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction. 8 Hear, my son, your father’s instruction, and forsake not your mother’s teaching, 9 for they are a graceful garland for your head and pendants for your neck.”

“Gracious God, we acknowledge our need of You as we turn to the Bible. ‘Grant that the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts may be found acceptable in Your sight’ (Psalm 19:14, adapted). Guide and counsel us in Your wisdom and grace, by the power of the Holy Spirit, for we pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.”

The book of Proverbs begins this way, “The proverbs of Solomon, son of David, king of Israel” (Proverbs 1:1). In other words, he was a great king and the son of a great king. He had authority. He had power. People did what he said. People bowed down in his presence. I mean, a king is more than a president. So, this question came to my mind: How did this great king treat his mother?

You recall his mother was Bathsheba. She had married his father David under very ugly circumstances – very displeasing to God. But she was his mother, and this is what it says in 1 Kings 2:19, “Bathsheba went to King Solomon to speak to him for Adonijah. And the king arose to meet her, bowed before her, and sat on his throne; then he had a throne set for the king’s mother, and she sat on his right.”

Isn’t that amazing? We’re talking about a king, here. He had the authority and the power to do anything he wanted; and yet he rose for her, and bowed to her, and called for a throne to be put beside his so that they could talk. Even kings should bow when their mothers enter the room.

There are at least six things that Solomon tells us in Proverbs 1:7-9, and they all relate to God. You don’t pick up this type of wisdom by reading Parents Magazine or Ann Landers. Oh, they overlap, to some degree, don’t misunderstand me. But the point of the book of Proverbs is to bring all that practical wisdom into relation to God so that He becomes the center of it all. All six lessons in Proverbs 1:7-9 relate to God and are all intensely practical and God-centered.

The Origin of Family

In verse 8, Solomon says, “Hear, my son, your father’s instruction, and do not forsake your mother’s teaching.” Notice the people. You have a father. You have a mother. And you have a son. It’s a family, and this is just a given with Solomon. It used to be “a given” with us too. But not anymore. Families are God’s idea. God’s plan. God’s way. They’re not arbitrary evolutionary developments based on instincts or societal feelings. The family is ordained by God.

In the very first chapter of the Bible, Genesis 1:27-28, we read, “And God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. And God blessed them; and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth..’”

How are they to do this fruitful earth-filling? By indiscriminate dating and sex and pregnancies? No. The second chapter of the Bible (Genesis 2:24) gives us the answer, “A man shall leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.” A profound covenant relationship between one man and one woman is God’s idea of the heart of the family.

Now, unfortunately, this one flesh union, this covenantal bond can be broken by a tragic death or a tragic divorce, thus resulting in single-parent families. And God has been faithful to millions of mothers and fathers who have had to raise children alone. If you find yourself in this category today, please take heart. God loves you. God knows everything about your situation, and He cares for you. If you look through the Bible, you bump into single parents every now and then. Naomi, in the book of Ruth, loses her husband to death and she has two boys who ultimately get married to Moabite women. But for a time, Naomi is a single parent. You have the widow of Zarephath in the book of 1 Kings. We’re told that she had a son and he died, but the prophet Elijah prays to God and the Lord restores the boy’s life. Again, another single mom. Then there’s Hagar. Who doesn’t remember Hagar? She’s not married to Abraham but gives birth to his son, Ishmael. She’s a single mom. Some scholars have even suggested that Jesus’ mother, Mary, was a single mom at some point because Joseph wasn’t mentioned again after Jesus was found in the temple as a young boy. So, take heart single parents. God loves you.

Nevertheless, that doesn’t nullify or set aside God’s original purpose for the heart of the family being one man and one woman cleaving to each other as husband and wife and becoming one flesh in fruitful sexual union. So, number one, the family is God’s idea, and it’s for God’s glory.

The Family as a School

The family is God’s basic school for instructing children how to live. Again, verse 8: “Hear, my son, your father’s instruction, and do not forsake your mother’s teaching.” The father is an instructor and the mother is a teacher. Not only did God ordain the family to be fruitful and fill the earth, but to fill it with instructed people and taught people.

I don’t know if you’ve ever thought about this, but life doesn’t come naturally for human beings. The sucking reflex, the crying response, the pooping, those come naturally. But that’s about it. And those skills won’t get you far in the world (or they didn’t used to). Everything from walking, talking, and eating, to moral actions of courtesy, gratitude, respect, and faith in Jesus has to be taught and learned. The family is God’s school for this huge undertaking.

Now, again, while the family was (and remains to be) the basic school of instruction, we understand that parents often seek the help of others in this endeavor. Parents rely on relatives or nannies or day-cares or Sunday schools or day schools or primary schools or secondary schools, and that’s fine. But the responsibility still belongs to the parents. And parents will give an account to God for how the minds and hearts of our children were shaped and molded by the educators and caregivers we entrusted them to. That’s point number two: the family is God’s basic school for instructing children how to live.

The Fear of the Lord

If God’s basic school of instruction is the home, then the foundation of family instruction is the fear of the Lord. Verse 7 says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.” In other words, if we ask: what’s the basic theme of the father’s instruction and the mother’s teaching – what is it that runs through all their daily modeling and counseling and explaining and correcting and disciplining that gives unity and meaning – the answer is “the fear of the Lord.”

The family isn’t just a place where children learn to hold spoons, walk on two feet, say “please and thank you,” tie shoes, read, look both ways before crossing the street, cut grass, put on makeup, and drive a car. The family is where all of this (and more) begins, but it begins in God, is guided by God’s Word, and is shown to be for the glory of God. The fear of God, the reverencing of God, the standing in awe of God, and trusting in God are what families are for.

The family is God’s idea. The family is a school. And the unifying theme (or curriculum) of this school is the fear of God.

The Charge to Parents

Under God, both fathers and mothers share in the responsibility of family instruction. Verse 8 again: “Hear, my son, your father’s instruction, and do not forsake your mother’s teaching.” It doesn’t say, “Fathers instruct, and mothers change diapers.” It doesn’t say, “Fathers work at the office and so have no responsibility to teach their children.” Nor does it say, “Mothers work at the office and can turn the responsibility of teaching over to a caregiver.” It says fathers instruct, and mothers teach. They share this responsibility.

If it were Father’s Day, I would probably trumpet a challenge to the dads to take fresh initiative at home. But it’s Mother’s Day, and I want
to encourage you moms that this responsibility to teach your children is an immeasurably significant privilege – even if they’re grown up.

See, God has a way of nullifying the greatness of the great and exalting the lowliness of the lowly. In our culture, motherhood is on the upswing (I think). The last five or six years have abounded with letters and articles like this one to Ann Landers:

I’m so tired of all those ignorant people who come up to my husband and ask him if his wife has a full-time job or if she’s “just a housewife.” Here’s my job description.

I’m a wife, mother, friend, confidant, personal advisor, lover, referee, peacemaker, housekeeper, laundress, chauffeur, interior decorator, gardener, painter, wall paperer, dog groomer, veterinarian, manicurist, barber, seamstress, appointment manager, financial planner, bookkeeper, money manager, personal secretary, teacher, disciplinarian, entertainer, psychoanalyst, nurse, public relations expert, dietitian and nutritionist, baker, chef, fashion coordinator and letter writer for both sides of the family.

I’m also a travel agent, speech therapist, plumber, and automobile maintenance and repair expert . . .”

Studies show that it would cost more than $75,000 a year to replace me. I took time out of my busy day to write this letter because there are still ignorant people who believe a housewife is nothing more than a babysitter who sits on her behind all day and looks at soap operas. (Ann Landers, May 1988, quoted in Mom, You’re Incredible, by Linda Weber, Focus on the Family, 1994, pp. 23-24)

That’s true. But so much more can be said. Let me give you one great illustration from the New Testament: the effect that Timothy’s mother and grandmother had on him.

Paul says in 2 Timothy 1:5, “I am mindful of the sincere faith within you, which first dwelt in your grandmother Lois, and your mother Eunice, and I am sure that it is in you as well.” Then, in 2 Timothy 3:14-15 Paul says, “You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them [that is, your mother Eunice and through her from your grandmother Lois]; and that from childhood you have known the holy scriptures [because your mother taught them to you] which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.”

Now that’s a remarkable testimony. Timothy’s father was Greek (Acts 16:3), and so he probably didn’t know the Scriptures. But Paul celebrates the great heritage that Timothy has through his mother and his grandmother. They did what his father couldn’t do or wouldn’t do. They filled him with the Scriptures, and the Scriptures brought him eventually to faith in Christ, and faith in Christ brought him to salvation.

The Respect of Children

God calls sons and daughters to be submissive to and to be respectful of their mothers and fathers. Verse 8 again: “Hear, my son, your father’s instruction, and do not forsake your mother’s teaching.”

These two commands warn against the two common temptations of rebellion. One is when a child is at home, and the other is when he/she is away from home. If they’re home, the temptation of rebellion is not to listen when parents speak. So, Solomon says, Hear your father’s instruction.” If they’re away from home, the temptation is to forsake what they were taught. So, Solomon says, Do not forsake your mother’s teaching.”

Don’t write off what parents say. Do it for God’s sake. This is so important that God made it a part of the Ten Commandments that sum up the whole law. Exodus 20:12, “Honor your father and mother.” Honor your father by listening respectfully when he speaks. And honor your mother by remembering what she taught you about right and wrong.

The Promise of Reward

Finally, God ordains a reward for sons and daughters who do not forsake the teaching of their mother and father. Verse 9 says, “Indeed [literally, “because”], they [hearing your father’s instruction and not forsaking your mother’s teaching] are a graceful wreath to your head, and ornaments about your neck.”

What this verse makes plain is that the instruction of fathers and the teaching of mothers, rooted in the fear of the Lord, is good news. Kids don’t always feel that. Sometimes parents have never grown up into grace enough to feel it either. But that’s what the verse says: hearing a father’s instruction and not forsaking a mother’s teaching will be a wreath of grace, glory, and joy; it will be like gifts and prizes around your neck. In other words, it will mean triumph and celebration and joy.

The apostle Paul said in Ephesians 6:2, “honor[ing] your father and mother [is] the first commandment with promise.” All the commandments are full of promise, but God goes out of His way to make this explicit for sons and daughters. There’s great promise in honoring your mother and father and embracing the fear of the Lord, which they taught.

But since today is Mother’s Day, perhaps the way we should end is by reminding ourselves as sons and daughters – whether old or young – that the fountain of life, and the strong confidence and the deep satisfaction that come from honoring all the truth that our mothers taught us also comes back to them as a crown of joy and honor and blessing in their later years. “Do not despise your mother when she is old” (Proverbs 23:22). “Let your father and your mother be glad, and let her rejoice who gave birth to you” (Proverbs 23:25). Do not forsake the teaching of your mother. It will be a wreath of grace to your head and a crown of joy upon hers.

One day the fair was in town and a father of five children decided it was a good opportunity to give his wife a break. When they arrived, the father, who was quite the shot, knew instantly what game he wanted to play. Arriving at the shooting gallery he quickly won a prize – a stuffed animal.

But which of the five kids should he give it to? After a few moments, he came up with a solution. “Who does everything mommy asks? Who is the most obedient to mommy? Who never talks back to mommy?” Each of the five children answered, at the same time, “you deserve the prize daddy.”

Men, we tend to think of Mother’s Day in terms of moms and their relationships with their children, but the same could be said for us. How are we doing to make sure our wives are being cherished today? After all, God has entrusted her to you as your partner in life and it honors Him the way we treasure her. Or, perhaps, your mother is still living in her 80’s or 90’s – how are you honoring her today? The degree to which we honor our mothers is, in some nature, the same degree to which we honor the Lord.

Jude: Lessons from the Past – Jude 1:11-16

Jude 1:11-16

If you have your copy of God’s Word, that’s where we will be this morning. We’ve been looking at this tiny letter of Jude (25 verses), and some of you have told me that this is your first time reading Jude. In fact, I was talking to somebody this week who said they grew up in church, and their mom would always read the Bible to them before bed but they never read the book of Jude. I said, “Makes sense now, doesn’t it?” We left off with Jude 10, so we’ll pick up with verse 11.

John O’Neill worked as a Special Agent in Charge at the FBI. In 1995, John began to intensely study the roots of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing after he assisted in the capture of Ramzi Yousef, who was the leader of that plot. He subsequently learned of al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden, and investigated the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi Arabia and the 2000 USS Cole bombing in Yemen. Due to his work, he became convinced that these terrorists would strike the United States again. And so, he went to his superiors and did everything he could to raise awareness and sound the alarm that another attack by al-Qaeda was imminent but nobody would listen. Eventually, due to personal friction he had within the FBI and the federal government, O’Neill left the Bureau in August 2001 to become the head of security at the World Trade Center.

When he took that job, someone told him that was the perfect place because al-Qaeda wouldn’t attack there again; they already tried once and failed. And John replied, “No! That’s exactly where they’ll attack because they’re coming back to complete what they failed to accomplish the first time.” And, of course, you know what happened a month later on September 11, 2001. John was last seen by a friend and former FBI agent, Wesley Wong, who reported that John ran back into the South Tower to assist in the building’s evacuation and gather surveillance footage from the security offices. His body was recovered in South Tower on September 21, 2001.

Here was a man who had warned everybody he could possibly think to warn and nobody would listen. According to Jude, the half-brother of Jesus, there are some things that we ought to be on the lookout for and the question is: are we going to say, as so many did of John O’Neill, “We don’t believe you” or are we going to heed the warnings? Follow along with me as we read Jude 11-16,

11 Woe to them! For they walked in the way of Cain and abandoned themselves for the sake of gain to Balaam’s error and perished in Korah’s rebellion. 12 These are hidden reefs at your love feasts, as they feast with you without fear, shepherds feeding themselves; waterless clouds, swept along by winds; fruitless trees in late autumn, twice dead, uprooted; 13 wild waves of the sea, casting up the foam of their own shame; wandering stars, for whom the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved forever.

14 It was also about these that Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied, saying, “Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of His holy ones, 15 to execute judgment on all and to convict all the ungodly of all their deeds of ungodliness that they have committed in such an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things that ungodly sinners have spoken against Him.” 16 These are grumblers, malcontents, following their own sinful desires; they are loud-mouthed boasters, showing favoritism to gain advantage.

“Our gracious God, we earnestly desire that the Holy Spirit take my words and speak through them, take our minds and help us to think through them, take our hearts and stir in them, and take our wills and bring them underneath the overruling power of Your majesty. And we ask this in Christ’s name. Amen.”

Jude has warned us about certain people who have crept into the church unnoticed – ungodly people whose entire goal is to change and manipulate and pervert the grace of God into licentiousness, wantonness, and utter disregard for anything remotely Christ-exalting (Jude 1:4). Then, after introducing these people and their agenda, he gives us three illustrations of judgment and punishment that came on this kind of person, and he pointed to Israel, the angels, and Sodom and Gomorrah. He follows that up by presenting three characteristics of these people’s nature: they’re immoral, they’re insubordinate, and they’re irreverent. Today, Jude concludes his description by giving us the last of three triplets – personalities from the past who were guilty of operating in just such a manner: Cain, Balaam, and Korah, and he paints a picture of these people.

This morning, the first thing we see is that apostacy presents itself in personality.

Apostacy Presents Itself In Personality

You’ve heard Jude use the phrase “these people” over and over again (about 3-4 times, so far). And now he’s going to reveal their personality. There are several kinds of personality tests out there. The one I’m most familiar with is the Myers-Briggs Personality Indicator, but there’s the enneagram and also types A, B, C, and D. All of these tests or assessments are attempts at understanding and categorizing certain behaviors and temperaments, and that’s what Jude is doing here. Instead of saying, “Yeah, he’s a Type A personality,” Jude introduces people from the past. But he doesn’t just introduce the personality, he also gives you the what and the how. Let me show you what I’m talking about.

The first person that Jude introduces in verse 11 is who? (Cain, right.) But notice that it’s not just Cain; Jude also tells you the what of Cain. It’s the “way of Cain.” And he also tells you the how. They “walked in the way of Cain.” Do you see that? Who’s the next personality? (Balaam, right.) But it’s not just Balaam; Jude tells us the what of Balaam. It’s the “error” of Balaam. And the how is, according to the NIV “rush[ing] for profit.” The ESV says “abandoning themselves for the sake of gain.” Who’s the last person? (Korah, right.) And Jude tells us the what of Korah? It’s the “rebellion” of Korah. And the how is “perish[ing] in Korah’s rebellion.”

Now, that’s neat, but it doesn’t really mean anything to you unless you know the stories of each of these men. Most of us know about Cain. He killed his brother, Able. And when you read that story (in Genesis 4) you discover that both boys brought offerings to God in order to worship God, but God only found favor in Able’s offering and not Cain’s. And that always puzzles us because both boys brought a gift to worship God. Why did God find favor in Able’s offering and not Cain’s?

Well, it seems that Cain didn’t bring the first and best, while Able brought of the firstborn of his flock. When you get to Hebrews 11:4 you discover something else that you don’t know when reading Genesis 4. Hebrews 11:4 say, “By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain…” See, God looks upon the heart. We tend to forget that, don’t we? “Oh my, that’s a big check!” As if somehow that’s better than the $10 that someone else gave. But God sees the heart. And that’s proven in the story of Cain and Able. How does Cain respond? In anger, right? He rises up and kills his brother. That’s not the response of someone whose heart is right. So, to “walk in the way of Cain” is to go your own way, to respond in sin, to have no regard for others, to be self-centered.

The next person is someone that you may not be as familiar with and that’s Balaam. We have to go back to the book of Numbers to read his story, but the long and short of it goes like this. Israel was coming out of Egypt and they needed to pass through the territory of the Moabites, but the king of Moab didn’t want them to so he called Balaam. Balaam was a prophet of the nation of Israel. The king of Moab asked Balaam to curse the Israelites, but he wouldn’t do it. Then some money was offered and now Balaam started to change his tune, but every time Balaam started to utter a curse a blessing came out instead. (By the way, isn’t that the way it ought to be among us? Every time we want to curse a blessing should flow out instead.) But Balaam wanted the money, so he came up with another way to curse Israel. He told the king of Moab to send all of his beautiful women out and the men of Israel would follow after the women and worship idols and fall into immorality. As a result, Balaam was killed but so were many of the men of Israel. So, to “rush for profit in Balaam’s error” is to be self-indulgent. I want what’s most important to me. I want what I want when I want it and it doesn’t matter what I have to do to get it. Again, that’s a description of “these people” who Jude is warning us about.

Finally, Jude introduces us to Korah and not many of us remember Korah but he and two other fellas (Dathan and Abiram) rose up and sought to lead a rebellion against Moses as the leader of Israel. In essence, they were saying, “We don’t need a representative. We don’t need a single teacher. We don’t need a mediator. All the congregation is holy; we’re all entitled to our own insights and our own viewpoints. We don’t need any spiritual authority over us.”

And the rebellion ended in a very rapid fashion. The ground opened and they all disappeared into Sheol (or hell). You say, “How big was the rebellion? How big was their effect? Was it just Korah, Dathan, and Abiram?” Fifteen thousand people died in a subsequent plague. That’s how effective their rebellion was. Do you see how this thing escalates? Cain – one guy – got his own religion. Balaam gets many people seduced. And here we have a rebellion of 15,000. That’s what these apostates do. This is about influence.

If you do not submit to the authoritative Word of God; if you do not submit to the truth of God, and show reverence to God and honor to God, and stay away from immorality, and give evidence of a transformed life by the grace of God; if you do not submit to spiritual authority and those who have been called by God and are faithful to the teaching of the Word of God; if you fight against all of that, then you have followed the way of Cain, the way of Balaam, and the way of Korah.

Apostacy Delivers Itself In Duplicity

Next, Jude gives us five pictures, five images, five metaphors of duplicitous living (some count six), but let me show them to you. The first is “hidden reefs at your love feasts.” The love feast was a time when the early church got together and celebrated a meal together. In fact, you read about this in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians (cf. 1 Corinthians 11:17-22). Some people took advantage of this time of fellowship and sharing a meal and they would get drunk, and Paul says do your eating and drinking at home. You’ve ruined this time of fellowship. These people that Jude is warning us about are shepherds feeding themselves. (That’s where some see 6 images instead of 5. They count hidden reefs as one and shepherds feeding themselves as two, and so forth. I use the punctuation in the ESV, the semicolon as the divider and find 5 images, but that’s neither here nor there. I just wanted you to see that.) They’re using the time that the church should be coming together in unity to spread rumors and gain a following and take care of themselves.

The second image is “waterless clouds carried along by the wind.” You’ve experienced this, I’m sure. You see the clouds in the late afternoon and it looks like rain is coming. It sounds like rain is coming. It even feels like rain is coming. The temperature drops and the wind picks up, but nothing ever materializes. That’s what Jude says these people are like. They’re empty. There’s nothing of substance in them. Paul would put it this way, “Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient” (Ephesians 5:6).

The third picture is “fruitless trees in autumn.” It’s hard to know exactly which fruit trees Jude might have been referring to, maybe it was pomegranates, or figs, or even olives. Of course, apples are late harvesters too. Anyway, like the storm clouds, the fruitless trees look good. They’re green. They have leaves. They look healthy, but when you approach the tree you realize there’s nothing there. You might recall Jesus cursing a fig tree that didn’t produce fruit (Matthew 21; Mark 11). Part of the principle of that story is that the Pharisees and scribes were like the barren fig tree. They looked healthy and productive, but upon closer inspection there was no fruit. Jesus wants His followers to produce fruit in keeping with righteousness (John 15).

Fourth, they’re “wild waves casting up foam.” Again, there’s no doubt you’ve seen this at the beach from time to time, especially around a storm. The seashore seems to be filled with foam, tossing about and rolling in the breeze like dust bunnies on a hardwood floor. When you’ve experienced that does the beach look like the inviting and fun and romantic place that you tend to expect? No, it’s trashy. It’s messy. It’s gross. That’s how Jude describes these people. There’s a duplicity here. A place where you would expect to see tranquil seas and sunsets is a place of chaos and confusion. Again, Paul states it plainly in Colossians 2:8, “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ.”

Last, they’re “wandering stars.” In the Old Testament book of Amos, the prophet refers to the fact that the Israelites have given themselves over to Babylonian pagan religion, and one of the things they had done was taken up worship of a star-god Kiyun (Amos 5:26). These false gods wouldn’t lead you anywhere. They’re just wandering stars and planets. Prior to GPS, the stars and planets were a way of navigating. We see this in the Christmas passage of the wise men following the star in the east. But Jude says, you’re following the wrong stars. Instead of following the Bright and Morning star (Revelation 22:16), they’re following wandering stars.

All of these images and pictures has a glimmer of truth in them, but they’re ultimately duplicitous and deceptive, just like these false teachers that Jude warns about.

Apostacy Withers In Light Of Genuine Witness

Jude closes this section by referring to Enoch. Now most of us don’t remember Enoch much, if at all. We’re first introduced to him back in Genesis 5 where we read this, “Enoch walked with God after he fathered Methuselah 300 years and had other sons and daughters. Thus all the days of Enoch were 365 years. Enoch walked with God, and he was not, for God took him.” We don’t read about Enoch again until Hebrews 11:5, which gives this extra detail, “By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death: ‘He could not be found, because God had taken him away.’ For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God.” And then you read our little verse in Jude 1:15, “It was also about these that Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied, saying, ‘Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of His holy ones, to execute judgment on all and to convict all the ungodly of all their deeds of ungodliness that they have committed in such an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things that ungodly sinners have spoken against Him.’”

So, I’m assuming here, and I know we shouldn’t do that, but it’s an educated and informed guess based on what we know about Enoch, but I think the reason that he was commended as one who pleased God (in Hebrews 11) and was thus taken so that he wouldn’t experience death, is because he was willing to stand up against these kinds of people. I mean, notice the content of his prophecy. It’s judgment. He uses the word “ungodly” four times.

Jude says, there’s your example. Like Enoch, you contend for the faith in your day. Regardless of what the government says, or the Supreme Court says, or what your college professors say, or even what your preacher says, you follow God, and you walk with God, and you live your life by faith in the Son of God, and you study God’s Word and I promise that you won’t have to worry about becoming an apostate and fall away and deny our only Lord and Master, Jesus Christ. Moreover, you’ll be able to help guide and direct the bride of Christ – the Church – so that she remains faithful in her mission to preach the unvarnished truth of the gospel.

Babe Pinelli was an American third baseman and umpire in Major League Baseball. His playing career was mostly with the Cincinnati Reds from 1922 to 1927. But he also played with the Chicago White Sox (1918) and the Detroit Tigers (1920). After that he became a highly regarded National League umpire from 1935 to 1956, officiating in 6 World Series (1939, 1941, 1947, 1948, 1952 and 1956).

Pinelli wrote an article for The Second Fireside Book of Baseball, titled “Kill the Umpire? Don’t Make Me Laugh!” in which he told about his rookie year as an umpire in1935, when he was told that he should not call a strike on Babe Ruth, who was winding up his career with the Boston Braves. Pinelli didn’t see it that way. So, when he was behind the plate and Ruth came to bat, and a close pitch went by at which Ruth did not swing, Pinelli deemed it a strike. Ruth turned to the umpire and said, “There’s forty thousand people in this park that know that was a ball, tomato-head!” Pinelli didn’t lose his cool. He replied calmly, “Perhaps – but mine is the only opinion that counts.”

Folks, there’s only one opinion that counts and it’s in this book. May we listen to Jude and heed the warnings and contend for the faith.

Jude: Who Are These People? – Jude1:8-10

Jude 1:8-10

Once again, let me invite you to take your copy of God’s Word and turn to the little book of Jude (just in front of the book of Revelation). Let’s begin with just a little review. We’ve discovered that our author is Jude, the brother of James and a servant of his half-brother Jesus. He’s writing to an undisclosed group of people, but he describes them as “called, beloved, and kept.” And he prays for mercy, peace, and love to be multiplied among them. All of that was week one.

The following Sunday we noticed that Jude shifted gears and pulled the cord and sounded the alarm. Verse 3 is the focal point of the entire letter, and there’s one little word in that verse that sums up the entire book. Do you remember what it is? It’s the word “contend.” In the Greek, it’s the word epagónizomai. You say, “Oh, boy, here we go again with another foreign language lesson.” Listen, there’s a reason I’m sharing this with you. If you take the prefix epi (meaning “on”) and you set that to the side, then you have the word agonizomai. Do you hear an English word in there? Agony. Agonize. Struggle. Fight.

Jude says, “I was intending on writing about our common salvation, but I’ve found it necessary to change directions and sound the alarm and call you to agonize, struggle, fight, contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.” And he gave us his reasoning – because certain people have crept into the church unnoticed, they’ve slithered in, as it were, they’ve snuck in the back door and they’re intentions are to pervert, to change, to manipulate the grace of God and turn it into a license to sin and deny the Lord, Jesus Christ. That was week two.

Then, last week, we saw the first of three triplets. Look at this. Beginning in verses 5, 6, and 7, you have three illustrations, three reminders, three warnings of God’s judgment: Israel in the desert, Angels forfeiting heaven, and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. Today, we’re going to be introduced to the second group of three – three characteristics of apostacy or denying or rejecting or leaving the faith: they’re immoral, they’re insubordinate, and they’re irreverent. And then in verse 11 you see the third triplet – three influences: Cain, Balaam, and Korah.

See, Jude was a good three-point preacher. Three pictures of judgment. Three characteristics of apostacy. Three evil influences. We’re going to read verses 8-10 this morning, so follow along with me.

8 Yet in like manner these people also, relying on their dreams, defile the flesh, reject authority, and blaspheme the glorious ones. 9 But when the archangel Michael, contending with the devil, was disputing about the body of Moses, he did not presume to pronounce a blasphemous judgment, but said, “The Lord rebuke you.” 10 But these people blaspheme all that they do not understand, and they are destroyed by all that they, like unreasoning animals, understand instinctively.

And if you’ll allow me, I also want to read a portion of Jeremiah 23 because it’s a wonderful parallel to what Jude is saying here. (These verses are not on the screen, but you might want to note Jeremiah 23:16-32:

16 Thus says the LORD of hosts: “Do not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you, filling you with vain hopes. They speak visions of their own minds, not from the mouth of the LORD. 17 They say continually to those who despise the word of the LORD, ‘It shall be well with you’; and to everyone who stubbornly follows his own heart, they say, ‘No disaster shall come upon you.’”

18 For who among them has stood in the council of the LORD
to see and to hear His word,
or who has paid attention to His word and listened?
19 Behold, the storm of the LORD!
Wrath has gone forth,
a whirling tempest;
it will burst upon the head of the wicked.
20 The anger of the LORD will not turn back
until He has executed and accomplished
the intents of His heart.
In the latter days you will understand it clearly.

21 “I did not send the prophets,
yet they ran;
I did not speak to them,
yet they prophesied.
22 But if they had stood in My council,
then they would have proclaimed My words to My people,
and they would have turned them from their evil way,
and from the evil of their deeds.

23 “Am I a God at hand, declares the LORD, and not a God far away? 24 Can a man hide himself in secret places so that I cannot see him? declares the LORD. Do I not fill heaven and earth? declares the LORD. 25 I have heard what the prophets have said who prophesy lies in My name, saying, ‘I have dreamed, I have dreamed!’ 26 How long shall there be lies in the heart of the prophets who prophesy lies, and who prophesy the deceit of their own heart, 27 who think to make My people forget My name by their dreams that they tell one another, even as their fathers forgot My name for Baal? 28 Let the prophet who has a dream tell the dream, but let him who has My word speak My word faithfully. What has straw in common with wheat? declares the LORD. 29 Is not My word like fire, declares the LORD, and like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces? 30 Therefore, behold, I am against the prophets, declares the LORD, who steal My words from one another. 31 Behold, I am against the prophets, declares the LORD, who use their tongues and declare, ‘declares the LORD.’ 32 Behold, I am against those who prophesy lying dreams, declares the LORD, and who tell them and lead My people astray by their lies and their recklessness, when I did not send them or charge them. So they do not profit this people at all, declares the LORD.

“Father, help us now as we study the Bible. Take Your Word and ‘plant it deep in us,’ and ‘shape and fashion us in your likeness’ (Speak, O Lord; Getty 2005). For we pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.”

Now, the reason that I included Jeremiah is because he speaks about false teachers, false prophets, the kind of people that Jude says have come in the back door, who have snuck in unnoticed, who have weaseled their way into the fellowship of God’s people and are seeking to lead God’s people astray. And verses 8-10 of Jude continues to describe them.

They Are Immoral

False teachers are inevitably immoral. It may not be publicly visible. After all, they cover it up, but the corruption is unrestrained because they’ve abandoned the truth. Verse 19 says – and this is very noteworthy – “They are devoid of the Spirit.” They don’ have the Holy Spirit. Therefore, they have no divine power to restrain their flesh. These people, these dreamers, these false teachers and deniers of the Lord, Jesus Christ are immoral at heart and in conduct. There’s no work of regeneration in them. There’s no work of sanctification in them because they’re devoid of the Holy Spirit. They may claim to be virtuous; they may claim to be righteous; they may wear the clerical garb. They may take the title of priest or minister or preacher or whatever, but they love immorality.

In John 3:19, Jesus says, “They love darkness rather than light because their deeds are evil.” They’re soiled; they’re polluted. They’re like Israel, committing adultery at the foot of Mount Sinai. They’re like the angels, coming down, taking human form and cohabitating with women, leaving their own appropriate estate. They’re like Sodom and Gomorrah and the homosexuality there. They might mask it for a while, but they’re immoral.

In 2 Peter 2:10 and 19, it says of them, “They indulge the flesh in its corrupt desires… They entice by fleshly desires, by sensuality.” I mean this is how they’re described. They’re immoral inside and out. And eventually they’re revealed; they’re exposed for who they truly are.

I’ve often heard it said, “time and truth go hand in hand.” Given enough time, the truth comes out. Do you remember what Galatians 5 says? “The deeds of the flesh are immorality, impurity, sensuality” – first three. That’s where it all starts. It was for immorality that Israel was left in the wilderness. It was for immorality that the angels were bound in chains. It was for immorality that Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed.

These people, these dreamers, these false teachers, these folks who have slipped into the congregation unnoticed are of the flesh, and so they do the deeds of the flesh. They’re immoral.

They Are Insubordinate

They reject authority. Obviously, if you’re going to live an immoral life and love your lust and love your sin, you’re going to have to reject authority. And that’s divine authority. This is very interesting. The Greek word for “reject” means to do away with something that’s established. They reject established authority. The word for “authority” comes from the Greek word that we get the word Lord from (Kurios). So, you put that together and what you have are people that reject divine authority. They reject lordship. They reject any rule over them. And we know exactly what lordship they’re talking about, because back in verse 4 we read, “they deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.”

They won’t come under the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ. They’re their own self-styled authorities. It’s arrogant rejection of God’s rule and authority and the lordship of Christ over His Church. As Christians, as believers, we ought not be against the idea that our wills should be bound to the authority of Christ. I mean it’s not natural. It’s hard to think this way, and even harder to live this way, but we really should be blessed and delighted and joyously committed to the lordship of Christ as our greatest desire.

These people aren’t. They don’t submit to Christ’s lordship as it’s revealed through Scripture, rather they have their own theology and their own views spun out of their own dreams and their own imaginations. This is so arrogant. Every time I hear some liberal say, “The Bible isn’t true; Jesus isn’t who He said He was, didn’t do what He said He did,” and spout some ridiculous opinion of his own, I’m reminded how they reject the lordship.

Israel rebelled against Christ, because Christ was the rock in the wilderness. You might remember that I quoted this last week in order to show you that Jude wasn’t the only New Testament writer that referred to the Exodus and the Israelites rebellion in the wilderness. Paul, writing in 1 Corinthians 10:3 says, “For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ.” Israel rebelled against Jesus. The angels rebelled against Jesus Christ who was the Lord of heaven. That’s why they were cast out of heaven. Sodom and Gomorrah rebelled against the divine Sovereign of heaven who shares His rule with His eternal Son.

It’s nothing new to reject lordship. Israel had contempt for God’s rule. They complained; they murmured; they disobeyed; they sinned, and they worshipped an idol. Angels had contempt for God’s rule. Satan and his followers mutinied in an effort to dethrone the Holy Sovereign. Sodom and Gomorrah had contempt for the true law of God and the true God. And immorality and insubordination always go together, don’t they? Because if you’re obedient to the Word of God and the authority of God, and you submit to the lordship of Christ, then you’re not going to be immoral because you’re going to do what He tells you to do.

These people, these dreamers, these false teachers are like the scribes and Pharisees in Matthew 23:27b-28, “For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.” If you’re going to live an immoral life, you’re going to have to find a false doctrine to salve your conscience. And so, inevitably, those people who are apostate are immoral and insubordinate to the Word of God because the two go together. Immorality is disobedience.

So, the lie that Jesus is not Lord is a comfortable lie for immoral people who reject biblical authority and want to feel better about their sin. They’re immoral (one). They’re insubordinate (two).

They Are Irreverent

Finally, they’re irreverent. They revile angelic majesties. Or, as the ESV translates it, “they blaspheme the glorious ones.” They’re not only immoral, they’re not only insubordinate, they’re irreverent. They’re blasphemers. When you look more closely at them, no matter what they claim – they claim to have the secret knowledge of God, the elevated knowledge of God – whatever kind of apostate you’re talking about, whether they’re in priestly garb or whether they’re painted as the prophets of the Mormon Church, or whether they’re theological liberals who believe they have more educated insight, or whether they’re the Gnostics of the first century who think they have secret knowledge – whatever they are, the fact of the matter is they don’t have the secret knowledge of God; they’re blasphemers.

And in particular, he says they blaspheme “doxas.” Doxas, that’s the word translated by the New American Standard as “angelic majesties.” And it seems a rather bizarre way to translate the word doxas from which we get the word “doxology.” Doxas means glories, and it could refer to the glories of God and the glory of Christ. We could interpret it as they revile or they blaspheme glories, namely the glory of God and the glory of Christ. But why, then, are angels introduced into this? Well, certainly angels are glorious; the Scripture indicates that. But why does the translator take the liberty to insert “angelic majesties?”

The answer is found back in 2 Peter 2:10. (If you haven’t noticed, Jude and 2 Peter say many of the same things, sometimes even the exact same words.) Peter writes, “Bold and willful, they do not tremble as they blaspheme the glorious ones, whereas angels, though greater in might and power, do not pronounce a blasphemous judgment against them before the Lord.”

Peter is clearly referring to angels and says, “They will blaspheme angels when even angels who are greater in might and power than men do not blaspheme other angels.” That’s what Peter’s saying. They take the liberty to blaspheme angels. And because this is so unusual, Jude gives us an illustration to help seal the deal (although it can actually complicate matters).

Look back at verses 9-10, “But when the archangel Michael, contending with the devil, was disputing about the body of Moses, he did not presume to pronounce a blasphemous judgment, but said, ‘The Lord rebuke you.’ But these people blaspheme all that they do not understand, and they are destroyed by all that they, like unreasoning animals, understand instinctively.” These people, these dreamers, these false teachers don’t hesitate to indulge their flesh, reject lordship, and revile holy angels. And the point that Jude is making here is very powerful, because he says Michael, who is himself a holy angel, would not even revile Satan who is a fallen angel. And yet these false teachers will blaspheme holy angels.

You say, “Well then, I guess I’m finished? There’s no hope for me. I’ve been immoral. In fact, I still do things that are immoral. I have a rebellious streak in me. I can be insubordinate from time to time. And it’s not out of the realm of possibility for me to be irreverent. Pastor, are you saying there’s no hope for someone like me?” No, not at all. You’re not finished. You’re at the very point of decision. See, the same God who pronounces judgment on that which violates His profound plans for us as revealed in His Word is the same God who says, “Come here, and let me take those rags off you, and I will give you clothes. I will give you clothes such as you have never known. I will give you freedom. I will give you peace. I will give you contentment. I will give you all that I plan to give you. Do not believe the lie.”

And for those of us who are in the church: let’s stay awake! Let’s not live in Sleepy Hollow. No, no. The urgency of Jude’s letter is on account of the gravity of the congregation’s problem, and it is in light of the reality of the judgment of God. Let’s be on guard for our own lives and the lives of those in this body.

Jude: Don’t Forget This – Jude 1:5-7

Jude 1:5-7

Monday of this past week marked the 102nd anniversary of the sinking of the RMS Titanic. People are always interested and seem caught up in what happened in the darkness and icy waters when the ship labeled “unsinkable” slipped below the waters of the North Atlantic. Three (3) captains figured significantly in that story.

The first is the captain of the Titanic itself. She was captained by Capt. Edward Smith, who was one of the most decorated mariners of his day. As he took to the helm of the Titanic in Southhampton, England, on April 10, 1912, he had plans of retiring when he reached New York City port. To some degree, he believed what the press had written – that the ship was so great it couldn’t be sunk, even by God Himself.

The Titanic was luxurious. No ship like it had ever been built. It was immense. It was opulent in every way. The first-class accommodation was designed to be the pinnacle of comfort and luxury. It included a gymnasium, swimming pool, smoking rooms, fine restaurants and cafes, a Victorian-style Turkish bath, and hundreds of opulent cabins. To book passage on the Titanic was akin to booking a space flight today. First-class tickets were in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. To be onboard the Titanic was the single greatest experience of the day.

But it went down, in part because of the pride and arrogance of Capt. Smith who ignored warning after warning of icebergs in the north Atlantic. In fact, a German ship going in the opposite direction radioed and warned the Titanic that icebergs were seen just ahead and that she needed to change her course. But Capt. Edward Smith ignored the warnings. When the Titanic hit the iceberg, somewhere around the middle of the night, those who were eating and drinking and dancing in the ballrooms heard the most awful and ungodly scrapping they could ever imagine. And then, suddenly, the ship came to a stop. They ran out of the ballroom and onto the decks and there, from the iceberg, were pieces of ice that had fallen onto the deck. People picked up the ice and began to play with it, not realizing that it was already sinking the ship and in fact they were playing with the very thing that was going to take them to their deaths.

That’s the book of Jude. That’s a picture of the church. In many churches, and perhaps even this one, there are people who are dabbling with and playing with things that will be the spiritual undoing of their lives or the lives of those in the congregation. You say, “But the Bible says the church will prevail” (Matthew 16:18). Yes, the church of Jesus Christ will prevail, but what about this particular church? That’s what Jude is concerned about.

Let me take you back to the north Atlantic – to 17 miles away from the Titanic. As crew members began to fire the distress flares, the SS Californian, whose captain was Capt. Lord (believe it or not), was relatively close by and yet made very little effort to communicate with the Titanic or follow any radio transmissions in the area. In fact, due to a long shift, Capt. Lord went below deck to the chart room to sleep. And the SS Californian decided to maintain the status quo – we’ll just sail on.

There was a third captain there that night – Captain Arthur Rostron. He captained the RMS Carpathia, which was also a cruise liner and, after being alerted to the distress of the Titanic, ordered that his ship be turned in the direction of the tragedy and sailed 58 miles to assist in recovery efforts. Although they arrived at the sight of the Titanic’s sinking two (2) hours after she had disappeared below the waves, Captain Rostron and the crew of the Carpathia were still able to rescue 705 survivors.

Three captains. Three ships. Almost symbolic of the church. What will we do in these days? Like Titanic, will we live in arrogant pride that says, “We’ve heard it all; we’ve seen it all; we’re unsinkable.” Or, like the Californian, will we say, “Come weal or come woe, the only status we know is quo? Don’t upset. Don’t preach hard. Don’t talk to us about judgment or things that would cause us to be uncomfortable and unhappy.” Or will we be like the Carpathian, which turned into the direction of the disaster and went full steam ahead because our mission and our call is to rescue the perishing, to save the dying, to snatch in pity any of those headed to hell and the grave? That’s what God has called us to do.

Well, if you’re not already there, let me invite you to take your copy of God’s Word and turn with me to the tiny letter of Jude. If you’re visiting with us, we began a couple of weeks ago to look at this letter, and we’ve finally reached verses 5, 6, and 7. At this rate, I figure that we’ll reach verse 25 in the year 2025. If you need help finding Jude, it’s immediately in front of the book of Revelation. Let me read these three verses for us:

5 Now I want to remind you, although you once fully knew it, that Jesus, who saved a people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe. 6 And the angels who did not stay within their own position of authority, but left their proper dwelling, He has kept in eternal chains under gloomy darkness until the judgment of the great day – 7 just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire.

“Father, as we turn to Your Word, I pray that You would grant me clarity of thought, to the congregation a mind that is tuned to what You would say, and for all of us a heart that would be receptive. Oh Lord, there are times when it’s difficult to preach Your Word. Yet, I have no ordination nor authority to do anything other than that. So, I pray, in these moments, Lord, that You would use me like a coin of the realm and that You might spend me as the King sees fit. In the economy of Your kingdom, do something today, dear Lord, that would bring You honor, for we ask it in Jesus’ name. Amen.”

Jude isn’t concerned, the way many contemporary pastors in our day are concerned, to find out “What am I going to tell people that’s new? What am I going to say that’s novel? What strategy can we come up with in order to try and force back the tides of secularism in our world?” (By the way, that’s a real temptation and struggle for pastors like me.) It’s interesting that none of the apostles, none of the Gospel writers have anything to say about that. Is that because we shouldn’t be thinking imaginatively and creatively? No, not at all. But Jude isn’t writing to introduce his readers to something that they ‘ve never known. He’s writing to remind them of something that they must never forget. And in short order, he’s saying to them, “You will never escape the judgment of God. God will always have the last word.” And he says, “And I’m going to show you that as we go through the letter.”

Incidentally, when the Bible calls us to remember it’s not suggesting that we should try our best not to forget certain things – which, of course, we should. Rather it’s a call to our wills. It’s a call to duty. It’s a call to do something: to remember. Let me see if I can give you an illustration of what I’m talking about. As a pastor or as a concerned family member or friend, you might say to a couple who’s struggling with their marriage, “Remember your vows.” When we say that we don’t mean go in the bathroom and see if you can remember all the things you said. No, we mean “Live in light of those vows. Now is the time to live what you said.” That’s what Jude is doing here.

In verses 1-4, he says, “What’s going on here and the reason that I’m writing to you, appealing to you to contend for the faith, is because what you’re facing is nothing new. This has been written about long before. The condemnation that attaches to this and the judgment of God, is written about through the entire Bible.” And then he says, “I’m going to give you a number of illustrations to prove my point.” And here in verses 5, 6, and 7, he provides three Old Testament warnings showing that rebellion against God is always met by judgment – a judgment that is entirely righteous and is entirely necessary.

As you were following along just a moment ago, you likely said to yourself, “Oh boy, this is a bit difficult.” Yes. Yes it is. I think I said to some friends this week, “You know, verses 1–4 were okay, but now it falls off a cliff here at verse 5.” (No pun intended.) Well, here we are. We’re going to look at these three verses under the simple headings: “The Exodus,” “The Angels,” and “The Cities.”

The Exodus

The first illustration, the first reminder, and the first story of recollection that Jude offers is from the family tree of his listeners. He goes back into the Old Testament and says, “I want to remind you, although you once fully knew it, that Jesus saved a people out of the land of Egypt, and afterward destroyed those who did not believe.” You remember the story, don’t you? Of course, you do. Last year, we spent the better part of eight months going through the book of Exodus. And you’ll notice that Jude says Jesus is the One who brought them out. You say, “But Jesus? We don’t have Jesus. We must wait for the New Testament before Jesus comes onto the scene. We have to wait on Christmas for Jesus.” Well, I’ll leave you to work through that, but the second person of the Trinity is in many places in the Old Testament, from the beginning in a pre-incarnate form, sometimes mysteriously, sometimes referred to as the angel, whatever it might be. But you can see this: who could bring them out? Only the Savior. Who’s the only Savior? Jesus. Who can execute the judgment? Only one person: Jesus. So, Jude says, out they came, and out they all arrived. And they were all excited about it, for a while.

Then, when the time came for them to go into Canaan, they started to grumble and complain. We didn’t study that last year, but those of you who grew up in Sunday School or have read your Bibles know there were 12 spies sent into the land of Canaan. Ten came back with bad news and two came back with good news. The ten said, “No, you can’t possibly go in there. It’s full of giants. It’s a bad spot. It’s not the kind of thing that we would like.” And they began to spill the beans amongst the congregation, murmuring to one another: “Oh, we should never have come out. What a bad idea this was.” And so the word is as follows: “None of [those] who have seen my glory . . . and yet have put me to the test . . . shall [enter] the land” (Numbers 14:22-23).

But it’s not just Jude that refers to the Exodus. Listen to Paul in 1 Corinthians 10, “For I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ. Nevertheless, with most of them God was not pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness” (1-5).

Or how about one more reference to illustrate how important this event was supposed to be in the life of the Jews. Hebrews 3:12-19, “Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called ‘today,’ that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end. As it is said, ‘Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.’ For who were those who heard and yet rebelled? Was it not all those who left Egypt led by Moses? And with whom was He provoked for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness? And to whom did He swear that they would not enter His rest, but to those who were disobedient? So we see that they were unable to enter because of unbelief.”

Unbelief will keep you from Christ. Unbelief will keep you from heaven. That’s the point that Jude is making. Church attendance is no guarantee of eternal salvation unless it’s combined with a living, personal faith in the Lord Jesus. Jude tells his audience, that these people were in the crowd. They had come out of Egypt. Yes, they were circumcised on the outside but they weren’t circumcised in their hearts. Their hearts were full of unbelief. They were rebels. They rebelled against God’s rule. They doubted God’s promises. They were reluctant to believe His promises.

How we continue and keep ourselves in the love of God is that we heed the warnings, and we trust the promises. And you must allow the warnings to be warnings. Whenever you encounter a warning, don’t say, “Well, that couldn’t possibly be me.” Of course, it could! The warnings are there, and the promises are there, and when we neglect them we neglect the means that God has appointed to keep us to the end of the journey, so we’re not like those who perished in the wilderness.

Well, that’s the first one. It gets worse from there. Now we go to the angels who didn’t stay in their place – the angels who jumped out of their angelic box, as it were.

The Angels

Verse 6, “And the angels who did not stay within their own position of authority, but left their proper dwelling” – the place of God’s appointing; they came out of their place, came out of the plan of God for them – He’s “kept” them now “in eternal chains under gloomy darkness until the judgment of the great day.”

You see what he’s saying here? He’s saying, “Look, certain people have crept in unnoticed: flattering people, attractive people, undermining people, sneaky people. And if the angels ended in this way, don’t you think you ought to pay attention?” That’s what he’s saying.

Jude’s initial readers would be immediately okay with this. We find this particularly difficult – or at least, I found it difficult. But Jude’s readers would get the point immediately. Not only did they know the Old Testament, but they were also aware of Jewish tradition. And it seems, then, that what Jude is referring to is what took place in Genesis 6. Now, not many of us remember Genesis 6, but here’s what we read:

“The sons of God saw that the daughters of man were attractive. And they took as their wives any they chose. Then the LORD said, ‘My Spirit shall not abide in man forever, for he is flesh: his days shall be 120 years.’ [And] the Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of man and they bore children to them. These were the mighty men who were of old, the men of renown” (Genesis 6:2-4).

And if that’s the first time you’ve ever heard Genesis 6, then you’re really scratching your head. So let me see if I can unravel all of this for us. The “sons of God” are identified as either angels or it’s a reference to the sons of Seth, another child born to Adam and Eve. I tend to believe that the “sons of God” is a reference to fallen angels. The reason I take that position is because every time that the phrase “sons of God” is used in the Bible (three times in Job 1:6; 2:1; 38:7), it’s a clear reference to angels or fallen angels.

So how do we square the idea that fallen angels had sex with human females? Well, several times in the Bible, when angels visit earth they come in human form. One of those times is in the story of Sodom and Gomorrah, which, incidentally, is the next illustration that Jude uses. I don’t think that’s a mistake. In the Sodom and Gomorrah story you have angels coming to warn Lot and his family about the impending fate of the city, and they show up as human men. So, if it’s possible for regular angels to present a human men, then it may be possible for fallen angels to do the same. We also read in Hebrews 13:2, “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.”

It’s plausible – although mind-blowing – that angels are capable of taking on human form, even to the point of replicating human sexuality and possibly even reproduction. Why, then, do the fallen angels not do this more often? It seems that God imprisoned the fallen angels who committed this evil sin, so that the other fallen angels would not do the same. And that imprisonment doesn’t necessarily need to be viewed literally as some cave or dungeon somewhere. It could be a reference to imprisonment of spiritual blindness and chains of unbelief.

That’s exactly what Jude seems to be suggesting in this illustration. Remember verse 4, “For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.” Think about the dreadful stuff that happens in local churches, where men (usually men) in God-given positions of authority use their position of authority, by a means of manipulation, to engage in that which runs entirely contrary to everything God has ordained. Catholic Churches and Protestant Churches and Evangelical Churches, all of them have had headlines in recent years about sexual abuse.

Now don’t misunderstand me, I’m not suggesting that priests and pastors and ministers that have been charged with sexual abuse are somehow fallen angels. Fallen – yes. Angels – not quite. I’m simply trying to help us see that whatever happened in Genesis 6 and however that might be connected to Jude’s letter, God’s judgment is inescapable. Of course, this raises all kinds of questions, doesn’t it, about “spiritual wickedness in [the heavenly] places,” (Ephesians 6:12) about the nature of angelic visitation and demonic realities? But that’s not for this morning. His point, again, is straightforward. Judgment is inescapable, and God’s patience is not unlimited. “God’s Spirit will not always strive with man” (Genesis 6:3).

The Cities

Finally, we get to Jude’s last illustration (verse 7), and as I mentioned a minute ago, I think verse 6 and verse 7 go together. What I mean is that I think there’s a linkage between those angels that didn’t maintain their proper place and the story of Sodom and Gomorrah, which is verse 7. “[J]ust as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire.”

Again, if you want to be students of the Bible, you’re going to have to do your own homework on this. In Genesis 19 we read the story of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, and in that story there are two angels that look like men and they come to Lot’s house to warn him of the impending judgment. And as you continue reading that story you learn that “before [the angels] had gone to bed, all the men from every part of the city of Sodom – both young and old – surrounded the house. They called to Lot, ‘Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us so that we can have sex with them’” (Genesis 19:4-5, NIV). And Lot refuses but offers his daughters instead. Thankfully, the angels (remember they look like men) save Lot’s daughters and his entire family and set them outside the city before “the Lord rained [down] on Sodom and Gomorrah sulfur and fire” (Genesis 19:24).

And you’re left looking at a city – the place that Lot thought would be a fabulous setting for him. It’s now a smoldering ruin. And if you look carefully in your imagination, you can see Lot’s wife, captured in a single frame, a reminder of the fate of those who turn back, those who, according to Hebrews 10:38, “shrink back and are destroyed.” The writer of the Hebrews urges us again and again: “We are not those who shrink back and are destroyed, but we are those who continue and are saved.”

And perhaps there were some in Jude’s congregation – some who have come unnoticed and they’re saying, “You know, we’re free to do just about anything you want. We don’t have to live within the confines that God has ordained.” And it may well be that the perverting of God’s grace is so close to this incident that it would have sent shockwaves through Jude’s congregation. And what Jude is doing is he’s simply saying to his readers, “These things were a foretaste of a day that is yet to come.”

So what’s the word to us this morning? Well, it’s a word of warning, for sure, but it ought to be at the same time a word of encouragement. We’re going to get to the point where Jude says, “Keep yourselves in the love of God” (Jude 1:21). It’s the same thing that Paul says to Timothy when he says, “Timothy, evil men and imposters will go on from bad to worse. But as for you, continue in what you have believed and have become convinced of, knowing those from whom you learned it and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Jesus Christ” (2 Timothy 3:13-15, paraphrased). How do you keep yourself in the love of God? Heed the warnings and trust the promises.

Titanic’s radio operators received six messages of drifting ice. The first came at 9:00 AM from RMS Caronia reporting “bergs, growlers and field ice.” At 1:42 PM, RMS Baltic relayed a report that she had been “passing icebergs and large quantities of field ice.” At 1:45 PM, the German ship SS Amerika, reported she had “passed two large icebergs.” The SS Californian reported “three large bergs” at 7:30 PM, and at 9:40 PM, the steamer Mesaba reported: “Saw much heavy pack ice and great number large icebergs. Also field ice.” A final warning was received at 10:30 PM but was ignored. Two governmental investigations were launched (one in the US and one in the UK) and part of their findings reads: “Although the crew was aware of ice in the vicinity, they did not reduce the ship’s speed, and continued to steam at 22 knots, only 2 knots short of her maximum speed. Titanic’s high speed in waters where ice had been reported was later criticized as reckless.”

“Father, how we bow down before You. We come as beggars to the food of Your Word. We come as scratching the surface of the immensity of what You have left to us in the Bible. And we pray that You will help us to get the big story here – the warning that sounds out, the appeal that is made to “contend for the faith,” the reminder that the ground of our salvation is in the work of Christ. And the evidence that we are in Christ is that we continue to heed the warnings, continue to trust the promises – the very means that You have chosen to use in order to bring us safely to glory. So accomplish Your purposes in us and through us, we pray. For Jesus’ sake. Amen.”