Saturday, February 28, 2015

150301 Kept in the Love of God

  Jude 17-23 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. 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.
Jude, the brother of James and probable brother of Jesus was deeply concerned about his fellow believers. He called them “beloved”! He then calls on them to remember what the apostles of the Lord Jesus said with regard to the things that will happen in the last days. We do not know who the recipients of this letter was but we do know that Jude had a tremendous concern for them. He wanted to teach them about the faith we share in common but he found he had to warn them about the wolves who would come in and decimate the flock. Jesus had said that these false prophets would come in sheep’s clothing but inwardly they would be ravenous wolves. When Paul was on his last trip to Jerusalem he told the people of Ephesus that after he departed fierce wolves would come in among them decimating the flock. Let’s look at Jude’s take and consider what will happen…
In the last time. Turn with me to 2 Peter 3:1-4. 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. They will say, “Where is the promise of his coming?
The last days began with the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. The last days will continue until he returns again! The predictions of the apostles and prophets have been fulfilled over and over again. Peter agrees with Jude that scoffers had come in their day. We are certainly surrounded by scoffers today. Jude describes them as people who are “following their own ungodly passions”. Peter tells us that these scoffers will ask, “Where is the promise of his coming?”. No doubt the scoffers of our day are involved in the same conditions and questions.
Jude tells us that these people will always be…
Creating division. Paul warns us about the same kind of people. Turn with me to Romans 16:17-18. I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. 18 For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the na├»ve.
We need to focus on the positive teachings of the word of God and avoid those who cause divisions and create obstacles. They are among those that Paul had told the Ephesians about. These “fierce wolves” come into the churches to destroy the flock. (Acts 20:29) They do not serve the Lord Jesus Christ no matter how much they claim to. They have an appetite for power and money and with smooth talk and flattery they will deceive, if possible, the very elect. They invade through the Internet, television and radio. If they are allowed to they invade the very church itself by becoming part of the flock as “wolves in sheep’s clothing”. (Matthew 7:15) We must be very careful of these people. No matter how smooth they present themselves they are…
Without the Spirit. Turn with me to 1 John 4:1-6 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already. Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. They are from the world; therefore they speak from the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error.
No matter how persuasive a person is there will always be evidence whether he/she is of God or the enemy. Jude and John agree that we are to be very careful to avoid those who do not have the Spirit. Those who cause division and do not follow the Lord Jesus Christ. The Lord Jesus and his apostles prophesied that such people would come into the churches in an attempt of the enemy to destroy the church. We are to determine who these people are and avoid them.
However, we do not just guard against these enemies we need to be in the process of…
Building ourselves up. Turn with me to Colossians 2:6-7. Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.
When Jude says that we are to keep ourselves in the love of God he first says that we are to build ourselves up in our most holy faith and we are to be praying in the Holy Spirit. Now, let’s look at what is meant by building ourselves up.
“Building up” is part of the process of sanctification leading to spiritual maturity. While it is true that God does the work of spiritual growth in us we have an active role to play. Remember that Paul told the Philippians to work out their own salvation with fear and trembling. This is not earning our salvation, this is allowing salvation to flow into all parts of our life.
There are many things that lend themselves to the Christian “building up” his/her life. We are to strive for holiness; and abstain from immorality; we are to purify our self as Christ is pure; we are to cleanse ourselves and make every effort to grow godly character traits. We are to continually build up patterns and habits of holiness. The writer of Hebrews tells us that mature Christians “have their faculties trained by practice to distinguish good from evil” (Hebrews 5:14). There are no shortcuts to building ourselves up we are to focus on the old-fashioned time-honored means of Bible reading and meditation, prayer, worship, witnessing, Christian fellowship and self-discipline. We are to continue to grow both in our trust in God to sanctify us and our active striving for greater obedience in our lives. Jude also said we are to be…
Praying in the Holy Spirit. Turn with me to Ephesians 6:18. Praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints.
Jude and Paul are both in agreement that we are to pray “in the Spirit”. Now, what does this mean? Is this some kind of spiritual gift like speaking in tongues? After all Romans eight tells us that “the Spirit” helps us pray with sighs too deep for words. The word for help here is the same word that Martha used when she wanted Mary to help her with the housework. The word does not indicate that the Holy Spirit prays instead of us but that the Holy Spirit takes part with us and makes our weak prayers effective.
In order to truly understand what Paul and Jude are telling us we need to realize that the New Testament speaks of many activities that can be done “in the Holy Spirit”. It’s possible to be “in the Spirit” as John was on the Lord’s day when he received the Revelation. It’s possible, as Jesus did, to rejoice in the Holy Spirit (Luke 10:21). We can decide something in the Holy Spirit (Acts 19:21). We can love in the Holy Spirit (Colossians 1:8). To pray “in the Holy Spirit” is to pray with the conscious awareness of God’s presence surrounding us and sanctifying both us and our prayers.
We are to live lives strengthened by the Holy Spirit enabling us to keep ourselves in the love of God while we are…
Waiting for the Lord Jesus Christ. Turn with me to 2 Peter 3:11-13. Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, 12 waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! 13 But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.
Jude says that we are to wait for the “mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life”. Peter, strengthens that admonition. He has reminded his readers that the Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise to return for them. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief and all the material things surrounding us are to be dissolved! Since that is true we ought to focus our lives on being ready when he comes.
Jesus often spoke about his return. When he ascended into heaven after his resurrection and having spent 40 days with his disciples two angels told his disciples, “This Jesus… will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11). Paul taught that, “The Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the archangel’s call, and with the sound of the trumpet of God.” (1 Thessalonians 4:16). The writer of Hebrews and James the Lord’s brother along with Peter and John were all expecting his return “soon”! The book of Revelation closes with, “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!” (Revelation 22:20).
Christ’s return is the dominant hope of the New Testament church. They believed that he would soon return and that his return would be dramatic and visible. His appearing will not be a mere spiritual coming to dwell within people’s hearts, but will be a personal and bodily return just as he went into heaven he will come back again.
While we are waiting on him we are to…
Have mercy on doubters. Let’s look at Jesus’ concluding statement found in Matthew 28:16-20. Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17 And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. 18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 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, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Jude has told us that, “while we are waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads eternal life”, we are to “have mercy on those who doubt”. I’m afraid that we treat doubters with more disrespect than we should.
Look at what Matthew said about those that stood and watched Jesus ascend into heaven. They worshiped him, “but some doubted”. These were people who had seen him crucified. They had recognized him as having been resurrected from the dead into a perfect resurrection body. They had walked and talked with him after his resurrection. They had every reason to believe but “some doubted”. How could they doubt? I think the question is really why would they not doubt? They had seen many miracles performed by Jesus but now they were seeing him ascending into the clouds. Seeing the impossible being done before your very eyes is what doubt is fed by.
Jude says that we are to have mercy on those who doubt. I wonder, was he one of those who stood there seeing Jesus ascend into heaven who doubted? There is no question that, during Jesus ministry, his brothers in the flesh doubted who he was. Today, with all the anti-Christian activity around us, the temptation to doubt is very strong.
Today we live among many ravenous wolves who were able to come into the flock in sheep’s clothing. We see many who build up a following in the church and then lead them astray. It is very important that each of us test the spirits and see if they are from God. John the apostle spoke of the fact that many false prophets have gone out into the world in his day. Today the false prophets have the advantage of the Internet, television and radio. The standard by which they are to be measured is the whole counsel of God found in the Bible.
All scriptures quotes are from: The Holy Bible: English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

150222 Danger in the Church

Jude 1-4 Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and brother of James, To those who are called, beloved in God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ: May mercy, peace, and love be multiplied to you.
Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. 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.
Jude is a little letter written to encourage the church. As he prepared to write about the common salvation we all experience he found that he had to contend for the faith. He wanted his readers to see the danger that was creeping into the church in the form of false teachers. We need the same kind of warning today! Jude identifies himself as a servant of Jesus Christ and brother of James. We can’t be sure but he may well have been one of the sons that Mary birthed. A form of his name appears in the list found in Matthew 13:55. And that Judas is also seen as the brother of James.
We don’t know where these churches were at that Jude is writing to. This may very well have been simply a circular letter that would be sent out to all the churches is in a region. Since he uses the term, “To those who are called,” the message remains true today. We also are those who are called and kept.
To those who are called and kept. Turn with me to 2 Thessalonians 2:13-15.  But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the firstfruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth. 14 To this he called you through our gospel, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. 15 So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by our spoken word or by our letter.
Paul expands on the concept of being “called” in his second letter to the Thessalonians. In this passage we can see that the “called” are those who God chose to be saved. We are saved through the sanctification given by the Holy Spirit and belief in the truth. Before departing this earth Jesus had said to his disciples that he, himself, is the way, the truth, and the life, and that no one comes to the Father except through him. We are called through the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. And we are encouraged to know that having called us Jesus will keep us. Turn with me to John 10:27-29.  My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 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.
There are so many encouraging passages found in the New Testament concerning our being kept by the power of God but here we have Jesus himself assuring his disciples. Jesus’ sheep hear him and follow him. That would have been a familiar picture to his disciples. At the time of Jesus’ life on earth the shepherds from a common area would bring their sheep together in the evening and put them in a pen all together. In the morning after breakfast the shepherds would come to the gate. That gate probably would be a bar across the gap in a stone fence. And lifting the bar out of the way the shepherd would call his sheep. Those particular sheep would know his voice and they would come out of the mixed flock to follow their shepherd. Jesus said that he is our shepherd and we would recognize his voice. When we follow him he gives eternal life.
Eternal life is an interesting term. Eternal means forever before and after. I’m so grateful for this. He does not give us “everlasting life” he gives us eternal life. This is not our life being stretched out forever it is his life being infused into us. The life he gives us is the same life that he has had with the Father forever before the creation of the world and he will have with the Father forever after the end of all things. The life we have is nothing less than the life of Jesus Christ implanted into our life. Paul had told the Galatians that “the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me”. (Galatians 2:20)  It is a wonderful thing to know that he who called us is faithful and will always keep us until he comes back for us.
Jude wanted to write about…
Our common salvation. Turn with me to Ephesians 4:4-6. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
Please don’t get caught up in denominationalism. The Bible is very clear. There is one body meaning one church. The Baptist church where we meet is part of the body of Christ. Not, by any means, more important than another part which might be called “Methodist”, “Presbyterian”, or any other denominational name. We do not agree on everything but whoever accepts the basic gospel is part of our family.
Those he calls he keeps and they have a common fellowship in the one Spirit. Remember that there is one Lord, one faith, and one baptism. Because there is one God and Father of all, we share in a common salvation. Nonetheless, it is important that we…
Struggle for the faith. Turn with me to 1 Timothy 6:11-12.  But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. 12 Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.
Paul views Timothy has his “son in the faith” and, as such, he is concerned that Timothy be sound in the faith. In urging Timothy to be cautious about the desire to be rich, and the damage that such a desire can do to an individual’s faith, Paul simply tells them to flee those things. As we fight the good fight of the faith we do so by pursuing righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, and gentleness. These are qualities that are largely lacking today in the church across America. If we had time I would like to go through each of these qualities but instead I will simply leave it there. We are to struggle for “the faith”. Not struggle for faith but instead struggle for “the faith” of our common salvation. There are those who worm their way into the churches for self-centered purposes and they are…
Dangerous people. Turn with me to 2 Peter 2:1-3. But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.
You will find a lot of parallels between Peter’s writing and Jude’s letter. Here we see Peter reinforcing the idea that false prophets came in the Old Testament days and during the church age there will be false teachers. We need to be careful to examine the teaching of each by using the Bible as a standard. These false teachers certainly do not openly present destructive heresy but instead “secretly” bring in destructive heresy. Some even go so far as to deny our Lord Jesus. Notice that Peter uses the term “sensuality” showing that sexual sin is often a part of a heretic’s life. The sex saturated age that we live in certainly lends itself to people being drawn away from the truth by sensuality.
Jude gives us some…
Old Testament examples. Turn with me to Jude 5-7. 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. 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— 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.
Here we find Jude using three examples from the Old Testament. First of all, the people of Israel that Jesus delivered from slavery. The King James Version uses the term “Lord” where the English standard version uses the name “Jesus” to identify the deliverer from bondage. After having been delivered from bondage they did not believe. This is an amazing concept to me! These people saw the plagues in Egypt, the parting of the Red Sea, the water from the rock, the daily provision of food by God in the form of manna, and the delivery of the 10 Commandments from the mountain. They saw much more than that! But time doesn’t allow us to begin to recount all the things they had seen. And still they did not believe and were consequently destroyed.
A second example used by Jude is that of the angels who left their proper dwelling and followed Satan into rebellion. He reminds his readers that these are kept in eternal chains under gloomy darkness until the judgment.
A third example are the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah! He points out that their sexual immorality and unnatural desire was brought into punishment of eternal fire.
These false teachers defile the flesh, reject authority, and blaspheme. It is important that we know…
Why they are dangerous. Let’s read on Jude 10-13. But these people blaspheme all that they do not understand, and they are destroyed by all that they, like unreasoning animals, understand instinctively. 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.
False teachers in Jude’s day, just like the false teachers today, blaspheme what they do not understand. They follow the example of Cain whose deeds were evil and his brother’s righteous. Because of that he murdered his brother. These false teachers are very much involved in the desire for wealth. They forget, or choose to ignore, the fact that the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. They twist the word of God in an effort to make themselves important. Jude describes them as hidden reefs at the love feast, waterless clouds and fruitless trees.
As shepherds they are more concerned with feeding themselves than feeding the sheep. They promise many things but produce nothing. They are like clouds during a drought. Nothing can be more disappointing, at the moment, than to need rain and see clouds that do not rain.
God has a place for them in utter darkness. The time will come when all of these, along with us, will stand in judgment before God. We must remember that…
The Lord is coming. Turn with me to Titus 2:11-14. For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, 13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.
Whatever our view of the second coming might be we need to remember that Jesus is coming again! Jesus said no one knew the day or the hour when he would return. But he promised that he would return. Paul, writing to Titus, tells us that God’s grace brings salvation and trains us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions. God teaches us to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives. Because we are waiting for our blessed hope, our great God and Savior Jesus Christ!
There is much confusion today about the second coming of Christ. The truth is seldom taught that he is coming again. Jesus is coming again with a purpose and that purpose is…
To execute judgment. Turn with me to the back of your Bible and listen while I read Revelation 20:11-15.  I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. 12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. 13 And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. 14 Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. 15 And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.
It is important that we make it our aim to please God. We are assured, multiple times in the Bible, that there will be a judgment. This description in the book of Revelation shows us that books will be opened. There are two groups facing the judgment. Death and hell represent one group and they will be judged according to what they have done. Ultimately they will be cast into the lake of fire which is the second death.
The second group are those whose names are written in the book of life. Those whose names are written in the book of life will be recognized by the Lord Jesus. These are those whose names Jesus will confess before the Father. (Revelation 3:5) This book of life was written before the world was created and helps assure us that he who calls us will keep us. He promises never to blot our name out of the book. We have already seen that Jesus and the Father, along with the Holy Spirit, are God and that his sheep will be kept by Jesus himself and by the Father.
We are taught in the book of Romans, chapter 8, that there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Earlier in the book we find one of the greatest promises in all Scripture. In Romans 6:14 we are assured, “For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.” We are encouraged to examine ourselves to be sure that we are in the faith. I tremble at the idea that I have to face a holy God until I remember that Jesus took my place on the cross and paid the price for my sin.
We live in a world today that seems to recognize that we will exist, in one manner or another, after death. The problem in the viewpoint of most people is the belief that everybody is going to heaven. That can’t be true. Only those who are in Jesus Christ have any hope of heaven in the world to come. Jesus told a story about a rich man and a poor man. When they died the rich man lifted up his eyes in hell only to see the poor man in paradise with Abraham. The story is very clear that the rich man was in great suffering while the godly poor man was being comforted. We need to lovingly warn our acquaintances and family about the reality of hell and the hope of heaven. Where do you stand? Have you made the choice to follow Jesus and be born again? Today can be the day.
All scriptures quotes are from: The Holy Bible: English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.