How is your heart? We normally think of this question in medical terms. But in this post, think about your heart in spiritual terms. Does God have your heart?
In this series of posts on the first 16 verses of the ancient letter called Jude, we’ve been learning that Jude was writing to Christians to talk with them about impostors in the church. If you want to get up to speed with what we’ve discussed already, you can read Part 1 and Part 2. We left off with Jude revealing the impostors in the church.
At this point, I start thinking to myself, I wonder if the church already knows this, or is Jude revealing it to them for the first time? Would people be reading this letter thinking, “What? Who in the church is like that? Who is he talking about?” Would they be getting all concerned about being infiltrated? It’s like when you hear on the news that hackers stole a million Target customer passwords, and you think, “Did they get me too? Is my account compromised?”
Look at verse 5. Jude says the church actually did know what was going on. It could be that Jude is saying that what church knew about was the material that he is about to teach, which are three illustrations from the Old Testament. Even if so, as we continue hearing what Jude has to say about how the impostors were behaving in the church, it will become very clear that the people in the church knew about it. My guess is that they not only knew about it, but worse, were allowing it to happen, and that’s what has Jude so concerned. In other words, the secret impostors weren’t hiding themselves all that well. That’s why Jude is confronting the church, because the church knew who the impostors were and didn’t deal with them. The church wasn’t contending for the faith.
Jude, in verses 5-7, brings up illustrations from the Old Testament, then, to remind the people of God’s judgment against unfaithfulness in his people. Clearly Jude wants to motivate the church to contend for the faith.
The first illustration in verse 5 is the story of the Exodus, and how even after rescuing the people of Israel from slavery in Egypt, they rebelled against God and he punished them. The second illustration in verse 6 is about rebellious angels, which is admittedly a somewhat mysterious reference, but carries the same idea as the first. The third illustration in verse 7 is the story Sodom and Gomorrah which were judged for their sin. The conclusion Jude says, is that these stories serve as an example of what happens to those who rebel against God. They will face consequences. So don’t rebel against God. It won’t go well for you.
Jude continues in verses 8-9 when he says that in the very same way (as the illustrations from verses 5-7 described) these godless impostors in the church do three things: pollute their own bodies, reject authority and slander celestial beings. We’re not told how they do these evil things yet. But clearly polluting your body is not good, and is likely a reference to sexual impurity. Rejecting authority is not good either. Of course neither is slandering celestial beings, but what does that specific behavior refer to? We hear a lot about not polluting our bodies, and especially through sexual impurity. We also hear a lot about rejecting authority. These are common problems in our day. But slandering celestial bodies? What is he talking about?
In verse 9 Jude explains this with an illustration of slander from an apocryphal book, called The Assumption of Moses. Because it is an apocryphal book, it is very interesting that Jude quotes from it. This doesn’t mean that the story Jude quotes is true. It could be a parable. We don’t know if Jude thought it was true or not. That’s not what is significant about Jude’s use of a non-biblical source. What we do know is that Jude is using the story to prove his larger point. So let’s see how Jude uses this story.
In the story, the archangel Michael and the devil dispute over Moses’ body. Michael wants the body of Moses for the Lord, but the devil makes a claim on the body because Moses, early in his career, had done evil when he murdered an Egyptian. What Jude points out is that in the argument Michael chooses not to disrespect the devil! Instead he demonstrated humility by saying “the Lord rebuke you,” showing his trust in the Lord. Compare that to the ungodly impostors in the church. They were arrogant and did not have the humility that Michael showed, even with the devil! You’d think Michael would have permission to slander the devil, right? But instead he humbly places his trust in God. The impostors in the church were nothing like that, even willing to commit slander against God’s angels. Jude is using this to describe how far these impostors hearts were from God.
Therefore Jude gives us a principle we need to remember: God cares so deeply about our hearts. As we are in relationship with God, our lives and our actions are the outflow of what is going on in our hearts. In the story Michael showed his heart to fully trust in letting God handle the devil. In this letter Jude is pointing out heart issues in these impostors and then encouraging the hearts of the Christians to trust God and make the brave changes that were needed. We need to examine our hearts. Are we allowing God to guide us, to fill our hearts with his love?