Archive | October, 2019

Mercy for those who doubt – Jude 17-25, Part 5

4 Oct
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“Be merciful to those who doubt.” 

Interesting phrase, isn’t it?  So often we conceive of doubt as a negative thing to be avoided, and the result can be that people who doubt are considered to be sinful or strange.  But is doubt wrong?

As we conclude our two-week study through the letter of Jude, we find that in verse 22, he writes that we should be merciful to people who doubt.  Why? Because doubt is not an indication of disbelief.  Doubt is normal.  Just about everyone doubts.  It doesn’t mean they have lost the faith.  They’re just questioning, investigating, wondering.  Their doubt is actually healthy, as doubt helps us go deeper in our beliefs, making them our own.  Let’s be merciful to those who doubt.  Instead of judging those who doubt, let’s listen to them share their concerns.

Someone recently said to me that where there is doubt there is hope.  In a society where there is growing doubt, this is instructive to us.  I’ve heard a stat reporting that only 30% of 18-30 year olds go to church.  We can choose to get upset about this, but Jude is wise to instruct us to be merciful to those who doubt.  Rather than dump on people for doubting, we should have an attitude of embracing them, even when they doubt.  Doubt means they are searching, and thus there is hope that they’ll find what they are looking for. 

Jude has more instructions for us in verse 23: “Snatch others from the fire and save them.”  Christians should be known as being active in outreach.  We can and should seek to help the ungodly impostors find God. But notice how Jude finishes verse 23, “To others show mercy mixed with fear, hating even the clothing stained with corrupted flesh.”  For people who are corrupted, meaning that they will not receive any help or guidance or word about Jesus, which seems to describe the ungodly impostors in Jude’s day, then it is time to part ways with them.  Remember our study in Titus when Paul said, “have nothing to do with them”?  That’s what Jude is getting at here.  

Jude then concludes his letter in verses 24-25 with an amazing flourish.  It is a prayer to God.  He starts his prayer, “To him who is able to keep you from falling.”  Falling is a word that refers to stumbling.  God is able to keep you from stumbling!  He doesn’t force us.  But we can depend on him, and rely on his strength and power through his Spirit within to help us remain faithful to him.

Next Jude says God is also able “to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy.” Combine that with how he finishes the prayer: “To the only God, our savior, be glory, majesty, power and authority through Jesus Christ our Lord before all ages, now and forevermore.”  When I think about that it strikes me how he focuses on giving glory to God.  He is placing God squarely in focus right in front of him, right in front of us, almost saying, “Look at God, he is real, he is alive, he is powerful, and we need to remember that.” 

These kinds of rich theological prayers are so important because they shake us out of a lull and help us focus on what is real, what is true, what is important about life. 

This, then, is what Jude is saying in his letter.  He is saying, “Wake up people, there are impostors in your church, and you are letting it happen.  You’ve let yourself fall asleep.  Wake up.  Focus on truth, on goodness; focus on God.  You’re probably going to need to repent of your lethargy and get down to the business of contending for the faith.  But remember that you are called, loved and kept. God is able to keep you from falling.  He is at work!  Focus on him.  Spend time with him.  Allow him to guide your life.” 

Keep yourself in God’s love – Jude 17-25, Part 4

3 Oct
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“Keep yourself in God’s love.” That really sounds like a religious or spiritual thing to say, right? What comes to your mind when you read that line? In this series of posts, we have been studying some phrases that Jude writes in an ancient letter to his Christian friends. It seems that Jude is writing them to give them guidance about how to ready themselves if Jesus would return in their lifetimes. Specifically, Jude’s friends had allowed ungodly impostors in their church, and he was very concerned that his friends were doing the opposite of getting ready for Jesus’ return. In verses 1-16 he pointed out who they impostors were, and now in verses 17-25 he is giving the church instructions for how to address the impostors, thus providing the church a foundation for being ready should Jesus return.

First, he talked about how to build one another up in the faith and, second, about praying in the Spirit. Now he says in verse 21 that Christians, to be ready for Jesus’ return, should keep themselves in God’s love.  Last week I referred to this verse because at the beginning of the letter, Jude says in verse 1 that he writing to those who are “called, loved and kept by God.”  So in verse 1 we see God at work doing the calling, loving and keeping, while here in verse 21 Jude says that the Christians need to do the work of keeping themselves in God’s love.  It is both God’s work and ours. So how do we keep ourselves in God’s love?

The way Jude wrote this, the phrase “keep yourself in God’s love” is the only command or imperative, and the other phrases support that command.  In the NIV the translators chose to feature each phrase individually. Some other English translations, however, help us see Jude’s focus when they translate it this way: “building yourselves up in the faith, praying in the Spirit, keep yourselves in God’s love, waiting for the mercy of God to bring yourselves to eternal life.”  See how each of the supporting phrases modify the central command to keep yourselves in God’s love?

That means we should be known for our love while we wait for God to return, or until that day we pass on.  The goal is to keep ourselves in God’s love.  In that we see how much God wants to be in relationship with us, how much he wants his love to remain in our lives, and thus how much he wants his love to be flowing out of our lives.

Think about other Scripture passages referring to love that we can apply to our lives.  “Love one another.” “Love your enemies.”  “We love because God first loved us.”  When we depend on God’s love, his power resides in us, so that his love flows through us.  This occurs through his Spirit within us, meaning that his love is within us. Here we have a connection to praying in the Spirit which Jude mentioned previously.

I was reading this week about the ancient Christians and how they lived through numerous awful plagues in the Roman Empire.  When most others, especially the wealthy fled the cities to avoid the plague, the Christians, filled with God’s love, stayed and ministered the hope of Jesus to people.  Interestingly, as the Christians shared the words of the Good News about Jesus, and as they provided clean water and food to people, many sick people actually recovered, and when they were back to health, you can imagine how they felt about Jesus.  Many gave their lives to him. Those Christians kept themselves in God’s love.

How about you? What will it look like for you to keep yourself in God’s love? Notice that it is a practice of relationship to God that results in his loving flowing out of you. Keeping yourself in God’s love is not just personal or private. Instead, when you are filled with God’s love, you will share that love with those around you, especially with those in need.

How to pray in the Spirit – Jude 17-25, Part 3

2 Oct
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What is prayer like for you? Do you spend much time praying? And when you pray, what do you actually do? How much do you talk? How much do you listen?

As we continue our series through Jude 17-25, we’re learning how to be ready for Jesus to return, and the next practice Jude teaches is in verse 20: we should pray in the Holy Spirit.

One author I read says this: “The person who has the Spirit of God within him (that is to say, every Christian), the person who is led by the Holy Spirit in his prayers as in all else, will certainly pray in the Spirit. It is he who utters within us the distinctive Christian address to God as ‘Abba’ or ‘Father’ (Rom. 8:15).”[1]

So how do we pray in the Holy Spirit?  Be observant about the Spirit’s work in your life.  Learn to listen to him, which is not always natural or easy, but can take practice.  It means opening up space in our life to listen.  For me I have been convicted about this recently, and I have been using Psalm 46:10 “Be still and know that I am God” as a guide.  I’ll set a timer for 10 minutes, and just be still, and think about God. I ask him how he is doing.  I try to avoid telling him how I’m doing, what I want, and instead listen. 

Listening means learning to be observant.  At our sermon roundtable one person told the story of a medical school professor who brought a cup on urine to class.  He held it up to the class, explained that it was urine, dipped his finger in it, and then sucked on a finger.  The students were disgusted.  But then the prof said that a major hurdle they need to get over is being repulsed by bodily fluids, or they won’t make it in the medical profession.  So he passed the urine sample around class asking students to smell it and taste it.  There were many grimaces and laughter as the urine went around class, wrinkling noses and souring their tongues.  But then when the urine made its way back to the prof, he revealed he had dipped his pointer finger in the urine and sucked on his middle finger.  He said that what he really wanted to teach them was observation.  They would have known what he did if they were paying close attention.  Observation is vital in any situation, and likewise as we listen for God’s Spirit to speak.  So Jude reminds us to pray in the Spirit, and that means we need to spend time observing how God might be at work, or might be speaking to us. 

Also another excellent way to pray in the Spirit is to pray the scripture in your prayers.  That starts with reading and thinking about a section of the Bible, asking the Spirit to help you understand it.  In 1 Corinthians 2:12 Paul says that we have the Spirit of God within us to help us understand what he has given us.  Also, as we read a section of Scripture we can pray that the Spirit can help us apply it to our life.

This takes time, space, and practice. So how will you open up that space for quiet listening to God in your life?


[1] Michael Green, 2 Peter and Jude: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 18, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1987), 213.

How to build others up in the faith – Jude 17-25, Part 2

1 Oct
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Are you building others up? What does it mean to build others up? In th previous post I mentioned that there are Christian phrases that we use but maybe don’t fully understand. Today we’re looking at the phrase “build each other up.” Are you building others up in the faith?

Yesterday we began our series on Jude 17-25, studying another Christian phrase Jude mentions: last times. As we continue in this post, Jude talks about what we will see in the end times. Take a look at what he says in verses 18-19.  There he briefly repeats a description of the ungodly impostors he talked about in verses 1-16, which we studied last week.

Jude describes them as scoffers who follow their own ungodly desires, divide the church, follow mere natural instincts, and who do not have the Spirit.  What Jude is saying is that the church should not be surprised by the presence of ungodly impostors among them because the apostles had predicted it would happen. 

When we discussed this in our sermon roundtable (a kind of weekly Bible study that discusses sermons 10 days before they are preached) a few weeks ago, one person asked an interesting question: “What might make a church vulnerable to people like this?”  Think about that.  You have a church filled with Christians, and those Christians allow ungodly scoffers to be a part of the church.  How can that be?

Last week I mentioned that perhaps we could question Jude by asking, “But shouldn’t we want ungodly people in the church so that they can learn about the Lord?”  On one hand I get that, and I would generally say, yes, we do want everyone to come to our fellowship to hear the good news about Jesus.  But there is more to the story. Look at the way Jude describes these ungodly impostors.  They divide the church.  They are malicious.  They are not genuinely interested in seeking truth.  Instead they are actively seeking to tear down the church.  So while the church should be a place where people can meet Jesus, there are some people who are simply malicious in their intent, and Jude is saying that the church needs to deal with them. 

With that said, are there aspects of a church that would make a church vulnerable to being infiltrated by people who are malicious?  At sermon roundtable we speculated that if church has spiritual boredom or apathy, or maybe poor teaching, it could be susceptible to this.  Thus that church would be showing that they are not ready for the last times, as Jesus taught us to be. And that is exactly where Jude goes next.  

In verse 20 we see how Jude begins to answer the question, how do we show we are ready for the end times?

First he says, build yourselves up in the faith.

Discipleship is all about building up yourself and others in the faith.  It requires regular immersion in Scripture, applying God’s word to your life.  Not just reading it or listening to sermons, but doing what it says, as Jude’s brother James writes in his letter (see James 1:22). 

We also build each other up through Christian fellowship and community, encouraging one another.  This is why it is so important that everyone in the church belong to a small group of some kind. In the old days of the evangelical church, they had weekly home gatherings called class meetings, and they would ask one another, “how goes it with your soul?”

Are you a part of a group like that? Here are some questions that a group could be asking one another:

  • What are you reading in your Bible?
  • How is your prayer life?
  • What is something you are thanking God for this week?
  • What is something God is convicting you of right now?
  • How are you choosing joy this week?
  • What can we pray about?

If this is totally foreign to your group, perhaps you could make it a goal to work towards, implemented slowly and gradually.  Additionally, group members could check in with each other at least once between meetings (text, call, email, face-to-face, etc.) to see how they are doing, again utilizing these questions as a follow-up to what was brought up at the face-to-face meetings.  Do you see how questions like these can encourage growth in discipleship to Jesus? Participation in a group like that is one of the best ways to build each other up in the faith.