Tag Archives: end times

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

3 Oct
Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

“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
Photo by Patrick Fore on Unsplash

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
Photo by Kate Kalvach on Unsplash

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. 

Are we living in the “last times”? – Jude 17-25, Part 1

30 Sep
Photo by Stephan Herb on Unsplash

Have you ever been in a gathering or meeting where someone is talking, and you think to yourself, “I don’t know what this guy is talking about”?  You’re hearing his words, but you’re not understanding him.  Maybe he’s using jargon you’re not really familiar with.  But here’s the thing, no one in the group listening to him is giving any indication that they don’t understand, so you feel awkward.  To make matters worse, the way he is talking makes it seem like he believes what he is talking about it so common that of course everyone would know what he is talking about.  You wonder if something is wrong with you because you are so confused.

Or have you ever been new to a group, maybe your first day or week on the job, or new to a school, new to a class, new to a volunteer group, or even new to a church, and someone says a line, a phrase, and everyone starts laughing, but you have no idea why?  You realize, they just told an inside joke, and you have no history with them, so you feel like an outsider.  It can feel really unsettling.

Over the years on this blog we’ve talked about how we Christians can have our own lingo.  I’m referring to Christian phrases that we commonly use amongst ourselves, and most of us have a good idea of what we’re talking about.  But if you were to use those phrases outside of a Christian setting people would probably give a strange look that says, “What in the world are you talking about?” Then I thought about it more and it struck me that sometimes even we don’t understand our own lingo.  Do you ever feel like that?

I was thinking about this tendency recently, because the Scripture passage we’re studying this week has some important phrases that sound like insider language, but do we know what they mean?  Take a look at the phrases listed below and think about what images or ideas pop into your minds as you read them:

Last times.

Build yourselves up.

Pray in the Spirit.

Keep yourself in God’s love.

Do you know what they mean? They sound really Christian don’t they. Today we’re not going to assume that we know what they mean.  Instead let’s investigate!

For the last few months on the blog, we have been reading other people’s mail.  That mail has been the short letters in the New Testament: Titus, Philemon, 2nd John, 3rd John, and today we finish Jude.  Last week we looked at Jude 1-16, and we learned that Jude was confronting the church about godless men whom the church had allowed to enter into their fellowship and make a mockery of things.  So Jude asked the church to contend for the faith, which meant that the church needed to deal with these men.  But how?

Now we move to the conclusion of Jude’s letter, verses 17-25, where we learn what contending for the faith looks like. 

In verse 17, Jude continues by saying to the church, “Remember what the apostles of Jesus foretold.”  What did the apostles foretell? Jude reminds them in verse 18: the apostles prophesied that a number of things would happen in the last times. There’s that first phrase I listed above.

What are the last times? It is possible that Jude is referring to 2 Peter 3:3 which is nearly identical to Jude 18.  Here is 2 Peter 3:3, “in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires.”  Compare that to Jude 18.  See how similar they are?

In fact, if you study the text of 2 Peter and Jude, you’ll notice that there are a lot of similarities between the two letters.  So it is possible that Peter was one of the apostles who prophesied this message, and Jude is referring to him.  It could also be that both Peter and Jude were writing at the same time about the same situation.

Whenever we hear of last times, it raises the question, “Are we in the last times?”  There are plenty of Christians who would like to believe that we are in fact in the last times. (That’s come up on the blog many times. See here and here, for example.)  I have often heard people state that they have a strong belief that we are in the last days.  But the reality is that we don’t know. 

Jesus taught that no man knows the day, time or hour.  So it is okay that we don’t know if we are in the last times.  What is interesting to me is that here Jude is talking about the last times as if they were happening in his day and age.  Do you know how long ago Jude wrote?  Almost 2000 years ago.  My guess is that there have been Christians in every era that felt like they were living in the last times.  In recent memory I can think of no better era that seemed like it was the last days than World War 2.  It had all the makings of the last days, from global war, to massive amounts of death, to evil leaders, and more.  But it was not the last days, and our era is nowhere near as horrible as the situation was in WW2.  We live in a far more peaceful time. 

So my point is that we should take Jesus seriously when he said that no one knows the day, time or hour.  But Jesus also said that we should be ready at all times.  What does it mean to be ready? 

Let’s stay with this and see if Jude answers it.   I think he will!

Feeling fine about the end of the world

18 Feb

The end is near! Remember the predictions of the end of the world that we’ve had in recent years?

There was the mayhem of January 31st, 1999.  Even if the apocalypse didn’t hit the earth when the clock struck midnight (and of course that was going to be in the Eastern time zone!), remember the widespread fear that the computers were going to get screwed up because of the change-over from the 1900s to the 2000s, and the planet was going to shut down? But it didn’t happen.

Then it was Harold Camping saying May 21, 2011 was the day Jesus would return. Remember that? People went pretty wild about this.  Some of Camping’s followers dumped their whole life savings to go around the country in mobile homes plastered with doomsday messages. Camping’s ministry bought billboards all over the country. “The Bible guarantees it,” the signs said. When May 21 came and went, he admitted he made a mistake, but now he had it right.  The big day was now going to be October 21, 2011. But 10/21 came and went with no end of the world.  One of Camping’s employees estimates Camping spent $100 million (mostly from the sale of property) on advertising the end of the world. Throughout his life, Camping actually made 10 different predictions. All wrong.

Then the end was supposed to be Dec 12, 2012! Remember the Mayan Calendar, which supposedly predicted this?  But, nope, we got that wrong.

Or maybe the end would come in 2014? Ancient Norsemen predicted Ragnarok, which translates into “doom of the gods,” would take place on February 22, 2014.  Nope.

Then some scholars said that all the hubbub about Mayan calendar in 2012 was wrong because of a misinterpretation. Now they said, the correct interpretation of the Mayan calendar reports that the world would end on May 15, 2015.  Uh, no.

That brings us to 2016.  Did you hear the most recent prediction?  The world was supposed to end on Valentine’s Day 2016.  That’s last week!  Take a look and listen closely:

Wrong again.  Ok, so that was kind of a joke, as it was part of a fictional movie.  The point of all this is that there have been a lot of end of the world predictions lately, and they can leave you feeling stressed or anxious.

I am a fan of the band REM, and one of their songs gets played often around these end of the world predictions. Remember this song? It’s the end of the world as we know it, and what?   I feel fine!

If we’re honest, while we laugh at the predictions, many of us do not feel fine about the end of the world. I was talking with a guy at the gym this week, and he knows that I am a pastor, so he randomly started asked about the end times. He listens to TV preachers who have him convinced we are living in the end times.  Are we?  What do you think?  Actually, the most important question, I think, is “What did Jesus teach about the end times?”

Before we read what Jesus has to say, is it possible that not one of us knows with certainty if we are living in the end times?  We look at what is happening in the world, and the news from around the world sure makes us wonder. We get iffy when we hear about Russia invading Ukraine. When we hear about ISIS beheading Christians. Recent bombings in Syria. The internet, talk of people being implanted with computer chips, drones in the sky and so on.  I could go on and on.  Despite all that, though, we do not know if we are living in the end times.

It would be much better for us to say “It might be the end of the world as we know it, then again, it might not, but either way…I feel fine.”

That’s right, it is possible to feel fine even if it is the end of the world.  I think REM was actually on to something.  You might be thinking, “How could we feel fine if it is the end of the world?  That’s an awful thought!”  Well, that’s a good question.  I agree that the end of the world is a terrible idea.  But maybe it is possible to feel fine about it.

Join us at Faith Church on Sunday morning to find out why.  We’ll look at what Jesus has to say about feeling fine at the end of the world in Luke 17:20-37.