Tag Archives: God’s love

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.

You are Called, Loved, Kept – Jude 1-16, Part 1

23 Sep
Photo by Julie Johnson on Unsplash

Have you ever known someone who turns out to be very different from what you originally thought?  Sometimes we get that impression about a person as we get to know them.  Other times people change.  Then there are people who just fool you. 

Malcolm Gladwell in his recent book Talking to Strangers tells the story of a woman, Ana Belen Montes, who worked for the Defense Intelligence Agency for years, but during that time she was a spy for Cuba.  When word got out, it wrecked her colleagues.  They couldn’t believe it.  She had duped them.  She was an impostor. 

We’re used to hearing about stories like this coming from the world of intelligence.  But there can be impostors in many places.  Some people say that we are all impostors to one degree or another.  Who lives a truly consistent life?  In recent years, there is the trend of being a social media impostor.  That is the person who selectively curates their social feed to make it look like their life is a certain way, usually really good, when in fact those who know them in person know things are very different.  Christians can be impostors on social media, and in the church. 

All summer we’ve been reading other people’s mail.  Ancient letters in the Bible, like Titus, Philemon, 2nd John and 3rd John. This week we are reading a letter written by Jude, who is going to talk about impostors in the church.  So before continuing, go ahead and read Jude verses 1-16. 

In verse 1, the writer identifies himself as Jude, and he describes himself two ways: a servant of Jesus Christ, and a brother of James.  When he says he is a “servant of Jesus,” that’s a fairly common description that writers of the New Testament letters used, but the second label Jude uses is rather uncommon, “brother of James.”  Who is James?  James was at the time a leader of the Jerusalem church.  Sometimes people refer to him as the Bishop of the Christian church in Jerusalem.  He’s the same one that wrote the New Testament epistle of James.  And here’s where it gets interesting: James was a brother of Jesus.  So that means Jude was also a brother of Jesus. 

Two brothers of Jesus each ended up becoming leaders in the church and writers of a book of the New Testament.  I love that kind of detail.  You might think, “Well, of course Jesus’ brothers would become famous. That happens all the time in famous families.”  That is a good point, and it may have happened in this case too.  But it didn’t start out that way.  In John’s Gospel, chapter 7 verses 1-5, there is a brief story where John describes some animosity between Jesus and his brothers.  It seems they weren’t too keen on the idea of their big brother’s sudden fame.  John 7:5 says, “Even his own brothers did not believe in him.” 

But at some point, of his siblings, at least James and Jude changed their views and began to believe in him.  To the point where Jude doesn’t call himself a brother of Jesus, but a servant of Jesus. He had come so far in his thinking, when he could have taken advantage of the family connection and said, “You know I’m Jesus’ brother, right?”  But he didn’t.  We see some measure of humility in Jude.  That said, he does say he is the brother of James, so he still name drops a little. 

After identifying himself, he describes who the recipients are, and we see that it is a general letter, to those who have been:  Called, Loved and Kept.

That means Jude is writing to Christians.  Christians are called by God into his family, to a new life as a child of God, and Christians are loved by God the Father, and finally Christians are kept by Jesus. 

Do you hear the close family language in that phrase?  Called, loved, kept.  In this we observe the active role that God takes in being in relationship with us. 

I believe it best to understand God’s love as not forcing us against our will, whether before or after we choose to give our lives to him.  He’s not that kind of God.  Instead we need to see this phrase in connection with verse 21.  We’re going to study that more fully next week, but I at least want to point it out.  There Jude says, “Keep yourselves in God’s love,” which means that we have a responsibility too, we can and should live in such a way to keep ourselves in God’s love. 

Back in verse 1, though, Jude wants to remind the people that they are beloved and surrounded in care.  They are family.  As we’ll see, once he gets around to telling them his main purpose for writing, he has a reason saying they are called, loved and kept. I’ll give you a hint: they may need to be brave in what he is asking them to do, but they need not worry because they are called, loved and kept by God.

So may that be an encouragement to you. While you have the responsibility to keep yourself in God’s love, you’re not wholly on your own. God is at work, too, calling, loving, keeping you.

But why would the Christians need to be brave? And what about impostors? Check back in to the next post, as Jude will begin to reveal the reason for his writing, and why it is so important that the Christians ground themselves in God’s work of calling, loving and keeping them.

God’s love for me is determined by my behavior? [False ideas Christians believe about…God’s desires for Christians. Part 3]

27 Mar
Photo by Francisco Gonzalez on Unsplash

How many of you have secretly wondered if we have sinned so badly that God actually doesn’t love you anymore?

I remember when my grandmother was in hospice near the end of her life, and she had really struggled with anger, and with treating my grandfather with unkindness in those later years, in a moment of vulnerability, when it was just me alone with her in the room, she said with tears in her eyes and an ache in her voice, “Joel, I have been a bad Christian.”  It was heart-breaking, and yet very authentic of her.  I don’t remember her doubting God’s love or fearing that she lost her salvation, but she definitely agonized over her sin. Many of us do the same, fearing that God no longer loves us.

That’s why in the post we are fact-checking the phrase: “God’s love for me is determined by my behavior.” Let me state this clearly: this phrase we can deny wholeheartedly.  Let me just read a few passages for you. 

First Psalm 103:8-12: “The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.”

And then Romans 8:38-39 “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

God always loves you, no matter who you are or what you have done. 

But what are God’s desires for us? Check back in to the next post in this series, as we’ll fact-check more phrases related to that topic!

Guest Speakers: Sarah Thebarge and Bruce Hill

11 Jun

This past week Faith Church has heard from a couple different guest speakers, and I urge you to give them each a listen.

invisiblegirls_paperbackSarah Thebarge was with us this past Thursday evening.  Sarah grew up in Lancaster County, but after graduating from high school, her life’s journey has taken her to California, Yale, New York City and Portland.  But more than travels, Sarah tells the story of her battle with cancer, and how she experienced God’s love from a surprising place…Somalia, through the lives of a family of Somali refugees she met by chance in a train in Portland.  If you have ever doubted God’s love, Sarah’s story will resonate with you. She talked about the story of Hagar from Genesis 16, and the God who sees. If you have experienced the devastating pain of cancer, you need to read her story.  You can purchase her book The Invisible Girls here and you can follow her blog here.

Then on Sunday our Bishop Bruce Hill and his wife Gloria were with us for Worship in the Park.  The weather was gorgeous.  I love Worship in the Park for so many reasons.  Being in the community, the clear picture that the church is not the building, but the people!  Bishop Bruce preached a powerful sermon from Epbrucehillhesians 4.  Are you mature?  The image that came to my mind when he was preaching was of a full-grown person, except for their left leg.  That leg had never grown.  Instead it is still a chubby baby leg.  And the adult is hopping around on one leg, while the baby leg dangles.  Is it possible that is you in your spiritual life?  Are you still a spiritual infant in some way?