Tag Archives: impostors

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. 

How to ruin a Love Feast, Jude 1-16, Part 4

26 Sep
Photo by Gemma Evans on Unsplash

Have you ever heard of a love feast?

This is Part 4 in a series of posts on Jude 1-16, and we’re going to talk about people that ruin love feasts. Thus far in Parts 1, 2, and 3, we’ve been studying the ancient letter in the New Testament called Jude, and Jude has been telling a group of Christians about ungodly impostors that have infiltrated the church.

Jude says in verse 10 that these ungodly men speak abusively against what they don’t understand.   It reminds me of a student who is studying physics or algebra and struggling with it, and just says, “This is stupid, why will I ever need this?”  I might have said that a time or too… I might have even recently said something similar about books I’m reading for a doctoral program…

Or maybe you adults can admit to having spoken unkindly when seeing someone who has gotten themselves in a bad situation, perhaps a homeless man, with no understanding as to how he got there, who he is as a person and what his story is.  Like the ungodly impostors, have you ever spoken abusively about what you didn’t understand?

What is worse, these ungodly impostors indulge in their animal instincts, their lusts, their passions, which is all they understand, and Jude says it is destroying them.  They are unrestrained, lacking self-control.  It gives the image of people who get drunk, who get high, who spend money irresponsibly, who overeat, etc., and do it with a bit of a self-righteousness and a judgmental heart to others. 

Jude’s conclusion about them, his accusation, we see in verse 11 is, “Woe to them!”

A woe is a kind of prayer that speaks God’s judgement on people.  “Woe” describes hardship, distress, even horror.  Jude is saying that the ungodly impostors should be in horror because of what their end will be. 

Then he gives three rapid fire illustrations of their ungodliness, all three based on Old Testament stories, thus showing how the impostors deserved woe.

First they have taken the way of Cain, which was a life lived in the opposite direction of God.  Second, they have rushed for profit into Balaam’s error, meaning they are willing to sell out for money.  And finally they have been destroyed in Korah’s rebellion, which is another story about how the people of Israel rebelled and God judged them.

Jude is saying, “Church, do you realize the severity of this situation?  Do you realize what you are allowing to go on in your church?” He then explains the situation further in verse 12.  He says these men were blemishes at the church’s love feasts.

Love feasts?  What is that?  Basically it was a time when the church family would gather for a meal, followed by the Lord’s Supper.  Grace Brethren and Moravian churches still do this, a wonderful expression of the unity of the church family. But in Jude’s day these impostors had come into the church, and though they were ungodly and even denying Jesus, for some reason they were still participating in the love feast. 

It is so absurd to Jude.  Those guys had no business being there!  The Lord’s Supper is only for Christians.  And the church was allowing the impostors to partake.  Those guys denied Jesus in their hearts, in their actions and yet they still participated in communion?  It was a mockery, and the church was allowing it to happen.

You can hear the righteous anger in Jude’s words as he launches into a bunch of illustrations to further describe these guys.  They are shepherds who feed only themselves, which depicts their selfishness.  And remember, they do this all while pretending to be a Christian.

Next he calls them clouds without rain. In an agricultural society that very much depended on rain, a cloud without rain was nearly useless.  He says the wind blows the clouds by, showing the clouds were a waste, that they had succumbed to the greater power of the wind, which is what will happen to the impostors when God judges them.

He says they are autumn trees without fruit, uprooted, twice dead.  Again, a total waste.

They are wild waves at seas, foaming up their shame.  They lives produce a lot of commotion and drama, but nothing substantial.  Nothing meaningful.  They fade away.

He says they are wandering stars for whom blackest darkness has been reserved forever, and image that reminds us of total separation from God.

In other words, Jude is saying that the ungodly impostors are in a very bad spot in life because of what they have coming to them.  They are doing no good within the church.  Contrast that with true Christians in the church, Christians who love Jesus and have hearts and minds in line with Jesus, who give their lives for the advancement of God’s Kingdom.  Their actions will be ones that strive for unity, for love, for obedience to the ways of Christ.  The fruit of the Spirit will be evident, flowing from them: love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, kindness, self-control.

How’s your heart? – Jude 1-16, Part 3

25 Sep
Photo by Mitchell Hollande on Unsplash

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 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?

Impostors in the church – Jude 1-16, Part 2

24 Sep

Are you an impostor? Are there impostors in your church?

In part 1 of this series on Jude 1-16, we talked about impostors, and in this next post we’re going to learn a whole lot more about them.

In verse 2 Jude gives the Christians a customary short blessing featuring mercy, peace and love, all important rich terms, but we have studied them in recent weeks, so let’s move on to verse 3.  There we read that Jude wanted to write them about the salvation that Christians share, but something became more important.  It seems he wished he could write an encouraging letter, but now he can’t. 

Instead he felt he had to write and urge them to contend for the faith.  In that phrase we have Jude’s purpose for writing: to encourage the church to contend for the faith.  That word “contend” is defined as “to exert intense effort on behalf of something—to struggle for.”[1] He is saying, “Church, you have some work to do, and it might be really hard. But no worries. You can do it – you are called, loved, and kept.  God is with you.” 

So Jude’s purpose for writing them is to point out some issues.  He wanted to write an encouraging letter, but instead he realized he needs to confront them.  Why?  What happened? In verse 4 he tells them.  The issue that has Jude concerned is that there is a secret crisis in the church.

He says that certain men whose condemnation was written about long ago secretly slipped in among them.  So there was an infiltration in the church.  It almost sounds like a spy novel, a CIA story.  Like an FBI agent who goes undercover and becomes part of a mob family for a couple years.  But in this case, it’s not good guys secretly infiltrating the bad guys to take them down.  It is bad guys entering the church. Impostors.

These people who secretly entered the church are godless, Jude says.  That’s a serious charge.   People in the church that are godless?  You might ask, but don’t we want godless people to become part of a church family, because then they can get to know God?  Yes, but that’s not what these godless people were doing.  They were secretly malicious. 

How do you enter a church secretly?  Not through a back door, because at that time there were no church buildings.  Jude is not speaking literally about entering a building.  He is talking figuratively about people becoming part of church family, and the primary way you do this secretly is to lie about who you really are.  It is to say that you are a Christian, when in fact you are not. It is to be an impostor. 

How do we know this? Because Jude says they are godless.  And he says the impostors have an agenda.  They change the grace of God into a license to sin.  That means they are giving false teaching.  To exchange the grace of God into a license to sin works like this:  It is a person who says, “Well, God is a gracious God who forgives all our sins through Jesus’ death on the cross and victory over sin in his resurrection.  That means every sin I ever committed and every sin I will commit is forgiven.  So therefore, let’s live it up and sin, because it’s all forgiven!”  That’s how you turn God’s grace into a license to sin.  You remember Paul’s letter to his friend Titus?  Go back to Titus 2:11, and Paul directly counters this idea when he says, “The grace of God teaches us to say no to ungodliness and live holy and upright lives.” 

Jude is right.  The impostors are wrong.  True Christians, when they receive God’s grace, they are so sorrowful for their sin, so thankful for what God has done that their response is to pursue godly living.  A life like we read about the past few weeks, walking in love, and walking in truth.  But these impostors in the church, Jude says in verse 4, “They deny Jesus Christ.”  And there you have it.  They’re not Christians.  And they don’t want to be.  They are in outright denial of and disobedience to Jesus.

As we continue studying what Jude says about the impostors, you might consider asking yourself if there are impostors in your church? And in what ways might you be an impostor? If you think, “Well I’m not denying Jesus or changing grace into a license to sin,” are there other ways that you might be an impostor? Jude has a lot more to say about the impostors. Check back in to the next post to learn more.


[1] Johannes P. Louw and Eugene Albert Nida, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains (New York: United Bible Societies, 1996), 495.

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.