Tag Archives: jude

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. 

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

30 Sep
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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!

You might be an impostor and not even know it – Jude 1-16, Part 5

27 Sep

All week long in this series of posts on Jude 1-16, we’ve been reading this ancient letter in which Jude reveals to the Christians that they have ungodly impostors in their church. Are you an impostor? No? Are you sure? Is it possible that there might be some small way you are living an inconsistent life? Do you need to check your heart? Keep reading as Jude will talk about the many ways we can be impostors, some of which we might say aren’t that bad, or that everyone does that.

If you haven’t read the first four parts of this series, you can go back and start here to get caught up on what Jude has said so far about the impostors. He then goes on in verses 14-15 to claim that Enoch prophesied about the ungodly impostors.  This is the second quotation in Jude’s letter from a non-biblical source. The first was in verses 9-10, from The Assumption of Moses.  Like Moses, Enoch was a biblical character.  He is the son of Jared, as we read in Gen. 5:18, and he is a famous character in Genesis for two reasons.  One, Enoch is the father of Methuselah, who lived 969 years, the oldest in the list of ancient people.  Also, we learn something fascinating about Enoch in Genesis 5:24, and this one is much more important. There the writer of Genesis says that Enoch walked with God, and then he was no more, because God took him away!

What Jude quotes is a non-biblical book called The Book of Enoch.  Though it is a non-biblical book, it was held in great respect by early Christians.  Obviously Jude was familiar with it, enough to quote it to support his point.  His quote from Enoch is a passage about God judging the ungodly. What we have seen, then, throughout verses 4-15, is Jude laying out a devastating case against the ungodly impostors.  There should be no cause for question here.  They are out of control, and the church needs to address this issue. 

But still Jude is not done.  After so many illustrations and quotations and analogies, he has a few more very specific issues that the godless impostors are guilty of.  Look at the list in verse 16.  They are grumblers, faultfinders, following their own evil desires, boasting about themselves, and they flatter others, for their own advantage.

Sound familiar?  In nearly every letter we’ve read this summer, we’ve heard about people in the churches who were impostors like this.  Because it is repeated so frequently in the letters, we ought to pay attention to it!

So let’s do that.  How can contemporary Christians learn from this?  Let us check our hearts. So that we are not impostors.

In the last month, I’ve started my devotional time praying David’s prayer in Psalm 139:23-24, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”

When you learn where you have been offensive and sinful, seek forgiveness with those you have wronged.  Come to your church family with a humble heart to serve.  Be willing to make hard changes in your life, changes that move you in God’s direction.  Seek truth.  We just studied that last week.  Walk in truthWalk in love.  As you interact with each other here and with your family and with your community.  Are you grumbling, complaining, being selfish, or gossiping?  Ask someone if they see these things in you and be willing to sit with a friend and Jesus and make the hard changes. 

Impostors don’t have to stay impostors. 

Thus far in Jude verses 1-16 we have heard a fairly harsh message from Jude.  He wanted his church to take to heart what he was saying, and we should take it seriously as well.  God wants our whole hearts.  And out of the outflow of our hearts comes words, attitudes and actions.  He wants our whole hearts because he loves us deeply.  He desires an abundant life for us.  He wants our good.  Remember how the letter started: we are called, loved and kept.  There is such good for us when we follow his ways.  It might not necessarily be easy or comfortable for us, but it will result in so much good, because we will be following the way of Jesus.

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

26 Sep
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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.