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Sunday, October 6, 2013

While You Are Waiting

Jude -
1 Jude, a bond-servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James, To those who are the called, beloved in God the Father, and kept for Jesus Christ:
2 May mercy and peace and love be multiplied to you.
3 Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints.
4 For certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.
5 Now I desire to remind you, though you know all things once for all, that the Lord, after saving a people out of the land of Egypt, subsequently destroyed those who did not believe.
6 And angels who did not keep their own domain, but abandoned their proper abode, He has kept in eternal bonds under darkness for the judgment of the great day,
7 just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities around them, since they in the same way as these indulged in gross immorality and went after strange flesh, are exhibited as an example in undergoing the punishment of eternal fire.
8 Yet in the same way these men, also by dreaming, defile the flesh, and reject authority, and revile angelic majesties.
9 But Michael the archangel, when he disputed with the devil and argued about the body of Moses, did not dare pronounce against him a railing judgment, but said, "The Lord rebuke you!"
10 But these men revile the things which they do not understand; and the things which they know by instinct, like unreasoning animals, by these things they are destroyed.
11 Woe to them! For they have gone the way of Cain, and for pay they have rushed headlong into the error of Balaam, and perished in the rebellion of Korah.
12 These are the men who are hidden reefs in your love feasts when they feast with you without fear, caring for themselves ; clouds without water, carried along by winds ; autumn trees without fruit, doubly dead, uprooted;
13 wild waves of the sea, casting up their own shame like foam; wandering stars, for whom the black darkness has been reserved forever.
14 It was also about these men that Enoch, in the seventh generation from Adam, prophesied, saying, "Behold, the Lord came with many thousands of His holy ones,
15 to execute judgment upon all, and to convict all the ungodly of all their ungodly deeds which they have done in an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him."
16 These are grumblers, finding fault, following after their own lusts; they speak arrogantly, flattering people for the sake of gaining an advantage.
17 But you, beloved, ought to remember the words that were spoken beforehand by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ,
18 that they were saying to you, "In the last time there will be mockers, following after their own ungodly lusts."
19 These are the ones who cause divisions, worldly-minded, devoid of the Spirit.
20 But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit,
21 keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life.
22 And have mercy on some, who are doubting;
23 save others, snatching them out of the fire; and on some have mercy with fear, hating even the garment polluted by the flesh.
24 Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy,
25 to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.

This letter was written by the brother of Jesus and James. Here Jude referred to himself as the bondservant of Jesus Christ. Two things to recognize with this statement are that He recognized Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, for which the Jews awaited. The other thing, Jude did was call himself a bondservant of Jesus. What is a bondservant in the 1st century? A bondservant is one who gives him or herself to be in the service of another for his will and purposes. Jude said his brother, Jesus, is the Christ and that he believed this so much that he would do whatever the Lord told him. In this instance, Jude wrote a letter to a church to encourage them and to remind them. 

Jude wrote this letter near the time of 2 Peter. We know this because many things Jude says in his letter are stated in 2 Peter. Jude was written during the time of the Roman persecution of Christians. That sets it near  65AD. Nero had begun this round of persecution. He blamed the Christians for many things, for example the burning of Rome and the civil unrest.
Jude wrote to the believers of Jesus telling them to stand up for the faith they had in common with each other and all Christians. He reminded them there are ungodly people who are turning the grace of God into an opportunity for sins of the flesh. These people were appealing to the grace they have in God saying, “We are believers who are forgiven and want to have fun. We do what we want; we will be forgiven anyway.” These people were twisting the message of God’s grace to permit licentiousness, unbridled lust and bodily gratification. Nevertheless, Jude prompted his readers to remember what happened to Sodom and Gomorrah. God destroyed them and saved Lot. God can still do this. Jude said God’s grace was not to be used frivolously to live a self-serving life. His grace, His undeserved love for us, was bought with a great price, His Son’s death on the cross. These people who talked of doing whatever they wanted and of allowing themselves to be seduced by the desires of the body cheapened the love of Christ. God’s grace, Jude said, was not there to give license to sinfulness, but to remind them of their unworthiness and God’s greatness. God would not allow this thought and the resultant actions to continue. Look to the past and see how He took those matters into His hands. Jude mentioned several times God entered and punished those who twisted His love for them and their freedom. He recalled for the people about Sodom and Gomorrah and others who followed their animal/carnal desires, including the people He destroyed after rescuing them from Egypt because they did not believe. He reminded them of the angels who wanted to be equal to God and who were banished to darkness. Jude jumped in to the issues at hand. He warned the people of these false teachers who were trying to twist the freedom of being a follower of Jesus into an opportunity to do what their fleshly nature wanted.
Jude was so concerned with the presence, walk, and talk of these false teachers that he continued explaining whom these false teachers have been and were in compared to God and His ways. He said they defiled the flesh and rejected authority. They went so far as to purposely daydream and have fleshly thoughts, sensual desires. He compared them to animals following their baser instincts and who were being destroyed. Their destruction was of their own making. They chose to follow the ways of the flesh, which was contrary to the truth of God, the pure grace of God given through His Son, Jesus. These false believers said they were already forgiven and so could do as they wanted. Jude proclaimed woe upon them, just as John proclaimed to the churches in the book of Revelation. He said they would have sadness, regret, and separation just like Cain after he killed his brother, Abel, out of jealousy because his offering was not from his best. Their woe will be like the prophet Balaam who took payment to counsel Israel’s enemies. He prided himself on knowing the word and will of God and he liked the fame. Korah and his relatives of the Levites rebelled against Moses and Aaron accusing them of setting themselves up to be the only priests of Yahweh. They, too, wanted to be priests of Yahweh. Korah’s sin was jealousy and putting him and his family higher in their hearts and minds than God meant for them to be. They were not humble. Each of these instances revealed how people showed their ignorance of God. They proclaimed themselves to know God and did not give their best for an offering, for proclaiming, and for leading. These people set themselves up in opposition to God and received their reward/punishment – banishment and death.
Jude told the Christian readers what these men and women were. They were false and rocks on which to ground people like hidden reefs in the sea. They brought moral damage when they gathered to feast for themselves, not for the Lord’s Supper (see 1 Corinthians 11:20-21). These people were like clouds that carried no life-giving water but were blown around; they falsely boasted of their gifts (see Proverbs 25:14). They were like autumn trees with no fruit; they were dormant, dead, and gave no fruit. There was nothing in their lives to show they were from God and so they were doubly dead – physically and eternally. These false teachers were like the wild waves of the sea of which Isaiah spoke in Isaiah 57:20. They could not be quiet, but tossed their waves of shame and disgrace like refuse and mud, nothing of which to be proud. Finally, Jude compared them to wandering stars which have no sun around which to orbit, but which continue forever in unending darkness, a foreboding netherworld gloom for eternity. These false believers brought moral danger and boasted of their superior knowledge, but did not bring life through rain nor show their spiritual fruit. Instead, they showed their shame and disgrace and were destined to live forever in the darkness with the prince of darkness, not with God.
Jude continued this letter by being very explicit regarding these false believers and teachers. Instead of reminding them of the past when God brought judgment or comparing them to false and dead things, Jude told them in verses 14-16 who these people were. These false teachers were the ungodly who will be judged by God. They were the grumblers and faultfinders who tried to find a way around God’s commandments. They wanted what they wanted and to follow their own desires. They sought approval and advantage regarding their way of life and precepts by being arrogant and flattering people. Jude warned the believers of Jesus against these people.
As an alternative and the only life-giving way to live, said Jude, remember the words spoken by the apostles of the Lord, those who walked with, saw, and heard directly from the Christ. Remember they said there would be mockers in the last time who followed their own lusts. These false disciples and teachers would cause divisions, be worldly-minded (fleshly-desired) and not connected to the Holy Spirit. But you, followers of Jesus, Jude said, be firmly rooted in Jesus, growing in Him and being strengthened in your faith as your were taught (see Colossians 2:7). Pray in the Holy Spirit, who intercedes for us to the Father in deeper ways, with perseverance and petitioning for all believers to stand strong (see Romans 8:26 and Ephesians 6:18). Take effort to keep yourselves carefully in the love and goodwill of God as His children. While you do this, eagerly wait with expectant hope for the return of Christ and His mercy to take you to His Kingdom as promised for His followers (see Titus 2:13). Jude offered five things to do during this intermediate time while awaiting the return of Jesus instead of listening to and following the false believers. Remember the words of the apostles. Be firmly rooted and growing in Christ. Pray in the Holy Spirit interceding for the other believers. Carefully keep yourselves in the love and way of God. Eagerly wait with hope for Christ’s return.
Jude told them, while you are doing these things and waiting for Christ’s return, have mercy on those who doubt within themselves about the Father and the Son. Give them patience and gently show them you care with the love of God; help them see the Truth with clarity. Often these people will turn to God because of His love. For others, help preserve them by snatching them out of the fire of eternal death as God snatched the Israelites repeatedly, even though some did not turn to Him (see Amos 4:11). Be diligent and lovingly keep on speaking Truth to these who choose to keep walking from Jesus. Jesus desires that no one will be lost but that all will come to repentance (see 2 Peter 3:9). Even go so far as to help others, with trembling, hating even with what they clothed themselves in life (their life choices) knowing those life choices are against God. The lives of these people was complete rebellion against God. Jude told them, while you are doing the above for believers living in the world before the second coming of Christ, look also to those who do not accept Jesus as God’s Son, bearing the penalty for their sins. They were not only to love God and other believers, but were to love non-believers so much that they did not give up on telling them the Truth, even to the point of snatching them from hell’s fires in their fleshly clothes of their human choices.
This is an interesting letter. Jude could have kept his letter to warning the believers. Instead, He spent time reminding them of their past, God’s faithfulness, Jesus’ love, and Jesus’ commandments He left for each of His believers. Jesus’ three commandments to His followers are: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. This is the greatest and foremost commandment. The second is you shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:36-40 [NASB]); the third is “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this will all men know that you are My disciples” (John 13:34 [NASB]). By following Jesus’ commandments, not only would they be remembering the words of the apostles, continuing in their growth in Christ, praying in the Holy Spirit, and eagerly awaiting the hope Christ put within His believers, they would be a living testimony of Jesus. They would be praying for and working toward bringing all people to a saving faith in Jesus, the doubters as well as the blatant rebels. They would not be staying focused on the negative, anti-Christian things that were happening; they would be working toward becoming more Chistlike.
Jude closed his letter with His own statement of trust in Jesus. He said a prayer over these people of God. He prayed for them not to stumble and positively prayed for them to stand before God blameless and with great joy. He gave them over to the hands of God who is able to keep them in His safety. He praised God, the Father and Son, for His glory, power, and authority from before time and through eternity because God is more powerful than anything. This is the God in whom the believers can stand, be reassured, and hope - the Father and Savior of all humankind.
This is how we can stand in the face of false teachers, doubters, and blatant rebels of God. We know God is not only all-powerful, all-knowing, and everywhere-present, but His character is encompassed by His love that never ceases. He does not wish anyone to be separated from Him for eternity. His love made a way for that not to happen. Jesus became His sacrifice of to take the penalty and pay the price for our sins.
These questions remain: Will you accept His love and sacrifice? Will you reach out and keep on reaching out with His love so that all will have the opportunity to know and experience God’s love forever? He gives us the choice. What do you choose?