Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Devotional: How To Defend the Faith, Jude 17-25

Outline Jude 17-25

Jude ends his brief. dark letter with a hopeful note. The opposition and persecution we face from false teachers and fake believers should be expected. Jesus and the writers of the New Testament expected it to happen and have already given us the method to combat it. First we must remember that God is in control of the situation and will use even the opposition and persecution to bring about his plan for his people, locally and worldwide. He calls us to take preemptive action to protect the church from false teaching by purposeful discipleship that includes teaching, corporate prayer and reminding people to keep a “kingdom perspective.” We are working for Jesus and he is coming back to evaluate and reward our efforts. We can do this boldly and hopefully because God is the one who will ultimately preserve the truth, grow believers into maturity and keep believers safe in judgment. Thus, we can confidently fulfill our responsibility to preserve the truth of the Word and pass it on to the next generation.

First Jude reminds us that Jesus and the apostles warned us to expect opposition and persecution. But they also predicted the even more dangerous opposition of false teachers who “have crept in unnoticed” (4) and cleverly lay error alongside truth to deceive and manipulate believers. (17-19)  Jude calls us to be discerning to recognize these dangerous people. We cannot look inside them to see that they are “devoid of the Spirit,” but we can recognize them by their teaching that does not conform to the scriptures, their immoral and selfish lifestyles, and their divisiveness. The best way to avoid deception is to know the truth well.

Jude counsels us to take preemptive action to keep ourselves in the faith. First, we are responsible to “build ourselves up.” This means that we make ourselves available to be mentored by faithful Christian leaders and, as we grow to mentor others. As we teach, train, encourage, and serve together we grow in knowledge and in the depth of our love relationship with God and with each other. This also involves “praying in the Holy Spirit.” In corporate and individual prayer we keep close accounts with God, pray for one another’s needs and listen for his leading in our daily lives. Finally we hold each other accountable to Jesus and encourage one another as we remind ourselves of the blessing coming when he returns. 

We are called to do this in a way that shows God’s mercy to the deceived and moves toward the goal of saving the person rather than condemning them. We must be honest and frank about false doctrine and practice (“hating even the garment stained by the flesh” 23) but merciful in our desire to restore. Sometimes it may take a “tough love” (“snatching them out of the fire”) that may even remove false teachers from the fellowship but, again, should have a goal of restoration if possible. Church should be a place where we defend the basics of the faith; freely, mercifully and openly discuss the more difficult unclear issues; gently and honestly deal with words and actions; and do this all in a context of seeking God together in his word and in prayer.

It is our responsibility to rely on the Spirit to lead us into creatively applying the truth to our present situation, It is also our responsibility to preserve the unchanging truths of God’s word and pass them on to the next generation. We know that it will happen because God will never let the truth disappear, he will complete his task of growing believers into the image of Jesus and he will bring us safely through judgment. We will win the fight..

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