But You…

17But you, beloved, ought to remember the words that were spoken beforehand by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ, 18that they were saying to you, “In the last time there will be mockers, following after their own ungodly lusts.” 19These are the ones who cause divisions, worldly-minded, devoid of the Spirit. Jude 17-19

If we are truly living in the “last days,” the Bible has its share of warnings for us along the same theme, that “mockers” or “scoffers” will arise who will spread all sorts of doctrines that deviate from the apostles’ teaching. It appears that Jude was on Peter’s mailing list (2 Peter 3:3) as both wrote similarly, using the same word for “mockers.” Paul called these false teachers “salvage wolves” (Acts 20:29) and devoted considerable ink to warning his successor Timothy of the challenges he’d face with these sorts in his ministry. (2 Timothy 3:1-9)

Some thoughts.

First, are we living in the “last days?” Generally, yes. Peter, Jude, Paul, and Timothy technically were, but we, more so some 2,000 years later. The farther we get from the final utterance of Jesus on this earth, the worse it’ll be. In my lifetime, I’ve witnessed a cataclysmic downward spiral, and the pace is quickening as I write this. It’s all head spinning and dusturbing, quite frankly.

Second, where we see divisions in the church, at the root of these will be false doctrine taught by lustful worldly teachers, “devoid of the Spirit.” James, Jude’s brother, calls these teachers and their messages “earthly, natural, and demonic.” (James 3:15)

20But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, 21keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life. Jude 20-21

Knowing these truths, Jude writes to his beloved, to those who possess a common salvation, to keep building up their core strength, that is, their most holy faith. Not particularly their trust in the Lord, but all the crucial elements of their Christian faith, two of which are praying in the Spirit, as only we can do as Christians, as one commenter puts it, “with watchful care keeping yourselves within the sphere of God’s love,” and waiting expectantly for the Lord’s merciful strong right hand, which will ultimately lift us into eternity.

6 Now I know that the Lord saves His anointed; He will answer him from His holy heaven with the saving strength of His right hand. Psalm 20:6

Posted in Bible study, Devotionals, Jude | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Fool’s Run

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. Jude 14–16

While the Book of Enoch is not included in the Bible, just as we might quote biblical truth from a great preacher back in the day, Jude does here. His theme is the Lord’s return with myriads of his “holy ones” to mete out justice.

Until then we’ll have to contend earnestly with false teachers, working overtime to discern good from bad, right from wrong.

But thankfully we are not the final judge; He is. While all will be judged, we do not worry, but the ungodly should, for they will face the consequences of their words and deeds.

The word “all” is repeated here to show the thoroughness of God’s judgement. “Ungodly” stresses the “either or” of that judgment, that we are either godly or ungodly.

At our level we can only hear and see what we hear and see, and when we do, we avoid such men (and women) as these. Actually, this is not hard to do. We simply look for the constant fault-finders and conspicuous flatterers. These complainers and murmurers speak out harshly against God and his ways, and arrogantly seek to gain the upper hand against him through political tactics.

How foolish!

Posted in Bible study, Devotionals, Jude | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Empty Suits

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. Jude 8-11

In verses 8-15, we’re given the composite sketch of the classic false teacher. It should be incredibly easy to spot them, but they work for the consummate deceiver who has endowed them with a hefty bag of tricks. One less than obvious telltale trait is their subtlety. Therein lies the problem. That’s why so many credit cards are pulled from wallets when the website address scrolls at the bottom of the screen.

While Jude describes the blatant ways and means of these men (and women), the best are hard to detect behind their Armani suits, mellifluous words, and pearly whites, their charming Southern draws, cute stories, and perfect hair, or their flowing dreadlocks, bulging biceps, and “fresh crispies” (blazing white shoes). I’d say the world is now crawling with these sorts, and it’ll get worse from here.

Jude tells us who they are, the ways in which they operate, and their most certain fate at the hands of an angry God. We’ve already discussed their penchant for dreaming in verse 8, which manifests itself in corruption, rebellion, and defamation. There is much to be learned in their reviling (verses 9 and 10) also. While the well taught and obedient know better than to step into the Lord’s shoes, these people know just enough to be dangerous, and since they are driven by corrupt instincts, they dig their own graves.

Jude gives us three men in the Hall of the Defamed (verse 11), Cain, Balaam, and Korah as examples. Cain was the first murderer, who never gained mastery over his sin. Balaam was a money grubbing diviner, who was lectured by a donkey and led the Israelites into gross immortality, and Korah, along with some 250 co-conspirators, was dramatically buried alive for his rebellion against God. It never ends well for these people, but sadly, innocent and unsuspecting people get hurt.

From a literary standpoint, for me to restate Jude’s masterful description of these false teachers (verses 12 and 13) would fail miserably and fall well short, so let what he says here stand on its own. You’ll catch his drift.

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. Jude 12-13

It’s hard for me to fathom how false teachers might operate freely amongst us as “hidden reefs,” but they do. This reminds me of Jesus’ parable of The Wheat and the Tares in Matthew 13:23-30, where the tares are allowed to grow alongside the wheat until the Lord removes and burns them. You hate to be suspicious, but it’s incumbent upon us to be vigilant to spot the empty suits.

Posted in Bible study, Devotionals, Jude | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Dreamers

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. Jude 5–8

In verses 5-7, Jude gives us three examples of God punishing those who defied his word, his authority, and his natural laws, respectively. God judged the Israelites who disbelieved (verse 5), his angels who were disloyal (verse 6), and entire cities who defiled themselves (verse 7). Physical judgements on his people and Sodom and Gomorrah are documented in 1 Corinthians 10:5-10 and Genesis 19:24, respectively, and the incarceration of fallen angels is mentioned here and in 2 Peter 2:4.

So it’s obvious to me that Jude’s topic is a very serious one, even worthy of shelving a discussion of “our common salvation.” Accordingly, we must be determined in our spheres to eradicate anything resembling disbelief, disloyalty, or deviant behavior. This is a full time job, but we do have help from the Holy Spirit.

There are three additional teachings in these verses that come free of charge.

First, both Jude and Peter (2 Peter 1:12) take it upon themselves to remind us of this primary truth (verse 5); in Jesus we know all that we need to know. One commentator recalls the fact that the Israelites were presented with grapes from the promised land as “Exhibit A,” yet they declined to enter. We save ourselves from painful lessons if we take what the Bible teaches at face value and respond accordingly.

Second, we enter the danger zone when we adopt our own takes on matters of theological importance. “Well, I think,” are dangerous words. The angels abandoned their “proper abode” in heaven (verse 6), and we can too in a practical sense if we follow enticing theological rabbit trails. Only God’s word is authoritative.

Third, those involved in advanced forms of sin, of the kinds listed in verse 7 and Romans 1:26-27, hang by a thread. In fact, as Jude describes in verse 23, these souls are already experiencing judgment in their lives (they are in the fire) and need to be “snatched out.”

Save others, snatching them out of the fire; and on some have mercy with fear, hating even the garment polluted by the flesh. Jude 23

It is interesting that we are to rescue and exhibit mercy with fear towards these who are in this advanced state of degradation (more on this verse later). Now to address verse 8.

Yet in the same way these men, also by dreaming, defile the flesh, and reject authority, and revile angelic majesties. Jude 8

Those Jude describes as “creeping in unnoticed,” (verse 4) he also calls “dreamers,” or those who fantasize in their minds about “sensuous” things, and in so doing, by visualizing these vile things in their minds, contaminate themselves and others through their teachings, i.e., their “takes” on “spiritual” things, and their resultant “loose” behavior, leading to the rejection of the absolute authority and majestic glory of God by those who are so easily captivated (2 Timothy 3:6).

I say to this prospect, may it never be! (1 Corinthians 6:13) Rather, we should run everything through the following grid.

Is it true? Is it honorable? Is it right? Is it pure? Is it lovely? Is it of good repute? Is it excellent? Is it worthy of praise? Philippians 4:8

In other words, be vigilantly and constantly involved in the following pursuit.

5 We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ, 6 and we are ready to punish all disobedience, whenever your obedience is complete. 2 Corinthians 10:5–6

Posted in Bible study, Devotionals, Jude | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing

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. Jude 4

It’s hard for me to imagine someone actually infiltrating the church surreptitiously in order to corrupt it, but this was exactly Jude’s focus. We’re not clear on who the perpetrators were, but the problem was acute enough for Jude to drop his initial intent to address our “common salvation” to issue his plea to “contend earnestly for the faith.”

He starts by pointing out that such subterfuge had been predicted. Where you might ask? Perhaps one needs only to harken back to the strategy of Satan in the garden, and observe his methodology down through time. He’s a counterfeiter and deceiver, an “angel of light” wanting only to destroy all that which God has made or ordained, including his church. We read that his plight and that of his accomplices is certain, condemnation and destruction, but sadly in many instances not before they leave a painful mark. Knowing what he’s up to will limit the damage and keep many from falling.

The Apostle Peter, one of Jude’s influencers, echoes Jude’s warning.

But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves. 2 Peter 2:1

How can we tell someone’s a wolf in sheep’s clothing? For one, at their core, they are ungodly. Whereas we through his Spirit should be attuned to even the slightest deviation from the will of God, sound teaching, and righteous living, these people will seem to push the limits of God’s grace. They’ll also introduce questions that diminish the sovereignty of God, the lordship of Jesus, or the inerrancy of scripture.

Practically, in order for “false teachers” to be successful, they’ll need to be pushing some agenda that’s slightly off the mark. Just think of Satan in the garden with Eve or in the wilderness with Jesus. My antenna is always up for strange statements that are offered “when the coast is clear.” I’m not talking about typical disagreements on theology or eschatology that do not veer off the reservation, but out and out false doctrine. I distinctly remember a conversation with a former worship pastor about his musings on the concept of annialation, the heretical thinking that the wicked will cease to exist after this life. This is a blatantly cancerous notion.

All this points to the need for us to be well taught and controlled by the Holy Spirit. This is precisely why Jude is urgently warning us to be on our guard.

But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life. Jude 20–21

Nevertheless, to leave no doubt, verses 5-8 are provided to help us spot, root out, and if possible, save the evil influencers amongst us.

Posted in Bible study, Devotionals, Jude | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Elephant in the Room

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. Jude 3

It’s been interesting to observe which preachers have paused their sermon plans, even briefly, for important straightforward biblical teachings to address the state of advancing and unrestrained evil in the world, in our nation, in our cities, and in some cases, in our churches.

Some have kept their noses to the theological grindstone. Others have opted for messages on love and acceptance, tiptoeing to find something “socially” acceptable to say from the pulpit. Then there are those who focus almost exclusively on the “end of the world,” to the point their congregations are “no earthly good.” Indeed, it’s a veritable minefield out there if one worries about stepping on any toes, one way or another.

In a way, Jude faced this dilemma when he sat down to write about “our common salvation,” but interestingly, “felt the necessity” to switch gears. With the same, or perhaps extra added effort due to the urgency of the matter, he implored his audience to “contend earnestly” for the faith, as would a “combatant.” The word “earnestly,” by the way, is added to intensify the exhortation.

Jude recognized that the faith that was “once and for all handed down” was in danger of contamination or dilution to the point of ineffectiveness. From day one, Satan has tried everything to obfuscate the truth, and the church and its messengers have been his primary targets.

This short letter helps us to navigate in an “ungodly” world, woefully defiled, increasingly devoid of truth and sanity, in denial, while at the same time attempting to reach it (v. 20-23, more on this later).

Posted in Commentary, Devotionals, Jude | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Our Common Salvation

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. Jude 1-2

Jude, or Judas, was one of four half-brothers of Jesus (James, Joses, Simon). We also read he had sisters, but none are called by name in the Bible (see Mark 6:3). All grew up with him, having to contend with his perfection day in and day out. We are aware of little about Jesus in his early years, except him holding court with the leaders in the synagogue while thought to be “lost.” So he was a handful in a very peculiar way.

We read that his brothers at least were not big fans.

5 For not even His brothers were believing in Him. John 7:5

By Acts 1:14 though, Jesus’ brothers were in the fold, with their mother and the disciples in the Upper Room after witnessing the ascension of Jesus on the Mount of Olives. Prior to that, Jesus had made peace with brother (in Christ) James (1 Corinthians 15:7), and likely tapped him to lead his church in the Holy City at that time.

No doubt, the half-brothers carried a bit of notoriety as kin to Jesus, but the nature of their past relationship with him was likely used as something you don’t want to do, that is to “scoff” at the King of kings for so long, even if he was your “always right” big brother.

Jude was now ready to share something in writing about the “common salvation” (verse 3) we have in Christ. Most important to Jude was his—or better our—standing in the faith. First, he was called. Even the fate of the half-brother of Jesus’ was in question until he was tapped on the shoulder by God himself. Identifying with Christianity is never enough. This salvation was by invitation only (meaning behind the Greek word kletos for “called” in this case and not to be confused with the “effectual call” discussed in the Epistles). Next, he was beloved (agapao in the Greek) in “God the Father.” In the past, it seems that all that could be mustered in Joseph and Mary’s household was “brotherly love” (phileo). Now God had installed in Jude the ability to love sacrificially, unconditionally, and deeply. On a family level, Jesus sacrificially and personally died for Jude, or to put it graphically (not that crucifixion isn’t graphic enough), he fell on a hand grenade for him. Finally, perhaps most importantly, he was “kept for Jesus Christ,” or guarded by the Lord. In all its aspects, it was this “common faith” that Jude was most fond of talking about.

So, Jude starts his letter with it (common salvation or faith) as his intended theme by calling himself a slave of Christ and drops his other brother’s name, James, the leader of the church in Jerusalem, I guess to further enhance his credibility, but he didn’t need to. For he’d seen Jesus grow up, his miracles, him crucified and then alive again, and him ascend into the clouds. So he wished the same mercy, peace, and love he now experienced would abound (“be multiplied”) to all.

Posted in Devotionals, Jude | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Story That Has No End

“And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end.” Luke 1:31-33

It’s always good at Christmas to try to find a new take on its story. In what now can only be called a secular world, it’ll get tossed out there to give something done to celebrate Christmas some ancient context and a tiny bit of the “spiritual.” Then pass the glitter, fire up the band, bring out the dancers, and get the party started.

What happened that day was the beginning of that which has no end. After thousands of years, the Son of God would be dispatched to earth to fix things, and then to set up shop. It’s far more complicated than that, but what fascinates me is that the time had finally come to issue orders to Gabriel to visit a lowly teenaged virgin in the obscure town of Nazareth. The rest is and will be history.

As I write this we await another order from God, this time to his Son, to gather up his saints, dead and alive from the earth. Just as indeed the teenaged girl conceived as foretold and gave birth to our Savior, in an instant we’ll be in the presence of God, only to take part a short time thereafter in Jesus’ triumphant return to assume the throne of David forever.

Whereas Mary was visited by an angel with the news, I have in my hand the word of God which clearly tells me right now the “end” of the Christmas story, and it’s worth the wait.

Posted in Devotionals, Luke | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Mornin’ Joe

Now during the day He was teaching in the temple, but at evening He would go out and spend the night on the mount that is called Olivet. And all the people would get up early in the morning to come to Him in the temple to listen to Him. Luke 21:37-38

We all have our routines. We tend to be creatures of habit. Men used to go to the same diner each morning for breakfast, coffee, and a newspaper. Some still do in my neck of the woods. But the diners have been replaced by Starbucks these days and I doubt you’ll get a “mornin’ Joe” from anyone, all with faces planted in their devices with ear buds donned.

There’s something comforting about doing the same thing with regularity. The thing I’ve done since getting my own apartment more than 40 years ago is get up way earlier than I needed to read and study the Bible. I do have a bowl of cereal and coffee, but I dive in quickly, wanting to have a big chunk of time to dig deep. I’ve kept the routine down through the years, unaltered by marriage and four kids. If I’ve veered, it’s been to get up even earlier for peace and quiet. I’ve patterned this “day in, day out” practice after the Lord’s penchant for the same.

In the early morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house, and went away to a secluded place, and was praying there. Mark 1:35

In his final days in Jerusalem, Jesus established a routine of teaching in the temple by day and retreating to the Mount of Olives at night to rest and pray.

At that time Jesus said to the crowds, “Have you come out with swords and clubs to arrest Me as you would against a robber? Every day I used to sit in the temple teaching and you did not seize Me.” Matthew 27:55

Here’s my point. We all should be creatures of habit when it comes to meeting up with the Lord. With God’s word readily available, in my case in the form of an iPad and Logos software, I’m ill equipped for the day without feasting on the truth first. These people had their brief opportunity to sit at the Lord’s feet and they rose up early to do it. It’s not too late to join him for breakfast.

He said to me, “Son of man, feed your stomach and fill your body with this scroll which I am giving you.” Then I ate it, and it was sweet as honey in my mouth. Ezekiel 3:3

Your words were found and I ate them, and Your words became for me a joy and the delight of my heart. Jeremiah 15:16

Posted in Devotionals, Luke, testimony | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Day Late, Dollar Short

33“Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away. 34 Be on guard, so that your hearts will not be weighted down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of life, and that day will not come on you suddenly like a trap; 35 for it will come upon all those who dwell on the face of all the earth. 36 But keep on the alert at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are about to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.” Luke 21:33-36

We may spend our time looking up in expectation, but we should also have our noses in the Word of God. While the heavens and earth are ultimately transitory, his words are permanent fixtures and cannot be expunged. We must be careful to stay sober and aware of the spiritual turmoil underway at all times around us and in the heavenly places. Ephesians 6:12.

Even with Noah building a huge object lesson in his backyard, those breathing at the time were having nothing to do with his warnings, and were preoccupied with the cares of this world, living lives of dissipation. Matthew 24:37-39 We don’t want to be caught unaware (trapped, snared) when the gavel comes slamming down, in this case, the rolling door of the Ark. Jesus is telling us no one “on the face of all the earth” will escape God’s sudden judgment. There’ll be no time to react when you feel the first drop of rain, especially from a drunken state.

While not mentioned here, preliminary to this judgement will be the Rapture of believers as noted in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. They will not be “present.” The Bible teaches that we will meet the Lord in the air and ultimately accompany him when he triumphantly returns to earth. Our true faith in Christ is indeed our ticket to ride.

But those just toying with the idea of Christianity but still immersed in worldliness could get left behind. These unfortunate souls will be awakened “by the thief in the night” and will have to endure the Great Wrath to come. This will not be pleasant to put it mildly. We put our trust in Christ now to escape the terrors to come and the risk of potential eternal separation from God.

21 “For then there will be a great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever will. 22 Unless those days had been cut short, no life would have been saved; but for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short. Matthew 24:21–22

It’s still possible to stand before him in the end, for those who are present, but only through the strength that prayer to the Almighty provides. There’ll be an unimaginable gauntlet to run. But if he tarries, we still need to account for our mortality. The chance of “dying unexpectedly” is high these days.

Posted in Devotionals, Luke | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment