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A Blast from the Past / a look at Jude

I believe we always think of the Bible while wearing rose colored glasses, in other words, when we look back on the good ‘ol days of our past, we remember the good times and the great things – but for as much as the Bible is a book about what to do and how to live, it also contains examples of what “not to do.”

Yes, the Bible has heroes and heroines and people to look up to – but, the Bible is quick to admit their faults and to be transparent about their weaknesses.  Yes, David was Israel’s mightiest King and he had a strong faith and he was a man “after God’s own heart” …but he kinda had a thing for the ladies…. and he didn’t care who he hurt to get what he wanted.

In Jude, our author gives a few examples from Israel’s history who were examples of rebellion and poor choices.

1. ISRAEL v5 / Exodus 32

v5 Now I want to remind you, although you once fully knew it, that Jesus, who saved a people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe.

Jude reminds his readers that sure, God saved everyone from Egypt, but soon after that, God destroyed some of his own people. There were Israelites within the camp who caused splits and factions, and who spread lies and who encouraged idol worship. So yes, the Israelites were God’s chosen people, but sometimes even the chosen make mistakes.

2. FALLEN ANGELS v6 / Gen 3:15 / 2 Peter 2:4

v6 And the angels who did not stay within their own position of authority, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains under gloomy darkness until the judgment of the great day—

So his second example is Angels who sinned, messengers who did not submit to their authority – in other words Angels who rebelled. And Jude doesn’t give us a “for instance” here, but we still understand that he is saying that even the angels in Heaven are not exempt from making poor choices, right? Even Angels can rebel.

3. Sodom and Gomorrah v7 / Genesis 19

v7 just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire.

Jude says even the twin cities of Sodom and Gomorrah rebelled against God and when they were consumed by fire – that was an example of the punishment to come.

4. Michael and Moses v8-10

v8-10 Yet in like manner these people also, relying on their dreams, defile the flesh, reject authority, and blaspheme the glorious ones.  But when the archangel Michael, contending with the devil, was disputing about the body of Moses, he did not presume to pronounce a blasphemous judgment, but said, “The Lord rebuke you.”  But these people blaspheme all that they do not understand, and they are destroyed by all that they, like unreasoning animals, understand instinctively.

Now… what is this?

What is Jude talking about here?

Because I don’t remember this story, do you? The archangel Michael talking to Satan about Moses’ body? You don’t remember that story? That’s because it’s not in the Bible. It’s actually in a Jewish history book called The Assumption of Moses – and it’s more than likely a Jewish fable.

According to the story, the Archangel Michael had a run in with the devil – and in Jude’s opinion – Michael wasn’t stern enough or forceful enough in his dealings. In other words, Jude says that when the enemy is in front of you – that’s not the time to pull punches or to tread lightly.  So he criticized him for that….

Now we have three more examples and they all come from verse 11

v11 Woe to them! For they walked in the way of Cain and abandoned themselves for the sake of gain to Balaam’s error and perished in Korah’s rebellion.

5. Cain v11 Cain’s actions of not bringing a blood sacrifice in Genesis 4 could be seen as a poor choice and an act of rebellion.

6. Balaam v11 Balaam tried to profit from his own people – even though he knew the truth (Numbers 22-25)

7. Korah v11 (Numbers 16) Korah and his followers actually started a mutiny against Moses and tried to over throw his leadership.

And so listen to Jude’s summary from verses 12-13 (CEB)

v12-13 These people are like jagged rocks just below the surface of the water waiting to snag you when they join your love feasts. They feast with you without reverence. They care only for themselves. They are waterless clouds carried along by the winds; fruitless autumn trees, twice dead, uprooted; wild waves of the sea foaming up their own shame; wandering stars for whom the darkness of the underworld is reserved forever.

Look at all of those word pictures: People who feed only themselves, clouds without rain, trees without fruit, wild waves and wandering stars. Jude warns against people who are self seeking, people who make promises but never deliver, people who stir up trouble and or who drift in and out without a home.

I gotta say, for a guy who was going to write about salvation, his letter sure turned into a depressing blast from the past didn’t it?

But we as modern readers of the Bible, can still “learn” from the mistakes of the Bible can’t we? I mean, that’s why they’re there. Any other editor would take all of this out, you’d want to present a clean and clear presentation of your religion’s history. Certainly we don’t want to believe we came from murders and adulterers and lay-abouts.

Well.. but that’s the truth.

You see the temptation is to want to hide out past – to tuck it away ad forget about it, but our past is a true part of our lives and what I’ve found is rather the more people who know my past, the more people who know my crap, the more freeing and liberating it is.

I don’t believe Jude dredges all of this up to be shaming, I think he exposes it to the light to say “SEE! LOOK!” These situations were bad and they were overcome!

The past is better fought head on, through boldness and truth.

As long as we continue to hide it…. it will continue to have power and it will continue to eat away at us.

 

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A look at Jude / an introduction

The author of Jude….is Jude, which I think is surprising because how often do you hear Jude quoted by pastors? Rarely if ever, right? In Hebrew this is the name Judah (as in one of the 12 tribes) and in Greek this is the name Judas (as in the one who betrayed Jesus). There is some speculation about who Jude was, there was a different disciple named Judas  (Acts 1:13)  and Jesus also had a brother named Judas (Mark 6:3) And brother of Jesus – this is where many scholars land – as Jude writes in his introduction.

Jude 1:1-2

Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and brother of James, To those who are called, beloved in God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ:  May mercy, peace, and love be multiplied to you.

Clearly, Jude says that he is the “brother of James” which is an odd way of talking about your family, since most of the time you would say you were the “son of” someone – well who is James? James is the brother of Jesus.

I think if Jude is Jesus’ brother – then that’s really pretty exciting isn’t it? We have two books of the Bible – James and Jude both written by the brothers of Jesus.

Jude was written around the year 65 – so 30 or so years before 1, 2, and 3 John.

Jude is also one of the shortest books in the Bible weighing in at a mere 25 verses

And the purpose of the book of Jude is found in v 3-4 , he writes:

Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.

So, Jude starts off thinking that he’s going to write an evangelical letter. He’s going to write a nice happy letter about Jesus and the gospel. But then he says, ‘I started over and I changed my mind.’

Jude says, there’s something more important - more pressing that I need to share and that concerns “contending for the faith.”

Contending is the Greek word epag-ōni-zomai and it means to “continue to fight.” In other words, Jude’s letter is about not quitting – about not giving up – about sticking it out.

So why did he change his topic?

v4 For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.

So again, we have our running theme these past week of false teachers, wolves, people who seek to destroy the truth or pull the church away from Jesus.

Jude changed his mind because he didn’t want to just write a cute fluff piece, he wanted to make a difference, he wanted to call out the problems and cause change and that’s commendable.

I don’t know how many times I watch the judges on reality TV shake their heads at a contestant and say, “You played it safe this week.”

We do what’s comfortable for us, we sing in our range, we associate with our friends, all the while never reaching out or reaching farther.

Jude says, “I was going to play it safe… and then I changed my mind. I decided to fight, I decided to push back and strain just a little bit harder.”

How many churches have we sat in that are content to play it safe?

How many authors of books today are content to print the same old encouraging drivel for Christians to digest without ever touching on the “hard stuff” like clothing the poor or feeding the hungry (the thing Jesus actually told us to do?)

I pray more Christians adopt Jude’s mindset.

Let’s toss the script & fight!

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The Evangelist / a look at 3 John

3 John:11-12 Beloved, do not imitate evil but imitate good. Whoever does good is from God; whoever does evil has not seen God. Demetrius has received a good testimony from everyone, and from the truth itself. We also add our testimony, and you know that our testimony is true.
So our last Christian is DEMETRIUS and Demetrius is an Evangelist.

And I think for some reason a lot of Christians have the wrong idea about evangelism. We think it’s one of those things you have to be trained to do, or it’s something that’s difficult or that it’s something you have to be gifted for.

Remember, the last words Jesus leaves his disciples with are…

Acts 1:8 But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.

Make no mistake that this verse is a command from our risen Savior and to ALL his followers. Theologian John Stott argues, “We can no more restrict the command to witness than we can restrict the promise of the Holy Spirit.”

2 Corinthians 5:18-20

All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation;  that is, in Christ God was reconciling  the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.  Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.

Evangelism is not reserved for the gifted and the talented, it is for the called and we are all called.

Here’s an example of the early church in Acts 8:1-3

And there arose on that day a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. Devout men buried Stephen and made great lamentation over him. But Saul was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison.

That’s scary right? And typically in times of persecution and trial the first people to run are the volunteers, your first people to quit or throw in the towel are going to be your untrained people, but what do we see?

Acts 8:4-5

Now those who were scattered went about preaching the word. Philip went down to the city of Samaria and proclaimed to them the Christ.

Here is what one noted Bible historian says, “The chief agents in the expansion of Christianity appear not to have been those who made it a profession or a major part of their occupation, but men and women who earned their livelihood in some purely secular manner and spoke of their faith to those whom they met in this natural fashion.” ~ Kenneth Scott Latourette

Listen, you and I have been given no greater gift than the gospel, and we have no greater stewardship than to share that message of good news with others.

Aren’t you thankful for those with the Heart of the Evangelist? Without them, not many of our outreach programs of Missionaries, revivals, and great crusades for Christ would exist.

Demetrius was well known and loved by many. Demetrius was known for his “good report”. This means to me, that Demetrius was constantly giving his testimony to anyone who would hear.

You know and I think we all tend have the Heart of a Servant and the Heart of an Evangelist from time to time. And yes, some of us even have an un-teachable heart from time to time. But God has called each of us to work and to advance His Kingdom. He has given each of us a job to do for Him and a place in his church. And the good news is that God also equips each of us with special talents and abilities to do those jobs.

And I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to do church on accident. I don’t want to fall into church or stumble into the Kingdom, I want to do church on purpose. And so I think rather than just lazily drifting through our own personal comfort zones, we ought to be a church that exists for a reason and a purpose.

And listen, if you’re ever unsure what our purposes are – they are on the front cover of your bulletin. We exist to love God and love others, to make more Christians and Better Christians and we can accomplish all of that because every member is a minister.

Just like you as a Christian are running a race and walking in the faith, the church, our church, this church is also running and growing. And I know, some people don’t like it when churches grow, growth means change, growth means adjustment, it means another mouth to feed and it means we might loose that “small” feeling but the goal of the Kingdom of God should not be to remain small. We do not worship a small God and so our goal should always be – that we have room for just one more.

Well, what about when we get that one? Well, then we still have room for just one more. Remember, this is not our church, it’s God’s; and what’s God’s wish?

2 Peter 3:9
The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.

THAT’S God’s wish! So the church is always making MORE Christians – but it doesn’t mean we do that at the expense of the current membership – because it’s also the responsibility of the church to make BETTER Christians.

New birth is always followed by the responsibility of caring for and raising that life. I mean sure, babies are cute and all that, but nobody thinks it’s cute when a person remains a baby for too long. We love children, but we expect every child to grow.

1 Peter 2:2 says, Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation…

And it’s going to take all of us. Me? Yes you. The church loves God and loves others, it makes more Christians and better Christians with one very important resource. You. Every member is a minister.

A minister… that’s a person who does ministry. A minister is a servant. A minister is the person who we just talked about who is humble, and who sees what needs to get done and does it. A minister is someone who has a teachable heart and who has been equipped by God for work. And that’s all of us.

Romans 12:4-6

For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them…

See we need to understand something about God here–and that is that God does not give us something that He does not expect us to use  - we use God’s gifts and blessings to…

Be a partner…God wants us to proclaim the Word, baptize in His name, and receive new people into the fellowship; He wants us to partner with Him in this good work. We use God’s gifts and blessings to…

Be a witness…testify to what God has done in your life; don’t be afraid—for the work He has done in you is grand and glorious; and it’s a story worth celebrating and worth telling. We use God’s gifts and blessings to…

Make disciples…Because God blesses this; His design is for multiplication, not stagnation; His design is to win, not to lose; His design is to move forward, not to retreat; So let’s use what God has given…

So may the God of peace equip you with everything good for doing His will, and may He work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

 

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The Proud & Unteachable / a look at 3 John

3 John: 9-10

9 I have written something to the church, but Diotrephes, who likes to put himself first, does not acknowledge our authority. 10 So if I come, I will bring up what he is doing, talking wicked nonsense against us. And not content with that, he refuses to welcome the brothers, and also stops those who want to and puts them out of the church.

Our second church member is Diophetres & Diophetres is PROUD

What does John say about this person? That they put themselves first and they do not acknowledge authority. They are unwelcoming, slanderous and they drive people away from the body of Christ. Hey, we saw this personality type last week didn’t we? Who is this? This is a wolf! Last week we said you might be a wolf if…

1. You seek to have your own way.

2. You play fast and loose with the truth and

3. You don’t care who you hurt! That sounds a lot like Diotrepus.

You see Diophetres is proud because Diophetres is un-teachable.  Do you know those people? These are the Christians who’ve reached the finish line and are now resting in the bleachers with their feet up. They’re done. But what does Paul say….

Philippians 3:12-14

Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.  Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead,  I press on toward the goal…

Paul says, “I haven’t finished running. I am still in this race. I am still growing and learning.” But that doesn’t sound like Diophetres. And I want you to understand that there are un-teachable hearts in every part of the church. There are Pastors, Evangelists, Youth Pastors, Worship Leaders, Sunday School Teachers and any other position you can name in church leadership who have un-teachable hearts! And there are a lot of un-teachable hearts in the pews as well.

But God helps us to have a teachable heart so that He can make us into the church that He desires us to be.

God says in Ezekiel 36:26

I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.

Remember, part of being a humble servant and part of being a faithful member of the body is recognizing that the church belongs to God – and not us.

And so we need to ask for God’s help, so that we don’t get so caught up in our own ways that we don’t allow room for those who are different to come to Christ. We need to ask for God’s help so that we are open and available to the Spirit’s prompting even if it put us out of our comfort zone.

Yes, we must run for the faith. Yes, we must protect the truths of the gospel from being compromised. Yes, we must uphold the Standards of righteousness and holiness. And yes, we must preach the unaltered Word of God.

But, we must open our arms and have mercy toward those who don’t understand those things, we need to be patient and compassionate so that God can fill them with His Spirit, and then change them into His image.

We cannot expect every newborn Christian to be like us, act like us, and know what we know. They must be given time to grow and change. We cannot say how long God will take to change them. We cannot see circumstances of their lives that God must work out for them. So what can we do?

We can only love them, we love them in the meantime and we accept them as they are (that’s what Jesus does after all), we love them and we give them space for maturity and we allow the Holy Spirit to do His work.

Our story should be that we have done our best to follow the leading of the Spirit. We have done our best to show love, mercy and grace to any who would enter our doors. We have followed the perfect example of Jesus Christ and not the bad example of someone like Diophetres who is proud and has a un-teachable heart.

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Obedience and encouragement / a look at 3 John

Paul says in Philippians 2:8 (Jesus) humbled himself by becoming obedient

3. THE HEART OF A SERVANT IS OBEDIENT – A servant obeys God, not out of convenience, but out of conviction. Can you imagine if you had obeyed your parents our of convenience? “What’s that Dad? You want me to clean my room right now? Yea… that doesn’t really work for me, I was going to watch TV all day and then goof off with my friends.” Would you have told your Dad that? Not if you wanted to live to see tomorrow, right?

So why do we do that with God? There are over 600 commandments in the Bible. Even Jesus gave us commandments and yet… we pick and choose how we want to follow don’t we? We follow and serve out of convenience rather than conviction.

1 Corinthians 4:2 says it is required of stewards that they be found faithful.

You know who the steward is? It’s the servant, the one in charge of the masters house. And see that’s the beauty of being free. The difference between a slave and a servant is, a slave obeys because they have to – but a servant obeys because they want to – they love their master and they find their greatest joy and their deepest identity in service.

and lastly…

4. THE HEART OF A SERVANT ENCOURAGES OTHERS – and you know this is why John writes this letter – he sees something in Gaius, something commendable and he takes the time to write him and encourage him. Again, if you ever see something or think about something at church where you appreciate a musician, an employee or a teacher – take the time to tell them.

1 Thessalonians 5:11 says, Therefore encourage one another and build one another up

And you know, there is no greater joy to the Servant’s Heart than to watch those who are being served begin to prosper and grow in the Lord.

The Heart of a Servant is a wonderful heart to have.

The rewards of looking back and seeing the change that God has brought about in the lives of other people, in seeing the path that God has led us down and in the victories that have been won, make the sacrifice of being a Servant fade away and blessings, joy and praise take their place toward our God who made it all happen.

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