One Comment to “Contend for the Faith – Part 4”

  1. Donald McMahon
    February 25, 2019

    “Contend for the Faith” (Jude)(2.24.19) Part 4
    1 Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and a brother of James,
    To those who have been called, who are loved by God the Father and kept by Jesus Christ:
    2 Mercy, peace and love be yours in abundance.
    3 Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints. 4 For certain men whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are godless men, who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord.
    5 Though you already know all this, I want to remind you that the Lord delivered his people out of Egypt, but later destroyed those who did not believe. 6 And the angels who did not keep their positions of authority but abandoned their own home—these he has kept in darkness, bound with everlasting chains for judgment on the great Day. 7 In a similar way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion. They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire.
    8 In the very same way, these dreamers pollute their own bodies, reject authority and slander celestial beings. 9 But even the archangel Michael, when he was disputing with the devil about the body of Moses, did not dare to bring a slanderous accusation against him, but said, “The Lord rebuke you!” 10 Yet these men speak abusively against whatever they do not understand; and what things they do understand by instinct, like unreasoning animals—these are the very things that destroy them.
    11 Woe to them! They have taken the way of Cain; they have rushed for profit into Balaam’s error; they have been destroyed in Korah’s rebellion.
    12 These men are blemishes at your love feasts, eating with you without the slightest qualm—shepherds who feed only themselves. They are clouds without rain, blown along by the wind; autumn trees, without fruit and uprooted—twice dead. 13 They are wild waves of the sea, foaming up their shame; wandering stars, for whom blackest darkness has been reserved forever.
    14 Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about these men: “See, the Lord is coming with thousands upon thousands of his holy ones 15 to judge everyone, and to convict all the ungodly of all the ungodly acts they have done in the ungodly way, and of all the harsh words ungodly sinners have spoken against him.” 16 These men are grumblers and faultfinders; they follow their own evil desires; they boast about themselves and flatter others for their own advantage.
    17 But, dear friends, remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ foretold. 18 They said to you, “In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires.” 19 These are the men who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit.
    20 But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit. 21 Keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life.
    22 Be merciful to those who doubt; 23 snatch others from the fire and save them; to others show mercy, mixed with fear—hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.
    24 To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy— 25 to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.
    The word of God for the people of God.
    Sub-Title for today: We May Not Condone; but, We Cannot Condemn
    Jude’s Epistle is a very sobering message that seems quite appropriate for our day. As I preach to you at this hour, discussions are getting underway in St. Louis about the future of the United Methodist Church. There is disagreement surrounding the authority of scripture. There is disagreement about how to interpret scripture. We are being told that thousands of years of traditional understanding of marriage and family are wrong. We are being told that the knowledge of today is superior.
    The banner of God’s love is being used to trump every other attribute of God. To a large extent, I agree with the overriding importance of God’s love. In fact, next week I will preach to you Jude’s call for us who are loved by God to keep ourselves in God’s love. Certainly mercy, peace, and love be yours in abundance are great promises of God the Father, which are part of Jude’s greeting.
    And yet, I chose to put a picture of a judge’s gavel on the cover of this week’s bulletin. Notice the bright light behind the gavel. I didn’t know what you called the wood object the gavel strikes. According to Wikipedia, it is called a sound block. When the gavel sounds, what will be the pronouncement? 2 Corinthians 5:10 (NIV84) For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.
    Jude speaks about condemnation; destruction; everlasting chains of judgment; punishment of eternal fire; rebuke; Woe to them!; blackest darkness forever; and, fire. Then there is a statement that should awaken the conscious of all ungodly sinners: “See, the Lord is coming with thousands upon thousands of his holy ones to judge everyone, and to convict all the ungodly.”
    I wonder if we read scripture too casually. I wonder if we really take in the scope of what is being revealed. Life after death is being addressed; eternal life. There is a lot at stake in this life and the next.
    There is a cosmic clash that goes back until the rebellious angels were expelled from heaven. It includes celestial beings. It includes the Devil. It includes thousands of “holy ones.” All of human history is entwined in this battle. The burial of the body of Moses was disputed. The arch angel Michael, is our ally. Prophecy, which is divine forecasting given through God’s agents, testifies to the Almighty’s hand upon human history.
    Jude speaks of this struggle in several ways. It is our faith, in all the fullness of its meaning, that is our lifeline as we earnestly contend for it. There is good and evil. There is saintly and ungodly. There is purity and perversion. There is mercy and judgment. There is unity and division. There is the grace of God and a license for immorality. In this war, there is no neutral country; there is no spiritual Switzerland.
    Maybe this is the right time to introduce a stabilizing truth as we consider these issues. On a sailboat there is a keel on the bottom of the hull, right in the middle beneath the water. You don’t see it as you travel through the water, but it is the stabilizing force that prevents the sailboat from capsizing. The stabilizing truth is that we must conduct ourselves in humility.
    If you were paying attention to the scripture reading, you might be thinking, “Wait pastor, I don’t remember you mentioning humility.” You would be correct. The object lesson in humility comes from the arch angel Michael.
    The name Michael means, who is like God. In the Bible, we first hear about him in the book of Daniel. In a vision, Daniel is told that Michael was participating in a battle against the cosmic prince of Persia, an agent of Satan. In contrast Michael is identified as Israel’s Prince and Protector. We see him again in the apocalyptic prophecy of Revelation where Michael leads the angelic army in victory over the dragon, Satan, and his angels.
    Obviously, in view of the cosmic world order, the arch angel Michael is very high up. In contrast, if any created being deserved rebuke or condemnation it would be Satan. Even in the heat of a dispute with the Devil over the body of Moses, Michael kept his composure and handled himself with all humility.
    From this, I conclude that none of us are to speak rash judgment on another human being. We might not condone someone’s behavior, but we are in no position to pronounce judgment. Only the Almighty God is in such a position to bring down the gavel of condemnation.
    Jude seemingly drops this precious guidance down in the middle of speaking about the ungodly and the rebellious. Giving many examples from the Old Testament history, he says, “Though you already know this, I want to remind you.” Unfortunately, today we are not as familiar with these biblical accounts as we should be.
    Jude starts with the Exodus record of God, through Moses, bringing the chosen people out of bondage in Egypt. Many miracles are performed. The people are on the brink of entering The Promised Land when the report from 10 of the spies that there were giants in the land, scared the people. They feared the challenges more than they believed in God’s power to deliver them. Their lack of faith; their lack of trust in Yahweh, caused a whole generation to perish in the wilderness.
    When Lucifer tried to usurp the throne of the Most High God, he was cast out of heaven to the earth below. The co-conspirators were likewise punished. To continue the battle, the Devil and his minions have mounted a guerilla war against God’s children for thousands of years.
    Sodom and Gomorrah are used throughout the Bible as examples of wickedness and sexual perversion. You can read about their destruction in Genesis 18 & 19. The Lord rained down burning Sulphur, burning a total of five cities and everything around them.
    Jude tells us that those that give into animal instincts are destroyed by those same instincts. The doctrine of original sin has gone through controversy and an evolution of understanding. There is no denying that every one of us is born with tendencies and proclivities that lead us into sin.
    Nowadays, we try to explain away sin. It is not my fault. It is outside my control. It is just the way I am. It is a disease. I have a genetic tendency. We are the products of our environment. We say things like, my grandfather was an alcoholic; my father was an alcoholic; so, I am an alcoholic. My grandmother abused my mother; my mother abused me…
    Each of us is responsible for our own behavior and will be held accountable. You have heard this thought expressed by many people, “God loves us the way we are, but too much to leave us that way.” We are not animals unable to control ourselves. It may be a difficult trial, but God has provided the power and given the promise to be with us always.
    Jesus spoke a great many words of “woe;” likewise, Jude gives three examples of those that will suffer eternal punishment.
    Cain would not submit to God’s authority and the requirements of sacrifice. The LORD warned Cain that sin crouched at his door, but he must master it. Cain’s anger got the better of him and he killed his brother.
    Balaam betrayed Israel for the love of money. He advised the king of the Moabites to entice the Israelite soldiers with beautiful women. After seducing the soldiers they led them into erotic pagan ceremonies. God was angered and sent a plague that killed 24,000 Israelites for their disobedience, sin, and the worshiping of false gods.
    Korah and his followers led a rebellion against Moses’ and Aaron’s authority. Is so doing, the Bible says they treated the LORD with CONTEMPT. Korah, his ring leaders, and all their families were destroyed when the ground under them split apart and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them, with all their possessions. Then the earth closed over them.
    How can we recognize those that have infiltrated our ranks? They are not forthright and straightforward because they secretly slip in, sneak it. They proclaim God’s grace, grace, grace and provide a license for immorality. Jesus said, “If you love me, you will OBEY my commands.” They deny that Jesus will judge everyone of us. After all, God is love. They proclaim Jesus as Savior but refuse to make Jesus their Master.
    Dreamers is a reference to those who presume a special knowledge. They are elitists who think they know better than others; better than the longstanding authority of Holy Scripture. They make themselves the ultimate authority. No one is safe from their slanderous words. They are not humble like Michael. They attack what they don’t understand.
    These ungodly people have no conscious and freely participate in the life of the church. You can recognize them because of their self-centeredness. Jude tells us, like Jesus, that fruit is the proof of the tree. They might look like clouds with life-giving rain; but in reality, they are mere dust particles blown about by the current winds of our times. They may be chaotic and from the depths of their lives shame bubbles to the top. The stars of the night sky are fixed and can help you navigate; but these people have no anchor and will lead you into blackest darkness.
    Their actions are ungodly. Their speech is ungodly. They are the complainers who always point out the splinter in others’ eyes while ignoring the beam in their own eye. They are undisciplined and follow evil desires. When you hear them boast or use false flattery, watch out! Scoffers and mockers lead to division and conflict.
    Remember though that they are trying to conceal their true colors. They are not always easy to detect. And of course, the examples we have looked at are the extremes. It may take a long time for the ungodly to be exposed by God’s holy light of truth. Yes, we should look for the good in other people, but we must also be discerning. We are to be discerning without condemning.
    What is our response to this infiltration? We must contend for the faith, but we are given some guidelines on how to contend. Follow the arch angel Michael’s example of humility. We can call out the ungodly behavior, but we should not condemn. We leave it to the Lord to rebuke the individual. We are to strengthen our own faith through prayer and a deep relationship with God. We are to be merciful in our efforts to minister to the wayward; but be careful not to become tainted ourselves.
    We will not be successful if we attempt to contend for the faith under our own power. Even as we build ourselves up in our most holy faith, we are not alone. We have the Holy Spirit within us to guide and empower us. God our Savior, Jesus Christ our Lord, IS ABLE to keep us standing until the very end. We will then bear His glory and righteousness.
    These are the days of itchy ears, where you can always find someone who will preach what you want to hear. Everyone seems to be doing what is right in their own eyes. Good is called evil and evil is called good.
    We are seeing these things played out in our very own backyard. The ungodly have secretly slipped into the Church. This is what has brought the United Methodist Church to the precipice of schism and division. Power and property struggles in the likes of Korah and Balaam have materialized.
    For balance I remind you, Jesus tell us in Luke 6, 37 “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. 38 Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”
    In the weeks and months ahead, there are going to be substantial challenges for our denomination and for Emmaus Church. Let us contend for the faith without being contentious. Let us speak truth in love. Let us, in all things, proceed with humility.
    One of the slides on our programmable sign says, “Under Old Management: Almighty God.” Our God has revealed himself through his Son, Jesus, and His Holy Inspired Word. The faith for which we are contending has not changed. It was entrusted to the saints, US, once for all time. Praise be to God!
    Amen and amen. Let us pray.


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