One Comment to “Keep Yourselves in God’s Love”

  1. Don McMahon
    March 4, 2019

    “Contend for the Faith” (Jude)(2.24.19) Part 5
    Keep Yourselves in God’s Love
    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.
    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: Keep Yourselves in God’s Love
    Love is a subject of universal interest; and, I mean that on several levels. As I drive here from Absecon on Route 9, I pass the Reformation Lutheran Church. Their sign says, “God’s love is out of this world.” The Oceanville UMC sign asks, “What is love.” Then answers, “God’s grace.” Love is the subject of songs, novels, movies, and plays.
    One of our challenges is the vastness of this beautiful four letter word. Our English language is far less precise than the Greek language when it comes to the word love. There are four different Greek words in the Bible for love. Some people say there are even more Greek words for love to capture the expanse of this concept.
    In our account from Jude’s Epistle, the word love is used four times. In each instance it is the word agape: those loved by God the Father; Mercy, peace and love be yours in abundance; your love feasts (which includes Communion); and, Keep yourselves in God’s love.
    During this past week’s Special General Conference of the United Methodist Church in St. Louis, there was a lot of talk about love. We were told that to deny same-sex marriage in our churches was unloving. We were told that blocking practicing homosexuals from becoming ordained pastors was unloving. We were told that anything short of full inclusion, in every possible way, was unloving. Many people lament that the Traditional Plan was approved.
    Now, I don’t often remember my dreams and even more rarely will I speak about them. I have never taken any guidance from my dreams, but I know people who have experienced dreams as divine encounters. A dream I had on Friday morning woke me up and indicates how troubled my heart is over these issues and the schism in our dis-United Methodist Church. Six weeks ago, I preached to you about this disunity that was demonstrated in St. Louis this past week.
    My dream started with a gathering in an apartment, several floors high. There are two children playing on a couch near an open window. The next thing I know, I see the children on the ledge outside the window. Afraid that they would fall, I wanted to call out, but I was unable because of fear. I didn’t want to startle the children. As I tried to rise from my seat, they fell.
    In the next scene, there was a gathering on the ground right below the apartment window. There was subdued conversation as people milled about some picnic tables while they sipped drinks. I came up to a table with a newspaper clipping on it and picked it up. It was the obituary for the two children. As I read the obituary, I lost all strength and collapsed; sobbing uncontrollably until I woke up.
    Over these past weeks that we have been examining Jude, it has been made clear that there is hell and damnation due to sin. Rebellion against heavenly authority results in damnation. So does greed and sexual immorality. Sodom and Gomorrah is provided as a specific example. Other people may not see it that way, although I cannot comprehend how.
    Because I believe it with all my heart, how unloving would it be of me to remain silent; to stay in my seat; to do nothing? I believe people, eternal souls, are standing on the precipice of the abyss, about to perish in the hell fires at the distant bottom. It is because I love them and care more about their eternal security than their earthly opinion about me that I must warn them.
    This is in the spirit of Jude’s letter. He is warning about devious people infiltrating the churches and corrupting them. We have looked at the specifics in previous weeks. Jude tells us that we must contend, fight, and strive for our faith. Part of contending is growing, strengthening our own faith. Today, we will look at keeping ourselves in the love of God.
    We know that the witness of two is required and the witness of three is better. We already have Jude’s call to keep in God’s Love. Jesus himself said in John 15:9 (NIV84) “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love.” The apostle John reminds us in 1 John 4:16 (NIV84) And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him.
    As we celebrate Holy Communion in a few minutes, I remind you of Jesus’ great prayer of communion. John 17:20–21, 26 (NIV84) 20 “My prayer is not for them alone [which refers to the disciples with Jesus]. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 26 I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.”
    Isn’t that the yearning of every human heart? We want a connection. We have an eternal longing as King Solomon said; God has placed eternity in our hearts. Richard Littledale captures this thought in the hymn Come Down, O Love Divine:
    1. Come down, O Love divine,
    seek thou this soul of mine,
    and visit it with thine own ardor glowing;
    O Comforter, draw near,
    within my heart appear,
    and kindle it, thy holy flame bestowing.

    2. O let it freely burn,
    till earthly passions turn
    to dust and ashes in its heat consuming;
    and let thy glorious light
    shine ever on my sight,
    and clothe me round, the while my path illuming.

    3. And so the yearning strong,
    with which the soul will long,
    shall far outpass the power of human telling;
    for none can guess its grace,
    till Love create a place
    wherein the Holy Spirit makes a dwelling.
    When we are filled with God’s love, it will naturally flow out of us. Keeping ourselves in God’s love means to stay connected to the source. Do not impede the flow from the fountainhead. If there is no outlet for this love, the headwaters will cease to bless. The more full the flow, the more abundant will be the sister graces of mercy and peace. You will be more forgiving. You will be an encouragement and strength for those around you.
    Last fall, CBS news did a story on a 99 year old Luther Younger. He lives in Rochester, NY and walks six miles every day to visit his wife in the hospital. His wife, whose name is Waverly, has a brain tumor. His daughter says this love keeps him alive; it keeps him going. Would you walk six miles each day to stay in the love of God?
    The gift of love comes from God the Holy Spirit. Romans 5:5 (NIV84) And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. Romans 15:30 (NIV84) I urge you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to join me in my struggle by praying to God for me.
    Paul proclaims in 2 Corinthians 5:14–15 (NIV84)
    14 For Christ’s love compels us [controls us; urges us; constraineth us], because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. 15 And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.
    The natural question then, are you living for yourself or for Jesus Christ? If you are living for yourself, you are not keeping yourself in God’s love.
    Oswald Chambers describes Paul’s kind of living: “Paul says he is gripped by the love of Christ; that is why he acts as he does. Men may call him mad or sober, but he does not care; there is only one thing he is living for, and that is to persuade men of the judgment seat of God, and of the love of Christ. This abandon to the love of Christ is the one thing that bears fruit in the life, and it will always leave the impression of the holiness and of the power of God, never of our personal holiness.”
    There can be no doubt that to remain in God’s love, we must remain in love WITH the Almighty. Charles Spurgeon warns us: “…we must give the Lord our love, or else that love will go somewhere else. We are so created that we must love something or other. If the Ever-blessed One does not win our love, the world, the flesh, or the devil will gain it.”
    That truth is consistent with 1 John 2:15–16 (NIV84)
    15 Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world.
    And Paul warns Timothy, 2 Timothy 3:2–5 (NIV84)
    2 People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, 4 treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— 5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them.
    Have you ever sinned? Transgressed God’s law? Failed to do what you should have done? Missed the mark? Fallen short? Of course, every one of us must answer yes! Are we forgiven? If we have made Jesus Lord & Master of our lives, we are forgiven. Luke tells the story of a sinful woman who shows up at a Pharisee’s house where Jesus is eating with them.
    Luke 7:44–48 (NIV84)
    44 Then he [Jesus] turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. 46 You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. 47 Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little.”
    48 Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”
    How are you expressing your gratitude for Jesus’ sacrifice? Are you an ambassador for peace? Are you an instrument of reconciliation? Are you feeding the hungry? Are you clothing the naked? Are you visiting the sick? Are you setting captives free? Are you providing for the widow and the orphan? Are you a champion for justice? Are you protecting the weakest of the weak? And, do not forget the most important proof of gratitude: are you spending time at Jesus’ feet. Are you sharing your Jesus?
    We all know that Peter denied Jesus three times the night Jesus was arrested. Before Jesus ascended to the right hand of God our Father, he restored Peter with a probing question:
    John 21:15–17 (NIV84) Jesus Reinstates Peter
    15 When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?”
    “Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.”
    Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”
    16 Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me?”
    He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”
    Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”
    17 The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
    Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”
    Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.”
    At dinner last Tuesday night, I sat at a table with several ladies. My heart broke as they shared sad tales of severed relationships with children. One spoke of an adopted child that caused great harm to the family. Another woman lamented that her daughter, who drives by her house every day, has not spoken to her in two months. In a similar fashion the wayward children of God inflict heartache on our perfect Father.
    Can you identify with the pain these women were expressing? When I pray with our volunteers on Tuesdays at 4:20, I ask that those that come be blessed in body and spirit. I pray that they find community here. If we love Jesus, we will feed Jesus’ lambs; we will take care of Jesus’ sheep; we will feed Jesus’ sheep.
    My friends, as we build ourselves up in our most holy faith; as we contend for the faith given to the saints once for all time; let us keep ourselves in God’s love.
    The implied option is that we would move ourselves outside of God’s love either through neglect or rebellion. Heaven forbid! Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be.” Jude tells us, “Be a saint, a follower of Jesus. Keep yourselves in the love of God. Then Jesus will keep you to the very end.”
    With Paul in 2 Thessalonians 3:5 (NIV84) I lift up this prayerful petition: May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance.
    Amen and amen. Let us pray.


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