Todd launches a 4-part series on the book of Jude. In a time when the impact of coaches is a big topic of discussion in professional sports, we need to ask ourselves how we are doing as stewards of the flock the Lord has entrusted to us.
To Build Up or Break Down: The Job Descriptions of Saints and Scoffers
Profile of a Serial Sheep Killer
Beware the Creepers
How to Play in Such a Way that the Program and the Coach are Famous
Blaine: I love to run. It's what I do. It's what I am. People are always asking me, "Blaine, tell me why you run all the time." My response is always the same: "I run because I'm a runner." I haven't always been a runner. A couple of years ago, I decided I'd give it a try, so I did what I saw other runners do. I joined the track team, and I quickly learned that just being on the track team doesn't make you a runner.
I mean, I can get out there and run my heart out, but I always seem to veer. Running straight isn't as easy as it looks. I was about to give up, when I finally realized what was different about me. I was the only one wearing a watch. That's why I couldn't run. The watch was weighing me down. Though it was big and weighed a ton, I was kind of attached to my watch, literally. I couldn't get it off.
I had tried before. I tried to pull it off, tear it off, cut it off. I tried many things. I finally just got used to it. I mean, yeah, it hindered my running, but people thought it was cool. I actually made friends because of it. We all have crossroads in life. This was mine. I realized I had a choice: get rid of the watch somehow or get out of the race.
At that moment, I made a decision. I chose to become a runner. Right then, I heard somebody say, "Do you want me to take the watch off?" This guy was standing next to me. It kind of freaked me out. I guess he knew what was going on. I told him I wanted to be a runner but couldn't do it with my watch. He asked me again, "Do you want me to take off the watch?" I said, "Yes." He smiled and somehow managed to take it right off.
My life since then has been all about running. I mean, I'm running now in a way I never thought I could before. I still stumble at times, but I never fall. I have a passion for running I never dreamed I would have. I owe a lot to that guy who freed me from my watch or shackles or whatever you want to call it. I sometimes wonder what he did with my watch. I do know this. What he did set me free. My name is Blaine, and I'm a runner.
[End of video]
Let's pray together.
Father, we thank you for metaphors and stories, that we can look at them, and you can connect with our hearts and not just leave us with information just to cross our heads. We pray this morning that, as a result of the truth that will be put before us today and in the weeks to follow, we will run like we have never run before, that we will be spurred on to contend for the truth, that we will run as you first wanted us to run; as people who know you, who love you, who enjoy you, and who make you known.
I pray you would just take your Word this morning, Father. Inform our hearts and our heads one more time that our hands might live and operate differently because of our relationship with you. We pray for our friends who are here this morning who don't know what it means to run freely, who are still in bondage to something and they don't know how to get it off, that they would come in contact with you, Jesus.
We'd be pleased with nothing more, not that they would be in any way encouraged by us except that we directed them to you, the one who sets us free from that which causes us to do more than stumble, but to fall. We thank you for Christ who sets us free from sin and pray that he is made more famous as a result of who we are in response to what you have done. For his glory and our good we pray, amen.
I've said many times that my favorite book of the Bible is almost always the one I'm studying or looking at in a particular moment, and as I focused on a particular book, in preparation for what we're going to do now in the coming weeks again, I once again found it to be true. We're going to take a look at what I really believe might be one of the most important books that we've looked at together as a church.
I say that almost every time we start one because the Word of God is living and active, and it always is relevant to the things that are before us, but this one especially so. We want to be a prevailing church. We know that God wants every church everywhere to be a group of people who gather together underneath his name and live in such a transformed way, an other-worldly way, that it causes him to be made more famous when he is associated with it.
Now that's not typically what folks think of when they think of church. They think of irrelevance. They think of boredom. They think of legalism. They think of guilt. They think of shame. The think of deadness. They don't think of transformation, power, and life, and that's because churches aren't running the way God has called churches to run.
There's a reason for that, and the reason is because churches have gotten away from his playbook, God's Word that he has given us to have and to hold and keep steadfastly as that which is our authority, conscience, and guide. We're going to take a little look at a book, a very short book, a postcard even, in the New Testament letters that reminds us of why the church is no longer effective and a thing that brings about fame to our Lord.
There's a little section of Scripture in Hebrews 13 that we often look at when we're alone, and we look at here repeatedly. We shared it with you last week. It's about why we're so committed to calling you to be a part of the body of Christ. If you're a believer, if you're a follower of Christ, he does want you not just to attend track practice but to covenant to be a part of a team, where you can then learn to excel still more as a person who has responded to the grace of God.
He wants you to be where then you would connect with a small group of folks who are going to run with you and train with you and love you well, somebody specifically who's going to come alongside you, who knows you and partners with you and prays for you and spurs you on and shepherds you to the full capacity of that which God has desired for you to be, where you serve him in your specific field event that you were uniquely crafted and created for.
You then become a person so excited about the team you're a part of that you are constantly calling other folks to come and join with you in running the race of life in a way they never knew it could be run because we know we're accountable to those things because it's what God has called us to do. The Scripture says in Hebrews 13:7, "Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account."
There's a reason we're studying this book right now. There's a reason we do what we do every January as a church. It's because we realize that the men and women who are in leadership of this church, folks who call themselves followers of Christ who are matured to a place that we are passionate in our pursuit of him, not perfect in our living, but who order our lives in such a way that we might show ourselves approved as workmen who don't need to be ashamed…
We then have the greatest privilege God can give. The reward for faithfulness in service is the opportunity to serve more. The reward God gives those who follow him is the ability to be partnering with him and shepherding and being involved in the lives of others. It's always about him and for him.
He allows us to participate with him, and he says that those of us who are at a place where we're coming alongside other people… The world for elder is the word for shepherd in the Scripture. It's the word for overseer. It's the word for somebody who cares for and leads and brings others along. We have hundreds of them in this church, not just me.
There are still some folks with the old paradigm. They come up, and they go, "Man, we love Watermark. We want to get to know our pastor, Todd. Can we spend some time with you?" I go, "Man, let me just tell you something. I am one of many pastors here, and I don't just mean our staff, but everybody here who is growing in Christlikeness is partnering with us in a very unique way, and we call them shepherds, and we care for them greatly."
In fact, in the weeks ahead, there's going to be a Sunday in February that we have all our shepherds on Sunday morning meet in a whole different part of our campus and everybody else who's here we're calling to be a part of the body of Christ or is a part of the body here who's trying to figure out who Jesus is or who has figured him out and is growing to a place where they can feel good about saying, "You know what? I think I'm really ready to take some spiritual responsibility for another person."
They say, "I'm ready to know them well and to partner with them for their spiritual growth and to pray for them on a regular basis. I, too, want to shepherd them, not because I'm done being shepherded but because I'd consider it a great privilege if God would allow me to partner with other people for their increase in response to who Jesus is."
We're going to have a Sunday where we're going to love folks here like we usually do, and we're going to pull our shepherds aside and just build into them and love them and celebrate them and affirm them for what they've been doing because there's going to be a day that they're going to give an account for what they're doing, and we want to make sure we equip them in every way we can to be effective in their job.
One of the things we all try and do is we, every year, take some time where we evaluate ourselves on how we have done as people who have been given everything pertaining to life and godliness. We use a little form that Gary mentioned and told you to ask each other about called a 5C form. In the past we've spent months trying to get folks who said they were part of our team to just respond to that by filling that thing out and getting back with us.
Well, you need to know that, as we grow bigger, we can't spend all of our time trying to track down folks who say they're a part of this family. Watermark is not about being big. It's about being biblical, and what we're going to do is we're just going to say, again, you know, "This year, the 5C form is a very important way for us to connect with each other and begin to evaluate how we've done individually and shepherd ourselves with it," but then we're going to not ask you to keep filling this thing out.
We're going to give you every means we can to take some time, if you're a part of our family, to go on the web, go online. If you don't have web access, we'll have hard copies to give you in the back. If you are form-adverse, we will meet with you individually. We mean that, but sometime between now and the middle of February, people who are part of our team are going to reenroll, you know, just like you do every semester at University of Texas.
You're going to say, "I'm in. I want to be about what Christ wants to be about. I want to be committed to God's Word, purposes, and people. I want to think about how I've done in that. I want to be increasingly confident in what I understand about God's truth and how I live my life. I want to be connected to other folks. This is how I've been connected. This is how I've been disconnected and what I need to do about it."
You're going to say, "This is how I contribute with my life and respond to what God has done for me. This is how I think about my life in regard to who Christ is and how I should respond to him being the uniquely gifted person that I am." You need to know this. We're not going to ask you, "Hey, where have you gone? We haven't heard back from you." We're going to assume, if you haven't shown up to class by the middle of February, that you aren't a part of this team this semester (this year), and we're going to keep moving with the folks who have enrolled.
I mean, those are folks that we're going to really be serious about pouring into. That's the flock among us. We're going to keep seeking everybody we can all throughout the year, calling them to join us, and whenever they want to join us, they can, but we're going to focus on those who are in with us right then, just like Jesus told us to do.
He didn't say, "Endlessly berate them with e-mails, phone calls, and knocks on their doors." No, he says, "Tell them to follow you as you follow him and keep moving." It is an incredible responsibility to be given stewardship, care, over those whom God cares deeply about. In fact, one of the very first people God called specifically to take the message of good news, which is the gospel, and share it with other people is a guy by the name of Paul.
Paul traveled around the world that he was near and planted churches, called people out of darkness into light, told them about the truth of who Jesus was and what he had done for them and the bondage that was pulling them off course and causing them to run a life that was not glorious, that wasn't filled with peace, that certainly wasn't at a place where they could say they were at peace with God. They were in rebellion against God, and Paul told them how to clear all that up.
One of the places he stopped was in a church called Ephesus. It's what we know as modern-day Turkey. This is what he said. If you have a Bible (I hope y'all always bring them), turn to Acts, chapter 20, with me, and I want you to take a look at this little section of Scripture. In Acts 20, verses 17 through 32, this is what it says. Paul is talking about his journeys, and he went to Ephesus, and he called the elders of that particular church, the shepherds who were there, to come to him, and he said to them:
"You yourselves know, from the first day that I set foot in Asia, how I was with you the whole time, serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials which came upon me through the plots of [those who did not like the message I was preaching] ; how I did not shrink from declaring to you [you know this] anything that was profitable…"
"I mean, I shared with you that which was for your good and for your gain, not mine." "…teaching you publicly and from house to house…""I didn't have little closed meetings that you had to pay special entrance fees or cover charges to get into. I was just freely proclaiming the truth as publically as I could. I testified to anybody who would listen about how we need to change our understanding of who God is and who Jesus is and why we need him."
In verse 22, he says this. "And now, behold, bound by the Spirit, I am on my way to Jerusalem…""That's the next place I have to go. I know, when I get there, I'm going to suffer. I don't know how I'm going to suffer, but I know that God has shown me that, wherever I go, I'm going to wait to be confronted with lots of different afflictions.
Verse 24: "But I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself…""Because I want to run. I want to live my life consistent with how God has called me to live as his follower. I want to testify solemnly about the grace of God." Then he says this. "And now, behold, I know that all of you [talking now to the shepherds at Ephesus] , among whom I went about preaching the kingdom, will no longer see my face."
"I'm gone. I can no longer be here to shepherd you as you shepherd others." "Therefore, I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all men.""Because I've done my job. I gave you what God entrusted to me, and you have something better than me that's going to be left with you." Now he says this. "For I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole purpose of God."
In other words, when Jesus left his disciples, later known as apostles… The word apostle literally means one sent forth. When Jesus sent those guys out, men whom he personally commissioned to go out, he said, "Listen, I want you to go, and I want you to tell people to identify themselves with me in the name of the Father, Son, and Spirit. That's who the one true God is revealed in three persons. You tell them to identify themselves with me."
Jesus said, "You baptize them in my name, in the Father's name, in the Spirit's name, and you teach them to observe all that I have commanded you, not just pieces that are comfortable for them, but you tell them, 'This is how you're to run. This is the life of glory that I destined for you. Don't teach what's convenient to them. Don't teach what's culturally acceptable to them. You teach what it means to run a life that I would call glorious.'"
Then Paul goes on to say this. "Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.""I want to tell you something. This is a big deal. God loves these people. He cares for these folks. He shed his blood to create this people, so he will not take it lightly when you just go through the motions with those whom he is giving you an incredible privilege to be a meaningful shepherd in their lives."
He is saying, "If you back off from them because you're afraid they may not like you, man, let me just tell you something. I'm going to have a real problem with that. If you dumb down the message because you think it'll make you more popular or more acceptable to them and more famous as a leader, I have to tell you something, I'm going to deal with you because you're a terrible leader if you do that. You don't fear the people. You fear me."
He said, "I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them.""They're going to dumb down the truth. They're going to make me out to be something that I wasn't," Jesus said.
"They're going to make a life that follows hard after me, not the norm, and I'm going to tell you, these men are going to look like they're concerned for people. They're going to be inclusive. They're going to be people who folks say are tolerant. They're going to look loving. They're going to look like they're not judgmental, but I'm telling you, they are wolves in sheep's clothing."
He says, "Therefore be on the alert, remembering that night and day for a period of three years I did not cease to admonish each one with tears [pleading for you to understand who God was]. And now I commend you to God and to the word of His grace…""Which if you'll cling to that, his Spirit is in you, shepherds and leaders, his Word is there to guide you."
" [It] is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified." Those who are set apart, a group of people who are not isolated by geography but who different by the way they run. They run with such purity, they run with such hope, they run with such goodness that the rest of the world says, "You know what? If God was going to make a life a runner, he'd make a life that ran like that." People will look at your life, and they'll go, "That's a wise life. That's a skilled life. Who informs you? Who's your life coach?"
You go, "Man, I have more than a life coach. I have somebody who has taken me from being a slave to a course that was hurting myself and hurting others and who's put me on a whole new track and then enabled me to run and live my life in a way that is not only good for me, but by the grace of God, man, it's a blessing to others. Folks are drafting off me, and good things are happening, and I am running with endurance because I have a goal before me that is glorious."
Paul is telling these guys, "Look, I'm going to warn you that it's going to be easy for you to back off this great, incredible task you have because there are going to be some men who are going to call people to run differently than God intends them to run." Now let me just say this. Our society loves to go after coaches, people who are given stewardship over groups they care about.
Famously, in this part of the country, you have an individual who has been well known for years as being able to assemble a team of immense talent and who consistently is bringing together folks underneath this brand they love and assembling great athletes, but they have not liked the way this man has performed in the big games, so they've wanted to call him into account.
They have websites committed to calling him into account called www.firemackbrown.com. They go, "Mack, man, you have the greatest talent. We care deeply about this team, and you have a great, gifted team. Somehow, you get them to keep coming, but they're not performing well." If you think about the irony of that and how we're judgmental on him, just to point it out, Mack Brown, since 1998, has had more wins than any coach in college football.
Everybody talks about, "Man, if Texas had a great coach like Bob Stoops who had the athletes like you have, he'd do great things." Well, Mack Brown has won as many national titles as Bob Stoops. Pete Carroll, the greatest coach, someone said, in the history of college football because he was just a few freak plays away from doing something that nobody in the history of college sports has ever done, has one more national title than Mack Brown.
Yet we were ready to call Mack Brown into account because he wasn't getting everything he should from this incredibly gifted and talented people. Well, if you think Texas football fans are fanatics and unreasonable, let me just tell you, there's a God who takes the people who are charged with coaching, leading, shepherding his team that he purchased with his own blood, and he says, "If you don't get out of them what I've created them to be because you dumb down your expectation of them; you make my program not something to be marveled at…"
He says, "If you make my team something to be scoffed at because it consistently underperforms and, in fact, sometimes plays a game that doesn't even look like a game of renown, where they're out there and there are turnovers, and there's a weak work ethic and a lack of heart and you shepherd that group of people poorly, then I'm going to hold you into account."
Psalm 50 says that there is going to be a day when he says, "Go to state-the-case-in-order-before-your-eyes.com, and let's have a visit. I'm going to hold you into account, shepherds, leaders." I'm going to tell you what. When people think about church today, they don't think of it as a great program.
They are not going, "Man, I want to tell you something. When I think about teams of people who are running life with excellence…" You don't hear folks talking about followers of Christ, people who wear the uniform, if you will, of faith, as people who are set above, who are consistently performing with such excellence that everybody else is a distant second to them.
No, you find folks who scoff at the program, and the reason is because of poor leadership and because men and women who are charged to lead the church are not acting as those who are sent forth, operating with the playbook God has entrusted to them. We, in our cowardice and fear, begin to lead people in a way that we think they'll want to still stay on the team and not walk away from us because we're desperate for them because we think we need their money or their presence to somehow be the team God wants us to be.
God says, "No. You call them to whatever it takes for them to be the people who I want them to be. You spur them on to love and good deeds. Encourage them day after day so they don't get hardened by the deceitfulness of how wonderful it would be if they weren't having to perform as people who gave their lives to Christ and just be normal citizens, just students and not student athletes. You tell them, 'Look, this is where glory is, representing God's team as a devoted follower who performs this way.'"
Let me tell you, do you think Mack Brown has athletes? Look at what Jesus says about the team he's given shepherds to lead. In 2 Peter, he starts this book off and says, "Simon Peter, a bond-servant and apostle [one sent forth from] Jesus Christ, [I am writing] to those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours…""Mine's not better than yours. It's just like yours." He says this.
"…by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ: Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us [people who have embraced Jesus] by His own glory and excellence."
In other words, this team that you've given shepherds has been given everything they need pertaining to all of life that they might be so godly in it that people go, "Let me tell you something. You can join a lot of different organizations to kind of shape your life and worldview, but if you're a part of that team, that is the team that is consistently not just national champions, but around the world, we go, 'That is the standard of what a glorious life looks like.'"
To folks who come all the time saying, "How do I get to be a part of that?" you say, "Let me tell you something, there are unlimited scholarships here. Come. Throw in. There are unlimited opportunities to excel here in a way that you can be encouraged, not just for a select few. Every one of you has been given gifts that the world should marvel at in a way that, if you think they marveled at Vince Young, they'll marvel at you in even greater ways and the way you live if you faithfully respond to the opportunities given to you here.
If coaches and shepherds don't get the most out of that team, God's going to say, 'I have a real problem with that because I've given you a team that ought to make me famous. You guys are my coordinators, and I'm the head coach, and this is my program, and when you make my team look silly in the way they underperform, I have a problem with you because your athletes aren't the problem and your playbook isn't the problem. It's the fact that you guys have dumbed down in your leadership role.'"
Now that's why we take what we do here very seriously because God is going to have a state-the-case-in-order-before-your-eyes day for all of us who say we're his people, who say we are entrusted with our care and love for one another, so God says, "Be careful." Specifically, after Jesus' first coming, there was what were called the acts of the apostles, and we found out that these men who were entrusted by God with the truth of who Jesus is and the Word of God taught it to others.
They told those folks who they raised up as grad assistants to one day be coaches of their own teams, "You take these things which we have given to you in the presence of many witnesses, and you teach these to other grad assistants who will one day coach their own teams and create their own faithful group of followers, and we will make our coach, Jesus Christ, famous because we will live and perform in a way that the world will say, 'That's a different group. They run together, live together differently.'"
Just like the Scripture says that there are acts of the apostles that followed the first coming of Christ, there's going to be something that will precede the second coming of Christ. In 2 Timothy, chapter 3, verses 1 through 5, this is what it says. It says, "…in the last days…" there's going to be a group of men who will come along, and it's going to make things difficult.
"For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; Avoid such men as these."
Just like there are acts of the apostles that followed the first coming of Christ, beware. After those faithful few go out, there's going to rise up another group of grad assistants who are going to compete for the hearts of the people, and the acts of the apostates are going to cause God's program to get way off course. The Scripture says these men sneak in unnoticed.
You're going to find out that God notices them, and he calls individuals who are called to shepherd different satellite campuses to make sure they don't sneak into their campus so that the team of God that operates there can run in such a way that it does represent him as he wants to be represented. Do you want to know what the book is that we're going to study? It's the book of Jude. Turn there with me.
Just like after Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, we have a little book called Acts, which tells you about the acts of the apostles who were sent forth, there's a book at the very end of your Bible, right before the book of Revelation when God unfolds what's going to happen in the course of human history about the acts of the apostates. Now an apostate is an individual who has backed off the firm truth and playbook God has given us to live by.
An apostate is somebody who is back from standing firm. They know the playbook. They've heard what God said, but they go, "You know what? We're not going to make God's Word our authority, conscience, and guide." Paul said in Acts, chapter 20, "…I commend you to God and to the word of His grace…"
They go, "You know what? We're going to back off the Word of his grace, and we're going to make the Word apply to our culture and our world in a way that is palatable to us," and he said, "Those shepherds are really wolves in sheep's clothing. Don't be anything like them." He gives us this little book called Jude in order that we might be the people he wants us to be. Here we go, the book of Jude. We're going to read just a few verses this week because you're going to find out that Jude is an interesting book.
Jude wants to tell people about their great salvation, but he can't get very far before the Spirit grabs him and says, "Look, I've spent a lot of time talking about what I have done for people through the Son, Jesus Christ, throughout other books I've preserved as the Word of God made more sure. Jude, I'm going to use you to not talk about their great salvation but to warn them of the great danger in backing off from that which I've called men to." This is what the book says.
"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: May mercy and peace and love be multiplied to you.""May you have more of it, more sense of the freedom from guilt that God has given you, more awareness of the peace that he has accomplished, taking you who are men who deserve judgment and, by faith, restored you to a place where you're no longer now children of wrath but sons of God."
He's saying, "May you live your lives in such a way that it can be defined by the presence of God to where you have peace and not insecurity and fear and concern or a sense that you're going to finally be caught and exposed, but no, your life is free from the worry of others dragging you into the light because you're living a life that you want all the light in the world to shine on because it is a light that is glorious, so you want others to see it. May that be multiplied to you."
He says this. "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[the ones who are set apart]. " Now let me just walk you through those few verses for today, because here's what's going on.
First of all, I want to talk to you about who wrote this book. His name is Jude. There are five different guys named Jude or Judas in the New Testament. It could be a number of different people until you read what he says about himself next. He calls himself a bond servant of Jesus Christ, which is interesting in light of what he says about himself next.
He's the brother of a guy named James, and there's only one James in the New Testament who is famous enough that he would say, "If you know James, you know who I am by my relationship to him." James is the half-brother of Jesus Christ, meaning his mother was Mary. His father was Joseph, who was Jesus' earthly father, but we know that Jesus was not born of the seed of Joseph, but God planted the seed in Mary that he might be a man but also God, fully God and fully man.
James was the half-brother of Jesus Christ. Jude is saying, "I am the brother of James," which means that he's the brother of Jesus. Now if you're writing a book and you want folks to read what you have to say, don't you think it'd be rather impressive when you introduce yourself to say, "Hey, I have something to say, and by the way, I am the brother of Jesus"? Well, you would think so except that James had a real understanding and a sense of what makes somebody famous, and it's not the family they were born into.
Let me just walk you through it because this is really interesting what Jude says, and it should tell us something about who we are and how we should identify ourselves. Look at a few things with me. Look at Mark, chapter 3, verses 31 through 35. This is the life of Jesus. It says:
"Then His mother and His brothers arrived, and standing outside they sent word to Him and called Him. A crowd was sitting around Him, and they said to Him, 'Behold, Your mother and Your brothers are outside looking for You.' Answering them, He said, 'Who are My mother and My brothers?' Looking about at those who were sitting around Him [who were following him] , He said, 'Behold My mother and My brothers!"
He's saying, "This is my family right here. I'm not too concerned about the human relationship. Do you want to know who my family is? It's those who do the will of God. That's my brother. That's my sister. That's my mother." Just a few chapters later in Mark, chapter 6, he says this. "Jesus went out from there and came into His hometown; and His disciples followed Him. When the Sabbath came, He began to teach in the synagogue; and the many listeners were astonished, saying, 'Where did this man get these things…'"
In other words, Jesus was playing, running, speaking in such a way that the world was like, "That's a different way to live, a different way to talk. He has a different ethic, a different morality, a different power, a different love. Where's he getting these things? Where's this wisdom coming from? Man, that guy is on a program that is attractive."
" [Where is he getting the ability to perform] such miracles as these performed by His hands? Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? Are not His sisters here with us?' And they took offense at Him." Jesus said, "Man, listen. You guys don't get it. You don't accept me because you keep thinking of me in human terms, but again, my family is not Mary. It's not Judas. It's not Joseph. It's not Jude. My family is those who follow after me and do the will of me."
In Luke, chapter 11, it says, "While Jesus was saying these things [about life and truth in a way that people were attracted to] , one of the women in the crowd raised her voice and said to Him, 'Blessed is the womb that bore You and the breasts at which You nursed.' But He said, 'On the contrary, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it.'"
This is key because, when Jude is writing his book, he's saying, "Do you want to regard me? Don't think that I'm something because of the family of origin that I'm a part of. Don't think that I am an individual whom God is going to be impressed with because my father is devoted to Christ. Don't think that I'm somebody whom God is going to be fond of because I'm a member of a church, where many people there whom are my friends are devoted followers of Christ."
He's saying, "No, I as an individual have made a decision to give myself to him to pursue what he said I should pursue, which is the will of the Father, to observe the Word of God, not just to call Jesus brother, not just to call him Savior, not just to call him son. Mary was not in good stead with God because Jesus was her son. Mary was in good stead with God because she loved him, depended upon him, and walked in his ways, and she loved the Savior God gave to her."
See, Paul said this in 1 Corinthians, chapter 4, verses 1 and 2, "… [if men are going to regard us, let them regard us] as servants of Christ as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. In this case, moreover, it is required of stewards that one be found trustworthy." This is what's going on in the book of Jude.
Now Jude is going to be a book that has so much talk of sin and judgment in it and has state-the-case-in-order-before-your-eyes.com all in the middle of it, that Jude knew that men would be overwhelmed when they read this, so he starts and ends the book the same way. He says, "I want you to know what a wonderfully blessed group of people you are because God has called you out of sin and judgment.
He loves you, has your best interest in mind, and he wants you to be individuals who are a part of well-done-good-and-faithful-servant.eternity, not, 'Come over here and lets have a chat, wicked and lazy servants who called me brother, who called me Lord but who never followed me.'" Jude says, "You take advantage of God's grace offered to you, and if you have, in fact, responded to his grace, you will not back off his truth. Be one who is sent forth and who is unwaveringly committed to God's Word. Do not be an apostate."
That is somebody who knows the Bible, has heard of Jesus Christ, calls Jesus Christ good names, maybe operates in religious institutions, speaks about spiritual things but who backs off God's truth in a way that allows them to manage their lives and lead other people in a way they choose to lead other people and operate their lives. If you take certain sections of the Bible as authoritative and reject others as authoritative, it is not the Bible you worship; it is yourself.
You will suppress what you don't like in order that you can give the illusion that you're concerned about spiritual things while, in fact, you're concerned only about running your own offense, and the Scripture says those kinds of people create their own god, and they delude themselves, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power that is behind the Word of God, which is issue for them.
This is what Jude says. It's pretty interesting stuff. The words that are used here are pretty instructive to us. This is what it says in verse 3. "…I felt the necessity to write to you appealing …" In other words, exhorting. That is a word that is used in the Greek language of a general who is rallying his troops and giving orders to his army. In other words, the book of Jude is a call to arms, and he's saying, "You need to know this. This is no subtle game that you're in the middle of."
There's a guy named A.W. Tozer who was a man who spoke a lot in the first part of the twentieth century, and Tozer was a guy who was known for basically preaching himself off every conference docket there was because he came and shared with people as lovingly as he could the truth that God had revealed to him. This is a quote by Tozer that's worth pointing out right here.
He said, "The idea that this world is a playground instead of a battleground has now been accepted in practice by the vast majority of fundamentalist Christians." This is a guy who spoke about 60 years ago, and he said, "People think of this as a playground, man. You're here to do what you want to do and just cut Jesus into the deal," and he said, "That's not it at all. This is a battleground."
The book of Jude, given to folks before he closes God's Word, says, "Let me tell you something, you who are called, beloved, and kept who are blessed, you'd better know this. If you don't live as God has you to live, then you're deluded in your calling, and you're being loved by God and being kept by God, and you might be somebody who's backing away from what God has called you to, so you may not be his mother, brother, sister, or related to him."
You would be an apostate and not an apostle because apostles take the Word of God that's given to them, and it says they contend for it. That word right there in Jude, where he says, "I want you to know that you should '…contend earnestly for the faith…' is the word we get agonize from, agōnizomai, which means basically to, to strain with every muscle and fiber of your being, to hold firm your ground. It's used of a wrestler who won't be flipped.
He's saying, "I want you to earnestly contend, fight, agonize over the faith which is Jesus Christ, fully God, fully man, offered up for you as the sole solution to man's sin and God's holiness and the way that God who loves you still remains just by allowing you to come into relationship with him. You make sure you never back off the deity of Jesus Christ, the role he plays as necessary and required as the means through which men can be restored into relationship with God.
Don't dumb him down to a prophet. Don't dumb him down to an angel. Don't dumb him down to a holy teacher. He is God, and you fight for that because that's whom he has revealed himself to be. Either shake off it and create your own program, or if you're a part of his team, then you live according to the Word of God and you follow him with your whole heart, and you don't back off what it means to follow him."
If you go back earlier in that book, people who know whom God is and what he's done for them, folks who know… If you'll look at the very first part of Jude where it says that they have been called by God…individuals who are called… What's that mean? Well, listen. It's a very offensive doctrine. It has this idea of election, choosing, predestination. People go, "Oh, my gosh! What it the world?"
There's going to be three things. You're going to see past, present, and future. You're going to see Holy Spirit, Father, and Son, and you're going to see that God is the author and perfecter of our faith. You're going to see that God goes before you and accomplishes everything you need in order to be a part of his team. You could never perform so well that he would say, "I need you to make my program effective." In fact, what you'll find out is that there is no man who cares about God's program. All of us have sinned.
Each of us has turned to his own way, but the Lord, in his incredible kindness, has caused the inequity of us all to fall on him, meaning Jesus Christ. Here's the story. Let me just explain to you very quickly this issue of predestination and election. I spent a whole hour on it one time when I taught you the book of Malachi, and if you're curious about this, you can go get that little message. We titled that little series, God Is from Mars, We Are from Venus, and Malachi 1:1-5 explains election and predestination in a much more developed way.
Here's the truth of Scripture. Don't miss this. Election and predestination are not God saying, "You're going to go to hell, and you're going to go to heaven." Election and predestination are teaching us this reality. There is none who cares about God's program. All people reject him as coach. Everybody mocks God and says, "I want nothing to do with the way you play ball. I'm going to play ball the way I want to play ball. In fact, I'm not even sure there is such a thing as ball. We're going to invent a game of life, and it lives this way."
Even though God has called all men everywhere into relationship with him and has instilled in all men everywhere evidence that he is divinely powerful through nature and creation, even though he's invested in all men a conscience which tells us that we're playing in a way that isn't consistent with what is right, all men reject that. They don't fear the glory of God revealed in creation. They don't respond to their conviction of guilt in their consciences.
We all go our own way, but God, in his grace upon grace, though he's already revealed to all men enough everywhere that we should know him and cry out for mercy before him and none do, he then decides to do something else in a select few, and he doesn't tell us why he chooses these people, but it's not because they are good. He doesn't make anybody go to hell. Everybody wants to go to hell.
Nobody wants to play ball with God, yet in his kindness and goodness, he predetermines. Proorizó is the Greek. We get the word horizon from the word horizó, which means boundary. It's something that you can see out there. It's the end of your sight. It's something you bounce into that God determined beforehand that would cause some of us to become aware of the futility of our lives, that we would reconsider how we're running and look to him and say, "There must be a better way."
He says, "I've been telling all of you all through your conscience, through the glory of who I've revealed myself in creation that there is a better way, and it's a relationship with me, but all of you have turned your own way, but I'm going to, in grace, let you come to the end of yourself, some of you even at a young age, and I'm going to allow you to see me for who I am, and you're going to choose to follow me, but your choosing will be a result only of the fact that I have pricked your heart in a way that allows you to know what all men should already know in all that I've revealed to them."
"You have been called by the Spirit," Jude said. "You are currently beloved by the Father [that is a word of tremendous endearment], and you are kept by the Savior." Jesus says in John, chapter 10, verses 27 and 28, "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand."
What do you do with a God who loves you this much? Even though he's told every man everywhere who he is, his invisible attributes, his divine nature, his eternal power have been clearly seen through that which has been made, but men have suppressed it and said, "We're going to play ball our own way."
God in his kindness pricks your heart in such a way that you come to an awareness of who he is, and he reveals to you his love for you, specifically that he himself became a man and lived a life that did not deserve judgment, but he went to judgment so that you, who should've been judged, can be found forgiven as you hide yourself in him, and he allows you to see that.
He allows you to experience that, and he keeps you secure because you are in him, and God has found him acceptable, and he is seated now at the right hand of the throne of God, and as you are in relationship with him, God says, "I find him pleasing and, therefore, I find you acceptable." When you find out that God is the author and perfecter of your faith and he's done all that for you, you then say, "I want to live for that King, and I will never back off serving him no matter what men say of me or no matter what I experience in this life."
This is why in Hebrews, chapter 12, verses 1-3, it says that we should keep our eyes on Jesus who is the author and perfecter of our faith. He says, "…let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus…" Let us endure whatever we have to endure, like he endured the cross, and let us not in any way despise what we have to go through here because it's a privilege to get to play ball for him. We are to consider him, the one who has endured such hostility by sinners against himself so that we will not grow weary and lose heart.
Our coach doesn't ask us to go through anything he hasn't gone through in spades. What do you do to a God who loves you like that? Even though you are his brother, even though you are his son, even though you are his co-heir, you don't call yourself that. You say, "I am his. He has won my heart, and I am his servant."
This comes from Deuteronomy, chapter 15, verses 12 through 17. In the Old Testament times, when men would not have the ability to work off a debt to somebody else, they would literally become slaves, but God had it set up that, every seven years, those slaves would be set free. He says:
"If your kinsman, a Hebrew man or woman, is sold to you, then he shall serve you six years, but in the seventh year you shall set him free. When you set him free, you shall not send him away empty-handed. You shall furnish him liberally from your flock and from your threshing floor and from your wine vat; you shall give to him as the Lord your God has blessed you.
You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God redeemed you; therefore I command you this today. It shall come about if he says to you, 'I will not go out from you,' because he loves you and your household, since he fares well with you; then you shall take an awl and pierce it through his ear into the door, and he shall be your servant forever."
In other words, here's the deal. When a person is set free to do as he wants but he sees that his relationship with you has caused him to fare well, instead of saying "farewell" to you, that person is free to go and do as they want, but because your love has so enraptured him, because your provision for him has been so great, if he chooses to give himself to you, he is no longer your servant, but he is your bond servant, freely saying, "What is mine is yours.
Every bit of my life I have to live I want to live for you because you've been so kind to me." Jude says, "Do you want to know who I am? I'm not somebody who just says, 'Check out my relationship by profession or by fate. I'm somebody who is aware of what Jesus has done for me, and you can nail me to the door of his household, and I freely give myself as a servant for him.'"
See, that's what men and women who know who Jesus is and what he's done do. They say, "That's how you should regard me. Even though I am co-heir with God, even though he has adopted me into his family, I don't consider myself his son. I am his servant, and it is a privilege to play on this team and be his."
Now what's all this mean? Well, what it means is that, if you are individuals who are wooed by the call of an irresistible Savior, which is what the Scripture says you are (called by him); if you are loved with the love of an unimaginable lover, which is what the Scripture says you are; if you are kept by the will of an unstoppable keeper, which is what the Scripture says you are; if you are blessed with the blessings of an inexhaustible giver, he's brought you into his program.
He's now shown you where life is and how to run in a way that the world will look at and just go, "I want some of that." Then you give your life in devotion to him in a way that nothing can move you off it. Be aware of this. There are going to be people who are going to rise up who are going to say, "Look, man, the way you live your life makes me feel guilty. The way you live your life tells me that you think some are in and some are out," and what we should say is, "It's not my opinion. I'm serving the one who has shown me that, left to myself, judgment is due me, yet in his love, he has given me what I could never have won for myself.
I'm not going to back off this no matter what you say about me. I'm not going to back off this no matter how uncomfortable it makes you feel. I'm going to say it with grace, but I'm going to contend for it because you need to know that there is one program that is acceptable to the coach that we are all on his team, but there's going to be a day when he's going to separate those teams forever.
If you don't accept his provision and offer of scholarship, if you don't accept his way to play ball and his provision for the way that you haven't played ball well, it will not be well with your soul. I know that makes you uncomfortable, and I'm not sure why God allowed me to see this as clearly as I do, but I will, in tears, live my life in such a way that you see that I mean it. Hopefully, you're going to see God changing me in such a way that I become a life player, a ballplayer like you've never seen, that you can only say, 'Who's your coach?' and I can tell you, 'His name is Jesus.'"
Here's some application. If you are called (again, all men are called in the general sense), Jesus says, "Come." If you are loved, then love. Give freely what you have received. If you are kept, then stay and be individuals who don't back off, who don't say, "You know what? I'm going to cut in, and I'm going to cut out with Jesus." Individuals who don't stand firm are people whom the Scripture says, "Careful before you believe you're at peace with me simply because of what you've called me."
I'll show you this in a couple of places. In Matthew, chapter 7, this is what Jesus said. He said, "Many will say to Me on that day, 'Lord, Lord…'" Some people are going to say like Jude, "Hey, he's my brother." Jesus says, "I don't really care about the familial relationship. I don't care what you called me."
"'Lord, Lord,' did we not prophesy in Your name [did we not do religious things], and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?" Didn't we have some transformation in our lives where people go, "Hey, what they're doing looks spiritual"? He says, "And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who…'" Key word. "… practice lawlessness."
In other words, if the standard and nature of your life is such that you're saying, "You know what? Even though God has said this is the way a follower of Christ conducts themselves, if I say, 'You know what? That's a little uncomfortable for me. I'm going to practice life the way I want to practice life. I'm going to define the rules of life the way I want the rules of life to be.
Even though it looks nothing like the rules that God said we should operate by, that's the way I roll. That's the way I was created. That's what I want to do, and if God wants more from that, you know what? Let him kick me off his team.'" He says, "You know what? The fact that you don't play this way is evidence that I was never your coach, no matter what you call me."
He says, "There are going to be some wicked and lazy people who have been wearing my uniform, and those wicked and lazy people are going to go to a place with intense emotional suffering and physical suffering, and there are going to be others who stumbled but never fell who, at times, didn't play like they practiced, but they always got back up and acknowledged, 'You know what? That was a turnover I didn't need to make. I need to own that.'"
You need to know that I have people I invite into my life. Some are my kids and my wife, and some are my good friends. I just tell folks… This week, I had three of my children in a moment look at me and just go, "That is, in effect, unacceptable," when I just raised my voice, you know, in frustration, not at them but in a misunderstanding.
I kept saying it was like talking to a Spanish person. You know when you say something, and they don't get it, and you say it with an accent, and then you say it with an accent louder, like they're going to figure it out? I did that with my kids, and they were just looking at me like, "We're trying to understand," so I just kept saying the same thing until I was literally almost shouting it. I just go, "This is unbelievable."
I just looked at them, and they said, "Dad," and I went, "You know what? I need to ask your forgiveness because I just modeled for you just a terrible life that was self-indulgent and living in frustration and what felt good to me, and I don't want to practice that, and you guys shouldn't either. I just played in a way that's inconsistent with how God would have me live."
Now if I just say, "Hey, I was raised in a home where anger and temper were just the norm. We yelled at each other, and we got over it," he says, "That's not your family, Todd. I thought you said you were part of my family now. You practice this, and if you just say, 'This is the way I am. That's who I am,' that tells me you're still not a part of my family."
See, here's the deal. I'm going to walk you through a few quick equations here. This is what the Scripture says. This is important stuff. Works, the Bible says, do not earn salvation, but…careful…because the Bible also says that faith does not equal salvation. That is an incomplete statement biblically.
Here's another one: the Scripture says that faith plus works does not equal salvation. That is not true. The Scripture says that faith does not equal salvation without works. Now the rules of math are such that, if you took the works on that side and put it on the other side, it would be that faith plus works equals salvation.
That's not what we believe, so we know faith doesn't equal salvation minus works. Faith, the Bible says, is salvation that works itself out in such a way that people know that your faith or your dependence or your saying, "I'm part of God's team," is evidenced by the way you play ball. Martin Luther King says it this way. "We are saved by faith alone, but the faith that saves is never alone." Paul says it this way.
"For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them."
In other words, if he is your Lord and you realize how he has called you, loved you, and kept you, you're going to play ball this way, and you will work out your salvation in such a way that folks will say, "Now that's impressive." See, here's what it says, that you will have in yourself this attitude which is also in Christ Jesus. Philippians 2, verse 5 and following. Be careful.
"Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself…" In other words, "It's not about me," Jesus said. "…taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross."
Because he loved you so much, he didn't care if he went to a cross. It says, "… [he] endured the cross, despising the shame.""Because I love them, I'll go to a cross. Is that what it takes?" The justice of God demanded that it would. "For this reason…" Because he did that. "…God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess…"
That will be one day when God states the case in order before their eyes, that Jesus is Lord and Savior alone of all men because of the cross that he picked up for them. It says, "You follow him." He said, "So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only…" Not because your coach was there, but because you love Jesus, the physical coach who is in you through his Spirit. "… [so] much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling…"
It doesn't say work for your salvation because you can't earn it because the one who emptied himself and didn't do what was pleasing to him but did what was right for you because he loves you has already gone to the cross for you and worked to earn your salvation. By faith in him, God would give you what you could never earn for your own.
Now having believed in him, you work out your life in such a way that folks go, "You play for a divine coach because you play life, you run in this life in a way that I cannot explain." I'm going to tell you, people who do that are secure, and God will exalt them in the same way he exalted his son who did nothing from selfishness or empty conceit
See, we play ball differently than everybody else. We don't merely look out for our own personal interests but for the interests but for the interests of others. Do we? I don't care where we sit or what we call him, God says, "He who does the will of my Father, he is the one who loves me." None of us do it perfectly, but here's my question…Is it your practice?
Is it my practice to live life as a devoted follower of Christ? If there's an area of my life that is inconsistent with his will, do I change it? Do I confess and agree with him? That's not the way you play ball. "Coach, thank you for pointing that out. Let's look at game film together. Let's evaluate it, and let's go back out and do everything we can to spur each other on to be a team that lives life in such a way that we are not one among many, that we are the world champs year in and year out."
When people say, "Who lives life well?" They would say, "If the world was filled with people like you, this would be a better world," that your kingdom might come on earth as it is in heaven. Do you see the story? Jude is going to tell you that, if you know Christ and you are his bond servant, you're secure.
You don't have to worry about the sin and judgment that's coming, but you be aware of this. In the last days, men are not going to like this, and they're going to want to dumb down what it means to be a follower of Christ. "Just go to church. Just walk forward at a Billy Graham conference. Just say this. Just go through this ritual. Just call him this name."
He says, "Do you know what? All three people in the parable of the talents called me Master. Two of them did what I said. The other one called me something but acted in such a way that he hid is life, operated his life the way he wanted to operate his life which showed me that I wasn't his master. He was his master, and I'm not so dumb as to be impressed with flattering titles. He is a wicked and lazy servant who is not on my team. See ya!"
Do you want to know why the church is powerless in America and the world today? It's because we have backed off his book. I'm going to show you specifically what that looks like, and this is an important moment for us as a church. If you're here today, I want to tell you something. If the grace of God calls you to come, you don't have to play ball any way.
You have to acknowledge that you can play ball, that you don't even care that God wants you to play ball in a holy way, and just say, "You know what? If I was God and I had a game that I said is life that people should play and they don't live that way, I'd smite their little heinies." Guess what? That's exactly what he's going to do, but in his kindness, he wants you to bump up against that truth and accept his love provision for you.
Then having received it, he's going to give you the means through which you can play in such a way that it pleases him, and he's going to give you a team to encourage you that direction, shepherds and coaches that will spur you that way. Don't back off it, not matter how unpopular it becomes, no matter what it costs you. Endure the shame, because there will be a day when God will state the case in order before their eyes, "They were right. They were wrong." That's Jude. The question is…Are you Jesus' bond servant like he was? Let me pray for us.
Father, we want to be a group of people who, as we study this book, get it right, and by it, we mean that we respond the way you've called us to respond. Father, you have given us an incredible stewardship. You have given us your jersey. You have given us your name, and you expect us to play life in such a way that folks go, "That's a program right there. That is a program.
Do you know what? He gets some of the strangest, most dilapidated-looking people in that program we've ever seen. They're anemic when they join, but they turn into blue chip people, and I don't know what you're giving them." Father, you tell us what you're giving us is spiritual steroids. You're changing our bodies, physically transforming us, spirituality indwelling us in such a way that our entire nature is transformed, so much so that people say, "We have to get that in our program."
May we then tell them, Father, about the scholarship of grace that you offer all men who will just acknowledge that they've been playing a game that displeases you, that they would come, that they would accept your provision, that they would find out that there are not a limited number of spots for men to excel on the field of life here, but there are opportunities for every man and woman to start and to perform in such a way that the world marvels at them and where you will stand before them and give out Heismans for everybody who lived faithfully underneath your leadership.
Lord, we as your coordinators just want to love each other here in a way that helps us all to walk, to play, in a manner worthy of the calling with which we've been called, responding to the love in a manner that's consistent with the love you've poured out in us with an endurance that speaks to the fact that we are yours, so we are kept, becoming more like Jesus every day.
May that be true of Watermark, and God, may you use us as a means through which other churches see that, when you live as Christ wants you to live and make your Word our authority, conscience, and guide, it transforms a community in such a way that the world sees it with a sense of awe, and Father, we thank you for the ways it's happening here.
We have a long way to go, Lord. There are still a lot of turnovers here, and we thank you for your grace even in that, but we purpose to spur each other on more, that we might make you more famous, that your program is so distinct among programs that everybody realizes that we're playing a different game because our God has dealt with our sin. We love you, and we pray that everything we do this week would be an expression of that love. We call it worship, and we pray that we would walk in it now. Amen.
In this world it is easy to become deluded, tolerating sin and succumbing to isolation. This series, based on the New Testament book of Jude, challenges devoted followers of Christ to recognize who we are in Him. We are wooed by the call of an irresistible suitor, we are loved with the love of a wonderful savior, and we are kept by the will of an unstoppable keeper. The Holy Spirit empowers us to live exemplary lives that are worthy of imitation while standing firm against teachers and doctrines that are not consistent with the character of Christ. This 4-part series explores Jude's exhortations to be different, provides guidelines for spotting false teachers, and explains our role as contenders for the truth.