In view of Jude's exhortation to avoid reject apostasy, what are we to do? Concluding his series on the book of Jude, Todd gives us 7 points that all contenders for the faith must apply.
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Beware the Creepers
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Jesus said, "Come to Me all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. […] For My yoke is easy and My burden is light." Johnny Cash, a man in black, a world-renowned individual, a man who reached the pinnacles of success in his career, in his chosen employ of life, would tell you if you took his empire of dirt, if you followed his way, it would only make you hurt.
Johnny Cash is a man who, probably for decades before that, was familiar with Jesus. He didn't deny him, would have probably said he was squirreling underneath the umbrella of a worldview that involved Jesus Christ, but what Johnny Cash did not have, apparently, is somebody who shepherded him into the fullness of relationship with Christ that God intended for him because he loves him.
God wants Cash, and all of us, to end our lives, not with an empire of dirt but with a sense of joy. Not that we need a needle and its familiar sting to go into us to make us forget the time we've lived, but who can sit and, because of the grace we have lived in, because of the fullness of life we've experienced living as God designed us to live, we can look back with humble joy at the way we've stewarded these threescore and several years we've been given. There is a ton at stake.
There's something about seeing a man who has the wisdom of age associated with him looking you in the eye and saying, "My life hurts at the end. My sweetest friend, I have not led you well." The reason Cash would say that is because he was not led well. There were false shepherds around him, probably individuals who wanted to suck off of him some of the fame of being associated with Johnny Cash, people who were not in love with him enough to say, "This is the way, Johnny, to find life."
There were times I'm sure he was sure that, "If I live this way, pursue life, and experience these things, then I will have fullness," but he says, "Do you want to know what this is? It's an empire of dirt, and it hurts. You can have all the industry awards. You can have all of my fame, but at the end of the day, it hurts, because I have not lived well because I have not been shepherded toward life." You see, there's a ton at stake here.
Actually, Johnny Cash covered a song that was written by men who were some 40 or 50 years younger than him, a group known as Nine Inch Nails. They're the ones who wrote that song. Whether you're 70 years old realizing an empire of dirt isn't going to fulfill you, or whether you're 20 and have been given more than most people their entire lives will experience, when you live a life that is apart from the revelation of God's goodness toward you in Jesus Christ, it hurts.
Johnny Cash, apparently, realized he'd made Jesus hurt for his waywardness and sin, but I can tell you because he had a Father in heaven who loves him, it hurt him to see a son, who is even familiar with his sacrifice for him, live apart from him in a way that brought pain to his, June's, Rosanne's, and others' lives.
Let me tell you what's going on here at Watermark. We are a group of friends who are trying to come around each other and say, "Man, this life hurts because the world is so seductive. It is so effective in calling us to live in a way that makes sense to our flesh, makes sense to our mind, and looks attractive at first glance, but at the end of the day, it hurts."
We need friends who will come alongside of us and be intentional about helping us live in such a way that we would say, "This is a sweet life. It is a full life, this life in relationship with the God who loves us." Because we love each other, we are quick, hopefully gentle, hopefully full of love, but quick to spur each other on, to admonish the unruly, to encourage the faint-hearted, and to help the weak, so we might not hurt because of our own foolishness on top of the hurt that comes by living in a broken would.
I want to tell you something. You have bumped into a group of people this morning, as imperfect as we are, who take very seriously the hope Jesus Christ offers. We have been talking about how, in the last days, folks are going to mock people like Johnny Cash in their old age who say, "Life is not where I have found it." They're going to mock people like Nine Inch Nails, whether they have ever found a relationship with Christ or not, who say in their 20s, "I don't know where life is, but it's not here."
They're going to mock people who say they have found life in God, that his rules are not there to oppress us and thumb us down, but his law to us is life because he knows where freedom and joy are, in living in a way we were designed to live, free from the sin which so easily entangles us. We have a God who loves us enough to deal with our imperfection, who will gladly bear our hurt, but then calls us to live a life that speaks to our now new awareness of the fact that his law is love. You need to know there are people who will mock you when you say that.
The longer we go, the prouder they will become in their mocking and in their scoffing. That is why God, in his kindness and grace toward us, gives us books like the book of Jude, that warn us that these people are going to act like they have your best interests in mind, telling you, "Listen. Go live however you want. Pursue whatever darkness or life of black you want. Just be king. Just be lord. Be rich and famous enough that you can live how you want to live.
Don't be so foolish and riotous that we need to separate you, isolate you, and lock you up from society, but listen. Do what seems pleasing to you, and don't let anybody tell you their dogma. God, pastors, any person. Do what thou wilt. Not in such a way that it offends society to the point of punishing you, but let's all be free." Jesus says, "No. Freedom comes in yoking yourself to me, because I love you and have your best interests in mind." That's our story.
If you're here today and your life hurts, I understand. I'm here to tell you about a God who has borne your hurt on a cross, and I'm here to tell you he wants to set you free. It's going to come only through a relationship with him. Live the way he authoritatively has told you that you should live. The book of Jude.
We're going to finish this little book today, and we're going to start in verse 17. Watch this. In verses 8 through 16, Jude had just gotten through saying, "Look. There are going to be people who are going to come, and they're going to take you, beloved ones who are called out of darkness into light, who have the Word of God once and for all delivered to the saints, which you are to contend for because you are instruments of hope to the world, who tell people about my love for them.
These people are going to come alongside of you, and they're going to tell you to live in a way that maybe doesn't stop using my name and maybe has much to do with religion, but at the end of the day, it's not about a love relationship with me. They're going to say I shouldn't be so authoritative in their lives."
I want to tell you… You know, folks leave Watermark on a regular basis. When they hear us talk about our relentless call to living life together and pushing you toward community with some people where you can be shepherded and pastored, where you will be in God's Word in some form on a regular basis, that you'll be equipped, that you will be unleashed to discover, develop, and deploy your gifts, and that we will be unrelenting in our spurring you in that direction, they go, "Man, this church is very legalistic." Because we call them to certain things.
Let me say again, if we ever, ever admonish you toward or call you toward anything other than what Christ in his goodness, because he loves you, hasn't called you toward, you should not listen to us. But when we echo his voice, when we share with you his loving rails of life, you would do well to respond to it. The church is at the height of its heresy. It is the church's greatest apostasy when it takes obedience and calls it legalism.
This is a book about false teachers, and false teachers come in every form, shape, and size, some of them telling you completely to ignore Jesus. Most, though, embrace Jesus in some form or fashion but make him out to be less than he has revealed himself to be. They deny the authority of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and they redefine truth. They redefine morality. They redefine a call to reach people still in darkness. They tell you he is just one of many ways. They tell you your way is probably different than theirs because you were born and made differently than they were.
Jesus says, "No. You were all made to live in relationship with me and to have life to its fullest. Each of you has your own form of rebellion and sin expression, but at the end of the day, I love you and call you to live in a relationship with me." False teachers are going to give you all kinds of reasons to go other directions, but this is what he says. "But you, beloved [loved by God] ought to remember the words that were spoken beforehand by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ…" Don't ever forget them.
Verses 8 through 16. These are 20-some odd different characteristics of people who have forgotten the words God has revealed to us in our darkness. They are going to dumb them down, compromise them, rationalize them away, spiritualize them, call you legalistic, call you small-minded, call you people of antiquity, but you remember.
At the end of his life, Moses…who looked back on life, not with a sense of loss and pain, but looked at his life with a sense of joy and contentment, at least the last 40 years he lived in relationship with God…told the folks, in this little book called Deuteronomy, which is a transliteration of words deuteros and nomos, which means second or coupled telling of the law… Deuteronomy really is the last words of Moses. Its his finale, his video.
He really gives five messages in Deuteronomy, and he says, "Remember. Remember. Remember the goodness of God, what he's done for you. He's called you out of darkness into light." In his vernacular, "Out of bondage into freedom. He's taken you to a place of promise. He's provided for you spectacularly. He's given you promises and covenants. Remember the Lord our God." Jude picks up on that phrase right here.
"We have somebody even better than Moses, who has taken us not out of the physical oppression, but spiritual oppression. Remember the words of life, that God in his perfection brought to you through his servants, the writers of the Scriptures." He says, "Those guys told you that in the last days, people would mock you when you said you have found life in Jesus Christ. They told you in the end times people would come, and they would follow after their own ungodly lusts."
By ungodly, they don't always look more riotous than you could imagine, but any time it is something that is wise only in the purview of men or that makes sense to men, it is ungodly. Sometimes, we have desires that are consistent with what God has revealed, that are godly desires.
Other times, we say, "You know what? This is how we ought to work out the gender thing. This is how we work out the sex thing. This is how we ought to work out the money thing. This is how we ought to work out the anger thing, because it makes sense to me. It's easier this way. This is how we ought to work out the religion thing. This is how we ought to work out the conflict thing."
When they are ways that are inconsistent with what God, in his goodness, has revealed to us as the ways of life, they're ungodly. They're not always overtly demonic, but when they, at the end of the day, in any way deviate from God's goodness in his revelation to us, they are, by definition, ungodly. He says, "These are the ones who cause divisions, worldly-minded, devoid of the [Holy] Spirit." In other words, whenever you do something that is contrary to God's will, way, and Word, you're still being led be a spirit. It's just not a holy one. It's a spirit of destruction, of rebellion.
Whenever any mocker says you should walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the path of the sinner or sit in the seat of the scoffer, that you should not delight in the law of the Lord, that you shouldn't meditate on it day and night, those men are devoid of the Spirit. Any time they take God's love and make it restrictive law, any time they take obedience and call it legalism, any time they take life and pervert it, they are devoid of the Spirit.
I want to share with you a couple of correspondences I've had, because we've talked about this in the weeks past. We have done this with a focus especially toward the church. Not toward cults, not toward clearly unbiblical religions that are out there, but toward people who would have Bibles in their places of gathering this morning but who are underneath shepherds who really don't call you to follow Christ, who will not say, "Imitate me as I imitate Christ," and back that up by showing you how their lives, in every will and way, are consistent with the Lord's.
Let me tell you again. I, by the grace of God, would consider myself a fully-devoted follower of Christ. That does not mean I consider myself a person who doesn't have a long way to go to be all Christ wants me to be. What I am, along with hundreds if not thousands of others in this room and around this country and world, is a man who says, "If you can love me enough to show me areas of my life that are inconsistent with how God wants me to live in relationship to him and his law, I want to change because I know he has my best interests in mind. He is kind in his intention toward me. He's not looking to steal from me freedom or joy. He's looking to give me life."
I will tell you to help me see the fullness of life he has revealed for me to walk in, and we're going to love you that way if you'll hang around us. The primary area I've learned to address false teachers is folks who are around the Johnny Cashes of the world, who would walk into a church, not a mosque. People who would walk into a house that would be a place that would talk about Jesus Christ, not Jesus as some angel, but they wouldn't call Johnny Cash to be shepherded well and to live a life with complete and honest surrender to him.
I had a young man come to us who is a member of our church who is a gifted musician. He was looking for a place of employ. He came to us and said, "Look. This is really going to bless my family. My wife and I were praying about an opportunity for me to get a job that would allow her to work less, and I could provide for my family in a way differently than I am now and use my gifts in a way I think would honor God. This church has come to me and asked me if I would come and help them lead worship."
I said, "Before you go, don't just say the first offer you got, because you've been praying to get married to somebody, is God's offer and answer to that prayer. You have to find out if they are yoked with you. Do they believe God's Word is what you believe God's Word is? Do they believe the way to God is the way you believe alone is the way to God, in that you're consistent with what Jesus has said? Do they believe living a life consistent with pursuing holiness and living in a manner consistent with how God designed men and women is what they believe they should spur others to? Ask them these questions."
It got to a place where there was some confusion, so he finally sent an email off. I want to read it to you. I'm going to show you what I mean about how subtle, sometimes, mockers can be. This is what the email says, to his friend who was offering the job. "I want to just apologize for continuing to drag this thing on. I know you want to bring some closure to it, but I think at this point I'm really tired of hearing what everyone else thinks of the situation.
I want to write you and let you know exactly what I'm wrestling with. I don't know if the person at your church whom others have talked about is gay or not. I also know you guys have a 'Don't ask, don't tell' policy (you've said as much) when it comes to that. It's not written. You don't call it that, but that's what it is.
The church you're a part of historically states that homosexuality is a sin. My question is not whether this person is living a gay lifestyle. I want you to know my problem is not homosexuality at all. I have a lot of faults in my own life. But let's say I get hired as the worship leader, and every night after work I get a prostitute and have sex with her. I never tell anyone, but people at the church suspect that I do…"
Let me tell you this. This is not about elevating one specific sin to a place it was never meant to be elevated to. Homosexuality has its own issues and hurts with it because of the type of sin that it is, just like adultery is a sin that hurts us more than just momentary attitudes of pride or anger, which have their own devastating affects in our lives. There's no question that acts of physical intercourse and engagement with others affects us in deeper and more lingering ways in terms of experiential pain than other sins do. All sins are an affront to God.
If there is any sin… Take homosexuality or heterosexuality out of it. Take a casual attitude toward loving your wife and make it that. Take a loose mouth. Take materialism. Take gossip. Take pride. Take arrogance. Take an unhealthy infatuation with appearance, and say we're not going to address that here. Take the fact that we don't care that you isolate yourself from other people and say we're not going to have conversations with you about that.
If there is any area a church begins to say, "This is not an issue Jesus said we should be concerned about that we're going to be concerned about," it's an issue. What this young man did very well is he said, "The issue isn't homosexuality. I'm not homophobic. I'm not phobic about anything other than knowing my life wants to continually run away from God in its fallenness and brokenness but, by the grace of God, he has won me back in love relationship to him.
I want to live my life the way God wants me to live my life, and so I need others who will spur me on, who will challenge me when I live in anger and lust, heterosexual or homosexual, who will challenge me when I stop serving my wife, honoring her, cherishing her, pursuing oneness with her, not just staying un-divorced. I need men in my life who are going to love me that way. Will you care for me?" He says it that way.
He continues, "Would I get called on it there, or is there a 'Don't ask, don't tell,' policy on that? I'm really struggling with the accountability part of this fellowship. I need to be at a church where people can be open about what they're going through and have an outlet to vent and recover, knowing that's stuff I struggle with, and I can only imagine that…" He throws out that 60 percent of others in the congregation struggle with the same thing.
I'll tell you this. Somebody early on heard me make reference to this, and they came up and said, "Do you tell me nobody at your church struggles with homosexuality?" Let me tell you something. We have people on staff who have struggled with homosexuality. We have people on our staff who have lived on the streets in their brokenness and rebellion against God.
The person speaking to you right now struggles with self-concern, selfishness, anger, lust, and all kinds of stuff that just discourage my soul deeply, but I want to tell you something. I struggle with it. I make no excuse for it. I invite people into my life. I am thankful for the Lord, whom I have hurt through my sin and who has dealt with my sin. I pursue his way relentlessly. I want others around me who love me enough to continually push me that direction. I've never said this is a church where people don't struggle with sin. That's what makes some churches such unwelcoming places.
Last night I was at a place I go sometimes on Saturday nights to read, and I bumped into a friend of mine who I knew from ministry in days past, a beautiful young girl. I said, "What you are doing? You don't live in Dallas." She said, "I'm here as a part of an issue I'm working through in my life." She looked me right in the eye and told me what it is.
She said, "And while I'm here, I want to tell you something. I'm at Watermark. It is so great to be at a church that loves me as I struggle to regain in my life the order God wants me to have and not live in some state of depression and bondage to my own view of self." I wanted to grab her and say, "Welcome to the fellowship of the saints who are grateful for what Christ has done but who are not going to say it's no big deal."
She happened to say, "I found some real encouragement on Monday nights with a group of other people who have hurts and habits and stuff that is causing them some pain." I said, "You know what? I don't go on Monday nights, but I'm in the same kind of community, the same kind of group, that helps me with my hurts, habits, and hang-ups. Welcome here."
He goes on to say, "I've got a lot on my mind, and I want to know if this is going to be a church where there's going to be a place where I can have an outlet to vent and recover. It would be great if, in your church, the church I want to maybe be a part of on staff, we can have a setting where we could go through a year of recovery dealing with everything from homosexuality, pornography, overeating, overspending, codependency, sexual abuse, physical abuse, loss, divorce, unfaithfulness of a spouse.
It doesn't matter. The list goes on and on, but we love each other through this stuff. I don't need a 'Don't ask, don't tell, don't confront, don't spur' church, because I'm a sinner bent toward corruption. I want life. I don't know. As you can tell, I have a lot on my mind. Shoot me back an email with your thoughts, and I hope there are some answers to the questions I have."
I want to read to you what I think is a very well-intended response. It is a loving-sounding response, but I'm going to tell you as humbly as I can that, as much as this response represents the heart of the leadership of this body, it is an apostate response.
"Hey, man. I'm writing from home as I'm off today, but I received your email and wanted to respond quickly so you might have a way out of your wrestling match, and so that we can move on. I think you're a gifted individual. I know you will be an absolute star. I really believe that. You have great gifts with which to share the gospel.
At this point, however, I can see going forward with the job offered, given the theological complex, just simply doesn't make sense. It simply won't be a good fit. This is a wonderful church, and I have no doubts Christ is pleased with the work we do in his name. The accountability of this institution really isn't up for trial here.
I applaud you for being so thorough and thoughtful in your questions. 'Is there one way to God? Is his Word authoritative? Is Jesus who he says he was? Should we care for each other and call people into the light?' These are questions that are deep with reflection and rich with challenge; however, there is a clear expanse between where my staff is theologically and where you are.
I really need somebody to join me in ministry who shows up for work as excited as I am about where we are headed. I understand your concerns but simply can't bring anyone aboard who brings with them such theological angst about their workplace. I know the impact of the work we are doing in his name, and this isn't a position I'm willing to talk someone into. It's a great job, a great church, and I need someone to embrace it with equal part enthusiasm, commitment, and love.
I think you would agree that we haven't been able to move beyond your questions and look toward progress. I think it best to recognize the impasse and call the truce so that we can both move on. I'll move to plan B, and you can move to find a church setting that meets your needs. To be clear, I'm taking the job offer off the table." Watch this. Watch the subtlety of this response.
"Let me take off my hiring hat for a minute and, in a very loving way, talk to you as a friend. I wish you all the best in your quest. You're highly gifted. I know God has great things in store for you. Discernment is quite the challenge, and I know God will see you through this portion of yours. I hope we can continue a friendship and discuss these topics at length. I'm certain we have much to teach each other. I hope you have a joyous and Spirit-filled Christmas. I will be around the church tomorrow and Saturday, then off for a few days. We'll talk as friends. I wish grace and peace to you and yours. Your friend in Christ."
The friend who is telling you that we're not going to meddle in each other's lives. Who is telling you that we're not going to say there's one way to God, and you shouldn't make it that way either. Who is saying, frankly, when you do, in your lack of discernment as you work your way through there, you are causing schisms and factions in the church.
That's not what Jude says. Jude says false teachers are the ones… I quote to you from the book of Jude, verse 19, "These are the ones who cause divisions, worldly-minded…""It makes sense to us." Now that is about as loving an email as you could read on its face, but is a compromising call to living a life that is not in surrender to the authority of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, because he says, "This makes sense to us to do it this way here, and it's not up for discussion."
There's an individual who happens to be a part of that church who listened to one of our messages these last couple of weeks. Friday, he sent me an email. I want to let you know, I'm not discouraged by this. The response to this email I'm about to read is going to be, "If the way I've communicated this stuff offends you, would you forgive me? But if what we're saying in rightly representing God's Word is what's causing you problems, for that we cannot apologize, but I'd love to speak with you and talk some more about it."
What they're going to accuse us of is causing divisions. Do you know Christ said, "Hey, I want to tell you, I've come, and I'm going to draw a line. You're either for me, or you're against me. I'm either your Lord, or I'm something less than I said I was to you"?
"Dear Mr. Wagner, I've listened to your recent sermon titled, 'Beware the Creepers,' in which you've lambasted Protestant churches and preachers, particularly [he said] Methodist ones, and even more particularly by implication, the one that happens to be mine. I must say I was not aware of our 'Don't ask, don't tell' policy regarding staff members, but if we have such a policy, I'm proud of it. I wouldn't endorse an openly practicing gay clergyman in our church." I wonder why. I mean, why not? If you don't care when people are speaking about issues of any kind that is inconsistent with what Christ said a leader should be, why would you care?
"However, if we have such people who live their lifestyle quietly, then let them wrestle with their own private demons, just as I wrestle with mine." Does that sound like, "Bear one another's burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ"? "And I suspect even you wrestle with yours." He is absolutely right, and I wrestle with them as publicly as I can in an appropriate way. "The 'Don't ask, don't tell' policy is far preferable to the witch-hunt mentality that pervades some churches where sinners are perniciously identified and rooted out."
Folks, we're not going to hire a private investigator here to try and figure out what you're doing. We're going to love you and say, "Look. Here's the deal. If you're looking for a church full of perfect people, this isn't it. If you're looking for a group of people who really take the admonition, grace, and love of Jesus Christ seriously, and with humility come before each other and say, 'This is an area of my life that is less than Christ wants it to be. I'm studying his Word. I'm availing myself to his Spirit. I need you to love me and spur me on. I need you to help me think about how I can order my life in such a way that I would not consistently be set up for failure.' Welcome."
Girls, are you struggling with your eating disorder? Welcome. Are you addicted to some chemical here? Guys, gals, is porn just cleaning your clock? Are you materialistic and keep thinking the next job, the next raise, is going to bring you satisfaction? Welcome. Are you a man given to anger? Are you somebody who is frustrated and angry with God because of your life story, the way your mom or your dad didn't love you, or the way you were abused sexually? Welcome.
We are a church full of people who are trying to let Jesus heal the deep hurt that is in our lives and live deeply in a love relationship with him. We are not a group of people here who just sign a doctrinal statement and say, "We can be aligned with each other because we agree to these six points."
We are a group of people who are falling more in love with the God who has our best interests in mind, and who love each other enough to say, "Uh-oh. That's a life there that's going to hurt." God loves you enough to say, "Don't go there." Don't set up the straw man of calling us a church that's in the middle of a witch hunt. It's at the height of its heresy when you call obedience legalism.
It continues, "Remember those who resided over the trials at Salem and burned, hung, and drowned folks were also people who left little room for interpretation of God's Word and how they viewed it. People like you, with the paranoid 'us-against-them theology,' who espouse a fundamental little-interpretation of the Bible as the inerrant Word of God, you seem to forget the admonition to judge not lest you be judged when you are at the head of the line ready to cast the first stone."
I'm about to do a little series. I can't wait to do it with you guys. We're going to start it in March. It's going to be called The Most. I'm going to do the "Most Quoted." I'm going to do the "Most Misquoted." I'm going to do the "Most Misunderstood." I'm going to do the "Most Essential." I'm going to do the "Most Short" verses in the Bible. We're going to have fun. You're going to have, hopefully, a good time each week trying to figure out what I think it is.
I'm going to give you one right now. Are you ready? The most misinterpreted, misunderstood, misapplied verse in the Bible is in Matthew 7:1. It's also in Luke. It's in other places. "Do not judge lest you be judged." Let me say very clearly what that verse is saying… I'll give you a whole hour on it, probably two weeks on it. What that is saying is, "Don't look at other people's lives and base whether or not they're acceptable to God by how they live their life."
In other words, have they, in a Pharisaical way, looked pious and holy enough? Have they been to enough Bible studies, given enough money, signed enough good doctrinal statements, attended enough religious services and activities that you think they're holy? Jesus says, "…unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven."
If you want to be judged based on works, you will be judged based on works, and you're not going to like that. He's talking to Pharisees who were saying performance can get you to heaven. Jesus, in other places, clearly tells us to call people into the light, to judge a tree by its fruits. Whatever Matthew 7:1 means, it doesn't mean we're not to make value decisions. We are to call evil evil and good good. We are to call holy holy and unholy unholy. We are to call rebellion rebellion.
It's not our job to see through you, to see if the Spirit of God is in your life. It's our job to see you through the faithfulness. At the end of the day, God is going to go through his field, and his angels will have a harvest. He will separate the wheat from the tares. He himself will have his angels drag the ocean, the net, he says in Matthew 13, and they will separate the good fish from the bad fish. The angels will do that.
The angels will know who are his, but it's my job to see you through to greater faithfulness. At the end of the day, who are his are his to decide. When people say, "I'm going to live my life contrary to what the Spirit of God says I should live my life, and you must be okay with that," I am to say that is devoid of the Holy Spirit.
He says, "I am proud of this particular church for embracing and welcoming a diverse group under God's wide umbrella…" Doesn't that sound loving? It is subtle. They are hidden reefs. "…from folks as fundamental as you, which we have at our church, to people who are almost Unitarian in outlook."
Let me tell you something. This has nothing to do with Methodism. This has nothing to do with Baptists, Presbyterianism, Lutheranism, community churches, Bible churches, charismatic churches. It has nothing to do with anything but Jesus Christ. Is he your Lord and Savior? Is he authoritative in your life? Do you love him, and will you follow him? That's it. Do you know there are people here who would tell us that when we call you and spur you on this direction, that's wrong?
We're going to contend for the faith and continue to say, "God's Word is going to be our authority, conscience, and guide. The Word of God, which is once and for all delivered to the saints, by that we will shape our lives." Are you for that or against that? We'll be gracious to you. We're going to love you either way, but we're going to be clear about what we do when we say we follow Jesus Christ.
It goes on, this friend's email, and it basically says I'm splitting the church. I want to say, "No." People who have walked away from the faith once and for all delivered to the saints, that's where Jude says the schisms and factions, that's where the divisions, come from. It's ours to contend for it with gentleness and with love, but to contend.
What sounds more loving? "Why can't we all get along? I don't care what you believe. Let's just all worship together under one roof." Or, "There's one way. His name is Jesus, and he is King. He will call you into account for every idle word you say about him and about what it means to be his." He said you were called for the purpose of contending for the latter.
What are we to do? Jude says very succinctly and very quietly, "Look. Don't now concern yourself any more for the moment with apostates. Here's what you need to do so you won't be one." Start there in verse 20 with me. I'm going to show it to you right here. In verse 20, he says, "But you…" In contrast to these apostates who sound so loving sometimes and promise you life, but at the end of your life, if you live your life the way they want you to live your life, it's going to hurt. You, in contrast. There are going to be seven things. Here's the very first one.
1 . Build up. "…building yourselves up on your most holy faith…" There it is. In verse 20 it says, "But you, beloved [of God] , building yourselves up on your most holy faith…" Meaning, you have everything pertaining to life and godliness. You have trusted in Jesus Christ alone as the means through which you have been forgiven. There is nothing you're going to offer God that has anything to do with what you have done, are going to do, or you have avoided in your life.
You're going to stand before God and say, "I'm a wretch who deserves judgment, but you in your kindness have laid for me a foundation that is solid, that cannot be shaken. It is the foundation of the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross for me. But he says, "Having believed in that, you build on it," a knowledge of God's Word. You build on it a life that will please him.
This is what it says in 1 Corinthians, chapter 3, verses 10 through 15, "According to the grace of God which was given to me, like a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building on it. But each man must be careful how he builds on it." I really believe there are some people who are saying some of these things at some of these churches who maybe have that foundation of a complete, personal dependence upon Jesus Christ, but they're building on it in a way that is going to cause judgment. Thank God they'll be saved, maybe as one who passes through fire, the Scripture says.
The point here is there is no other foundation than Jesus Christ, but what you do with your decision about who Jesus Christ is, be careful because it matters. Build on it well. Build on it well. It says, "For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each man's work…" Whatever they build with. "…will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire…" It's going to be tested.
"…and the fire itself will test the quality of each man's work. If any man's work which he has built on it remains…" In other words, it stands before the sovereign judgment of God. You might creep into a denomination. You might creep into an independent church and get away with it here, but God knows who the creeps are. There's going to be a day when you are going to be judged before him. Me, them, all of us. So, build well. Build well.
It says, "…he will receive a reward [if he builds well] . If any man's work is burned up[and the foundation is really right]he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire." What you want, if something is going to be in your life, is you want it to pass through fire at the judgment seat of Christ, for it to be shown to be pure and holy and good. The dross is melted away, and that which was done in the Spirit, in faith, is going to be pleasing to God. It's going to remain. Guess what I think you're going to want to do at that moment?
When you see that you are saved from the judgment you deserve, that God in his grace has led you into a holy life as you depended upon him, that something remains as it passes over his judgment and you're going to have something there, I think you're going to want to lay it at his feet. It's the last chance you're going to have to give him something before he gives you eternity and fullness for him. This is your moment. Contend for it earnestly. Build well. Do you want to build well? You have to be an individual who, verse 20 says…
2 . Prays in the Holy Spirit. In other words, who yields to him. Don't be filled with your own ideas, your own lusts, your own mindset, but pray at all times in the Spirit. What does that mean? In Ephesians, chapter 6, verse 18, this is what it says. "With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints…"
In other words, how do you pray at all times in the Spirit? It means you don't do what seems right to you, what you can rationalize, justify, or somehow develop on your own. You say, "I will freeze until I can be sure this next act is informed by the love of Christ, the Word of God, and the holiness of his will for me." Do you want to know what that looks like? It looks like this.
In Galatians, chapter 5, verse 22 and following, "But the fruit of the Spirit…" Notice, these are not fruits. There are not nine of them. There is one package. When the Spirit that is holy is in your life and operative…you're not grieving it, quenching it, snuffing it out, but you are yielding to it the way Jude says you should, unlike people who are clouds without water, who are hidden reefs…when you live and teach and preach and love clearly, you will be an individual who is filled with love. Love sometimes speaks truth, folks.
You'll be filled with joy. You'll be filled with peace. You'll be filled with patience. You'll be filled with "…kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control." We don't ever need to pray for patience. Do you know that? Do you know it's unbiblical to pray for patience? Do you know it's unbiblical to pray for kindness? It's unbiblical, in a sense, to pray for love. Pray that the Spirit of God might live in you. If the Holy Spirit is operative in your life, there is infinite patience, infinite peace, infinite kindness and self-control.
When you're sitting there going, "Oh, Lord, don't let me go here right now. Give me self-control before I click one more time. Give me self-control," he says, "No. Yield to the Spirit of God which is in you as you depend upon me." The Spirit of God doesn't want to go and exploit women. The Spirit of God doesn't want to live in a fantasy world. The Spirit of God wants to reign victoriously against the Prince of the World of Darkness.
You can yield right now to this and don't stand back from truth as a man redeemed by the blood of Christ. What you have to decide right then is, "Am I going to do what my flesh is saying I cannot not do, or am I going to do what the Spirit of God says he set me free to do?" Which is it? Pray not for anything other than brokenness before him.
Say, "I am a corrupt SOB. If I stay here on my own, I'm going to do all kinds of destructive things. Instead of clicking that, I need to pick this phone up and say, 'Hey, this is your friend Todd who is a wretch and about to make an awful decision. Will you come over here, because even I am not so shameless as to do this in front of you?'" That's not a sign of weakness. It's a sign of wisdom and maturity. Build up. Yield to. The Scripture tells us in the book of Jude what we are to do in light of this is to...
3 . Keep ourselves in the love of God. In other words, don't wander away from God's protection. So many of us have this wrong thinking that God is there to thumb us down and to keep us from all the joy that is offered to us down there at Cancun on Spring Break. Well, it's not a lot of joy. Are there some moments of intense physical pleasure? You bet. But it is as fading as the grass, and there are tons of tears that come.
They may give you a pill that keeps you from getting pregnant, but they don't give you one that keeps you from carrying an emotional scar you pray to God your future spouse doesn't find out about. That doesn't have anything to do with avoiding the shame, no matter what they give you to cover up, so you don't get some sexually transmitted disease. There's a disease of the soul that comes in. There are tears. There is hurt. Oh, it looks fun, but he says, "Just stay in the love of God. He's not looking to rip you off. He's looking to set you free, so you don't hurt." It goes on there in verse 21…
4 . Waiting before we move. He says, "…waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ…" You don't move. You stay firm, waiting, saying, "Lord, I'm not going to move right now until I know what I'm moving in is your Spirit. May your mercy come that I might experience life, eternal and full."
That's what he means. Stay in, right here, the love of God. If you're not sure what the love of God is, then wait before you act. If you are not sure wisdom would have you do this, then wait until God's people affirm God's Word, affirm God's Spirit in your life, so you can have life abundant. Look what he says here. "Look. Here's what else you should do."
"And have mercy on some, who are doubting…" In other words, go easy on those who wrestle with their faith. I'm going to tell you, gang. Are you not sure Jesus is good? Are you not sure he is loving? Welcome. We want to tell you. We're not afraid of your questions. If this is true, if Jesus is King, then no amount of scrutiny can affect it.
Do you sometimes wonder if you're crazy? Do you sometimes wonder, "Is this just nuts? What am I doing? Is there really a life after the grave? Is there really evidence that some Jewish carpenter died for me, and that makes some difference? How can his Spirit make a difference in my life today?" If you have those questions, welcome. Welcome here. What the Scriptures would tell us to do at this particular moment is to build up and yield to. The Scriptures would tell us to stay put, to wait on and to…
5 . Empathize with those who struggle more. Don't act like, "Hey. Just keep up with those of us who are a little further ahead of you." Say, "Look. I know how hard it is to be faithful for the King. Tell me your questions. Let's wrestle through them together. Let's bear each other's burdens." It also tells us not to just to build up, yield to, stay put, wait on, empathize more, but it also tells us to…
6 . Entreat always. Look what it says right there in this little passage of Jude. It says, "…save others, snatching them out of the fire…" What does that mean? It means there are some people who have not yet learned of the love of God, and he has called us to be concerned about them, to pray for them, to develop relationships with them, and to speak of the wonders of his excellencies and the freedom we can find in Jesus Christ.
Proverbs 24:11-12 says, "Do you see those being led the way to slaughter? Do you see those being taken away to death? Hold them back." "If you say, 'See, we did not know this,' does He not consider it who weighs the hearts? And does He not know it who keeps your soul? And will He not render to man according to his work?"
In other words, "I expect you, people who have been called out of darkness into light, to not back down because people tell you that you make their lives uncomfortable. You keep reasoning with them about their worldview and about the futility of the path they are on which will lead to hurt. You love them. You entreat them to consider Jesus, our King." Not dogma. A person who loves them. Call them into relationship with Jesus. Of the seven things Jude tells us to do in this little section right here, he says you…
7 . Exhort continually. In other words, you spur each other on. Look what it says specifically. This is kind of a confusing little verse. It says, "And have mercy on some, who are doubting; save others, snatching them out of the fire; and on some have mercy with fear, hating even the garment polluted by the flesh."
What this means is you really ought to hate what is evil and love what is good. You ought to hate, not just the leprosy but even the cloth that touches the leper, because you don't want anything in their life to affect you. But listen. Love the leper. Hate leprosy. Hate even the garment that might be tainted by the leprosy. There are two things in mind here. What specifically I think Jude is saying right here is, "Look. When you come around people who are compromising in their lives, you have to be careful in two ways."
I'll show you from Galatians, chapter 6, verses 1-2, what I mean. He says, "Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted." But listen. You are responsible to, "Bear one another's burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ."
What he means by this is you can't say, "I'm not responsible for their sin struggle," or "I'm not responsible for their waywardness," because I love them. I have to always exhort them continually toward Christlikeness. But I have to be careful when I go that I don't give them a sense of Bertha-better-than-you attitude, that I don't look at them and say, "You fool who struggles to be all God wants you to be." In other words, that I don't act out of pride but out of love, empathy, and concern.
Also, I have to make sure I don't go over there to minister to them when what I really want to do is dabble with them in the sin. This is really important. There are two ways you can get in trouble when you go to bear other people's burdens. You can be an individual who is either arrogant, or you can be somebody who is looking to participate vicariously or maybe even just dive right in specifically. You can get prideful, or you can get pulled down. You can get elitist, or you can get entangled.
He's saying, "Be careful that when you go that you're not over there ministering to your lost friends, sucking down all the margaritas you can with them so you can identify with their sin struggle." I'll say it to you again. Jesus came to seek and save the lost. He did not come to seek and date the lost. He was a friend of sinners. He was not a companion of sinners. There's a huge difference. Let me say it one more time. Be careful. Jesus was a friend of sinners. He was not a companion of sinners. Here's my three-part definition of a friend.
First, a friend loves at all times. In other words, it's not conditional. I'm going to love you no matter what you do, but I'm going to, because I love you at all times…
Secondly, a friend speaks the truth in love. That's another thing a friend does. He faithfully wounds. Proverbs 27:5-6 says it this way. "Better is open rebuke than love that is concealed. Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but deceitful are the kisses of an enemy." Be careful, when you go, that you're not becoming a companion of lepers. Love the sinner. Hate the sin. Jesus never was hanging out with people sinning, but he was always loving sinners. A friend loves at all times. A friend faithfully wounds.
Thirdly, a friend knows you personally. You're not just some nameless person to have a finger wagged at, but they love you. Are you dying from AIDS? I'll be there. Are you broken because of your alcoholism? I'll be there. I'll care for you and call you into the light. Be careful that in your ministry, you're not saying, "You're my buddy."
Again, the last thing is he tells us to always exhort people toward that. First Thessalonians 5:14 is that little passage that really wraps up those last three things I gave you, where it says we are to be individuals who, "…admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone," because God is patient with you.
The last thing he does in the last two verses of this little book right here is he says, "Let me tell you something. Not only should you do those seven things, but there's one thing that stands above and beyond, because this is about Jesus. Jesus our King. On that one, I said it this way. You should not just do all those seven things, but you should…
8 . Exalt him forever. Read it with me. This is great. We're going to end by doing that together now as a body. "Now to Him…" Meaning Jesus Christ. This is what this is about. It's about making him famous. That means we have to be a people who are holy and set apart, not making excuses for each other's sins, but imploring each other to be all God wants us to be, building ourselves up in the faith, yielding to his Spirit, singing like people who love Jesus and have him at the center of their lives. That's what makes us famous as holy people, and that's what makes him famous as a shepherd of people he has transformed.
"Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling…" He's given you everything, including his Spirit that, if you'll yield to it, will make you holy. "…and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy…" No shrinking back, because God has covered up the apostasy that was in my heart, that stood back from the holiness God created me to walk in. He has covered me with the finished work of Christ.
"…to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord…" Alone. Not one of many paths. The Lord, who is the way, the truth, and the life. To him "…be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen." So be it. That is what we're going to continue to spur each other on toward.
We will contend for it. We will do it with grace, with love, but if we are his people, we will do it in an unwavering way. We should not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among us when we do it. We should not be surprised when they hate us because we say this is the gospel. We should not be surprised when they say we're legalists or that we're shattering traditions or we're divisive, because that's what they said about Jesus Christ.
He says, "A servant is not greater than his master. They're going to hate you because they hated me, but you pursue my kingdom." In the end of the day, all men will give an account. Meanwhile, it is your job to make him famous and to live a life that sings of a love relationship with him. Let's stand and do it right now.
Folks, listen. When we sing, when we talk about that, we mean doing the things we talked about today. Building each other up, yielding to him, keeping ourselves in his love, waiting for him before we move, exhorting each other, earnestly seeking, empathizing with those who are struggling. That's how we're going to sing. We're going to extend each other a lot of grace.
I'm going to tell you. This is a body that loves me just the way I am, but they love me so much they're not going to leave me the way I am. They're going to participate with the Spirit and help me become the fullness of what God intended this broken man to be. I'm going to be on a journey until I'm dead and Christ heals me completely.
When he does and he takes away from me, not just the penalty of sin which was dealt with on the cross but the presence of sin which is still entangled in the world and the Enemy and my flesh, then I'll get to stand before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy. It's not going to be anything Todd Wagner has done that stands before him.
It's going to be me, covered in the blood of Jesus Christ. Because he called me and chose me, because he's a good Shepherd and he won't lose me, and because I'm around others who serve him, I'm going to be more of what he wants me to be, because you're going to contend with me to be the fullness of who God wants me to be.
Are you a homosexual this morning? We love you. Are you somebody who is compromised in your marriage and just settled to stay un-divorced? We love you, but God wants so much more for you. Are you a single person who is angry at God because you're still single? Are you an individual who, even though you're not married, has been treating somebody you've been dating like you are? We love you.
Are you somebody bound up in the grips of materialism, spending all your wealth for your own personal gain and pleasure and missing out on the stewardship of life and the privilege of standing before God as a faithful servant? We love you. We love you. Are you a man given to anger? Are you finding some coping strategy in some medication or some godless strategy to deal with your pain? We love you, and Jesus wants you to come to him. I want you to know when you come to him, he is able to keep you without fault and with great joy.
I want you to leave with this. I'm going to, in a crazy weird way, make this benediction that is going to be sung behind me. I'm praying it with you and over you. When we end with that amen, that amen means so be it. So be it. That's how we pray for you on a regular basis as members of this body. God, so be this in their lives. Built up, yielded persons who encourage, empathize, and entreat others, for your glory and fame. Have a great week of worship.
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.