Sunday, February 21, 2021
Jude—Loved and Kept by God
I remember once listening to some talk show, and the conversation was a discussion on what was better: To love or to be loved. I don’t recall their conclusion, but my Bible would say the place to start is to be loved. Specifically, to be loved by God. From his love for us flows our capacity to love him and to love others.
1 John 4 says, “We love because he first loved us.”
So when I find myself lacking in a heart to love and the power to love, it is reasonable to assume that I either don’t know or have forgotten God’s great love for me.
Our passage today has as one of its themes, the love of God for us.
Turn to the Letter from Jude. It’s near the end of the NT, just before Revelation. It’s only one page long.
We have records of every sermon topic at Stonebrook for the past 20 years, and I don’t believe we have ever taught through this letter. Nor Philemon from last week. Nor 2nd Peter from the three weeks before that.
This short letter is one of the more neglected books in the NT, in part because it’s so short. It’s easy to miss.
The author is Jude, and this is likely the half-brother of Jesus Christ.
Jesus’ mother, Mary had four sons after Jesus was born and several daughters. The people in his hometown said this:
Matthew 13:55–56 ESV Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother called Mary? And are not his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? And are not all his sisters with us?”
Jude (Judas) the author of the letter is likely the Judas listed here. And James, also listed here, is likely the author of the Letter of James. What’s fascinating is that when you read through the gospel accounts when Jesus walked on the earth, for at least some time his brothers did not believe in him. They were skeptical as to who he was. At one point, his whole family thought he had lost his mind. But eventually they believed, for they were part of the first 120 disciples in Acts 1 gathered for prayer after the resurrection.
So years later…maybe 30 years… Jude writes this short letter that contains some powerful truths for us.
1 Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and brother of James, To those who are called, beloved in God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ:
2 May mercy, peace, and love be multiplied to you.
Jude gives a glorious description of the Christians to whom he is writing:
- Called by God.
- Beloved in God the Father.
- Kept for Jesus Christ.
This is beautiful. For you the Christian, this is a feast set before you on the table.
First, you are called by God. He chose you. He wanted you. Your life is no accident, no matter what people may have told you. Psalm 139 tells us that God knew all our days before we were ever born. God has called you to his Son, and you now belong to him. This should give us great security and peace.
Second, you are the Father’s beloved. This may be the best word you will ever hear. The Father in heaven, God Almighty, the Creator of the heavens and the earth…he loves you. Deeply. Thoroughly. Completely. Powerfully. He sent his Son to go through the worst agony imaginable to save your soul…because he loves you so much. You are his beloved son. His beloved daughter.
On a human level, deep down we all long to deeply loved by our earthly father. But sin gets in the way of that. Many of our fathers didn’t have much love to give. And honestly, going from the other direction, many of us as sons and daughters have rejected even genuine love because of our rebellious hearts. I know I did as a teenager.
But God has overcome all this, bursting forth through all the darkness to bring us into the light of his love.
More on this later in the letter.
Third, we are kept… preserved…for Jesus Christ. God exercises his power in us and on us to preserve us spiritually intact until the coming of Jesus Christ in glory. We believers go through much difficulty in this life: temptations, trials, and onslaughts from Satan and the world….and sometimes we feel like our lives are simply going to fall apart.
But God promises to watch over us at every moment, keeping us safe for the sake of his Son until he comes back.
We see this all over the NT.
Slide For example, Paul tells us,
Philippians 1:6 ESV And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.
We could say, “God is our Keeper.” Our protector. Our Guardian.
One of my great desires and prayers over the past 40+ years of following Christ is that God would help me walk with him to the end of my days.
Later in the letter, we will see more on both God’s love for us and his keeping of us.
Now Jude tells us the purpose of his letter.
3 Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.
4 For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.
Jude writes to urge them to contend for the faith. To fight for the faith in Christ which is under attack by certain people.
Some people “crept in” to the church. They came in craftily. With evil intentions.
These people “pervert the grace of our God into sensuality.” What does this mean?
The astonishing message of the gospel is that God saves people—he forgives them— by his grace and kindness through Jesus.
He never saves by man’s meritorious work.
Now these false teachers who have infiltrated the church have perverted grace to say, “Hey, now we can go sin! Let’s live sensual, immoral lives!” And they even deny Jesus Christ. They says, “We don’t need him now.”
It’s terrible enough that they themselves live this way, but it’s far worse that they are misleading people in the church.
Jude is writing to call this to the church’s attention. To warn them of the evil. And then to instruct them in what is good and true.
In this section, we are going to find that Jude’s writing has some remarkable similarities to Peter’s second letter, Chapter 2, that I taught on 3 weeks ago. If you compare them side by side, you will easily see this. They are so similar that it appears that either Peter used Jude’s letter to help write his, or Jude used Peter’s.
Let’s read these 12 verses. And pay careful attention to the strong words and graphic metaphors Jude uses to condemn these opponents.
5 Now I want to remind you, although you once fully knew it, that Jesus, who saved a people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe.
6 And the angels who did not stay within their own position of authority, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains under gloomy darkness until the judgment of the great day—
7 just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire.
8 Yet in like manner these people [these false teachers and opponents] also, relying on their dreams, defile the flesh, reject authority, and blaspheme the glorious ones.
9 But when the archangel Michael, contending with the devil, was disputing about the body of Moses, he did not presume to pronounce a blasphemous judgment, but said, “The Lord rebuke you.”
10 But these people blaspheme all that they do not understand, and they are destroyed by all that they, like unreasoning animals, understand instinctively.
11 Woe to them! For they walked in the way of Cain and abandoned themselves for the sake of gain to Balaam’s error and perished in Korah’s rebellion.
12 These are hidden reefs at your love feasts, as they feast with you without fear, shepherds feeding themselves; waterless clouds, swept along by winds; fruitless trees in late autumn, twice dead, uprooted;
13 wild waves of the sea, casting up the foam of their own shame; wandering stars, for whom the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved forever.
14 It was also about these that Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied, saying, “Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of his holy ones,
15 to execute judgment on all and to convict all the ungodly of all their deeds of ungodliness that they have committed in such an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things that ungodly sinners have spoken against him.”
16 These are grumblers, malcontents, following their own sinful desires; they are loud-mouthed boasters, showing favoritism to gain advantage.
Like in 2 Peter 2, Jude emphasizes the certainty and severity of God’s judgment…both in the past and in the future, including these false teachers. Their doom is sure.
Jude is quite graphic using colorful language, offering six metaphors to describe these ungodly people who pervert God’s grace and deny Jesus Christ (vs. 4):
Some of these metaphors:
- They are like hidden reefs that sink unsuspecting ships
- waterless clouds that promise needed water but don’t deliver
One implication for us is that it is incredibly important to hold on to and believe what is true. Even subtle untruths and half-truths should bother us.
After making his case that these ungodly teachers who are hurting the church will be severely judged, Jude now provides reassurance and instruction on how to live in such a hostile world.
17 But you must remember, beloved, the predictions of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ.
18 They said to you, “In the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions.”
19 It is these who cause divisions, worldly people, devoid of the Spirit.
20 But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit,
21 keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life.
22 And have mercy on those who doubt;
23 save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh.
Comments on Vs. 17-19
In vs. 17-19, the people of God are to do this:
Remember that God has prophesied many times that opponents (scoffers) will come. Be prepared.
He gives three descriptions of them.
- They love to cause division. They love to split up Christians and churches. God is a uniter. Satan is a divider.
- They are worldly, not spiritual.
- And worst of all, the Holy Spirit does not dwell within them. They are not saved. They have smooth words, perhaps even quoting the Bible, but they don’t know the Lord.
And remember from vs. 4, they “creep in unnoticed.” They come in slyly. Secretly.
So we all need to have our antenna up, being alert to the potential for lies and deception. And with the proliferation of media outlets today—books, podcasts, and more—false teachers can even enter our own home or apartment without ever ringing the doorbell or sitting in a chair in this auditorium.
Remember, Jude says, that God has told us this will happen, so don’t be surprised. And don’t be caught off guard.
Comments on Vs. 20-21
Now in vs. 20-21, the readers are commanded to more than simply be on guard on the defensive.
They are to devote themselves to spiritual growth, in a sense to be on the offensive. To grow in Christlikeness.
Grammatically the core command here is this: “Keep yourselves in the love of God.” What does this mean?
Remember back in vs. 1, Jude tells us that we are God the Father’s beloved. And we are kept and preserved for Christ.
That is God’s work.
Now Jude says that we have a role, too.
To “keep ourselves in his love” means we must not to forget the love of God.
It means we should grow in our knowledge of his love. To go deeper in our understanding. To be more and more convinced that he does indeed love us deeply. We should look up all the Scriptures we can find on his love. Meditate on it. Read books on it. Sing songs about it. Talk about it at the dinner table. Discuss it in Bible studies.
Jesus said in John 15:9 to abide in his love. Keep ourselves centered in his gracious love for us.
The love of God has been the theme of my heart and mind for the past four months.
And almost every morning, that is one of the main emphasis of my prayers.
These three men have been on my mind almost every day for four months.
- The Apostle Paul said this in Galatians 2:20, “he loved me and gave himself for me.”
- The Apostle John in his gospel referred to himself like this: “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” (John 13:23)
- The prophet Daniel heard this from an angel sent from God: “You are greatly loved.” (Daniel 9:23)
In each of these examples, God’s love became very personal. Very intimate. That is what I want in my own life.
I want the love of God to be made more personal. I know intellectually he loves me. I’ve memorized a couple dozen verses on it. But I want my eyes to be opened more and more that I can say, “He love ME.” He loves ME.
In addition, to know his love intimately and personally is one of my frequent prayers for all of you. I imitate Paul’s prayer in Ephesians 3. And if you want to pray for me, this is Number One on my list.
So Jude commands us to keep ourselves in God’s love. To center ourselves there. To make our home there.
So how else do we keep ourselves in his love?
Jude gives three things that will help us:
- Building ourselves up in this holy faith of ours.
We all have a responsibility—not only the pastors, but every one of you— to help one another grow up in our faith. To learn more, obey more, love more. In the home. In small groups. Together on Sunday mornings. How are you helping others to see and know the love of God?
- Praying in the Spirit
This is how we can be centered on God’s love.
We are to be people of prayer. Praying to God. Praying being filled with the Spirit. Praying with one another and for one another. Praying Paul’s prayer in Ephesians 3, that we would know this love that surpasses knowledge.
- Waiting for the mercy of Christ.
This is about hope. We are to hope for Christ’s return when his mercy to us will be revealed in all of its fullness. Christ’s second coming ought to be the greatest longing of our hearts. This is the Final Proof of God’s love for us.
All these things will keep the love of God central in our hearts.
Comments on Vs. 22-23
Now Jude tells us how to help people who have been disrupted by the false teachings and immoral conduct.
- Have mercy, not criticism or harshness, on those who have doubts raised by the opponents.
When someone has doubts, we should show compassion, not shock or criticism.
If we’re honest, we’ve each had our own share of doubts from time to time.
So we should be kind and gentle, helping to answer their doubts and questions with wisdom and care.
Today, if you are wrestling with doubts about the faith, open up with someone.
And if someone comes to you about their doubts, show compassion. Pray together. Open the Scriptures. Obey what you do know and believe. Trust that God will keep you.
- Rescue those who are headed for eternal fire of judgment.
They don’t know Jesus yet. They don’t understand the gospel yet. They are lost and confused. But there is still hope for them.
- Show mercy with fear to those who are enslaved by sin (perhaps even the opponents to the gospel, these false teachers). Though some are ensnared by great sin, they are not to be despised. Rather, they are to be shown kindness.
And this is to be done in fear, probably meaning to fear sin and its destructive power.
So we should love the sinner (show mercy to them) even while we hate their sin.
Perhaps someone you know and love is in this situation.
Now we come to the most beautiful part of Jude’s letter. It’s called a “Doxology.” “Doxa” is the Greek work for “glory.” So a doxology is a statement of glory and praise to God.
24 Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy,
25 to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.
Two things God is doing and will do:
First, he is able to keep us from stumbling.
This doesn’t mean God will keep us from ever sinning again. What it means is that he will keep us until the end. He will watch over us, protect us, and enable us to persevere in faith until the end of our time on earth. This reminds us of vs. 1, that we are being kept for Jesus Christ.
I love the words of the psalmist:
Psalm 121:5 ESV The Lord is your keeper…
He is your Keeper. Your Guardian. Your Protector. And he will carry his people to the end of this life and into the next.
The next song we will sing in a few minutes speaks of that: He Will Hold me Fast.
When I fear my faith will fail, Christ will hold me fast.
When the tempter would prevail, he will hold me fast.
I could never keep my hold, through life’s fearful path.
For my love is often cold, he must hold me fast.
Whenever your heart is shaky and unstable….Whenever you stumble in sin…Whenever you wonder if you’ll make it…Whenever you feel like you’re entirely on your own… God sings over us, “I am your Keeper. I will hold you fast.”
Oh my, what security and confidence we can have. How our faith can grow, knowing that someone that Loyal and Powerful and Protective and Watchful will guard us and keep us until the end of this life.
This deserves praise and glory and honor to God our Savior.
Second, he is able to make us stand in the presence of his glory blameless with great joy.
This might be the most phenomenal statement in the Bible!
Let’s read it again: He is able to “present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy.”
This tells us how thorough, how far-reaching, how complete the cleansing blood of Jesus Christ is. This tells us how deep our forgiveness is. Every person ever born—each one of us in this room—is someday going to stand before God on that great Judgment Day. We will stand in the presence of his glory. Of all his splendor and majesty and beauty and power. We will be utterly overwhelmed.
Those who don’t know his Son, Jesus, will stand before him with all their sin exposed. All immoral thoughts and actions. Every moment of hatred toward others. Every selfish act. Every harsh word we have uttered to one another. Every critical attitude we’ve had.
Imagine standing before this holy, glorious God with all that sin exposed.
If you can’t imagine that, what if each one of had to come up on stage and have all of our sins read off a list to the congregation. Oh my, what shame. What guilt. How many tears would be shed.
But the gospel that we believe means that Jesus Christ has carried all that shame. All that guilt. All those tears. It all was laid on Jesus’ back when he hung on the cross. Hebrews 12 says, “He endured the cross, scorning its shame.”
His payment for our sin and guilt and shame was so thorough and so complete that Jude offers us the most phenomenal promise ever made: That God is able to make you stand in the presence of his glory BLAMELESS….without spot, without any guilt, with no shame… and with GREAT JOY. Not an ounce of guilt or shame is left.
Hebrews 7:25 ESV Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.
Jesus as our Great High Priest is able to save us to the uttermost. The uttermost means completely. Eternally. Totally.
No sin is left. No guilt remains. No tears need be shed.
We who are in Christ are so forgiven that we will stand before the presence of the Glory and Greatness and Power of our God, and to stand there blameless. Without spot. Without guilt. And with the greatest joy imaginable.
Oh my, won’t that be the best day of our lives?
Yes, I know that some of us want this, but we feel so burdened by so many sins in our lives. I know. I’ve been there. And I will be back there again. All the more reason to take this truth, memorize it, think about it, discuss it, pray over it, believe it, and rejoice that it is utterly true.
It may sound too good to be true, but it truly is that good..
Jude’s conclusion of all this… that God is our Eternal Keeper, and his forgiveness is so thorough that we will stand before his glory blameless with great joy… Jude’s conclusion??
To him be all glory! To him be greatness and majesty! To him be dominion and rule!
To him be all authority, answerable to no one!
He deserved this before time began. He deserves such praise today on this date, February 21st. He deserves this forever and ever and ever and ever and ever.
Hallelujah, what a Savior!
Let us seek our God! Cling to him! Never let him go!
For Further Study
God as our Keeper
1 Peter 1:3-5