Thursday, July 24, 2014

Hey, Jude

I know that not everyone will recognize this as a Beatles song, but for those of my generation it is a classic. Of course, I am not posting about the Beatles, but about the Bible. The book of Jude, not the song.

This week I am teaching the book of Jude, one of the shortest in the Bible, in my Sunday School class. I have never heard anyone say that Jude was their favorite book and it is rarely quoted. The first to quote from it seems to be Peter who used it in 2 Peter, which itself is a short and not-so-popular book. Nevertheless, it is the Word of God and we must not ignore its teaching.

Jude warns us against false teachers, pronouncing judgment on them and urging the church to contend with them. But the false teaching that Jude is condemning is not some heresy about the person or work of Christ. It is about the behavior of the false teachers. They are teaching and practicing immorality and using the grace of God as an excuse. They "turn the grace of God into licentiousness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ." Notice the double use of "Lord" for both the Father and the Son. The fact that He is Lord means that we must do as He commands, and He commands that we avoid immorality. To commit immorality or to teach that it is okay is to deny His Lordship.

We may understand this but the point I wish to make is that Jude has a reaction to it that we might be surprised at. So let's ask Jude a few questions.

Questioner: Hey, Jude. Why do you tell us to contend for the faith? Doesn't Jesus call us to unity? Don't those who disagree with us just read the Bible differently? Aren't you being divisive?

Jude: I wrote about our common salvation that all true believers in Christ possess. There is to be unity among those of the one true faith. We are not called to unify with those who deny the faith by their immoral behavior. We must contend with those in the church who are denying Christ by teaching immorality. It is not a matter of a difference of opinion; it is a matter of affirming the essentials of the faith. As for divisions, they are caused by the error of the false teachers, not by those who call them out on it.

Questioner: Hey, Jude. Didn't the apostle Paul preach that we are saved by grace and not by works?

Jude: Paul did not teach grace as a covering for sin as some do today. We are saved to be free from sin not saved so that we can sin freely. Paul taught, "grace teaches us that denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously and godly in this present age." (Titus 2:12)

Questioner: Hey, Jude. Why are you so harsh in your condemnations? Didn't Jesus tell us, "judge not that you be not judged"?

Jude: You seem to be forgetting that Jesus was my older brother. I think I know Him better than you, but if you do not take my word for it, see what Jesus taught about sin and hell. "If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you; for it is more profitable that your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell." Yes, he is using a bit of hyperbole but that hyperbole regards the cutting off of ones own hand and not the hell part. Your hand never causes you to sin, but the impulse behind the sinning hand is what needs to be cut off. Jesus was not being "judgmental" when He told the truth. Truth spoken in love may seem hard. God disciplines those whom He loves.

Questioner: Hey, Jude. Have you ever considered that in your day God may have told an unenlightened and primitive people not to do certain things because they were just not sophisticated enough to handle them, but now the Spirit is leading us into a new progressive era? After all, it was only in the nineteenth century that Christians gave up their slaves, often reluctantly (to say the least).

Jude: The false teachers of the first century thought they were enlightened, too. They were, as Paul said, "wise in their own eyes". But they not only lack wisdom, they do not have the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is not leading them into some new freedom or so-called 'rights'. Evil spirits are leading them into moral apostasy and error.

Questioner: Hey, Jude. Are you using fear to keep people from listening to other points of view? Should we not be motivated by love and not fear? Don't fear and hate go together?

Jude: Some are saved by mercy and others by fear. This is a good fear, the fear of the Lord. Proverbs says that the fear of the Lord is to hate evil. Hating evil is a good thing. We are not trying to frighten people to submit to us. We are warning them about the real dangers of immorality and false teaching. The fate of the fallen angels and Sodom are good examples of this.

Questioner: Hey, Jude. In the UMC, some have gone ahead and blessed same sex marriage ceremonies because they believe, despite the book of Discipline, that what they are doing is right. How do you respond to those who are just obeying their own consciences?

Jude: I would say that their very consciences have been corrupted. Those who do not submit to authority have a wrong spirit. If they do not feel right about the authority then they should have the authenticity to leave the church and start their own religion or something. Remember how Korah rebelled against Moses saying that they were all God's people and that Moses had no right to rule over them. How did that work out for Korah?

Questioner: Hey, Jude. What advice do you have for the true church?

Jude: Build yourself up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.

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