Friday, January 30, 2009
If we are to keep from stumbling in this age of apostasy then we must remember that the Lord warned us through His apostles (17-19), remembering what the apostles said - that in the last days, mockers would come who would deny and depart from the word of God, and remembering why the apostles said it – because the apostates want to divide and deceive the church. We must believe the Word of God if we are to keep from stumbling.
Not only are we to believe God’s Word if we are to keep from stumbling, we must also build our Christian lives (20-21). With forces at work to tear us down and destroy us we must always be at work repairing and building up. Each Christian must be involved in building up his own spiritual life and also that of the local assembly. The Christian life is built on the faith or body of truth which was once for all handed down to the saints which is the Word of God and prayer in the Holy Spirit which is prayer based on the Word of God and obedience to the Word of God.
But what should be the attitude of the grounded and growing Christian toward those who are being influenced by apostates? Should he rise up in pride and arrogance and say, “To hell with those who are in deception and opposition”? Or should he in a spirit of humility, correct and teach those being influenced by apostates so that they may be rescued? Jude instructed his readers to exercise discernment; to act on the basis of that discernment; and to battle for backsliders (22-23). Jude described three kinds of church members who need spiritual help: (1) the doubting (22), (2) the deceived (23a), and (3) the defiled (23b).
The doubting (22). These are the people who are wavering. These are the ones who are tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming (Ephesians 4:14). These people are converted but are not grounded in the faith – the Word of God. They are children who have no discernment and who cannot perceive danger because they cannot yet tell the difference between preaching and teaching that comes from error, craftiness, deceitful scheming and adulterating (watering down) the Word of God from preaching and teaching that is sound, pure, and in the manifestation of the truth.
Those who are doubting are those who have begun to listen to the lies of the devil through his ministers as they disguise themselves as ministers of righteousness and misinterpret and distort the Word of God. It is always the devil’s first tactic to cast doubt on what God has really said. “Indeed, has God said” is still the devil’s first strategy for causing people to stumble. “Indeed, has God said” that Jesus Christ is the only way? “Indeed, has God said” that we are not to be bound together with unbelievers? “Indeed, has God said” that homosexuality is wrong? “Indeed, has God said” that fornication is wrong?
Just before the end of 2008, the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life released a report indicating that a significant percentage of American evangelicals reject the biblical claim that Jesus is the only way of salvation. According to the report, 52% of American Christians believe that "at least some non-Christian faiths can lead to eternal life."Surprisingly, 37% of those specifically identified as evangelical Christians agreed, rejecting the claim that Jesus is the only Savior and identifying at least some non-Christian religion or religions as leading to eternal life (www.albertmohler.com).
And no wonder, when popular, powerful, and highly influential so-called evangelical leaders distort and doubt the truth of God's Word themselves, will not those who trust them and believe them believe the same errors that they preach? When Billy Graham denies that Jesus Christ is the only way or Rick Warren claims that religious pluralism is the answer to the world's problems, will not many begin to believe the lie of the devil and doubt the Word of God?
Do you begin to see the magnitude of the problem in our churches when we live in a day when it is possible that over half of American Christians can believe that “at least some non-Christian faiths can lead to eternal life”? These people of necessity must doubt God’s Word in order for them to believe this kind of lie.
Our responsibility towards those who are doubting is to have mercy on them, or show compassion toward them, by seeking to lead them away from the influences of the apostates and into the unadulterated truth of God’s Word. This kind of ministry requires a great deal of love and patience – (2 Timothy 2:24-26; Ephesians 4:11-16; Galatians 6:1). This is a pastoral responsibility, a corporate responsibility, and an individual responsibility. We are all to be so grounded in the faith (Word of God) that we can detect, correct, and refute false doctrines, but we must also be so guided by the Holy Spirit that for those who are doubting, we deal with them in love, gentleness, patience, and kindness – all fruits of the Spirit.
The deceived (23a). These are the people who have moved beyond doubting to actually believing the lies of the apostates and who must be dealt with in a stronger and more severe manner – “Save others, snatching them out of the fire.” These people need to be taken by the hand and pulled out to safety in a forceful manner. The deceived must be reproved severely so that they may be sound in the faith, not paying attention to myths and commandments of men who turn away from the truth (Titus 1:13-14). The deceived are in real danger of not having been truly saved. They are in real danger of turning away from the truth by not only doubting God’s Word but by also receiving the lies of the apostates as truth itself. They need to be confronted with the truth and the error of their ways – “My brethren, if any among you strays from the truth and one turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins” (James 5:19-20). Those who don’t love truth and haven’t received the truth will be deceived by the apostates and will be judged for their wickedness – (2 Thessalonians 2:8-12). They need our help and they need to be snatched out of the fire.
The defiled (23b). The defiled are those who have doubted God’s Word, been deceived by the lies of the apostates, and are living their lives based on lies disguised as truth. The defiled are dangerous. The defiled have the potential to defile others, even those whom would presume to help them. The phrase "with fear" means “with caution.” In trying to help those who have erred, we must be careful not to be trapped ourselves! Many a would-be-rescuer has been drowned himself.
The principle that Jude was laying down for us is that stronger believers must never think that they are beyond satanic influence and we are to remember the words of the apostle Paul – “Let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Corinthians 10:12). Even while serving the Lord and seeking to rescue others, we may become defiled by those we want to help.
We certainly must love people, but we must also hate sin. The Bible here in Jude uses graphic language to warn of sins sickness – “hating even the garment polluted by the flesh.” This is speaking of soiled and stained undergarments – not a pretty picture! Defilement spreads rapidly and secretly and must be dealt with drastically. This is why there is such a great need for discipline within the church and why the Lord commands it in his word – there is far too much at stake – the glory of the Lord is at stake and the souls of men are at stake. We must take these instructions seriously.
“Indeed, has God said” is still one of the devil’s primary means of deception. He causes people to doubt what God has said and then he can exchange the truth of God for a lie, thereby deceiving people and after that one can live his or her life by that lie, preaching and teaching it as though it is God’s truth. The church should never be a breeding ground for apostasy but should be the pillar and support of the truth! And by the grace of God that is what we will be!
Will we battle for backsliders?
Monday, January 26, 2009
If we are to keep from stumbling in this age of apostasy then we must remember that the Lord warned us through His apostles, remembering what the apostles said (17) - that in the last days, mockers would come who would deny and depart from the word of God (18), and remembering why the apostles said it – because the apostates want to divide and deceive the church (19). We must believe the Word of God if we are to keep from stumbling.
Not only are we to believe God’s Word if we are to keep from stumbling, we must also build our Christian lives (20-21). With forces at work to tear us down and destroy us we must always be at work repairing and building up. Each Christian must be involved in building up his own spiritual life and also that of the local assembly. In these two verses we are given how to build our Christian lives so that we can keep from stumbling.
Study and know God’s Word (20a) – the foundation for our Christian life is our “most holy faith,” which is the same as “the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints” (Jude 3). It is the body of truth that has been delivered to the saints which gives us faith in Jesus Christ, instructs us in righteousness, equips us for service, guards us from deceivers and nourishes our spiritual life. “Building yourselves up on your most holy faith” isn’t talking about some totally subjective, mystical, flesh powered ability to believe more but is talking about your faith being built up from the objective revelation of truth as found in God’s Word – faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of Christ. So if we are to build ourselves up on our most holy faith then we are to study and know God’s Word.
The Word of God is central in spiritual growth. There are no strong fruitful Christians who ignore the Bible and who ignore sound preaching of the Bible. People who don’t know the Bible cannot operate in faith and cannot be built up in the faith. They become prime candidates for deception and destruction. It is through God’s Word that we grow in respect to salvation and in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is our responsibility to earnestly contend for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints – after all – God isn’t going to force feed us! We need to study and know God’s Word.
Pray in the Holy Spirit (20b) – the material for building the Christian life comes from studying God’s Word; the power for building the Christian life comes from proper prayer – praying in the Holy Spirit. The Word of God and prayer go together in spiritual growth. We read the Word to grow in faith, then we use that faith to ask God for what we need and for what His Word tells us we can have.
We are told that “if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him” (1 John 5:14-15). This is what it means to pray in the Holy Spirit - that our prayers are in line with God’s will because our prayers have been born out of the Word of God and therefore our prayers are prayers of faith. So then, praying in the Holy Spirit is to pray according to the leading of the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit leads in line with the Word of God. The opposite of praying in faith or praying in the Holy Spirit is praying in the flesh. Someone who isn’t in God’s Word and doesn’t really know God’s word is going to pray in the flesh if they pray at all. And we are told that praying in the flesh goes unanswered – “You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures” (James 4:3).
Also as Christians we may pray in solitude but we never pray alone; the Spirit of God joins with us and helps us as we pray in faith because He knows the mind of God and can direct us. When the believer is studying the Word and is yielded to the Holy Spirit, then the Spirit will assist him in his prayer life, and God will answer his prayers. One of the things the Spirit will prompt you to pray for as you study God’s Word is discernment. You will realize that you don’t have the ability in and of yourself to know who is true and who is false and so you will pray for God to reveal that to you. This is what the Lord was talking about in Matthew 7:7-8 – praying for discernment.
To build our Christian lives we must study and know the Word of God and pray in the Holy Spirit. But we must also keep ourselves in the love of God (21a). This entails obedience. “If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love…” (John 15:10). Put another way, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments"(John 14:15). Jude tells us that we are being kept for Jesus Christ (1) and that Jesus is able to keep us from stumbling (24) but he also tells us that we are to keep ourselves in the word of God and keep ourselves in the love of God. Christians are to be marked by knowing and obeying God’s Word. Apostates are marked by departing from and disobeying God’s Word. Christians obey God because they love God – “But whoever keeps His Word, in Him the love of God has truly been perfected” (1 John 2:5). It is the obedient Christian who keeps himself in the love of God.
To build our Christian lives we must study and know the Word of God, pray in the Holy Spirit and obey. But we must also wait with hope (21b). The believer’s eyes must be looking for Jesus to come. We must be living for and longing for His glorious appearing. This will give us motivation to live righteously and sensibly in this present age.
“Waiting anxiously” means “earnestly expecting.” It describes an attitude of life that is motivated by the promise of the Lord’s return. On that day the apostates will receive judgment but God’s people will receive mercy and deliverance and eternal life.
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
God in His love, mercy, and grace has warned us in His word of these apostates, their characteristics, the certainty of their entrance among us, and their dangerous influence as a little leaven will leaven the whole lump. But God in His love, mercy, and grace has also told us in His word how to keep from stumbling in these days of apostasy. In Jude 17-25, Jude gave four instructions to follow if we would stand firm, not stumble, and resist the apostates: (1) Believe God’s Word (17-19), (2) Build your Christian life (20-21), (3) Battle for backsliders (22-23), and (4) Behold the Lord (24-25).
Believe God’s Word (17-19). From the very beginning Satan has attacked God’s Word. “Indeed, has God said?” (Genesis 3:1) was his opening attack against God and it is still his primary method of deception through the apostates today. Once we begin to question God’s Word, we have no other recourse for determining truth, and we become vulnerable to Satan’s lies, for only the truth of the Word will protect us from the lies of the devil and his ministers. Doubting God’s Word and departing from God’s Word is what characterizes apostates who would cause others to stumble, so believing God’s Word and heeding God’s word is a sure antidote to apostasy. Knowing and believing God’s Word is what protects us from would-be-deceivers. “To the law and to the testimony [to the word of God]; if they speak not according to this Word, it is because there is no light in them” (Isaiah 8:20). “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world….They [false prophets] are from the world; therefore they speak as from the world, and the world listens to them. We [true prophets] are from God; he who knows God listens to us; he who is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error” (1 John 4:1, 5-6).
In believing God’s Word there are three things we should remember – who, what, and why: who gave the word, what they said, and why they said it.
Remember who gave the Word (17) – the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ. The word apostle means one who is sent with a commission. The Lord committed the faith, the body of truth to His apostles that they were to guard, teach, and preserve. Wherever the truth of God’s Word is proclaimed, the devil and his ministers go to work twisting, distorting, corrupting, and counterfeiting in order to steal, kill and destroy. In the early church false apostles and teachers began to appear and in order to protect the church from false prophecies and forged letters, every truth claim had to be evaluated in the light of not only the Old Testament Scriptures but also in light of apostolic teaching. One of the main tests in the early church to determine if something was true was, “Is this what the apostles taught?” Apostolic teaching was and still is the test of truth.
Jude said to “remember the words that were spoken beforehand by the apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ” because at first there were no New Testament letters. However, over time and of necessity the apostles wrote letters that were inspired by the Holy Spirit. The apostle Peter acknowledged the trustworthiness of apostolic writing by declaring that what the apostle Paul wrote was actually Scripture – “And regard the patience of our Lord as salvation; just as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you, as also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and the unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction” (2 Peter 3:15-16).
Since we now have the completed Scriptures, both the Old and New Testaments, we no longer depend on tradition and we resort to the Word of God to know and verify truth. Whenever someone offers a “new revelation” we test it by what the prophets taught, what the Lord Jesus taught, and what the apostles of our Lord taught. If you do what you are supposed to and believe God’s Word you will not stumble over these apostates and their so-called “new revelations” but will discover that it is actually a lie.
Remember what they said (18) – that in the last days, mockers would come who would deny and depart from the word of God. We have recorded in the Bible for us what the apostles said about the apostates of the last days. The apostle Peter said, “Know this first of all, that in the last days, mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts” (2 Peter 3:3). The apostle Paul said, “But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons” (1 Timothy 4:1). The apostle Paul also said, “But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come for men will be lovers of self, lovers of money…and 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” (2 Timothy 3:1-5). The apostle John said, “Children, it is the last hour; and just as you heard that antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have appeared; from this we know that it is the last hour” (1 John 2:18). The apostles of the Lord warned about the apostates many times and when a warning is given so many times we should take it seriously.
Apostates mock God’s Word by denying it and they deny it because they don’t want God to tell them how to live – instead they want to “follow after their own ungodly lusts.” They want to satisfy their own sinful desires and God’s Word condemns their selfish and sinful way of life. Therefore apostates distort God’s Word, they doubt God’s Word, and they darken God’s Word to their own destruction. And they will cause many to stumble who don’t remember what the apostles said about this subject. Before Satan can substitute his own lies, he must get rid of the truth of God’s Word and we have been warned by the apostles of the Lord that he would attempt to do that through the apostates.
Remember why they said it (19) – the apostates want to divide the church and lead people out of the true fellowship into their false fellowship. “And from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them” (Acts 20:30). Through the apostates the devil wants to defile the church, harm her testimony, steal her power, kill her influence, and destroy her reputation. The apostates offer a “higher quality of religion” than that of the apostles as found in the Word of God. Theirs is a mystical, mysterious, relationship to God that doesn’t have to be based on the Word of God and many will follow their sensuality.
Not only do the apostates divide the church, but they also deceive the church, because they are worldly-minded, merely natural, devoid of the Spirit. Because the apostates do not have the Spirit of God, they must function on their natural soulish power alone. Therefore they operate by the flesh and not by faith and this must be true because apostates deny and depart from God’s Word and faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of Christ.
One of the tragedies of today is that many people cannot discern between flesh and faith; between that which is soulish and that which is truly spiritual. There is so much religious showmanship these days that the saints are confused and deceived. There is way too much false fire in the church today and therefore we must exercise careful discernment.
How can we exercise careful discernment and keep from stumbling in these days of apostasy? By believing God’s Word, remembering that the Lord gave us this warning through His apostles, remembering what the apostles said, that in the last days, mockers would come who would deny and depart from the word of God, and remembering why the apostles said it – because the apostates want to divide and deceive the church.
You don’t have to stumble – and it is every pastor’s responsibility to guard the flock from the perilous and dangerous presence of apostates.
Monday, January 12, 2009
Just before the end of 2008, the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life released a report indicating that a significant percentage of American evangelicals reject the biblical claim that Jesus is the only way of salvation. According to the report, 52% of American Christians believe that "at least some non-Christian faiths can lead to eternal life."
Surprisingly, 37% of those specifically identified as evangelical Christians agreed, rejecting the claim that Jesus is the only Savior and identifying at least some non-Christian religion or religions as leading to eternal life (source).
And no wonder, when popular, powerful, and highly influential so-called evangelical leaders distort and doubt the truth of God's Word themselves, will not those who trust them and believe them believe the same errors that they preach?
When Billy Graham denies that Jesus Christ is the only way or Rick Warren claims that religious pluralism is the answer to the world's problems, will not many begin to believe the lie of the devil and doubt the Word of God? "Indeed, has God said?" is still one of the devil's primary methods of deceiving and his ministers who disguise themselves as ministers of righteousness are more than happy to perpetuate his sinister inquiry.