Monday, January 26, 2009

How to Keep from Stumbling...Build Your Christian Life

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 our Christian life (20-21), (3) Battle for backsliders (22-23), and (4) Behold the Lord (24-25).

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.

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