Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Tuesday, 26 October 21:
Jude 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.”
A teaching can creep into the church that allows grace to be used an excuse to do whatever you want to do. Grace is not a license for disobedience or immorality, nor does it mean God will overlook such behavior. Grace is not freedom to sin; it is freedom from sin. Jude was compelled to warn the church against those within the church who make light of sin in the name of ‘grace.’ Jude reminds us that, while under grace, we cannot reject authority (v. 8) and simply act as unreasoning animals (v. 10) “who follow mere natural instincts” rather than the Spirit (v. 19). Instead, Jude commands “Build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit. Keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life (vs. 20, 21).” While we wait for the mercy of Jesus, we are to continue to pursue holiness and obedience. In our pursuit, we are to hate sin while showing Christ-like mercy to sinners (vs. 22, 23) – Love involves revealing the truth of sin:
It would appear that, as is the case today, Jude had observed many in the church using grace as an excuse to live sinful lives, surrendering to their wicked desires rather than to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Though they claimed to be Christians, their actions revealed that in fact they were “devoid of the Spirit.” Jude exhorts the church to persevere in holiness while having “mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh.” Essentially he is saying, love the sinner, and hate the sin; influence without being influenced. Jude specifically calls out sexual sin as Paul did in Romans 1. How is acceptance of sexual sin creeping into the church today? Who would write Jude’s letter today?
- Romans 12:9-12 — “Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.”
Today, Jude focuses on one of the two primary false gospels which creep into the church, idolatrous lies proclaimed as ‘good news’ by many ‘spiritual’ people to justify their pridefulness, self-centeredness, and rebellion. These two false gospels are legalism and lasciviousness; or moralism and relativism; or religion and irreligion. The religious legalist/moralist (like the pharisees) may proclaim faith in Jesus, but ultimately, they serve the god of self (which is “I”-dolatry). In their pridefulness, they glorify self and are self-serving in their outwardly upright behavior, disguising their unloving hearts (whitewashed tombs) with ‘good deeds’ and convincing themselves they have earned for themselves the right to sit at the right hand of Jesus and judge the rest of the world with Him. Conversely, the irreligious lascivious relativist serves the god of self by falsely proclaiming God’s endorsement or approval for them to do whatever they want, to live for self while “following their own ungodly passions.” Within the church, they are the peddlers of “cheap grace.” The Bible says of them, “Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things.” (Philippians 3:19) These two false gospels have become the primary (though often unspoken) false doctrines of two factions within the church (and the world) which point the finger at the other as being the real sinners – the moralist despises the relativist and vice versa, while neither share the heart of Christ, missing the point of the Gospel all together – “It is these who cause divisions….” Today, Jude addresses the misguided relativist, but not as a legalist – “Have mercy on those who doubt.”
Jude 20-23 — “But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. And have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh.”
As we engage the sinful world, we must be reconcilers, seeking to unite people with Christ. There is no real peace, love, or unity outside of Christ. We must be uniters in a world full of dividers; we must be peacemakers in a world full of unpeaceable people. We must bring order in a world of disorder; we must bring light in a world of darkness. We must love in a hateful world. We do all this by proclaiming and living out the Gospel as representatives of Christ (ambassadors) wherever He has salted us out in society, remaining immovable in our allegiance and obedience to Him – “Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” (1 Corinthians 15:58) However, this requires much prayer and the leading of the Holy Spirit rather than mere intellect. It is dangerous business to snatch others out of the fire. Don’t be complacent in your efforts to do so or attempt to do it in your own power, lest you get burned yourself. “For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.” (Romans 12:3)
- 1 Peter 2:9-25 — They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do. But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation. Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor. Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust. For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 26 October 21: Today, live a holy and godly life, acceptable and pleasing to the Lord (1 Peter 3:11; Romans 12:1). Live out publicly and visibly your freedom in the Gospel, “not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God,” while “proclaim[ing] the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light…. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people.” Live and proclaim a Gospel-centered life, proclaiming Christ and Christ alone and having nothing to do with the false gospels of legalism (moralism) and relativism (lasciviousness).