Jude 3 Dear friends, I had been eagerly planning to write to you about the salvation we all share. But now I find that I must write about something else, urging you to defend the faith that God has entrusted once for all time to his holy people.
The Book of Jude is a small 25 verses. But the lessons are large. The first thing that strikes me about this scripture, and possibly the least talked about, is the brief mention of a change of heart on the subject matter. Jude set out to speak to believers about their salvation that they share in Christ, but He ends up warning them to contend for their faith. He seems to respond in urgency to a nudge from the Holy Spirit. He doesn’t deliver his planned words and his well thought out message. He writes instead from the heart, where God resides. The first lesson we can take is to let the Holy Spirit interrupt our plans.
Jude 12 When these people eat with you in your fellowship meals commemorating the Lord’s love, they are like dangerous reefs that can shipwreck you.[e] They are like shameless shepherds who care only for themselves. They are like clouds blowing over the land without giving any rain. They are like trees in autumn that are doubly dead, for they bear no fruit and have been pulled up by the roots. 13 They are like wild waves of the sea, churning up the foam of their shameful deeds. They are like wandering stars, doomed forever to blackest darkness.”
In our Christian culture people like to point to prominent politicians and celebrity pastors and claim them to be false teachers. While there surely are some that come to mind, this letter from Jude instructs us to pay attention to the more nuanced and close at home. He writes of the false teachers that ‘worm’ their way in to our churches. He doesn’t speak about the mighty and powerful, he speaks of the man in your church who is a grumbler and complainer and seeks to satisfy his own needs. He warns of the lady next to you in the pew who focuses so much on grace that she forgets righteousness and holy living. He says be cautious about the neighbor that is so secure in the victory that they don’t show up for battle. Jude cautions us about those that care only for themselves and whose lives bear no fruit, those that divide instead of unite. He writes of the believer that sits in church on Sunday and leaves Jesus there the rest of the week. The most subtle and perhaps most dangerous, the one who ‘follows their natural instincts because they do not have God’s spirit in them.’ Being for God, in God, and of God is vastly different than a mere belief in Him. There is a whole lot of road between salvation and sanctification. The spirit of God makes all the difference. I might be a nice enough person without it, but everyone in my life should be happy I have it.
The people God is working in are doing the work of God…in their own lives and others. They are in partnership with Him. Christianity doesn’t happen to us. He commands us to take up our cross and follow Him. Jude tells us to contend for the faith; like in a prized fight. He is asking us to go to battle. He is urging us to be vigilant. This is serious stuff. The original language uses the word Epagonizomai, to contest or contend, which literally means to agonize about. Contending for our faith is paramount to our walk with Christ.
It is easy for us to point outward to the false teachings, the wolf in sheep’s clothing…it is easier to think they are out there. It’s a bit more uncomfortable for us to think it could be within our church. Within our ministry. Within our own hearts. Let us allow the book of Jude to be a catalyst for looking at those areas of our own lives.
Jude gives us some solid advice on how to protect ourselves from false teachings and how to contend for our faith. First, we must build one another up in the faith. Study God’s word and know the truths of it, know the truth of His heart. Compare those qualities to the people you look up to and then to your own heart.
Secondly, we must pray with expectation…with the power of the Holy Spirit in us. Those who count on their own power, their own brilliance, don’t have time for prayer. Those who have truly given their life to Christ know there is nothing better than God with us. The humble, the righteous, know that it is only through His power. They understand the importance of making time for it, for the connection to Christ it brings.
Finally he says to await God’s mercy. To accept it for yourself and then offer it to others. Accept it and then rescue others with it.
Jude 20 But you, dear friends, must build each other up in your most holy faith, pray in the power of the Holy Spirit,[g] 21 and await the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will bring you eternal life. In this way, you will keep yourselves safe in God’s love.”
Jude instructs us to do all of this so we might stay rooted in the love of God. So we stand firmly planted in God’s love for us and His love for others. And what does he say to do with those false teachers? Those that threaten our faith? Do we picket? March? Boycott? Does he tell us to scream with red faced anger the error of their ways? Should we point, ridicule, shame?
He prompts us to stay safe in God’s love. To hold one another up in our faith. To steep in the presence of the Almighty. To pray. To offer rescue and mercy. He prompts us to God’s great love. Us Christians are quick to talk about defending our faith but we need to pay close attention to how that was done. You see Jesus’ victory wasn’t won on a battlefield. He won in surrender. He didn’t have a crowd surrounding him for autographs, he wept while he asked, “why have you forsaken me?” He didn’t stand with his trophy in the winner’s circle. He hung from a cross with a crown of thorns. It wasn’t a moment of pride, but an act of humility. And then while his blood dripped down, he offered mercy…forgiveness…love. That is how you contend for your faith. That is the Gospel. That is the Truth.