The Church of Jesus Christ is one body of followers yet today in most of the world there are literally hundreds of denominations of the Church. I have often wondered how so many can interrupt the scriptures in the Bible to mean so many different meanings. I think some Christians that were on the right path somehow have been derailed and gotten off track in some way. Otherwise there would not be so many denominations within the Church. In some ways it reminds me of the game we played as children where one person whispered in the ear of another one sentence and by the time that sentence was passed along to twenty or so it had changed significantly. Yet we are to have the help of the Holy Spirit to keep us on track. Further study is needed to understand and to make certain that what we believe, the denomination that we follow is correct and will lead to Heaven and eternal life. I think of John and what he wrote in First John.
Dear friends, 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. This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world. 1 John 4:1-3, (New International Version or NIV).
The first thing that I notice is that we are not to believe every spirit or every teaching because some are false. The fact that a teaching or spirit says nice things about God is not an indication that they are from God. Remember that even the demons believe God exists but they do not follow Gods teachings (James 2:19). Notice that the last part of this passage reminds us that there is an antichrist at work in this world and is already here. So John gives us a way to test the spirits, if the teaching agrees that Jesus Christ was born a man and was sent by God to die one the cross and be raised again and victorious over death, then that spirit or teaching is good and passes the test. This is a really basic foundation to start with when determining if what we read or hear is the truth about God. What else can we do to know if what we are hearing taught is correct? A small book at the back of the New Testament is packed with some great insight, so let’s see what Jude, the brother of James, says.
Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt compelled to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to God’s holy people. For certain individuals whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord. Jude 3-4, (NIV).
What is the first thing you see in this passage? I see that Jude is urging his friends to “contend for the faith” and that faith was placed into God’s people’s hands for safe keeping. This is a tremendous burden to keep the faith pure and full of truth and I personally am thankful that these lovely saints did keep it safe and secure so that we have such writings to read and study today.
Why does Jude feel the need to remind them to keep the faith safe? Well he tells us in the next verse that there are some people who have quietly or secretly coming into the Church. They do not have a pure motive for coming into our gathering. In fact they are using grace as a license to be wicked and do wicked things. They also deny that Jesus Christ is the only way to salvation.
Hmmm! I can think of a few examples today and I can imagine you can too. Here is my favorite example, “Jesus just wants me to be happy so I don’t have to stop having sex with anyone I want to have sex with because my happiness is all that matters to Jesus!” Or how about the person that lies all the time or steals or cheats or drinks to excess and yet still think they are okay with God! There are even religious people who are very strict about their diet and moral habits yet they deny Jesus Christ as God’s son and Lord and Savior. Yes, I can think of many examples today of this type of false teaching. Jude says more that we need to examine.
Woe to them! They have taken the way of Cain; they have rushed for profit into Balaam’s error; they have been destroyed in Korah’s rebellion. These people are blemishes at your love feasts, eating with you without the slightest qualm—shepherds who feed only themselves. They are clouds without rain, blown along by the wind; autumn trees, without fruit and uprooted—twice dead. They are wild waves of the sea, foaming up their shame; wandering stars, for whom blackest darkness has been reserved forever. Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about them: “See, the Lord is coming with thousands upon thousands of his holy ones to judge everyone, and to convict all of them of all the ungodly acts they have committed in their ungodliness, and of all the defiant words ungodly sinners have spoken against him.” These people are grumblers and faultfinders; they follow their own evil desires; they boast about themselves and flatter others for their own advantage. Jude 11-16, (NIV).
Whenever a sentence starts with WOE to THEM I pay attention because I know that this type of person does not make God happy! Most of you know that Cain, the first-born of Adam and Eve, killed his brother Abel and was punished by God. I don’t want to be like Cain and I am sure you don’t either. But what was all this about Balaam (Numbers 31) and the Korah rebellion (Numbers 16)?
Well the story of Balaam is one of the most difficult stories in the Old Testament I think. God told Moses when the Promised Land was being cleared of the evil inhabitants to have all women and male children killed and only the virgins were to be brought back to camp as slaves. God knew that the women would lead the Israelite men into sin and away from the purity of the law. However the commanders of the soldiers did not obey and spared the women and children and brought them to the camp. The result of sin is always costly and we are to always obey God even though in this instance it seemed cruel.
The rebellion in the Korah Valley is another story of disobeying God and rebelling against the authority God had given to Moses. Leading the people out of Egypt brought many challenges to Moses but this time it was a group of men stirred up against Moses by Korah. Korah, his two friends Dathan and Abiram felt that Moses was not the only holy leader. The consequences of this rebellion was death to not only these men but their entire families as well.
From these reminders in the Old Testament we can see that God takes rebellion and sin very seriously. There are always real consequences awaiting those who do not take God seriously.
So these people who have infiltrated the Church today are described as clouds without rain, fruit trees without fruit, wild waves of the sea and stars that just drift in space! I think I am getting the picture that they are no good and have no good intentions in worshiping with me and with you. They are serving only their own wants and desires and not the desires of God. I think we must guard our hearts that we don’t become like these people. I love how Jude tells us that Enoch had foretold their coming and what would happen to them.
When Jesus comes back the holy people of God, we true Christians, will be coming with Jesus and we will become the judges of these wicked people! Wow! You can’t hide your wickedness from God and there will be a day of consequences for lives wasted. So how do we identify who is a real Christian and who is a slacker? I think it is by what they do or don’t do for other people.
Notice how Jude describes these people as clouds without water who are grumblers and always finding fault. Ouch! I know someone who grumbles and finds fault, or used to…it was me! I have confessed this sin and I am trying to overcome this bad habit and God is helping me to turn from grumbling and fault-finding to joy and rejoicing! I am so thankful for this warning from Jude because it has helped me tremendously in my life. I used to be boastful and brag too and I hate to admit it but I also flattered people to get something from them. I thought it was all part of being a good hostess and helping someone to build a career. I was wrong and I repented when I realized just how wrong these attitudes are. Again God has been merciful to me.
We could leave this message right here but I think that would be a mistake because Jude says something really important about how we are to conduct ourselves with others. Let’s keep reading and see what he has to say.
But, dear friends, remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ foretold. They said to you, “In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires.” These are the people who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit. But you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying 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. Be merciful to those who doubt; save others by snatching them from the fire; to others show mercy, mixed with fear—hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh. Jude 17-23, (NIV).
Jude makes it clear that the people who are clouds without rain are ungodly and their intention is to divide Christians and get them off track, get them as confused as they can so that the love we are commanded to have for one another is derailed. But we have a secret weapon to use against them because we have the Holy Spirit to aid us and to equip us every moment of every day. This is so important that we continue to show love to one another and to freely give grace and mercy to those who are confused or doubting or even in full-blown rebellion against God. Why? Because our actions speak louder than our words and our actions are the only words some people read.
Something to think about is how we are a walking testimony of the love of Jesus Christ for His own. With our testimony and the things we have experienced in life we just might be given the opportunity to snatch someone from the fires of Hell! Now that is worth thinking about!!! We must, however, be careful that we don’t become confused ourselves. We must be cautious of the sins of people we are giving our testimony to but not fearful of the person. We must continue to see that there is a soul in every person worth salvation and we must continue telling out salvation story in the hope of reaching that soul for Christ. God works miracles through us all the time. It is a miracle that I am saved and that you are saved, wouldn’t you say?
Until next time…Katherine