Today I have been thinking about how difficult it really is to live life as a Christ follower. Now more than any other time in my life I see my nation’s people moving away from God and into a realm of scoffing at the things of God. As a Christian living in the middle of the country and being older I don’t often run into someone who makes fun of my beliefs so when I do, I find it rather baffling. In our society it seems that those who are firmly grounded in Christ are seen as ignorant and in need of enlightenment. Well I read recently in a tiny book in the New Testament something that made me sit up and take notice, take a look.
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, (New International Version or NIV).
This generation is not the first to see people scoff at the things of God. I think that when I read the Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, I always felt that Jesus was talking to his disciples about what they would face in their lifetime. After all they faced beatings, prison, and death because of their unwavering love for Christ. I never really thought of the fact that Jesus’s warnings of the hatred for Christians as being something that would happen in my lifetime. I never thought that there would be a day when being a Christian would cause me my life or you yours. And yet for many in this world that day has come. The apostles took the teachings of Jesus literally and they experienced some difficult times and obviously continued to warn the next generation that there would be times of trouble. And not only are there those who hate Christ but some have actually infiltrated the Church and are trying to change doctrine to their way of thinking and not God’s way of thinking. In fact if you read the whole book of Jude which is only twenty-five verses you see this pretty well laid out. While it is comforting to me to know that my generation is not the only generation to face unbelievers in God or Jesus Christ I also wonder if my church is teaching correctly. I think perhaps we all need to be mindful of what is taught in our churches and check it against what the Bible says to see if we are being taught the true Gospel and not a false one. But who has time for that, you might ask. Your soul may depend upon your taking the time to see if what you are being taught is correct in accordance with the Bible teachings.
There are some clues in this passage. First of all These are the people who divide you. If the preaching in your church is argumentative then you might be in a church that isn’t teaching clearly. I always think of those who love to gossip and love to run down the elders and/or pastors as divisive. They can certainly cause some real problems in a church and often are the instigators of a church split. They are not from God. I repeat, they are not Christians because they are instigators of division. Here’s another clue: follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit. If your leaders are more concerned about the building fund or potluck dinner than your soul they are following the natural instincts of pride and greed and self-preservation. Pastors or elders or leaders of your church who show themselves to be no different in their daily lives than a typical non-Christian are probably not going to be in heaven either. The interest in seeking the truth, preaching the truth, and being very clear in their love for one another within the church is a person of character, integrity, honesty, and loving. And if they are not loving to everyone and just to those who are the cream of society then you cannot trust them as your leader. I am thankful that my church is a Bible-believing and teaching church. I have not seen divisiveness in their teaching and preaching. I have not seen them think of their own self first before others. That doesn’t mean that my church is perfect, though. We have had some problems but I see the leadership doing a good job in bringing things under control. You see our senior pastor left a few months ago and joined the United States Navy to be a chaplain. We have had some difficulty finding a good replacement and I am thankful that the elders in my church have taken their time and done some good background work on potential candidates. We will have a new pastor soon and he seems to be rather solid in his teaching so I am pleased. Churches can go through some tough times and yet still be teaching truth and I am thankful that my church is staying faithful to the Bible. I hope your church is staying true and faithful as well.
We can continue to look at the rest of this passage and see that living with clarity is something we must do for the rest of our life here on earth regardless of what our culture teaches. We are to keep building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit. We do this by keeping ourselves well-grounded in what the Bible teaches by reading and studying the Bible. And we are to pray with the Holy Spirit’s help and guidance. Never underestimate the Holy Spirit’s help in building our faith because remember it is the Holy Spirit that resides within us (John 14:16, Romans 8:9). There is something more that we can do, however, and that is keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life. We are to not only be the recipient of God’s love but we are to pass that love on to others, even to those who are causing us problems, and to our enemies (Matthew 5: 43-58). We are also to Be merciful to those who doubt; because we all grow spiritually differently. We also all go through times of doubt and need time and understanding as we read and study God’s word to find clarity which takes our doubt away. We can also save others by snatching them from the fire; and we can do this by helping those who are doubting to work through their concerns. We can also help the lost to learn that Jesus Christ has a better way to live life. And to others show mercy, mixed with fear—hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh. Showing mercy is always a better way to live but we need to be careful when we are being merciful. Sometimes the person we are trying to show mercy to is not a safe person for us to be around and we may be harmed while having direct contact with them. Love the sinner but hate the sin so that you are not sucked into their sinfulness is probably a good paraphrase here. A good example is if you used to drink alcohol and developed alcoholism and then try to help your friend who is sitting in a bar drinking alcohol. You need to be sure that you don’t put yourself in a situation that may cause you harm. Living with clarity really is simple when you break it down like the little letter of Jude has done for us. I love that, don’t you? We need to keep studying God’s word, keep loving with God’s love, and keep praying with the Holy Spirit’s help, show mercy, and be careful when having direct contact with sinners.