April is L-Plate month, where I’ve turned over this website to my students. They are studying an introductory preaching subject this semester, and writing for this website is part of their assessment, as well as a learning exercise for them. I’m hoping you’ll interact with them a bit via the comments function at the bottom of each post, offering some feedback. (Particularly, feedback that’s constructive or affirming – they’ve got me to deliver the negative stuff! Remember, some of them will never have preached before, and some have English as their second language.) They will then incorporate this feedback in a sermon they present in class at the end of semester.
Today, we continue in Jude.
Jude 17-21 | Adam Smyth
17 But, dear friends, remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ foretold. 18 They said to you, “In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires.” 19 These are the people who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit. 20 But you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, 21 keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life.
Well, it’s fair to say Jude is not happy!
Throughout his letter to date, Jude has given his readers a strong warning to contend for the faith that has been entrusted to them as God’s people. The reason for this warning is that false teachers had entered their fellowship, polluting the truth of the gospel and living in a way which is contrary to what God desires. In fact, so serious is the behaviour of these “ungodly people”, that Jude says they “deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord” (v4).
These are people who live a life of ‘cheap grace’, wanting all the eternal benefits of belonging to Jesus, but living their lives in immorality, boasting about themselves for their own advantage and following their own evil desires. They want the blessings, sure, they’re just not so keen on the obedience to Jesus bit. It is into this situation that Jude writes his letter. Jude reminds his audience of the outcome of those in the past who were placed in positions of privilege, yet because they were disobedient and didn’t believe God, they removed themselves from their position of blessing and were judged (v5-10). And now, the same danger is present, and if things don’t change, the outcome will be the same also.
Ok, take a deep breath. It gets better!
In verse 17, Jude changes focus from the disobedient to those who are his “dear friends”, the ones truly living for Jesus in the way they conduct their lives.
Now fast forward to Australia in 2015. Our situation is not dissimilar to what Jude faced. We live in a world full of opinions, teachings, religions and competing world views where it’s all about ‘what’s in it for me’ and ‘how I can get ahead and satisfy myself’? With all that going on around us, how on earth can we stand strong in our relationship with Jesus, let alone grow and thrive and be a positive influence to those around us to the glory of God?
Jude gives us four ways to do this in verse 20 and 21, so let’s now turn our attention to how Jude wants us to respond.
Build yourselves up in your most holy faith
This involves a complete surrender of our thoughts, actions, will, emotions, desires, finances, indeed entrusting every area of our lives to Jesus. True transformation comes not from us, but by the Holy Spirit. He sanctifies us (2 Thess. 2:13), He produces good fruit in our lives (Gal. 4:22-23) and He shapes us so we desire the things He desires (Rom. 8:5). This is great news! God does not expect us to do it all ourselves. He helps us! Our job is to surrender to Him and ask Him to change us for our benefit and for His glory.
Praying in the Holy Spirit
Prayer is critical in the life of the believer. Relationships involve communication and conversation, and prayer is one of the main ways we can share communion with our Father. As Christians, the Holy Spirit lives in us, so praying in the Spirit includes praying in line with what He desires and how He leads us to pray. Whether using the gift of tongues or using earthly language, the focus is on Jesus and His love for us and for all people, praying for His will to become manifest in our lives and the lives of our communities. What an exciting privilege prayer is! How amazing that God loves to talk to us! A strong and consistent prayer life will help us to grow in the things of God.
Keep yourselves in God’s love
God is love (1 John 4:16). There is no better place for us to be than in God’s love! But how can we keep ourselves in God’s love? In John 15:9-11 Jesus gives us the answer. We are to keep His commands. And this is not to be done as a reluctant obligation, but instead as a passionate response to the incredible love our Father has poured out on us. Jesus tells us this so that our “joy may be complete” (John 15:11). Jesus knows that total obedience to Him ultimately leads to our complete joy! Growing in the knowledge of the love of God for us is crucial in staying focused on Jesus in our lives. The more we fall in love with Jesus, the more we will honestly desire to make Him happy. The overflow of this reality results in obedience.
Wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life
The promise of eternal life is secure for all who believe in Jesus (John 3:16). Sometimes life is, well, hard! Let’s be honest. Things don’t always go the way we want them to. Sometimes things seem so unfair. Whenever we face difficulty (and indeed when we are in times of incredible blessing too), we must remember that a day will come when we will see Jesus face to face. In the age to come, we will spend eternity in the very presence of God, experiencing Him fully and enjoying Him forever. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain (Rev. 21:4). Just sheer joy and delight in the presence of God. When times get tough, when opposition rises all around, the truth of our eternal life with God will keep us strong in our faith as we await Jesus to return.
Lord Jesus, thank You that You want me to live a life of victory that gives me great joy and brings You great glory. Please forgive me for all the times I have not been obedient to You. Holy Spirit, I ask that You grow me and transform me, so that I can live the way You want me to live. May my life always be for Your purposes Father. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.