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Author:Rev. Ted Gray
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Congregation:First United Reformed Church
 Oak Lawn, Illinois
Title:Principles for Christian Living
Text:Jude 17-23 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Life in Christ

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

Pastor Ted Gray
07/31/2016 – a.m.
Principles for Christian Living”
Jude: 17-23
The picture that Jude paints in this short letter could be considered a very gloomy picture. For instance, he uses examples such as the captivity of Israel in Egypt and describes God’s judgment on them in the desert. He points out the immorality of Sodom and Gomorrah and cites them as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire for their sin. He describes the angels who fell with Satan, how they are kept in darkness, bound with everlasting chains for judgment on the great day.
And, using a number of metaphors, he describes the false teachers who have slipped into many a church, changing the grace of God into a license for immorality. He describes them as shepherds who feed only themselves, like clouds without rain, blown along by the wind; autumn trees, without fruit and uprooted – twice dead. He describes them as wild waves of the sea, foaming up their shame; wandering stars, for whom blackest darkness has been reserved forever.
But after warning us about God’s judgment, and after warning us about the prevalence and deceit of false teachers, he goes on in these verses to encourage us. He encourages us, first, by reminding us that the apostasy we see all around us is not unexpected but was foretold long ago. In verse 17 to 19 he points to the admonition of the apostles who foretold that “In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires.” He reminds us that we should not be shocked by the apostasy that is all around us. Rather, we are to expect it and see it as a verification of the truth of Scripture.
The Old Testament prophets had foretold great apostasy, as did the apostles, and also Jesus himself. In Matthew 24:10-14, Jesus, speaking about the end times, says: “Many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”
Is the end of the world as we know it now, close at hand? It would certainly seem that way by an observation of what is going on in the world. But when the biblical writers use the term last times (or last days), such as Jude does in verse 18, they use it to cover all the time from the first coming of Christ to his glorious return on the last day of history as we know it.
Each day is one day closer to that time when Jesus will return. And because of that the devil, in the words of Revelation 12:12, knows his time is short and works all the harder in the church to lead people astray with false teaching. Knowing that his time is short he works all the harder in the world to make it an ever more hostile place for every Christian.  And although no one knows the last day or hour, not even the Son, but only the Father (Matthew 24:36), it is wise to consider that each day is one day closer to the day Jesus will return to judge the living and the dead.
But Jude not only tells us that the apostasy we see in the church has been foretold in Scripture, but he also gives us some practical principles for Christian living. And each one of the principles helps to guard us from false teachers.
Principles to Live By
The first principle is there in verse 20 where he writes, Dear friends, build yourselves up in the most holy faith. The use of the word “faith” there is the same as in verse 3 when he tells us to “contend for the faith”.  He is referring to the whole scope of what God has revealed about himself to us. In other words, he is referring to the sacred writings of Holy Scripture. Another way to put that verse would be to understand it as saying, “Dear friends, build yourselves up in your knowledge of the Bible.”
It is through the faithful, consistent study of the word of God that we understand doctrine – biblical teaching – and that gives us the stability and strength to resist false teaching. In Ephesians 4 the Apostle Paul stresses our need to have knowledge of the Son of God, to become mature, to attain to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.  And he gives this reason why, in Ephesians 4:14, Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming.
It is that faithful study of the word of God that enabled the Bereans to discern whether the Apostle Paul was preaching the truth. After the Apostle Paul was run out of Thessalonica he escaped to the town of Berea. In Acts 17:11 we read, Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.
In a world that has so much hostility for Christianity, in a world that is filled with spiritual warfare, where Satan masquerades as an angel of light and his followers as preachers of righteousness, how crucial it is that you and I are faithful in our study of God’s word, and faithful in putting the word of God into practice in our day to day living!
If you don't have a special time of the day for reading God’s word, marking it, memorizing portions of it, and praying over it, then make it a priority to set that time aside. It will soon become the best part of the day, and it will strengthen you, guarding you from doubt, from the attacks of the evil one, and keeping you from being blown by every wind of teaching that comes from the many false teachers in the visible church today.
A second principle: Be a person of prayer. That is what the last part of verse 20 is talking about, when it says and pray in the Holy Spirit. This concept of “praying in the Holy Spirit” has often been misunderstood. Charismatic Christians say that it refers to praying in different tongues, that if we are truly filled with the Spirit then we will pray in a spiritual language, with the tongues of angels, not men.
However, to pray in the Holy Spirit doesn’t mean praying in tongues, but rather it refers to prayer that is done in harmony with the Holy Spirit. Just as the Holy Spirit’s work is necessary for our conversion, for our spiritual birth, so also the Holy Spirit’s indwelling presence in our lives is necessary for prayer. Romans 8:15, speaking about the Holy Spirit, says, For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”
Whenever you and I pray, the Trinity is involved. We pray to the Father in the name of the Son by the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit. Since God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit are all involved in true prayer, is it any wonder that prayer is the most powerful force in the entire world?
In prayer we not only have the intercession of Christ at the right hand of God the Father, but in prayer we also have the intercession of the Holy Spirit. Romans 8:26 points this out as it teaches: Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.
Prayer is so vital! It gives us direct access to the Author of salvation, to the eternal Creator of the universe, the One to whom we will spend eternity with. How important it is to cultivate communication with him now through prayer!
A third principle is there in verse 21 where he writes, Keep yourselves in God’s love. When you consider the magnitude of God’s love for us, that it cannot be measured, and that throughout all eternity we will be experiencing the greatness of that love, you might wonder why Jude would give us this command, Keep yourselves in God’s love.
If we really know the love of God in our lives, if we know the beauty and the power of that divine love, won’t we then naturally keep ourselves in that love? Unfortunately, it is possible for professing Christians to lose their first love, to lose their love for the very God who has revealed himself to them.
It was to the church at Ephesus that Paul wrote that beautiful letter where he described his prayer for them. He wrote, I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3:17b-19)
Yet it was also to the church at Ephesus that the apostle John, in Revelation 2:4, gave this warning from the Lord Jesus Christ: “.. I hold this against you: you have forsaken your first love.”
The world can get us so busy with its activities, the devil can be so persuasive with his temptations, and our own sinful flesh can be so prone to wander from the Lord, that every professing Christian needs to guard against forsaking their first love. Every professing Christian needs to use the means that God has given to us to keep us in God’s love.
Some of those means are the same as what we have already read in the previous verse. The faithful study of God’s word and fervent prayer go a long way in keeping us in the love of God. Our devotional life kindles our communication and love for the Lord and makes it ever stronger.
Husbands and wives, you know how important communication is in your marriage, don’t you?  You express your love with words as well as actions. You say that you are sorry, with words and actions. You express your plans, goals and desires together, and that communication fortifies and strengthens your marriage. By communicating with one another you grow in your love for each other.
And in a similar way our devotional life is our communication with God, keeping us in his love. In prayer we speak to him, expressing our love and also saying that we are sorry for our many sins. We put before him our plans and aspirations and seek his will on them asking that his will, and not ours, be done.
And he communicates to us. His word is a revelation of himself. The word became flesh and dwelt among us. His Holy Spirit lives within us, communicating and applying the written word of God to our hearts and lives. And as he does so, we are kept in the love of God.
Our devotional life also enables us to know God’s commands, and to strive to keep them, even though we do so imperfectly. Jesus taught that our obedience to his word is a barometer of our love for him. In John 15:9-11, Jesus said: “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.”
As we strive to keep ourselves in God’s love, living according to his word and communicating with him in prayer, we are also to wait for the mercy of the Lord to be fully revealed at the last day. That is a fourth principle for Christian living. Verse 21 concludes by saying, wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life.
But how are we to wait for the Lord? What type of lives should we live? What type of people should we be? Titus 2:12-13 tells us to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age while we wait for the blessed hope – the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. 2 Peter 3:11 adds, You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. 1 John 3:3 says, we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure.
When we focus on the Lord’s return, waiting for him to reveal the fullness of his mercy, then we have incentive to live godly, obedient lives of faith. It was the Puritan theologian and pastor, Jonathan Edwards, who wrote this resolution: “Resolved never to do anything which I would be afraid to do if it were the last hour of my life.” Would that type of resolution, if we really took it to heart, change your conduct and mine?
It is sometimes said that Christians are of no earthly good because they are so heavenly minded. But unfortunately, the reverse seems to be true most often, that professing Christians are so earthly minded that they do not focus as they should on the glory to be revealed – when the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ brings to us the fulfillment of the eternal life already begun within us.
Recipients of Mercy are to Show Mercy
In addition to those practical principles for Christian living, Jude also points out, in verse 22, that having experienced God’s mercy, we are to be merciful to others by, first, extending mercy to those who doubt. This is the first of three groups of people that Jude is telling us to be merciful to. The reference to those who doubt, is to those in the church who waver in their faith and question whether the false teachers are right.
These are people who perhaps are not grounded as solidly as they should be in Scripture. Or perhaps circumstances have come up in their lives that are hard, and they begin to doubt God’s goodness and faithfulness to them in the deep valleys of life. Perhaps they are struggling with a repetitive sin problem and the devil repeatedly tells them they cannot be saved because God would never love them because of their sin.
Because of these, and other reasons, many professing Christians have doubts. And Jude is telling us that we are to extend mercy to them. Michael Green, in his commentary on Jude writes, “A man who is flirting with false teaching is not to be 'sent to Coventry' by his Christian friends” – a British idiom meaning to ostracize someone; – “they must have him in to coffee and chat it over with him in love.”
When someone wanders from the truth, and begins to doubt, we so often react harshly to them instead of extending mercy by speaking the truth in love, with the prayer that they would not be filled with doubt, but have the blessed assurance of their salvation through faith in Jesus Christ alone.
Verse 23 also tells us to snatch others from the fire to save them. Jude is speaking about a second group of people, people who have acted on their doubts and have left the church and are listening to false teaching.
We are still to extend mercy to them, just as God extended mercy, beyond our comprehension, to us. But there is also urgency to guard them from going further into the false teaching, to guard them from apostasy, to guard them from the broad road that leads to destruction.
If you had known me in my younger years, I don’t imagine you would have ever called me to be your pastor. I’m glad that you didn’t know me back in those years when I was not only rebellious, but also very confused about what to believe concerning the Lord, at those times when I thought about him at all.  
I had a friend who was working his way through college, a straight “A” student with so much potential. He became a Jehovah's Witness. He dropped out of college, became a janitor, and used all his spare time to witness to others, including me.
He was a friend who I had worked with for a number of months; the people he brought with him to the little apartment where I lived at the time were all very friendly. They all talked about the Lord and they had this publication called The Watchtower. It was all about God, about Jehovah God, and I remember growing up in a church that had a blue Psalter hymnal with many Psalter selections about Jehovah. I was naïve enough, and foolish enough, to believe that maybe my friend and his Jehovah Witness friends really had the spiritual answers that I needed.
This was long before e-mail and cell phones. I had not been close to my mother or other family members. But I wrote my mother a letter telling her about what my friend was telling me about the Jehovah Witnesses and my interest in it. She wrote back immediately. I don't remember all the things she said word for word, but she was out to snatch her son from the fire in no uncertain terms! And along with her letter, maybe a day or two later, came that well known book by Anthony Hoekema, entitled, The Four Major Cults.
I still have the book. Over the course of the decades I’ve had opportunity to try to snatch others from the fire of the cults and their false teaching. And I’m very thankful that my mother, in effect, put verse 23 into action when she sent me that very blunt and powerful letter along with Anthony Hoekema’s book explaining why the Jehovah's Witnesses are indeed a major cult. I was, at that time in my life, an example of the second group of people that Jude is speaking about when he writes snatch others from the fire and save them.
But then he goes on to a third group of people in the last part of verse 23 when he writes, to others show mercy, mixed with fear – hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh. Many believe that he is referring to those who have completely left any thought of believing in the Lord. By his expression hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh he is telling us to hate the sin, but to be merciful to the sinner. He is also showing us the utter sinfulness of sin, that even the clothing is stained by corrupted flesh.
He cautions us to maintain a proper fear, lest we also would be caught up in the sinful conduct and false doctrine of a person who has completely left the faith. The warning is, in some senses, similar to the warning of Galatians 6:1, Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted.
* * *
Should we be surprised by all the false teaching in the church? Should this discourage us to the point where we just give up? Is the hostility of the world and the apostasy of the church too great a burden for Christians to bear?
Not according to Jude, and not according to the Scripture he was inspired to write. He reminds us, Dear friends – beloved  – 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.”
­We should expect to see apostasy in the church. We should expect the hostility of the world toward true Christianity. It proves the accuracy and truthfulness of Scripture. But may each one of us also use the practical principles for Christian living given to us in these verses, for our own spiritual good, for God’s glory, and also to reach out in mercy to those who doubt, and those who are going down the broad road that leads to destruction. Amen.


                                      - bulletin outline -


But you, dear friends, 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. - Jude: 20-21
                           “Principles for Christian Living”
                                              Jude: 17-23
I. After warning about false teachers (3-16) Jude encourages us by reminding us
   that the apostasy we see all around us is not unexpected but was foretold long
   ago (17-19; Matthew 24:10-14)
II. He also tells us how to guard ourselves from false teachers:
      1) Build yourselves up in the most holy faith (20a) by studying the Bible
          (Acts 17:11; 20:32)
      2) Pray in the Holy Spirit (20b), not meaning with tongues but in harmony with the
          Holy Spirit who intercedes for us (Romans 8:15, 26)
      3) Keep yourselves in God’s love (21a; John 15:9-10; Revelation 2:4; 3:16)
      4) Wait for the mercy of the Lord to be fully revealed (21b) at the last day (Titus 2:11-14)
III. Having experienced God’s mercy, we are to be merciful to others by:
      1) Extending mercy to those who doubt (22), meaning those who waver in their
          faith and question whether the false teachers are right 
      2) Snatching others from the fire to save them (23a), meaning those who
          have left the church and are listening to false teaching
      3) Showing mercy mixed with fear to those who have completely left the faith,
          hating the sin, but being merciful to the sinner (23b,c)


* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2016, Rev. Ted Gray

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