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Author:Rev. Jeremy Segstro
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Congregation:Cloverdale Canadian Reformed Church
 Surrey, BC
 cloverdalecanrc.org
 
Title:How Then Shall We Live in These Last Days?
Text:Jude 17-25 (View)
Occasion:New Years Eve
Topic:Unclassified
 
Added:2023-01-25
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Reading: Jude

Text: Jude 17-25

 

HOW THEN SHALL WE LIVE IN THESE LAST DAYS?

  1. Those Who Would Take Us Down

  2. How We Must Build Each Other Up

  3. The One Who Builds Us All Up

 

  1. Psalm 65: 1, 2, 6

  2. Psalm 53: 1, 2, 5

  3. Psalm 12: 1, 4, 5

  4. Take My Life: 1, 2, 5, 6

  5. Hymn 13: 1, 5

  6. Hymn 8

 

Words to Listen For: especially, arrow, bridegroom, dirt, resolution

 

Questions for Understanding:

  1. Is Jude written to you or for you? (this MIGHT be a trick question)

  2. How does Satan work in the church?

  3. What are the 5 battle plans that Jude tells us?

  4. Fill in the blanks: the early church was not watching for an ______________ but an ___________.

  5. Describe our only hope.

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


Beloved congregation of Jesus Christ,

We are living in the last days.  It’s true!

We are living in the days when Jesus Christ could come at any moment.  He might come back before I finish preaching this very sermon.

And, I truly hope He does.  Not because I’m not pleased with this sermon, but because His bodily presence, His return, is far better than anything I could ever write.

But we the church, here in _______  (year) …are living in the last days.

Now, one of you might ask…how do you know this?  Is it because of the solar eclipses and blood moons?

  • The sun shall be turned to darkness, and the moon to blood before that great and awesome day of the Lord (Joel 2)

    • No, that’s not it.

  • Or maybe because we’ve seen the mark of the beast?  The mark that we need in order to buy and sell?

    • No, that’s not it at all.

But I am convinced that we are in the last days.

And my reasoning for this might be a little disappointing to you.

 

My reasoning is that we are living after the ascension of Jesus Christ.  It’s that simple.

We are living in the last age of this earth.  The age between the time Jesus ascended, and the time He will descend again on the clouds, with glory.

There are 6 great events - 6 great theological and historical events that CHANGED EVERYTHING.

He came

He lived

He conquered

He ascended

He built His church

These 5 have happened, and we are getting closer, every day, to the 6th great event - He will return again!

This is the year of our Lord _______  (year).  And I really mean that.  It’s not just a nice way to keep track of time.

_______  (year) really is the year of our Lord.  This world belongs to Him.  He is the great ruler, the king of kings, and what He is doing, is that, every year, every day, every second…heaven is coming closer to earth.  There will be another great invasion, and as His church…as His ambassadors, as His co-regents…we have to be ready.

And so, at the beginning of _______  (year), the year of our Lord…the question comes:

HOW THEN SHALL WE LIVE IN THESE LAST DAYS?  We will see

  1. Those Who Would Take Us Down,

  2. How We Must Build Ourselves Up, and finally

  3. The One Who Builds Us All Up

 

How Then Shall We Live in These Last Days?  Those Who Would Take Us Down

Our text this morning begins with these words: But you

And we think, justifiably so, that this is a change of subject.

As we know, from our reading, that Jude has just been warning about false teachers invading the church.

And Jude does not mince words when he speaks about them:

  • They are hidden reefs at your love feasts

  • Shepherd feeding themselves

  • Waterless clouds

  • Fruitless trees

  • Grumblers, malcontents, following their own sinful desires

  • Loud mouthed boasters, showing favoritism to gain advantage

Tell us how you REALLY FEEL Jude!

But then our text.  And we read

But you

And we think that, now, after the warning, we are going to receive some practical advice.

This was all about THEM…now it’s about YOU.  Never mind THEM…now YOU.

But this is a bit of a false start.  Jude DOES get there, but not for another few verses.  In verse 20, Jude finds the thread again.

But we’re not there quite yet.

Now, it’s useful for us to recognize that the letter before us isn’t the type of letter that Jude originally wanted to write.  This letter of warning, of encouragement in the difficulty of outward attacks by false teachers, and inward attacks by the devil.

We read this in verse 3 - Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.

Jude wanted to talk about the glorious blessings we have in Jesus Christ…but circumstances got in the way.  He was WORRIED for the early church.

And so he writes, urging believers, all believers, even us today, to STAND FIRM even when they want you to FALL.  ESPECIALLY WHEN they want you to fall.

This is a letter that is written both TO YOU and FOR YOU.  Because Jude is written to believers in the end times.  In these last days.

  • There will be false teachers - true in the 1st century, true in the 21st. 

  • Believers will be weak and start falling away and we have to help them - true in the 1st century, true in the 21st.

  • We have to rely on the power of God above all - He will preserve and protect us - true in the 1st, true in the 21st.

Verse 17 - But you must remember, beloved, the predictions of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ.  They said to you, “In the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions.”  It is these who cause divisions, worldly people, devoid of the Spirit.

And we ask ourselves…WHY did the Apostles say this?  Why was this their warning?  And why does Jude urge the church to remember this warning in particular?

You MUST remember

The ESV has it right here - this isn’t some kind of off-hand remembering, but an active remembering.  A living in remembrance.

You MUST REMEMBER.  This is important!

And why?

 

Well, it might seem obvious, and a little anticlimactic, but we must remember so that we are not surprised by what is happening.  We must remember that when we are opposed, this is not something new.  This is not something to panic about.  We should not PANIC, but rather, we should be PREPARED.

This has happened before.  This has happened to the people of Israel.  Time after time false teachers infiltrated and turned the people away from true worship of Yahweh, to the worship of false gods, and to false worship of the true God. Turning them to blasphemy and rebellion.

This has happened before.  It has even happened in God’s own throneroom.  HEAVEN ITSELF was not a place free from rebellion and corruption.  While gazing at the eternal, glorious, perfect beauty of God, Satan decided to rebel.  Through his falsehoods, his lies, his blasphemies, he caused a third of the angels to fall.

It is not something new for false teachers to corrupt God’s people.  We must be on our guard.  We must not be surprised.

We MUST REMEMBER that the Apostles, when given a chance to peer into the future of the church, saw apostasy.  They saw rebellion.  They saw scoffers who followed their own hearts instead of the Word of God.

And what do these people want?  Nothing less than the destruction of the church.  These people who follow their wicked hearts and their own desires…who do you think they are REALLY FOLLOWING?  Who do you think has put those wicked desires in their hearts?  It is Satan, and his desire is nothing less than the destruction of the church.  To reclaim God’s children for himself, and turn us back into enemies of God, undoing the church-gathering work of the Spirit.

And how does he seek to accomplish this?

 

Well, beloved, the devil is crafty.  He does not fully reveal himself or his plan, but cloaks it all in deception.

Through his agents, wolves in sheep’s clothing, he sows seeds of discontentment.  He sows seeds of division.  Because when the church fights itself, Satan doesn’t have to.  If he can turn the church against itself:

  • If he can bring in false teaching, the church will not be fed or strengthened.

  • If he can stir up feelings of hatred in the place of love

  • If he can bring in an “us vs them” mentality

  • If he can cause us to lean on our own understanding

  • If he can make our feelings and emotions of the UTMOST IMPORTANCE and stop us from preaching to our own soul

Then he has already won.  If these things are present and active in a congregation…then it is only a matter of time.

Only a matter of time before the congregation implodes, collapsing in on itself, making a mockery of the image of the pure bride of Christ Jesus.

So what can we do?  As we look out at this new year, 365 days, each of them filled with opportunity, opportunity for great good or great evil…how can we NOT be filled with panic and fear?  What if this is US?  In THIS PLACE?  Has Satan already sowed these seeds?  Has he already won?

Well…aren’t you glad that Jude has 6 more verses to it?  6 more verses that give us hope and strength?  6 more verses that give us a battle plan against the evil one?  All is not lost.  There IS HOPE.  For darkness does not have the victory, and darkness will not have the ultimate victory against the church.  For we must remember, not only the warning of the Apostles, but the promise of our Saviour - on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. 

THE GATES OF HELL SHALL NOT PREVAIL AGAINST THE CHURCH.

So…what are we to do in the light of these attacks?  We have to stand and fight!  We have to stand together, for if we do not stand together, we will fall apart.  Our second point.

But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life.

Ah.  Now we are back on track.

But YOU…no matter THEM…YOU.

Do not be surprised that Satan is plotting.

Do not be surprised that the corruption is coming from within the house of God.

Do not panic

Do not despair and give up…

BUT YOU BELOVED

This opposition WILL HAPPEN.  It’s not IF, but WHEN…so BE PREPARED!

And what does the Holy Spirit tell us to do?

Hunker down and be suspicious of any change?

Should we put up big walls around the church?  Looking out through the arrow slits, seeing how other Christians in other churches worship, and treat them with disdain and suspicion, thinking that anything that isn’t exactly how we do it is then automatically FROM THE DEVIL?

No!  This kind of suspicion and rigidity is the opposite of what we are instructed here.

Tradition will not save us.

Being in the “right Federation” will not save us.

Jude is warning us, the Spirit is warning us - don’t do what the Israelites did!  Finding their identity in the fact that Abraham’s blood flows through their veins!  He doesn't want us to build a wall around ourselves, but instead, we must build ourselves up as Christians.  Our primary identity is that of being bought with the precious blood of Christ.  He is our ONLY SAVIOUR.

But you, beloved, building yourself up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life.  And have mercy on those who doubt.

What must we do?  Each and every one of us must have a LIVING FAITH.

5 practical parts of the battle plan according to Jude.  5 practical parts for US TO STAND when there are those who are falling away:

  • Build yourselves up in your faith

  • Pray in the Holy Spirit

  • Keep yourselves in the love of God

  • Wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ

  • Show mercy to those who struggle

 

Part 1: Build Yourself Up in Your Faith

It’s interesting, isn’t it…that Jude says your faith rather than the faith.

This is different than the language he used to start the book, verse 3 - I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for THE FAITH that was once for all delivered to the saints.

So why this change?  It’s subtle, but it’s important.

This subtle change is Jude’s whole argument here: THE FAITH has to become YOUR FAITH.  It’s not your grandmother’s faith, it’s not your pastor’s faith, it’s not your teacher’s faith…it’s not just THE FAITH anymore…it needs to become YOUR FAITH.

You have to build yourself up in YOUR FAITH.  Make it personal, and then make it STRONG.

But how can we do this?  How can we make our faith strong?

But you, beloved.

In contrast to those who are falling away…YOU must stand firm.

In an environment of lies and manipulations, we must stand firm in the truth.  We must stand firm on the word of God.

This year, beloved, LIVE in the Word.  In this day and age, there is so much Biblical IGNORANCE, or even Biblical ILLITERACY.  Let this not be us.  Let this not be our church.  We need to be people of the book.  Children of the Word.

This is the only way that we will not be fooled by “sheep costumes.”  The only way that we will not be fooled by “shepherd costumes.”

When you live in the Word, when you eat and drink the Word of God as food and drink for your hungry and thirsty soul, you will KNOW when a false teaching is presented.

Look to Jesus in the wilderness as your example.  Satan, the master tempter twisted even Scripture to get Jesus to fall, but our Lord knew the truth, and He resisted the Devil with the power of the Word.  He knew what was right and He did not waver, not even for a moment.

Be true readers of the Word, true hearers and doers of the Word.  God has given it to each and every one of us, and so, do not blindly accept what anyone says about the Word of God.  READ IT FOR YOURSELF!  Do not even blindly accept what I say about the Word!

Take a page out of the book of one of the members of my congregation.  There is a member of my congregation who faithfully calls me every week to ask what I am preaching on for Sunday so that he can read the text before so that he can prepare for the Lord’s Day.  This is AMAZING!  I love it!

My desire, my true desire is to be faithful to the Word, to properly feed you, week in and week out…and it would be such a wonderful gift if you would help me in that desire.  Help me in that goal.

Challenge me, sharpen me and my understanding of the Word.  Correct me when I am wrong, encourage me when I am right. Sharpen me as I seek to sharpen you.

This is our first defense - the Word of God.  Strengthening our faith by living in the light of the Word of God.

 

And our second defense is PRAYER.  Praying in the Holy Spirit

Now, this is not a special kind of prayer, praying in tongues or anything like that, but rather, this is praying in the light of all of that reading that we just did.

People of the Word need to also be people of prayer.  And this is because the Christian life is a conversation.  Back and forth.

That’s what our liturgy is as well.  Every Sunday.  Have you noticed?  Our liturgy is designed in a conversational responsive way.

Our God welcomes us into worship,

We respond by confessing our dependence upon Him.

He blesses us,

We respond by singing praises to Him.

He tells us His holy law,

We respond in singing and a prayer of confession.

He speaks to us in Scripture,

We respond in singing.

Again and again, back and forth.

And this “back and forth” must happen each day of our lives, not just on Sundays.

When we read Scripture, this is God speaking to us,

Now we must speak to Him.

We must eat and drink His Word, and we must BREATHE out prayers.

And when we pray, we must acknowledge what prayer really is.

When we pray, we must pray - YOUR WILL BE DONE, not “my will be done.”

We must pray “God, please enlighten my mind.  Please let my desires match your desires.  Let your will be done, and let me be part of that will.”

It isn’t wrong to bring our desires to God, but let our strongest desire be for HIS WILL to be done, not for OUR WILL to be done.

We must pray for ourselves and for the church.  For we cannot love the bridegroom and hate His bride.  If we love God, we must also love His church.  And so pray for the church.  Pray for the congregation, pray for the elders, pray for the deacons, pray for me!  Pray that Satan’s schemes may be stopped in their tracks.  That the preaching and teaching might be faithful.

Pray that our evil desires may NOT be granted but that they might be transformed.  Pray that there would be unity and peace.  Pray that there would be patience, grace, and love.

 

This is our second defense.  And our third is to keep ourselves in the love of God.

Now, this does not mean that we must EARN our salvation.  This doesn’t mean that we have to do enough good deeds this year for God to love us.  Because that’s not how God’s love works.  That’s not how any of this works.  The gospel, God’s love, the church.  It’s not about EARNING anything.  It’s ALL GRACE.  Every breath we breathe is grace.

So…what then does it mean to keep ourselves in the love of God?

It means to keep our eyes fixed on the life-changing fact that God loves us.

That’s why I call you beloved.  In every sermon - beloved.

In Jude - this is written to you, those who are called, those who are BELOVED in God the Father, and kept for Jesus Christ.

We are those loved by God.  When we accept this fact, when we accept this label - LOVED BY GOD - then…when we spend our time in the Word of God, when we spend our time praying that His will would be done IN the church and THROUGH the church, and we see ourselves as those forever loved by God…

Then the things of this earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.

Then Satan’s temptations will show themselves to be what they are - foolish and ridiculous.  I’m going to trade in an eternity with God, fellowship with Him in this amazing Garden…for a piece of FRUIT?  You must be crazy.  Get outta here.

We can do that, you know.  We can, and we should, regularly take time to LAUGH at Satan.  At his tricks.  When we see them for what they are…for how pathetic what he offers is compared to what we already have in God…we SHOULD laugh at him.  But to do this, we have to see him for what he truly is.

And let’s be clear - OUR LAUGHTER will not bring Satan down.  OUR LAUGHTER will not give us the ultimate victory.  That victory is found only in the power of God.  As Jude wrote earlier - even the archangel Michael, when he was disputing with the devil about the body of Moses, did not himself dare to condemn him for slander but said, “The Lord rebuke you!”

We depend solely on the power and authority of our Lord.

 

And that takes us to our fourth defense - waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life.

We must always be looking heavenward.  This, we will hear more this afternoon.  That, as children of light, we must live in the light of the Day of the Lord.

Waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ…this is waiting for His RETURN.  His return that is full of GLORY, but also full of MERCY.  His return is an act of mercy - to put an end to all the evil.  To put an end to those who would attack His church.

We have to keep a weather eye to the horizon.  We have to keep our ear tuned to the sound of the trumpet blast when the Lord will descend.

This is something the early church was very good at.

One scholar counted 1 845 times that the second coming is spoken of, or alluded to in the New Testament.

It’s not going to be a never-ending battle with the false teachers, it will not be a never-ending battle with Satan…this too will pass.  This will pass, and glory will descend.

This is how the preacher Alexander MAcLaren described the perspective of the early church…let this be OUR PERSPECTIVE TOO in _______  (year):

The early church though more about the second coming of Jesus Christ than about death or Heaven.  They were not looking for a cleft in the ground called the grave, but for a cleavage in the sky called glory.  They were not watching for the undertaker but for the uppertaker.

They were not watching for the UNDERTAKER but for the UPPERTAKER.  I love that.  Eagerly waiting for our ascension, not fearing the grave.

 

And finally, we must, as the church, show mercy to those who struggle.  This is our final defense.

You see, the first four defenses have us looking inward.  At our own spiritual life.  And this is important.  Remember, it is YOUR FAITH.  It must be PERSONAL.  It must be real TO YOU.

But none of us are individual Christians.  We are those who have been gathered together.  We must care for one another.  We must show mercy to those who struggle.  Show mercy to those who doubt.

Verse 22 - And have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire; to other show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh.

When we encounter those who are weak in their faith, those who are really struggling - and we all struggle at times - we must show MERCY.  We must show LOVE.  Those who are wavering and doubting, those who are on the fringes…we must show them that same mercy that we have been shown.  Because who are these people?  They are those who are SAVED, but not SECURE.  They are those who are CONVERTED, but not CONFIDENT.  These are those who are being attacked by Satan and his servants.

Come together.  Rally around them.  Do not heap scorn or disdain on them, but come alongside them.  Meet them where they are.  Kneel down in the dirt with them as Jesus did to the woman caught in adultery.  Show mercy.  And in that mercy, be gentle, but also firm.

Save others by snatching them out of the fire - be like the angel to Lot and his family when they were to flee Sodom and Gomorrah

Genesis 19 - As morning dawned, the angels urged Lot, saying, “Up! Take your wife and your two daughters who are here, lest you be swept away in the punishment of the city.”  But he lingered.  So the men seized him and his wife and his two daughters by the hand, the Lord being merciful to him, and they brought him out and set him outside the city.  And as they brought them out, one said, “Escape for your life. Do not look back or stop anywhere in the valley. Escape to the hills, lest you be swept away.”

This is how serious it is, beloved.  This is how serious it is to live in sin.  It’s not “just” alcoholism.  It’s not “just” a pornography addiction.  It’s not “just” bitterness or “just” gossip.

These are sins that lead to DEATH.

You know, it’s been said that it’s not falling into water that drowns you…it’s staying in it.  It’s lying in it.  It’s consuming it.  Exactly the same with sin.

We ALL sin.  But the question is: do we LIVE IN SIN?

Or are we struggling against it?  Are we fighting it with all our strength?  Asking for help when we can’t fight alone, confessing our sins to one another, having confidence that we will receive MERCY?

Do we see how important this is?

Save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh.

Sin corrupts and so we must remove EVERY TRACE.  Fight the big sins, fight the little sins…this year…CLEAN HOUSE.

The little sins that have set up shop…act like Jesus in the temple with the money changers.  Overturn tables, THROW THEM OUT OF YOUR LIFE.  They have no business there.  You are a child of God.  Your body is His temple.  It is meant to be a house of prayer.  Take a firm line with your sins…because…if you aren’t killing sin…be certain that sin is killing you!

Now…if this is where we left it this morning, I think a lot of us would feel as though we are set up for failure.  If the message is “TRY HARDER” then…good luck to us.  But that’s not the gospel, is it?  Our lives aren’t meant to be spent trying to be good.  Church isn’t a place where we learn how to BEHAVE.  And so, in our final point, we gain strength and confidence in the One who builds us all up.

The end of this letter is one of the most beautiful doxologies ever written in Scripture.  Jude ends his letter with a message of comfort and hope, a message glorifying our God.

Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of His glory with great joy, to the only God, our Saviour, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time, and now and forever.  Amen.

Jude has now moved the battle up to the heavenly realm.  The place where the TRUE POWER IS.

He has moved from THEM, to YOU, and finally now to HIM.

He is the one who is able to keep you from stumbling.

Because…as much as we must work hard to live in the five instructions of Jude: living in the Word, living in prayer, living in the love of God, anticipating the mercy of Christ, showing mercy to those around us…these things are almost like a spiritual new years resolution.  WE WILL FAIL.

We will fail, no matter how hard we try, because we are not perfect.  Because we are not blameless.  Because we are weak.  We listen to Satan instead of laugh at him.  We are deceived.

And that is why our hope is not in ourselves.  Our hope is in Jesus Christ, our only Saviour!

He is the one who will PRESERVE us.

To Him who is able to keep you from stumbling

This does not mean that we will not sin.  This does not mean that we will not sin.  But it does mean that, depending on Jesus Christ…we will never FALL AWAY.  This means that we will never outsin His grace.

There will never be a moment in _______  (year) when you sin, and go to God for forgiveness and He tells you “no.”

What this means is that EVERY SIN is met with mercy.  Every sin is met with love.  Every sin is met with forgiveness.  Every sin is washed away by the blood of Jesus.

He is ABLE to keep you from stumbling, and He WILL keep you from stumbling.

As His child, He will not let you go.  No matter how you sin, no matter how you rebel against Him, He will not lose any of those the Father has given to Him.  This is a promise that we can depend on.  A promise that we can build our life on.

Nothing that we do, nothing that Satan does can take us from His love.

He will PRESERVE US, no matter what comes this year.

He will PRESERVE US, and He will PRESENT US.

Keep a weather eye on the horizon.  Because there will be a day, sooner now than ever before, our Saviour will return.  The final stage of our redemption will be complete, and we will be caught up in the air with Him, transformed, finally sinless, finally blameless, finally perfectly holy, perfectly happy, with all sin sent to eternal destruction.

We will be PRESENTED AS HOLY.

Can you imagine...just imagine with me.

One day, maybe this year…a trumpet blast.  A trumpet blast that is heard around the world.  Those who are sleeping will be woken up.

The clouds will be parted, and our Lord will descend.  He will descend in glory, His clothes brighter than light.  Glorified, but still with our flesh, still with the wounds in His hand and side, the only scars that will be there in heaven.

He will descend and we will rise.  We will be caught up with Him in the air, and in the twinkling of an eye, we will be transformed.  Our souls will be purified.  Our bodies will be made incorruptible, and we will all appear at the judgement seat.  That great white throne.

And we need not fear.  Because there our Lord and Saviour will speak for us - “Father.  This is my church.  These are MY PEOPLE.

Look at them, pure and holy.  Examine them, you will find no flaw in my bride.  Her sins have been taken away.  Her weaknesses have been strengthened.  Look Father, these are those that I love.  These are those that I have saved.”

He will preserve us in His love until the day that He presents us in His glory.

This day is our motivation.

This God is our strength.

This Lord is our hope.

And this is the year of our Lord, _______  (year).  Let us live for Him, all our days, until time gives way into eternity.

AMEN.




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

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