It didn’t take long. Less than 70 years into church history and there were those who wanted to water down the Word of God and the call to personal holiness. And others who wanted to add things to the requirements for salvation and Christian living.
In 25 verses Jude’s epistle called believers to contend for the truth. It still does today.
Sadly, many still prefer to teach only the easy to swallow parts … those things that don’t make anyone uncomfortable or the Christian life seem too hard? And others claim that something else is necessary.
Take away the wicked from before the king, and his throne will be established in righteousness. Because, as Paul said, bad company corrupts good morals.
Anyone who thinks the Bible is an old dusty book with little current application has only to read the book of Proverbs and other passages in light of today’s headlines. Just consider the growing list of those accused of sexual immorality, greed, and corruption:
Hollywood elite who looked the other way as directors and other powerful men preyed on young women.
The perpetrators themselves.
Politicians who have been corrupted by power, position and the ability to spend tax-payer dollars to cover their indiscretions.
Others afraid or unwilling to criticize, perhaps wondering if they’ll be the next to be outed or accused.
Women who have been willing to tolerate abuses to get what they wanted (yes, some were naive or fearful, but do we really believe all of them were mere victims).
Those willing to use money and favor, if not, out and out bribery, to get a desired outcome.
Those willing to accept it.
Politicians and media people willing to stack elections in favor of one candidate or the other; one party or the other.
And many other examples.
But bad influences don’t just exist in politics and the entertainment industry. They can exist with our friends, advisers, co-workers, business partners, spouses, and those with whom we spend a great deal of time, whose favor we desire, or whose influence we come under. Continue reading →
Tests and trials: no one likes them. We don’t pray for them. In fact, we pray to avoid them. But trials come to everyone. So, what is it that sustains us in trials? What gives us hope? You might be surprised.
Also, read about the quality of friendship. You see, common friends are … well … common. They are ordinary and unexceptional. They are the norm. But uncommon friends … are rare blessings from God! What is the quality of your friendship? Does it focus on what the other person can do for you? Or are you focused on loving others and being a godly friend?
In the previous chapters Paul explained salvation by grace—how God saves sinners through the free gift of salvation based on our faith in Christ. Here in chapter 5 Paul explains how, as sinners saved by God’s grace, we are kept by the same grace—how it is God and God alone who is able to present us, “faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy” (Jude 24). No amount of good works could save us and no amount of good works can keep us! I hope you’ll take the time to read this chapter for yourself, if you haven’t already.
But let’s take a closer look at the first five verses:
1 Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3 And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; 4 and perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.
Verse 8 goes on:
8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
You may have heard the expression, “Preach the gospel to yourself.” Have you thought about what that means? We typically think of the gospel as a one-time thing, something we accept once and then move on to Christian living. But we need the gospel everyday. A true understanding of all that the gospel encompasses makes living the Christian life a joy. It’s what sustains us in trials and encourages us when we fail.
We need to remind ourselves that God loved us even while we were still sinners. Christ died for us knowing full well every sin we would ever commit and every time we would reject Him. If we understand that He loved us then, we will better trust that He won’t reject us when we fail.
He died for every sin whether committed before and after we come to know Him. Rather than giving us a license to sin, fully comprehending that should help us to love Him back, desire to live to please Him, and to love others with the same kind of love.
We love Him because He first loved us (1 Jn. 4.19).
But don’t miss verses 3-5. As we come to fully understand the gospel, we can trust God when we’re going though a trial. We should remind ourselves that the God who loved us enough to die for us, will not allow any test or trial in our lives that He won’t use for our good. We can trust Him to walk through it will us, to sustain and strengthen us, to grow our faith, and to help us mature to become more and more like His Son.
Two of the words used to define “common” are ordinary and unexceptional. But what does an “uncommon” or true friend look like? How does he speak? What are her motives?
Verse 11 says:
“He who loves purity of heart and has grace on his lips, the king will be his friend.”
This verse reminds me of a book I read many years ago called Uncommon Friends about a man by the name of James Newton who became friends with Thomas Edison, Charles Lindbergh, Henry Ford, Harvey Firestone and others because of the quality of his friendship.
What is the quality of your friendship? Does it focus on what the other person can do for you? Or are you focused on loving others and being a godly friend? Do you have “purity of heart” and “grace on your lips”?
Being an uncommon friend doesn’t mean constantly flattering the other person. In fact, Proverbs 27. 6 says the opposite:
“Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.”
Someone who is “pure in heart” wants the best for his or her friend. Sometimes that means “speaking the truth in love” (Eph. 4.15). But being “pure in heart” also means being willing to sacrifice for your friend. Sometimes real friendship is inconvenient, but when you love someone, it’s not a burden.
What is the quality of your words to and about your friends? Are they full of God’s grace and mercy? Or are they laced with sarcasm or harshness? Do you speak well of your friends or do you gossip and criticize? Continue reading →
There is great danger in bad advice or trying to live life our own way.
A wise person seeks for wisdom all the time and keeps it “in his sight,” right in front of him to guide him. He doesn’t have to go looking for it when he needs it. He studies God’s principles for living and seeks to walk wisely at all times.
The fool, on the other hand, is looking for answers all over the place. Maybe Oprah has the answer or I’ll learn something from my horoscope or from some co-worker whose own life is a mess.
God’s commands and principles are not intended to limit our joy and blessings, but to protect us. And when we reject them, we often learn too late that going our own way or listening to the wisdom of fools leads to disaster and heartache.
In yesterday’s reading, Jeroboam had set up altars to false God’s to keep the people from going back to Jerusalem where they were supposed to worship. In chapter 13 God sent a prophet to Jeroboam to warn him his great sin was about to be judged.
Once it was obvious that the prophet was from God, Jeroboam invited him to “stay for dinner.” Perhaps he thought the prophet could get God to change His mind or maybe he wanted to kill him. Whatever the reason, God had already told the prophet that he was not to eat or drink there or even return home the same way he had come.
Once he left, another prophet caught up to him and claimed an angel had told him it was alright for him to eat and drink with him. Listening to his advice cost the Judean prophet his life!
God had already clearly spoken to him and he should have sought confirmation from God Himself as to any change in plans.
Like the Judean prophet, when God has clearly spoken to us, which He does primarily through His Word, we cannot allow some opposing message to sway us from God’s commandments and His truth.
This is also true when it comes to good Bible doctrine. We need the counsel of the Word and people who are solidly fixed in truth to help us understand God: His character, His principles, His commands, and His purposes for our lives.
In Galatians Paul said:
I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed (Gal. 1.6-9).
There are all kinds of opposing “gospels” out there and all kinds of people giving all kinds of advice. Learn to recognize the real thing. Read God’s Word, spend time with Him hearing His voice in the pages of Scripture and then “the voice of a stranger you will not follow” (Jn. 10.5).
I’ve said it before but, we all need to be theologians and good theology does not have to be difficult to understand. Theology is simply the study of God.
If you want to read more check out my posts on “Bite Sized Theology.” I started this series some time ago, but my schedule at that time kept me from continuing it. I’ll be picking it up again soon. Here’s a list of the earlier posts.
Verse 24, “Wisdom is in the sight of him who has understanding, but the eyes of a fool are on the ends of the earth.”
A wise person seeks for wisdom all the time and keeps it “in his sight,” right in front of him to guide him. He doesn’t have to go looking for it when he needs it, like some lost set of keys.
The foolish person, on the other hand, is looking for it all over the place. Maybe Oprah has it or I’ll learn something from my horoscope or from some co-worker whose own life is a mess. There are even people who will try to sound spiritual. Remember, the old prophet claimed he was speaking for God and it cost the man of God his life! Again there are many “gospels” out there vying for our hearts and attention!
But if we are faithful to grow and walk in the wisdom that we have, God will give us more wisdom and understanding and we will recognize bad advice when we hear it. Hebrews 5 tells us:
12 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. 13 For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. 14 But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.
Today’s Other Readings:
When Friends Desert Us
Verse 20, “Reproach has broken my heart, and I am full of heaviness; I looked for someone to take pity, but there was none; and for comforters, but I found none.”
Too often even the best of people desert us when we need them most. When that happens we must remember that God will never forsake or abandon us (Heb. 13.5). He is the one we must look to in our times of trouble. Though He may use people, we are not to depend on them, but on God alone.
When We Harden Our Hearts
In verse 40 it talks about God having blinded the eyes and hardened the hearts of the Jewish nation as a whole. As we continue reading through the Old Testament, you can see the people continuously hardened their own hearts and turned away from God even as He continued to reveal Himself to them in miraculous ways. His judicial hardening (the final hardening of judgment) came after they had willfully hardened our own hearts.
Hebrews 3.7 says, “Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says. ‘Today, if you will hear His voice, Do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion'” and verses 12-13, “Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God; but exhort one another daily, while it is called ‘Today,’ lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.”
We, too, must set our hearts to obey in all things. Those “little” willful “rebellions” are not little to God because they reveal our heart attitudes and set the stage for rebellion in other areas, and before we know it, we have hardened our hearts. Let’s be doers of the Word and not hearers only in all areas of our lives (Jas. 1.22).
We have completed almost half of the Bible. Have you noticed how frequently our Old Testament reading relates to the New Testament passage or to Psalms or Proverbs or vice versa? I’m continually amazed at people who doubt the validity of God’s Word. As we read more and more of His Word and get the big picture, we can see that it is one continuous story told by a variety of men over a period of several thousand years. Men who were guided and inspired by God in such a way that they wrote the actual words of God. No one but God could bring about such an amazing feat!
As the Apostle Peter said:
“And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts; knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” (2 Pet. 1.19-21).
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Faith can be risky. It takes risky faith to turn the other cheek or forgive with no guarantee you won’t be hurt again. It takes risky faith to obey God when it makes little sense to our natural way of thinking. It takes risky faith to stand up for the truth in a world of compromise.
2 At that time the Lord said to Joshua, “Make flint knives for yourself, and circumcise the sons of Israel again the second time.” 3 So Joshua made flint knives for himself, and circumcised the sons of Israel at the hill of the foreskins (5.2-3).
I imagine all the men reading this portion of Scripture cringed a little when they read about flint knives, circumcision, and “the hill of foreskins.” I can’t help thinking the men in Joshua’s time, probably, felt the same way.
Their Parents Disobedience
The fact that this second generation had not been circumcised was another symptom of their parents disobedience. But now, before they could go in and take the land God had given them, this covenant sign had to be performed. This must have been a memorable (after all, the hill was named after it) and solemn ceremony.
It was, also, a huge step of faith, since this mass circumcision made them vulnerable to attack. In Genesis 34 we read about an angry brother who convinced a whole village to get circumcised by promising to allow his sister to marry her rapist. While they were weak and in pain, he killed them all in revenge.
God watched over them, but humanly speaking, it was a risky decision. Risk is, often, a reality when you step out in faith.
When you forgive and turn the other cheek, you risk being struck again (Matt. 5.39). When you stand up for the truth, you risk being persecuted (Matt. 23:34-36). When you do what’s right, some people are not going to like it. The world does not like the light. Sometimes you’ll, even, be targeted for your faith.
Just ask Barronelle Stutzman. In case you aren’t familiar with her story, Barronelle is a 72-year old grandmother, a florist, and a follower of Christ. She has been targeted by the State of Washington and people on the left for declining to make flower arrangements for a same-sex wedding.
Since then her case has worked it’s way to the Washington Supreme Court where she lost in a 9-0 decision. Unless the U.S. Supreme Court reverses the decision, it could cost Barronelle her livelihood and all her assets.
It’s important to understand that Barronelle wasn’t trying to discriminate against the men. She had provided flowers for them on numerous occasions over a 9-year period, but when one of them asked her to provide flowers for their wedding, she declined because of her religious convictions. Instead, she recommended some other florists.
Sometimes, persecution, pain, and rejection come from our own families and those closest to us. That can hurt even more deeply. But we must be quick to forgive and keep our eyes on the Lord no matter who mistreats us. Otherwise that hurt can be the seed that grows up into a root of bitterness.
14 Work at living in peace with everyone, and work at living a holy life, for those who are not holy will not see the Lord. 15 Look after each other so that none of you fails to receive the grace of God. Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many (Heb. 12.14-15 , NLT).