Tag Archives: Maturity

Thoughts from Jude (part 1)

“To those who are called, beloved in God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ: May mercy, peace, and love be multiplied to you.” (Jude 1:1–2 ESV)

Jude writes to those who are called – “And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.” (Romans 8:30 ESV).  Don’t miss the string here – or elsewhere in scripture – there are no human fingerprints on it!  God called us to be His BELOVED (those are familial words) and He will KEEP US in Christ Jesus.  He predestines, He calls, He justifies, He keeps & He glorifies.  We are along for the ride as we ACTIVELY contend for the faith.

“For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.” (Jude 1:4 ESV)

Ungodly people had crept in and perverted the truth.  These were designated for destruction – they did not catch God off guard and they did not cause God to have to figure out what He was going to do!  They were unnoticed because they acted like Christians, but were not.  They talked it, but did not walk it.  They perverted grace and made it cheap grace, which is no grace at all.  Cheap grace always produces license – sensuality.  They ultimately denied Christ by their actions and unwillingness to submit to His commands and obey Him.  We may be able to talk a good talk, quote bible verses, walk aisles & pray prayers, but ultimately if we are not willing to walk in joyful obedience to Christ and submit to Him then we prove ourselves to be on shifting sand.  This is perhaps the greatest risk in our modern evangelical churches.  We don’t know what we believe, we don’t teach it and people have a very weak view of God and His grace.  God is nice, but He is not compelling.  Unless one has been deeply moved by the sovereign majesty of God, he will not understand the grace that has been given to him – He will not be moved to worship or obey.
  This is why Jude starts with God calling, God loving & God keeping.  Most in our midsts today would not deny Jesus explicitly, but deny Him by the way that they live.  He is not important to them, He is not the hub that their lives revolve around, He is not adored or served, He is just One of many gods in our lives.  This should scare us all!

“Now I want to remind you, although you once fully knew it, that Jesus, who saved a people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe.” (Jude 1:5 ESV)

Jesus saved a people out Egypt.  Wow, Jude is saying that Jesus is God!  Powerful.  Those who did not believe were destroyed in the desert – that should really scare us.  These were people that experienced the miraculous deliverance God had provided them from Egypt, His commands at Sinai and His ongoing deliverance and guidance.  And yet they did not believe and were destroyed for their unbelief.  Our battle is for belief!  Those who did not endure in belief did not see the Promised Land (1 Corinthians 10:5; Hebrews 3:16–19) – and neither will we unless we endure.  Judgement awaits those who persist in unbelief!

“Yet in like manner these people also, relying on their dreams, defile the flesh, reject authority, and blaspheme the glorious ones. But when the archangel Michael, contending with the devil, was disputing about the body of Moses, he did not presume to pronounce a blasphemous judgment, but said, “The Lord rebuke you.” But these people blaspheme all that they do not understand, and they are destroyed by all that they, like unreasoning animals, understand instinctively.” (Jude 1:8–10 ESV)

These false teachers had come to rely on the subjectivity of their dreams instead of the objectivity of the scriptures.  Revelatory dreams still happen, but they should always be subjected to the authority of scripture. These people pollute the flesh and defy authority. They blaspheme the glorious One.

We do not know what Jude is referring to in verse 10, it has been lost in history. Won’t it be a glorious day when we can see more fully what we only see in part now!?  Michael understood his place in God’s created order so he did not tread on God’s authority. Lord, help us to learn from your authority!  Michael left the devil to God’s authority.

These false teachers operated on their instincts (like an animal) instead of on the authority of scripture.  We must subdue our instincts, feelings and sinful thoughts – they must be engaged by the grace of God and wrestled into submission by the power of God’s Holy Spirit.  All that these people knew was how to follow their instincts and feelings regardless of whether they adhered to God’s moral decrees or not. This is dangerous – this is how people end up in the weeds and destroy their lives and the lives of others.

“Woe to them! For they walked in the way of Cain and abandoned themselves for the sake of gain to Balaam’s error and perished in Korah’s rebellion. These are hidden reefs at your love feasts, as they feast with you without fear, shepherds feeding themselves; waterless clouds, swept along by winds; fruitless trees in late autumn, twice dead, uprooted; wild waves of the sea, casting up the foam of their own shame; wandering stars, for whom the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved forever.” (Jude 1:11–13 ESV)

These false teachers were motivated by coveting and greed because they were dissatisfied with the position that they currently occupied. He uses examples of Cain (Genesis 4:5-8), Balaam (Numbers 22:5-7, 2 Peter 2:15) and Korah (Numbers 16:1-3, 31-35). How often do we get derailed by being dissatisfied with where we are in life? We need believe that our deepest satisfaction in life is found in an abiding relationship with Jesus alone.  It is not found in the next accomplishment, relationship or position in life.

These false teachers are like hidden reefs because they are suffering no immediate consequences for their sinful behavior. This is sad! Like a ship sailing on the open water thinking that things are OK until they strike the reef just below the surface. These people live openly depraved lives and experience no consequences for their sinful behavior. They do what they want and are largely unchecked. Why is this? One can only speculate, but I wonder if this is because we don’t like conflict or because we feel like we are being ungracious by judging or confronting someone else?  It is not ungracious or unloving to confront people in their sin – it is what is required to help people see the light of day, though it is incredibly difficult!

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You make a crummy god

This is an excerpt from Matt Chandler’s Advent Message, The Promise of a Savior.

“We have been unable to fulfill our lives in away that our souls cease to chase the dangling carrot. Here’s why I worry about us. We’re never going to suffer as much as Job and we’re not going to be as rich as Solomon. Do you know where that puts us? Directly on the treadmill, running to whatever is next. If you think about your life, your whole life has been a series of “What’s next?” Where there’s not a “what’s next,” we get super restless.

We just wanted to get to high school. Then we just wanted our driver’s license. Then we just wanted to get out of high school. Then we just wanted to get into college. Then we just wanted to get out of college. Then we just wanted to find the one. We wanted to get married. Then we needed to find a job to support this marriage. Then we wanted kids. Then we wanted a promotion at work. We’re constantly punting down the field of our lives the next thing.

That glittery, sparkly little thing out there in the future continues to drive us while never satisfying us. We’re not even going to get tuned into that, because new stuff and advancement is intoxicating like a drug.

We’ll run and we’ll run and we’ll run, and there will always be something that’s next. You’ll continue to punt the fullness of life down the field of your life until your run is over. Only something that’s beyond the sun and not underneath it can solve that issue with the human heart. We need this Savior. We need the Ancient of Days to help with that.

I’ve said this for years. I just so passionately believe it. There’s always one or two who get upset when I say it. I mean not to upset you, I promise, but I want to make it very clear that I believe no one has lied to you, deceived you, and betrayed you more than you have. Despite the fact that there are mountains of empirical data that you make a crummy god over your own life, my bet would be most of us feel very confident in our “godness” over our lives and see any sort of authority or boundary as an affront to our sovereignty.

Of course, all we have is evidence that we really stink. We lie to us and betray us and trick us and don’t tell us the truth and don’t show up when we say we’re going to, but we really make awesome gods. We need this Savior to rule over our hearts .

The last thing he talks about is atoning for our sins; that this Savior would atone for our sins, eradicate sin. If we were honest, many of us in here, even now, are slaves to sin in our lives. Probably what I can comfortably say is that you have two different lives going on. You have your life at church, where you’re great and you love the preaching and the singing, but you have this whole other life that maybe one or two people know about, or maybe nobody knows about but you, and you are actively being owned and dominated by your sin.

You have bought into the ridiculous lie that you’re controlling it, that you can stop whenever you want, and you would never cross this certain line, and you have everything under control. How long have you been trying to stop? A decade? Two? Bro, you’re not in control; you’re being driven. Only this Savior can set us free from the hooks of sin that deep into the soul.”

Pondering the gospel transforms us (1 John 2:24-25)

“Let what you heard from the beginning abide in you. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you too will abide in the Son and in the Father. And this is the promise that he made to us—eternal life.” (1 John 2:24–25 ESV)

The beautiful message of the gospel is what is to abide in us, for as we move deeper in to it we abide in Him more fully.  There is no secret formula, just marveling in how a perfectly holy, righteous and good God would make a way for a profoundly wicked and rebellious sinner like me.  This triggers transformation in me and moves me closer to God as I worship the Majestic God of the universe!  And we have eternal life – life that will not end, but will get more joyful than we could ever imagine!  Lord, sanctify us with your truth your word is truth.

Transformed hearts lead to transformed lives (1 John 2:1-6)

“My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.” (1 John 2:1–6 ESV)

John now shifts to a practical line of thinking.  It is interesting that he says that his point in writing this is so that we would not sin – though he already acknowledged that we would (1 John 1:8).  More importantly, John ties the power to walk in increasing freedom and obedience to the atonement of Jesus Christ.  This has nothing to do with “do more and try harder.”  This is a beautiful picture of an atoning God who welcomes you back when you fail.  A good test as to whether you truly understand the gospel and its implications in your life is when you fail, do you run to God or run from Him to try to clean yourself up?  He is the propitiation for our sins – that is, He is the the “sacrifice that bears God’s wrath and turns it to favor,” ESV Study Bible.  This propitiation is not just available to John’s readers, but to all who will respond by faith.

John writes to tell us how to not sin (v1), but knows that we will sin and ensures us that Jesus is the sacrifice for our sins and then goes on to provide us with a test of how to be assured that we are His:  walk in obedience.  This is an interesting and beautiful picture that provides profound confidence in the midst of immense difficulties.  As we grow in Christ like characteristics, we are all the more assured of our election (2 Peter 1:10).  As we experience supernaturally transformed attitudes that flow into obedient actions, we become increasingly more confident that we are indeed elect because we are experiencing God working in our hearts and lives.

If we say that we “know him” and do not keep his commandments then we are lying and the truth is not in us (1 John 2:4).  If we say we are in Christ, but have no desire to love Him, follow Him or see Him glorified in our lives then we are deceiving ourselves.  Joyful obedience is the evidence of regeneration.  If you can’t or won’t forgive, you haven’t experienced forgiveness.  If you can’t love, you’ve not experienced the love of God.  We must be cautious not to use this as fuel for the self-righteousness that reigns in all of us.  This passage is far more helpful as a diagnostic for our own personal spiritual health and vitality than it is for evaluating that of others.

Obedience is the evidence of transformation.  We are saved by grace alone through faith alone, but not by a faith that stays alone.  As we abide in him, our walk of joyful obedience will increase – as we abide, we will bear fruit (John 15:1-10).  There is an ethical response to grace that we should walk in; the degree to which we will walk in it is the degree to which we will grow in our assurance of salvation.  Our love for God is perfected in our obedience to God.  This love is not a fluffy feeling, but a real, ethical response to the love that God has given to us (1 John 4:19).

Free to Love

“Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling.” (1 John 2:10 ESV)

You are free to love the people in your life when you love God more than anything. Because their love and acceptance is not your ultimate goal, you won’t be enslaved by your expectations for them and the disappointments that inevitably follow. Jesus is calling you to turn from love of self to love for him. Think about how Jesus has loved you—he lived the perfect life you should have lived, and he died the death you deserved.

When you wake up every morning and interact personally with the one who has done all this for you, your family’s slights and insults won’t plague you in the same way. This won’t be automatic or easy. Jesus said that each of us must take up our cross every day (Luke 9:23).

You must daily die to your self-centeredness by finding your identity in what Jesus has done for you in his life, death, and resurrection. As you do this every day, you will turn from making anything else in creation more important to you than the God who has rescued you from your self-centeredness. Growing as a disciple is gradual, in the same way that the crucifixion was slow and agonizing. As we die to self and embrace our new identity in Christ, God is slowly and patiently bringing us to the end of ourselves, so that he might fill us with the life of Christ.”

by Timothy S. Lane, August 28, p 241.  From Heart of the Matter: Daily Reflections for Changing Hearts and Lives by Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation. Copyright © 2012 by Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation. Used by permission of New Growth Press.

It’s all grace or it’s not grace at all

The degree to which we believe that grace alone saves us is the degree to which we will walk freely in our faith.  A “yes grace, but,” mentality is what keeps morality and self righteousness swimming around inside of us, our families and churches.  It is not as if we took some spiritual medicine that God, the good doctor, offered to us or that we flipped on the light switch while God provided the light and power.  NO!  The bible says that we were dead and that God, being rich in mercy made us alive (Ephesians 2:1-11, Colossians 2:13-14).  We played no part, we did not flip the switch, we did not take the medicine.  Dead men don’t do things!  Jerry Bridges says it like this:

“To the extent that you’re clinging to any vestiges of self-righteousness or putting any confidence in your own spiritual attainments, to that degree you are not living by the grace of God in your life. This principle applies both in salvation and in living the Christian life. Grace and good works (that is, works done to earn favor with God) are mutually exclusive. We cannot stand, as it were, with one foot on grace and the other on our own works of merit. If you’re trusting to any degree in your own morality or religious attainments, or if you believe God will somehow recognize any of your good works as merit toward your salvation, you need to seriously consider if you’re truly a Christian. We must be absolutely clear about the truth of the gospel of salvation. More than two hundred years ago, Abraham Booth (1734-1806), a Baptist pastor in England, wrote, “Let the reader … carefully remember, that grace is either absolutely free, or it is not at all: and, that he who professes to look for salvation by grace, either believes in his heart to be saved entirely by it, or he acts inconsistently in affairs of the greatest importance.””  Gerald Bridges;Jerry Bridges. Holiness Day by Day: Transformational Thoughts for Your Spiritual Journey Devotional (p. 48). Kindle Edition.

Beatitudes: Life of Comfort

The poor in spirit mourn over their sin and the pervasiveness of sin in the world.  They recognize that the world is broken.  This mourning produces a longing for greater things, for eternal things.  God comforts those who mourn.A Life of Comfort (Matthew 5:4) by Brandon Barnard