|WHAT TO DO WHILE WAITING...
Pastor Stephen Muncherian
July 18, 2010
This morning we’re going to take a brief look at the letter of Jude. Before we do that let me explain a bit of why we’re going there.
From time to time I get in a discussion with someone about Jesus’ coming back. Been in one of those? Invariably the question comes up, “Do you think Jesus will come back in our lifetime?” Ever asked that? It’s a really good question for a number of reasons. One of which is prophecy.
There are more signs of Jesus’ return existing today than at any other time in history. Some of those signs are pretty general. Jesus talked about nations rising against nations - wars and rumors of wars - famines and earthquakes - all of which have been a part of human history since just about the time human history began. Jesus called these signs birth pangs.
There’s debate about whether all that is increasing - if the birth pangs are panging more frequently. Are the earthquakes increasing in magnitude and frequency? Which they may be. But are we just in a season of increase and all that will eventually subside? Maybe. So there’s debate, “Are these signs the signs?”
There are also some unique signs - pretty specific signs - that we may actually be getting really close to Jesus’ return.
For example Daniel prophesied that the time of the end would be proceeded by an increase in travel. Those of you that are texting right now may be fulfilling Daniel’s prophecy. In 1914 the average speed of cars and trucks was about 15 to 20 miles per hour. Today rockets average 24,000 plus miles per hour. With the internet distance is meaningless. We’ve entered into the age of the global community. That reality is unique in world history.
Daniel prophesied an increase knowledge. Today - more than any other time in history - knowledge is exploding - exponentially. We don’t know what do with all that knowledge - which is a huge part of our problem. But knowledge is exploding.
Another sign. What happened on May 14, 1948? May 14, 1948, David Ben Gurion read the Declaration of Independence of the newly formed State of Israel. Speaking prophetically - God - in the Bible told us that - just before the end comes - Israel would be restored - returned to their promised land - as a sovereign nation.
One more: Jesus said that the gospel will be preached to the whole world and then the end would come. For all practical purposes that prophecy has just about been fulfilled - if not has been fulfilled.
not going to say that Jesus
will return in our lifetime. But
a justifiable feeling among believers today that He
could. Given all the
existing signs of His coming - if not now? When? Its
imagine a time more ripe for Jesus’ return. Which
- of course - is not the point.
The signs of Jesus coming - all those prophecies - are not given to us so that we can form some kind of exclusive club of those who “get it” and “get in” to heaven. The prophecies aren’t there to create divisions in the church - arguments over different interpretations of future history. All that prophecy is there to focus us on God - God Who is Sovereign over future history. And to focus us on the task at hand - what God has for us to do while we’re waiting for Jesus to come back.
The bottom line of prophecy - what’s crucial - is how we live today knowing that Jesus will return. Which is a significantly more practical question. Is Jesus coming back? Yes. Soon? Probably. But - more practically - what do we do while we’re waiting?
Which brings us to Jude - Jude who’s writing to believers - believers in Jude’s day and believers yet to come - us. Tucked away in Jude’s letter - a person could almost skim by these - in verses 20 to 23 - are three specifics things for us to focus on while we’re waiting for Jesus to return.
Please turn with me to the postcard of Jude. This is a little postcard sized book which you will find just before the Book of Revelation. We’ll be coming to verse 20 in moment. As you’re turning let me bring us up to speed on Jude and where he’s coming from.
Jude is the half brother of Jesus - one of the sons of Joseph and Mary - a blood brother of James - James who was a leader of the Jerusalem church - James who wrote the book of… James. In verse 1 - Jude 1 - Jude describes himself as a slave of Jesus. Which gives us a clue as to where Jude is coming from. He could have said, “Jude - son of the Joseph and the Mary. Brother of the James and the half brother of the Jesus - God incarnate.” Could have done a little name dropping.
But, Jude chooses to introduce himself as Jesus’ slave. Pretty self-less. Jude’s life isn’t about Jude. Its about Jesus - his Savior. About what Jesus has for Jude to do.
Jude came to faith after he saw the resurrected Jesus. He became a traveling evangelist - testifying of Jesus. During Nero’s persecutions - Nero’s atrocities against Christians - Christians getting ripped to shreds and being used as torches at Nero’s parties - when Christians were given the choice “Deny or Die” - and many did - deny - and many chose death - Jude was crucified in AD 72 - testifying of Jesus.
Jude was a guy who knew what he believed and why. He was a guy who walked the talk. A rock solid believer - regardless of the cost. Who was willing to lay it all on the line for Jesus. Half brother yes. But a willing slave of Jesus his Savior.
What to do while waiting. Jude - verse 20 - read this with me: But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit.
Back up in in verse 3 Jude tells us why he wrote this letter.. Jude writes, “Beloved - meaning brothers and sister in Jesus - loved by Jude - loved by God - beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation - in other words Jude was intending that this letter would be about our salvation in Jesus Christ - but his purposes changed - I felt - going on - I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints.”
Faith here is not saving faith in the sense of “I believe in Jesus” - but the whole enchilada of what we Christians believe - all the doctrine found in Scripture - what had come from the Old Testament - what Jesus had taught - what the Apostles were passing down - all that we believe and what it means to live out our faith - our life with Jesus - as Christians. All that was handed down - not to some elitist class of clergy - but to the saints - the church - the beloved of God.
Jude is writing - to fellow slaves of Jesus - like us - to encourage us to “contend earnestly for the faith.” In the face of animosity and antagonism and apathy against what we believe - stay on target - maintain - fight on - never deny our faith - even if it means death. Powerful words coming from a man who was martyred a few years after he wrote this.
We’re not going to read this whole statement. But to give us a perspective of what Jude is writing about - would you stand and read with me 5 of the 10 articles of our Evangelical Free Church Statement of Faith. This is what we believe as and Evangelical Free Church.
God: We believe in one God, Creator of all things, holy, infinitely perfect, and eternally existing in a loving unity of three equally divine Persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Having limitless knowledge and sovereign power, God has graciously purposed from eternity to redeem a people for Himself and to make all things new for His own glory.
The Bible: We believe that God has spoken in the Scriptures, both Old and New Testaments, through the words of human authors. As the verbally inspired Word of God, the Bible is without error in the original writings, the complete revelation of His will for salvation, and the ultimate authority by which every realm of human knowledge and endeavor should be judged. Therefore, it is to be believed in all that it teaches, obeyed in all that it requires, and trusted in all that it promises.
The Human Condition: We believe that God created Adam and Eve in His image, but they sinned when tempted by Satan. In union with Adam, human beings are sinners by nature and by choice, alienated from God, and under His wrath. Only through God’s saving work in Jesus Christ can we be rescued, reconciled and renewed.
Jesus Christ: We believe that Jesus Christ is God incarnate, fully God and fully man, one Person in two natures. Jesus—Israel’s promised Messiah—was conceived through the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary. He lived a sinless life, was crucified under Pontius Pilate, arose bodily from the dead, ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God the Father as our High Priest and Advocate.
The Work of Christ: We believe that Jesus Christ, as our representative and substitute, shed His blood on the cross as the perfect, all-sufficient sacrifice for our sins. His atoning death and victorious resurrection constitute the only ground for salvation.
Sadly way too many Christians don’t have a clue about what all that means. They’ve never thought about it. They’ve never studied it. The vocabulary is like a foreign language. And they’re content with their ignorance.
Way too many Christians in America today are living a happy time Christianity - going from experience to experience - focused on how “being a Christian” benefits them. Some kind of smorgasbord Christianity where we get to pick and choose what we believe and serve when and where we feel like it. To attend a church that meets our needs when we feel like attending.
No where in all that - as we’re attending some feel good about ourselves Christian mass rally - or reading the latest self-help book - or going to seminars about 5 steps to a wonderful Christian life - no where in all that is the building up of an in-depth understanding and practice of our faith that Jude is writing about.
The Church in America is in serious trouble - if not irrelevant - because we’ve replaced being a slave of Jesus with being slaves to our own selfish passions.
All that theology and doctrine and church history is something for pastors and theologians to think about. But Jude is writing to the beloved - fellow slaves contending for the faith.
To build means there’s got to be a solid foundation to build on - what we believe. “Build your house on the rock” - on Jesus - not sand. On His words. On the teaching of the Apostles and prophets. What we’ve been given here in the Bible.
But don’t stop there. Build up. Dig into the word. Study theology. Study doctrine. Study church history. Study how our fellow saints before us have wrestled with their passions under the crucible of God’s word. Know what we believe and why.
Then Jude says build yourselves up praying in the Holy Spirit. Praying in the Spirit is a whole lot different than handing God a grocery list of what we want Him to do for us. Vending Machine God. Put in a prayer and out comes our blessing. All that is about us.
Someone said, that “Prayer is the Holy Spirit speaking in the believer, through Christ, to the Father.”
Praying in the Spirit means praise and adoration and worship of the Almighty God. Praying in the Spirit means praying by means of the Spirit - dependent on Him - God Who enables prayer - empowers prayer - Who uses prayer to align our hearts with His. That’s not about us. That’s about God.
God taking us ever deeper in our understanding of what it means to live out our faith.
Verse 21 - first, “Build Up” - second: Keep In. Let’s say that together, “Keep in.” Read verse 21 with me: “Keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life.
Keeping in God’s love means realizing that God loves us - values us - cares about what happens to us. The Apostle John writes, “God is love” Its Who He is. There’s nothing we can do to keep God from loving us or to make God love us more. He just does.
“For God so - what? Loves the world.” That’s us.
For a lot of people that’s hard to accept. Someone said, “God loves you.” Answer. “Yeah, But He has to love everybody.”
Sometimes love is tough to accept. Isn’t it? God loves me. I’m worth loving. That’s hard. But God loves you - even if you don't see yourself as lovable. He still does. We’ve got to take that in and let it rattle around in our hearts. God really does love us. God loves you. Get over it.
When we come to accept God’s love - His salvation in Jesus - God’s love demonstrated That He saves us by grace - simply because He chooses to love on us. Then we begin to experience - what Jude writes about here - we begin to experience God’s mercy - even to wait anxiously - impatiently for it.
Mercy relates to misery - the consequences of our sin.
Mankind living apart from God lives without hope. People ask, “What purpose is there to life?” “What meaning is there?” So many people are trapped in despair and depression. They carry wounds of abuse and rejection and condemnation - wounds that come from parents and siblings and people in their lives - and even from within ourselves.
People live under the weight of inadequacy and failure and doubt and guilt and fear. Trapped and bound and addicted people ask, “Is there a way out of all this?” “Can I ever find an answer - a healing - for the deep burdens of my heart?”
God sees the misery that our sin causes us and so God is merciful. God deals with the consequences of our sin - the misery of our lives. .He’s concerned about us. He cares for us. He brings comfort to us.
God’s mercy is one huge reason why we wait anxiously for Jesus to come back. Because when Jesus comes back - God will end forever the misery of this life - the crud of this world. Rather than the misery of eternal damnation - we believers - because God is merciful - will spend eternity with Him.
There’s this children’s song. Do you know this?
Be careful little eyes what you see
Be careful little eyes what you see
There's a Father up above
And He's looking down in love
So, be careful little eyes what you see
The other verses are what? Be careful little ears what you hear. Be careful little feet where you go. Be careful little hands what you do. Be careful little mouth what you say.
I read recently - someone was saying that we often think of that song as a list of things not to do. Don’t look at that. Don’t listen to that. Don’t touch that. But really that song is talking less about what we choose not to focus on but rather what we should choose to focus on.
Be careful to see what is lovely and pure and worthy of praise. Be careful to hear what is worthy of listening to. Be careful to go where God leads you and to use your hands to God’s glory. Be careful to speak God’s blessing to others. Ever think of that song that way? What an opportunity.
Keeping in God’s love - waiting for His mercy - is a series of choices we make - choosing where to focus our lives. Are we focused on the crud of this world - immersing ourselves in sin - dwelling on our misery - seeing ourselves as unlovable dweebs. Or, are we focused on the God Who loves us? Are we learning to trust Him with the stuff or our lives? Learning to live with expectation that each day we get to live out His great purposes for our lives? Are we living our lives focused what’s coming or what’s behind us?
Build up. Keep in. Third: Have Mercy. Let’s say that together, “Have mercy.”
Let’s read verses 22 and 23 together: And have mercy on some, who are doubting; save others, snatching them out of the fire; and on some have mercy with fear, hating even the garment polluted by the flesh.
In 2003 the Episcopal Church USA elected this man - The Rev. V. Gene Robinson as their first openly gay bishop. That led to huge battles. Whole sections of the world wide communion of the Anglican church coming apart. Then in December of last year the Los Angeles branch of the church ordained as a bishop this woman - The Rev. Canon Mary Glasspool - making her the first lesbian bishop of the Episcopal Church USA.
Do you know who this is? Katharine Jefferts Schori. Katharine Jefferts Schori is the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church in the United States.
Bishop Schori - when she was newly elected - speaking of the task of the Episcopal Church - said that the message they preach is this: “God became human in order that we may become divine.” (1) Think about that statement in light of what Scripture teaches. Does the Bible teach that we’re all to become a god - or join with some divine entity? Of course not.
Lorenzo Snow - fifth president of the Mormon Church - a cult that believes that the Bible is only accurate if its translated by the Mormon Church - and a cult that adds to the Bible other works as equally authoritative - Doctrine and Covenants - The Pearl of Great Price - Lorenzo Snow summarized core Mormon belief - when he said, “As man now is, God once was; As God now is, man may be.” (2) God was once a man and over a long period of time he gained what he needed to become God Almighty. Does that sound kind of like what Bishop Shori is saying?
The United Church of Christ affirms the Bible as the authoritative witness to the Word of God. Did you catch that? The Bible witnesses to the word of God - doesn’t mean it is the authoritative word of God. The UCC adds to the Bible the creeds of the ecumenical councils and the confessions of the Reformation. (3) In other words - there are other authoritative witnesses to the Word of God other than the Bible. The United Church of Christ teaches that the Muslims and Christians all worship the same God. (4) That Christianity is faith tradition among other faith traditions. (5)
If we back up to verse 18 - Jude writes, “In the last time there will be mockers, following after their own ungodly lusts,” These are the ones who cause divisions, worldly-minded, devoid of the Spirit.
Scripture defines the last days as the time between Jesus’ birth and when He comes back again. We’re all living in the last days. As long as there have been last days there’ve been mockers - scoffers - people who make jokes about the things of God - who ridicule anyone for believing such nonsense. There were mockers in Jude’s day. There are mockers today. Agreed?
What these mockers question is not a new question. The Apostle Peter writes that these mockers ask, “Where is the promise of His - Jesus’ - coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation.” (2 Peter 3:4)
The patriarchs - Abraham - Isaac - Jacob - they’re all dead. Those that lived before us - our ancestors - our fathers - they’re all dead. Generations come and go. Each day the sun comes up and the sun goes down. Nothing changes. So why should it?
“Where is Jesus’ promised coming? Hasn’t happened. How can any rational thinking person actually believe that someone who lived and died and was buried 2,000 years ago is actually going to show up flying around in the sky with a bunch of angels playing harps? How can anyone believe that some loving God is going to wipe out good people and only let some special born again nuts into His happy place. Let’s get real.”
The reason they mock - writes Jude - is because they’re “following after their own ungodly lusts.”
Who are they following after? Themselves. Not God. Almost sounds like Christians who’ve become slaves of their own passions?
What is extremely unnerving about what Jude writes - when he writes about the last days and mockers and worldly minded people following after their own lusts - causing division - what’s unnerving about all that is that Jude is writing about those within the church.
Jude’s “beloved fellow slaves let us contend for the faith” response to these people is for us to point our fingers in their ignorant little faces and scream at them - cause they’re obviously dense and hard of hearing - and tell them all that they’re going to hell and they’re going to burn forever unless they repent because Jesus loves them.
Jude says, “Have mercy.” These people are in such pain - so wounded - living in such hopelessness. They are so confused by the self-passion serving lies of this world that they have no clue. They don’t need more misery. They need compassion - mercy - truth shared with love and great patience.
In a time when there is so much doubt cast on the word of God - so much confusion about truth - if there even is truth that those who desire to believe have problems doing so. Be patient with the honest doubters. Have compassion on them. Help them out of their misery.
Some of these people are on their way to hell. They’re desperate for God’s salvation. They’re so deluded that they have no clue the fires they’re dangling over. Have mercy on them.
They’re wearing a garment polluted by the flesh. They’re dragging around the burden of their sin - weighed down - entangled - in bondage to the crud and confusion and sin of this world that’s destroying them. “Hating even the garment polluted by the flesh” has the idea of hating the sin but loving the… sinner.
Do you see Jude’s point here? People need Jesus. And we have a limited time left to lead them towards Him. To lead them to a restored relationship with Jesus. To lead them towards salvation. To live out the great commission.
When will Jesus come back? When God is good and ready for Him to come back - in His proper time. But we do know that the time between now and Jesus’ return is shorter than it was a few minutes ago. And waiting isn’t passive - just occupying space and taking up oxygen.
We need to be building up - growing - going deeper - in our faith - in our relationship with Jesus. We need to be keeping in - staying focused on the awesomeness of life with God now and what He has for us in eternity. And with mercy - compassion - we should be focused on those around us who have no clue what it means to know that God loves them. They need Jesus.
1. Quoted in USA Today, 02.05.07
4. UCC General Synod 1989 adopted resolution “The Relationship Between the United Church of Christ and the Muslim Community”
Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE ®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by the Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.