At Gateway Church in Austin, we began our series called One Hit Wonders.
In life, it can be easy to focus on ourselves and try to work things out on our own. But following Jesus means a new way of living. What does it look like to surrender to God, and what kind of payoff does God promise those of us who choose that type of sacrifice?
Why does God seem to care so much about morality? Jude shares insights on this question.
Work through the following questions and Scriptures on your own, and get together with your running partner, life group, or friends and family to talk through what you are learning.
Work through the following questions and Scriptures on your own, and get together with your running partner, life group, or friends and family to talk through what you are learning.
Our culture has a mantra:
“I want to do what I want to do when I want to do it.”
Unfortunately, when we live like this, it can be destructive.
First, other people may not want us to do what we want when we want it because it conflict with what they want when they want it!
Second, sometimes what we want makes us sick. It may feel good in the moment, but it can have devastating effects.
A silly example was the first time I had a Krispy Kreme donut. Actually, I should be more accurate: the first time I went to Krispy Kreme, I did not eat a donut, I ate 7 donuts. My wife and I had bought a dozen donuts to share with our kids, but now there was only 1 left because I had 7 and she had 1. Before I ate the 8th one, she asked: “Why are you still eating?!” I responded: “Because they are still warm!”
But what if there was a better way?
What if lived differently than others around us? Rather than living by the mantra: “I want to do what I want to do when I want to do it.” What if we surrendered that way of living to follow God and His ways?
In our series, “One Hit Wonders,” we are looking at letters in the Bible that are only one page. But that one page can change our lives! Today we are going to look at Jude.
You may be here saying: I want to trust God. I don’t want to go down the same destructive path I have seen others go down (or I want to stop going down the destructive path I am currently on). Show me how to experience God’s abundant life!
If we choose to Trust and Obey God, it is better for us and we will be glad we did. And those we love will be glad we did too. God warns us to avoid bad choices because they have bad consequences.
The Context of Jude
Written by the half-brother of Jesus and the full brother of James who was one of the first leaders in the early church who died for his faith. Remember Jesus’ brothers and the others in Jesus’ family rejected Jesus as a prophet, healer, and Messiah. They tried to get Him to stop, but once they saw Him crucified and alive after being raised from the dead they re-oriented everything.
Here’s verses 1 and 2 written to messianic Jews which are Jews who follow Jesus as the Messiah.
Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and a brother of James, To those who have been called, who are loved in God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ: Mercy, peace and love be yours in abundance. – Jude 1-2
At the beginning of his letter it’s almost as if Jude did not feel worthy to mention his brother Jesus!
Let’s look at 2 words in particular in these first two verses.
We are “called.” We are chosen, and we have to decide if we want to be adopted or not.
God pursues us and we decide if we will say “yes.” This is not about believing facts about Him but surrendering all of our lives to Him.
God has created you on purpose and with a purpose, but we have the freedom to follow Him or reject Him. We have that freedom every day. That means, we have to choose to follow Jesus every single day. That’s why Jesus said “Take up your cross daily.” We need to die to ourselves and surrender every aspect of our life to Jesus all day and throughout the day.
We surrender to Jesus not to get God to love us, but we choose to surrender our ways and will to follow His ways and will out of gratitude for the love He already has for us!
Before you ever did anything for God, He did everything for you!
Not only did God create you on purpose and for a purpose, He came to walk among us. 2000 years ago, God walked among us and His name is Jesus. He came teaching with authority, healing the sick, living a perfect life, and ultimately dying on the cross taking on all the evil of humanity. Death and sin could not keep him down, and on the 3rd day, Jesus rose from the dead!
He offers new life to all who surrender to Him. By asking for forgiveness and asking that what He did on the cross would count for you, we are saved. We are forgiven. We are rescued. We are made new as the Spirit of God comes to live in us!
All are called but not all say “yes.”
Once we say “yes” we are transformed and being transformed and of those who are helping others find faith and transformation.
Not only do we now have a relationship with God through Jesus, we also experience the best there is of life! As the Scriptures calls it: “abundant life.”
Mercy, peace and love be yours in abundance.
That’s the second word I wanted to meditate on for a bit from these first two verses.
Abundance means “to increase, to be increased, in the fullest measure, to be multiplied”
What if we lived knowing we have all the mercy, peace, and love that we need or could imagine? It doesn’t come from people or from things or from vacations or from anything money can buy. It comes from Father who loves us and Jesus who keeps us.
Too often we are operating with a scarcity mentality.
For me, 2019 is the Year of Abundance. At first, it seemed to be true in an overwhelming way! We received a generous gift from someone in our family. We received a free week in a resort and two airline tickets from miles so we can go to Hawaii for our 25th anniversary trip. I received a generous speaking opportunity in the corporate world. At the same time, because of my kidney stone we have had lots of medical expenses – like 2nd most ever! Frustrated, I was praying about this and sensed God reminding me. Abundance is far more than material, it’s spiritual which is far better and far longer lasting!
If we understood who we are in Christ and we had in Christ, we would experience abundance!
If you are looking to your spouse to meet your deepest needs or your best friend to meet your deepest needs or your parents to meet your deepest needs or your career to meet your deepest needs, you will be disappointed.
Instead go to God to have your deepest needs met so you can then serve others in your life out of that abundance!
Let’s keep going with verses 3-4.
3 Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt compelled to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to God’s holy people. 4 For certain individuals whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are ungodly people who pervert the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord.
So Jude wanted to write about salvation but heard they were in danger so changed the topic.
Let’s look a little more in depth at this verse. The writer uses a word translated as “contend for the faith.”
“to contend” literally means to “struggle upon, appropriately with skill and commitment in opposing whatever is not of faith”
Much like we saw in the letters from John last week (1 John, 2 John, and 3 John), a sinister cult-like situation was happening during this season.
They were early Gnostics that were teaching that Jesus was just a man and that the Spirit of the Messiah entered his body at the baptism and left before the cross. They taught Jesus was fully man but not fully God because they believed the body was evil and the spirit was good. In other letters like Colossians we see that the result of this false teaching led to widespread immorality and people abandoning their faith.
This letter is a warning to followers of Jesus not to drift from the teaching of Jesus.
There is a version of Neo-Gnosticism today because we like the idea of doing what we want when we want. We like to be loved by Jesus and then do anything we want to do unconcerned about the consequences or how it affects us or others.
God’s love does not mean you can do whatever you want without consequences.
In fact in this section of his letter, Jesus’ brother who is writing to followers of Jesus says: “to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to God’s holy people.”
He refers to us as holy people.
- “Be holy as God is holy” – live more for God, willing to sacrifice out of gratitude to God, more of God’s presence and more of God’s characteristics, a glimpse of heaven on earth
So in verse 4, he is warning his readers not to abuse the grace of God as a license to do whatever we want sexually.
You may be thinking: why is God so concerned with my sex life! What does that have to do with my relationship with Him! I mean He loves me unconditionally, right?
Although the author of this letter does not address those questions, other biblical authors do.
Paul, the church planter responsible for 13 letters in the New Testament – letters written to church leaders and to churches in different cities points out that writes something similar to Jude 4 but with more details when he writes in Romans 6 the following:
What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? 2 By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? 3 Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.
5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin— 7 because anyone who has died has been set free from sin.
8 Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him…. Count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. 13 Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness,but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness.14 For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace. – Romans 6:1-14
If you follow Jesus, you are alive in Christ! You no longer have to live as a slave to the ways of this world!
Of course God is concerned about our sex lives because He is concerned about all of who we are. He is concerned about all of the areas of our lives where we miss the mark – the places where we settle for the ways of the world rather than looking to Him and His wisdom. He loves us and wants what is best for us! The Scriptures mention immorality as destructive to us and the people we love. He is warning us of the heartache and the pain and devastation that sexual intimacy outside of the marriage covenant can be. If sexual intimacy is like a fire, the marriage relationship is like a fireplace where the fire belongs. Outside of the fireplace, fire can be incredibly destructive.
Our body is no longer ours when we choose to follow Jesus. We become His children, and we represent Him everywhere we go!
A 2nd century doctor wrote about this unique group called Christians. Two things stood out to him:
‘They believed in the resurrection of the body and they didn’t sleep around.’
N.T. Wright points out that after the resurrection of Jesus who defeated sin and death and came back to life with a new resurrected body, the followers of Jesus saw life differently. He mentions that the resurrection of the body and not sleeping around were related. He says: “The two went together. The human body was attaining a new dignity, a new valuation. Nobody had imagined that kind of way of life. Paul taught it; the early Christians were modeling it.”
When we live differently than the ways of the world, people notice and want what we have!
If we want to avoid the relational mistakes our family members or friends have gone through then we need to make sacrifices and make different decisions than they would.
Here’s the catch: the church has not done a good job of talking about morality. This standard is for followers of Jesus. These letters in the New Testament are written to followers of Jesus sharing with them how to live.
Unfortunately, the Church has tried to impose this high standard on people who do not follow Jesus! This creates guilt and condemnation which is not God’s intention.
This week I heard a story from one of our leaders who was new to following Jesus fully and still struggling with smoking. Kenny Green called him one day and asked: “I have been meaning to ask you: do you enjoy smoking or do you hate smoking but you cannot give it up?”
You see, sometimes we think total freedom is doing what we want to do when we want to do it, but in reality some of things we want to do actually have enslaved us. We aren’t free at all.
Aren’t sure if you have an addiction? Try giving it up for 90 days or even just 30 days and see if you can.
Here’s the beauty, what we know from the Scriptures is that God not only invites us to live at a higher standard, He is with us to help us do so. He wants us to be truly free and He can help us find that freedom!
That night, my friend said was the last night he smoked a cigarette. Leaning into His relationship with Jesus and others who follow Jesus while working through the 12 steps he learned at Gateway South in our Restore men’s group brought him to freedom!
Then Jude goes on to remind those of us following Jesus of what has happened to others who wandered away, and he minces no words. Jude shares about the destruction faced by those who go their own way refusing to listen to the warnings God has brought into their life. The next section of Jude is intense!
Although we aren’t going to read the next section, I did want to walk you through the list of bad examples whose lives serve as a warning to help us avoid the bad and to take what could be a sad song and make it better.
Case Studies as Warnings
Remember the Bible is filled with case studies of people who trusted God and did not trust God, and we can see the consequences of both choices.
The case studies he shares include:
- The people of Israel freed from Exodus but then complaining they would rather go back to being enslaved than in the wilderness.
- The angels rebelling against God in Genesis.
- The people of Sodom and Gomorrah who attempted to rape anyone coming through town. (No hotels). Rebellion against God’s order that leads to immorality.
He quotes 1 Enoch and The Testament of Moses which were popular books retelling stories about real people in the Hebrew Scriptures. For the Jewish people raised on this literature all of this makes sense. It would be like us quoting Of Mice and Men or the Great Gatsby. Those reading his message knew Jude was communicating that they were in danger of falling into the same sorts of evil traps that derailed their ancestors – rebelling against God’s authority, rejecting God’s messengers, and sexual immorality.
He then goes on to share more case studies but now about rebels who negatively influenced others:
- Cain murdered his brother and built a violent city
- Balaam lured Israel into evil.
- Korah rebelled against Moses.
These teachers are like selfish shepherds, clouds with no rain, or chaotic waves. Their selfishness creates chaos!
Each story in the Scriptures is a case study in how people have interacted with God and become heroic in spite their brokenness or have rejected God. We have the same opportunity!
All the heroes in the Bible have flaws. All of us have our heroic moments, and all of us have our brokenness.
I love this quote from Tim Keller whose messages online are a great resource:
“The message of the Bible is not that God blesses and saves those who live moral and exemplary lives. The message of the Bible is that God persistently and continuously gives His grace to people who don’t ask or even appreciate it.”
– Timothy Keller
The writer of this beautiful one page letter then quotes Enoch’s warnings and then updates with his own warning.
17 But, dear friends, remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ foretold. 18 They said to you, “In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires.”19 These are the people who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit. 20 But you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, 21 keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life. 22 Be merciful to those who doubt; 23 save others by snatching them from the fire; to others show mercy, mixed with fear—hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.
This is how we should be as the Church – not judging others for not living up to our standards but “merciful to those who doubt” and seeking to rescue others!
Watch out! There are forces opposing your relationship with God, your relationship with your spouse, your relationship with your church family, your internal peace and love.
Our solution: build yourself up in your faith with help from God (praying in the Holy Spirit).
Throughout the New Testament there is a metaphor for the church which is those of us who follow Jesus. This metaphor is profound and should really help us reorient our faith.
We are God’s Temple!
The Scriptures begin and end and all in between is a story about heaven and earth (not heaven and hell as became the filter people would read the Bible in the Middle Ages).
Heaven meets earth:
- In Eden
- In the tabernacle
- In the Temple
- In Jesus
- In the Body of Christ
- At the end of all things when God makes all things right.
The Church advanced the message of Jesus because of its unity and diversity and because it was set apart and sent out.
We are set apart in our behavior which means being holy and we are sent out in our relationships to love, serve, and reach others.
Everywhere we go, we are bringing heaven to earth wherever we are! This is only true when we are walking in step with the Spirit! Definitely not true when we are operating in the flesh – the worst version of ourselves. It’s when we are living as if we don’t believe in God and His will and ways.
So what can we do to live out the holy life we are called to live?
How can we contend for the faith and avoid going doing the destructive path we see so many others go?
How can we bring heaven to earth wherever we go?
First, we need to choose to follow God’s will and ways even as the world around us encourages us to go our own way.
Take personal responsibility for your spiritual growth.
Spending time in the Scriptures and prayer on your own and then serving others with others, participating in a life group, and coming on Sundays as an act of worship and for the purpose of intentional growth.
Another critical part of our own growth is becoming less self-focused. We cannot grow to become all God created us to be without shifting our focus from ourselves towards others.
Be merciful to those who doubt; 23 save others by snatching them from the fire; to others show mercy
This is why Jesus said:
“Dying to self, taking up our cross daily, losing our life serving others is how we find our lives.”
When you try to help others out of the mess they are in, you find yourself getting healthier.
to others show mercy, mixed with fear—hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.
Influence others without being negatively influenced by them. Go into help but with pride or else you too could fall.
Kanye West recently told David Letterman: “I have a friend that told me my power was my influence, and I said, ‘My power is my ability to not be influenced.'”
24 To him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy— 25 to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore!Amen.
Here’s the second ingredient we need to bring heaven to earth. God helps us pull this off! This is not “God helps those who helps themselves.” God offers help to all who want it and He will keep us from stumbling if we allow Him to do so!
Following Jesus means a new way of living. We can experience the fullness of God’s mercy, peace, and love as follow Him and His ways. Out of gratitude, we can be free from the distractions and destructive patterns of this world as we allow Him to work in us and through us.
We begin to want what God wants for us and we begin to realize that what we used to want when we wanted it was actually not what we really want.
So what are your next steps?
Who is God wanting you to rescue by loving them, serving them, and when the opportunity arises share your journey to faith in Jesus with them?
What are you holding onto that is destructive that God wants you to surrender to Him?
What do you need to sacrifice?
Connect your heart with the God who loves you and has designed you to live in freedom!