Vision

In Paul's second letter to Timothy he writes, "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man [and woman] of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work." (2 Tim 3:16-17) My prayer for this ministry is that by rightly dividing the Scriptures, I might be able to facilitate all those aspects of the Scriptures to the benefit of all those who visit this website.

Mission

The mission of this ministry is to be consistent with Jesus' original command to his disciples: "Then Jesus came to them and said, 'All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.'" Matthew 28:18-20

Personal Disclosure

I am a fellow traveler who doesn't have all the answers and still makes many mistakes. However, I am desperately in love with Jesus Christ, the one and only King of kings, and I am so amazed that he knows exactly who I am and yet still died on the cross for me, then rose from the dead and called me to be His follower!

God's Message To You

"Dear Child,

I wanted you to know just how much I loved you so I sent my only Son, Jesus, to tell you and show you. If you make the decision to believe in Him, then you and I will be able to spend eternity together! I Love You!" (John 3:16 paraphrase)

Method

“Here there is no unanchored liberalism—freedom to think without commitment.

Here there is no encrusted dogmatism—commitment without freedom to think.

Here is vibrant evangelicalism—freedom to think within the bounds laid down by Scripture.”

Dr. Vernon Grounds

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Waiting


(Audio version; Music: "I Can Only Imagine" by MercyMe)


Introduction

            Do you ever stop to think about what you spend your time on day after day and year after year? Often, we spend our days waiting—Waiting until you’re old enough to________________; Waiting for your first job or a better job; Waiting for your first promotion or your next promotion; Waiting for your first paycheck or your next paycheck. Waiting for your first car or a better car; Waiting for your own home or a bigger home. Waiting for your first spouse or your next spouse; Waiting for the first child or the next child; Or maybe Waiting for the day when your father or mother will stop drinking; Waiting for the day when a child quits the drugs and comes home; Waiting for the day that the cancer will be gone; Waiting for a better life or new life or even the next life. I read a survey recently that said during a typical 75-year lifetime, a person will:

·      Sleep for 20 years (that’s my favorite one by the way).
·      Work for 20 years.
·      Eat for 6 years.
·      Play for 7 years.
·      Spend 5 years dressing.
·      Spend 1 year on the telephone (this survey was clearly done before the invention of smartphones and texting).
·      Smoke for 2-1/2 years.
·      Spend 3 years waiting for someone.
·      Spend 5 months tying your shoes.
·      Sit at stoplights for 6 months.
·      Spend 8 months opening junk mail.
·      Spend 1 year looking for misplaced objects (this is clearly longer for some people so they had better live longer to get everything else in).
·      Spend 2 years unsuccessfully returning phone calls.
·      Wait in line for 5 years.

Oddly missing from the list is the amount of time spent in prayer or worship. What about time spent with family and friends? What about time spent serving others? I realize that it would be difficult to compile a “general” survey that represented the totality of each person’s life but it sure seems like the time we devote to our relationship with God and one another should represent a significant amount time during our lifetimes don’t you think? What if I told you that during all our daily activities, we are actually Waiting? Waiting for what comes next. Not Waiting for what comes next in this life but Waiting for what comes next in the life to come. Whether we’re conscious of it or not, this life is a holding pattern for the life to come. For those who refuse to believe in God, time is spent trying to occupy every minute with enough things to avoid that nagging feeling that there’s something else that awaits us all in the life to come. For the rest of us, Waiting is an opportunity to resist those who oppose our faith, an opportunity to exercise our faith, and an opportunity to lead others to faith. My question to you is, what are you doing while you are Waiting?

Subject Text

Jude vv. 17-23

            17But, dear friends, remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ foretold. 18They said to you, “In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires.19These are the men who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit. 20But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit. 21Keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life. 22Be merciful to those who doubt; 23snatch others from the fire and save them; to others show mercy, mixed with fear—hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.

Context

            Did you know that Jude was Jesus’ brother? Well, half brother, since Jude’s mother (Mary) and father (maybe Joseph) were both humans and only Jesus’ mother (Mary) was human. The Book of Jude is actually just 25 verses and doesn’t always get much attention but confronts an issue in the Church that continues to this day—heresy and false teachings. The fact that Jude exists along with James, another contributor to the Scriptures, in and of itself dispels one long-standing heresy of the Church that exists to this day—the perpetual virginity of Mary the mother of Jesus. This false teaching is confronted by the existence of at least Jude and James and perhaps other children. Catholics, at least, have elevated Mary to a place of worship almost on par with Jesus himself. Although Mary will forever be known and respected as the mother of Jesus, she was a sinner in need of the forgiveness provided by Jesus just like every other human being. Worshipping Mary or offering prayers to Mary would likely have been a heresy and false teaching that Jude, and every other New Testament writer for that matter, would have warned against and condemned.

Even more ironic about Jude’s contribution to the New Testament is the fact that during the early part of Jesus’ ministry, he and the rest of his family, didn’t believe in Jesus and even thought He was out of His mind (Jn 7:5; Mk 3:21). However, 30 years after Jesus’ death and resurrection, Jude penned this letter to the Church where he recognizes Jesus as God, Savior, and Lord. Jude went from trying to silence Jesus as the crazy brother to proclaiming Jesus as God, Savior, and Lord. Jude traveled the road from unbelief to belief and knew what was needed to nurture an enduring and authentic faith. Jude knew the difference between the truth and a lie when it came to Jesus and the life of faith. Jude knew what it was like to live close to the Truth and still doubt the Truth so he wasn’t quick to condemn those who struggled to believe but quick to denounce those who refused to believe or who tried to deceive those who did believe. Jude understood that we live in precarious times and have a duty persevere in the face of the persistent onslaught of foolish unbelievers, correct the false teachings of deceivers, nurture our own life of faith, actively care for those who languish between belief and unbelief in the hope that they will one day be persuaded to believe, and never compromise our call to personal holiness. Jude’s letter is instructive in the life of all believers in a world that is often oblivious to the fact that the clock is ticking and one day Jesus will return so Jude is helping us order our lives while we are Waiting.

Text Analysis

            We can’t go very far in analyzing vv. 17-19 until we deal with the small word, “but,” at the beginning of v. 17. What comes after this word will only makes sense if we understand what comes before it. Jude takes his audience all the way back to the time when some of God’s angels rebelled against God’s rule to demonstrate that there have always been those who have disobeyed God with the hope of making themselves god even if it is in their own minds. Jude reminds them that God was always faithful to punish those who rebelled against Him including those who rebelled in the desert during the Exodus from Egypt as well as those who surrounded themselves with sexual immorality and perversion in the city of Sodom and Gomorrah. God will likewise one day judge and condemn all those who are ungodly in their beliefs and conduct themselves in an ungodly manner. We can easily identify the bookends to Jude’s argument as vv. 4 and 16 respectively so that the entirety of his argument is contained therein.

4For certain men whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are godless men, who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord…16These men are grumblers and faultfinders; they follow their own evil desires; they boast about themselves and flatter others for their own advantage.

            Jude wants his audience to know in vv. 17-19 that nothing has changed except the Savior has revealed Himself “but” those who are ungodly remain the same. The “last days” that Jude refers to represent the days between Jesus’ resurrection and the Second Coming. Upon His return, Jesus will set up His eternal Kingdom and judge all humanity. “Jesus and the apostles forewarned all believers that during that interim, including the time period in which we live, ‘scoffers’ will come. To ‘scoff’ means to show contempt for something by one’s actions and language, to mock. These false teachers scoffed at the truth and taught their own lies. They despised all morality and religion. Jesus had warned against the deception of false teachers (Mark 13:21-23), as had Paul (Acts 20:28-31; 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12; 1 Timothy 4:1; 2 Timothy 3:1-5), Peter (2 Peter 2:1-3:7); and John (1 John 2:22; 4:1-3; 2 John) Because Jesus and the apostles had warned against false teachers, the church must also be prepared.”[1] Jude tells us that these “scoffers,” regardless of what they say they believe, can be identified by their actions. Specifically that they are driven and motivated by base and natural instincts and not according to the leading of the Spirit because, as Jude says, they do not have the Spirit. Jude is making an overt reference to unbelievers. However, what makes this indictment so tragic is that these scoffers have infiltrated their ranks.

20But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit.

            Now that they have been adequately warned and the deceivers among them have been put on notice, Jude proceeds, in v. 20, to instruct the Church to build themselves up in the faith they profess. What does Jude mean by this? Well what is Jude warning the Church about in this letter? False teachings, right? So what’s the best way to discern what is false? By being intimately familiar with what is true. What Jude is telling the Church is precisely what I have so often tried to communicate to all of you—know why you believe what you believe. I read an article once about counterfeit currency and how financial institutions, banks specifically, train their tellers to identify counterfeit currency. An expert in counterfeit currency interviewed for the article said that whenever he was hired by a financial institution to train its people to recognize counterfeit currency, he spent very little time reviewing the characteristics of counterfeit currency because there were too many counterfeit iterations to be able to catalogue and know them all. Instead, the counterfeit expert spends the majority of his time training people to know all the intimate details of true currency with the understanding that once they become completely familiar with the real thing, any fake will be easily recognizable.

In essence, this is what Jude is saying as well. There will always be deceivers in the Church and they will take many forms. Some forms of deception will be easy to recognize while others will be far more complex. The failure to recognize deception will result in the rise and expansion of false teachings and heresies as is evidenced by the rise and expansion of the false teachings and heresies we find in today’s Mormonism and Jehovah’s Witnesses and other organizations who invoke the name of Jesus Christ to advance their deception. So how do we avoid being deceived? Know why you believe what you believe. And that is only possible if we become intimately familiar with the truth of Jesus Christ revealed to us in the Bible. If the truth of Jesus Christ is so easily available to us, why are so many people so easily deceived? Because the Bible holds the very dubious distinction of being the most purchased yet least read book in all of history. Jude’s instruction to the early Church applies just as much to us today. We have a duty to build up ourselves and one another in the faith we profess by taking the time to learn the truths of the Bible. “To build oneself up in the most holy faith means to grow spiritually. Fundamental to such growth is to learn as much as possible of the truth of Scripture and to set one’s life to believe and obey it. The most holy faith is that which was once for all entrusted to the saints. It embodied the teaching of Jesus and the apostles and is now recorded in the Scriptures. ‘All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man [and woman] of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work’ (2 Tim. 3:16-17). If we want to be trained in righteousness and equipped for every good work, we must make the Scriptures a central part of our lives.”[2]

            Jude closes his instruction in v. 20 with the command to “pray in the Holy Spirit.” This is an important instruction that applies only to the life of the believer. Jesus promised that when He ascended back to heaven, He would ask the Father to send the Holy Spirit in His place to live within us, to comfort us, to guide us, and to lead us into all truth. As a divine member of the Trinity of God, to pray in the Holy Spirit is another way of saying that we are to pray according to the will of God or under the influence of the Holy Spirit of God. “All praying that is worthy of the name will be praying that is done ‘in the Spirit’—that is, stimulated by, guided by, and infused by the Holy Spirit.”[3]

21Keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life.

            When Jude tells us in v. 21 to keep ourselves in God’s love he means that we are to remain close to God. There are far too many who think their duty to God as Christians begins and ends on the day they make a profession of faith as though God’s is a disposable vending machine that can be used to dispense salvation and then discarded. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Instead, God provided a means for our salvation so that we could be in relationship with Him. Let me illustrate this principle using marriage. With traditional Christian marriages, there is usually a ceremony where the husband and wife exchange vows of commitment and devotion to one another. I wonder, how long do you suppose the marriage would last if the husband, after completing his vows, ignored his wife and even entered into relationship with another woman? Aside from its legality, would you really consider that a marriage? Perhaps on paper but not in reality. Is saying that you know and believe in Jesus enough to make you a Christian if your life does not reflect that He is Sovereign and Lord over your life? If confessing Jesus is enough then the demons Jesus encountered during His earthly ministry would have been Christians because they readily confessed that He was the Son of God. So what’s the difference? The difference is relationship. The difference between believers and unbelievers is rooted in relationship. True Christians are in relationship with God through Jesus Christ and their actions reflect their devotion to that relationship. Committing ourselves daily to that relationship is our duty as Christians while we are Waiting. Waiting for the eternal life Jesus has prepared for us. “[Christians] remain in [God’s love] by obeying his commandments. Similarly Jude probably means that God’s love for Christians requires an appropriate response. Without obedience to God’s will, fellowship with God can be forfeited, and this is the danger with which the antinomian[4] doctrine of the false teachers threatens the church…If Jude’s readers remain faithful by following the previous three exhortations, they can expect not, like the false teachers, condemnation at the Parousia[5], but salvation. But of course, not even the faithful Christian escapes condemnation except by the Lord’s mercy.”[6]

22Be merciful to those who doubt; 23snatch others from the fire and save them; to others show mercy, mixed with fear—hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.

            As Christians, we have a duty to nurture our own relationship with God as well as encourage other Christians to grow in their faith. But Christians have another duty; a duty to point non-believers to Christ. Jude’s instruction in vv. 22-23 incorporates the Great Commission of Jesus Christ to go out to all the nations and make disciples and teach them what it means to be faithful followers of Jesus Christ (Mt 28:19-20). Jude, however, adds a twist to Jesus’ command that takes into consideration humanity’s propensity to doubt based on his own personal experience. Unbelievers and sinners have existed in every age including our own. Knowing the ultimate fate of unbelievers, we must show them mercy even in the face of their scoffing and unbelief. Considering an eternity separated from God awaits unbelievers on the day of judgment, there’s too much at stake not to do what we can to help unbelievers believe.

Believers must live as foreigners in this world while never accepting the ways of this world; never becoming contaminated with the ways of this world. At the same time, it is their duty to point those who do belong to this world toward the hope that is not of this world; a hope that is found only in Jesus Christ. “The expectation of a final judgment alone does not adequately describe the [New Testament] writings. They bear as their central message the conviction that God through Christ has provided forgiveness and salvation at the final judgment. Between these two beliefs there exists an inescapable tension. Here it is important to note that the [New Testament] writers regarded the judgment to come not merely as a basis for warning but as an offer of hope, comfort and encouragement.”[7]

Application

            Notice something missing from Jude’s instruction for us while we are Waiting? Nothing about working or sleeping or eating or opening junk mail or returning telephone calls. I know you’re rolling your eyes but let me explain. Jude was under no illusions about our daily lives and the everyday tasks that capture our attention. What Jude expected was that the Church during his day would daily grow in their faith and incorporate their beliefs into their daily lives. Jude knew that the more the people learned the Truth, the less likely they would be to accept the lies being peddled by deceivers. In this way, God’s truth would permeate every area of their lives and His power in their lives would be evident for all to see. “Waiting” for Christians is not just a matter of killing time sleeping, working, eating, etc. until our next life; our eternal life with Christ. If that’s all we are doing then we’re wasting our precious time Waiting. Instead, Jude expects our time to be spent daily living in relationship with God and with others. We are called to actively encourage other Christians in their faith and present the hope of new life in Jesus Christ while we are Waiting.

Worship and praise must also be part of the daily lives of Christians. I know that sounds strange to some of you who think that worship and praise is primarily reserved for Sundays. However, that is entirely inaccurate. In fact, Jude ends his letter with what is called a Doxology. Very simply, a Christian Doxology is a formalized prayer of praise and glory that is usually sung as a community of believers. However, nothing precludes us from using it in our daily lives while we are Waiting as a means of reverence and as a means of maintaining our focus on what should be the number one priority in our lives—Praising and giving thanks to the God who loves us so much that He didn’t spare His one and only Son in order to save us and give us an opportunity to spend eternity with Him.

Doxology

Jude vv. 24-25

24To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy—25to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.



[1] Bruce Barton, Philip Comfort, Grant Osborne, Linda K. Taylor, Dave Veerman, Life Application New Testament Commentary, (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2001), p. 1191.
[2] David Walls and Max Anders, I & II Peter, I, II, & III John, Jude—Holman New Testament Commentary, (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 1999), p. 266.
[3] Douglas J. Moo, 2 Peter, Jude—The NIV Application Commentary, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1996), p. 285.
[4] “Antinomianism” Is Greek for “against the law” or “lawless.” Biblically, it is the polar opposite of obedience to the Mosaic Law and rejection of all morality and ethics in complete reliance on God’s grace only. This was what Paul was trying to teach in his letter to the Romans. There were clearly some who believed that the more they sinned, the more God’s grace would be displayed. Some Gnostic sects used the freedom of God’s grace a license to sin because the body did not matter, only the spirit. Paul opposed this false understanding of grace and instead taught that Christians have died to sin and are therefore new creations in Christ. Although Christians are not bound to the Law, they are bound to live in obedience to God’s command to be holy just as He is holy.
[5] “Parousia” Is Greek for “presence or arrival.” Biblically it means the Second Coming or the return of Christ to earth in glory to judge the living and the dead.
[6] Richard J. Bauckham, Jude, 2 Peter—Word Biblical Commentary, (Waco, TX: Word Books, 1983), p. 114.
[7] Ralph P. Martin & Peter H. Davis, eds., Dictionary of the Later New Testament & Its Developments, (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1997), p. 622.