Contend For The Faith
While reading Dallas Willard’s ‘The Divine Conspiracy’ the other day, I was struck by an analogy that he used. “Recently a pilot was practising high-speed manoeuvres in a jet fighter. She turned the controls for what she thought was a steep ascent – and flew straight into the ground. She was unaware that she had been flying upside down.” Now the analogy has nothing to do with women drivers but rather that she had no clue as to which way was the right way up. This analogy hit home as I was preaching from the book of Jude lately. Some verses stood out for me, verses that we all know very well. “But, dear friends, remember what the apostles of our lord Jesus Christ foretold. They said to you, ‘In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires.’ These are the men who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the spirit.” Jude 17-19
We are living in the last days and part and parcel of living in these days is that we have those around us and in the church who scoff and follow their own ungodly desires. They, in turn, cause others to fall away from the Truth of God’s Word and lead many astray by their ungodliness and false teachings. This brings division in the church and amongst God’s people. They, like the pilot, are flying but have no clue as to which is the right way up.
As believers, we are called to be wise and recognise that we are living in evil days. One of the deadly evils that we face is one that we find in the church - false teachers and their doctrines. We value tolerance so much that taking a stand for truth or righteousness is foreign to us. Yet the early Church did take a stand, in a society much like our own. The early Christians insisted that Jesus is the only way to God. If you take that stand today, you are bombarded by society and, even worse, by believers.
Certainly we do not execute heretics today nor do we persecute those who differ from us. But we should be able to recognise heresy and its subtleties as well as ‘just off the mark’ teachings. We should know how to respond to false teachers.
Jude was writing this short letter to the Church of Jesus Christ. His language is strong, harsh, scalding and severe. Perhaps that is why it is not popular - in the politically correct age in which we live, strong language is not palatable. Something that is black-and-white and absolute and true is not always popular! In the Church today, a cry for intolerance against heresy, false teaching and watered- down Christianity is not acceptable and so we find a dishonouring attitude or view of the Lord Jesus Christ. You will find men and women, churches and movements around our world that are deceiving souls by the millions and leading them into an eternal hell!
Jude begins and ends his epistle with tremendous statements on our eternal security as believers. In the midst of the false teachings so rife today, we are reminded that we are called and kept by God to be presented before the presence of our great and glorious God. “Therefore He is able to save completely those who come to God through Him, because He always lives to intercede for them.” Heb 7:25
Jude wrote this letter because there were men who had slipped into the church and were spreading false and ungodly teachings. Outwardly they were members of the church; inwardly they were strangers to Jesus Christ. These people were marked out by God and their doom was predicted long ago. The Lord Jesus Christ warned His own disciples that these men are ordained for condemnation.
There are those who name the Name of Christ today but do not know if there really is a God. (Look at some popular ‘Christian’ books and ‘Christian’ TV channels). They don't really know if Christ is the Son of God; if there is life after death; if there actually was a virgin birth; if miracles really happen or if sinners really can be saved!
Jude condemns these false teachers and gives seven Old Testament examples to prove his point:
· Israel (v 5)
· Fallen angels (v 6)
· Sodom and Gomorrah (v 7)
· Michael and Moses (v 8-10)
· Cain (v. 11)
· Balaam (v. 11)
· Korah (v 11)
All of these disobeyed God and received their judgment and punishment for it.
Jude says that these false teachers speak out against the Creator. They speak with their own full authority “against whatever they do not understand… like unreasoning animals.” (v10). They are grumblers, complainers, boastful and following their own ways. That means no moral compass, no ethical decisions, no guidance by the Spirit, no spiritual insight – and this is the very thing that destroys them. Today we see churches and church leaders who, though taking the Name of Christ, are sinning openly and encouraging sin in the world around us. What perhaps began with them as a lack of reverence for the Word of God, which they did not obey, has become their interpretation of Scripture that legitimises and legalises their sin.
Jude moves on and quotes Enoch from the Old Testament. He was one of the two men in Scripture who “walked with God” and was taken to heaven without experiencing death. It is said that he “pleased God”. He shows us the example of preventative treatment of apostasy, false teachings and doctrines. It is called simply - 'Walking with God'! It means reconciliation with God. A man cannot walk with God unless he knows God in reconciliation.
There had to be likeness in nature. Enoch had to be holy, as God is Holy. He had to have Godly morals, because God does not walk out of the way of holiness and He does not lower the standards to fit us. Enoch had to have a surrendered will because God does not force His company on anyone. He chose to walk with God and we need daily to choose to surrender our will and walk to God’s Will.
Jude’s admonition from v 17 – 25 shows us how we are to act and survive in light of this situation – in times of falling away because of rampant false teachings and teachers creeping into the Church.
· We must “remember” the words of the apostles. (v 17-18)
Remember what the Lord and the apostles said about these people, so that when it happens we are not to be surprised by it. What we are experiencing in the church today is nothing new. It was there in the past; it’s here today and will be here in the future.
· We are to “build” ourselves up in our holy faith. (v 20)
The very heart of surviving is being strong in the faith. That means being strong in your understanding of Christian Truth – the Truth of what we believe. This is why we need to study God’s Word. “Do not treat prophecies with contempt. Test everything” 1 Thess 5: 20, 21. We need discernment. We need it to watch out for the invasion of liberalism, dogmatism, legalism, secular psychology and relativism and many other things that affect sound doctrine and the interpretation of Scripture.
· We need to “pray in the Holy Spirit.” (vs 20)
This means that we need to pray consistently with the Spirit’s will, guidance and leading. “We do not know what we ought to pray, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express” Rom 8: 26. We need to align ourselves with the Will of God as we study His Word and pray in faith and conformity to the Word of God.
· We must “keep ourselves in God’s love” as we wait for His return. (v 21)
This means to stay in the sphere of God’s love, keeping yourself in the place where you experience the blessing that God’s love brings. Don’t get yourself into a position where you begin to know and feel God’s wrath. It simply means being obedient to God. Live in the light of eternity. Live in the light of the future.
There are three kinds of people who threaten the Church and we need to be merciful and seek to restore them into the Truth.
1. Those that doubt or are ignorant (v 22). They don’t know the Word of God, they are not applying it in their lives and have found the false teachings satisfying to their desires.. They are confused! Jude instructs us to show mercy and kindness. We need to come alongside them and show them the Truth.
2. Those that need to be snatched “from the fire” (v 23). This is a bigger challenge. They have bought the lies; they have owned the lies. This is where we go beyond having mercy – this is a rescue operation! We need to snatch them from the fire. We need to do everything we can to rescue them..
3. Those that have been “corrupted” (v 23). They are in the lies ‘boots and all’. We need to take pity on them but with fear, making sure that we are not polluted by their teachings and so pulled in and defile ourselves.
As you read this epistle, you cannot help but realise that Christians must defend the Faith and oppose false teachers. Paul did this continually and we need to be ready in and out of season to give an account for what we believe. Christ is guarding us, but He wants us to guard the deposit He has left in our hands. Not only must we guard this deposit but we need to be prepared to snatch our friends, family and others from the fire of false teaching and false living. We need to build ourselves up in the Word of God and walk in the light of His Truth. May our Lord bless you as you contend for the Faith.