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.
We are studying the NT book of James at the moment but as part of my daily readings this week I read through the one chapter ‘book’ of Jude – who was James’ little brother. Jesus was the Big Brother, so you could say this is Big Brother’s Little Brother if anyone remembers that.
Jude is short for Judas, but of course that was not a popular name by now.
Who’s it to? ‘The called and loved ones.’ That’s them – and us! The great thing is we are kept for Jesus, no matter what happens, Jesus said about those who came to him, ‘my Father is stronger than all and nobody can snatch them from his hand…’ So there’s comfort at the start and at the end of the letter to, as it finishes with praise to the One who “is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy.”
This little letter then is a lot like the Christian life in one page because when you connect with Jesus at the start there’s peace and love, and at the end there is great joy – but in the middle, well – it gets a bit gnarly at times.
The way the Message renders the opening greetings is, “Relax, everything’s going to be all right; rest, everything’s coming together; open your hearts, love is on the way!” So take a minute and breathe and do that.
Because then we get into a bit of a scary ride.
The next thing Jude says is how he just wanted to just do a nice ‘faith lift’ shoot the breeze about how great God is and so on – but something was happening that made that impossible. He had to write about something that was troubling him. So he writes a couple of little sermons as warnings instead.
Now sometimes, we should just hold in what we want to say (must not post about Dominic Cummings….)
But Jude can’t help it. This is not his own idea. He’s being pushed, by the Holy Spirit to tell them what he doesn’t even want to say. It won’t make him popular to write it. A lot of people will misunderstand, even hate him for doing so – but he can’t let that stop him. It’s a warning from God.
He says, ‘I have to write to you about something.’ Something evil.
Not outside the church.
Something is happening in the church and he doesn’t want to have to call it out, but he cares too much to hold it in.
“I felt compelled to write and urge you to contend – to fight – for the faith that was once for all delivered to God’s holy people.”
Notice that word ‘delivered.’
It’s like, ‘We didn’t make this up ourselves you know. God revealed it! This isn’t some man made religious system or philosophy, it’s all God. He delivered it, once and for all.
There’s only one gospel that saves people, and only One who could do it.
Jesus Christ is not ‘a way’ = he’s the Way.
He didn’t just tell us some true things, He is Truth.
Without him there is no Life.
It’s a matter of life and death. Forever.
And he just wanted to celebrate that with them.
Some false teachers have slipped in.
The word he uses is ‘crept’ and it’s like, through a side door someone left open, these people that the Bible has warned about time and time again have now come right into their meetings, into the church. There have always been enemies of God and his people and this is subtle not a full frontal attack.
They are in church. Leading. Leading astray. They’re taking people away.
Jude’s saying, ‘I wanted to just write and say ‘Hey, isn’t the latest Rend Collective album great,’ But I had to write about this instead. You have to fight for the truth!’
They’re like Cain, who murdered his brother over worship
They’re like Baaam, who prophesied for money
They’re like Korah, who tried to lead the whole of Israel away from God by undermining Moses’ authority in a rebellion.
Can you imagine a church leader saying that these days?
That there are false teachers, false prophets, rebellious people – who the Bible has been warning of time and time again; that they lead people astray from the true faith?
That there really is even such a thing as ‘the true faith’?
How illiberal, how unkind, how ‘unchristian’ is that?!
Isn’t faith just faith? What do you mean contend for the faith? People believe all kinds of things – surely we just want good will toward everyone. Nobody’s right – nobody has to be wrong, everything’s alright. You believe what you believe, that’s good for you, let’s live and let live?’
No – he says that leads to death!
He is so serious about this danger.
These people have slipped into the church and they’re in danger of pulling God’s people away from the One it’s all about!
They are not apostles, they are apostates.
He says they are condemned, ‘Woe to them!’. Do not follow them. Because that will lead you where they’re going.
You’ll wander around in desert places with these grumblers like the children of Israel did for 40 years.
They’ll scoff if you try to live full on for God, because they want to follow their own evil desires and tell you to do the same.
They want you to follow them, but look out.
Because to align with them, is to align as they have with God’s enemies, dark forces – principalities and powers – destined for gloomy darkness and punishment of everlasting fire.
So how do we know whether or not they’re false teachers, false prophets, false Christians?
There are a lot of teachers out there aren’t there?
Many claiming to represent Jesus Christ.
Some very convincing and theological, some become really well known. Stars!
But Jude says they’re ‘wandering stars…’
They’ll talk about dreams and spiritual experiences.
They will tell you anything you want to hear – as long as you want to listen to it.
But they’re in this for them, not for you, and not for Him.
They’ll boast and flatter he says.
They’ll divide you.
But that doesn’t mean it’s easy to spot them.
Even if we have our suspicions, we feel bad for being suspicious. We say “Nobody’s perfect”, and we don’t like to call any of it out, we don’t want to be judgmental.
We are nicer than Jude.
We are nicer than Jesus who called the Pharisees snakes, vipers and whitewashed tombs.
We are nicer than God who inspired these words.
He gives a couple of mini sermons in the letter to help pull out the characteristics and that’s useful for discernment – but in verse 4 he gives us the two basic, unmistakable signs of an ‘ungodly’ false teacher or false prophet who has slipped into the church.
‘Ungodly’, he uses that word a lot. Because they could sound very spiritual. But they follow their own desires and instincts. What they think and feel and want, not what God says.
Two signs then, in one verse – verse 4; Notice.
“They are ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into a license for immorality (that’s number 1) and (2) deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord.”
That’s it. Did you see those two signs? Not too complicated really. Watch out for those two things and check anyone who says they’re teaching you about God against them.
Check ME against those two things;
- Error 1: “who pervert the grace of our God into a license for immorality.”
If it feels good to you, it’s good. Whatever turns you on. God is all about grace anyway. Just live however you like and do whatever you feel. It’s all good. God just thinks you’re awesome anyway.
No. God is awesome. I’m a sinner, I need a Saviour. That’s why there was a cross on a hill and blood being shed.
He’s holy, he says ‘be holy as I am holy.’
Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote about ‘Cheap Grace,’ which was being peddled by the national state church as Hitler’s influence grew and took over in his home nation of Germany. He said Cheap Grace is;
Grace without price; grace without cost! The essence of grace, we suppose, is that the account has been paid in advance; and, because it has been paid, everything can be had for nothing. Since the cost was infinite, the possibilities of using and spending it are infinite.
Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves.
The preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion and absolution without confession. grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.
- ERROR 2. That leads to the second check on false teachers and apostates, He says watch out because they “deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord.”
No matter how clever their speech is, how wise it sounds, false teachers, false prophets, are Christians without Christ. They refuse his Lordship and Sovereignty so in the end they are ‘clouds without rain’.
They deny that Jesus is King, they say he’s not Lord.
Yes they’ll say, “He’s a great moral example for us all, I do love Jesus because he’s just added so much to my life.”
But they won’t want to talk about the subtractions that have come, or the division that might come, for saying “He is Lord.” The word Sovereign there is “Master.” It’s a very strong word. It means, ‘I am a slave to him now. I am not my own. I’ll live for him, I died to me.’ But false teachers don’t want to talk about any of that.
Jesus is just my BFF. There’s only cheap grace needed for that Jesus.
Bonhoeffer went onto write about costly grace. In the end, costly grace was what cost his life after he was sent to prison, then a concentration camp, and then hung.
“Costly grace is the treasure hidden in the field; for the sake of it a man will go and sell all that he has. It is the pearl of great price to buy which the merchant will sell all his goods. It is the kingly rule of Christ, for whose sake a man will pluck out the eye which causes him to stumble; it is the call of Jesus Christ at which the disciple leaves his nets and follows him.
Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a man must knock.
Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life. It is costly because it condemns sin, and grace because it justifies the sinner. Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of his Son: “ye were bought at a price,” and what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us.
Above all, it is grace because God did not reckon his Son too dear a price to pay for our life, but delivered him up for us. Costly grace is the Incarnation of God.”
Let’s pray that for that amazing costly grace today.
I’ll end with the way the Message finishes Jude’s letter.
And now to him who can keep you on your feet, standing tall in his bright presence, fresh and celebrating—to our one God, our only Savior, through Jesus Christ, our Master, be glory, majesty, strength, and rule before all time, and now, and to the end of all time. Yes.AMEN