Sunday – March 22, 2015 Jude 17 to 19

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Jude 16-18
“These are grumblers, finding fault, following after their own lusts; they speak arrogantly, flattering people for the sake of gaining an advantage. But you, beloved, ought to remember the words that were spoken beforehand by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ, that they were saying to you, “In the last time there will be mockers, following after their own ungodly lusts.”

If Jude were written in article format and submitted to the leading evangelical magazines of our day, there’s not a chance that it would be accepted for publication. The rejection notices would say, “Too harsh and judgmental!” and “Too negative!” and “Too critical of others’ ministries!” “Where is the grace?” “Rewrite in a kinder, gentler tone!” Because tolerance has become the chief virtue of our culture and because the culture always creeps into the church, the church today is decidedly against anything that smacks of judgment or criticism of those who claim to be evangelicals. I often hear the mantra, “They will know that we are Christians by our love, not by our doctrinal correctness.” The implication is that love and correct doctrine are somehow opposed to one another.

Also, our evangelical culture has followed our morally lax worldly culture by mistaking God’s grace to mean that we get a daily allotment of free passes for sin. We wrongly think that grace means that God is like an indulgent parent who isn’t bothered by our sin. Just this week Presbyterian Church (USA) will now define marriage as a “unique commitment between two people,” rather than a lifelong covenant between a man and a woman. Where has the biblical teaching that salvation results in a life of obedience to God (Titus 2:11-14); or a lifestyle of sin is evidence that we are not truly saved (1 John 3:4-10) gone?

In contrast to our culture’s emphasis on being nice to everyone who calls himself a Christian no matter what he teaches, the Holy Spirit saw fit to put Jude in Scripture. In case we missed it, He virtually repeats it in the letter of 2 Peter. Both passages give us this extended portrait of false teachers so that we will study it carefully, like a Most Wanted Poster, so that we will be able to spot these guys when they show up and avoid them and their teaching.

So, is Jude too harsh and judgmental of these false teachers? Should he join us more enlightened 21st century evangelicals in joining hands with them and singing, “We are One in the Spirit”? Or, did the Holy Spirit inspire Jude to give us this sad portrait to study so that we will be able to spot such false teachers and avoid following their sins? Why has Jude expended so much condemnation on the false teachers? Because he is primarily a pastor. He is concerned to feed his Master’s sheep and he is furious to find them being poisoned by lust masquerading as religion.” Study this portrait carefully!

Sunday – March 15, 2015 Jude verses 13 to 15

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Jude 14-16
“It was also about these men that Enoch, in the seventh generation from Adam, prophesied, saying, “Behold, the Lord came with many thousands of His holy ones, to execute judgment upon all, and to convict all the ungodly of all their ungodly deeds which they have done in an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him.”

The Apostle Paul wrote, regarding the Old Testament, “Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come” (1 Cor. 10:11). The use of the Old Testament Scriptures by the church of Christ has been the subject of some debate from the early church fathers up to the present day. The debate is primarily concerned with the question of what writings are truly in the canon of the Old Testament Scriptures. The word “canon” is from a Greek word that means a “rule” or “standard”.

So what makes the cut in terms of Old Testament Scripture? Should it encompass all the books read in the church for edification, which would include the Apocrypha and sometimes the Pseudipigrapha (anonymous apocalyptic writings). Or should it be the Jewish Bible, representing also the Protestant Bibles of today. It was not until the age of the Reformation that the debate began to rage. In 1546 when the Roman Catholic Church at the Council of Trent made a formal statement accepting selected Apocryphal writings, the Protestants retorted with an equally resolute voice: So should we include books like Enoch because Jude 14 quotes it?

The inter-testament saints held there was a known Scripture. In their writings they would often refer to it with the authoritative phrase, “as it is written,” or “according to Scripture,” or “it is written.” In fact, references to almost all of the books of the Old Testament are considered to be Scripture by the writers of the New Testament period. Jesus Himself, the most authoritative witness for the Christian, states in Luke 24:44 the three sections of the Old Testament as “the Law of Moses and the Prophets and Psalms.” “Psalms” undoubtedly means the whole Hagiographa, for Christ often referred to Daniel, which was a part of that third section, as well as the book of Psalms itself, after which the section was named. Even non-biblical writers such as Philo and the tenth century Arabian writer al-Masudi both refer to the Hagiographa as the “Psalms.”

The quote in Jude 14 of 1 Enoch 1:9 does not require that 1 Enoch be included in Scripture. To quote what is true in Scripture is different than saying that what is quoted is Scripture. Even Paul quoted a pagan poet in Acts 17:28, yet he certainly did not regard it as Scripture but as simply true. The Pharisees, the Sadducees and the Essenes also all recognized a closed canon and generally saw that prophecy had ceased before the Pseudepigrapha and Apocrypha were even written. None of the Pseudepigrapha and Apocrypha were in the canon of the Jews and it was to this canon that Jesus Himself and the Apostles appealed.

Sunday – March 8, 2015 Jude verses 11 to 13

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Jude 11
“Woe to them! For they have gone the way of Cain, and for pay they have rushed headlong into the error of Balaam, and perished in the rebellion of Korah.”

I’m quite sure I know the reason why the Book of Numbers is so often ignored. People think it is boring. Let’s face it; there are some portions of the Old Testament that appear to be irrelevant, and that are commonly considered boring. Having admitted to this, I now wish to point out that one of the most fascinating stories in the Bible is found in the Book of Numbers. I am speaking of the story of Balaam, the “diviner,” who was hired to curse Israel.

Balaam was merely a well-known “diviner,” with a reputation for effectively cursing nations. I do not mean to say that he was a complete fraud, and that his “curses” had no effect on others. His reputation seems to indicate otherwise. I believe that his powers did not come “from above,” but “from below,” that he was “connected,” but not to the God of Israel.  It wasn’t that Balaam did not know the will of God; it was that he did not want to do it. When Balaam asks the men to spend the night so that he can inquire further of the Lord, it is clear that Balaam does not want to do what God has commanded. The money and fame which Balak offered Balaam was too much for Balaam to turn down. He was intent upon getting around God’s will.

Let there be no doubt that God is not pleased when men do the evil that He permits. God sometimes allows men to sin, even though He has condemned and forbidden it. This is a good example of what we might call “God’s permissive will.” God forbade Balaam to go with the delegation that had come, and also He forbade Balaam from cursing Israel, the people God had blessed. When He permitted Balaam to accompany these men to meet with Balak, it was His permissive will. God allows men to do those things which He has forbidden. Woe to those who persist in their path of sin, for it is surely the road to destruction. Just because God allows men to sin does not mean that He approves of sin.

It is fairly easy to see the folly of Balaam’s ways, and yet many Christians seek to use God, rather than to serve Him. We try to convince God that our happiness is more important than our holiness, that our pleasures are more important than pleasing Him. How often we know that what we are pursuing is in violation of His Word, and yet we persist at seeking to change His mind, or at least in seeking to convince ourselves that what we want is not really that bad. The pagan gods were not real, but the product of man’s fallen imaginations – “god” the way we would like him to be. We serve the God who made man, and who will not be manipulated. It is our duty and privilege to conform to Him, rather than for us to seek to conform Him to our wants and wishes.

Sunday – March 1, 2015 Jude verses 8 to 10

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Jude 8-9
Yet in the same way these men, also by dreaming, defile the flesh, and reject authority, and revile angelic majesties. But Michael the archangel, when he disputed with the devil and argued about the body of Moses, did not dare pronounce against him a railing judgment, but said, “The Lord rebuke you!”

The study of angels or the doctrine of angelology is one of the ten major categories of theology developed in many systematic theological works. The tendency, however, has been to neglect it. Though the doctrine of angels holds an important place in the Word of God, it is often viewed as a difficult subject because, while there is abundant mention of angels in the Bible, the nature of this revelation is without the same kind of explicit description we often find with other subjects developed in the Bible.

Our culture takes angels seriously, but not accurately. Modern society, so seemingly secular and hopelessly materialistic, desperately searches for some spiritual and supernatural meaning. If angels can provide it, then angels it will be. Bookstores abound with books about angels or encounters with angels, not to mention television series and major motion pictures. They can be very entertaining, but it does illustrate our fascination and our very poor grasp of what the Bible really teaches about angels and about God.

While all the angels were originally created holy and without sin, there was a rebellion by Satan, who, being lifted up by his own beauty, rebelled and sought to exalt himself above God. In his rebellion, he took with him one-third of the angels (Rev. 12:4). This rebellion and fall is probably described for us in Isaiah 14:12-15 and Ezekiel 28:15 embodied in the kings of Babylon and Tyre. The angels which sinned did so in full knowledge of all the issues involved. They chose self-corruption, knowing exactly what they were doing. They sinned without remedy, and there is no atonement for them (II Peter 2:4; Jude 6).

A study of the angels, both good and bad, furnishes us with a number of lessons as to how we should and should not live both negatively and positively. A consciousness of the reality of the vast hosts of angelic being – the benefit derived from the good, and the opposition of the bad – can be gained only through meditation upon the Scriptures that record these truths, and through prayer.

Sunday – February 22, 2015 Jude Verses 5 to 7

February 22, 2015 – Read the Word on Worship

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Jude 5-7
Now I desire to remind you, though you know all things once for all, that the Lord, after saving a people out of the land of Egypt, subsequently destroyed those who did not believe. And angels who did not keep their own domain, but abandoned their proper abode, He has kept in eternal bonds under darkness for the judgment of the great day, just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities around them, since they in the same way as these indulged in gross immorality and went after strange flesh, are exhibited as an example in undergoing the punishment of eternal fire.”

Apostasy (or falling away) always begins in the mind. These spirits are “deceitful” and they teach doctrines that sound biblical but are just slightly off. They are out to fool you in your thinking. But God’s people believe and know the truth. We need to be careful here. On one extreme, there is a wide movement in the American church that minimizes truth. This side says, “They will know we are Christians by our love,” and so they adopt a “peace at any cost” position that dilutes and ultimately destroys essential Christian truth. They emphasize tolerance and doctrinal diversity. If you speak out against error, this side accuses you of being unloving and divisive. But if you go down that road, you end up with the unbiblical view that truth doesn’t matter and that there is no such thing as sound doctrine.

On the other extreme, we can be so zealous for the truth that we shred relationships and end up falling into spiritual pride because we hold to “The Truth.” I get a newsletter from a man who attacks and separates himself from many well-known evangelicals because he finds errors in statements they have made in print or in taped messages. If you go far enough down that road, you end up in a church of one member, because you’ll never find another person who agrees with you on every minor point of doctrine. So you have to determine how serious a matter is and what the consequences will be if people follow this teaching.

You must be especially careful to guard yourself from wrong thinking when you’re going through a difficult trial. Satan comes along and sows doubts about God’s goodness: “If He were really good, He wouldn’t let this happen to you. It’s okay to be angry at God; He wasn’t faithful to you by letting this happen.” It’s in the context of trials that Peter tells us to humble ourselves under God’s mighty hand and then says, “Be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. But resist him, firm in your faith” (1 Pet. 5:8-9). So, Satan is out to influence your thinking. Spiritual warfare involves the mind. But it never stops there.

To avoid falling away, we must persevere in God’s truth with thankful hearts. It’s not always easy, but even in times of trial, we need to affirm God’s goodness and thank Him for His many blessings.

Sunday – February 15, 2015 Jude verse 3

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Jude 3-4
“Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, 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. For certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.”

C.S. Lewis, more than anyone else in the 20th century, lived out the admonition of our passage today. Never before in my lifetime has this verse been more important for Christians to hear, consider, and heed. Note three elements in this verse that are essential to Jude’s entreaty. First, Jude makes reference to a specific message with specific content, the “faith once and for all delivered”—the foundation of “our common salvation.” Second is the admonition to “contend earnestly” for that faith—to proclaim it, guard it, and defend it. Finally, Jude reminds us that it had been “delivered” to the saints—passed on from the disciples to the next generation in the church.

Currently, the Christian worldview is facing assault on multiple fronts. In the midst of this academic attack, there is an increasingly pervasive godlessness and a militant relativism in the culture. The 21st century began as an era of radical skepticism, especially in the area of morality and religion. As a result, the moral rulebook is being rewritten. Right has become wrong and wrong right.

In addition, there is an increasing hostility towards those who take Jesus seriously regarding the Great Commission. Jesus said he came, “To seek to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10), and “to call sinners to repentance” (Luke 5:32). That was the way He described His own mission. Yet when we proclaim this message—Jesus’ central message—we court conflict. Indeed, to be faithful to Jesus’ claim that He is the only Savior is increasingly considered an example of “spreading hate.”

The key to contending for the faith—to surviving the spiritual onslaught of the 21st century—is to guard the Gospel. The key to that is found in two simple phrases. One, contend earnestly for that faith. That means we need to go back to the basics. Back to the Word as it has been entrusted to us; back to the faith once delivered by the Apostles. And two, entrust it to faithful disciples who will be able to teach others also. Guard the Gospel by continuing in the truth already revealed, then pass the baton. Proclaim the truth faithfully, guard it diligently, and pass it on carefully. That is how we contend earnestly for the faith once for all delivered to the saints.

Sunday – February 8, 2015 Jude verses 1 & 2

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Jude 1-2
“Jude, a bond-servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James, to those who are the called, beloved in God the Father, and kept for Jesus Christ: May mercy and peace and love be multiplied to you.”

There is a familiar story about three men who were working on a stone pile at a construction site. A curious passerby asked the first worker, “What are you doing?” He tersely replied, “Chiseling stone.” Hoping for a better answer, he asked the second worker, “What are you doing?” “Bringing home a paycheck.” Still wondering what was going on, he asked the third man, “Sir, what are you doing?” The man dropped his sledge hammer, stood erect, and his face brightened as he waved toward the site and exclaimed, “I’m building a great cathedral!” All three men were doing the same job, but only the third man had the proper vision to make his job meaningful and to put his heart into it.

Our calling is not on what we do for God, but rather on what God has done for us. The basis for any service for Christ is that God has effectually called us to belong to Christ, He has set His love on us, and He has set us apart unto Himself, bestowing His grace and peace on us. Throughout Scripture, God the Father is the one who calls us to salvation. For example, in 1 Corinthians 1:9 Paul writes, “God is faithful, through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” Here Jude tells us God calls us to belong to Jesus Christ.

“Called” in the New Testament epistles always refers to God’s effectual call to salvation. It is not merely an ‘invitation,’ but the powerful and irresistible reaching out of God in grace to bring people into his kingdom.” Paul makes this clear in Romans 8:30, “and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.” The entire chain of salvation is God’s doing, so that no one may boast in himself, but rather, only in the Lord.

To be a Christian means that God has intervened in your life, calling you out of darkness and into His kingdom of light, where you now belong to Christ and have fellowship with Him. Paul often refers to our new standing as being “in Christ.” We are totally identified with Him. This implies a fundamental break with the world, where we no longer love the world and live for the same things that the world lives for. We now are those who have been called to belong to the Lord Jesus Christ.

Sunday – February 1, 2015 New Study in the Book of Jude “Introduction to Jude”

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1 Timothy 3:14-15
I am writing these things to you, hoping to come to you before long; but in case I am delayed, I write so that you will know how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth.”

The view that there is no absolute truth pervades our society. A recent Gallup poll conducted for Americans United for Life found nearly 70 percent agree with the statement: “There are few moral absolutes; what is right or wrong usually varies from situation to situation.” Only 27 percent disagreed. And while 50 percent were troubled about the influence of religious fundamentalism, only 36 percent expressed concern about secular humanism’s influence.

The church today has minimized biblical truth in favor of whatever works to draw people in. To do this, the church has adopted a marketing approach, where you give the customer what he wants and tiptoe around difficult issues such as sin, hell, judgment, and other politically incorrect topics. The measure of success in the local church has become “is the church growing?” rather than “is the church faithful to the truth?”

The goal, of course, is a good one: To bring people to know Christ and to become a part of His church. The theologically liberal modernists of 100 years ago had exactly the same goal. The modernists didn’t set out to deny the faith. They were afraid that if they didn’t make the gospel message “relevant” to their culture, they would lose people. Even so, the church growth movement today is seeking to make the faith relevant to baby boomers and others who have been turned off. To do this, they use modern marketing and management strategies and offer short, uplifting, psychologized sermons that play down truth or doctrine, with the goal of making people feel good. But the end result is the same: By minimizing biblical truth, you end up selling out the heart of the faith.

I am driven by a passion for knowing and proclaiming God’s truth. That truth cuts against not only the grain of our culture, but also of much modern evangelicalism. We live in an age of deception. If we want to avoid being swept downstream, if we want to stand as the pillar and support of God’s truth, we must become people of the truth. Without it, our Christianity will crumble under the pressures of the modern world.

Sunday – January 25, 2015 3rd John Verses 1 to 15 “True Prosperity”

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3 John 2-4
“Beloved, I pray that in all respects you may prosper and be in good health, just as your soul prospers. For I was very glad when brethren came and testified to your truth, that is, how you are walking in truth. I have no greater joy than this, to hear of my children walking in the truth.”

As in all of John’s writings, truth is a central concept in 3 John. He mentions it six times in these thirteen verses, plus the world “true” in verse 12. As we’ve seen, John’s greatest joy was to hear of his spiritual children walking in the truth. Why did the aged apostle hammer on the truth so often? One reason was that he was the last living apostle, and he saw numerous errors creeping into the churches. Also, the Lord Jesus had repeatedly emphasized the truth in His earthly ministry.

In John 1:14, John testified that Jesus was “full of grace and truth.” In John 3:21, “he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.” In John 4:23, Jesus explained that the Father seeks those who “worship in spirit and truth.” In John 8:32, Jesus said, “and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” In John 14:6, Jesus claimed, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” Jesus referred to the Holy Spirit as “the Spirit of truth”. He prayed in John 17:17, “Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth.” Jesus told the skeptical Pilate in John 18:37, “For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.”

The huge emphasis on truth in John’s writings teaches us that truth matters! How a person thinks about God, man, salvation, and life determines how that person lives. A person with false concepts in these areas will live differently than the person with a biblical view in these important matters. Since Jesus Himself is the truth and since God’s Word is truth, Satan works overtime to undermine the truth about the person and work of Christ and the truth of God’s inerrant Word.

So truth was a huge emphasis in Jesus’ ministry, and therefore, too, in the life and ministry of the apostle John. Contrary to the current postmodern philosophy that denies absolute truth in the spiritual realm, the Bible clearly affirms that there is theological and moral truth and error. This truth centers in the person and work of Jesus Christ. Since God is the author of truth, whereas Satan is the author of spiritual lies, God’s people must know and obey the truth as revealed in God’s Word. Then it may be said of you, “Beloved, I pray that in all respects you may prosper and be in good health, just as your soul prospers.” And your pastor will have great joy to hear that you are walking in the truth.

Sunday – January 18, 2015 2nd John Verse 7 to 13 “Prescription for a Healthy Church Pt 2”

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2 John 7-8
“For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is the deceiver and the antichrist. Watch yourselves, that you do not lose what we have accomplished, but that you may receive a full reward.”

The word heresy sounds outdated these days. It just smacks of arrogance, because to accuse someone of heresy implies that I am right and not just that he is wrong, but seriously wrong. It also assumes that there is such a thing as definable truth and error in the spiritual realm. But in our day, spiritual “truth” is subjective and relative. If it’s true for you, that’s cool. But I have my own spiritual “truths” that work for me. So who are you to accuse me of heresy?

But before we put heresy in the museum as a relic from the past, we need to think carefully. There is one huge factor that renders heresy a valid concept, namely, the fact that God is and that He has revealed Himself to us through His written Word. If God exists, not as a projection of men’s minds, but as the eternal Sovereign Creator of the universe, then He is the ultimate and final standard of truth. And if He has spoken to us in His Word, then as Jesus said, His Word is truth (John 17:17). Either Jesus was mistaken or lying, or God’s Word is truth. Any deviation from His Word on core matters, such as the person and work of Jesus Christ or the way of salvation, is heresy.

Before we think to ourselves that we could never fall prey to heresy, we need to remember our own weakness to desire what we want instead of what God has provided. We are all susceptible to heretical teachings because in one form or another, they nurture and reflect the way we would have it be rather than the way God has provided, which is infinitely better for us. The whispers of prosperity and blessing from God as our divine right lead us into the blind alleys of self-indulgence and escape from life. Heresies in all their forms pander to the most unworthy tendencies of the human heart.

As we have seen, there is an inseparable connection between truth and love. Biblical love seeks the highest good of the one loved. If a false teacher is actively involved in deceiving people about the truth so that they go to eternal condemnation, then we are not acting in love to do anything to encourage such teachers in their misleading deeds. John Stott observes, “If John’s instruction still seems harsh, it is perhaps because his concern for the glory of the Son and the good of men’s souls is greater than ours, and because ‘the tolerance on which we pride ourselves’ is in reality an ‘indifference to truth.’”