April 15, 2012 David Balzer

Jude: When it’s Right to Fight

Sometimes, it’s RIGHT TO FIGHT. It would be nice if everyone always got along, and never disagreed. Whether it’s in the CHURCH, or in THE WORLD.

But sometimes you’ve got to take DRASTIC MEASURES. Sometimes the cause is so just, and what’s at stake, so VALUABLE, that it’s RIGHT TO FIGHT.

That was the message we heard last year about AFGHANISTAN coming from the Prime Minister, and the Federal Opposition leader, and the Chief of the Australian Defence Force. More Australian soldiers had lost their lives. It’s been tragic and terrible. But the united message was that there’s too much at stake to give in. That sometimes it’s RIGHT TO FIGHT.

Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston was quick to argue against a withdrawal. He said coalition forces had just had their ‘most successful winter ever’. ‘Why would you pull out when you’re making the best progress you’ve ever made?’ ‘You’ve got the Taliban completely disrupted and on the back foot. ‘WE NEED TO STAY THE COURSE,’ he said.

And it’s even MORE important with the CHRISTIAN cause. WE NEED TO STAY THE COURSE. Because there’s plenty of people who want to drag you away, and hold you back.

And the message of Jude is that, sometimes, it’s RIGHT TO FIGHT.

I don’t particularly ENJOY preaching that message. It doesn’t come naturally to me.

Jude is such a serious and full-on letter. Full of threats and warnings about punishment and judgment. There’s colourful descriptions of Jude’s opponents that would land him in court on defamation charges these days.

That’s not really me, though. I’d much rather talk about NICE things. ENCOURAGING things. I’d rather be thought of as EASY-GOING AND ACCEPTING, rather than UPTIGHT AND MORAL AND LEGALISTIC.

It’s much easier to WOO people, than WARN them. To BUILD THEM UP, rather than REBUKE them for their sin.

And as tough and as hard-line as Jude sounds, I think he’s actually WITH me in this as well. He’d rather not be writing this letter AT ALL. Before he launches into all the tough talk, we get this insight in v3. Have a look at it with me.

3 Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints.

His plan had been to write ONE sort of letter. A nice encouraging, positive letter. But when he heard news about the danger his friends were under, he’d quickly picked up the pen to write something DIFFERENT.

And a much more SERIOUS, INSISTENT letter took shape. A letter urging them to CONTEND FOR THE FAITH. To go into BATTLE. To defend the truths they’d based their lives on. To stay the course.

Sometimes, it’s the only option. Sometimes the cause is so just, and what’s at stake, SO VALUABLE, that it’s RIGHT TO FIGHT.

John Dickson, in his book “A Sneaking Suspicion” talks about his first car, and looking after what’s VALUABLE.

“My first car was an orange Datsun 1200. It got me from A to B, but it really was a rust bucket. It only cost me a thousand bucks, so I didn’t treat it too well and had no problem lending it out to any of my friends. I figured that if they crashed it, it was no big deal. Suppose though, I owned a Porsche 968. I can assure you, I’D CARE FOR IT WITH MY LIFE and certainly wouldn’t lend it out. In my mind, SUCH A VALUABLE MACHINE DESERVES THE UTMOST CARE.

And that’s what Jude thinks about THE CHURCH. That’s what GOD thinks about his church. It’s SO VALUABLE, it deserves the utmost care. It DESERVES to be fought for.

You can see what Jude thinks about the church there in v1. And why it might MOTIVATE him to defend it so PASSIONATELY.

To those who have been CALLED, who are LOVED by God the Father and KEPT by Jesus Christ:

That’s a “Porsche” view of church. CALLED, LOVED AND KEPT. Like a beautiful car. Precious to God, and precious to Jude. If it was only a “Datsun”, you wouldn’t care so much.

So, for Jude, there’s TOO MUCH AT STAKE just to write his nice, encouraging letter. Now’s the time for FIGHTING. For DEFENDING.

The danger within (4-16)

And while MOST of the time, you defend against attacks from OUTSIDE. Sometimes the danger comes from WITHIN. Like for Lance Corporal Andrew Jones, shot last year by one of the allied Afghan soldiers he’d helped TRAIN. You might remember it. He was shot inside a safe compound, while both of them were on guard duty. Not even expecting it.

And that’s what’s happening here. For Jude’s readers, the danger’s WITHIN. Have a look at v4.

4 For 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.

This is no attack from OUTSIDERS. It’s not from the media. From politically correct bureaucrats, or public surveys or billboards. That’s EASY to deal with. This is people INSIDE THE CHURCH. Perhaps sitting right there as Jude’s letter is read out.

Like cancer, eating its way through the body. The body’s own cells turn on the body. You can’t SEE it, it’s HIDDEN. But it’s killing healthy parts, feeding off them, growing stronger, and gradually killing the body.

In a few verses Jude’s going to attack their BEHAVIOUR. But here, it’s their THEOLOGY that’s his focus. Because your behaviour – your ETHICS – is always determined by YOUR THEOLOGY. If you think a certain thing about God, and salvation. About what he’s like. That’s going to determine how you behave with RESPECT to him.

Like a class of kids when they know they’ve got a casual teacher, or a student teacher, instead of their NORMAL teacher. All rules for acceptable behaviour go out the window, along with books, chairs, and small children. What they THINK about the teacher determines how they TREAT him. And it’s the same with GOD.

And what do these godless men think about GOD? V4. They’ve changed the GRACE of our God into A LICENSE FOR IMMORALITY and denied Jesus Christ our only SOVEREIGN AND LORD.

They LOVE the idea of God’s GRACE. His free gift to undeserving people. But instead of grace compelling them to put off the old nature and put on the new (Ephesians 4). Instead of grace teaching them to say no to ungodliness (Titus 2). They’ve misunderstood it. They’ve seen it as an OPPORTUNITY TO SIN EVEN MORE.

They say, “God’s forgiveness is FREE. It doesn’t depend on what I’ve done. And I can keep coming back for forgiveness again and again. Great! I’ll just keep sinning. I can do what I like!” Doesn’t matter how dirty you get playing in the lovely mud puddle. As long as you have a shower at the end, everything’s fine!

Like those road-side fruit and vege stalls. They’ll sometimes work on an HONOUR system. A GRACE system. You take a bundle of spinach, two dozen eggs, and a bag of tomatoes, and you leave $10 in the box.

But some people take advantage of the good will of the farmer. They fill their boot, and drive off without leaving a cent! That’s changing GRACE into a license to sin.

And that’s the way these people were treating GOD’S grace. They like the idea of Jesus as their SAVIOUR. They’re just not too keen on the “LORD” bit. See it there at the end of v4? They “deny Jesus Christ our only SOVEREIGN and LORD”. They’ve got no problem with SAVIOUR, it’s the SOVEREIGN bit they’ll deny – Jesus as KING.

Is there anything of that in YOUR attitude to sin? You’re tempted. Perhaps the same sin you’ve fallen into again and again. And you take it a little EASY. You don’t FLEE it as you should. Perhaps you even ENJOY giving in. Because you know God’s forgiveness is always there.

If that’s you, then you need to take Jude’s warning SERIOUSLY. BE CAREFUL of that attitude.

He goes on to talk about how SERIOUS it is to turn away from God. To get God’s grace SO WRONG, you’re headed for ETERNAL JUDGMENT.

First up, v5. Don’t think you’re safe just because you’re sitting among God’s people IN CHURCH. It didn’t work for Israel.

the Lord delivered his people out of Egypt, but later DESTROYED those who did not believe.

And don’t think you’re safe because of your POSITION. Not even ANGELS were safe. V6.

6 And the angels who did not keep their positions of authority but abandoned their own home-these he has kept in darkness, BOUND WITH EVERLASTING CHAINS FOR JUDGMENT on the great Day.

And then in v7, the notorious sinners of Sodom and Gomorrah serve as A RELEVANT EXAMPLE of the eternal punishment that comes for sexual immorality and perversion.

Just in case you were tempted to think that God USED TO get upset with sexual immorality. In the Old Testament. But not anymore. Now, in the NEW Testament he’s all about acceptance and tolerance and forgiveness.

Which, of course, is exactly what large swathes of the Christian church says about homosexuality. And all the debate about gay marriage. That it’s okay to practice homosexuality and be a Christian. Because the Old Testament doesn’t apply any more. And times have changed.

But v7 speaks to those ideas. It’s just as relevant TODAY as it was to the false teachers in Jude’s time. “Sodom and Gomorrah… SERVE AS AN EXAMPLE of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire.” God hasn’t changed, and neither have his standards!

And then from v8, we get some details about the sorts of things these people are doing.

8 In the very same way, these dreamers pollute their own bodies, reject authority and slander celestial beings.

“Dreamers” probably means they were claiming to have prophetic visions to justify their behaviour. “Polluting their own bodies” is about SEXUAL sin. And “rejecting authority” most likely goes back to v4 – they’ve DENIED Jesus as their Sovereign and Lord.

And then we’re told that they SLANDER CELESTIAL BEINGS. Which no one’s really sure about. Because we don’t know A LOT about celestial beings. But down in v10 it says they SPEAK ABUSIVELY against whatever they don’t understand. Which sounds like the same thing.

So perhaps they were making assumptions about angels, or spiritual authorities of some description. And then RIDICULING them. MINIMISING their importance or power. And talking themselves up at the same time.

But they’re not just TALKING themselves up. They’re PUTTING THEMSELVES FIRST at any opportunity. Down to v12. They’re

blemishes at your love feasts, eating with you without the slightest qualm-shepherds who FEED ONLY THEMSELVES.

The combined church lunch was supposed to be about enjoying each other’s company, sharing food, and expressing love. Appreciating how VALUABLE church was.

But the false teachers were a big black awkward STAIN on the meals. Like the drunk uncle M.C’ing the family wedding. Telling the off jokes, and leering at the bridesmaids. No shame. No consideration.

Shepherds were supposed to look after the sheep. But these leaders were only interested in shepherding THEMSELVES. In feathering their own nests. And doing it at the expense of their sheep.

Rather than a “Porsche” view of church, they thought it was a “Datsun”. They didn’t VALUE it, so they thought nothing of TRASHING it. ABUSING it. DISRESPECTING it. Using church for their own advantage. Like bashing around a cheap car.

V12. They’re like clouds without rain, they promise much, but deliver little. Like fruit trees in autumn. Big and impressive, but no fruit. And so they’re uprooted. Destroyed. Twice dead.

Or v13. They’re like wild waves. Storm swell. Foaming up with stormwater runoff. Full of disease and filth. Stirring up rubbish and spewing it on shore.

I remember going windsurfing once after a bad storm. It was in Botany Bay, and the wind was wild. It was a great day for windsurfing. But the water was also full of stormwater runoff. And I was sick as a dog for days afterwards. That’s the effect of these false teachers.

And they’re like shooting stars, or comets, that zoom off into the darkness of space. They keep going into the blackness of punishment. Just like they deserve.

They’re terrible pictures, aren’t they? Very vivid and powerful. It’s almost hard to imagine what sort of people are being described.

But the point is to show us their real character. Sometimes false teachers can LOOK so impressive. So beguiling and intriguing. So attractive. So politically correct. So reasonable. When the reality is they’re DEADLY POISON. And that’s what the images get across.

And then, from v16, we get a list of the sorts of things that might give away these sorts of false teachers. Not images any more. A bit more concrete. Their identifying marks. The calling cards of people who don’t understand the gospel, and who’re headed for destruction.

One. They GRUMBLE. “Things are terrible. Those in charge have got no idea. Things would only be so much better if only I was in charge.”

Secondly. They find fault in whatever OTHER people do. “Nothing anyone else does is good enough. No one does things the way they SHOULD be done”.

3. Third, they follow their own evil desires.

4. Fourth, they boast about themselves.

5. Fifth, they flatter others for their own advantage. They’ve always got an agenda. They don’t build up others for THEIR good, but only to suit themselves. To serve their own ends.

And then he finishes down in v19.

19 THESE are the men who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit.

But you (20-23)

That’s the false teachers. The danger within. Jude’s urged the church to CONTEND for the faith. To FIGHT. And he’s described what the enemy looks like. Given the intelligence briefing.

And now he turns to the church. And shows them HOW to contend for the faith. The plan of attack. Verse 20 – A BIG CONTRAST – “BUT YOU!”. If you’ve got your own Bibles, put a line above it. Separate v19 from v20.

(Jude 1:20 NIV)  But YOU, dear friends, BUILD YOURSELVES UP in your most holy faith

CONTEND for the faith by BUILDING YOURSELVES UP in the faith. Solidify the defences. Know what’s RIGHT, so you’ll know what’s WRONG. That the warning lights will start flashing when someone says something dodgy.

Learn about your faith. Know it. Read theology. Ask questions. Listen. Watch. Copy. Memorise. Practice. Work.

And that’s a GROUP ASSIGNMENT, not just individual homework. “Build YOURSELVES up”. ENCOURAGE each OTHER. TEACH each other. Shepherd and challenge and correct.

And God himself, the Trinitarian God, is going to HELP us do that. From the end of v20

(Jude 1:20-21 NIV)  … pray 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.

Build yourselves up by PRAYING IN THE HOLY SPIRIT.” In v19 the false teachers didn’t HAVE the Spirit. But God’s church has the Spirit who helps them pray, who gives them the power to fight.

And the power to OBEY. Which is what it means to keep yourselves in God’s love. Jesus says in John 15:9-10

(John 15:9-10 NIV)  “…remain in my love. {10} If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love.

Prayer in the Spirit, and obedience to the Father IN THE PRESENT.

As we wait for THE SON to bring us to eternal life. That’s the THIRD part of the battle plan. Having one eye on the finishing line is a powerful motivation to keep going. To be found WORTHY. READY.

That’s all to do with our relationship with God.

What about our relationship WITH OTHERS? We’re to have MERCY MIXED WITH FEAR (v22 and 23).

Defending the faith isn’t about A WAR AGAINST PEOPLE. Eph 6 reminds us our battle is not against flesh and blood. We’re not to DESTROY them. It’s God’s job to judge. We defend the faith by encouraging others to BELIEVE it. By being MERCIFUL. Verse 22.

(Jude 1:22-23 NIV)  Be MERCIFUL to those who doubt; {23} snatch others from the fire and save them; to others show mercy, mixed with fear–hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.

While Jude was angry with THE FALSE TEACHERS, their VICTIMS – the people who’d been lead astray – were to be treated GENTLY. To encourage them back onto the right path. Be merciful.

How do you show that mercy? By showing them where they’re wrong. Snatching them from the fire before it’s too late.

If your garage caught fire, you might let your old Datsun burn. But you’d probably go to a bit more effort if it was a Porsche inside.

Do you have a “Porsche” view of CHURCH? How VALUABLE is it to you? Do you sit back and say nothing and do nothing because YOU DON’T VALUE GOD’S CHURCH ENOUGH?

What are you willing to risk to PROTECT it? To speak up? To stand up? Will you risk abuse, and a loss of respect from people, or a loss of reputation?

Do you show by your actions and words and thoughts that you value God’s church as much as HE does?

Be merciful to those who doubt.

But there’s a word of warning. Show mercy mixed with fear. Plenty of firemen get burned as they try to rescue people. The SAFE fireman is the one who maintains a healthy fear for fire. Who follows the necessary safety procedures.

And as we mix with those on the wrong path, we need to have the same healthy fear. Loving the sinner, but hating the sin.

And whether that be reaching out to homosexuals, or speaking to our Catholic neighbour, or Mormon co-worker. Or writing letters about abortion, or euthanasia or school ethics classes, or gay marriage. We defend the faith, by HOLDING FIRMLY ONTO GOD. Not compromising on what we believe. On what God has revealed to us in his word.

We defend the faith by loving the PERSON who’s been led astray. But hating their SIN. And hating the lies that confused them.

How do we keep that balance? By knowing what’s VALUABLE. By KNOWING what’s RIGHT. By clinging firmly to God. God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Praying in the Holy Spirit. Obeying God in response to his love. And looking forward to Jesus’ return.

4. Kept by God (24-25)

And Jude finishes with some wonderful words. Some of the most beautiful and encouraging in the whole bible. A reminder of the One who has everything in control. V24. “To the ABLE ONE”. The one who’s powerful enough to achieve his purposes.

“Able to KEEP YOU FROM FALLING.” Jude ENDS the way he BEGINS. V1. The letter’s addressed to those who are KEPT by Jesus. And here at the END, it’s GOD who keeps you.

Despite the scary teachers, and the wickedness. Despite the battle and the fire. Despite all your best efforts, it’ll be GOD who keeps you. Which is a wonderful truth to cling to.

(Jude 1:24-25 NIV)  To him who is able to keep you from falling 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.

Comment (1)

  1. Wendy Whittaker

    A number of points:
    1. Obviously Jude is not recommending fighting per se. In fact, “to strive” or “to contend” are probably better translations. He is also speaking in a very specific context.
    2. The issue of defamation is a whole subject in itself; but for a start you could read the
    New South Wales Defamation Act 2005 No 77.
    3. There is no reason whatsoever to associate being moral with being uptight and legalistic. Try associating morality with being rational and sensible instead. (Remember the regularly and usually misquoted word “logos”.)
    4. The situation described by Jude is the direct precursor of the apocalypse.

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