Persevering in Gospel Truth

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Jude 17-25

I’m no expert or big fan of football, but I do know one of the most devastating moments in a football game is when the score is close and a competent player who is running with the ball lightens his grip on it, and fumbles it allowing the opposing team to secure a victory.
The late John Stott said this: “all around us we see Christians and churches relaxing their grasp of the gospel, fumbling it, in danger of letting it drop from their hands altogether.”
Jude, has written this letter to prevent such a tragedy. He states the heart behind letter at the beginning. It’s like a mission statement that every Christian can subscribe to. He states in Vs 4 “I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.”
In other words, In an age where false teachers are so prevalent and their teaching so pervasive, we must as G.K. Beale put it, “Resist the contamination of the gospel, and adhere to sound doctrine.”
Jude has pointed out this simple, but sad reality: False teaching and bad theology hurts people and it can be brought into the church, sometimes unnoticed.
There is a lot at stake when talking about False teaching. How should the church respond? This is where Jude takes us today. He answers that “Now what?” question. He reminds the believers of the need to persevere and keep the gospel clear in an age that seeks to distort God’s truth. Essentially, the call today is to persevere.
Jude seeks to assure the believer with the love of God in the Gospel which will fuel their diligence in pursuing truth.
The point? God’s people are those who persevere in truth because Christ is the one who preserves them.
This is what I pray we lay hold of today. Thankfully Jude gives us the way forward...
Main points:
So if the way we respond to a deceitful age is by persevering in the truth, we ought to persevere in the truth by Remembering false teachers, Remaining in God’s love, and Resting in the great Preserver.
1. Remembering- Vs 17-19
What are we suppose to remember? First, He tells us to remember the apostolic warning to watch out for false teachers.
The idea is not just not forgetting, but being constantly mindful of something. (Read Vs 17-18)
Remember that an Apostle is like the New Testament version of a prophet in the Old. They bear the Divine authority of Jesus Christ. They speak on His behalf. Like Justin alluded to last week, there is still apostolic authority present today, it’s just all written down for us in God’s word.
They warned so much of false teaching in their other writings.
Jude points out what another Apostle has said in vs 18 which could be a direct quote from 2 Peter 3:3 where Peter is warning the church about false teachers. But this leads to the second thing we must remember...
We must remember false teaching is rooted in sinful desire and worldliness. (read Vs 19)
He points us to the root cause of all falsehood. It stems from an issue of the loves of the heart. What a person most deeply loves and worships is the soil from which all these destructive teachings flow.
They have a deep passion for worldly gain, a deep passion to be exalted and essentially be esteemed as a god to be depended upon. It’s an attempt to subvert Christ and His kingdom. It’s a worship of self even if outwardly they look nice, or have a great smile, or tell others they just wanna help people.
He has to point to the root here because the outward appearance can be dressed up real nice.
What’s more, he points to the deeper reason their love for the world is so pervasive. It’s because they do not have the Holy Spirit.
The reality is, Jude wants us to actively remember false teachers, not so that we can become overly cautious and fearful people, but to cause us to have discernment in all areas of teaching. Subtle deviations from the gospel can be an egregious error. Justin said in the past from the pulpit and it needs to be said again “If you add to the gospel or take away from the gospel to some how improve upon the gospel, you are actually falsifying the gospel making it no longer a gospel that saves, but a gospel that damns.”
Sometimes people don’t understand that if you have 1% of the gospel wrong you are 100% wrong and 100% under God’s wrath. Do you see why it’s so important that we’re precise in our doctrine? Doctrine doesn’t divide, clarifying the gospel has always been for the purpose of unity among God’s people.
Examples are helpful- Here are some groups that Christians can unknowingly be deceived by...
We can highlight our Mormon friends where they use similar terms and use the name Christian but don’t be deceived, it’s another gospel. The same can be said about the Roman Catholic church. They say a lot of the same things and while there are may be roman catholics that are saved, Romes Gospel does not save. Many are being led astray because they are using the same bible you hold in your hands. Remember that almost if not every heresy (teachings that contradict and are at odds with the core doctrines of the faith) came from a misinterpretation of the bible not a rejection of the bible.
The thing we’re seeing creep into the church today in a very subtle way and it’s very germane to our text, is what is called “Progressive Christianity.”
Progressive Christianity is really no Christianity at all.
They would really avoid any clarity in doctrine because you ultimately will look within yourself to define who God is. There’s no standard for defining God. They say they are doing things in the name of love and trying to honor people but essentially they deny the authority of the bible and leading people into falsehood.
They try to retain the word “Christian” while affirming and promoting relationships the bible condemns. The promote transgenderism, Same-sex relationships and more. There are many in this movement who call themselves pastors and Christians and they deny God’s definition of sin. That is a gospel issue. The gospel is at stake here.
One book in this movement is called The Gospel of Inclusion by Brandon Robertson that works hard to deconstruct the inerrancy and authority of the bible so that we can affirm all kinds of relationships that are out of scriptural bounds. I’ve heard him lecture on his book and his arguments are so clever, so smooth, they sound so intellectual, and that’s one of the dangers of this movement and the false teachers like him who have raised up within it.
Jude says, Remember these false teachers. Be discerning. These teachers and many more fit the description Jude is giving. They divide the body of Christ. They are devoid of the Spirit. The purity of the gospel is at stake.
2. Remaining- Vs 20-23
Jude turns the attention back to the Christian once again with those comforting words, “But you, beloved.” That repetition is powerful (Read Vs 20-21)
He’s calling the church to remain. First, to remain in God’s love.
We have to catch the main imperative or main verb here in Vs 21. The key thing Jude is exhorting us in as we contend for the faith, is to keep ourselves in the love of God as we eagerly await the coming of our savior.
(SLIDE) Seeing to it that we keep ourselves in God’s love is the end goal. Building ourselves up in the faith and praying in the Spirit are the means by which we do that.
I believe Jude is saying that every believer perseveres by constantly relying upon God’s love, standing in amazement at God’s love, going deeper in the knowledge of God’s love.
This what Jesus told His disciples in John 15:9 “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide (or remain) in my love.”
How does one change? How do we grow in our faith? How do we remain convinced that we must uphold truth? It’s not when we seek for more new things to learn in church. Not when we hear some new earth shattering truth that’s never been said. No, often, it takes place when we go deeper in that which we already know. That’s why on Sunday’s you often won’t hear truths that no one has ever heard, but reminders of things you should never forget.
Dane Ortlund in His book Deeper points to Ephesians chapter 3. Paul the apostle when he prays for the church to be empowered by God to be all that God has called them to be, When he talks about being filled with all the fullness of God so that our lives reflect his glory and we grow, you know where he points? He points to God’s love in Christ. Something that tragically becomes all to familiar to us.
so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God
Doesn’t that sound counter intuitive? I thought the way I grow is simply by reaching upward and trying harder and being better and just trying harder to love God.
No, Paul says and Jude is saying real spiritual strength comes from not reaching up with more hard work, but digging down deep and comprehending more how much Jesus loves us. You love God more only because you comprehend more deeply His love for you.
Maybe an illustration would help- Charles Spurgeon gives a fantastic illustration of this:
The sun is the great physician, and by basking in his beams we find healing beneath his wings. It is even thus with the love of God. “Keep yourselves in it”; sun yourselves in it all day long. The flowers teach us this, for when the sun shines upon them they open themselves and turn their faces toward its light. They love him, and they delight to be kissed by his beams, and therefore they keep themselves as much as they can in his brightness. When trees are planted in a spot where the sun only reaches them in one direction, they put forth their boughs toward the sun’s quarter and seek his beams. You do the same. You are in God’s love; continue in it, grow toward it, keep yourselves in it.
But what are the means by which this takes place?
(vs 20) Building yourselves up in your most holy Faith.
Our belief in Christ and our confidence in the gospel can grow and get deeper. We can build upon this firm foundation of faith and be built up to be mature in Jesus.
I believe this can simply mean, as one scholar put it, learning more about the fundamental truths of the Christian faith. Continuing to grow in our understanding of God’s truth.
To constantly give ourselves to the preaching of the word of God and the daily meditation upon it- God also appoints elders and as you submit to them and their teaching you will be less susceptible to false teaching- Do you know when you do that you are building yourself up in the faith?
To not neglect community and study doctrine with other believers- Do you know when you do that you’re being built up in the faith?
To not neglect the sunday when we celebrate the Lord’s supper or baptism. Did you know God uses those to build you up in the faith?
These are the ordinary means that God graciously prescribes and they mark us as citizens of heaven and strengthen our faith in God’s love as seen in the gospel. This results in us worshiping God more deeply and become obedient, and mature followers of Christ. One other means of our growth in grace is mentioned next.
Praying in the Holy Spirit
Many (including me) can see this verse at first glance and misunderstand the concept. Does he mean some kind of Spiritual prayer that’s different from other prayer found in scripture? Is it a gift of tongues used in prayer?
Well, no to both of these questions. The context is not referring to spiritual gifts or some different kind of supernatural endowment different from what we find elsewhere in scripture.
I like how Jude makes a distinction between building ourselves up in faith and prayer. Prayer is often the thing that builds our faith. But As John Calvin so aptly points out, when our faith is wavering, the only way to persevere is to flee to the Father in prayer.
This can only be done in the Holy Spirit
There is no true prayer happening if it is not done in the Holy Spirit. All three persons of the Trinity are at work in our prayers. We pray to the Father, through the Son, and in the Holy Spirit. Praying in the Spirit is the only true prayer that is effective before the living God.
What does it mean then to pray in the Holy Spirit?
(SLIDE) Perhaps I can put it to you this way, Praying in the Spirit is to pray with dependence upon the Holy Spirit and with a posture of submission to the Holy Spirit.
While we’re seeking to keep ourselves in the Love of God and persevere in truth, we pray in the Spirit. Did you know you need the Power of the Holy Spirit to pray? You cannot effectively pray apart from God’s power. It’s this idea that when I come to God i don’t come to him flippantly. I don’t come to Him without acknowledging the Spiritual power needed to come before God. There is a way to pray not in the Spirit but in the flesh. It’s humbly saying “God, I need your help to pray. Would you enable me by you Spirit to pray?” So there is dependence.
(slide) Calvin comments,In the Spirit; as though he had said, that such is our sloth, and that such is the coldness of our flesh, that no one can pray aright except he be roused by the Spirit of God”
Not only dependence upon the Power of the Spirit, but upon the guidance of the Spirit. The whole word of God which is authored by the Spirit guides us in how we should pray. So praying in the Spirit means that we pray with an open bible and allow the scriptures to guide.
When that happens, we pray with a posture of obedience and submission to the Spirit. When we pray by the power of the Spirit, we keep ourselves in the love of God causing us to behold the grandeur and glory of Christ. Only then do we enjoy prayer, because we’re delighting in Christ.
So this is how we remain in the love of God, but remaining in the love of God means we also help others remain in His love as well and that’s where Jude goes. Helping others remain (read Vs 22-23)
We now turn to the one who doubts. I don’t believe Jude is merely referring to someone wrestling with doubt, but due to the context, it’s more likely this is a weaker believer who is truly saved but is being influenced by false teaching which would obviously cause them to doubt the faith.
Judes council? Have mercy on them. Be compassionate and gentle. Look the point of this series was not to make everyone really good at being suspicious of everyone and look at every differing opinion with a raised eye brow and treat someone as dangerous if they doubt. When we talk about contending for the faith we’re talking about those core gospel issues that when relinquished can be a reflection of someones eternal state.
Do we wanna always be discerning? Yes. Constantly suspicious of every person? No.
There’s a big difference between a false teacher, wolf in sheep’s clothing and a misguided sheep. If there is false teaching and someone who is doubting in the church, it’s a genuine wrestling and you can tell they have unbiblical views, they could just be they are a misguided sheep and they need the help of other believers to come along side them. We ought to have a culture here that if a younger or weaker believer brings up a question or a doubt they are having that we meet them with compassion that we dont just clobber them with 15 bible verses then send them away marked out and written off as dangerous. We’re called to welcome their questions and try to meet regularly with them to help guide them gently in the truth. Look, We’re called to be discerning, not mimic the division of the false teachers.
But there are others who need more of a strong and forceful word.
Jude says for others who perhaps are believing the false teaching, they’re not even thinking for themselves, and you see they are starting to embrace a false path, the most loving thing to do is snatch them.
“Hey, brother, wake up! Dont you see this is going to lead you to destruction???” (share example of my Dad counseling.) I’m glad for that kind of strong speech. sometimes a loving but strong word of rebuke will be used by God to snatch them from the fires of judgment.
3. Resting- Vs 24-25
(Read again vs 24) What is our hope for persevering in a deceitful age? The question is WHO is our hope? It is the Great Preserver. This is how we have assurance that we will persevere.
I believe it is from this rest that we have in Christ that our obedience will flow.
Look at how Jude ends this beautiful letter- with a beautiful doxology that showcases that it doesn’t depend upon us to persevere. It’s dependent upon our savior.
He causes us to look to Him- To Christ alone.
He is the great keeper. He says He is able to keep us from stumbling. In context this could mean keep us from falling away. I love how Pastor John Piper has said in the past that the reason he woke up a Christian this morning is because Christ Himself was keeping Him.
we have the responsibility to keep ourselves in God’s love. so in this life I can strive to build myself and keep myself but it’s all because He keeps me. It’s guaranteed. He does so, so that Christ may present us blameless before God’s presence when we finally see Him.
The bible says Christ saves us to the uttermost. He doesn’t just begin our salvation, He completes our salvation. He saves us comprehensively. This is rooted in the fact that Christ himself endured and persevered till the end. One pastor said it like this, Jesus didn’t stop or give up on us when he was sweating great drops of blood in the garden. Jesus didn’t give up when he was condemned in an unfair trial. Jesus didnt give up when He was beaten so badly no one could even recognize who He was. Jesus didnt give up when nails were put in his hands and feet and He was fixed to a cross to be humiliated and suffocate to death. Jesus wasn’t put to an end when they laid him in the tomb, He rose again in victory. And because Jesus went all the way, loved ones, He will take you all the way.
And Jude goes on to say Here to say that when we are presented before God, we are presented before Him possessing great joy or gladness.
The preposition here “with” actually could be translated “in” because it’s the greek preposition EV here. In other words, we are presented in a state of gladness.
Before God’s throne, there should naturally be terror. We should be flinching before him with great fear. We should hide our eyes and expect His word of judgement. But because we’re united to Jesus Christ by His atoning work on the cross, we have direct access to God. We still fear Him, but with a new delight, joy, and confidence that those separated from him do not have. We will be presented as spotless, perfected Children of God. That’s how God sees us now, and it’s how Christ will present us.
Think about our competent and perfect savior who finds us like a dirty piece of metal in a dumpster, worth nothing, but he takes us, dusts us off, cleanses us thoroughly and then turns us into a trophy of his grace.
Though there will be struggle, God will never let us fall away.
“Even though many storms and floods arise and beat against them, yet these things will never be able to move the elect from the foundation and rock to which they are anchored by faith. The felt sight of the light and love of God may be clouded and obscured from them for a time through their unbelief and the temptations of Satan. (Slide) Yet God is still the same; they will certainly be kept by the power of God for salvation, where they will enjoy their purchased possession. For they are engraved on the palms of His hands, and their names have been written in the book of life from all eternity.” (1689)
Jude ends His letter with praise to God who alone deserves the glory. He alone possesses the dominion. He alone has the authority in all things both in eternity past, in this present age, and on into eternity future.
We persevere only through rest in Him and His promise to build His church. He will not fail to fulfill that promise.
“When I fear my faith will fail,
Christ will hold me fast…”
We are called to persevere in contending for the truth. We continue with love and boldness to uphold truth in a deceitful age. But we do so by Remembering, by remaining, and by resting.
We live in a time where a lot of leaders and even Christian leaders are throwing the church under the bus. It can be very popular to speak ill of the church and call the church names. But you know what? Jesus loves His church. It’s His bride. and He has them. He will keep them till the end. It’s this reality that will motivate a generation toward obedience and a diligence in guarding the good deposit of the gospel handed down to us.
God’s people are those who persevere in truth because Christ is the one who preserves them.
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