Chris was asked to preach at Summit Bible Church where Morgan is, and we’re going to miss him today. I need to tell you what’s going on in the church, and to ask for your help. In short, there is sin. Unrepentant sexual sin, and slander, divisiveness and an aggressive pride. It is ugly.
Despite the ministry of the Word, there has been no repentance or change–though they regularly claim God’s grace as forgiving their actions. I’d like to say it’s just one person, but I don’t think that’s true. So I’m coming to you today to ask for your help. More than we ever realized, we are in a fight, a spiritual battle. As elders, we need your help to fight for the holiness of the church. Would you pray with me?
If you’ve been coming to FBC for any length of time, you know that we are working our way through the smallest epistles of the New Testament–little postcard size letters. Patrick and Nigel took us into John’s epistles, where we learned what it means to walk in love and truth as we live out God’s purposes. Shawn looked at Paul’s letter to Philemon and how grace changes everything.
As we wrap up the New Testament postcard epistles today, the tone of the message changes. Here at the end, we are called to stand and fight. Within the Church, we are each called to fight for the holiness of the Church. This is the message of Jude. I am not calling out anyone today. We’re not practicing church discipline today–I think some of you may be relieved. The main message of Jude is that we must fight for the holiness of the Church. If you have your Bibles, open up to the book of Jude. The easiest way to get there is to find the last book of Revelation and go one page before that.
Most New Testament books have their audience as the name of the book. Philemon is written to Philemon by Paul. Jude, on the other hand, is written by Jude. Jude is a half-brother of Jesus, just like James. The two of them grew up with Jesus, and after his death, believed and eventually became leaders in the Church. Jude is writing to Jewish believers, probably in a spread of churches, challenging them to fight for the holiness of the Church.
Jesus had warned that there would be goats among the sheep–unbelievers mixing in with the truly saved. Paul had said that after his departure, those outside and inside the Church would work to destroy it. Acts 20:29 to 30, “I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; 30and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them.”
Second John instructed us that when such men come, you must reject them. All these warnings are realized in the book of Jude. There are people inside the church who profess Christ and deny Him by their lifestyle. This is true in Jude’s day and in ours. Sitting around you today almost guaranteed are a few people who are unnoticed by us all, following all their own lusts while professing to believe
in and follow Jesus. This is the context Jude is writing to, and this is our context today. It’s not what he wants to write about, but what he believes is the biggest challenge the Church is facing.
Would you look at Jude 1 to 4? “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: 2May mercy and peace and love be multiplied to you.
3Beloved, 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. 4For 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.”
It can feel like our nation is in a death spiral. But Jude lived in a time of more intense persecution and national decline. His concern is not on what’s going on out there, but what’s going on in here. He is concerned about the presence of ungodly people in the midst of the Church. The tares are now mixed with the wheat. The goats are mingled in with the sheep. The godly and the godless are blended together.
During the Covid lockdown, my girls were playing a game called “Among Us” with friends. How many of you are willing to admit you’ve played? There are a lot of similarly dressed up characters running around a spaceship. The game is a bit like “Mafia”. Someone in the game is bad and taking out other players, but they all look the same on the outside. You have to judge evidence to figure out who it is. Games like these are actually mirroring biblical realities.
The letter of Jude is written to a church where the ungodly have snuck in among the actual believers. And Jude writes to tell believers what to do. He is not giving instructions to elders–Jude is speaking to all of us. He calls us to fight for the holiness of the Church. That’s the meaning of the word “contend” in verse 3. It describes struggle and intense effort. It came to be used for military efforts and athletic competition. The main message of Jude is that the whole church family is to fight against sin in the Church. It is our corporate responsibility to do that.
Now if you’ve been here any length of time, you’ve probably heard that we practice church discipline–and it’s true, we do. As a church, we believe that God has called us to actively pursue those who are in visible, defiant sin, to plead with them to change and to remove them from the church if they steadfastly refuse to obey God. How church discipline works is a whole other message, and you can find that on our website in the sermon archive, and in our doctrinal statement.
But church discipline is not what Jude is talking about. He is describing an individual responsibility we have separate from that. Jude tells us how to fight sin in the Church–how to fight for holiness in the Church. And it is very much a charge to you and me. What can I do, what can you do about ungodly people in the Church? Jude tends to write in threes, so he gives us three personal responsibilities in our corporate fight for holiness in the Church. Look again at Jude and let me show you what he says.
Jude 1 to 2 Greetings
Jude 3 to 4 Introduce the issue
Jude 5 to 16 Parenthesis–description of the ungodly
Jude 17 to 23 Call to action
Jude 24 to 25 Closing benediction
The main idea is most visible when we start at verses 3 to 4 and then skip to verse 17. Let’s read verses 3 and 4, then verses 17 to 23. Jude tells us three ways we need to fight for holiness in the Church—or How to Fight Sin in the Church. These are our personal responsibilities within the church family.
1. Fix Your Mind on the Truth (Remember)
The best way to fight sin in the Church is to know the truth and think on it. Psalm 1:2, “How blessed is the man whose delight is in the law of the Lord and in His law, he meditates day and night.” Jude points us to the New Testament teaching rather than the Old Testament Law though.
Jude 17, “You, beloved, ought to remember the words that were spoken beforehand by the apostles.” But this begs the question of what should we be remembering and fixing our minds on? Look at verse 3. He says, “Contend earnestly for THE faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.” Jude puts a “the” in front of the faith to make it specific. We are to fight for the faith.
God created everything, and mankind–all of us rebelled. Adam and Eve first, then everyone afterwards, died in our sins. We earned physical death, and we await future judgment. But because of His great love for His creation, God plucked out a few rebels to be saved. He sent prophets to call Israel to repent, but most refused.
Then He sent His Son Jesus to live the perfect life you never could and die on the cross to suffer the judgment that you deserve. Anyone who believes in Him will be forgiven of their sins and reconciled to God. Jesus is returning to judge and to rule. His followers were called apostles and they carried this message out to the world. Until He returns, He has called the Church to live in, but not be like, the world.
This is the Christian faith and it’s the very beliefs that Jude was describing. Jude is not talking about truth in general, but THE truth–the Gospel and all its implications. That’s what we’re to fight for. That’s what we’re to fix our minds on. The temptation of our age is to embrace the new.
The internet provides a steady diet of new truths–26 products that work so well it’s almost ridiculous . . . CDC reversal on indoor masking prompts experts to ask, “Where’s the data?” . . . What parents can learn from Simon Biles walking away. There is always something new to read–some new truth to glean. Old articles are quickly forgotten. New books are continually released. Old classics are rarely picked up. A few of you still get a newspaper that tells you what happened yesterday. (New generation–think Google News printed on paper and thrown into your driveway every morning, but with more ads.)
Jude begins by telling us that the best way to safeguard the holiness of the Church is to know and remember the truth—to fix your mind on it. By calling it “the truth” he is saying that it is complete and sufficient. We have everything we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3). We have God-breathed Scripture, which is good to teach us, correct us and train us in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16). We have the perfect Word of God, written for our encouragement and instruction (Romans 15:4). There is nothing more that will be added to it. We have everything we need in order to be saved and live pleasing to God. And it is that very truth that the godless hidden among us are distorting.
Let’s read Jude’s description in verses 4 to 16. “For certain people have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into indecent behavior and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.
5Now I want to remind you, though you know everything once and for all, that the Lord, after saving a people out of the land of Egypt, subsequently destroyed those who did not believe. 6And angels who did not keep their own domain but abandoned their proper dwelling place, these He has kept in eternal restraints under darkness for the judgment of the great day, 7just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities around them, since they in the same way as these angels indulged in sexual perversion and went after strange flesh, are exhibited as an example in undergoing the punishment of eternal fire.
8Yet in the same way these people also, dreaming, defile the flesh, reject authority, and speak abusively of angelic majesties. 9But Michael the archangel, when he disputed with the devil and argued about the body of Moses, did not dare pronounce against him an abusive judgment, but said, ‘The Lord rebuke you!’ 10But these people disparage all the things that they do not understand; and all the things that they know by instinct, like unreasoning animals, by these things they are destroyed. 11Woe to them! For they have gone the way of Cain, and for pay they have given themselves up to the error of Balaam, and perished in the rebellion of Korah. 12These are the ones who are hidden reefs in your love feasts when they feast with you without fear, like shepherds caring only for themselves; clouds without water, carried along by winds; autumn trees without fruit, doubly dead, uprooted; 13wild waves of the sea, churning up their own shameful deeds like dirty foam; wandering stars, for whom the gloom of darkness has been reserved forever. 14It was also about these people that Enoch, in the seventh generation from Adam, prophesied, saying, ‘Behold, the Lord has come with many thousands of His holy ones, 15to 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.’ 16These are grumblers, finding fault, following after their own lusts; they speak arrogantly, flattering people for the sake of gaining an advantage.”
Jude uses truth to expose and shine light onto the lifestyle of the godless. Over and over, he shows that people can claim to follow God, but not be genuinely saved. The problem in Jude’s day was sexual sin. The descriptions and examples all point to this. They sought to please their flesh, following their own lusts. They used the grace of God to excuse their actions and silence their conscience. They speak arrogantly, professing a deep faith, but they are clouds without water, trees without fruit, going through life by instinct rather than the Spirit.
And if you have any heart or temptation towards sexual sin in your life, Jude’s words should terrorize your soul. Flee to Christ. Confess your sin and turn from it. Hebrews 10:26 to 27, “For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27but a terrifying expectation of judgment and the fury of a fire which will consume the adversaries.”
To those who are in Christ, Jude shares the vaccine–fix your mind on truth. Remember who God is. Remember who you are. Remember what you have done. Remember what you deserve. Remember who you must hope in. Remember the brevity of this life. Remember what is to come. Fixing your mind on truth means remember all that’s promised, not just passages about you and your life.
Most Christians think of remembering Scripture as, I need to set my mind on revealed truth–what has happened that changed my life. We should think on those things. But we should also think about the prophetic. That is what Jude does here in verse 17 to 19. “But you, beloved, ought to remember the words that were spoken beforehand by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ, 18that they were saying to you, ‘In the last time there will be mockers, following after their own ungodly lusts.’ 19These are the ones who cause divisions, worldly-minded, devoid of the Spirit.”
Remember what was promised by the apostles. In the last days, there will be mockers–people who profess to believe, but follow after their own ungodly lusts. We shouldn’t be surprised. We shouldn’t be angry. We shouldn’t be led astray. We should recognize that we are approaching the last days. Fix your minds on the truth–it’s the first step to fighting sin in the Church. The second challenge Jude gives is . . .
2. Fight to Grow in Truth (Grow)
First you fix your mind on all that’s true. Second you fight to grow in the truth. At home, we’re watching the Olympics some nights on TV. It is amazing to watch the abilities of world-class athletes–swimmers, rowers, cyclists, gymnasts, runners. They’re all amazing!
Occasionally you see someone who has more ability or mass than seems natural, and you wonder if they’ve been juicing. Russia in particular has been known for this. Their country was banned from participating due to doping–which is why you see the Russian Olympic Committee participating. It’s Russia participating without a flag or national anthem.
Every high-level athlete wants to be the best they can be. Steroids, human growth hormone, performance enhancers–some athletes have used them to get to the next level. Barry Bonds, Lance Armstrong, Alex Rodriguez and many others–amazingly gifted athletes who wanted to grow at any cost, so they doped up to get that extra boost. How much do you want to grow in the Christian life? I’m not advocating drugs. Rare is the Christian who is as hungry to grow as a college-level athlete. How much do you want to grow?
Jude’s challenge to us is to grow–to be hungry to grow, to really want it, to fight for it, to sacrifice to make it happen. You drive straight from work to CG. You get up earlier than you want, to meet with other men. You use your lunch break to read a Christian book. You take a class on diagramming to learn how to study the Word–that one is crazy!
How do you respond to people who are following their own lusts, in love with the world, lacking the Spirit though they claim Christ? What should you do? You should grow! Jude 20 to 21, “But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, 21keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life.” There’s one command in the midst of that–Jude says you are to “keep yourselves in the love of God.” That is a command to keep watch over your own soul.
Back in verse 1 he said he was writing “to those who are beloved by God and kept for Jesus”–past tense, you are kept for Jesus. And active tense, you keep yourself in the love of God. Like many things in the Christian life, this is a both/and. God is sovereign and you are responsible. You are saved and you are being saved. You are kept and you are to keep yourself.
You have to be active. You don’t earn your salvation by activity. You don’t gain God’s approval by your work. Rather you grow in your walk when you are His child. Because Jude often speaks in threes, he says that there are three ways to actively keep yourself in God’s love–three ways to fight to grow. You can see them there in the text, right? Verse 20
Building up your faith
On our property, Nigel said that the grading is done and utilities are being laid. After that comes the foundation for the worship center. They’ll pour yards of concrete to make a strong base for the building. That foundation is not what’s in view. Ephesians 2:20 says that our faith is already built on the apostles and prophets, with Jesus as the cornerstone. The work here is of building up your faith–the superstructure.
You are to fight to grow your faith. No Christian is saved and then flatlines. You should continue to grow in your understanding of the Gospel, of theology, of the Bible and of the Christian life. As these things grow, your affection for God will increase. There should be a trajectory in your life–no growth means no assurance. There are people who think that studying the Bible, especially in a formal sense, will deaden your soul. They are doing it wrong. Your love for God and your own character will grow as you study God’s Word.
Praying in the Holy Spirit
This is not talking about speaking in tongues, but mirrors what’s said in Ephesians 6:18, “With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints.” When you are taking in God’s Word, fixing your mind on truth and considering your own walk, the natural response of the believer is prayer.
Prayer is not the formal recitation of a liturgical formula. Prayer is not what you heard at Catholic church growing up. Prayer is not the repetitive chant you heard at the dinner table—”God is great, and God is good, let us thank Him for our food. Yay God!” Prayer is talking with God, telling Him what you’re thinking, how you’re feeling, confessing your struggles and anxieties, pleading for change of heart, mind and life. Prayer is praise. It is worship. It is a part of life.
As Colossians 4:2 says, we are to devote ourselves to it. If you want to keep yourself in the love of God, if you want to help us fight ungodliness in the Church you have to talk with the One who first loved you.
1. Build yourself up
2. Pray in the Spirit
Waiting Anxiously for Jesus to Return
Hear this–a focus on eternity is critical to your growth in Christ. Jude 21, “Keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life.” The longing of your heart should be for Heaven. Whenever I get the chance, I preach on Heaven.
It was in my early 40s I was convicted that I didn’t think enough of Heaven. So I read Revelation 21 and 22. Then I studied all of Revelation. Then I started working backwards through the epistles and the gospels, then the prophets. Whenever I get to read about Heaven or study it, I am excited. Do you know why? Because I don’t naturally think about Heaven as much as I want to.
I am most bent to think about the days ahead of me. I am most prone to consider the next 2 to 5 years. I think about those things naturally. I have to work harder to think on Heaven. But when I do, it changes how I live right now. It causes my faith to grow and my concerns to fade. Titus 2:11 to 13, “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, 12instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, 13looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus.”
Do you look for the return of Jesus? In suffering, Christians look for the return of Jesus to take away the pain. In flight from sin, Christians long for Heaven where sin is no more. In later years, Christians study Heaven to know their next travel destination. How do you forgive wrongs done? You remember eternity. How do you fight lust? You look to eternity.
It is a mark of the mature. Simon, Anna, Joseph of Arimethea all longed for it. Luke 2:25, Simon was “looking for the consolation of Israel.” Luke 2:38, Anna “continued to speak of Jesus to all those who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.” Mark 15:43, Joseph of Arimethea “was also himself looking for the kingdom of God.”
Do you desire Jesus to return? A longing for Heaven is a longing to be with God. Do you want to be with Him more than you want to experience life here? A sure sign that you are growing in the faith is an increasing desire for Heaven.
Fix your Minds on the Truth
Fight to Grow in Truth
In his instructions to fight sin in the church, Jude challenges us to look foremost at ourselves. Fighting sin in the Church is not so much about attacking others and revealing their errors. It’s focused mainly on your own walk with God. The last challenge Jude gives is the only part focused on others.
3. Love with Truth (Love)
When there are people in a church who are godless, with minds set on the world and following after their lusts–there will be collateral damage and they need our love. The tragedy of a war is not the soldiers who fought with one another. The great tragedy is the people who lived on/near where the battlefield was. Whether they hunker down in their basements or flee as refugees, their lives are forever altered by the chaos around them.
Jude here instructs us to minister to the damaged. Verses 22 to 23, “And have mercy on some, who are doubting; 23save others, snatching them out of the fire; and on some have mercy with fear, hating even the garment polluted by the flesh.”
There are three categories of people here (though the NKJV compresses it to two). 1) Those who doubt—are influenced by bad men. 2) Those who are following–starting to embrace. 3) Those who have fallen–who’ve messed up big time. When sin gains a foothold in a church, there are different responses.
I was talking with a pastor this week who was helping friends in a church near him. The teaching pastor there had completely disqualified himself, but only the leadership knows right now. Some are led astray by him to commit the same sins. Some are complicit in his sin, defending him and shrugging at it. A few still care that he should be holy, though they don’t know what to do. Those responses are quite close to what Jude describes.
Some will begin to doubt–they will begin to second-guess what they believe. If all sin is forgiven, then why do I need to flee it? If my sins are covered, then should I feel guilty about last night? Maybe Nigel is just legalistic. They’re doubting and have questions. The concerns of this person shouldn’t be dismissed. Maybe it’s you? We need to love the doubting with the truth. God can handle all the questions. The Bible can answer your questions. As Christians, we’re here, ready to help you. Jude calls us to have mercy on this group.
The next group is worse off. As the ungodly grow in a church, divisions happen. They gain followers and a following. These followers are the next group Jude tells us to love. He says, “save others, snatching them out of the fire.” They have begun to embrace the theology of the godless and their lives are starting to reflect it. We should not give up on them, but love them with the truth. Some will be saved, rescued from the coming fire of judgment.
The last group is the most influenced and ensnared. It may even include some of the apostates described earlier. To those deeply ensnared in sin, Jude says, “Have mercy with fear, hating even the garment polluted by the flesh.” These are people whose sin is so apparent that their life reeks of it.
You know the era of potty training when you’ve abandoned diapers, but your child fills their pants and continues to play? They reek, and everyone around them knows it, and they go on playing! This is the actual word picture used here for a stained/polluted garment. Jude wants us to understand how filthy, nasty and corrupting their sin is. If you get too close, you will get it on you. If you spend too much time, you will pick up their stench.
We need to show them mercy and fear their sin. Galatians 6:1, “Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted.” We can lack hope for such people, assuming that they will never change. But Jude says to love them with truth. Genuine truth always leads to humility, not hardness.
If you understand who you are before God . . . if you know some measure of your own sin before God . . . if you have truly abandoned your self-righteousness–you cannot lose hope for others. You cannot say that they are beyond the bounds of God’s grace.
You know there is nothing lovely within you that gained God’s mercy. Your life would be a train wreck if it were not for God’s grace. You were saved when you were a hater of God. This is what it means to love with truth. Not that you use the Word of God to beat and abuse others, but that the truth of the Gospel pushes you to be gentle, humble and merciful in your dealings with others. Unwavering in the truth, untainted by sin, unphased by the nasty.
Second Timothy 2:24 to 26, “And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, 25correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, 26and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.” This is the target for all believers. We must love others with the truth.
And none of this is easy–that is why Jude began by calling us to fight, to contend for the faith. You know godless people who profess Christ. You may be sitting near someone who lives for their lusts under the cover of grace. But your job, your greatest help to them . . .
Fix your mind on truth
Fight to grow in the truth
Gently love others with truth
And God will keep you, and preserve you, and glorify Himself. Jude 24 to 25, “Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy, 25to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.”
Fix your mind, fight to grow, humbly love.