This week we began a new teaching series at QBC looking at the letters in the New Testament. It won’t be an indepth verse/word study type of deal, but more of a ‘flyover’, a big picture look at the different types of letters and how they served the church in that time. (More here if you want to know…)
I decided to kick off with the letter from Jude. You know the one?… The little one just before Revelation that no one ever reads?… Except for the end bit which makes a really cool ‘benediction’ in a church service
To him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy— to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.
Those are well known and inspiring words, but reality is most people have very little clue what this little letter is about – or just how punchy it is.
Jude is just a page long, but its a grenade. It addresses people who had slipped into the church community and were living immorally and denying Jesus as Lord. He is speaking of those who knowingly, wilfully say ‘I don’t care. I will do as I please and ensure my own advantage is taken care of’
And his conclusion is that they ‘do not have the spirit’. Jude puts them outside the family of faith. Big call hey?…
His message is a hard one, but its one we need to get a hold of from time to time. If you think you can call yourself a disciple of Jesus, but can live a life that doesn’t hold to the things he calls you to then you are kidding yourself. Chances are you aren’t a disciple and you are going to be facing some pretty heavy judgement.
Not really the tone of this blog to get all direct and hard edged is it?
But what if there are still people around in the church today who fit the bill – people who slip in secretly, use others for their advantage and who live as they please while denying the authority of Christ, or more likely re-framing it suit their own ends.
The middle section of Jude’s letter is a series of warnings from Israel’s history describing those who had gone this way before and their fate. If we follow his thinking then what he is saying is ‘if you think you can act the part and fool God (you might fool people) then you are headed for disaster’.
Reality is the letters matter for us today because not much changes.
So Jude is a warning, a teaching and a challenge to the church today as it was back then. We have a strong tendency towards grace (perhaps a corrective to many years of legalism?) but in that we can see flagrant, repeated sin as ‘slip ups’ rather than as raw rebellion and evil. Knowing when to forgive and restore and when to call someone out is certainly a challenge, but one thing Jude reminds us of is that we can’t turn a blind eye.
I preached two sermons on Jude by invitation in a local church a couple of years ago. I found it hard going because the tone is so different from what we are usually comfortable with in the New Testament.
good stuff Hamo