About reveds

Occupation: Pastor, Ebenezer Presbyterian Church, Lennox, SD Education: BS - Christian Education, Sterling College; MDiv. - Princeton Theological Seminary Family: Married, with Four children. Hobbies: Running (will someday run a marathon), Sci-Fi (especially Doctor Who and Sherlock), Theater, and anything else my kids will let me do.

Keep in the Love of God

“But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life.”
Jude 20-21

As we watch the political circus of 2020 America play out before us, one of the most troubling casualties in this process has been the contest of ideas. Our debates, talk-shows, and advertising leading up to an election has all been ad hominem, attacking the person rather than the ideas. We’ve devolved into a cult of personality, where image triumphs over content, and we all suffer for it. “We can’t tell you what we stand for,” they’ll say, “but we’re certainly better than the other guy.”

Friends, you cannot grow in faith if you are only focused on what you are not. This is the point that Jude is making in verses 20-21. So much of his letter is spent exposing the character and motives of the false teachers in the church; but simply recognizing the false teacher does not help us to contend for the faith. Instead, Jude tells us that as faithful followers of Christ, we must keep ourselves in the love of God. I’d like to explore these two verses with you, briefly, to help encourage you in this today.

(Full Disclosure – I’m coming off of a head-cold, and have been short-winded and very tired the last week, so writing like this today is an effort. I’m relying heavily on Thomas Schreiner’s work in The New American Commentary on 1, 2 Peter and Jude.)

As you first read through verses 20 and 21 of Jude’s letter, the first inclination is to see this as a list of 4 imperatives: 1) Build yourselves up in faith, 2) Pray in the Holy Spirit, 3) Keep yourselves in God’s love, and 4) Wait for the mercy of Christ. In the Greek, however, there is only one verb, “keep.” So the main point that Jude makes here is, while false teachers would have you pursue the pleasures of the flesh and twist your faith, we are to keep ourselves in the sphere of God’s love – being loved by Him and loving Him ourselves. The participles”building,” “praying,” and “waiting” are the means through which we abide in that love.

Thomas Schreiner notes, “the first way believers remain in God’s love is by continuing to grow in their understanding of the gospel, the teachings that were handed down to them at their conversion… Jude did not think that growth occurred mystically or mysteriously. Instead, believers experience God’s love as their understanding of the faith increases. Affection for God increases not through bypassing the mind but by means of it.” The scriptures teach that we are to love the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. Loving God with the mind means daily learning, studying, and growing in our understanding of God. As we study God’s faithfulness, God’s goodness, God’s mercy and grace, indeed, all the perfections of God’s character, we will be built up in our faith, which will hold us fast in the love of God.

The second way we keep in God’s love is by praying in the Holy Spirit. This is not, as some speculate, suggesting the charismatic prayer in tongues, but rather is a more general notion of praying by the leading and influence of the Holy Spirit.  It is prayer that is guided not by our own sinful passions and desires, but prayer that is governed by the Spirit of God who leads, guides, and teaches us to pray (Rom 8:26-27). To abide in the love of God without prayer would be like running a mile without breathing. Love for God is nurtured, nourished, through prayer.

The third means of keeping in the love of God is through waiting upon the coming mercy of Jesus. It is that faithful expectation of Christ’s return, His coming again.  The false teachers would have downplayed Christ’s return, denying His coming again in judgment, allowing them to indulge in sensuality and rebellion. To remain in then love of God, then, is to acknowledge His return, and to live in faithful expectation of that day.

What does it mean to “keep in the love of God?” Involved in our abiding in God’s love is growth in faith, prayer in the Spirit, and awaiting the return of the King. And yet, at the heart of it all is God’s grace in Jesus Christ.  I leave you with this from Schreiner’s commentary:

Our love for God depends upon his love for us. Hence, the two cannot and should not be rigidly separated… Those who trust in Christ remain in the faith because of the preserving work of God the Father. Nevertheless, the promise that God will keep his own does not nullify the responsibility of believers to persevere in the faith. God keeps his own, and yet believers must keep themselves in God’s love. Jude represented well the biblical tension between divine sovereignty and human responsibility. On the one hand, believers only avoid apostasy because of the grace of God. On the other hand, the grace of God does not cancel out the need for believers to exert all their energy to remain in God’s love. 

SDG

Mama Said There’d Be Days Like This

“But you must remember, beloved, the predictions of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ.  They said to you, ‘In the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions.’  It is these who cause divisions, worldly people, devoid of the Spirit.”
Jude 17–19

Who could have ever foreseen what 2020 would hold? I think we all knew that the political circus was coming to town with the Presidential Election, but adding in a global pandemic, protests and riots over racial divisions, threats of war in Iran, talks of peace in for Israel, an alphabet of hurricanes and tropical storms, and even murder hornets – this has been a full year. 

If someone had told you back in 2019 what was to come, would you believe it? Would it have made a difference. Maybe you would have stocked up on toilet paper, invested in the company that makes face masks, but I don’t know that knowing any of this would have made this year easier. Knowing something bad is coming doesn’t make it better, it doesn’t make it less evil; but it may be more bearable.  

This is the point of Jude’s reminder in vs. 17-19. Jude has spent 2/3 of the letter detailing the corruptive teaching of those who had crept into the church. He has highlighted that their judgment is sure, and their teachings are empty. Now Jude begins to speak to the faithful.

“My beloved,” he says, “remember that the prophets told you this was going to happen.” These false teachers are no surprise to God, and God has warned us of their coming. We don’t know exactly what prophecies Jude has in mind, it could be that these were predictions made by the apostles but never written down, or he could be referring to passages such as:

1 Timothy 4:1–5: “Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared, who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer.”

2 Timothy 3:1–5: “But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty.  For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy,  heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.”

Acts 20:29–30: “I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them.”

or even Matthew 24:10–12: “And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another.  And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold.”

In these passages the faithful are called to remember that all of this was foreseen by the Lord.  Remembering here doesn’t simply mean to recall, but to take to heart what was spoken. God has determined the end from the beginning, nothing comes as a suppose to God. God has spoken, through Christ His Son, and through the prophets and apostles, about the troubles that the church would face. God has warned the faithful that there would be days like this. His warning is a call to prepare for trouble, but also to not lose heart.

In these last days – between Christ’s death and resurrection and His coming again – some will be led astray by false teaching. Some will cause division within the church as they seek their own desires. Some will cause trouble for the church, and even bring persecution to the faithful as they reject the Lord and His word.

None of what we face is beyond God’s sovereign provision, and even in the midst of it God is working for the good of those who love God (Rom 8:28).  In all things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us (Rom 8:37). 

Knowing that these times of trouble in the church were foreseen by the apostles doesn’t make it any less evil or troubling, but it does make it more bearable.  Thomas Schreiner writes in The New American Commentary:

No false teaching, no threat from the outside can be considered a genuine threat to the truth since it has all been foreseen and predicted. God never promised that the church would progress in the world without enemies from within. People are apt to think that blessing from God would mean that the people of God exist in a blissful state with no conflict. On the contrary, the apostles foretold that opponents would come, and now they had arrived. They were evident by their words and their works. It should be clear to all, therefore, that they were not part of the people of God. The church should recognize them, reject their teaching, and reach out to those wavering under their influence.

Schreiner, Thomas R. 1, 2 Peter, Jude. Vol. 37. Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2003. Print. The New American Commentary.