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.

An Identity Rooted in Jesus

“Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and brother of James…”
Jude 1

Over the next few installments of this blog, I’m going to be taking a little different direction. Usually, the blog is just a random collection of thoughts, with very little connection from one week to the next. What resulted was a rather scattered, cluttered mess – which, apropos, describes a lot of my life right now.

In an attempt to be more organized, I’ve decided that I’m going to start working through scripture, slowly, methodically, systematically. My hope is not to write a commentary or sermon, but to simply reflect on the passage, soak in it for a while, and hopefully, prayerfully, discern truth in it. If you benefit from reading along in this journey, all the better.

So we begin with Jude. It’s a great little letter, near the end of the New Testament. If you haven’t read it in a while, I encourage you to step away from your computer, find your Bible, and read it. It won’t take long.

Go ahead, I’ll wait.

Welcome back.

Did you notice how Jude introduces himself, how he identifies himself? 

The introduction of  the letter follows the typical format of the NT epistles: name and credentials of authority. Paul did this regularly, giving his name, then commenting on his call and relationship to the audience. We see it also in James’ and Peter’s letters, while Hebrews remains anonymous and John never introduces himself except in Revelation.

Here, Jude describes himself as a servant of Jesus Christ and the brother of James. 

This is interesting because at the time this was written the only “biblical” James we know of who is still alive is James the brother of Jesus, the author of the epistle James.  That means that Jude would have also been the brother of Jesus. 

So why not come out and say that? If part of the introduction of a letter is the validation of authority, don’t you think that saying, “I’m the brother of Jesus” would carry some weight? Wouldn’t that make you a shoe-in for apostolic authority? 

This is how a lot of the world works. It’s not what you know, it’s who you know, that really counts. We drop names in order to bolster our influence, we make connections hoping to advance ourselves.

If you read about the brothers of Jesus in the Gospels, however, you see perhaps why Jude doesn’t emphasize this relationship. Mark tells us that Jesus’ family thought he was out of his mind (Mark 3:21), and John says that even his own brothers did not believe in him (John 7:5). Imagine, then, the shame that the brothers of Jesus would have felt when they come face to face with the resurrected Lord. It was the resurrection changed everything.

After the resurrection, Jude calls Jesus “Master” and “Lord.” He recognizes Jesus as the Christ. He knows Jesus not simply as the brother he grew up with, but as the Messiah, the anointed one of God, who saved him from his sins and unbelief, and to whom he owes His life. From now on, Jude’s identity is wrapped up in the person and work of Jesus Christ. “Jesus is Lord,” says Jude, “I am his servant.”

Is this how you are identified? That’s a question that gets tossed around a lot today, “How do you identify yourself?” The world says that identity is fluid; changeable, malleable by successes, failures, opinions, moods, feelings, so that it becomes impossible to even begin to know who you are. So much of our identity is established by our work, our accomplishments, even our failures. We let these things define us, and entrap us. “It’s just who I am…”

But here in the introduction of Jude we hear, not just who Jude is, but how we too may be identified: “Jesus Christ is my Lord and Master, I am His servant.

If you want to know my real identity, if you want to see behind the mask that I wear (no, I’m not Batman), here’s who I am. I am a sinner. I have been redeemed by the grace of God in Jesus Christ. I have been purchased by His blood, redeemed by His cross, covered in His righteousness, secured in His kingdom. Jesus Christ is my Lord and Master, I am His servant.

Whatever else may be said, regardless of your accomplishments and failures, if you have put your faith in Jesus Christ, your identity is rooted in Him. 

Tune in next week as we explore the second half of this verse in greater detail.

SDG

A Promise for the Righteous

For the righteous will never be moved; he will be remembered forever.” (Psalm 112:6, ESV)

Sometimes while reading through the Bible, one verse, a verse you’ve read countless times, will jump off the page in front of you. You see it in a whole new light, finding depths which before went unnoticed.

Psalm 112 was one of my devotional readings this morning. It is a Wisdom Song, and psalm that extols the man who fears the Lord, focusing on the moral character, and benefits, of those who delight in the commands of God.

Standing right in the middle of this Psalm is a message of tremendous promise: “The righteous will never be moved; he will be remembered forever.” I’d like to take just a moment to unpack that small verse.

The first question we must ask is this, “who is the righteous one?” This psalm praises the one who fears the Lord, who delights in His commands, but who could that be? Throughout the scriptures, we are reminded of the deceitfulness of the human heart (Jer. 17:9), how all have turned from God, how no one seeks Him, no one is righteous, no not one (Psalm 53).

That’s the problem, isn’t it? There are wonderful blessings for the righteous, but righteousness is unattainable.

Except that God has made a gracious way to righteousness through faith in Jesus Christ. The Shorter Catechism teaches, “Justification” (God declaring a sinner to be righteous) “is an act of God’s free grace, wherein he pardons all our sins, and accepts us as righteous in his sight, only for the righteousness of Christ imputed to us, and received by faith alone.”

God, in His grace, gave us His Son, who fulfilled the righteous demands of the law, and yet also suffered the wrath of God for sin upon the cross. When we are united to Christ by faith, we are reckoned righteous in God’s sight, because Jesus was reckoned cursed for us. By this gracious exchange, we are declared righteous by God.

By faith in Jesus, we are declared righteous. What God has spoken is sure. It is declared, and therefore unmovable. God cannot, will not, go back on His word. If God did, He would cease to be God.

Not only that, the righteous one, those who are declared righteous, are secure unto the end, remembered forever. In theological circles we call this the Perseverance of the Saints. Those who are declared righteous, whose whose name is in the Book of Life will never be blotted out, never be forgotten (Rev. 3:5). He will not lose one that he has given him (John 6:39-40).

“He is not afraid of bad news…” (Psalm 112:7) The Psalm goes on to describe the practical application of the doctrine of the Sovereignty of God in salvation. Because of this grace which has been so lavishly poured out upon us in Christ, because the sovereign God has called us righteous, and the righteous shall never be moved – because of this I can rest secure.

The Heidelberg Catechism frames this confidence this way:

“My only comfort, in life and in death, is that I am not my own, but belong – body and soul, in life and in death – to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ. He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood, and has set me free from the tyranny of the devil. He also watches over me in such a way that not a hair can fall from my head without the will of my Father in heaven; in fact, all things must work together for my salvation.”

There is a lot that he world is throwing your way right now, things that would cause terror and dismay. When that voice of fear stalks you, remember this promise! “The righteous will never be moved, he will be remembered forever.” Know that by faith in Jesus Christ, you are counted among the righteous, declared justified in God’s eyes, and you will be remembered by Him. Stand firm, be filled with joy and peace of believing.

SDG