Toxic Christianity

“These are grumblers, malcontents, following their own sinful desires; they are loud-mouthed boasters, showing favoritism to gain advantage.” Jude 16

We come to the end of Jude’s lengthy and detailed description of the false teachers who had crept into the church to twist the gospel of God grace in Jesus Christ into a license for sensuality and a rejection of the Lord. Through the main body of his letter, Jude draws upon examples of their sure and certain judgment in the Lord because of their conduct and their message, but before turning to the instruction to the faithful, he gives one last look at their character. This final blow may strike the hardest, and identifies what may still be prevalent in the Church today, that which I would call Toxic Christianity.

There are 4 descriptions given here. These false teachers are:

  1. Grumblers – Like the Israelites of old, during their journey from the Red Sea to the promised land, they are grumblers, murmurers, complaining constantly about their condition, their leaders, and even about the Lord’s provision. The Greek word here (pronounced gongustes) is an onomatopoeia – a word that sounds like what it describes – the low mutter of resentful discord arising from perpetually unhappy people. It’s the sound coming from the corner of the room when the elders make an unpopular decision, when the sermon hits a little too close to home, or even when the air conditioning is too cool (or not cool enough). This grumbling spirit is like a termite nest, slowly eating away at the foundation of Christian fellowship.
  2. Malcontents – The Greek here is a combination of two words: blame and life. It is that attitude which is always complaining about one’s lot in life. I knew a man back in Kansas who’d come into the church every morning for a cup of coffee, always complaining about how little rain we had gotten. One night, a thunderstorm blew through, so I thought surely he’d come in the next day happy. When he came for coffee, you guessed it, he was complaining again; we got too much rain and the land was too dry for it to do any good. Spiro Agnew once spoke of the “nattering nabobs of negativism… who have formed their own 4-H Club — the ‘hopeless, hysterical hypochondriacs of history.’” These are the malcontents.
  3. Following their own Sinful Desires – Rather than being governed by the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit, these false teachers are following their own passions and are led by their own desires. This is the mantra of the day, “Whatever makes you happy, whatever feels right, just do it.” We are right to criticize this when it is revealed in immorality and sensuality, but that’s not where this ends. It’s that attitude that says, “Well I know what God’s word says, but…” Whether its the way we worship, how we honor the Lord’s Day, our attitude toward offerings and tithes – when the driving force is my own pleasure and happiness rather than the holiness of God, the influence of the false teachers shows.
  4. Loud-mouth Boasters who Show Favor to Gain Advantage – The scriptures are clear in their rebuke toward those who show favor in making judgment (Lev. 19:15; Deut 10:17; James 2:1). What jumps out here is who is getting the glory and honor. Loud-mouthed boasters are all about self-promotion. Those who flatter others for self-gain are also all about self-promotion. The honor of others, the glory of God, never come to the mind of these false teachers. They will say what they have to in order to receive the praise and adoration of man.

These are the characteristics of the false teachers, and sadly, we see their descendants in the church even today. I think, if we’re honest, and if we allow the Spirit to help us to see ourselves in the mirror of God’s Word, we’ll find all of these traits, this toxicity, coursing through our veins even still. We come under the conviction of God’s Word, and must fall upon Jesus Christ for forgiveness and peace.

What’s amazing, is that all of these things that Jude points out in the false teachers, Paul has also addressed in his letter to the Philippians.

To those who grumble, Paul writes:
Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. Likewise you also should be glad and rejoice with me. (Phil. 2:14–18)

To the malcontent, Paul writes:
Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. (Phil. 4:11–13)

To those tempted to be led by their sinful desires, Paul writes:
Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself. Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved. (Phil. 3:17–4:1)

And to those who are puffed up in boasting and flattery, Paul writes:
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Phil. 2:3–11)

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Reliable Sources

It was also about these that Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied, saying, “Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of his holy ones,  to execute judgment on all and to convict all the ungodly of all their deeds of ungodliness that they have committed in such an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things that ungodly sinners have spoken against him.”
Jude 14–15 (ESV)

In today’s high-volume, constant barrage of media and information, you have to be very careful which sources you listen to. I think this meme sums it up best: 

“Don’t believe everything you read on the internet.” Abraham Lincoln

As we read through the book of Jude, what we receive as the inspired and authoritative word of God, we come to verses 14 and 15 where Jude quotes from the Book of Enoch. Enoch, you’ll recall in Genesis 5:18-24, is the descendant of Adam who “walked with God, and he was not, for God took him.” Because of the uniqueness of Enoch’s life, legend developed that he was a prophet who testified to the coming judgment of God, and these prophesies were contained in the Book of Enoch.

Enoch was never considered to be part of the Hebrew canon, nor was it accepted as an inspired and authoritative text in the Christian Scriptures. Still, it is believed to have been a popular book, circulated mostly during the 3rd and 4th century BC, with some fragments included among the Dead Sea Scrolls. Much of the content of Enoch’s work is really a commentary (Midrash) on the word of God. In fact, the quote Jude draws from Enoch 1:8 is nothing more than an application of Deuteronomy 33:2.

Should we then try to be more familiar with the Book of Enoch? What does Jude’s quotation from this source tell us about the inspiration of the Word? As the ESV Study Bible notes states, “The use of extra biblical literature does not mean that any of these literary works are authoritative words of God in the same category as Scripture. Jude is simply drawing from 1 Enoch another example of judgment, which means that, in at least this specific instance, 1 Enoch contains truth.” Paul does this in Acts 17, quoting from pagan philosophers in order to emphasize his point. In both cases, they are using thoughts and teachings that the audience would have recognized in order to illustrate their message. It is no different than when a preacher will quote from a commentary or a popular contemporary source in order to bring clarity or to reinforce the message. 

So what is being said? This much is clear. The false teachers who have come into the Church, twisting the message of the gospel into sensuality and leading people away from their Lord and Master Jesus Christ will come under tremendous judgment. The Lord is coming to convict the ungodly of their ungodliness that they have committed in ungodly ways. Those who are without God cannot do what God desires.  The absence of God is evil in and of itself, and all ungodliness will be judged when the Lord comes again. This judgment is sure. 

Jude is nearing the end of his rebuke against these false teachers and he wants to make this point clear: while the ungodly may gain ground and prosper here and now, there is an unavoidable coming judgment. This promise of judgment comes as both threat and assurance; a threat to the ungodly that their deeds do not go unnoticed, an assurance to the godly, that the Lord will act in righteousness to bring an end to all evil.

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