Called, Beloved, and Kept

A few years ago I began a subscription to a news magazine. It is a trusted source for in depth articles and commentary on current news and politics. I am a digital subscriber to the magazine, which means I get direct access as soon as the magazine is published without having to wait for shipping; plus I have access to their online content, so I can stay up to date on the daily news that breaks between publications.

When ever I get correspondence from the magazine, I am addressed as a “valued subscriber.”  They are indicating the nature of our relationship. They value my contribution (money) which supports their publication. But as soon as I stop paying, that relationship is finished. They may continue to send me appeals to renew my subscription, but unless I act, I lose all the benefits that once came with my subscription. They relationship is dependent entirely upon my contribution.

I draw out what we all know to show the power of how Jude addresses the audience of his letter.  In my last post, I examined how Jude introduced himself at the beginning of his letter. How he identifies the audience says so much more.  He is writing to those who have been called, those who are beloved in God the Father, those kept for Jesus Christ.

Jude is addressing a particular congregation, but we don’t know which congregation, or where they were. We can assume that there were some Jewish believers in the church because of Jude’s heavy use of Old Testament illustrations, but that’s really all we know. 

To address his letter to the called, beloved, and kept, then, opens this letter to every believer, even to believers reading today. These three descriptors, called, beloved, and kept, make up the essence of our identity as believers.

We are called.  The word literally means to be invited, but we know from reading God’s Word that is carries much more significance.  Jesus said, “many are called, but few are chosen” (Matt 22:14).   To be called is to hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the invitation to believe in Him, to trust in His righteousness, His perfect atoning sacrifice, His redeeming grace. Many will hear this call, but not everyone will respond, not all will believe.  

But those who do believe, those who do answer the call, do so because of the inward, effectual call of the Holy Spirit, who unplugs our ears that we may hear; who opens our eyes that we may see; who moves our hearts to repentance and love; and who gives life to our souls long slain by sin that we may respond to that call.

This is what it means to be called.  Ephesians 1 tells us that we were chosen by God before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him. We have been called out of the kingdom of darkness and called into the kingdom of light. We have been called out of sin and death and into righteousness and life in Christ. This is the working of the Holy Spirit who calls us to new life. We are the called.

We are also the Beloved in God the Father.  Again, this is amazing.  We know, from the testimony of scripture and the witness of our own hearts that we, apart from God’s grace for us in Jesus Christ, were enemies of God and deserving of His wrath and judgment. We were, as Paul writes in Ephesians 2, “dead in our trespasses and sins… by nature children of wrath.” There was nothing in us that was lovable. “But,” as Paul goes on to say, “God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ” (Eph 2:4-5).

This too is our identity. Not only have we been called (invited and chosen), we have also been loved by God. This love of God is a mercy, for we could not earn it, deserve it, or expect it. This love is eternal, as Eph 1 goes on to day, “In love He predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of His will…” God did not have to be convinced to love us, Jesus didn’t die to pacify an angry God. Instead, God proved His for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 

Being beloved by God is closely connected to the foreknowledge of God that we read about in Romans 8:29, “For those he foreknew, he predestined…” This foreknowledge is not just having an abstract general awareness of something before it happened. It suggests an intimate, personal knowledge, a loving relationship. This is the love of God for His people. We are the beloved of God the Father.

Finally, we are those who are kept for Jesus Christ. Think of an inheritance, a savings bond that is growing to maturity, a bride that is kept in purity until the wedding day. This is who we are. We are kept, held fast, preserved, secured as the treasure of Christ. This is our great comfort, as the Heidelberg Catechism says, that I, “with body and soul, both in life and in death, am not my own, but belong to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ, who with his precious blood has fully satisfied for all my sins, and redeemed me from all the power of the devil; and so preserves me that without the will of my Father in heaven not a hair can fall from my head; yea, that all things must work together for my salvation. Wherefore, by his Holy Spirit, he also assures me of eternal life, and makes me heartily willing and ready henceforth to live unto him.”

This is who we are: The Called, The Beloved, and The Kept.

Notice how little your own activity is mentioned here. In fact, notice how Jude’s address is inherently Trinitarian (while he may not come right out and say it). We are called, and this is the work of the Holy Spirit. We are beloved by the Father. We are kept for Jesus the Son. Our salvation, our identity in Christ, is rooted in the Father’s love, in Christ’s redeeming work, and in the Spirit’s uniting us to Christ and applying His redemption to us.

This is the one work of God for us, and because it is God’s work, it is sure and secure. This is who we are; who God’s Word calls us to be.  It’s even all the past tense to show that what God has determined is certain.

If you are in Christ, you are called, beloved, and kept. Don’t look elsewhere for your identity, don’t seek any other source of confidence or value. You are called. You are beloved. You are kept.

Rejoice in your salvation!


Haiti Mission 2014 – Day 5 – Try a little Kindness

Ahh… peace and quiet at last. It’s day 5 in Haiti, and for the first time since we’ve arrived, we can hear the waves crashing in to shore. There’s no music blaring outside until three in the morning. Just the gentle hum of a generator, the light buzz of the swarm of mosquitos, and the wooshing of bats above our heads. Ah, Haiti.
It is lovely here, really, and we had an adventurous day. We started off dividing our work force. Matt was welding, Bruce was repairing the plow, and the ladies were gofers – going for this and that as needed. I went with Les to the Haiti version of Home Depot – it even had the right smell. We picked up a load of square tubing and angle iron, loaded the Land Rover with gas, as well as bought plenty of gas for the generators, and brought all the supplies back to the Consolation Center.
When we got back, so much had been done, but a break was sorely needed. It’s impossible to adequately convey just what the climate is like here. It’s hot. It’s sticky. The wind rarely moves. And the Sun burns down directly overhead. It’s easy to overdo it, and when you are welding, using a cutting torch, and working in the sun – you can overheat quickly.
We had one team member succumb to a little heat exhaustion today. The Haitians who were with us responded quickly, bringing us a bunch of coconuts – the electrolytes in the coconut have an exceptional ability to rehydrate and restore you. Still, we sent our sick one back the the beach house to rest for the remainder of the day – he went with our prayers, and we got back to work – more welding, some painting, and even some plowing. The good news is, if this ministry thing doesn’t pan out, I now have marketable skills in welding (wire and stick welding).
We finished the day with a refreshing swim in the ocean, followed by wonderful meal prepared by a lovely woman from the community. The main meal was goat, and it was fantastic. She made way more than we could eat, and the leftovers went to good use – we should all sleep well tonight.
Our devotional study for the day was on Kindness as an aspect of the Fruit of the Spirit. Kindness is a benevolence of disposition – desiring the welfare of others, even those who are continually taxing our patience. Kindness is wanting the best, thinking the best, and working for the best for all people, often at great personal expense.
We have been supported (financially and prayerfully) through the tremendous kindness of our congregation at Memorial Presbyterian Church. We have been shown great kindness and hospitality by our mission partners, Les ad Catherine DeRoos. But most importantly, we have receive the greatest of kindness, when God showed the “immeasurable riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Jesus Christ” (Eph 2:7), when, through Christ, God raised us from the dead and to give us life.
God has proven to be kind and generous. When the punishment of sin was death, God showed kindness to Adam and Eve, clothing them to hide their shame, and sending them out of the Garden and away from His wrath. God continued to show kindness by demonstrating patience, and continually working restoration and reconciliation with His people. God’s ultimate kindness is seen in Christ coming to us for our salvation.
And so it is in that kindness that we have come to Haiti; and it is our hope that we may share God’s kindness with those around us. We want the people of Haiti to know God, and to trust in the grace of God through Jesus Christ for their salvation. We share this Good News freely. Yet we are also here to share this Good News through purposeful acts of kindness. We are making beds, painting gates, fixing plows, playing with children, rocking babies to sleep – so that through our kindness, others may see the kindness of God in us and be drawn to Him.
How much better would our message of the Gospel be if our preaching, our teaching, our evangelism, were always accompanied by purposeful acts of kindness? As you preach the Gospel, as you live the Gospel, try a little kindness – so that the world may see your good works, and give glory to our heavenly Father.