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.

A Successful Church

My congregation has begun an ongoing discussion about our Vision and Mission as a Church, and how we can better minister the gospel of Jesus Christ in our community.  In preparation for another meeting tonight, I came across some notes from a message I heard by Kent Hughes, pastor and author of many books, one of which is particularly relevant called, “Liberating Ministry from the Success Syndrome.”  I found his book to be incredibly encouraging, as was his lecture.
As we prepare to come together tonight for our conversation on how our Church can continue to move toward our vision and mission, I thought I would share the notes from Hughes’ message.  This message was geared more for Pastors, but much of what is said applies to the church as a whole.  I took the notes in outline form, so you may have to fill in some gaps.

How do you evaluate success from a biblical point of view?

  1. There is no calling to success, but a call to faithfulness. In 1 Cor 4:2 we are taught that  stewards are to be faithful.
    1. How does that work?  Look to Moses.  Numbers 20, Moses is told to speak to the rock, but Moses got angry and struck the rock.  He failed, he disregarded Gods command.  He failed to execute God’s word, so he could not enter the promised land.
    2. You can be hugely successful in ministry, and be an abysmal failure.  You can give the people exactly what they need, and be a failure.  It is possible to be a great success as a pastor and be a failure in God’s eyes because you are not faithful to God’s word.
    3. Success is found in knowing God’s Word and doing God’s Word.
    4. We cannot be influenced by that which we do not know.
    5. Success is faithfulness which manifests itself in hard working obedience to God.  There is no success apart from faithfulness.
  2. There can be no success apart from serving with a foot-washing heart
    1. If this is true of the greater (Christ), how much more for the lesser (his disciples).
  3. There is no success apart from loving God.
    1. We must love the Lord with all our heart.  This is from Christ, nothing is of greater importance.  This must be the north-star, the point of reproach and correction.
    2. It is possible to pastor a large church and not love God.
    3. It is possible to preach Christ exalting sermons and not love God.
    4. Love God above all things regardless of what is to come.  “Do you love me?”
  4. Hebrew 11:6 clearly teaches us that without faith you cannot please God.
    1. Believe that God exists.
    2. Believe that God rewards his people because he is equitable to his people.  There is no success apart from the smile of God
  5. You cannot be successful without dependent prayer
    1. You can do more than pray after you pray, but you cannot do more than pray if you haven’t prayed.
    2. Jesus could not carry on his ministry apart from dependent prayer.
  6. No unholy life can be considered a success
    1. God calls his people to be holy.
    2. Sexual purity is essential – When lust takes control, God loses all reality, satan does not fill us with hatefulness of god but forgetfulness.  When a man falls into sexual sin, he doesn’t fall very far, because that’s where he’s been in his soul.
  7. Attitude that cannot be successful
    1. Negativism – Having a positive attitude.  Attitude is more important that circumstances.  We have choices regarding our attitude.
    2. Jealousy – Strive to elevate others.
At our first discussion meeting, the Elders and Deacons composed their own list of what a successful church looks like, and it is very similar to what Hughes says.  They noted,

A Successful Church is one that is committed:

  • To raise spiritual champions
  • To be a people who love the Lord and loves and welcomes one another
  • To be a people who are faithful to the Word of God
  • To be a people of wisdom – applying the knowledge of Scripture to all of life.
  • To be a people who are immersed in the community, active in transforming the community, and speaking the Gospel to the community.

I am blessed to be called to serve a congregation that is committed to God’s Word, and to proclaiming the Gospel of salvation in Jesus Christ.  Because of this commitment, I look forward to where these conversations will lead, and pray that God will give His Church success!

Grace and Peace!