Achtung believers!

“Now I want to remind you, although you once fully knew it, that Jesus, who saved a people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe.”
Jude 5

The invitation to the Christian faith should come with a warning label. It does, actually. But like the warning tags on your mattress, the warnings of the Christian faith often go unread and unheeded.

The call to follow Jesus is a call to forgiveness, grace, and new and eternal life (John 3:16). But it is also a call to suffer for the sake of Christ (1 Peter 2:21), to take up your cross and die with Jesus (Matt 16:24). Salvation is the free gift of God received by faith in Jesus Christ (Rom 3:22-24), but you must be willing to give up everything for the pearl of great price (Matt. 13:45-46).

Jude’s short letter is full of warnings to the believing community. He is writing to urge Christians everywhere to contend for the faith, because certain people have crept in unawares, and are twisting the grace of God into sensuality and denying our Lord and Master Jesus Christ (Jude 4).  As I wrote last week, this is a warning that we are to be on guard against those outside influences, and even inward persuasions, that would corrupt or twist the grace of God into licentiousness or lawlessness.

Verses 5-7 continue with these warnings, using a series of analogies to give caution to the Church. In the verse above, Jude looks back to the foundational event of the people of Israel, their deliverance out of bondage in Egypt, as a point of reference for the contemporary Church.

After nearly 500 years of slavery in Egypt, a captivity to darkness and death, God delivered His people by mighty acts of power. Through the 10 plagues, culminating in the death of the firstborn throughout all the land, except for those whose homes were marked by the blood of the lamb, God saved His people from captivity. He brought them through the Red Sea, parting the waters that they may walk on dry land. He led them by the cloud by day and the fiery pillar at night. 

(Notice that Jude has a very high Christo-centric view of Salvation: “Jesus, who saved a people out of Egypt…”. Though Jesus is not mentioned in the Exodus story, early Christians clearly saw the eternal Son of God working through the Old Testament. The salvation of the people from Egypt was the work of the Christ; the exodus prefiguring the ultimate salvation that Jesus would secure for God’s elect (in the curse of the first-born and the blood of the lamb that marks those who believe) This is what’s known as the doctrine of inseparable operations: in which every action of God is from the Father through the Son and in the Holy Spirit, and this is an order that is inherent to God’s triune identity.)

There was not one person among all of Israel who did not know, and would not confess belief in the God who saved them from their enemy. All would have been circumcised (the rite of acceptance into the covenant community). All would have attested to the mighty work of God on their behalf.  All would have been able to profess an orthodox belief.

And yet we are told that the entire generation who were brought out of Egypt died in the wilderness because of their unbelief (Heb. 3:16-19; Num 14:20-25). They knew the right things, even had all the correct outward rites, but their faith was not genuine, they did not trust in the Lord, and they would not obey His commands (1 Cor 10:1-5). Though they had been saved from captivity in Egypt, they still came under judgment because of their unbelief.

Do you see what Jude’s doing here? He’s warned the church about those who have snuck in to corrupt the church with false teachings. Now he’s warning believers to examine their hearts. You may know the right things, have gone through all the right ceremonies, even professing outwardly your faith in Jesus Christ. But if that faith is not genuine, if it has no effect on the rest of your life, you are liable to the same threat of destruction that the Israelites faced in the wilderness.

We are saved by grace alone through faith in Christ alone, and this is not by works so that no man may boast (Eph 2:8-9). But we are also saved for the good works that God has set apart for us from before the beginning of time (Eph 3:10).

Jude will give us no false sense of security. He warns us of a dead orthodoxy: where we hold on to correct doctrine without a change of heart (regeneration) or change of practice, or any demonstration of love for God or one another.  We are saved by faith, and yet even our Westminster Confession describes a saving faith as that which “yields obedience to the commands, trembles at the threatenings, and embraces the promises of God for this life, and that which is to come” (WCF XIV.2).

Beloved, hear and heed the warning from Jude. Guard your hearts, “that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises” (Heb 6:12).


The Christian’s Attitude Toward Sin

This year at Bible Camp, I led a Bible study through 1 John.  In the past years, I felt that my lessons were far too complex for young campers, so I really tried to bring the class back to the basics, and thought teaching how to study the Bible would be a great place to start.  Plus, 1 John is one of those books that is easy to understand, though deep in its application and wisdom.
While much of 1 John is given to demonstrating how there are three birth-marks of a genuine Christian (Obedience, Love, and Truth), the opening chapter serves as the gate through which all must pass if they are going to walk with Christ.  It is not a great theological hurdle, nor must one complete some rite or ritual to be found in Christ.  No, according to John, if you are going to have fellowship with God and with Jesus Christ His Son, you must have a proper understanding of your own sin and know how to deal with it.
John spells this out for us in 1 John 1:6-2:2 quite clearly through a series of contrasts, denials and affirmations, on the genuine Christian life. Let’s take the denials first and see what genuine Christian is not, then we’ll look at the affirmations.
What a Christian is not:
  • vs 6 – If we say we have fellowship with Him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.
  • vs. 8 – If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us
  • vs. 10 – If we say we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.
Here we see by negation what marks the life of a false believer.  Those who continue to sin while claiming to walk with God, those who deny that what they are doing is a sin, and those who deny that they have ever sinned, they do not practice the truth, they are self-deceived, and they make God to be a liar. If you deny your own sinfulness, then you deny your need for a savior from your sin, and you deny the clear testimony of God’s Word.  
So what then ought a Christians attitude be toward sin?
Let us look to what John says again:
  • vs 7 – If we walk in the light as He is in the life, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin.
  • vs. 9 – If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
  • vs 2:1-2 … but if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins…
Those who are born of God, who have fellowship with Jesus Christ, walk in the light, living in obedience to His word, all the while trusting in the blood of Jesus to cleanse them from all sin. The genuine believer knows his own sin, confesses his sin, and trusts in the saving power of God in Jesus Christ for salvation – and this is all by the grace of God.
The Westminster Confession teaches, “repentance unto life is a saving grace, whereby a sinner, out of a true sense of his sin, and apprehension of the mercy of God in Christ, does, with grief and hatred of his sin, turn from it unto God, with full purpose of, and endeavor after, new obedience” (WSC 87).
What, then, is the gate through which all must pass in order to have fellowship with God in Jesus Christ, it is the gate of repentance.  Acknowledging sin, hating sin, turning from sin, and trusting in the righteousness of Christ as we seek to follow after Him.
Interesting Reading from the Pastor’s Desk
I’ve been reading this week about music and worship and thought I’d share some of the articles with you here:
The High Point of Worship – This is a longer read, but well worth it. It is a good refresher on why we worship the way we do as a Reformed and Presbyterian Church, what at the center of our worship, and will, hopefully, renew us in our devotion in worship on the Lord’s Day.
The Lord is My Salvation – From the Getty’s, here is a new hymn, a song of testimony, inspired in part by Psalm 27. There is a link to where you can download the song for free, as well as links for the sheet music of the song.
So Will I – This article demonstrates the kind of discernment that I try to apply to every song we use in worship. I have to admit, I love this song, but like the author of this article, I am troubled by the content of the second verse and what it would lead a congregation to think when singing it.  I could think of so many better words to use to describe sanctification than “evolve.”