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!

SDG

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