Beware the Creeper

“For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.” (Jude 4)


I have been a long-time fan of the old BBC show “Doctor Who.” For those who are unfamiliar, the titular character is a “Time Lord” who travels through space and time in a blue police call box in order to right cosmic wrongs. When the actor portraying the Doctor leaves the show, the character “regenerates,” allowing the show to continue on indefinitely.  

Back in the 80’s, the show didn’t have much in the way of a budget for special effects, so the production was pretty campy, but the stories were well written and entertaining. Every Saturday night I would watch an episode with my dad just before bed, always left in suspense to see how the story would be resolved the next week.

A few years back the BBC began making new episodes of Doctor Who. The show started with great promise; exciting stories, good writing, and superb special effects – it was great fun. Over time, however, new show runners and writers, all who came with social and political agendas, made the show preachy and unwatchable. Now, the show has morphed so much it looks and feels nothing like the original.  

In my last study from Jude, we considered the call to contend for the faith because it was under attack. In verse 4, we see where this attack was coming from: “Certain people,” Jude says, “have crept in unnoticed… who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.”

We have no idea who these “certain men” were, but we’ve seen things like this elsewhere in the NT letters.  Paul writes in Galatians about the “circumcision party” who had come to the church preaching a different gospel, which wasn’t even a gospel at all.  In the letters to the churches in Revelation, the Lord speaks of false apostles, Jezebels who promote immorality, and those who follow the teaching of Balaam.  From the very beginning, the threat of false teaching corrupting the church was immanent, and the church must be diligent in defending the faith from corrupting influences.

The warning of “certain persons creeping in unnoticed” must be heeded.  These were people who came into the fellowship of the believers, pretending to share their faith, but with the ultimate purpose of twisting and perverting the faith.  Jude says that they “perverted the grace of our God into sensuality.” When Paul rebuked the “circumcision party” in Galatians, he was confronting a legalistic movement that promoted salvation by works which denied the sufficiency of the work of Christ for our redemption, a gift of grace that we receive by faith alone. What Jude is dealing with here is the extreme opposite. This was an antinomian (“against the law”) movement that taught that once you have the gracious forgiveness of God, everything was permissible. Grace became a license for indulgence, immorality, and sensuality. In perverting God’s grace into licentiousness, these creeper teachers were rejecting the Lordship of Jesus Christ who calls His disciples to a life of obedience to His commands.

Grace became a license for indulgence, immorality, and sensuality. In perverting God’s grace into licentiousness, these creeper teachers were rejecting the Lordship of Jesus Christ who calls His disciples to a life of obedience to His commands.

Unfortunately, this pernicious teaching still finds its way into the church today. Mainline denominations (like the PCUSA) allow for the ordination of practicing, unrepentant homosexuals and same-sex marriages, all under the auspices of “grace.” Their primary focus in dealing with these issues is the pursuit of civil rights and social justice rather than faithfulness to the Word of God and obedience to Jesus Christ. There has been such a creeping drift away from the Word of God that what’s left of the church is unrecognizable. Jude’s judgment is just a relevant today as it was back then, the creepers have snuck in and twisted the faith.

But as we take notice of how these corrupt teachings have crept into the larger church, I think it is important that we also be on guard against the creeping in our own hearts.  Have we allowed our own lives to creep away from the truth of God’s Word?  Are we guided and shaped more by philosophies and political movements than by the authority of God’s Word? What informs our worldview? Is our faith and practice ruled by God’s Word, or by what is expedient and quickly profitable? 

Do we indulge in what we know to be sinful, all the while justifying ourselves in our own eyes. “I know that I’m forgiven, and that God will continue to forgive, even this sin that I’m about to do.” Beloved, “no one born of God makes a practice of sinning… (1 John 3:9).  We do not continue to sin so that grace may abound. By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?… Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions” (Rom 6:1-12).

As we contend for the faith, let us beware of the creepers; those who would sneak in to twist and corrupt the faith of the church, and those inward creeping passions of the flesh that would draw us away from our Lord and Master Jesus Christ.


Hopes for General Assembly

Two weeks from now I will be in the steamy south of Mobile, AL attending my first ever General Assembly of the PCA. I’ve never been to Alabaman before, so I’m looking forward to the visit, and a little nervous about exploring new places.  In addition to the fact that I will be away from the family for a week,  rebounding from this trip to a week at Church Camp, I have some trepidation about going to GA.  Let me try to explain.

My experience with General Assembly meetings in the PCUSA have not gone well in the past.  I first attended General Assembly back in 1994 when it was in Wichita, KS.  I was working that summer at a church camp in S.E. Kansas, and because GA was in Wichita, the High School camp ended early, and we bussed the kids to GA for the opening worship service and an overnight lock-in with other PCUSA students from around the nation.  The lock-in was frustrating: there was no Biblical teaching, just a long night of dodge-ball, movies, and food. Everything a kid would want, but nothing that they needed. I saw it as a wasted opportunity to equip the students, who one elder said were “the future of the church” to grow in their understanding and love of God in Jesus Christ and to become engaged in the evangelism and outreach of the church.

Fast forward almost 18 years. I was serving as a PCUSA pastor in NE Iowa, and the denomination was again contemplating changing its ordination standards to allow for the ordination of practicing, unrepentant, homosexuals as Teaching and Ruling Elders and Deacons.  My session had approved a motion requesting a moratorium on the ordination issue, calling for a time of prayer and discernment.  The motion was approved by the presbytery, and I was asked to present the motion to the General Assembly.


Hmm, how do you think I’m going to vote?

This was my Daniel in the Lion’s Den moment.  I walked into the conference center, and was immediately greeted by other commissioners bedecked with Rainbow Stoles, making clear where they stood on the matter of ordination.  Any hope for an open-minded reception was gone.  The opening worship service for the Assembly included 12 foot puppets, dancing through the congregation during the “blessing of the four directions.” The motion I presented was laughed at in the committee hearing (by the open-minded-stole-wearing-delegates), and the motion to change the standards of ordination were passed by the GA and eventually by a majority of presbyteries.


So I head to the PCA General Assembly wary of the political nature of such gatherings, but also optimistically hopeful about what may come.  Next week, I will share some of the business that we will be discussing at General Assembly, but today, I simply offer my prayers for what I will experience.

My prayers for General Assembly:

  1. Fewer Shenanigans.  I don’t want to see puppets, milk and honey ceremonies, Rainbow Stoles or Naked Cowboys in worship. That should go without saying.  Still, there are temptations for large scale gatherings to push boundaries and make waves, for no other reason than to push boundaries and make waves.  I guess what I’m hoping for here is just that we can be a gathering of the Church, where we come together to hear God’s word, to pray with and for one another, and to work for the peace and purity of the body of Christ.
  2. Biblical Teaching and Worship.  We have some fantastic Biblical scholars in the PCA, and at one time, the name Presbyterian was synonymous with solid, reformed Biblical teaching. I would hope that we could use our national gathering to lift up Biblical teaching and the application of Scripture to our current context in an increasingly “post-Christian” America.
    How we proclaim the Good News, and how we Worship according to the authority of God’s Word, can have a transforming effect on our world today.  I pray that this is happening in my own congregation, and would love to see it at our General Assembly as well.
  3. Prayerful and Biblical Discussion on Important Matters.  There are a lot of important and very difficult issues that the church faces today, and we need to have profound and meaningful conversations and debates on these matters.  Yet I pray that we can learn how to have these conversations, how to disagree with one another, and still love one another and strive to maintain the bond of peace and unity in Christ.
  4. Genuine Fellowship as the Body of Christ. Ultimately, I guess what I’m hoping for as I prepare for General Assembly is that I will be going to Church, called by Christ to be with my Fathers and Brothers who have also been called by Christ, to be a Church that lives for the glory of God.

Be praying for me, for the Presbyterian Church in America, as we come together for our General Assembly (June 20-24, 2016).  I’ll be trying to post updates while at GA, so keep checking in here at the blog.