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

Blessed are the Peacemakers…

We are desperate for peace these days. We’ve come off a three month quarantine in which every news report sent shockwaves of COVID terror down our spines, only to be thrust headfirst into protests and riots and atrocities. We look to our political leaders, and all they do is blame each other. We look to entertainment to try to take our mind off of the chaos, only to find the same violence and godlessness of the headlines in our music, television, and movies.

We long for peace, at least the illusion of peace. We usually think that peace is simply the absence of conflict, and we’re okay with kicking the can of our social/moral/political/cultural brokenness down the road, as long as things settle down for now, and no harm comes to me or the ones I know and love.

Genuine peace – what in the Old Testament is called “Shalom” – means a wholeness of being, to be complete. We don’t have peace because we are broken, as individuals, as a society, as the human race. Sin has left us marred, damaged, corrupted, broken, and ultimately without peace. We search and search for anything to make us whole – pleasure, power, etc. – but as we can see if we open our eyes, the things of this world cannot give us the peace we are longing for.

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
Matthew 5:9

We long for peace, and we remember that Jesus calls us to be peacemakers. Jesus, in the sermon on the mount, describes the character of those who would follow after him. The Beatitudes, those signifiers of what it looks like to be truly blessed include things like being poor in spirit, mourning, humility, and yes, being peacemakers. These are not natural characteristics that we have to manifest in order to become followers of Christ, but are rather the “super-natural,” spiritual qualities that those who follow Christ will ultimately demonstrate because of the transforming work if the Holy Spirit in us.

So how do we make peace? Let me suggest two ways we don’t make genuine peace, then point us to how peace is actually made.

We do not make peace through aggression. I am grateful for our military, those who defend and keep the peace for our nation, serving at home and around the world. I appreciate those who have fought in War, putting themselves in harms way to defend our freedom and liberty. I honor those in law enforcement who keep our communities safe. But we must remember, these serve as keepers of the peace, they cannot make it. Peace cannot be achieved through the show of force. This is the deterrence of war, or even the enforcement of justice, but it is not peacemaking.

I’ve seen first hand where peace is imposed by military strength. When visiting 3rd world countries, you see UN Peacekeepers, or heavily armed state security, quelling violence through the presence of strength. But when the peacekeepers aren’t looking – there is murder, violence, and rioting. Peace is not made through fear, aggression, or threat of violence.

Neither is peace made through appeasement and compromise. “Go along to get along” has become the modus-operandi today. We would do anything to avoid conflict. We bend the rules to avoiding offending the rule-breakers, and then wonder why no one obeys the rules any more. We see someone caught in what we know to be a destructive series of choices, but we refuse to say anything because we don’t want to seem judgmental. We would rather watch someone die then tell them they they are killing themselves. Who am I to say anything?

Think of Neville Chamberlain, England’s prime minister during the rise of Hitler’s Germany. He went to Hitler and promised not to enter the war, declaring “peace in our time,” only to betray England’s allies and to later be betrayed and attacked themselves. Peace cannot be achieved through cowardice or moral-relativism.

If we want to be peacemakers, we must first consider how Christ secured peace for us. We are reminded throughout scripture that sin has created enmity between God and man, that there is a divide, a hostility between us that must be reconciled (Eph 2:1-5; Rom 1:18-25, 8:5-7; 1 John 2:15-17). And this is why Jesus came. God, in His love, sent Jesus His Son, to die in our place, to take the full weight of wrath and judgment, the penalty for our sins, upon Himself (Rom 5:8, 1 Peter 2:24, John 3:26). He died to take away the hostility between us and God, becoming the curse of our sin so that we might become the righteousness of God (Gal 3:13, 2 cor 5:21). It is through Jesus’ sacrifice that we have peace; peace with God and with one another.

If we are to become peacemakers, we first do so by proclaiming the peace that Christ has made. There is no other mediator between God and man, no other name given among man by which to be saved (Acts 4:12). There is no other peace, no other hope (Rom 5:1). If we are to be peacemakers, we must become heralds of the peace of Christ. We make peace by proclaiming the grace and mercy of God in Jesus to those who do not know Him, those who have not known His peace.

We are peacemakers when we living in peace with one another, forgiving and being forgiven. There is not one of us who has not sinned against his brother or sister, not one of us who is above reproach. There are no classes or groups of people who have been so victimized as to be beyond rebuke, nor so saintlike that repentance is not necessary. All have sinned and have fallen short of the glory of God (Rom 3:23). If we are to be peacemakers, we must begin by confessing our sin to God, then confessing our sin to one another, knowing that Christ has broken down every wall of hostility that divides us, making peace through His blood. Christ is our peace with God, and our peace with one another. Seek forgiveness, and be willing to forgive, just as God has forgiven you in Christ Jesus the Lord.

Finally, we remember that we become peacemakers through sacrifice. We are called, not to take up arms, but to take up our cross (Matt 16:24). We lay down our lives for the sake of following Christ, and in doing so, we find the peace we are longing for, and become peacemakers. We sacrifice, die to ourselves, not insisting on our rights or privileges, but caring for and seeing to the needs of those around us. These sacrifices are not meritorious, they do not bring about peace, but they do proclaim the peace that has been made in Jesus.

May we, through the grace of God in Jesus Christ, be known as peacemakers.