Many of you know that I am from Philadelphia and my favorite sports team is the Philadelphia Eagles.
You may also know that I do not know much about football strategy. However, if you look over the last few years, a team from Texas has usually been the nail in the Eagles coffin when it came to getting a place in the playoffs.
A Texas team once even stopped the Eagles from getting to play in the Super Bowl. When they did manage to gain entry into the Super Bowl, they were defeated both times by other teams.
Today, the Eagles are playing the Cowboys, so that’s why I am up here delivering a sermon rather than home suffering through the game. Actually the game is at 5:30 today, but I will be busy doing something important like posting pictures of dogs on Facebook.
Last week, however, was a totally different story when the Eagles played the Chicago Bears. Instead of getting trounced by the Cowboys, they beat the Bears on their own turf with a score of 11 – 54.
Here is some analysis:
Chicago did not realize the threat Philadelphia’s new quarterback would be. It looked like they were oblivious to the plays being run against them. They just did not recognize the bad things happening in their own midst when they fell apart.
The Eagles defended their goal with a passion. They were very successful in limiting the damage the Bears could have done.
To the Bears, the Eagles were like wolves in sheep’s clothing. They expected to be able to herd those Eagles and realized too late that birds are harder to herd than even cats.
Jude recognized some of these traits way back in the early church. Let’s see what he can teach us about our spiritual fight.
Let’s turn to the book of Jude. It is right before Revelation.
Jude 1:1-3 (NIV)
1 Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and a brother of James, To those who have been called, who are loved by God the Father and kept by Jesus Christ:
2 Mercy, peace and love be yours in abundance.
3 Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints.
Jude could have said: “Hey! I’m Jesus’ half-brother, so listen to this!” Instead, he humbles himself and says he is a servant of Jesus, the Savior. Clearly, he recognized the importance of Jesus as the Son of God above his familial ties.
Jude also expresses his love to his audience.
Jude changed his mind when he started writing this letter. He was going to write about the joys of salvation that Jesus gave to all believers. The “saints” Jude refers to are people who accepted Jesus as they Lord and Savior. Plus football was not invented yet.
Jude recognized something of extreme importance. He saw wolves in sheep’s clothing herding the unsuspecting away from the teachings of Jesus.
Let’s continue with verse 4.
Jude 1:4-16 (NIV)
4 For certain men whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are godless men, who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord.
5 Though you already know all this, I want to remind you that the Lord delivered his people out of Egypt, but later destroyed those who did not believe.
6 And the angels who did not keep their positions of authority but abandoned their own home–these he has kept in darkness, bound with everlasting chains for judgment on the great Day.
7 In a similar way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion. They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire.
8 In the very same way, these dreamers pollute their own bodies, reject authority and slander celestial beings.
9 But even the archangel Michael, when he was disputing with the devil about the body of Moses, did not dare to bring a slanderous accusation against him, but said, “The Lord rebuke you!”
10 Yet these men speak abusively against whatever they do not understand; and what things they do understand by instinct, like unreasoning animals–these are the very things that destroy them.
11 Woe to them! They have taken the way of Cain; they have rushed for profit into Balaam’s error; they have been destroyed in Korah’s rebellion.
12 These men are blemishes at your love feasts, eating with you without the slightest qualm–shepherds who feed only themselves. They are clouds without rain, blown along by the wind; autumn trees, without fruit and uprooted–twice dead.
13 They are wild waves of the sea, foaming up their shame; wandering stars, for whom blackest darkness has been reserved forever.
14 Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about these men: “See, the Lord is coming with thousands upon thousands of his holy ones
15 to judge everyone, and to convict all the ungodly of all the ungodly acts they have done in the ungodly way, and of all the harsh words ungodly sinners have spoken against him.”
16 These men are grumblers and faultfinders; they follow their own evil desires; they boast about themselves and flatter others for their own advantage.
Jude recognized the church had been infiltrated by preachers who used Jesus’ words for their own profit rather than for the salvation of everyone on earth.
I could stand up here and do the same:
Drop $20 in the basket and I will give you a bottle water that I laid my hands on and blessed it with the power Jesus gave me.
Donate $500 to me and I will also include a bottle of blessed anointing oil so you too, can cure the spiritual ills of those around you!
Give me $10,000 and will give you one of my own holy handkerchiefs that I used in a service. You can use it to cure any physical sickness in existence!
The really sad thing is, you can find such preachers if you look in Jesus’ earthly church.
You can find preachers that tell you it is all right to sin, after all, are we not all sinners? They are really saying is “Jesus already paid for you sins, so you might as well take advantage of this and sin as you wish because you are already forgiven and you debt has been paid.”
They conveniently overlook other words of Jesus, like “repent” and “go and sin no more.” And they will schmooze you and convince you that their evil interpretation is correct if you are not aware and alert.
Their followers will be quite disappointed come Judgment Day.
There are preachers that flat-out say some of the sins given to Moses by God are no longer sins – particular sins of the flesh. Today there are many preachers that actually embrace and encourage sinful sexual behavior.
There are even preachers that deny Jesus!
I originally was doing some research for this sermon and was going to have an upbeat sermon to segue into the New Year with the growth of the Church. I came across a picture taken in a mega-church with a few thousand people in attendance.
They were raising up their hands and heads with big smiles on their faces. Some even had their eyes tightly closed in reverence.
As I glanced at the first paragraph, I saw the word atheist and the paragraph showed that atheists were coming in droves to churches both small and large.
I said “WOW! Praise the Lord for such conversions!”
The second paragraph revealed the truth: these new mega-churches were atheist churches!
There was a preacher who taught you could do whatever you wanted to as long as you didn’t hurt anyone else. He said you only had to follow the laws so you wouldn’t wind up in jail. After all, there was no god to punish you.
The people were dancing and waving their hands while singing upbeat secular songs. I could just imagine them breaking into the 4-1/2 minute reprise of Hey Jude!
Jude mentions about some of these people eating at the love fests. Back in Jude’s time the church body would eat a full meal. This was sort of like our pot lucks today. These meals were fellowship meals where the church members would eat together like the apostles and Jesus did together at the Last Supper.
Everyone gathered to center their minds and hearts on Jesus. After the meal, bread and wine were brought out and everyone took communion in remembering the sacrifice that Jesus made.
Those wolves in sheep’s clothing often turned the fellowship into contests of gluttony. It was so bad in Corinth that Paul had to write that church a letter telling them to straighten out their act! Some people were eating up all the food while others went hungry.
1 Corinthians 11:20-22 (NIV)
20 When you come together, it is not the Lord’s Supper you eat,
21 for as you eat, each of you goes ahead without waiting for anybody else. One remains hungry, another gets drunk.
22 Don’t you have homes to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you for this? Certainly not!
I need a little audience participation here: How many people have seen ungodly behavior in the world today?
Anyone have any additional examples?
[I’m glad no one brought up the donut table = mea culpa]
So we see people and even churches breaking God’s commandments and rules.
Jude goes on to remind everyone of how God deals with those who disobey Him:
- The angels that rebelled are being held to await their fate in the fiery furnace of hell.
- God saved the Israelites from Egypt but killed those who did not believe.
- The cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed for their sexual immorality.
…just to name a few.
Jude also told us that prophets have warned against such people. Now all of us are aware of these people who have launched an offensive against Christians.
Jude tells us to remember what the apostles have taught us. He also says:
Jude 1:17-19 (NIV)
17 But, dear friends, remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ foretold.
18 They said to you, “In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires.”
19 These are the men who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit.
“The last times” refers to the time between Jesus’ first and second coming. We are living in these last times, so pay attention as this is happening NOW. We need to be aware of those who follow their animal instincts instead of the Holy Spirit.
Next, Jude tells us what we should do.
Jude 1:20-23 (NIV)
20 But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit.
21 Keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life.
22 Be merciful to those who doubt;
23 snatch others from the fire and save them; to others show mercy, mixed with fear–hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.
First thing is that we need to build ourselves up and stay strong in our faith. We can help each other do this. We can strengthen each other. We can pray with and for each other.
We need this strength! Standing by your faith is not easy.
Recently Phil Robertson, a preacher, college graduate and head of the Duck Dynasty family was quoted in GQ magazine when he was asked what his beliefs were regarding certain lifestyles. Phil stood by his faith and quoted the Bible.
As soon as his remarks hit the newsstands the world looked like it broke apart from the seams. Everyone was in an uproar over his comments.
Some preachers even spoke out against Phil’s supposed hate. Phil has been preaching the Bible for years and the quotes from the Bible are not new news.
Suspended by A&E from the Duck Dynasty show by pressure from activists, Phil was surrounded by family supporting him.
It is strange since the media ignored Phil’s remarks concerning the two greatest commandments in that same interview: Love God and Love People. Phil say he loves everyone, as we are all sinners and it doesn’t matter if we break a small sin or a large sin – in God’s eyes, it is still sin.
Standing by your faith is not easy and may be even painful. We still need to stand by our faith until we finally meet Jesus face-to-face!
But wait! That is not all Jude tells us.
We need to save those who are being misled.
We are to bring people to Jesus.
How do we do this?
I know how not to do it: Don’t hate those who sin. Don’t yell at them and tell them they are dammed to hell. Do not belittle them. Judas tells us to “be merciful” to the sinners.
Jude refers to when Moses died and Michael the Archangel and Satan are arguing over his body. Michael does not curse Satan. He leaves it to God to do that!
We are definitely in a much lower pay grade than an archangel, so it is definitely not in our job description to condemn the sinners we see. That is God’s job to pass judgment.
I prayed for years for someone to accept Jesus without results. It took an irreversible threat of death and God’s intervention to change that person.
This person was staring up at the ceiling and said “They’re all here. They’re all hear.” He immediately accepted Jesus as his Lord and Savior. A month or so later he gave up the ghost.
Jude tells us to even snatch some people from the fire! No one is beyond redemption. NO ONE! If we have to reach into the fire and meet people on their own turf to save them, so be it.
Some people may even need a touch of the fear of God or even a come-to-Jesus meeting to persuade them to accept salvation; but do not forget to mix this with mercy, as fear alone is not sufficient. Show them God’s Mercy.
Each person who needs saving may require a different touch or combination of these things. There is no one-size-fits-all solution. Let the Holy Spirit guide you. Remember, Jude said to pray in the Spirit.
It is very important not to compromise on your beliefs. Jude mentions garments stained with sin and tells us to hate them.
You might remember when just the touch of an apostle’s garment had healed people. We have to be careful not to immerse ourselves so deep in others’ sins that we become sinful.
You might liken this to an undercover cop having to avoid doing drugs or murdering someone in order to infiltrate a gang. Once the cop does the drugs or commits murder, he compromises his position and is doomed. When one starts to taste the sin of others, they are in trouble of being swallowed up by evil.
Here are some examples of success:
A friend of mine has a few friends that have destructive lifestyles – they use various drugs. They have an understanding there will be no drug possession or use in his home. They also agreed not to use drugs in front of him. He loves them, helps them when possible and prays with and for them. Some have turned away from sin.
My friend also has friends that have adopted various flavors of the GLBT lifestyle. He does not support their life choices because of his biblical beliefs. He is friends with them and loves them as God has commanded. He also prays for them and is merciful.
Two gay friends even asked him to marry them. He was surprised they asked, as they know his beliefs, but he turned them down. He was not about to approve of their lifestyle choice. They are still friends with him. He also prays for them and continues to let his Christian light shine.
My friend has some atheist friends, too. Some are vehemently against the idea of the existence of God. At just about every turn they strike out like a venomous snake against anyone who believes in God or Jesus. It is amusing that they take off work for the religious holidays and “celebrate” their version of Christmas while fighting against all references to Jesus. My friend still prays for them to be introduced to Jesus and he acts as an example of a good Christian.
He loves all his friends and prays for them, regardless of their state of grace.
If you asked my friend directly if he believes some may go to hell, he would have to say like Phil did: “Yes, according to the bible, unless they accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior and also repent (change). However, the decision on whether or not they go to hell is God’s alone, and God tells us to love everyone.”
My friend will not condemn them. Instead, he prays for their salvation.
I know two parents who have children that have chosen sinful lifestyles. Unfortunately one of them threw out the child and disowned them. They told him never to cross the threshold of their home again unless they stopped their behavior. They even said not to call. They just blew their chance of saving their child. Hopefully someone else will save them.
The other set of parents wrapped their arms around their child and hugged them. They said they loved them and would always be there for them, no matter what. The also let them know they did not approve of their choice and believed it was sinful, but they love them just the same. These parents are in a much better position to save their child. They showed their child God’s love and grece.
These examples show us it is possible to love and even be close friends with people without accepting sinful behavior.
Jesus said the greatest commandments are 1) Love God and 2) Love People. We need do our best to do both.
All of these actions are part of our defense against evil and sin.
Jude 1:24-25 (NIV)
24 To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy–
25 to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.
Jude closes his letter just as he opened it with words of encouragement. He tells us God will protect us from false teachers and preachers. He also reminds us that we will eventually be face-to-face with Jesus. Jude tells us we will be joyful, but I believe it will be a level of joy that we can’t even comprehend.
God guarantees that if we remain faithful to him, we need not worry.
Remember, we are living in the “last times” with false teachers and their followers all around us. It is our duty to defend our faith while saving as many as we can from the fires of hell.
Let us pray.