Hey Jude– They Live Life On Their Own Terms

dark-crossLast week we introduced Jude’s concern over false teachers who worm their way into Christian assemblies. We began examining verse 4 to determine the characteristics of false teachers, and learned that they typically assimilate into churches so that they seem indistinguishable from true believers. Additionally, we noted that God would ultimately condemn them.

Today I want to look at the ungodliness of these stealth teachers, which we find in the last two points of verse 4: their perversion of grace and their denial of Christ’s authority. So let’s review verses 3 and 4 to remind ourselves of Jude’s purpose  in wanting us to identify these people.

Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. 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.

The ungodly nature of false teachers manifests itself first through their distorted representation of grace. Before we get into this aspect of their characters, however, I want to mention that Paul addressed teachers who were equally false, but who err on the side of legalism (see, as an example, Galatians 2:4-5). Jude’s epistle doesn’t give an exhaustive description of false teachers, therefore, but it instead emphasizes arguably the most prevalent type.

So Jude gives us people who regard the wonderful grace of God as a license to continue living sinful lives. The apostle Paul also encountered such people, and boldly repudiated their heretical thinking (look up Romans 5:18-6:4 to see his argument). Peter likewise recognized that false teachers presented a libertine mischaracterization of grace.

18 For, speaking loud boasts of folly, they entice by sensual passions of the flesh those who are barely escaping from those who live in error. 19 They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption. For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved. ~~2 Peter 2:18-19 (ESV)

Peter more clearly shows that the false teachers appeal to fleshly desires, sexual or otherwise, promising a type of freedom from God’s expectations. They ignore the true benefit of grace, which actually empowers Christians to  resist ungodliness (as Titus 2:11-14 makes plain).

Their abandonment to sensuality leads to the second characteristic that Jude brings up. By advocating (as well as modeling) a distorted “grace” that embraces sin, false teachers deny that Jesus Christ has authority over how they conduct their lives. Jude strongly counters this self-serving attitude by emphasizing Christ’s deity (in the word translated “Master”) and authority (in the word translated “Lord”). While they may give lip-service to the  lordship of Jesus Christ, their doctrine and lifestyle betray their rebellion against Him. Again, Paul offers insight into this denial:

They profess to know God, but they deny him by their works. They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work. ~~Titus 1:16 (ESV)

Jude highlights, then, the hypocrisy of these false teachers. Their pretense of devotion to God crumbles when we measure their gospel of self-fulfillment against the true Gospel of repentance and faith that leads to obedience.

Next week, we’ll move on to Jude’s finer details concerning these heretics. But for now, maybe we can take stock of our own response to the Lord’s grace. Does His grace so fill us with gratitude that we joyfully submit to His ownership of us? Or do we mumble an obligatory prayer of thanks before rushing back to our sin with a giddy sense of entitlement? I pray we’ll bow before Him as our loving Master and Lord.

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Worship Focuses On The Lord

Modern praise music doesn’t bother me in terms of style, but the content all to often focuses on us rather than exalting the Lord Jesus Christ. For that reason, I gravitate more and more towards hymns.  Like this one. Perhaps you’ll be drawn into worship by its magnificent lyrics.

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Saturday Sampler: October 16 — October 22

balloon-turtle-samplerI largely avoid the topic of politics in this blog because I want to keep the emphasis on the Lord Jesus Christ. However, submission to Him certainly affects how I’ll mark my ballot this year. So Stephen Altroggie’s excellent essay in The Blazing Center, Why I’m Willing To “Waste” My Vote, reassured me that I’m doing the right thing for the  right reasons.

Ryan Higginbottom makes an excellent point about personal Bible Study on the Knowable Word blog with his article, Not Every Interesting Detail is Important. As I’ve been writing my study on Jude, I’ve realized the impotence of focusing on the main message.

In a blog post for The Cripplegate, Eric Davis reminds us of The Grotesque Reality of Apostasy, based on Hebrews 10:26-31. This isn’t a pretty article to read, but it helps us take our commitment to Christ seriously. Please don’t skip over this one.

Doctrine can always lead us to deeper worship. For that reason, I appreciate Erin Benziger’s blog entry on Do Not Be Surprised, Consequences of the Cross: Propitiation.

Writing for Satisfaction Through Christ, Lisa Morris asks the rhetorical question, Why Do We Study Everything But the Bible for Bible Study? Not only does Lisa answer this question, but she  encourages women to open their Bibles and study them directly before picking up Bible Study books (or blogs). After you do some study on your own, however, you might augment your  study by visiting her personal blog, Conforming to the Truth.

If you’re married or engaged, you’ll find Michelle Lesley’s article, 9 Ways NOT to Fight with Your Husband helpful. And possibly encouraging. I logged on to it with fear and trembling, fully expecting to be convicted, but (much to my surprise) found only one area where I consistently sin. Perhaps the Lord will pleasantly surprise you also.

John and I love our church history class in Adult Sunday School. It has definitely clarified a lot of matters that have puzzled me. So I appreciate Jon Payne’s post for Ligonier, Why Study Church History? Payne makes a compelling case for knowing the successes and, yes, the mistakes of our predecessors.

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Faulty Measurements


Leonardo da Vinci  Self Portrait

My first semester as a college freshman consisted of a Latin class and four inter-related classes (called a Colloquium) on the Renaissance. Within this Colloquium, my classmates and I took Political Science, English Literature, Art History and Philosophy. Our Philosophy class also served as a sort of “home base” where we synthesized the four disciplines. Early on, the Philosophy professor taught that the cornerstone of Renaissance thought hearkened back to an ancient Greek philosopher, Protagoras, who said “Man is the measure of all things.”

This revival of viewing man, rather than God, as the focal point of life has continued, in varying degrees, to permeate Western Civilization since the Renaissance. It seems to me that the idea enjoys a present resurgence in our postmodern culture. The current twist to this ancient maxim presents personal experience, as opposed to objective fact, as the means of determining “truth.” Hence the familiar saying, “What’s true for you may not be true for me.”

That subjective measuring rod frequently offers non-Christians a convenient buffer against the Gospel’s authority. If they can discount Jesus’ claim of being Truth Himself (John 14:6), they can dismiss His right to command their obedience. They essentially declare themselves as lords over their own lives (while rarely using that terminology, of course). Like Protagoras, and the Renaissance scholars who dredged him up, they reject Him as Lord in deference to their own self will.

The Christian response, however, must stand firm against man-centered philosophy. We have the responsibility to firmly stand for the truth of God’s Word, which has always contradicted humanistic thought. Paul’s charge to Timothy applies to all Christians since we each bear the responsibility to proclaim the Gospel.

I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. ~~2 Timothy 4:1-5 (ESV)

As Bible-believing Christians, we understand that humanity has fallen because of sin. Every aspect of our being has been corrupted, taking us far away from the holy beings that reflect God’s holy standards. If we are the measure of all things, we surely deny the goodness of God’s creation. Obviously, our very sinfulness gives evidence to the fact that we must never flatter ourselves with the myth of Protagoras. We must reject such pride and humbly confess our desperate need for a Savior .

And we must boldly preach the truth that men and women need salvation from their inherent sinfulness. As I’ve said so often, the Good News of the Gospel begins with the bad news of our unrighteousness.

The Renaissance may have accomplished many wonderful things, and I will always love Italian Renaissance painting. But my love for Christ necessitates that I believe His Word…even when it is “out of season.” Only one Man, because He lived a sinless life, died in the place of sinners and rose from the dead, possesses the ability to be the Measure of all things. Please look to Him as your Standard.

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Inconsequential Disability

img_0501Clearly, Cerebral Palsy affects every area of my life to one degree or another. I don’t really care for that fact, but there you have it. I’ve accepted the reality that my disability shapes and controls how I live in such a variety of ways that I could most likely write an interesting blog exclusively on that topic. If we throw John’s Polio into the mix, maybe we could get a good book deal going.

A lot of Christians with disabilities use their disabilities as platforms for ministry. Joni Eareckson Tada, of course, instantly comes to mind as the most notable example, although I’ve known others that also serve their fellow disabled people. Over the course of my life, I’ve made a few attempts at involvement in disability ministry…primarily because other people thought I should.

But, to be brutally honest, I’m simply not interested in disability. Not even my own disability, despite its pervasive nature. If I write about it now and then, I generally do so out of necessity, aware that I can’t totally avoid the subject. Even as a blogger, I need to help my readers understand why my posts are so short; typing with a headstick (especially in conjunction with the  involuntary movements of Cerebral Palsy) means that I can’t produce 1,000 word essays every day. Yet, I only mention this fact because I need to.

Some people have suggested that I’ve always avoided disability ministry out of denial. I’ll admit that I want, in some  ways, to distance myself from disability,  but  charging me with denial seems a bit ridiculous. C’mon folks, I married a man who also uses a wheelchair! I can hardly be accused of running away from disability when I deal with both his and mine. I married John, accepting his disability (just as he married me accepting mine), fully aware of the many implications involved.

Occasionally, yes, the Lord uses my disability (or John’s) to give me insight into a Scriptural principle, and I have no problem writing about those instances. If I can exploit my disability to bring glory and honor to the Lord Jesus Christ, I won’t hesitate to take full advantage of the opportunity. But, for the most part, my blog rarely mentions wheelchairs, headsticks, Personal Care Attendants or any of the oddities that come with having a severe physical disability.

My true passion is teaching women the importance of good doctrine. Writing a blog about disability issues might get me a bigger audience (particularly if I hinted here and there about my sex life, I suppose). But I see a much greater need in the Body of Christ than telling people how to handle temporal suffering. Actually, I seldom consider myself as afflicted anyway, especially when I remember Christians in other countries who are being tortured, imprisoned and killed for their faith in Jesus Christ. Those people suffer infinitely more than I ever have.

The disability I really want to blog about has nothing to do with Cerebral Palsy, and everything to do with  spiritual health. With evangelicals increasingly minimizing the importance of the Bible in favor of emotional experiences and distorted ideas of Jesus, I desire to challenge the fads and false teaching that cripple God’s people. Believe me, ladies, these handicaps have far more eternal consequences than whether or not I can walk. Therefore, I reserve the right to focus on the clear teachings of Scripture, not on disability, praying that Christ will receive the glory.

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Reviving New England Book Review

reviving-new-england-coverAbout 11 years ago, a friend graciously drove me and John down to Plimoth Plantation, a living history museum that recreates the original settlement of the Separatists who came to America on the Mayflower. The interpreters portray some of the actual people who lived on the settlement in 1629, remaining resolutely in character as they interact with their 1st Century visitors. When we visited, several conversations revealed the deep Christian convictions of those men and women who came from England to establish a society built on Scriptural principles.

How, I wondered, did Massachusetts go from that godly foundation to the first state in the union to legalize same sex marriage?

I found my answer by reading Reviving New England by Nate Pickowicz. But Pastor Nate’s book went far beyond giving me a history lesson on New England’s distressing descent into apostasy; it gave me hope that the Lord might once again restore this region to  its Biblical roots.

One key element to revival, according to Pastor Nate, is  a return to expositional preaching. Since John and I became part of our present church two years ago, we’ve experienced the joy of sitting under expositional preaching, and agree wholeheartedly that this type of preaching most effectively brings people a clear understanding of God’s Word. God’s Word in turn,  transforms hearts so that people experience regeneration and grow into mature and productive Christians.

The book highlights the importance of personal holiness as a component of revival. Unconfessed and unrepentant sin can infect an entire church body, rendering it ineffective in setting an example to a lost world. True revival calls out sin, proclaims forgiveness through the shed blood of Jesus Christ and demands repentance as evidence of saving faith. The chapter on repentance challenged me to make sure I continue to pursue holiness in my walk with the Lord.

Time prohibits me from detailing any more of Pastor Nate’s points. I pray that you’ll get the book for yourselves. You see, it’s not about reviving New England only. In truth, a revival in New England would ultimately lead to revival all over America. Consequently, the principles laid out in this book apply to all the regions of our country. As we’re on the verge of electing a president who demonstrates just how far this nation has strayed from the devout faith of those believers who landed on Plymouth Rock, we clearly need to pray earnestly for revival whatever we live.

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Hey Jude– Look Who’s Sneaking In

dark-bibleAs we noted last Monday, the Holy Spirit inspired Jude to give ordinary believers the   responsibility of contending for the sound teaching that comprises the Christian faith. Today let’s talk about the reason that we must engage in such contention. To do so, allow me to take you back to the text.

Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. 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 3-4 (ESV)

Verse 4 very bluntly states that false teachers had  infiltrated the church. Their presence naturally mandated that the people of God stand against their deception by  holding fast to the truth.

But who were these false teachers (and who are they today)? Jude doesn’t name names in this particular epistle, but instead lists identifying characteristics of such teachers. Does that mean we shouldn’t name names in our century?  I reject that inference, largely because Jude apparently addresses Christians in general rather than writing to a specific person or congregation. Certainly Paul and John had no reticence about naming people who caused problems (see, for example, 1 Timothy 1:20, 2 Timothy 2:17-18 and 3 John 9-10). It seems reasonable that, because Jude’s target audience wasn’t localized, that he would outline ways that they could spot false teachers.

Interestingly,  Jude’s letter says many things about false teachers that we find in 2 Peter 2. Throughout this study, I’ll use 2 Peter 2 as a commentary on Jude, believing that we best interpret Scripture by Scripture and that Peter strengthens Jude’s argument. Therefore, I want to show you 2 Peter 2:1-3 so that we can better delineate the marks of a false teacher that Jude 4 gives us.

But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep. ~~1 Peter 2:1-3 (ESV)

Both Jude and Peter begin by telling us that false teachers arise from within the Christian community. According to Jude, they have “crept in unnoticed.” In other words, ladies, they appear to be genuine believers who love the Lord and teach the Bible. We don’t notice them as false teachers because we have babysat their children, been in their Tuesday evening small groups and had them pray with us when our  loved one died. They’ve been in the church for years.

Jude doesn’t directly mention that these people are false teachers, but Peter doesn’t hesitate to say so, adding that they “secretly bring in destructive heresies.” Jude implies the same idea by imploring us in verse 3 to contend for the faith. We contend for it because someone assaults it.

These false teachers, both Jude and Peter agree, are “designated for condemnation” because they are false converts. Several commentaries I read worked hard and long to soften the idea that God world actually predestine somebody to condemnation, but John Gill defended the possibility by writing:

[R]eprobation is of the same date with election; if the one is from eternity, the other must be so too, since there cannot be one without the other: if some were chosen before the foundation of the world, others must be left or passed by as early; and if some were appointed unto salvation from the beginning, others must be foreordained to condemnation from the beginning also.

But whether or not the condemnation is individually predestined, Peter agrees with Jude that these teachers will be condemned. Later verses elaborate on the nature of this condemnation, but right now Jude simply provides two reasons for this condemnation. False teachers “pervert the grace of God into sensuality” and “deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.”

These two reasons, which we will explore next week, also help us recognize who false teachers are. I’m sorry to make you wait until then to finish studying Jude 4, but I don’t want to gloss over critical points, especially when they apply so vitally to our present-day need for discernment.

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