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Faithlife

Contending

Jude  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  41:21
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Jude urges us to contend for the faith.

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I hate being sick. I’m sure Meghann hates my being sick worse than I do; I’m the worst kind of patient—really, I am.
I can’t imagine what it might be like if and when I have to deal with actual sickness or chronic disease. I feel really bad for Meghann when that day comes.
Over the years I’ve been as a pastor, I’ve had a front-row seat to sickness and disease. There have been weeks when the majority of my time was spent in a hospital, sitting with patients who were members of whatever church I was pastoring at the time. I believe I’ve been in every major hospital in Kansas and western Missouri, including every single hospital in the Kansas City metropolitan area.
In my first couple of years as a full-time associate pastor, for instance, I spent a two-week stint at Stormont-Vail Hospital in Topeka, KS sitting bedside with my good friend, Mildred McCreight, an 80-year-old cancer patient. This was one of many in a long line of hospital stays and visits over the last 15 years.
The last time my dad was in the hospital, I went to visit him. I had a few things I needed to give him, so I just took them to the hospital with me. As I approached his room, I was stopped by a nurse who told me, “You can’t go in there and you can’t leave any of that stuff for him either.”
I chuckled to myself. This nurse obviously didn’t know who I was. “I’m Barrett Case. I’ll go in that room if I want to. That’s my father; I’m here to see him.”
As you can probably guess, my posturing did not work. I had to take all the stuff I was going to leave with Dad back out to my car. I had to gown up, put on gloves and a mask, and was allowed in the room only after I assured the nurse that I was, in fact, not sick and that I hadn’t been around anyone who was; only after I gave her two forms of identification, slipped her a couple hundred dollars, and promised that if she ever needed a kidney, I was her guy.
When I finally got into the hospital room, I saw Dad whose immune system was not doing what immune systems ought to do.
He was, at that moment, very susceptible to illness.
>So it is with the local church. The local church can get very sick, very fast. The local church can go from being healthy one minute to gravely ill the next.
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Listen to Eugene Petersen:
“Our spiritual communities are as susceptible to disease as our physical bodies. But it is easier to detect whatever is wrong in our stomachs and lungs than in our worship and witness. When our physical bodies are sick or damaged, the pain calls our attention to it, and we do something quick. But a dangerous, even deadly, virus in our spiritual communities can go undetected for a long, long time. As much as we need physicians for our bodies, we have even greater need for diagnosticians and healers of the spirit.
Jude’s letter to an early community of Christians is just such a diagnosis. It is all the more necessary in that those believers apparently didn’t know anything was wrong, or at least not as desperately wrong as Jude points out…energetic watchfulness is required. Jude’s whistle-blowing has prevented many a disaster.”
This morning, we look at Jude’s reason for writing. We know why Jude writes this letter (he tells us why). But, on a deeper level, we know that the Holy Spirit inspired this writing; we know that Jude was carried along by the Holy Spirit. We know that Jude is speaking on behalf of God. And we trust that what Jude writes is meant for us today.
Our text for this morning is Jude 3-4, the next two verses in this great letter. If you have your Bible (and I hope you do), please turn with me to the short letter of Jude. If you are able and willing, please stand for the reading of God’s Word, out of reverence for God’s Holy Word.
Jude, verses 1-4:
Jude 1–4 NIV
1 Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and a brother of James, To those who have been called, who are loved in God the Father and kept for 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 compelled to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to God’s holy people. 4 For certain individuals whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord.
May God add His blessing to the reading of His Holy Word!
---------------------------------
Jude loves the people he’s writing to. He calls them “dear friends” which sounds nice, but it’s even more than that. It’s the word beloved. He is writing to people he deeply loves, people for whom he has deep affection and concern.
Jude loves them. He has been wanting to write to them for some time—no doubt he was excited to write to them about his half-brother and Master, Jesus; about the salvation they all share by faith in Him.
I don’t know about you, but I would love to read that letter: to hear from Jude, the brother of Jesus, about the grace and mercy and love and redemption offered by Jesus. I would love to read that letter.
But this letter from Jude is not that letter, not exactly. Jude wanted to write about the salvation they share, but his subject has had to switch to the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints.
It doesn’t sound all together different (a letter about salvation and a letter about faith). It doesn’t sound all that different, that is until we realize what Jude is actually doing: he’s asking his audience to contend for the faith because there are many people threatening the faith.
Instead of writing a letter about something, Jude writes a letter calling for action. Jude is asking his readers to take action.
Jude doesn’t just want them to have faith; Jude wants them to contend for the faith.
Verse 3 sums up the urgency with which Jude writes. Jude is serious. He writes:
I felt compelled to write and urge you...
I find it necessary to write and appeal to you...
I have to write, insisting—begging!—that you...
It was needful for me to write unto you...
Jude is writing because there is a group of people who are having a deadly influence on the lives of his dearly loved brothers and sisters in the faith. The church, Jude knows, can go from being very healthy one minute to being very, very sick the next.
Therefore, the church needs to beware, lest it be duped by false teachers. The threat to the church is very, very real. And so, Jude writes to warn the church about the impending, imminent, ever-increasing danger facing the church.
Jude writes to his beloved brothers and sisters in Christ about the faith, about the opposition they will face. And then Jude gives them their marching orders: contend.
By faith Jude means those things which we believe, rather than the fact that we believe them. Faith is objective rather than subjective. It means something because it means something, not simply because it means something to us. It is what it is (and I mean that literally, not the silly/overused expression “It is what it is.” The faith Jude speaks of here is what it is all on its own).
Christopher Green: “By faith Jude means the simple Christian truths which, from the earliest Christian writings, have been seen as the gospel that saves us.”
Jude’s writing to them about the faith, because it’s being attacked (in their day, and in ours).
There are many disputes over the content of the faith—the content of the gospel, the good news; many of the letters in the New Testament show that this has always been the case.
Sometimes people subtract from the gospel, and sometimes people add to the gospel.
The clearest New Testament examples of subtracting from the faith, from the gospel are:
a denial of the resurrection (Paul wrote 1 Corinthians, in part, to deal with this issue).
a denial of the return of Christ (2 Peter deals with this).
The other deadly danger is the temptation to add to the message:
Galatians was written to urge the believers to resist new teaching.
Colossians, to avoid a new spirituality.
Jude commissions his readers, both then and now, to be rock-solid in our adherence to the faith, the whole faith, and nothing but the faith, because it’s every bit as common today to remove those parts of the faith that are culturally “embarrassing.”
There are many who prefer to prune the gospel. “Let’s get rid of this part and that part, oh, and definitely that part. That’s a dated, archaic, old-fashioned truth. We need to downplay that part, because people aren’t going to like it if we take a firm stance on what marriage is or a firm stance on human sexuality or a firm stance on divorce. We can’t be too direct about sin or the exclusivity of salvation through Christ.”
It’s easy to spot those who wish to subtract from the gospel, those who wish to give the gospel a little haircut in order to make it more appealing, more welcoming, more palatable.
Jude commissions his readers, both then and now, to be rock-solid in our adherence to the faith, the whole faith, and nothing but the faith, because it’s every bit as common today to add to and supplement the faith.
This is summed up in the word and.
The great 20th-century theologian, Karl Barth, wrote in 1965 that the greatest obstacle in witnessing to those who belong to the Roman Catholic Church is “the very small word ‘and’.”
Barth wrote: “When we say Jesus, the Catholics say Jesus and Mary. We seek to obey [the only] Lord, Jesus Christ. The Catholics seek to obey Christ and the pope. We believe that the Christian is saved by the merits of Jesus Christ; but the Catholic adds: and by his own good works. We believe the only source of truth is the Bible (in its 66 books); the Catholics add: and tradition. We say that knowledge of God comes from faith in His Word as it is expressed in the Bible. The Catholics add: and from reason.”
Don’t misunderstand, this isn’t specific to Catholics. There are people all over the place (possibly in this very room) who add to the faith, who add to the gospel either intentionally or unintentionally, unwittingly.
It happened in the early church. There were many, many people who believed and taught that one had to place their faith in Jesus and be circumcised in order to belong to the family of God.
Think about all the ands we hear today—teaching that says people are saved by: Jesus and good works, Jesus and church attendance, Jesus and baptism, Jesus and a certain political perspective, Jesus and good, ‘christian’ behavior.
It’s not Jesus and _________. It’s Jesus, period.
The clear and present danger, both then and now, is the adding-to or subtracting-from the faith.
Jude says that the faith has been once for all entrusted to the saints by the Lord.
Jude 3 NIV
3 Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt compelled to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to God’s holy people.
Once for all. There is no room to think that God grants extra insights and additions down throughout the years of Christian history. What the faith was then, it is now.
This is a problem in all relativistic cultures such as ours. That is, since the belief is that all truth is relative—(what’s true for you is not true for me; if you want to believe that—great—but don’t insist that I must believe it, too)—since the belief is that all truth is relative, we’re going to have to contend that it’s been set for millennia.
The faith is fixed. It’s set. It’s not going anywhere, nor will it change. We won’t find any missing data. We won’t stumble upon any buried tablets that give us new insight or new information. The faith has been explained and set by the Lord once for all.
Notice that Jude is not writing about “faith” in general. Jude is not writing about “faith”; he’s writing about the faith, the faith, t-h-e faith.
“Boy, the preacher wouldn’t shut up this morning. He kept droning on about words like and and the.
You’re right. Because words are important, even small words. Add an and or take away a the and the entire conversation changes.
Jude writes about the faith. This is important, friends.
Jude doesn’t write about faith. He writes about the faith—the once for all truth about Jesus and and what He’s done on our behalf.
Not everyone who has a faith shares the faith.
My Jewish friends—the handful I met during my time in college—don’t believe that Jesus was the Messiah. I believe Jesus was and is the Messiah. We can’t both be right.
Hindus believe that God has been incarnated hundreds and thousands of times. I believe that God was incarnated in the person of Jesus once, 2,000 years ago, and believe that this was a singular and unrepeatable event. We can’t both be right.
High, moral Muslims operate on the basis of scales, on the hope that the good will outweigh the bad. For them, it is a blasphemy that a prophet of God would ever die on the cross. For us, the cross of Christ is the pivotal event of human history, it’s the very act that satisfies the wrath of God and saves us. We can’t both be right.
You see, Jews and Hindus and Muslims and Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses all have “a faith”, but not the faith.
It’s the faith—the objective, once-for-all-time truths and good news about Jesus—it’s the faith for which we must contend.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: our church building could be a quilt shop within a decade, but not because of outside forces or persecution (the Church always thrives in those conditions).
Our church building could turn into a quilt shop in a matter of years if we were to lose the conviction, the gumption, the courage to stand up the faith, the faith, t-h-e faith.
We must contend for the faith. If we don’t stand for, fight for the faith, it’s just a matter of time before we have to close the doors and sell the building to a nice, middle-aged woman named who’ll put a sign out front that reads: ‘Miss Bertha’s Country Quilt Shop’.
In my mind, her name’s Bertha and she’s a lovely woman with a beautiful store in a beautiful building where the church used to gather.
Jude writes about the faith, and...
Jude 4 NIV
4 For certain individuals whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord.
Jude writes to his dearly loved brothers and sisters to warn them about the opposition, those who will oppose their message. He speaks at length about them in verses 5-19 (the focus of our next sermon in Jude), but introduces them here.
I call them: snakes, antinomians, and heretics.
They are snakes, those who have secretly slipped in among the church. They’re sneaky-sneaks who have infiltrated the ranks of God’s people; they’re deceptive, working their way into the body, singing the songs, knowing the Bible verses, acting the part. But they bring a serious danger.
They are antinomians. This is a word that means “no law.” They answer the question (Romans 6:1): Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? with a hearty “Yes, sir!” They take their freedom in Christ and use it to do whatever they please; their design is to replace the sheer grace of God with sheer license.
They are heretics. A heretic is one who challenges or rejects the doctrines of the faith. In this case, those who are opposing the early church deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord. Jude applies a term to Jesus normally only applied to God the Father. The word Sovereign is the word despotēs, where we get the English word “despot”. This word is often used today of a cruel or unfair ruler. When speaking of Jesus, Jude uses it to describe the absolute power and authority of Jesus. Jesus as our Sovereign and Lord is rightfully owed our sole loyalty and obedience. The heretics Jude speaks of deny that Jesus is their authority or their master; they are their own authority, their own masters.
It’s these people—snakes, antinomians, heretics—who oppose us. They aren’t our enemy; they are the opposition. They are people we need to love and minister to. They are people who need the Lord as badly as we do.
We must however contend for the faith. For all our love and desire for them to come to a saving relationship with Jesus Christ, we must contend for the faith. That’s clearly what Jude is urging us to do:
Jude 3 NIV
3 Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt compelled to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to God’s holy people.
Contend for the faith...
Jude doesn’t tell us to believe the faith, spread the faith, or live the faith. Instead, he tells us to contend for the faith.
This is what Paul did in proclaiming the gospel:
Colossians 1:29 The Message
29 That’s what I’m working so hard at day after day, year after year, doing my best with the energy God so generously gives me.
Contend for the faith is a summons to the ongoing wrestling match in which Jude wants us to be involved.
I actually thought about having a couple kids come up on stage to wrestle with each other during the sermon, but figured that might be a little distracting and might not end well. It might have been fun to have a wrestling match with Jeff Steuck and Randy Burchell...
That’s the picture here in Jude—contending, wrestling, struggling, striving.
Not, it is assumed that because Christianity is a faith based on love that it can say only nice, comforting things; that our message has to be only bright promises—rainbows and fairy tales and puppy dog kisses.
The truth is that being a Christian means retaining our prophetic voice, holding onto our responsibility to speak the truth, even when that means sharing hard, unpopular warnings.
>We are called to contend. We must contend for the faith, the faith, t-h-e faith. We must do so because the opposition is very real, ever-present.
This is why we put on the full armor of God, so that we’re able to fight, to contend with everything in us.
Ephesians 6:13 NIV
13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.
Contend for the faith...
It was 6, maybe 7 years ago. One Sunday, gathered here, we came to the point in our worship service when Bethany (Balk) Liles got up to sing a special. It must have been around Memorial Day, the 4th of July, or Veteran’s Day, because she was singing Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the USA”.
When she came to that really moving, stirring refrain and sang beautifully the words: “And I’ll gladly stand up, next to you and defend her still today...” I watched the entire congregation jump to its feet with unfettered, unparalleled, unmatched enthusiasm.
That moment hit me like a ton of bricks. I wondered then and I wonder still: are we as ready and willing to jump to our feet and stand up for Christ as we are for our country? Do we jump at the chance to contend for the faith the way we jump at the chance to contend for our rights? Are we as enthusiastic about the gospel as we are our favorite sports team?
I don’t know your hearts, but I know mine. And I know that I’m ready and willing to go to the mat for any number of reasons. But I had to ask myself if the faith is one of those reasons. Is the faith, is the name of Jesus, is the gospel something I’m willing to contend for? Am I willing to go to mat, possibly go to the stake, for the faith?
I know that if someone messes with Meghann, they’re going to have to deal with me. I will contend for her. That’s instinctive. If anyone messes with you, they’ll have to deal with me, too.
But what if someone messes with the gospel? What if someone’s messing with the faith? What if someone is doing harm to the name of Jesus? Will I step-in? Will I stand up?
Will you contend for the faith? Are you ready and willing to stand up for the sake of Christ?
A church unwilling to stand-up, to contend for the faith is a church very susceptible to illness, a church that will be very sick, very fast. A church unwilling to contend for the faith will let the opposition win and will see its doors close post haste.
Church, let us take a stand. May we heed Jude’s call to contend for the faith. Let us gladly stand up more willingly, more readily for Jesus, for the Gospel, for the faith than we would anything else!
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