A Reminder to Remember
Memory is an interesting and powerful thing. I’ve been blessed (or cursed) with an odd kind of memory. I can recall movie quotes and lines from my favorite TV shows years after the fact. I’ll say something and my longsuffering wife will ask, “Is that from something?” She’s usually right in assuming that I’ve quoted something from The Office or Seinfeld or Parks and Rec and applied it to our daily lives.
Sometimes I’ll quote something and then ask Meghann, “Hey, do you know what that’s from?” To which she almost always responds: “Sweetie, this game is no fun for me.”
I remember phone numbers and addresses—random phone numbers, random addresses. I still remember my college best friend’s social security number, and that was more than 16 years ago. He asked me to memorize it so he didn’t have to, and that way I’d be able to help him with all the forms he’d have to fill out during college. So I did. 513-86-****. I know his mother’s maiden name and his home address. If I wanted to steal his identity, I think I probably could.
Things just stick in my brain. My mind will be filled with random, if not useless, information like: Kathie Heuser purchased her first microwave in 1982. And Patricia Boyles got her first crock-pot in 1968 and it was avocado green and harvest gold. Why do I remember stuff like that? I’d like to know, I really would.
I’ve got a decent memory, and yet, how prone I am to forget! How quickly I fail to remember that which is actually important.
The Bible repeatedly calls us to remember. The reason lies not in our stupidity, but in the importance of memory in Biblical terms. We are not told to remember something simply because we might have forgotten it temporarily or because the pressures of the day tempt us to adopt different priorities.
Remembering in the Bible is a responsibility, an act of will. Those who remind God’s people to remember do so for a purpose.
God tells Moses to instruct the Israelites to wear tassels on their clothing:
You will have these tassels to look at and so you will remember all the commands of the Lord, that you may obey them and not prostitute yourselves by chasing after the lusts of your own hearts and eyes.
Underneath all the remembering of man is the wonder that God remembers His covenant for ever (1 Chronicles 16:15). When God sent Jesus it was because He was remembering to be merciful (Luke 1:54).
God wasn’t about to forget to be merciful, but this kind of language underscores the serious of His commitment to the covenant.
When Christians gather at the Lord’s Table to break bread and drink from the cup, they do so in remembrance of the Lord Jesus.
We are not in danger of forgetting the fact of Jesus’ death; but He wants us constantly, every day, at every turn to recall its significance and remember that He will return someday soon.
Above all, it is the function of the leadership of this and every part of Christ’s Church today to do as Jude did: making sure that Christians understand the gospel and do not budge from it.
It is the responsibility and high calling of the preacher/teacher/elder/leader to REMIND the church.
Jude knows perfectly well that his readers already know the Bible stories he’s going to tell them. But it’s clear from their behavior that they have not understood them.
The ESV of the Bible makes this clear:
Now I want to remind you, although you once fully knew it...
Jude’s not just saying, “Let me give you a nice little reminder.” What Jude’s getting at is more, “Come on, guys! There was a time when you knew all of this! How, how, how are you not getting this now?”
Jude knows that they know, but that some of them don’t really get it. They once fully knew all of this. But they’ve stopped remembering. They need a reminder to remember.
They’ve treated the Old Testament stories they grew up hearing as good stories for children, nice little morality tales, but stories that don’t have much of a message for adults.
That kind of thinking couldn’t be more wrong.
The Old Testament stories so many people have neglected (and that Jude’s audience has failed to remember) serve as examples, powerful examples that ultimately all serve the same purpose.
If you have your Bible (and I hope you do), please turn with me to the short letter of Jude. In our text this morning, Jude reaches back to the Old Testament and to Jewish history and to some extrabiblical writings and uses a handful of various analogies to make his point.
Follow along as we look at verses 5-19 piece-by-piece:
5 Though you already know all this, I want to remind you that the Lord at one time delivered his people out of Egypt, but later destroyed those who did not believe.
Without a doubt, the Lord saving His people from captivity in Egypt is a formative moment for Israel. It’s one of the most incredible demonstrations of God’s providence and love, His protection of His people, and His power over all creation.
The great and marvelous word of the exodus is deliverance. The dreadful part of the exodus story is the word destruction. God delivered His people and then destroyed those who did not believe.
You remember when Moses sent 12 spies into the land which God promised to them and those spies returned saying, “The land looks good, but, holy cow, there are some big fellas there!”
So, out of fear, the Israelites wimped-out and decided not to enter the land. Sissies....
God’s response to their unbelief was to say: “Not one of them will ever see the land I promised on oath to their forefathers. No one who has treated Me with contempt will ever see it.”
Despite the numerous promises God had given then, and the numerous proofs of His power, when they were actually faced with the task of acting upon those promises, they showed a complete lack of faith.
Can you see where Jude is taking us, why Jude’s giving us this reminder?
There are people in every church around the world (including this one) who look and sound like the people of God, but who will not be saved on the last day because they have not truly believed.
Just because someone looks like a Christian and quacks like a Christian, doesn’t necessarily mean they are a Christian.
The reminder: those who do not believe will face judgment and destruction.
6 And the angels who did not keep their positions of authority but abandoned their proper dwelling—these he has kept in darkness, bound with everlasting chains for judgment on the great Day.
Jude’s second example is a little more difficult to pin down. He might be talking about the fall of the angels caused by their rebellion against God. Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28 give us glimpses of this.
Or Jude might be talking about that strange incident in Genesis 6 when the sons of God saw that the daughters of men were beautiful, and they married any of them they chose.
Whatever it is, whatever the exact sin of the angels is, isn’t really the point. The point is that they left their positions of authority and abandoned their proper dwelling.
The angels have been given responsibility by God in certain areas. But they were not satisfied with the role God had given them; they infringed the boundaries set for them by God. The future for those rebellious angels is darkness, bound with everlasting chains for judgment on the great Day.
People who rebel against God must not think that they can get away with their rebellious behavior forever.
The reminder: those who rebel will be judged.
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.
In the Bible, “Sodom and Gomorrah” is basically synonymous with judgment (Dt. 29:23; 32:32; Ps. 107:34; Is. 1:9–10; 3:9; 13:19; Je. 23:14; 49:18; 50:40; La. 4:6; Ezk. 16:46–55; Am. 4:11; Zp. 2:9; Mt. 10:15; 11:24; Lk. 10:12; 17:29; Rom. 9:29; 2 Pet. 2:6; Rev. 11:8. all have something to say about these two cities).
This has extended to pop-culture, even. If someone is speaking about God’s judgment, there’s a good chance there will be a reference to either one of these infamous cities.
In the classic movie, Sister Act, several nuns are in a helicopter, overlooking a city. One of the ladies looks out the window and says loudly, “Reno!” To this, the head nun adds, “And Gomorrah!”
But Sodom and Gomorrah weren’t the only cities destroyed. There were five cities in the surrounding area (Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, Zeboiim, and Zoar). Only Zoar was spared, and that, because of Lot.
I won’t go into detail about their sin, their sexual immorality and perversion, since there are little ears in the room. I probably don’t need to remind you what it is they did and why they were punished anyhow. But you might benefit from a reading of Genesis 19 and Ezekiel’s commentary of Sodom and Gomorrah in Ezekiel 16.
The bottom line is this: Sodom and Gomorrah, their rebellion, disobedience, and sinfulness and the resulting judgment bear witness to the warning of God. The cities of Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, and Zeboiim were hit with a horrific fireball of destruction—this is an example to us of God’s final judgment, of what will happen in the future on a far greater scale.
Jude says, “They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire.”
There is our reminder: for those who rebel against and ignore the Lord, there is punishment—eternal, and beyond what you can begin to imagine.
>We’re only three verses in to our text for this morning, and it is grim; not real bright and cheery, I know. It makes me want to sing, “Hey, Jude, don’t make it bad; take a sad song and make it better.”
But I know: this is what Jude’s readers need to hear. There needs to be this warning, this reminder, this caution as we contend for the faith.
8 In the very same way, on the strength of their dreams these ungodly people pollute their own bodies, reject authority and heap abuse on celestial beings.
Jude introduces here ungodly people—a term used several times in this short letter. These ungodly people have arrived on the scene and started to exercise destructive ministries.
These ungodly people pollute their own bodies, reject authority, and heap abuse on celestial beings. Kind of an odd trifecta, if you ask me.
Some translations call these ungodly people “dreamers”. A dreamer, or dreamer of dreams in the Old Testament is one who claims to have a message from God. Some dreamers have true words from God (Nebuchadnezzar, for one; the prophet Joel, for another), but many more have false words they claim are from God.
There are those today who are dreamers, claiming to speak for God, but are actually speaking falsehoods. You’ve probably read a few “Christian” books or watched a few “Christian” movies that speak untrue, contrived messages about the Lord.
Be careful little ears what you hear. Be careful, friends, what you believe.
False teaching is very real. False teachers are very clever. They can sneak in and teach error, softening the Biblical stance on sexuality and morality, denying the sufficiency of the Bible, rejecting the authority of the Lord, slandering God’s Law—all while claiming to speak for God.
The reminder: false teaching will not go unnoticed or unpunished.
>What Jude does next is quote an episode from the life of an Old Testament character. But this story is not found in the Bible.
This is not entirely uncommon: Paul quotes uninspired poets and pagan writers: Cleanthas, Aratus, Menander, Epimenides; the Old Testament references “the Book of the Wars of the Lord”.
The two extra-biblical books Jude uses here were in common circulation among his readers at the time. It’d be like a modern preacher quoting a movie or TV show (though you all often have little to no idea what I’m talking about, Jude’s readers would be familiar with what he references).
Now, just because Jude quotes these two books doesn’t mean we should include them in our Bibles (some religions have included them). And just because Jude quotes these two books doesn’t mean we should ignore the letter Jude has written.
The use of these two literary works does not mean that they are authoritative words of God (they’re not). He’s using them to make a point and to illustrate a truth.
9 But even the archangel Michael, when he was disputing with the devil about the body of Moses, did not himself dare to condemn him for slander but said, “The Lord rebuke you!” 10 Yet these people slander whatever they do not understand, and the very things they do understand by instinct—as irrational animals do—will destroy them.
The story of Michael, Moses, and the Devil goes back to Moses’ death, recorded in Deuteronomy 34:5-6. What Jude alludes to here is from a missing part of the book called the Assumption of Moses.
In the story, Satan is accusing Moses of murder (killing the Egyptian) and therefore claims that Moses’ can’t go to heaven and should go with him instead of going with Michael. Michael doesn’t overstep, but allows God to remain the judge. Michael knows that God alone—not himself, and certainly not the devil—has the right to pardon the guilty. Michael won’t even rebuke Satan, leaving even that to God.
Michael, the archangel, knows better than to presume for God. Not so with Satan; not so with these people who have crept into the church in Jude’s day.
It’s God alone who sets the standard. And this is a problem for these people.
They slander whatever they don’t understand, including true, biblical doctrine about God, angels and demons, human sin, forgiveness through Christ.
What they do understand—like animals—is how to follow their bodily instincts and feelings, with no regard to God’s moral standards. The follow all their feelings and desires. They are neither trained nor controlled by God’s Word, and they will be destroyed. Bottom line: they are guilty of blasphemy.
The reminder: blasphemers will be destroyed.
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.
Cain killed Abel out of anger and jealousy, and, ignoring God, remained faithless.
Balaam led others to rebel against God out of greed and desire for profit.
Korah staged a revolt against Moses, and the earth opened up and swallowed all those who were part of the coup with him.
The reminder: those who go up against God will be destroyed.
12 These people 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.
These two verses have to be some of the best-written in the entire Bible—beautiful and vivid even if they are harsh. Jude doesn’t pull any punches. He speaks the truth just like his big brother, Jesus (i.e. Matthew 23).
Jude uses six different images to describe these people.
He first calls them blemishes at your love feasts...
Don’t you find that no matter how long you’ve been reading and studying the Bible that you’re still learning? I seem to always learn something—no matter how much time or how much education one might have, there is always more to learn from God’s Word.
I’m not sure I’ve ever paid any attention to the phrase love feasts, if I’ve ever even seen it. I’ve learned that Christians sometimes called their gatherings love feasts—ordinary meals at which they shared their praises, prayed, sang, ate bread, and drank wine in memory of Jesus’ death, and at which there would have been some teaching. Sounds a little like our Sunday morning worship gathering, possibly with a fellowship dinner thrown in. :)
These people of whom Jude speaks were turning the love feast, the worship gathering, into a place of division. They are blemishes (or possibly hidden reefs). These people would shipwreck the worship gathering, partaking in the Lord’s Supper, acting as if they were Christians.
These people are shepherds who feed only themselves—the sheep are starving; the shepherd isn’t feeding the them, only himself.
These people are clouds without rain, trees without fruit—teachers who promise a great deal but who deliver nothing.
These people are wild waves of the sea, foaming up their shame—these teachers bring chaos and destruction, leaving a mess in their wake.
These people are wandering stars—deceptive and leading astray those who follow them.
For these people, blackest darkness has been reserved forever.
14 Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about them: “See, the Lord is coming with thousands upon thousands of his holy ones 15 to judge everyone, and to convict all of them of all the ungodly acts they have committed in their ungodliness, and of all the defiant words ungodly sinners have spoken against him.” 16 These people are grumblers and faultfinders; they follow their own evil desires; they boast about themselves and flatter others for their own advantage.
Jude uses this text (another non-Biblical writing familiar to his people) because of two terms: everyone/all and ungodly.
He will judge everyone, convict all the ungodly of all the ungodly acts and all the harsh words they have spoken against Him.
Lest we think none of this applies to us, Jude adds verse 16. It’s clear the ungodliness involves grumbling and faultfinding, those who follow their own evil desires, those who boast about themselves and flatter others for their own advantage.
The reminder: no one and nothing will escape the judgment of God.
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 people who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit.
Jude calls for them to remember, again (as in v. 5).
Jude says for his readers to remember what the apostles spoke and what they spoke to them. Jude calls for them to remember what was clearly spoken to them.
The reminder is to remember.
>These illustrations, all of them (there are like a baker’s dozen)—all of these illustrations (from the Exodus and angels to Cain and Korah) they all serve as examples.
They’re examples, but they are more than cautionary tales.
The Bible never gives us encouragement toward mere morality. It’s never, ever: “Be a good little boy; be a nice, polite little girl.” That’s moralism, not Christianity.
The Bible always gives us examples that serve as something more than cautionary tales, something more than nice Sunday School lessons that teach only manners and morality.
These illustrations are given as a reminder: a reminder that we need Jesus; a reminder that we need to repent, that we need to turn from ourselves (our disobedience, our discontent), we need to turn from ourselves (our lust, our contempt, our hatred, our evil thoughts), we need to turn from ourselves (our covetousness, our leading others to sin, our rebellion), we need to turn from ourselves (our selfishness, our deceit), we need to turn from ourselves (our ungodly acts, our ungodly ways, our grumbling and faultfinding and pride), We need to turn from ourselves and run to Jesus!
We need to turn from ourselves and run to the only One who is able to keep us, to the only One who is able to save, to the only One who can present us faultless before the throne of God; we need to run to Jesus, our Sovereign, Savior, and Lord!
Jude gives us a well-timed reminder to remember.
We need to remember, because we’re in the thick of it. We live in a time when false teaching abounds. We live dark, dark world. We are surrounded on every side by sin and darkness and depravity. For goodness’ sake, our own hearts are full of sin and darkness and depravity. We need these examples, these reminders, to help us remember that we are in league with these Jude mentions. On our own, we are destined for destruction, for everlasting judgment, for the punishment of eternal fire.
We need this reminder to remember because we are prone to forget how badly, how desperately we need Jesus.
We need to be reminded to remember everything Jesus has done for us. We need to be reminded to remember how lost we would be without Him. We need to reminded to remember His great grace, His amazing love, His unmatched mercy toward us.
>I’ve set a rubberband on each seat. I would encourage you to wear this on your wrist for the week (at least). Snap yourself if necessary, but wear it as a reminder—a reminder to remember your need for Jesus, a reminder to turn from yourself, from your sinful, selfish, scumbaggy ways and run to Jesus.