This week I went to my uncle’s funeral. He was really popular and he had everything anyone could dream of having on this earth and more. He was a great man and he was faithful to God. At his funeral, when people were sharing things about him, they didn’t share about how much he had. They didn’t celebrate when he had things his way. They didn’t share his preferences being fulfilled. They didn’t honor him for his ability to gain for himself. No, they honored him because he was selfless and because he was willing to put himself aside for the benefit of others, always giving all he had. I wonder if, at my funeral, people will remember me for being selfless and truly loving people. I hope so.
There are few things worth fighting for and few things worth enduring persecution on this earth. I would suffer for my family. I would suffer for anyone that I call a friend. I would suffer for my church family. I would suffer for the name of Christ. I would also contend for these things. I would take up arms for my family, friends, church and my Lord. As I think about how short life is and how few things are actually worth contending for, I have to ask if I am living a life worthy of the grace that God gives me? Do I lead falsely or in vain or do I contend for the Word of truth? Do we live according to some false Gospel, or do we truly live by God, who is the only One worthy of our lives?
Jude, a slave of Jesus Christ and a brother of James: To those who are the called, loved by God the Father and kept by Jesus Christ. May mercy, peace, and love be multiplied to you.
Dear friends, although I was eager to write you about the salvation we share, I found it necessary to write and exhort you to contend for the faith that was delivered to the saints once for all. For some men, who were designated for this judgment long ago, have come in by stealth; they are ungodly, turning the grace of our God into promiscuity and denying Jesus Christ, our only Master and Lord.
Jude was one of Jesus’ half-brothers. He wrote this letter to the Church in about A.D. 65 because he was concerned about heresy. Heresy is false teaching. In this case, it is teaching that opposed the teachings of the apostles and opposed God’s message in Scripture. As we look through the book of Jude together, we will notice that this false teaching is just a prevalent in our churches today as it was two-thousand years ago. It was just as prevalent two-thousand years ago as it was after Adam and Eve rebelled against God in Genesis 3. In his letter, here, Jude appeals to his brothers and sisters in Christ to contend for the faith. He claims to feel a need to urge them to contend for the faith because people have turned God’s grace into a license to deny God. We see the same thing in our world today.
To prove my point, here are some heresies that are present not only in our world, but in many of our churches:
- Life is about entertainment.
- In so many settings, people are choosing where they attend church based on how spiritual the music feels. We have learned over-and-over again in Scripture that we will often feel uncomfortable. In fact, Christ Himself tells us that if we are to follow Him, we must deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Him (Matthew 16:24, Luke 9:23). When we begin actually following Christ, we will strive to be where He wants us to be no matter how uncomfortable, awkward, or burdened it makes us feel.
- This means there are heretics in many, if not most, of our churches. When we choose to attend one church or another based on how spiritual the music feels, we are heretics because we are not denying ourselves. If we try to promote the style of music we think ought to be played in a worship service, we become false teachers. When we try to draw people in to church with entertainment and with music, we are heretics because we teach implicitly that the church is here to make us feel good rather than to serve the holy God of the universe.
- We ought to give God the best we have. That means we do try and have the best music possible and the most genuine worship possible during the music time of the service, but our motivation must be Christ. If it is not, then we become false teachers. In this sense, entertainment in our society and many of the people who take part in that entertainment are false teachers in word and action and that has taken root in many of our churches.
- This carries over into our personal life. How we listen to music, watch movies, play video games and watch television shows matters.
- Outreach is about filling seats in church or getting more followers.
- When we are concerned with building our own empire, we miss the work that God has for us building His kingdom. Matthew 28 tells us that we ought to be concerned with two things in the work that we do: Baptizing the nations in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit; and making disciples of all nations. Anything beyond this is heretical. When we focus primarily on filling seats or bringing in a certain dollar amount, we become heretics. Our lives are about sharing the life that Christ offers with people and about helping one another grow more mature in the faith.
- This means that when we invite others to join us here, we do so because we genuinely yearn for them to benefit from the teaching of God’s Word as they live very real lives.
- This carries over to our personal lives in this way: when we live to gain followers, likes, or to be popular; we actually become false teachers as we imply a very clear message with our lives. So many people insist that life is all about them and not about everyone together in equality serving and worshipping the God of the universe.
- Believing in Christ means prosperity on this earth.
- Popular preachers like Joel Osteen and devotional writers like Joyce Meyer constantly equate God’s blessing with monetary or material wealth on this earth. There is this wrong idea floating around that if we believe in Christ, all of the sudden all of our troubles go away. God will bring us happiness here. We will never be in need. Faith in Christ is about how much we can get and even those who don’t believe in Christ can be saved as long as they do good things.
- This is wrong. Romans 8 states that those who are children of God will suffer with Him and receive a great inheritance in eternity. 2 Timothy 2 states that if we endure with Him (Jesus), we will one day reign with Him. This life is about endurance, not about a spiritual high and not about our comfort. 1 Peter 5 states that, after we have suffered for a little while, we will be established and strengthened.
- This life is not about prosperity and not about comfort or material wealth. It is about us humbling ourselves and serving Christ. The great promise is eternal life and a great reward in eternity, not necessarily on this earth.
I could continue, but this short list is sufficient for me to make the point that we are in an age of great heresy. Let me encourage you to always check what you hear according to an accurate translation of Scripture. Jude’s letter means something significant for our churches and our lives today. It is a clear message that first and foremost, the way that we worship God rightly is in our obedience to Him, not our meeting our own preferences or finding preachers and musicians that will say or sing what we want to hear. It is no surprise that Paul writes to Timothy saying that “…the time will come when they will not tolerate sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, will multiply teachers for themselves because they have an itch to hear something new” (2 Timothy 4:3 HCSB).
The church today
This is where we arrive at Jude’s challenge for our lives. We are to be contenders for genuine faith in Christ. We are to stand against the heresies that are present in our society and in our culture. Life isn’t about us being entertained or about us gaining worldly prosperity. It is about us loving one another so unconditionally that we will love one another the same even if we have to give something up or suffer in order to love one another. It is so easy to love others when we gain something from them. Christ calls us to love everyone even if we have to give something up to do so. Let us not take part in the false teaching that is so prevalent in our society and in many of our churches today.
What, though, is genuine faith in Christ? In the beginning, God created everything. He created every tree, every animal, and every planet. He also created people in His own image. People were created to live in relationship with God and to live in perfection. God gave people one command. If they chose to break that command, they would pay with their lives. In Genesis 3, we read of how people disobeyed God in order to fill their own preferences and their own desires. Those desires were not bad, but they were fulfilled in an evil way: disobedience to the God of the universe.
God removed people from His garden and, instead of carrying out the death penalty, gave them a promise. He would send someone who would live a perfect life to suffer the death penalty on their behalf. According to John 1, God came in the flesh as Jesus, lived a perfect life and suffered the death penalty in the place of all people.
We are all imperfect. We have rebelled against God at least once in our lives. The only way we can escape the death penalty is by placing our faith in Jesus Christ, because He is the only one who suffered the death penalty on our behalf. Jesus Christ really is the only one who can save us from suffering this eternal death and, instead, give us eternal life.
This means that anyone who places his or her faith in preference, good works, in his or her own ability to worship, in a musician or even in a preacher denies Christ. Christ is the only one who is worthy of our complete devotion and we should not serve any of these other masters. It really is Christ alone who gives us life. Genuine faith means that we live according to that truth and that truth alone. Our identity can be in no other if we desire the life that God has for us.
If we know Christ, we ought to stand against these heresies: the heresy of entertainment or preference, the heresy of popularity or of filling seats, and the heresy of earthly prosperity. We ought to proclaim the true message of Christ. We are dead men walking. We have earned the death penalty for ourselves because we have sinned against the holy God of the universe. God, full of grace, gave us a way to escape the death penalty and be with him. Jesus is our substitution. When we give our lives to Him, He gives us eternal life (Romans 10:9).