How We Contend

Last time we were together, Jude challenged us to contend for the genuine faith because there are some who teach falsely. We learned that there is false teaching that permeates our society and many of our churches. We learned some of the things that we must contend against:

  1. The false idea that life is about us being entertained or about our preferences being filled.
    1. We learned that, instead, this life is about endurance and that we will often b uncomfortable.
  2. The lie that life is about gaining popularity, followers or likes.
    1. Instead, we are to sacrifice building our own empire so that we can participate humbly in the work of building God’s Kingdom.
  3. The heresy that life is about gaining material possessions or making money.
    1. Instead, we learned that it is about us giving up some of the things that we have so that we can help take care of those who need more than we do.

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These are all ideas in our current age that we ought to oppose so that we can honor Christ as our only King. While entertainment, popularity and material possessions are not inherently evil and can, many times, be good, they cannot define our lives, our families or our churches.

The first job I had was at Sonic Drive-In. I worked in the kitchen and there were days that I just did not want to go to work. Some days, I was in a great mood. I was positive and uplifting to other people, but not much of the time. I wanted to put in my hours so that I could get paid at the end of each week and go home. It is not a job that I really enjoyed doing. Now that I look back on it, it was not as bad as I made it out to be. Yes, it was stressful, but only while I was actually at work. I could go home and not think about it until my next shift.

Looking back, I realize that there were two ways that I could accomplish the work. I could have done so joyfully and positively, which would have been better for me and for those working with me, or I could have done so without joy and negatively (which was more often the case. No matter what kind of job we have or what responsibilities we hold, there is a good and a not so good way of fulfilling those responsibilities. As people of God, we have a responsibility to contend for the faith and to contend against false teachings like the ones we mentioned.

If we are to oppose or stand against these things, I have to wonder how we should contend against them. Are we to condemn people for their sin or are we to show grace? Should we speak down to people because of their sin or should we strive to be understanding? Do we wage war, or do we launch a rescue mission? Do we keep sinners out, or do we invite them to join us in Christ?

Jude 5-16

Now I want to remind you, though you know all these things: The Lord first saved a people out of Egypt and later destroyed those who did not believe; and He has kept, with eternal chains in darkness for the judgment of the great day, the angels who did not keep their own position but deserted their proper dwelling. In the same way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities around them committed sexual immorality and practiced perversions, just as angels did, and serve as an example by undergoing the punishment of eternal fire.

Nevertheless, these dreamers likewise defile their flesh, reject authority, and blaspheme glorious ones. Yet Michael the archangel, when he was disputing with the Devil in a debate about Moses’ body, did not dare bring an abusive condemnation against him but said, “The Lord rebuke you!” But these people blaspheme anything they don’t understand. What they know by instinct like unreasoning animals — they destroy themselves with these things. Woe to them! For they have traveled in the way of Cain, have abandoned themselves to the error of Balaam for profit, and have perished in Korah’s rebellion.

These are the ones who are like dangerous reefs at your love feasts. They feast with you, nurturing only themselves without fear. They are waterless clouds carried along by winds; trees in late autumn — fruitless, twice dead, pulled out by the roots; wild waves of the sea, foaming up their shameful deeds; wandering stars for whom the blackness of darkness is reserved forever!

And Enoch, in the seventh generation from Adam, prophesied about them:

Look! The Lord comes

with thousands of His holy ones

to execute judgment on all

and to convict them

of all their ungodly acts

that they have done in an ungodly way,

and of all the harsh things ungodly sinners

have said against Him.

These people are discontented grumblers, walking according to their desires; their mouths utter arrogant words, flattering people for their own advantage.

Reminder of sin

Jude begins this section of his letter by reminding his readers that God, after saving His people from the land of Egypt, began to destroy those who did not believe. God put down rebellions within the nation of Israel, He expelled angels who abandoned him, He destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah since they were indulging in gross immorality.

Jude reminds us that there is still great sin in our world and that God stands against it. It is God who dealt with rebellion against Him. It is God who dealt with the angels who abandoned Him. It is God who dealt with the sinfulness of the world throughout His history in the Old Testament.

As I read this, I am reminded of one story in Joshua 7. The Israelites were in sin and Joshua sent men to spy out the town of Ai. They got there and saw that the town should be easy to take, so Joshua sent a brigade to take the town. The Israelites lost because God was not with them. They had taken the responsibility of condemnation upon themselves and God stood against them.

In this life, I see many things that I don’t agree with. My first instinct is to condemn people who are doing what I think is wrong or sinful or evil. It is so easy for us to condemn one president or another. It is so easy for us to condemn those living in sin. It is so easy for us to condemn people we disagree with politically or morally. God’s message in Scripture is clear. He reserves the right of judgment and of condemnation because He is the only one worthy to be the King and Judge. If God is the only one who is worthy to be King and Judge, this means that I am not worthy to take on that role.

Here is what this means for my life: I have a lot less authority than I sometimes assume to have. Jude reminds us that there is sin. He mentions sins that God deals with among the people. When people have tried to eradicate sin on their own, God has opposed them. It is prideful for us to make ourselves judges and executioners over the people. It is so prideful that when we take this responsibility for ourselves, we assume the position of God. Only God has the right to condemn people because of their sin, and He promises to carry out His responsibilities.

This means that we do not contend against sinfulness with hatred and we do not assume to have much authority. As an example, this means that those who micro-manage are in sin because micro-management is a judgment and condemnation on any other way of doing things. This means that while we are contending against sinfulness and against false teaching, we have to actually trust others to do what God has called them to do and to fulfill their responsibilities.

When it comes to being a good husband, I trust my wife. Being a good parent means guiding children rather than letting them do whatever they want or being a household dictator. When our families sin against us, we strive for understanding no matter what they have done so that they are loved in Christ. When our brothers or sisters in Christ have sinned, we strive for understanding. When those in our society are living in sin, we strive for understanding so that we can share Christ’s love. We are free to do this because God reserves the responsibility of judgment and condemnation for Himself when it comes to sinfulness. We have the freedom to show more grace to all people.

Through all of this, I refer specifically to judgment regarding sin. God does give civic authority to carry out sentencing to worldly governments (Romans 13). He does give us the freedom to defend our countrymen and our property on this earth (Exodus 22). He does give parents the authority to punish their children for the purpose of raising them up (Ephesians 6). He does give His people authority to carry out discipline when in comes to divisiveness among His people (Matthew 18). We do not, though, have any right to condemn anyone because of sin.

How to contend

If we cannot condemn people for their sin, how in the world can we contend against false teaching and against sinfulness in our world today?

Jude speaks of Michael, the archangel, having a dispute with the devil where they argued concerning Moses’ body. This story is nowhere for us to read. It is not in the Old Testament and we do not have any copies of it anywhere else. Some imagine that Jude might have been quoting from an apocryphal work titled, “The Assumption of Moses.” An apocryphal work is a work that claims itself to be a part of scripture but its authenticity is questionable and doubtful. This is only speculation because we no longer have the work. This seems very random as Jude is writing about the sinfulness of the world and false teachers, but I believe he had a point when he included it. Michael did not himself condemn the devil. He argued with the devil. He disputed the devil. He knew the devil was wrong, but did not condemn him. Instead, Michael called on the Lord to rebuke the devil.

It’s almost like Jude is clarifying for his readers: Sin exists and it is so wrong. We must address it and dispute it. At the same time we do not have the authority to condemn anyone, not even the devil, because of sin.

How do we contend? We speak in the name of truth. We speak with Christ as our King in order to honor Him. We speak against sinfulness and sinful action, but we do so in a way that is not condemning. This requires a certain degree of humility from us. It demands that we respect those we disagree with. It demands that we love them even though we do not agree with them. If we do anything more regarding sinfulness, then we assume an authority that God has reserved for Himself.

Through the rest of this text, Jude writes of God’s judgment toward those who remain sinful. God will not let anyone go unpunished who remains sinful and who perpetuates any of the heresies we discussed before. Since we have all sinned, the only way we can possibly be saved from this punishment is by pledging our allegiance to God.

Here there is a great truth. Our salvation and our having eternal life is not about how good we think we are. It is about whether or not we have pledged our allegiance to the holy God of the universe. We can be as good as we want to be, but if we have not pledged our allegiance to Christ, we don’t know Him and we don’t belong to Him. Life is about allegiance, not about trying to be good for good’s sake. Not only is this true with God, it is true among brothers and sisters in Christ. Our allegiance to one another is way more important than our always getting along or agreeing with one another. When God has our genuine allegiance, we will strive to honor Him with our lives on this earth. When we have one another’s allegiance, we will strive to honor one another and build one another up on this earth no matter what. This is the truth we contend for.

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