Point of Reference
by Fred Price
I couldn’t help but think of the book of Jude, which I recently read, while listening to a “celebrity” use his past attendance in church and his self-fashioned faith to reinforce his determination to live as he saw fit – which was decidedly unbiblical. (As have so many others, compromising the gospel to suit their lifestyle, rather than modifying their lifestyle to conform to scripture.)
Jude is a very short book/letter, written by a brother of Jesus and James – another letter writer; defending the authenticity of the faith as handed down by the Apostles. (Not the so-called church Fathers of Catholicism, but the original authors and propagators of the gospel of Jesus Christ.) The first-century world was largely antagonistic toward the newly-founded but growing church. However, the most serious threat to the gospel didn’t originate in the pagan societies it was being introduced in to, but from within the Christian community itself. A number of Christians frequently skirting around the exclusive claims of Christ (See John 14:6 & Acts 4:12), blending their new faith with older, “established” pagan practices – such as Gnosticism; which combined certain tenets of Christ’s teaching with mystical – even secret – “knowledge.”
The bottom line was that the moral and ethical standards of the gospel were at the least questioned, and often rejected. Much as is happening today, the human condition changing little over time; as we all want the love of Jesus to be extended to us, not so much the expectations and “commands” of his gospel. (See John 4:15 & 15:12) Accepting his love and expecting his mercy readily enough but wanting to choose who, when, how – and if – we reciprocate that love and offer it to others.
All of which became, and continues to be, a struggle for the integrity of the faith. Jude stressing the idea that the best way to practically defend our faith is to practice it faithfully. Biblical faith and practice are inseparable, authentic faith always promoting godly behavior. The sovereignty of Jesus and his gospel being another bulwark against heresy, as he is both our Lord and Savior. Anything or anyone negating the divine authority of scripture or His command of our lives – resting instead on human reason – is to be unequivocally rejected.
Thus Jude’s exhortation for us to “contend for the faith” against those he describes as being, “…godless men (within the church) who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality…”, by excusing and even promoting lifestyles antithetical to scripture; often by stressing the love of Jesus to the exclusion of all else. (See Romans 1:18-32) Thereby, “…deny(ing) Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord.” Jude 4Jude further characterizing such men as, “…blemishes at your love feasts,… clouds without rain, …autumn trees without fruit… wild waves… and wandering stars.” Jude 12,13
“These men are grumblers and fault-finders; they follow their own evil desires; they boast about themselves and flatter others for their own advantage.” Jude 16 Jesus himself warning of the danger of such “…false prophets” who “come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves.” Matthew 7:15 (See also Matthew 24:24) Paul similarly referring to “savage wolves” infiltrating the “flock” of believers, “…men (who) will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. So be on your guard!” Acts 20:29-31
“…these men speak abusively against whatever they do not understand; and what things they do understand by instinct, like unreasoning animals – these are the very things that destroy them. Woe to them! They have taken the way of Cain (Genesis 4:1-8); they have rushed for profit into Balaam’s error (Numbers 22-24), they have been (or will be) destroyed in Korah’s rebellion.” (Numbers 16) Jude10,11
But then he rather abruptly switches gears, reminding us of our calling in Christ to be fishers of men, the light of the world and salt of the earth; to love the lost while calling them to repentance – even as we guard ourselves from exposure to “…the sin that so easily entangles,…” Hebrews 12:1 (See 1 Corinthians 15:33)
Specifically admonishing us to, “Be merciful to those who doubt;…” (As Jesus was to Thomas, reinforcing his faltering faith even as he challenged him to, “Stop doubting and believe.” John 20:24-28); “…snatch others from the fire and save them…” (Because, “Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death…” James 5:20); ”… to others show mercy, mixed with fear…” Jude 22,23 (See also John 8:11, where Jesus refused to allow certain legalists to manipulate him in a debate between the letter of the Law and its intent, declining to condemn a woman caught in adultery but none-the-less instructing her to stop sinning.) The fear of the Lord causing us to bow humbly before him in repentance and commitment to his will and way. Gut-wrenching fear of punishment and reprisal gradually changing to the “fear” and aversion of disappointing our Lord and Savior. All of us needing to, “…continue to work out (our) salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good pleasure.” Philippians 2:12,13
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Fred Price - married (49 years), father of two grown children, grandfather of six.
Fred retired earlier this year after 42 years as a factory worker. He has always had a heart for young people and the challenges they face today. Over the years Fred has taught Discipleship Groups for High School and college students.
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