Stay Rooted

Posted: September 12, 2010 in Jude

Jude 16-25, “Stay Rooted”
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Have you ever tried digging in a yard full of pine trees? You get very familiar with roots going every which direction! [] What is annoying for gardening can be good in our spiritual life. As believers in Jesus Christ, we want to be firmly rooted in the faith we have received – unable to be moved or swayed from pure gospel in which we’ve been saved.

That was the basic exhortation for the church to which Jude was writing. We don’t know much about the particular congregation to which his letter was addressed, but we know this much: apostate teachers had come in alongside them & posed a danger to the church. So far in the letter, Jude has done two things: (1) given a call to arms (so to speak), exhorting the church to contend earnestly for the faith… (2) He’s also shown that apostate false teachers are nothing new – they’ve always attempted to corrupt the pure word of God, and they offer a false gospel in return… Obviously they haven’t escaped the attention of God – God has seen them & God will judge them.

Of course Jude isn’t done yet. Not only do we have the promise of God’s judgment on the apostates, but we have the promise of God’s protection upon His children. As Jude wraps up the letter, he does three things: (1) he finishes out the description of the apostates and/or false teachers… (2) He instructs the Church on how true born-again Christians are to respond to them… (3) He affirms the loving protection of God & writes of what God does in the meantime… As we contend for the faith, we need to stay rooted in the faith – and we can trust our loving God to help us do exactly that.

Jude 16-25 (NKJV)
– What apostates do…
16 These are grumblers, complainers, walking according to their own lusts; and they mouth great swelling words, flattering people to gain advantage.

A. Jude has already written extensively about the apostate/false teachers – showing how they have existed throughout history, and offer no hope in their ungodliness & false gospel… [] Now Jude describes a bit of detail about what their ungodly behavior looks like. They are:

a. “grumblers”: There’s hardly a better picture of those who grumble than the children of Israel during the Exodus from Egypt… They grumbled at the Red Sea (Ex 14:11) – they grumbled at the water (Ex 15:24, 17:3) – they grumbled with the manna (Num 11:5-6)…they were grumblers! It’s amazing that Israel would have grumbled against the Lord, especially after all the miracles they witnessed with their own eyes! How much worse is it for those who claim to be “saved” to be grumblers? We’ve witnessed far greater miracles than Israel simply in our own regeneration! If a born-again Christian never received a single blessing or gift from the Lord God after his/her salvation, we would still have no reason to grumble or murmur against Him simply because of what we have received!
b. “complainers”: NIV “faultfinders” – very accurate. These are folks that always have someone or something else to blame. Nothing is ever “good enough” – there’s always a reason to be malcontent, and it’s of course never their own fault or responsibility.
c. Hedonists: “walking according to their own lusts” is a great translation here. The idea is that the ungodly have their passions set on certain things, and they are consumed with walking after them. Whatever is going to satisfy their base need for the moment, that’s what they’re going to desire & pursue. In contrast, not only do Christians exercise self-control through the Holy Spirit (part of the fruit of the Spirit, Gal 5:22-23), but the foundational passions of a Christian are less & less like the passions of the world. A true born-again Christian despises the sin they occasionally fall into, and their heart beats for the things that glorify God. …
d. Flatterers. Have you ever seen a person come against you one moment & then cozy up to you the next when they think they can gain something out of it? It’s a similar idea here. Flatterers speak words they don’t really mean to people they don’t really like if they think it can get them something. False teachers do this all the time – just look at the fund-raising appeals of some folks on TV…

B. Obviously those characteristics aren’t solely limited to false teachers that creep into a church. This is just ungodly behavior, period! That’s Jude’s point – the apostate teachers might claim to be Christian, but through their actions they demonstrate themselves to be anything but.

17 But you, beloved, remember the words which were spoken before by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ: 18 how they told you that there would be mockers in the last time who would walk according to their own ungodly lusts.

A. We can’t say we haven’t been warned of this apostasy; we have! Paul apparently made a habit of warning people about this. He warned the Ephesian elders (Acts 20:29-30) & warned his own protégé, Timothy twice. (1 Tim 4:1-3, 2 Tim 3:1-19) Not to mention Peter himself warned about this very thing (which is reason to believe 2 Peter was written prior to Jude). 2 Peter 2:1 But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction. []
B. It’s no question that we are now living in the days described here – this is certainly “the last time,” if there ever was one! It’s not only uncommon to see teachers who claim the name of Jesus Christ walking according to ungodly lusts, it’s practically the norm on certain TV stations!
C. Notice how this underscores the importance of being grounded in the word of God, which is the teaching of the apostles. The Lord Jesus did not leave us in this world unprepared to face the dangers of this day – He’s given us everything we need to be equipped for the work that is yet to do. (2 Tim 3:16-17)

19 These are sensual persons, who cause divisions, not having the Spirit.

A. IOW, Jude says they are driven by completely fleshly animal-like drives, who not only work against the unity of the Spirit, they show themselves not to be indwelled by the Holy Spirit at all…they aren’t even Christians. Break it down a bit:
B. “sensual persons”: this is the opposite of the Spiritual person (i.e. the born-again Christian). Gk ψυχικός (~psyche/ psychic) could more literally be translated “soulish” (if such a word existed in English!). By itself, the word is somewhat neutral – after all, everyone has a physical life (we have to be born physically before we can by born spiritually)… Contextually here, Jude is writing of the natural man – the person who is ruled by the base nature of his/her flesh. The ‘soulish’ person is far different than the ‘spiritual’ person, because the spiritual person has been born of the Holy Spirit of God. What does a ‘soulish’ person look like? Paul described it just before describing the fruit of the Spirit: Galatians 5:19-21 (19) Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, (20) idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, (21) envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. []
C. What do these “sensual persons” do? They “cause divisions.” Unique word in Greek – this is the only time it’s used in the NT…it’s an emphasized version of a word meaning to “declare/define/separate.” There seem to be two aspects of this: (1) people who do this separate & divide up people into their own defined categories. Like the Gnostics, they would declare some people to be truly spiritual (namely themselves), while looking at others as somewhat unenlightened. To this, Jude declares the opposite – THEY are truly the ‘soulish’ sensual people that don’t have the Spirit of God. (2) They cause disruptions among people & through their actions cause people to pick sides through their influence. In a church which strives for unity, these people come along & become the source of all sorts of strife.

a. Apostates cause factions in otherwise healthy church congregations – they are at the root of many church splits – they are the root of many lines of gossip. That’s not to say that people who cause these things are always apostates themselves – but they sure act like them.

D. We have to expect this kind of contentious behavior from apostates. Why? Because they don’t have “the Spirit.” There’s no other way around it – they simply are not born-again; they aren’t saved. … Keep in mind this is NOT talking about the filling of the Spirit. Jude isn’t saying that these apostates are simply Christians struggling with their fleshly nature & having a tough time walking according to the Spirit (or appropriating the gifts of the Spirit, etc.). Jude is plainly saying these people do not HAVE the Spirit. They have not been indwelt by the presence of the Spirit of God, they have not been sealed for salvation, they have not been born-again. These people simply aren’t Christians.

a. The point? Don’t treat them as Christians! Simply because they claim to know Christ does not mean that they DO. Obviously we cannot see the state of their heart before the Lord Jesus, but when we encounter a person within the Church who is grumbling, complaining, lusting, flattering, causing division, & engaging in various other forms of ungodliness, we simply cannot assume they are saved when their actions plainly show something else. We’ve got to treat them like we would treat any other non-believer – by pointing them to Jesus Christ & urging them to repent.

– How Christians are to respond…
20 But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, 21 keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.

A. Christians respond not by likewise division & ungodliness, but by keeping ourselves “in the love of God.” As we continue to contend for the faith, we’re not to abandon the love of Christ Jesus in the process. On the contrary, we’re to be rooted & grounded even more in the “love of God.” Question: “Is Jude saying that we need to be careful to maintain our own salvation? That our salvation is maintained by our own efforts?” No. We are saved by grace of God alone through faith in Christ Jesus alone. Jude isn’t writing of salvation; he’s writing of position (so to speak). We are to be aware of the apostates & the danger they pose – but we need to be careful not to go wander off into the same error. For instance, it’s easy to start reading doctrine of cults (JW, Mormons) or liberal theology & think that some of their arguments make a lot of sense…that is, until it’s compared rightly with the truth of Scripture (“the 1st one to plead his cause seems right…” Pro 18:17). Jude would spare us from that kind of confusion – and the way to do it is to stay smack dab in the love of God.
B. Jude describes this “keeping” in three ways:

a. “building yourselves up on your most holy faith”: Talking here about doctrine. Obviously the Christian life is far more than doctrine & Bible studies, but it is so very important to our health as believers! We need to remember that we are in the midst of a spiritual war. The enemy is looking to take Christians down…he’s seeking whom he may devour (1 Pet 5:8). This is real! Yet too many Christians think we’re on a pleasure cruise – just drifting along our way until we arrive in Heaven. This isn’t a cruise ship; this is a battleship! No soldier walks into battle unarmed & unprepared – and neither should we. We have been handed a marvelous, holy faith – the gospel of Jesus Christ is so very precious. We need to be built up on it. The foundation has been laid (and no other foundation CAN be laid than that of Christ Jesus); now we are to be built upon it & strengthened for the battle that lies ahead.

i. BTW: Our faith is holy! I love that description.  We haven’t been given some set of ho-hum truths…it’s not some general religion. On the contrary, the faith we have received is “most holy!” It is none other than the truth of God Himself, graciously handed down to those most in need of it.

b. “praying in the Holy Spirit”: Some take this to be a reference to the gift of tongues – primarily due to Paul’s association of tongues with praying “with the spirit” (1 Cor 14:14-15)…but (with MUCH respect), I think there’s reason to think Jude is referring to something different here. (1) Jude isn’t Paul – and considering Jude hasn’t referenced any of the other charismatic gifts, it would seem rather sudden & out of context (especially since tongues are the least of the gifts). … (2) Tongues aren’t given to everyone (1 Cor 12:30). It would be highly unusual for Jude to exhort the entire church to do something that they may not all had been gifted by the Spirit to do… [] So what IS Jude saying? Simply to pray in the power of the Holy Spirit & by His leading. For those that are gifted with tongues, that may include it (if the Spirit so wills) – but not necessarily so. For all believers, it’s simply praying in the power of the Spirit…when the Holy Spirit Himself prays for us with “groanings which cannot be uttered” (Rom 8:26). As we are led by the Spirit & empowered by the Spirit in our prayers, then we are truly praying IN the Spirit. Keep in mind, that the Holy Spirit is essential to ALL our prayers! (Clarke) “The prayer that is not sent up through the influence of the Holy Ghost is never likely to reach heaven.”

i. Prayer (like worship) is more than just mouthing words, or mumbling an “amen” to someone. Prayer is nothing less than personal communication with our Creator. It is an incredible privilege to come before the Lord God in prayer – and we have received the most marvelous invitation to do so. Let us not come to our prayer closets in obligation, but rather in joy & in wonder!
ii. BTW – just as doctrine is important to keeping ourselves grounded in the love of God, so is prayer. Prayer is an essential part of Christian growth because our faith is far more than a mere intellectual exercise – it’s a relationship with Jesus Christ. God uses the Scripture to set us apart & wash us – God uses the Scripture to help us know more of Him & His will. But it’s through prayer that we not only know OF God, but we KNOW God. The more time we spend at the throne of God in prayer, the more we will keep ourselves in the love of God.

c. “looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ”: Talking about the day when we see our Lord & Savior face-to-face. By death or rapture, one day every Christian will gaze into the face of our Lord Jesus, and be in awe of the one who showed such great mercy & grace to us. Question: “But how would looking for Jesus’ return help us respond to apostates?” Simple: the more focused you are on being prepared for the imminent call of your Lord, the less likely you’ll be distracted & pulled aside by someone who has nothing to do with Jesus.

i. Are you looking for Jesus? Are you awaiting the trump of God for the moment you’ll see the Risen Savior? It is indeed a “blessed hope” that all Christians have… If you can’t wait with joy & anticipation to see Christ, you likely haven’t yet surrendered your life to Christ as Lord…

22 And on some have compassion, making a distinction; 23 but others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire, hating even the garment defiled by the flesh.

A. Not only are we to be rooted in the faith, we’re to be compassionate on those who aren’t so rooted. Some people do get caught in the lies of apostates & false teachers, and mature believers in the Church have a responsibility to help them. Two areas:
B. Deal with the doubters. This comes out a bit more in translations like the NIV, NASB, & ESV (there are some textual variants here) – certainly implied in KJV & NKJV (2 groups: some/others). The 1st group are the doubters. These are those who have been confused by the apostate teachers. They’ve heard the liberal teachers say that miracles are just “nice stories” or that “Jesus didn’t really mean ___ when He said it,” or that the Scripture can’t be trusted & they’re left reeling & doubting, unsure of what to believe. Mature Christians are to come alongside these people & help them – point them back to Christ & the love of God. (Which is one reason to be firmly rooted… It’s hard to lead someone back if we aren’t equipped to do so!)
C. Rescue the perishing. These would be those fully given over to the lies of the apostates & false teachers. Whether they are unbelievers, or severely immature believers isn’t said – but they are in desperate need of help…they need to be pulled out of the fire! [] The problem most folks have with this idea is that they don’t want to offend anyone…and this kind of confrontation might indeed be offensive. Yet if someone’s trapped in a burning building, a firefighter isn’t very concerned whether or not they stub their toe during the rescue. The 1st need is simply to survive! [DFW COC] Obviously, this isn’t license to go out & needlessly offend or stick our noses into other people’s business – but there are times that loving confrontation is necessary for the good of everyone involved. Galatians 6:1-2 (1) Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. (2) Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. []

– What God does in the meantime…
24 Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, And to present you faultless Before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy,

A. God can protect. Do we need to be aware of the apostates? Yes. Do we need to know that some people will be confused? Yes. Do we need to be frightened silly about it? No. For those who are grounded in the love of God, our trust is in the God who is able to keep us from stumbling. Even as we are instructed to keep ourselves in the love of God, we know that God is the one who empowers us to do this in the 1st place. HE is the one who is able!

a. What a tragedy it would be for a Christian to read the letters of Peter, John, and Jude that warn against false teachers within the church & come out shaken & terrified! We absolutely need to be aware of the danger that is out there. It was present in the early church & it is still present today… But as much as we need to be aware of the false teaching, we need to be even MORE aware of the power of God! The false teaching is one of many tools of the enemy in this great spiritual war, but the God who saves us & keeps us in infinitely stronger than the Devil! We can trust that God who is able to protect us from stumbling along the way.

B. God can perfect. Not only can God protect us from stumbling, He is able to present us perfect when we stand before the throne of Christ in eternity. As Paul wrote to the Philippians, “He who has begun a good work in you will complete it in the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil 1:6). The imagery is pretty striking when compared with those who are confused. Those pulled from the fire are done so with their garments cast away, like clothing infected with leprosy. Yet those who are kept by the power of God are presented faultless & without blemish – clothed in the perfect righteousness of Christ & properly prepared for His glory.

a. Notice where we’ll be: “before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy.” Hardly a better description of Heaven can be given!

C. The basic thought is this: we can be confident in Christ! And that’s a reason to give God praise – which Jude does in a beautiful doxology…

25 To God our Savior, Who alone is wise, Be glory and majesty, Dominion and power, Both now and forever. Amen.

A. God saves. Mss vary a bit – some include an expanded clause here of God being our Savior through Jesus Christ. It doesn’t seem to be in the majority of texts, but it’s nonetheless true. God IS our Savior, and the way He chooses to save is through Jesus Christ our Lord alone. We ourselves needed deliverance & rescuing – and that’s exactly what the Lord Jesus came to do. We were dead in our sins & transgressions – we were at war against God in our selfish rebellion – but Jesus puts all of that to rest when He took our sin upon Himself & died the death we deserved at the cross. The righteous wrath of God fell upon the Son of God, and the fullness of the price of our sin was paid with the precious blood of Jesus. Yet three days later, Jesus rose again to life, providing proof that the debt was forgiven, and offering life to all those who would call upon His name. Through Christ we are protected & perfected – through Christ we are SAVED. We can rejoice in God our Savior!
B. God knows. For all the purported wisdom of the false teachers (or even of our own pride), there is only One who is truly wise: God. In Christ are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Col 2:3). God is the very source of all wisdom. How best to go about dealing with the dangers to the church through false teaching? Rely upon the wisdom of God! God knows, and God will equip us as He keeps us & protects us.
C. God reigns. Forever & ever He reigns. God reigns in radiance & splendor (glory). God reigns in greatness & loftiness (majesty). God reigns with authority & might (dominion). God reigns with omnipotence (power). God is supremely worthy of praise in His person & power. There is nothing He cannot do & no fault within Him. He is utterly perfect & worthy of our highest praise for all time!

Conclusion:
So Christian, are you rooted in the love & faith of Christ Jesus? We know what the apostates (and those who act like them) will do… Yet we also know we don’t have to do the same thing. Rely upon the power & grace of God – the God who keeps you until the day of salvation is the same God who will protect you in the middle of this storm we face with false apostate teachers here. Let there be no doubt that we are in the midst of a spiritual war right now – but we serve an awesome God who empowers us to walk through these times… Stay smack dab in the middle of His love, built up in doctrine, fervent in prayer, and looking for the Lord’s soon return – all the while having compassion upon those who may have been caught up in the mess.

Objection: “What if this isn’t me? I just can’t see how this applies? After all, I’m not engaged in any struggle against false teaching within the Church.” Good question – let’s look at that from a couple of different perspectives.

A. Yes, you are engaged in a struggle against false teaching – though you may not have realized it. We live in exciting times! We enjoy the blessings of tremendous religious freedoms in this country – yet we’re also bombarded with every wind of doctrine imaginable. From the outright new-atheists in the newspapers – to the cults that knock on our doors – to liberal theologians who simply want to toss out the clear teaching of Scripture – we are truly surrounded by those who would attempt to sway us through false teaching. This is not a battle that in which only pastors & missionaries partake…this is a battle in which pastors equip the saints for the work of the ministry. You may not have understood the battle taking place around you, but it’s taking place, nonetheless.
B. Even beyond the question of apostate teachers, every single one of us will all deal with people who act like them. What do you do with the person who claims the name of Christ, yet grumbles & causes divisions? How do you deal with the co-worker that goes to church every Sunday, yet acts as if they never saw a Bible in their life? The words in Jude are highly applicable! Stay rooted in the gospel, be built in doctrine, pray in the Spirit, look to Jesus, and have compassion on the one who causes this kind of trouble by sharing the gospel with them & lead them to Christ…

One more thing: what if YOU are the sensual person? Maybe you’re listening to this & deep down you know you’re not born of the Spirit – you haven’t surrendered your life to Christ as Savior & Lord. If that’s you, I plead with you to yield to the conviction of the Holy Spirit today & let Him snatch you from the fire you’re headed into! Don’t be mistaken – those who reject Jesus as Lord in this life will be rejected BY the Lord Jesus in the next. He will do so righteously & justly because of our sin & rebellion against the God who gave us life & breath. But in God’s great love for us, He desires that we would be saved! He Himself IS our Savior – He has made provision in our place – He is the grand substitution for your death. Come to Jesus today, believing that He is the Son of God who died for your sins & rose from the grave – turn away from your sins & entrust yourself to Jesus by faith, surrendering your life to Him as your Savior & Lord.

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