Saturday, July 17, 2010
Are We All Going To Hell In A Handbasket?
It would be wonderful to think that everything in the Body of Christ is what it appears to be, but we would be lying to ourselves. I know in myself that I am always checking my motivations for saying and doing things because it is very easy to disguise our selfish ambitions by acts of love. We are all capable of it and we should at least be honest enough with ourselves to consider what is motivating our actions. I think this is the reason why Jude’s letter often catches me off-guard, because it is brutally honest about this subject that we do not always consider. Let’s be honest for a moment; there are imposters working among us.
Jude states that it was not his first desire to deal with this subject:
Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints. (Jude 1:3)
For Jude, fighting for the truth of our faith trumps the sharing of encouraging testimonies among brothers and sisters. I think we can understand this when we consider that Christianity was still fighting to take root. There were so many threats all around to assimilate this new movement into existing religions and philosophical thinking. The early apostles had to spend much of their time teaching and “contending for the faith”. In some ways they succeeded in others they failed. Here Jude correctly recognizes that the real danger never came from outside of the Church but was always from within:
For certain men whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are godless men, who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord. (Jude 1:4)
We would really have to have our heads stuck in the sand if we did not recognize the truth of this for today. We have allowed thinkers and philosophers who have never known Jesus to take positions of importance and shape the Church of today. This is the reason we have sections of the Church claiming there was no virgin birth, that the resurrection never took place, that sins, such as homosexuality, can be sanctioned by the Church. We are losing whole sections of the Church to these lies because we fell asleep and forgot to “contend for the faith”. We may find it easier to just turn our backs on them but it would be wrong because they are marked for destruction and we need to fight that no one else would be lost to this same fate:
Though you already know all this, I want to remind you that the Lord delivered his people out of Egypt, but later destroyed those who did not believe. And the angels who did not keep their positions of authority but abandoned their own home—these he has kept in darkness, bound with everlasting chains for judgment on the great Day. 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. (Jude 1:5-7)
The consequences for those who turn their back on God’s truth is very real. Jesus died to save us from this wrath because our Father does not want to see any of us face it. Those who see him as being unfair do not see the whole picture. God created a perfect creation and we are the ones who messed it up. We deserved to be destroyed for doing so but our Father came up with a rescue plan, to have everything reconciled to him. He is the one who paid the price for it to happen. This is the only way to escape the destruction that is coming because, although he is a patient Father, there is a limit and a day has been appointed that everything that is not part of him will be removed. He has given us several examples to show us this is the reality we face. Yet, we have allowed people to come in and try to destroy the one beacon of hope for a world that is lost, the Church:
In the very same way, these dreamers pollute their own bodies, reject authority and slander celestial beings. But even the archangel Michael, when he was disputing with the devil about the body of Moses, did not dare to bring a slanderous accusation against him, but said, "The Lord rebuke you!" Yet 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. (Jude 1:8-10)
We do not have to look around much to see the truth of Jude’s statements. All we have to do is look at ourselves and we can see the potential for making decisions that benefit us but destroy the community. It is called sin. Jude is vocal in his lament over this situation that we are currently allowing:
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. (Jude 1:11)
He is also very descriptive in their character and their fate:
These men 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. They are wild waves of the sea, foaming up their shame; wandering stars, for whom blackest darkness has been reserved forever. (Jude 1:12-13)
Are these not the same type of men that Jesus criticized for appearing to be one thing but actually being something else? Did he not deal with the leaders who had the responsibility of caring for God’s children but instead abused them for their own gain while still appearing to be righteous before God? It would be wonderful to think that the Church today contained no such people but we would be lying to ourselves. These are the people who often get promoted due to their fine sounding arguments and their righteous appearance; they are very capable and professional people but who are also spiritually as dry as desert bleached bones. We need to protect the weak and immature from the trap that is laid out by such people as these. And in case you still do not recognize them Jude gives us this:
Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about these men: "See, the Lord is coming with thousands upon thousands of his holy ones to judge everyone, and to convict all the ungodly of all the ungodly acts they have done in the ungodly way, and of all the harsh words ungodly sinners have spoken against him." These men are grumblers and faultfinders; they follow their own evil desires; they boast about themselves and flatter others for their own advantage. (Jude 1:14-16)
I am all for keeping it positive and filling the days with words of encouragement, but as Jude stated at the beginning, there are times when “contending for the faith” takes priority. I think we have reached that stage and we need to start calling it as we see it. The United Church of Canada is a huge instrument of destruction against the faithful and now a committee in the United States wants the Presbyterian church to go the same way. What are we going to do about it? Keep our heads stuck in the sand or contend for the faith?