The previous article ended with a quote from a speech Brother Peter ‘t Hart held at a Women’s League Day about the book of Jude. What follows is a continuation of what he said. [i]
“What is our responsibility towards the purity of the church and towards the salvation of our brothers and sisters, whether victims or perpetrators of evil thinking and an unchristian lifestyle?
Jude has a word for us. The Holy Spirit has a word for us. We are to be resolute in our battle against the attacks on the church from the evil one, lest we all go down to defeat.
Applying Jude’s message to ourselves
In the first place we ourselves are to be steadfast in our life of faith. Don’t, says Jude, let yourself be led astray as well. It is so easy to follow people who are taking it easy: Why make all that fuss and bother? Give in a little here, a little there; why shouldn’t we enjoy life while we have it? Why should we inquire so closely what the will of the Lord is; it suits us all better if it isn’t so crystal clear.
Some years ago, nobody would dream of staying away from church for any length of time. The discretion was still alert to know that this was not what God wanted. Be diligent in attending the gatherings together. It’s not rocket science. The Sunday was the Lord’s Day, not our day. Church attendance was without exception twice on a Sunday. Nobody would dream of taking a job from where he could not come back to church every weekend.
Moreover, mums did not go out to work because they saw their rightful place as mothers in Israel. And when the televisions came on the scene it was keenly felt that this instrument was in the hands of the evil one and a child of the Lord could not let its perversion enter into his Christian home. Christians did not participate with unbelievers in sport and entertainment. Birthday, also of the youth, were a time of playing loungeroom games together and then have a round of singing psalms and Christian songs. Also, at get-togethers there were wholesome discussions about issues that concerned us as Christians. You were not afraid to step on toes if necessary. Families would discuss the topics of youth and men and women’s clubs. The cinemas and the pubs and the side-show alleys were places to which a Christian did not go. There was a keen perception of the antithesis between the church and the world – before it became an uncomfortable word.
Having summed that up, and there is so much more, think now of all these things and how we live with them today. Even if you do not join in with them, you hardly dare to lift your voice against it, because you’ll be on the outer.
We are called to be alert to the attacks of Satan and not to let us be led astray by deviant spirits, also the deviant spirits from within the church; called to do what we can to build up our faith and the knowledge of our faith so that our foundation remains or becomes again rock-solid, our life holy before God, in prayerful dependence on Father above.
Can we turn back the clock?
Can we do that? Is it possible to turn the clock back in our church life but also in our family life? You will realise that asking about turning back the clock I run the risk of being accused of thinking that everything in the past was rosy and that all now is bad. It is not so. And yet, there is no doubt that we have lost so much ground in discernment and holy living over all these years. In the life as church of Jesus Christ, the Lord is missing so much dedicative love and faithfulness and zeal to seek His ways. On Sunday morning we are uplifted with a sermon about the nearness of Christ’s return when our holiness will be perfected and in the afternoon there are just so many empty places in church, people staying home or travelling to their chosen destination. The morning sermon obviously didn’t reach their hearts. And our brothers and sisters are sitting in the caravan 50 kms away.
Apostasy does not come only through clear and damnable heresies. It comes also, as Jude shows, through not taking God serious in our everyday practical life. What happens then is that everyone starts to do what is good in his or her eyes – and let nobody dare question, let alone criticise it. Many attempts to raise certain issues of daily living are rebuffed with the criticism that we should speak more about the grace of God. Well, Jude wanted to write about that till he heard about the disgraceful life of the members.
As bad as all that?
Was it as bad as all that when Jude wrote his letter? No doubt there would have been people inclined to sweep Jude’s letter under the carpet. Don’t be so pessimistic, Jude, just show the grace and the love of God and we will be happy. Poor people who cannot see that a sharp analysis of what is wrong and a stern warning is just as much a showing of the manifold grace and love of God our Father who does not want anyone, particularly His covenant children, to be lost to the cunning wiles of the evil one. Jude has to show how bad it is if the church is to be preserved for everlasting life. And so he tells us that those straying members are not just unfortunate victims but unregenerate sinners, not in tune with Jesus Christ. Holiness means nothing to them; in their deeds they deny Jesus Christ; they are indeed ungodly.
In no uncertain terms Jude describes what will befall them. People should know their Bible and so know what happened to similar people in the past, because people may change but God doesn’t and his wrath and judgement on unbelief doesn’t change, either. God cannot have sin and rebellion and actions contrary to His will near Him. He showed that already with the angels in the holiness of heaven when they despised their privileged position and wanted to do their own thing, when they despised their ‘proper domain’, their God-given place and station. God chained them up in prison, tormented by despair and terror, reserved for the final and everlasting judgement on the day of days to come. Don’t ever think lightly of slackness of faith in your brothers and sisters.
Jude reminds us also of Sodom and Gomorrah. The unbelief and disregard of God’s will led the people there to the grossest of sexual perversion, no matter how much righteous Lot may have warned them. He might have had his respected place in the gate of the city, but they ignored him. Give it a few years, Lot, and you will join us. But God is not mocked and they are now suffering the vengeance of eternal fire. This is how God will deal also with these dreamers, these people who are cooking up their own lifestyle, who say: what’s wrong with it! I think it is ok. If I can’t see anything wrong, it must be ok. And they show the elders and faithful members the door. The dreamers. How dare they. You can hear Jude asking this question. How dare they. Even archangel Michael would not speak rudely to his former colleague and now the Devil, but left it to the Lord to deal with him, so strong was Michael’s revulsion to disrespect. Yet these people show utter disrespect for God and for the preaching of His Word and for the encouragements and admonishments to a holy life of faithfulness, brute beasts as they are. They have gone the way of loveless Cain who also had no idea about the true fear of God. They have gone the way of Balaam, who was so concerned about his own welfare and position that when God forced him to bless and not curse, he involved Israel in the immorality and idolatry at Baal-Peor. The best way to still your own guilty conscience is to get others to join in your perversion!
They have gone the way, they have already perished in the same way as Korah, defying the appointed leadership of the church. They are indeed grumblers and faultfinders, complainers, walking after their own lusts, mouthing, they think a lot of themselves and flatter others with their words to gain advantage, sensuous people who cause divisions, because they do not have the Spirit of God.
The right way
And then look how Jude goes on to conclude this letter: BUT YOU, BELOVED! What a difference. The gap could not be wider. But you, beloved, you who still have that zeal for the Lord, that inner drive towards holiness and dedication, keep yourselves in the love of God. Build each other up in your most holy faith. Look for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, unto eternal life. That’ where your peace and security is and always will be.
And think about those going astray. Have compassion on some, you’ll know them, the ones that are truly struggling in their faith. Lift them up in a spirit of humility and love, teaching them the ways of the Lord. But also never give up on the others, the godless ones, while the time of grace is still here. Renew your efforts. Save them with fear. Snatch them from the fire. You might have to hurt them in the process, but they are worth saving. Your mission work starts at home.
As long as you are aware of the danger when you get close to them, when you go to sit next to them to bring them into the fold of Christ, but now in truth, be careful and don’t let them influence you by agreeing that it isn’t all that bad. They are in dire straits and they need to know it if there is to be a radical change. What a change in the church it would be if this was to take place more often.
Because doing this we will be blessed by the God of grace and power and majesty. What is impossible with men is possible with God. God will secure His church, because He is faithful to His Word. Jude’s doxology is beautiful. The urgent message having been written he can now leave the outcome to God. In God we trust. With Him we may shelter in the knowledge that He will not forsake the work of His hands. Great joy will be ours, the joy of God when sinners repent, when the church of Jesus Christ our Lord remains pure in doctrine and in life.”
[i] Spoken at a Women’s League Day in 2007. The late Br Peter ‘t Hart was a mission worker amongst the Australian Aborigines for years, a teacher at the John Calvin School, an elder in the church and a fighter for the truth.