Jude 1.20-21 – We Must

Hot off the heels of the kind of criticism and challenge believers are to expect, and the kind of person this will come from, today Jude hits us with another contrast.

20 But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, 21 keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life.

Straight away we see the contrast, don’t we, but you, beloved. There needs to be a marked difference in your life when compared to the lives of those around you who are not walking with the Lord, who don’t know Jesus, who don’t believe that God raised Him from the dead. This will be our actions, and maybe even more importantly, our reactions. 

Jude tells us to keep yourselves in the love of God, to wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life, and we do this by building ourselves up in your most holy faith and by praying in the Holy Spirit. 

There is such a personal element to this short sentence, isn’t there. David Guzik writes on this, 

“…we are responsible for our own spiritual growth. It means that we cannot wait for spiritual growth to just happen, or expect others to make us grow.”

We must keep ourselves in the love of God, we must wait for the mercy of Jesus, we must build ourselves up in faith, and we must pray in the Holy Spirit.

One of the wonderful things about our faith is that it is lived out in community. The things we must do and the things we are responsible for may seem difficult or even insurmountable some days. This is where a committed, caring, and challenging church family will come into play.

They will be committed to caring for you as you wait for the mercy of Jesus, and they will encourage you and help you to build yourself up in your most holy faith. They will challenge you to do all of those things, and more, all to the ultimate glory of God, and all to the ultimate praise of Him who saved us from darkness to light. 

Point to ponder – Am I an active part of a church family? Am I getting this kind of help? Am I giving this kind of help?

Prayer – Father, help us to be different. Help us to live the love that you showed us when you sent your Son to die for us. Empower us today through your Holy Spirit to build ourselves up in our faith, and to support those around us doing the same. Amen. 

Jude 1.10-13 – But These People…

So far in Jude we have been encouraged to contend for the faith, we have seen the importance of how we relate to Jesus, and we have been given the example of the Archangel Michael as one who fought for what he deemed important and wholly within the will of God. Today, things take a turn for the serious. 

10 But these people blaspheme all that they do not understand, and they are destroyed by all that they, like unreasoning animals, understand instinctively.11 Woe to them! For they walked in the way of Cain and abandoned themselves for the sake of gain to Balaam’s error and perished in Korah’s rebellion. 12 These are hidden reefs at your love feasts, as they feast with you without fear, shepherds feeding themselves; waterless clouds, swept along by winds; fruitless trees in late autumn, twice dead, uprooted; 13 wild waves of the sea, casting up the foam of their own shame; wandering stars, for whom the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved forever.

So, Michael would not even speak ill of the devil in his own power (v.9), yet these people blaspheme all that they do not understand…Those who do not understand find it easy to speak poorly about something. We find that it is easy to trash something with our speech when we are ignorant of it, don’t we. 

Jude goes on to say that these people (v.4, 7, 8) are in for a shock, woe to them! They have walked in the way of Cain (Genesis 4), abandoned themselves to Balaam’s error and perished in Korah’s rebellion (Numbers 22-25). Simply, these people are jealous, angry, selfish, prideful, arrogant, greedy, self-centred, self-promoting, and did not respect the structures and leaders put in place by God (Numbers 16.3).

Jude then goes on to say that, simply, these people are pointless, useless, and not using what God has given them for His purposes (vv.12-13).

For us, herein lies the point; we are to use what God has given us within the guidelines He has given us, for His glory, for His purposes, and for His people. 

These people lived for themselves and thought they knew best. The ultimate destination of these people is the gloom of utter darkness…forever

Living for self will always end up this way. Being the ultimate authority in our own lives will always end up this way. We can never work our way to God by rejecting what He provided and going it alone. We must rest in the finished work of Jesus to get us there, we must live for God and not self, we must not be like these people, but be more like Jesus; for His glory, for His purposes, and for His people.

Point to ponder – In what area of my life today do I need to stop being these people?

Prayer – Father, we know that this task to live for you and not for ourselves is not something we can simply choose to do and accomplish alone. We know that we need to live this life by faith in Jesus, we know that we need to live this life in the power of your Holy Spirit, so today we pray for faith and filling; faith in Jesus and filling with the Spirit, to empower us to live the life you desire of us. Amen. 

Jude 1.5-7 – The Long Haul

Today we see that past status is no guarantee of anything for the future.

Now I want to remind you, although you once fully knew it, that Jesus, who saved a people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe. And the angels who did not stay within their own position of authority, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains under gloomy darkness until the judgment of the great day— just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire.

What a wonderful thing to start this passage with, Jesus saved a people out of the land of Egypt…We see that when God’s people were saved out of Egyptian slavery and bondage, the Lord Jesus was at the heart of the Exodus (Exodus 3.14, 13.21-22).

But, as is sadly common with lots of people, the miraculous, heroic, life-saving acts of God that bring many to the inescapable conclusion that He is real, He is present, and He loves us faded into memories past and we read that these same people were then destroyed because of unbeliefJude gives more examples of unbelief and turning away from a God who has given us so much (vv.6-7), and names angels, Sodom, Gomorrah, and the surrounding cities.

The point is that coming to Jesus for salvation is not a short term thing.

It is not a bandaid to put over a deep wound. 

Ours is a common salvation that brings us into community, that we must wrestle for, fight for, and contend for, for the long haul.

Ours is not a one-and-done salvation, where we simply sit around and wait to either die or see Jesus’ triumphant return. The work needed to guarantee our salvation is done, but our lives here on earth are not. 

Ours is a faith that acts (James 2.14-26), ours is a faith that contends, and ours is a faith that equips us for the long haul. 

The dangers of forgetting who we are and in Whom we are are serious (v.7b), so we must day by day take our faith seriously and seek to contend for it, and strengthen it, at every opportunity. 

Point to ponder – Am I prepared for the long haul of a life lived by faith?

Prayer – Father, we thank you that everything we need is found in Jesus, we know your Word tells us that in Him are all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge, and we pray today by the power of your indwelling Holy Spirit that we can access this wisdom and knowledge in order to equip ourselves for a life lived by faith. Help us to avoid the pitfalls and traps of forgetting who we are in you. Amen. 

Amos 6.8-14 – Can we escape?

I read a story about those escape rooms, the live action puzzles where you are locked inside a room and you need to follow clues to get out, like this one…

The story goes that a new escape room was opened and the staff left a complete walkthrough cheat-sheet in the room by mistake. It had all the details of where things were hidden, the significance of objects in the room, things to do, things not to do, and ultimately how to escape was written at the bottom. The players entered the room, found the paper, read it, but then didn’t do what was on it…and ultimately didn’t escape the room. 

Today in Amos we see something similar. God has given His people all they need to know, yet they still persist in their prideful, selfish ways (v.8). Pride is, simply, never good (1 Peter 5.5, James 4.6, Proverbs 3.34).

The people seem to think that they will be able to escape the coming judgement (a constant theme of the book), but we know that God has decreed that whether strong or weak, big or small, mighty or insignificant, all that transgresses His Word will be judged accordingly (vv.9-11). 

Amos then gives proof that no sinner has the right to think that they will escape the coming judgement of our Lord if they are not living the way they should be (vv.12-14). We can’t expect good results when we are living so contrary to the Word of God, in the same way a thoroughbred champion racehorse would not run as well on rocks, or in the same way oxen would not plow productively on those same rocks (v.12).

For us, we need to realise that no matter who we are, where we are from, we are only able to live right and only able to be in right relationship with God through faith in His Son, Jesus.

As Hebrews 2 tells us, we must not neglect this great and wonderful salvation, but we must live our lives based on it. The people Amos writes about knew what to do, had it all written down, but chose not to follow it and thought that it would work out well regardless.

Rather than trust in the misguided thought that, well, God is basically all good so we can do as we wish and then expect Him to bless us because He is good, and God is love, right? Rather than work to this way of thinking we need to follow the principle of Micah 6.8, and, if we do, we are more than able to escape the coming judgement.

He has told you,

O man, what is good;

and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice,

and to love kindness,

and to walk humbly with your God?

Amos 5.25-27 – You can have it all if you like

When I was younger, there was a Welsh band called the Stereophonics that I saw live a couple of times. One of their more light-hearted songs was called ‘I Wouldn’t Believe Your Radio’. It was, I think, about the trappings of modern society, namely buying things on credit that we simply don’t need. The chorus went like this,

So you can have it all if you like, you can have it all if you like.

You can have it all if you like, you can have it all if you like, and you can pay for it the rest of your life.

This is very similar to what we see today in Amos, too,

25 “Did you bring to me sacrifices and offerings during the forty years in the wilderness,

O house of Israel?

26 You shall take up Sikkuth your king, and Kiyyun your star-god

–your images that you made for yourselves,

27 and I will send you into exile beyond Damascus,”

says the LORD, whose name is the God of hosts.

Although Israel still offered sacrifices to God whilst in the wilderness (v.25), they also carried along with them their pagan deities picked up whilst in Egypt (v.26). They are literally wanting their cake, and to eat it too. They want it all. They want to honour God and offer sacrifices to Him (good), but they also want to cling on to paganism and the trappings of their former way of life (bad).

As with the Stereophonics, God’s people seem to want to have it all, but as we see, they will pay for it for what would be, for some of them, the rest of their lives (v.27).

The exile and captivity are surely not what God wants us to have, and are surely not what we want, either. Rather than trying to have our cake and eat it, then paying for it for the rest of our lives, or even with our lives, let us have what God wants for us, let us have it all; life defined by Jesus crucified, life abundant, life eternal.

To have all this, we don’t need to pay for it for the rest of our lives, because Jesus paid for it with His life.

So, yes, we can have it all if we like.

We can either have all that Jesus offers, or all that the world offers.

One was paid for with His life, and the other we will pay for the rest of our lives.

Amos 5.16-20 – Live the life we claim we do

Yesterday we saw that due to our own sinful, human nature and how it is manifest in the world (cause), this puts distance in the relationship between God and ourselves (curse), but that there is One way to be reconciled to God; Jesus (cure).

Today Amos turns his attention to those who claim to be wanting the cure, but in actual fact seeing as they never turn away from their cause, they actually still have their curse.

16 Therefore thus says the Lord, the God of hosts, the Lord:

“In all the squares there shall be wailing,

   and in all the streets they shall say, ‘Alas! Alas!’

They shall call the farmers to mourning

   and to wailing those who are skilled in lamentation,

17 and in all vineyards there shall be wailing,

   for I will pass through your midst,”

says the Lord.

18 Woe to you who desire the day of the Lord!

   Why would you have the day of the Lord?

It is darkness, and not light,

19     as if a man fled from a lion,

   and a bear met him,

or went into the house and leaned his hand against the wall,

   and a serpent bit him.

20 Is not the day of the Lord darkness, and not light,

   and gloom with no brightness in it?

Basically, then, people of the day were claiming to want the Lord to come and judge the nations, they wanted the Day of the Lord, they wanted Him to come…now! On the surface, not a bad thing to want, right?

How often nowadays do we come across people who say things like

“Oh, thank God!”,

“Praise the Lord!”,

“Oh my God!”,

“Jesus Christ!”,

“Only God can judge me!”…

Again, on the surface, these are Christian-sounding words and phrases, aren’t they? But, when spoken by someone whose life clearly does not match the words they are saying, they lose all credibility and you begin to wonder if they really have any grasp on what they are saying…if they truly understand what they are saying.

If I started going on and on about PhD level physics, you would know that I had no grasp of things like how in Newtonian physics, the circular orbit of two gravitationally bound mass objects is a stable configuration…

In the same way, when people are claiming Christ but not living the life, when here we read of people desiring the day of the Lord, we are confused; why would you want that when your life shows you should not really want that?

Amos writes – for those who are not living in the will, way, and Word of our Lord

Is not the day of the Lord darkness, and not light, and gloom with no brightness in it?

The point for us is this; if we claim Christ as our personal Lord and Saviour, our lives should attest to this, our conduct should show this, our character should say this for us. Then, when we call on His name, when we hasten His coming, and when we look ahead to His return, we are assured through the promise of His Word that this is something to look forward to. 

Point to ponder today – do my claims and calls match my words and ways? Or am I saying and doing things that are in opposition to the upward call of God in Christ?

Amos 5.1-5 – Seek me and live

Today God through Amos takes up a passionate expression of grief, He expresses sorrow with emotion over His people’s consistent and persistent decision not to turn to Him.

How frustrating must this be for our loving heavenly Father to have His people consistently and persistently turn away from Him and ignore His guidance, laws, and loving, corrective discipline.

Think how bad you feel when after warning and warning and warning your children not to do something because these are the consequences, you need to follow through on them. You do it because you love them, because you know what is best for them in a way they don’t, but you still don’t enjoy doing it…but how you wish they had just come to you and listened!

1 Hear this word that I take up over you in lamentation, O house of Israel:

2 “Fallen, no more to rise, is the virgin Israel;

forsaken on her land, with none to raise her up.”

3 For thus says the Lord GOD:

“The city that went out a thousand shall have a hundred left, and that which went out a hundred shall have ten left to the house of Israel.”

4 For thus says the LORD to the house of Israel:

“Seek me and live;

5 but do not seek Bethel, and do not enter into Gilgal or cross over to Beersheba;

for Gilgal shall surely go into exile, and Bethel shall come to nothing.”

The point then; seek God and live.

Seek God and live.

We should not not seek to give worship or do spiritual things on our own terms, in our own way…we are to do it on His terms and His way. Things that we do that we think are pleasing to the Lord that contradict His Word, His will, and His way are not actually pleasing to Him. Case in point; do not seek Bethel, and do not enter Gilgal. Places set up by man to worship when God had told them to worship elsewhere.

We are now past certain places being holier than others; God lives in us through the indwelling Holy Spirit and the church is, literally, the gathering of believers. But, what we do when there, when gathered with other believers, is important, and what we do each and every day is important;

Do we seek to love the Lord our God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength?

Do we seek the Lord in order to live the life He wants us to?

Do we seek the Lord’s guidance and grace on a daily basis?

Do we seek to worship God because He deserves it or because it makes us feel good?

Do we seek the Lord at all?

God’s Word to us is really clear; seek the Lord and live. That is a great point to start with today…seek the Lord.

Seek His guidance, seek to glorify Him through your actions and reactions (even if you are driving, no, especially when you are driving here!).

If we combine the principles at hand in Matthew 7.7, 2 Chronicles 7.14, and Amos 4.4 we see this, a true and genuine encouragement;

If we pray, seek God, turn from our former sinful ways and seek God, we will find Him, and we will live.

What a great encouragement for us today…too good to just keep for ourselves, isn’t it…