Contending for the Faith (Jude 3-4)

Contending for the Faith (Jude 3-4)
May 8, 2019

Jude opens his inspired letter with fairly traditional greetings but then quickly starts the body of the letter with the famous line: “Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.”

Jude insists that he was ready to write to these brothers and sisters who are loved by God. With these words he shows that not only did God love these believers but so did he. Jude was especially eager to write about their “common salvation.” While we have not yet entered into heaven and the final state, we have in one sense already attained salvation. All born-again Christians share this common salvation and all the benefits of it. Jude had at first intended to write about all of those wonderful blessings of salvation but was interrupted with news of false teachers among these brothers and sisters. So, he felt it necessary to change course and write to the people in light of the present, precarious situation.

The express purpose of Jude’s letter was to exhort those people of God to “contend earnestly for the faith.” Of course, verse four is where we find the details of why this is so much more urgent than other things that may have been discussed in the letter. We learn from that next verse that certain ungodly men had somehow snuck in among the Christians unnoticed. These men were perverting God’s grace and denying the Lord Jesus Christ. A decline into unbelief does not happen immediately, it does not happen overnight. Apostasy is months or years in the making when Christians do not remain alert and steadfast. Allowing a little error here and more false teaching there eventually leads to a perversion of the true Gospel of God’s grace and an outright denial of faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.

And so, Jude tells the brethren to contend earnestly for the faith. The word “contend” that Jude employs was used in military and athletic contexts. The term “refers to a struggle or intense effort” (Schreiner, 435). Those ancient believers and Christians of every generation, including us today, are to fight for the faith. “The Faith” here is used in almost a technical sense meaning to convey all of what we believe and teach. “The Faith” is the Gospel of salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, all of the holy Scriptures, all the doctrines of God, historic theology, and the entirety of what we call “Christianity.” We are to fight to stay in our faith-relationship with God, to defend the truths of Scripture, and to promote the Gospel in our communities and around the world. This exhortation is all the more needed in our current day because so many are redefining the Faith or outright abandoning it.

This Faith we are speaking of has been delivered to the saints, that is, the church has been entrusted with these precious truths about God. Jude says that the Faith has been “once for all” passed down from the apostles through every generation signifying that, “No supplements or corrections will be tolerated. The gospel of Jesus Christ has received its fullest explication through the apostles” (Schreiner, 436). It is my responsibility and yours as well, all of us together as the Church, to promote and defend the Gospel of God’s grace and to live by faith in His one and only Son.

Therefore, we have two reasons to contend for the Faith given in these two verses of Jude’s letter. I’ll summarize them in reverse order. First, Christians must contend earnestly for the Faith because it has been given into our trust. We are to safeguard the purity of the Gospel by not only believing and defending it but also by promoting it. Second, Christians must content earnestly for the Faith because there are always ungodly people, from outside and from within the Church, who seek to pervert the Gospel and lead believers astray. Thus, we see both vertical and the horizontal motivators. God has made us responsible for the Gospel and men are seeking to use and abuse the Gospel. Be a believer in the Good News of Christ. Be a defender. Be a proclaimer. Contend earnestly.

Don't be a Chameleon

Don't be a Chameleon
April 24, 2019

I remember being fascinated by chameleons when I was in elementary school. You know, kids learn about all sorts of things in those early years from the weather cycle to rocks and even reptiles. It was fascinating to me that these lizards can change their colors depending on their surroundings. Of course, this may have several functions one of which is a defense mechanism that helps them hide from predators.

Yet, we are taught throughout the New Testament to not worry what people think about us or even what they may do to us. We should not even fear being killed by others for the sake of Christ. While chameleons may change colors to hide from predators, Christians are not to worry about enemies. We are to love our enemies, pray for them, and continue to witness to them concerning the things of God.

The apostle pleads with the church in Rom 12:2, "Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind." What a fitting passage to meditate on at any point in the Christian life. New Christians need to learn this message, and long-time Christians need to be reminded of it. Unlike the color-changing chameleons, we are not supposed to conform to the world around us. We don't think like they do, we don't value what they do, and we even look different than they do because the knowledge we have changes the way we act.

To put it in Jesus' words, we can look to Matt 5:14, "You are the light of the world." Of course, He goes on to say in verse 16, "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven." So, we are not to hide out, blend in, and protect ourselves. We are to stand out from the world around us so that we may point people to God. Giving your life to the Lord should have several noticeable effects. Let the work of the Lord in your soul show out in your good works, not for the purpose of bringing attention to yourself but for the glory of God.

Live for the Lord. Seek to glorify Him. Have an impact on the world around you. Obey God no matter the costs. Put your hope in Him. For the sake of God and His Gospel, don't be a chameleon.

Doing What is Right

Doing What is Right
April 10, 2019

The last major section in the book of Genesis covers the life of Joseph, the son of Jacob. You will remember that Joseph was favored by Jacob, and this caused severe sibling rivalry. Joseph was also given dreams by God, and he taunted his brothers, and even his parents, about the dreams. So, the brothers, out of hatred for Joseph, threw him into a pit intending to kill him at some later point. Eventually, they decided to sell him into slavery instead, and he finally ends up in the house of the Egyptian named Potiphar. The narrative picks up here in Genesis 39.

Gen 39:2 tells us that, “The Lord was with Joseph, and he was a successful man; and he was in the house of his master the Egyptian.” We are told that Joseph was overwhelmingly blessed by God, everything he did was successful, and Potiphar’s family and dealings were even blessed by association. The end of verse six gives us a detail that sets up the next scene. We are told that Joseph was a handsome young man.

Potiphar’s wife grows to desire Joseph. She wants physical intimacy with him and tempts him day after day. Joseph’s behavior is commendable throughout this narrative. One of the first questions he asks is, “How then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?” This is a question we should ask ourselves when faced with temptations to sin.

We live in a time when the sexual revolution is raging, and the society is saying things like, “Do whatever you want. It’s your life. Whatever makes you happy. What you do with your body is up to you. There is no higher authority for your moral life than yourself.” These statements, of course, are lies from the evil one. When Joseph was all alone with this person, when no one was watching, when she was throwing herself at him, he still stands resolved that it would be a great wickedness and a sin against God that he will not commit. How exemplary! We do not have to give in to selfish, sinful desires! Meditate on Joseph’s life-story for yourself and teach it to your kids and grandkids.

Later in the narrative of Genesis 39, the woman ramps up her pursuits to another level and tries to take Joseph to bed by force. When the whole world would have said things such as, “Well, what’s a man to do? No one would blame him for going to bed with her. She gave him no option. . .” Joseph does what is right in God’s eyes and flees from evil. And, before you think that just because you are moral and do what is right that things will always go well for you, we are told that the woman framed Joseph with his garment that she stole from him and claimed that he tried to take advantage of her! Joseph cannot catch a break! He suffered for doing what was right. Yet, even in prison, we learn that the Lord was with Joseph and showed him mercy. Let us also do what is right despite the consequences so that our consciences may be clear, so that we may glorify God in a crooked generation, and so that we might find favor in the eyes of God no matter what others may think.

Praise to God—Our Christian Duty

Praise to God—Our Christian Duty
May 20, 2019

Heb 13:15 says, “Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name.”

One of the chief duties that every Christian is to fulfill is the worship of the living God. Believers from the very beginning of creation until now have been those who offered sacrifices of praise to God. There have been many different ways that this praise has been offered through the centuries, from the early days before the Law to the times of Israel when the people gathered in the Temple. The Church also continued to worship after the resurrection of Christ and found that they could at any place and time.

One aspect of biblical worship which seems to be consistent throughout human history is using our voices to praise God’s name. As another commenter affirms, “The OT sacrificial system has been set aside, but our grateful worship should still overflow to God” (ZSB).

Now, we are talking about Christian worship. Notice that the sacrifice of praise to God the Father is to be continually offered “in Him,” that is, through Jesus Christ. So, we no longer offer physical sacrifices, but we do continue to offer spiritual sacrifices which are pleasing to God. Jesus has laid down His life on our behalf, making peace between us and God through the forgiveness and cleansing of our sins. And on the basis of Jesus’ once-for-all sacrifice, we now offer the spiritual sacrifice of praise to God’s name.

The primary ways in which we praise God today are through sacrificing our time and energy to be in the assembly to praise His name through song and other affirmations in the company of the saints, and we also sacrifice whatever it takes to confess God’s glory in the public square, whether pride, reputation, or any of the like. This is a continual activity for the Christian. Therefore, let us not give up praising God on Sundays and every day in between.

Key Values for Ministry

Key Values for Ministry

#1 Biblical (2 Timothy 3:14-17)

The foundational statement that should be made is that my vision for ministry is biblical.  I believe that the 66 books of the Christian Scriptures are the uniquely inspired word of God.  They are all believers need for things concerning life, faith, and salvation.  With such a high view of Scripture, I am led to study, teach, and preach the Bible with great dedication.  Each time I approach the pulpit, I do so with one goal in mind: to help God’s people better understand His holy word.  Our preaching/teaching, worship, and various ministries should be solidly based upon the Scriptures.

#2 Christ-Centered (1 Corinthians 2:1-2)

Second, ministry should be Christ-centered.  If we truly believe what the Scriptures teach, that Christ has died for sin once for all, then why would we bother with anything else?  He should be treasured above all else because He has done what we could not.  He has saved us from our sins, from this present wicked age, and from the wrath to come.  We should want to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.  I am thoroughly convinced that the entire Old Testament points forward to Jesus Christ.  He is the fulfillment of all of what God said in time past.  The Old Testament was bringing us to Him in due time.  The New Testament, then, expounds upon the person and work of Jesus Christ while explaining how that directly and indirectly effects us.  Therefore, Christ is at the center of all the holy writings, and He should be at the very heart of all that we do in our ministries.

#3 Grace-Oriented (Romans 6:14)

The previous point leads to the next: ministry should be grace-oriented.  God has extended love, mercy, and grace to us.  We should do the same for one another and for those outside the household of faith.  If our holy Father is willing to forgive us of our sin against Him, then we must be willing to forgive one another.  A ministry/pastorate/congregation that is grace-oriented is quick to listen and slow to speak.  It is quick to forgive and slow to wrath.  It forgets those things which are behind and reaches forward to those things which are ahead.  To be grace-oriented is to create an atmosphere in the public worship times.  It is to create an atmosphere of grace in our meetings, events, ministries, and all the like.  When outsiders come into our gatherings, they should quickly realize that they have come into a place where they can rest.

#4 Team Ministry (Ephesians 4:11-16)

The vision I have for ministry is simple.  I believe that the pastor is charged with preparing his congregation for the work of the ministry and for building them up in the Lord.  This is, after all, the biblical pattern.  Thus, ministry is a group endeavor.  We are to serve one another and those who are in need.  We are to worship together, bear one another’s burdens, have the same mind, and together pursue holiness in Christ.  I believe in an every-member-ministry (as cliche as that sounds).  We must work together in our mission to make disciples of all the nations.  Every part must do its share.

#5 Open-Mindedness (Revelation 5:8-10)

The last thing I will say is that I believe ministry should be open-minded.  We should exhibit this value in many areas of the ministry, but especially in the area of racial and ethnic harmony.  We cannot be a respecter of persons when it comes to the task of sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ with unbelievers or within the household of faith.  We are not to hold the faith of our Lord with partiality.  God loves the world.  Christ died for all.  We are to make disciples of all the nations.  Right now, God is saving people all over this planet.  We must see all people for who they are, image bearers of our great God.  I will fellowship with and minister to anyone that I come in contact with that is willing to have a conversation with me!

Worship and the Christian Life

Worship and the Christian Life
January 9, 2019

Worship is a central aspect of the life of believers. This has been true since the time of the ancient Hebrews, through the early decades of the New Testament church, and even into our own day. The people of God have been instructed and exhorted to praise the Lord with their mouths as well as their actions.

In the Old Testament, for example, Psalm 95:6-7 famously urges believers, “Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord our Maker. For He is our God, and we are the people of His pasture, and the sheep of His hand.” The New Testament encourages the same sorts of activities. Consider the call of Hebrews 13:15, “Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name.”

From Old Testament to New Testament, believers are actually commanded to worship and serve the Lord. This is a “Thus saith the Lord.” Christ affirmed this in Luke 4:8 by echoing and endorsing the fundamental teaching, “It is written: Worship the Lord your God and serve Him only.”

What, then, are the basic elements of worship? The Lord’s people have always engaged in singing, prayer, teaching, learning, and fellowship. The church has always practiced baptism, when new disciples were converted, and the Lord’s Supper, even on a weekly basis. All of these things truly exalt the Lord as well as edify the people of God.

So as not to exclude the fact that we can and must worship the Lord at all times, let me conclude with the well-known quote of Romans 12:1, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.” The apostle is obviously framing this exhortation in terms of continual, daily worship, and most modern translators have rendered that last word as “worship.” The reasonable expectation of Christians is that they worship the Lord God every day as a living sacrifice. We offer our lives to Him as we submit to His will for our lives, obey His commands, and fulfill His purposes in the world. Let us be a worshipping people, inside and outside the gathering!