Trinity Eight, Sunday August 11, 2019 — Jude — Fight the Good Fight
Sermon for Trinity Eight – Sunday August 11, 2019
Calvary/Marquette ● Soli Deo Gloria
Grace be unto you who are called, sanctified by God the Father and preserved in Jesus Christ: Mercy, peace and love be multiplied to you. Amen.
This morning we meditate upon the entire letter of Jude, which we read moments ago as our Epistle Lesson. Due to its length, we will take it verse by verse, please follow along in the Bulletin. Please be seated.
In the Name of Jesus, the Christ,
Who is the one Savior of Humankind,
Dear Fellow Believers, called, sanctified and preserved in Him,
Have you ever accidentally read someone else’s mail?
It was in the pile of mail you carried to the kitchen table from the mailbox, but you didn’t notice that it wasn’t addressed to you…until you opened it and started reading…and you felt a little guilty. Oops. I better tape the envelope shut again and take it to the proper recipient!
Do you feel that way when you read these words?
Jude, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James, to those who are called, sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ: 2 Mercy, peace, and love be multiplied to you.
Well, you shouldn’t…because this is addressed to every believer, to all those who have been invited to believe in Jesus, separated from sin and dedicated to God and also kept in faith in Jesus Christ. These words are as much addressed to you and every Christian today as when they were first written.
So, we read on and are urged to ‘Fight the Good Fight.’
God the Holy Spirit who warns us about False Teachers and False Teaching, helping us to recognize them. He encourages us to remember the Word, to strengthen faith and remain in God’s Love. He finally urges us to have mercy on those who stumble along the way.
We begin with the encouragement found in the closing verses:
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, 25 To God our Savior, Who alone is wise, Be glory and majesty, Dominion and power, Both now and forever. Amen.
We live in an age of political correctness and in a society that believes that truth is subjective. In other words, what you believe is ‘true’…is true for you…even if it’s incorrect or patently false.
Consequently, it’s considered improper to suggest that your God is the right God and that someone else’s god is an idol or figment of their imagination. So turns the fallen world in which we live.
On the other hand, our Creator God speaks to us in the Bible and proclaims the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. The Almighty God isn’t interested in stroking the psyche or increasing the self-esteem of false teachers or the proponents of false religions. Our Redeemer God is interested in saving sinners from falsehood, from sin and eternal death.
The Spirit of God here declares that there is truth and there is falsehood. We are to cling to the truth and beware of the false. In fact, we are to fight for the faith, for the truths that have been delivered to the saints, to believers in Holy Scripture.
3 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. 4 For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ.
Jude was prepared to write about our common salvation (common because it’s something all believers share; but truly uncommon in this world) but the Holy Spirit urged him to encourage us to ‘contend for the faith’ for the content of the message we have been given so that it is not lost or twisted. In this case, the word ‘faith’ is used objectively of the content of the message and not our individual confidence in it.
Why are we to fight the good fight?
Well, because our enemy has infiltrated our ranks. False Teachers have crept into the visible Christian church on earth who do not believe, but actually deny the LORD God and the Savior Jesus by denying Him in their hearts and by their actions.
For example, even today, those who deny the Holy Trinity, whether they deny the Father or the Son or even the Holy Spirit have rejected God as He has revealed Himself (Matthew 28:18-20). In this world, people claim to believe who really don’t (cf. Matthew 7:21ff; Luke 13:25ff).
We are warned because these are people parading as Christians, who turn the grace of God into an opportunity to live openly sinful lives.
It is as Jesus said (Matthew 7:20):
“…by their fruits [their actions] you will know them.”
The Holy Spirit describes them in detail in Jude so that we may recognize them (verses 8, 10):
“Likewise also these dreamers defile the flesh, reject authority, and speak evil of dignitaries….they speak evil of whatever they do not know; and whatever they know naturally, like brute beasts, in these things they corrupt themselves.”
There is nothing sacred, nothing pure in their eyes.
ü They ‘defile the flesh’ that is they ‘defile their own bodies’ being carried away into all manner of sexual sin and perversion. Some today who call themselves ‘Christians’ approve of what God calls sin and even go so far as to promote it (cf. Romans 1:26-27; 32). Think of it, in a single generation, the liberal wing of the Lutheran Church has gone from opposing sin to openly ordaining leaders who are practicing homosexuality. It is as Jude says, what they know ‘naturally’ they pervert like mindless animals.
ü They reject authority – both spiritual and secular. If people are taught to suspect, question, ridicule and despise earthly authority, how will they surrender to God’s authority?
ü They speak evil of dignitaries – literally ‘they blaspheme glories.’ There are classrooms in Christian colleges (to say nothing of secular colleges) where they ridicule the idea of angels, of God calling the universe into existence by a word. Sacred glories are emptied of their meaning and hell is only used to strengthen a curse.
These are grumblers, complainers, walking according to their own lusts; and they mouth great swelling words, flattering people to gain advantage. These are sensual persons, who cause divisions, not having the Spirit.
They are never satisfied…not even in popularity.
ü They are grumblers and complainers – Even though they have what they need and more, still they grumble. They are complainers, finding faulty with everyone and everything else, people with whom nothing is right and all is wrong.
ü They follow their own desires – instead of God’s Will.
ü They speak great swelling words – about themselves, boasting in their accomplishments.
ü They flatter people to gain advantage – they are ‘yes-men’ if and when it supports their cause.
ü They are caught in sexual sin and cause division among believers.
They are compared to dangerous, to empty and useless things (12-13):
These are spots in your love feasts, while they feast with you without fear, serving only themselves. They are clouds without water, carried about by the winds; late autumn trees without fruit, twice dead, pulled up by the roots; raging waves of the sea, foaming up their own shame; wandering stars for whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever.
In the 1st Century Christians frequently met together for a meal. We would call it a ‘pot-luck meal’ or a ‘covered dish’ meal. In those days they called it an ‘agape feast’ or ‘love feast.’ The false teachers and unbelievers of which the Holy Spirit warned were not strangers to them, but people who ate with them.
ü The Holy Spirit described them as ‘stains’ or ‘hidden reefs’ in their potluck meals. They didn’t know who they were, but they served only themselves.
ü The Spirit compared them to clouds carried about by the winds but who didn’t produce rain – they were empty and without benefit to anyone.
ü He called them late autumn trees twice dead. They were twice dead because they didn’t produce fruit (since they weren’t believers) and their roots did not draw strength from Christ. They were spiritually dead already.
ü They were like blustery waves…making noise but of no consequence. They were like wandering stars…who would eventually go out and be lost in the darkness.
False Teachers and Unbelievers then, and now, will be judged unless they are moved to repent and believe. The Holy Spirit said they would be judged as had been the unbelieving out of Egypt, the angels who disobeyed God and those who gave themselves over to perversion in Sodom and Gomorrah (5-7). They would meet the same end as Cain, Balaam and Korah (Numbers 16:1-35).
Now, we aren’t told these things so that we marvel at what can happen, but so that we beware of and consider the consequence of turning from Christ. False Teachers are described so that we remember that despite the outward show and the huge crowds that flock to these charismatic and attractive teachers…their message – in conflict with God’s Word - is without power to save. Those who follow the crowd often follow to their condemnation.
We are not only warned, but also encouraged to fight to keep hold of the truth. We are to be sober when it comes to our faith in Christ. We are to let nothing get between us and Him. In Jude encouragement in each case follows the words, “But you, beloved… (17, 20ff)”
17 But you, beloved, remember the words which were spoken before by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ:
Now having warned Believers about the false teachers and unbelievers among them and having equipped them to fight the good fight…the Holy Spirit reminds us where our strength and weaponry is to be found – in the Word of God. Remember – and never forget – the sayings spoken beforehand by the Apostles of the Lord Jesus.
Remember how they warned you that false teachers and mockers would arise in the last times, walking according to their own sinful desires. The Holy Spirit said through the Apostle Peter (2 Peter 3:3-4):
3 knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, 4 and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.”
If we are in the Word and remember God’s Warnings and Promises, we will be equipped to recognize and turn from false teachers and teachings. If we are distracted from the Word of God or imagine that we know what we need to know, the opposite will be true. If we continue in the Word of God then our life with God and our faith in Him will be maintained, 20-21):
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.
We might think of ourselves as an unfinished but ongoing building project. God has planted the seed of faith in our hearts and made us spiritually alive. He continues to strengthen our faith through His Word and through the Sacrament of the Altar. He has given us the Holy Spirit and expects our faith to mature and to begin to bear fruit that glorifies Him.
God the Holy Spirit calls upon us to do what we can to keep building up and building upon our faith in Jesus. We are to pray in connection with the Holy Spirit, so that we are kept in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ when He comes again in glory and receives us to eternal life. We have a real future ahead of us if we remain in Christ.
We are not only to think upon ourselves, but also to have compassion on those who fall into sin.
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.
Our Savior God would have every human being to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. Yes, that even includes our enemies, false teachers and those who fall into the gravest of sins. Still, as we reach out a hand to help some of them, we are to watch out for ourselves lest we also be tempted to sin, as it is written (Galatians 6;1-2):
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.
We are to have mercy, while at the same time being repulsed by the clothing and trappings of sin.
Fighting the Good Fight…Jude helps us to see that means…
Ø …recognizing that there is truth and falsehood and knowing the Scriptures to recognize the difference.
Ø …watching out for false teachers and recognizing them by their words and by their actions.
Ø …taking up the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God, to daily do battle with Satan and our sinful natures.
Ø …building up our faith so that we are equipped to help those who stumble without stumbling ourselves.
May God help us to be on our guard and at work strengthening our faith to that end.