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Contending for the Faith

Contending for the Faith
14th September 2014

Contending for the Faith

Passage: Jude 1

Bible Text: Jude 1 | Speaker: Clayton Fopp | Series: A Big God in Small Letters | Contending for the Faith

You’re at war
This past June, you’ll remember, the world commemorated the 100th anniversary of the events that lit the fuse of World War 1.  On June 28, 1914, Archduke Ferdinand and his wife Sophie were assassinated. The European powers, were then drawn into “the war to end all wars”, and Australia, because of our ties to Britain, was drawn in as well.  My early education about this part of world history came from a book my parents owned called “The Vegemight History of Australia.”
It appeared to be just like any other history textbook, until you took a closer look, when you realised it was humorous parody of history, based on stereotypes of Australians and other nationalities.
Our entry into World War 1, for example, is said to have been in response to a telegram from Buckingham Palace, to Parliament House in Canberra that read, in stereotypical British understatement:
“Archduke shot.
Are having war.
Do come!”
So let’s hope that’s not actually how it came about, but as I read through this letter of Jude, I couldn’t help but think of that imaginary telegram, “Are having war. Do come.” Because this short message, not from Buckingham Palace to Parliament House, from a leader in the early church to a group of Christians, is remarkably similar, but with one slight difference.
Jude isn’t an invitation to Christian people to join in a conflict.
Jude is a warning to Christians that they are in a conflict.
It’s not do come, but, you’re already here”
Now, I imagine that most of us probably don’t like conflict,
Don’t like talking about conflict,
But I imagine there’s one thing less pleasant than being told we’re in the midst of a conflict, and that’s to be, in the middle of a conflict, and not know it.
And so that’s Jude’s purpose in writing;,
To teach, to remind his readers, that they’re in a battle, and so they need to act like they’re in a battle.
“Are having war,
Do keep fighting”
Who’s Who in Jude? 
So let’s start with a quick look at who’s who.
Jude a servant of Jesus Christ and a brother of James, verse 1, to those who have been called,
who are loved in God the Father,
and kept for Jesus Christ:
Notice the description:, a servant of Jesus Christ and a brother of James. There was only one James in the early church who was well-known enough, to be mentioned just by name, with no other detail, and that’s James who was Jesus’ brother.
James who wrote the letter of James in our New Testament.
Jude is James’ brother, which means this is the same Jude who was also Jesus’ brother.
If I was writing this letter, I’d begin, “Jude, brother of the Messiah! Room mate of the king of the universe!”
But Jude doesn’t, his primary description of himself is in terms that apply to every Christian who has ever lived;, a servant of Jesus Christ.
This letter has been described as “the most neglected book in the New Testament”, and it’s not too hard to see why! But I know someone who preached a series of 6 sermons from these 25 verses, and I can see why you’d do that too!
Because even in just the very first verse, look at how much we’re told about the identity of the recipients, the identity of Christian people.
Not only are all Christians servants, literally slaves, of Jesus Christ, Christian people are also
those who have been called,
who are loved in God the Father,
and kept for Jesus Christ:
If you’re a Christian person here this morning, I don’t know whether that’s how you think about yourself, but that’s who you are!
Called, effectually called, not just invited, but brought to faith in Christ through the call of God,
Loved in God the Father, loved by God, made his own,
and kept for Jesus Christ, a continuous, ongoing preservation, amidst the conflict that we’re, reminding us of the future that is ours in Christ
I’ve you’ve ever wondered, “what does God see when he looks at me?”
Here’s your answer:
And if you’re not a Christian, but you’re here today because you’re trying to work out, “What is a Christian?”
Well, here’s an answer! It’s not the full picture, but it’s a good picture.
A Christian is someone who responds to God’s call to trust in Jesus, and live with him as Lord,
Someone whom God loves,
And a person who has the assurance, of being kept, preserved, protected, until their salvation is made complete.
Contend for the faith (v 3)
We don’t, however, have 6 sermons, to spend in this letter, we have one, so let’s get a move on!
This isn’t actually the letter that Jude wanted to write, is it? I’m sure you noticed that in verse 3,
Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt compelled to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to God’s holy people.
Dear friends, is literally “beloved.”
These people are loved in God, remember. Jude sees his recipients, exactly the way that God does.
I have a T-shirt, that was given to me, by another one of the Trinity Network Staff, and it says “God loves you, but I’m his favourite”! There is almost nowhere I can wear that shirt!
But Jude would have a T shirt that says “God loves you, and so do I”!
He loves these people to whom he’s writing.
It’s because he loves them, that he’s thrown out the letter he wanted to write, and instead urges them, to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to God’s holy people.
Are having war.
Contend for the faith.
To contend means to defend,
To struggle for,
To fight, It was the word for describing what went on in the Roman stadium.

You want to know what kind of fight Jude thinks that Christians are in?, then go and watch Russell Crowe in Gladiator, and you’ll get some idea.
Christian people must uphold the truth of the faith, in a struggle that will be ongoing, painful, and costly.
But notice Jude doesn’t say, “contend for your preferences, ”
“Contend for the way of doing church that you like, and I like, and that is comfortable for us”,
No, he says, the ongoing, painful, costly fight for Christian people, will be to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to God’s holy people.
The message of Christianity isn’t up for debate
This is a battle over the content of the Christian message.
And it’s a battle that every Christian must take their place in.
The faith, the message of Christianity is not up for debate. And I don’t mean we can’t discuss the Christian faith with people who have questions,
Or who don’t believe it, I mean that Jude is saying that we don’t decide on what’s in the Christian message.
I had a cartoon on my desk once, of a church members meeting, and the pastor was reminding all the people, “Remember, it takes a 2 thirds majority to overturn the will of God!”
We don’t decide, what the Christian message is, which bits are in, and which bits are out.
The good news of forgiveness, and justification, and reconciliation, through Jesus’ death on the cross, what it is to live as a servant of Jesus Christ, verse 1, this is a complete message that requires nothing to be added to it or subtracted from it.
And so to contend for the faith is to take a stand,
To battle,
To struggle,
To fight,
Against those who would seek to change it.
Those who say the message of Christianity needs updating,
That the Bible might give us a good starting point, but that then we’re free to take out or put in, whatever we like.
Do you remember Mr Squiggle? I think he was Australia’s longest running kid’s TV show. For those of you who grew up in other countries, children would send in a squiggle they’d drawn, on paper, and then this marionette puppet with a pencil for a nose, would start with their squiggle and transform it into some work of art!
God’s revelation of himself and his purposes, entrusted to the Apostles, and by the time we come along, preserved in the Scriptures, isn’t just a squiggle, a beginning, that we adapt and transform, until we’ve got a piece of work that we think works.
No, the Christian faith was once for all, entrusted to God’s holy people.
The message that we have in our Bible, is the the message for all people, at all times.
It’s one of the reasons we say the historic creeds, when we gather on Sundays. These words written centuries ago, remind us that to be a Christian, is to stand in a long line of other who have believed the same, and have passed their faith onto us.
There is no need,
No requirement,
No possibility even, to “update” the Christian message.
It was given once for all, and isn’t up for debate
There will be false teachers (v 4 & v 17 – 19)
But Jude knows he needs to urge his readers to contend for the faith, because there will always be, false teachers in the church.
See down in verse 18, In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires
And it’s happening now for Jude’s readers.
Verse 4, For certain individuals, whose condemnation was written about long ago, have secretly slipped in among you. They are ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord.
These people it seems weren’t originally part of the church to whom Jude is writing, but they secretly slipped in among you.
There’s secrecy, deception. They presented themselves as messengers of the truth, but in fact they have perverted the gospel.
I came across a video of me preaching here, in our early days, and I watched a bit of it, because I was intrigued that I looked so young! It was from 1 John, and in the bit I saw, I was making the point that false teachers don’t come with name badges, that identify them as such!
“Hi, I’m Fred, I’m a false teacher!”
They pass themselves off as true believers,
They’re inside the church. Verse 12, These people are blemishes at your love feasts, eating with you.
But there’s no name badge that says “false teacher.”
We absolutely have to know, we’re in this battle.
We have to be on guard.
Are having war,
Contend for the faith.
And Jude will tell us in a moment, exactly how to go about that.
A distorted message leads to a polluted lifestyle
But these false teachers, have said that because of grace,
Because of God’s forgiveness, you could do whatever you liked!
A license for immorality as Jude calls it.
See there in verse 8, on the strength of their dreams, these ungodly people pollute their own bodies, reject authority, and heap abuse on celestial beings
We know about pollution, don’t we?
The World Meteorological Organisation released a report this week about carbon dioxide pollution in our oceans.
Pollution is when something is spoiled by something that doesn’t belong.
And when these people re­-define the Christian message,
When they make it all about forgiveness, and not about holiness,
When they throw off the Lordship of Jesus, rejecting his authority, the sexual sin that follows pollutes the body, with things for which it’s not intended.
They might still say “Jesus is Lord”, but they live, as if he is not.
They live as if they are Lord,
Their motto is “if it feels good, do it”, as we learned from The Simpsons!
And all of this comes about, on the strength of revelation they claim to have received from God. on the strength of their dreams, these ungodly people pollute their own bodies,
“God told me, it’s OK.
God says I deserved to be happy”,
I have had Christian people say to my face, “God told me, to walk out of my marriage,
God told me, to run off with this co-worker,
God told me, it was OK to engage in this adulterous affair,
I was given a prophecy, I had a word from the Lord,
What you call sin, is not sin,
What the Bible calls sin is not sin, well, not for me, anyway, because God told me.”
If you hear that, and I’m sure you will, if you have not already, you know what you’re answer needs to be, don’t you? Jude’s answer:
No, he did not!
God did not tell you that!
to pervert the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord, is not from God, it is ungodly.
There will be false teachers, and their distorted message will lead to a polluted lifestyle.
Are you ready?
Are having war.
Contend for the faith.
But don’t panic. Their judgment is assured
But Jude doesn’t want us to panic.
“Don’t Panic!”, remember that advice from the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy? Arthur C Clarke, said that that might be the best advice ever given to humanity!
I don’t know about that! But it is great advice for Christian people who find themselves contending for the faith,
When you, friend, come face to face with someone claims to be Christians, but who promotes a non-Christian gospel, and advocates a non-Christian lifestyle, “Don’t panic!”
“Be alert, but not alarmed”! There’s lots of ways we could say it!
Jude’s point is, this shouldn’t come as a surprise,
Don’t be caught off guard, like this were something new,
And don’t imagine for a moment, that these people will escape the consequences, of their falsehood and immorality.
Don’t panic. Their judgment is assured
The bulk of this letter, is a journey through the Old Testament, and through Jewish inter-testamental literature, that is, writings from the time between the Old Testament and the New Testament, Jude takes his readers through all these examples, with which they’re obviously familiar, and he shows that those who reject God’s message,
Those who set themselves up as Lord, in rebellion against God’s king as Lord,
Those who treat God’s free gift of forgiveness as an excuse to indulge in whatever depravity you desire, because, well, God will forgive you anyway,
Those who reject God’s grace like this, and teach others to do the same, will be judged, for their rejection of God.
Example after example from Jewish history, of how others who did the same thing, found themselves under God’s judgment.
the angels who did not keep their positions of authority and so on, is a reference to an incident recorded in Genesis 6, but to which Jewish tradition added a vast amount of other details, some of which were found in a writing called 1 Enoch.
Jude quotes this non-biblical source, simply to say, “whoever refuses to acknowledge the boundaries that God has established, will face God’s judgment. Human or angel, it doesn’t matter!
We probably have all kinds of questions about these stories, Where is this darkness?
What are these everlasting chains?
It’s a metaphor, a word picture, that captures something of the reality of judgment.
We’re not supposed to be able to trace all the details.
You can’t have darkness, and fire in the same place, can you?!
As soon as you have fire, you no longer have darkness!
Don’t get caught in the detail of the image,
But don’t miss the message of the image.
Their judgment is assured.
And he makes the same point, from another Jewish writing, in verse 9, which I happily consider to be the most obscure verse in the entire Bible!
even the archangel Michael, when he was disputing with the devil about the body of Moses, did not himself dare to condemn him for slander, but said, “The Lord rebuke you!”
The Jewish book is called The Assumption Moses, and in the story, the devil is slandering Moses after his death. The archangel Michael would have been entirely justified to condemn the devil, he was speak falsehood, but Michael didn’t.
Jude’s point is, the angel would have been entirely justified to accuse the devil, but he didn’t.
The false teachers, have no grounds for their accusations, and yet
, verse 10 these people slander whatever they do not understand, and the very things they do understand by instinct—as irrational animals do—will destroy them.
They have no qualms doing things that even the angels baulk at.
Their judgment is assured.
We don’t need to look at each episode from history, it’s all just piling up the same evidence.
Their judgment is assured.
Let me just say quickly, don’t be troubled by the fact that Jude quotes these outside sources to make his point. Those books aren’t
inspired by God, like the Bible is, but that doesn’t mean they don’t capture some truth.
The Apostle Paul quotes from Greek poets and Cretan philosophers, and really, Jude quotes Enoch, like we might quote C S Lewis, or Bob Dylan. Lewis was writing fiction, and yet he can capture something of what the Bible says.
We don’t think Bob Dylan is inspired by the Holy Spirit, well, I don’t, and yet when he sings, you’re gonna have to serve somebody
, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord, you think “yeah, he’s put his finger right on it.”
Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Jude picks up these words to say, “Don’t panic. Their judgment is assured”
Later on, in verses 14 and 15, Jude quotes from that book of 1 Enoch, See, the Lord is coming with thousands upon thousands of his holy ones 15 to judge everyone, and to convict all of them of all the ungodly acts they have committed in their ungodliness, and of all the defiant words ungodly sinners have spoken against him
That’s pretty confronting, isn’t it?
Unpalatable for those who don’t like the idea that we will be called to account for our actions,
For the way we’ve lived in the world that God’s made,
And for our response to God and his chosen king.
This isn’t a message that goes down easily today.
But clearly Jude doesn’t want to leave any doubt in his readers’ minds, about who actually has the upper hand.
Some of you, I know, have done this. Contended for the faith.
And we’ll see in a moment, in the last verses, exactly what this looks like, but some of you have engaged in the ongoing, painful, costly struggle for the truth of the gospel.
You’ve stood up for the truth,
You’ve defended the authority of the Bible,
You’ve spoken up for the wisdom and appropriateness of God’s pattern for life, and relationships, and sexuality, for example.
You’ve contended for the faith in private conversations,
You’ve done it in workplaces,
Among families,
In the public sphere,
And you’ve done it in churches,
And you’ve been condemned, accused, and mistreated because of it. I know that because you’ve told me, and in some cases I witnessed it myself.
It seems, at times, that these people, shepherds who feed only themselves, verse 12, clouds without rain, blown along by the wind;, autumn trees, without fruit and uprooted
It can seem like they get away with it!
And so Jude wants to assure his readers, and in God’s kindness in preserving this letter, he assures us, that those who reject the historic Christian faith,
And deny Jesus,
And pursue profit at the expense of truth, verse 11,
They will not triumph.
Their judgment is assured.
Their efforts, while looking so successful now, will ultimately fail.
How to contend for the faith (v20 – 23)
So far Jude’s told us “contend for the faith”,
He’s said, “here’s why you need to, because of false teachers”,
He’s said “Don’t panic, because their judgment is assured”,
And now he gets to, “here’s what to do,
Here’s how you contend for the faith.”
Verse 20. Build, yourselves up in your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, 21 keep yourselves in God’s love, as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life.
There is an application that’s not here, that I would expect!!
“Kick the false teachers out!”
That would be my first instruction! Get rid of them!
But that’s not what Jude says, is it?
We’ve already seen how slippery false teachers are, and he’s just told in verse 18 that there will always be people like this around.
Do you see the point? There will be false teachers.
You can’t round them up and get rid of them forever,
What a Christian needs to know, is how to persevere, how to contend for the faith, in a context where there are false teachers, because that’s the context we’ll be in, in these last times, until Christ returns.
And so the key instruction, is keep yourselves in God’s love.
Remember the identity of a Christian? Someone who is loved in God. Jude’s instruction is “be what you are.”
And there are 3 ways to do this, in the battlefield of contending for the faith.
Firstly, building yourselves up in your most holy faith.
Notice the plurals. It’s not build yourself up, but a command to the church, build yourselves up.
In an era when false teachers will secretly slip in among God’s people, everyone is charged with the responsibility, of building up the church.
It is, as it sounds, a construction metaphor. It has the sense of building an edifice, which is where we get our term edify, to build up.
You, me, all of us, have a responsibility, to build others up, in the faith. That is to use the faith, the content of the Christian message, to grow others in their identity, as those called, loved, and kept.
When we first started our church, this whole part of the school was a building site, so on Sundays we had to move fences, and dismantle gates to get access to the gym.
It was a pain in the neck! But now I look back and think what a great reminder, that this here is a building site!, that we are all engaged in the work of building each other up,
If you have a hard hat or a hi-vis vest, feel free to wear it to church next week, as a sign of your commitment to building others up in their faith.
Of course, if you’re going to build others up in the faith, in the content of the gospel, we need to be thoroughly immersed in it, don’t we?
In preparation for my study leave, I was reading up about passports, not wanting to turn up to the Cathedral in Kuala Lumpur because I’m languishing in a Malaysian Immigration detention centre somewhere! But the article I read had a picture of an immigration official, sitting in front of a wall of genuine passports from around the world.
The best way to identify a fake passport, when it turns up, is through studying the genuine article.
How could we possibly contend for the faith, and build our brothers and sisters up in their faith, if we’re not familiar with, well-versed in, immersed in, the genuine article, the faith once for all entrusted to God’s holy people, and passed down to us in the Scriptures?
Do you want to protect yourself against false teaching,
Recognise it when it comes,
And flee the immorality that follows when people cheapen grace, and elevate themselves into God’s place?
Then make sure you are being built up, in your most holy faith
Part 2 of keeping yourselves in God’s love, contending for the faith, is praying in the Holy Spirit. Here’s the contrast to those who claim to be spiritual, but don’t in fact have the Spirit of God dwelling in them.
And Jude doesn’t mean praying in tongues or anything like that, he just means that Christian people, are able to pray, like no one else can.
The Apostle Paul says the Spirit takes our feeble prayers, presents them to God, enables us to call God our Father.
And part 3 of contending for the faith, and keeping ourselves in God’s love, is waiting, to wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring us to eternal life.
See our focus always needs to be future.
The person who thinks that everything that can be ours in Christ, we already possess, will take their eyes of the prize of eternal life on that last day.
keep yourselves in God’s love
And the outward focus, of contending for the faith, continues in verses 22 and 23, Be merciful to those who doubt;,
 23 save others by snatching them from the fire;,
to others show mercy, mixed with fear—hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh
Perhaps in Jude’s mind, those who doubt, are people in the church who can’t work out, who’s got it right, these false teachers, or the others.
But we probably can’t tie it down to just that.
Lots of people doubt.
Lots of Christians doubt.
Christians doubt their salvation,
They doubt the Bible,
They doubt God’s goodness,
They doubt all kinds of things.
The solution is not to come out, all guns blazing!
The American author, Madeleine L’Engle, wrote before she died in 2007, “We draw people to Christ not by loudly discrediting what they believe, by telling them how wrong they are and how right we are, but by showing them a light that is so lovely that they want with all their hearts to know the source of it.”
Be merciful to those who doubt;
Of course, Mercy isn’t saying, “you have doubts, that’s OK, you don’t need to wrestle with any of this, just believe what you want and that’s OK.”
And the proof of that, is that some people, need to be snatched from the fire;,
Here are people who have moved on from doubting, and have now embraced the falsehood being taught.
Notice, friends, there’s absolutely no question, about our responsibility, for people we know, who follow falsehood,
Who abuse God’s grace, and think they can sin, and sin, and sin, and it just, doesn’t, matter.
Do you know people, I’m sure you do, who have embraced a false gospel, that they hear in the preachers they watch on TV,
Through the so-called Christian events they go to,
And through the books they read?
Hear the Scripture’s command: save them, by snatching them from the fire.
Do you know people, and I’m sure you do, who think that their sin doesn’t matter before God?,
Who have perverted grace, so they can indulge in sexual sin, having convinced themselves, that it’s OK.
Hear the Scripture’s command: save them, by snatching them from the fire.
Do you know people, and I’m sure you do, who deny Jesus as Lord, not in their words, but in their actions?
People who refuse to submit their career,
Their finances,
Their aspirations,
Their desire for relationship, to Jesus’ Lordship.
Who insist, “I’m in control, and I will decide what’s good for me.”
Hear the Scripture’s command: save them, by snatching them from the fire.
And to others, perhaps not actually a completely separate group, but Jude’s way of showing us how to go about this, he says, to others show mercy, mixed with fear
If all we have our minds on is mercy, well, we may forget the seriousness of what’s at stake for people,
And we ourselves may even get drawn into their sin.
No, we need a right fear of sin, an awareness of the danger, for the person we’re seeking to snatch away from danger, and for ourselves.
Contend for the faith.
So what do we learn?
There’s no such thing as a private faith, is there?
You are your brother’s keeper.
You are your sister’s keeper.
Not that we’re responsible for the salvation of others, but contending for the faith once for all entrusted to God’s holy people, means we have a responsibility to each other.
We cannot escape it!
Jude will not let us!
My question is, are the people around you worth it?
Just surreptitiously glance at them!
Are they worth it?
Where did we begin?
loved in God the Father,
kept for Jesus Christ
Are they worth it?
God certainly thinks so!