Hi everyone. My name is Josh Pollard. I’m the adult ministries Pastor here at Renovation Church.
Did you know that according to surveys, people love to hear the results of surveys, so I want to tell you about one I read the other day that was conducted by a well-respected Christian organization called Ligonier Ministries where they asked people who said they were Christians if they believed in various statements as true. From that survey they released an analysis of the top 5 unbiblical, non-Christian beliefs, that these Christians believe. Here are the results:
Put up Slide with Survey Results
57% of them said that they believed people aren’t sinful by nature
56% of believed “God accepts the worship of all religions.”
73% believed that Jesus was created by God
60% believe that the Holy Spirit is a force but not a person
And 43% said that “Jesus was a great teacher, but he was not God.”
It’s surveys like this indicate the reality of the state of the Church in America. All five of those are points I mentioned are the opposites of central beliefs of Biblical Christianity and yet so many people in our churches have lost sight of what the book of Jude calls, in verse 3, the “Faith, once for all, entrusted to God’s holy people”, and it’s our job as believers to contend for that faith, especially when it means contending with one another. Which is why our study of the book of Jude is so important.
Now, if you are new to the faith and still in the stage of diving into what it is the Bible says and what it means to be a Christian and you are eager to understand God’s truth, you may not have encountered some of the things I mentioned from the survey. If that’s you, new but eager to learn, then hear this as encouragement to be persistent and grow in the “faith, once for all, entrusted to you.”
That being said, the people that are addressed in the book of Jude are not young in their faith. They are participating in and benefiting from Christian community, but they are not living in a Christ-like manner. And the people in that Christian community have been ignoring or excusing their sin, or perhaps not able to recognize their true Character because they seemed spiritual. I pray that one result of our church studying this book is that we will all seriously reflect on if our lives demonstrate our belief or if they demonstrate our actually unbelief.
We’ll be in Verses 12-16, which you can find on Pages 836 in the Bibles under your chairs.
Today we get to a section of the letter where Jude describes the effect that these people who say they are Christians but actively reject Christ’s authority have on the community of true believers.
Now before we get into today’s topic, let’s pray
We’ll start in Verse 12
12 These people are blemishes at your love feasts, eating with you without the slightest qualm—shepherds who feed only themselves.
A love feast was what they called the gathering of the believers where they would care for each other and eat together and take communion together. They were much more then just a meal. The focus of these gatherings was to build each other up in love. If anything really set the early church apart it was these meals where all the local disciples from a town would gather together. The rich, the poor, the Jew, the gentile, men, women, young, old, everyone. And they would all come together with the understanding that they were all children of God together.
They would eat together, they would encourage each other to live Godly Lives, or as Hebrew 10 says it, they would meet together to “spur on another on to love and good deeds.” I hope that sounds familiar because these love feasts were basically like our house groups. It’s part of why see House Groups to be so essential to how a church should gather in these smaller groups at times. But don’t worry, we don’t’ have any plans to change the name of House Groups to Love Feasts because these days that might not sound right…
And this deep mark of Love for each other in the church is because of Jesus’ teachings. In John 13:34-35 He says “34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
So one thing we must keep in mind as we study this passage is the love we have for one another as a church, both in large Sunday Gatherings and in smaller gathering during the week, it’s not just an added bonus, but it’s a command from our Lord and our identifying marker in the world.
But here in verse 12 Jude is warning us about these people who do not have a self-sacrificial love for the other people in the church – they don’t love the way Christ loved. In fact he says that "they are blemishes on our love feasts”. The Greek word for Blemishes here is translated in most other English Translations as “Hidden reefs” or “sunken rocks”. The word is “spilades” in Greek – like palates with an S – which makes since because I did a Palates video once with my wife and it felt like I was being dragged over some hidden reefs – it was a trap I think...
Which is really what Jude is warning us here about, these people may look like normal waters but they have the potential for absolute disaster and can sink the entire boat of Christian love in a community if we are not careful.
They do it from two directions. First, they do it by twisting our understanding of the Gospel.
2 Ways False Believers Harm Christian Community:
1. By Twisting the Gospel (Rootless)
v. 12 says “They are clouds without rain, blown along by the wind; autumn trees, without fruit and uprooted—twice dead. 13 They are wild waves of the sea, foaming up their shame; wandering stars, for whom blackest darkness has been reserved forever.
Man, they used to insult people with such eloquence back in the day, didn’t they? It’s a lost art really. All of these metaphor give a since of wild chaos. And if you read through scripture you’ll see that our God is not a god of Chaos. He is a God of Freedom, who is unbound and free to do what he wants, but he is not chaotic at all. No he is Clear and he is intentional and he is orderly.
But Jude says these people that don’t know him are Clouds without rain, blown along by the winds– so they look promising but they are not helpful and they go wherever they are pushed, constantly changing their shape as they go.
He says they are waves of the sea, foaming up their own shame – so they make a big show, they sound powerful and they are constant and relentless, but are really just showing off their shame,
He says that they wandering stars, for whom the blackest darkness has been reserves – so they are not steady, they do not have a goal, they are not guided, but they just wander aimlessly and will wander forever, and they are alone.
And he calls these Gospel Twister trees that are uprooted. And the only things we can be rooted in in order to not twist the Gospel is God’s word. But these rootless people, who are in the right place (they are in Church, they are in House groups) and look like a tree, have no connection to the source of life.
Remember that this whole book is about people that hear about God’s great love, say they embrace that love, and then use his generosity as an excuse from holy living. And so they live a rootless life – adrift at in the sea of culture, floating through life wherever the wind blows, wandering in perpetual darkness.
Jude doesn’t want that for any of us. He wants us to have deep roots in God’s truth so that we are stable, and alive, and useful, and not wandering in the darkness. And we get that from being in God’s word because the Bible is a lamp of Truth in the Darkness. Jude understands that the trust in Christ gives us the freedom to follow God, not freedom from obligation to God. The saved person can say with Psalm 119:45 “I will walk in freedom, for I have devoted myself to your commandments, oh Lord!”
But these Rootless Trees, these Gospel Twisters, have always been around. In fact, in the 1930s and 40s, there was a German pastor named Dietrick Bonhoeffer, who saw a twisting of the Gospel that had snuck into the churches in Germany in the early part of the 1900s that is really similar to what Jude is talking about and Bonhoeffer called it “Cheap Grace”. He saw that this Cheap Grace was playing a huge roll in decaying what had once been a strong Christian history of Germany, Home of the Great Reformation, into the culture that could cultivate nazi ideology. Cheap Grace is that misunderstanding of God’s grace that says “if I just come to church, and be good, or even raise my hand or come down to the front or even get baptized then that’s it, I can live my life how I want because of God’s great love. I’ve got my ticket to heaven, call me when the train gets here” and they ignore that when Christ calls someone, he’s calling them to come die to themselves.
Sadly it’s still around and is as common and infectious to Christian Churches as a runny nose is in a preschool. It plagues the American Church and must be something that we ruthlessly watch out for in one another – that we contend against.
Becuase when this Cheap Grace infects a church it creates a group of so called Christians that have no sacrificial love for one another, if they even know one another, no sacrificial love for the greater community, no hatred of their sin, no fear of the Lord, and honestly no salvation because that is all evidence that they have not been reborn. True Salvation is free and has a profound transforming effect. Cheap Grace is free but leaves you just as it found you, unsaved and unchanged.
Cheap Grace infects churches in one main way – their people are not rooted in the scriptures. Even churches that have really solid preaching, and vibrant fellowship, and awe-inspiring worship, are susceptible to shipwreck on the hidden reefs of cheap grace if their people are not rooted in the scriptures.
If you are not rooted to God’s word, If you are not regularly reading the Bible in a meaningful way, then you are in danger of twisting God’s grace into cheap grace because only in regular Bible study can you get a more complete explanation of what a life saved by God looks like. That’s why for new Christians it is so important to establish a habit of Bible reading. It helps you start to understand who God is, and who he has created you to be. But it also teaches you how to be on the lookout and recognize false versions of the gospel. Lies. When you are rooted in God’s word and you are contending for the faith, you will go from saying I don’t agree with that, to that’s not Biblical. And you start to look at your own life and start to tell yourself, “hey, self, this part of your life, maybe I used to prefer it, maybe all my friends prefer it, maybe society cheers it on, but it is not biblical, and so I will set myself against that.”
Someone that has fallen for a Christianity of Cheap Grace will say “Self, I see the Bible says that, but I prefer this, and Jesus won’t mind because he loves me.” Or at times, “Self I see that the Bible seems to say that, so let me twist it to make it mean what I prefer.” “What’s really scary, is that some of these investors in Cheap Grace actually believe that the Bible is a book of suggestions that ultimately are rendered inconsequential by Jesus’ love. They are staking their eternal destiny on the flimsy theology that God won’t hold to the words He put in the Bible.”
And if you believe you are saved, but you reject what you read in scripture then you are rootless and may be endangering yourself with a false gospel and endangering your community like a hidden reef. And I beg you to repent of that way of thinking quickly because it does not lead to eternal life in Christ, it leads to shipwreck and pain for yourself and the people around you.
Now the second way that these people can potentially sink Christian community is through their actions. Since they are rootless, they are also fruitless, as verse 12 calls them “autumn trees, without fruit and uprooted – twice dead.” No connection to the source of life, and producing no new life for the future.
2 Ways False Believers Harm Christian Community:
1. By Twisting the Gospel (Rootless)
2. By Their Actions (Fruitless)
My wife and I are going to plant some fruit trees in our yard this week and we’ve been waiting to hear that our local nursery has got in their supply of really reliable fruit trees. Now we could have just gone to any giant store and got an apple tree and a plum tree and it would have cost a lot less and been faster then waiting for trees that we are confident will give us good batches of fruit each year. But the whole point of having a fruit tree, is the fruit, right? I want to be confident that I have a healthy tree so that I get good fruit.
Well when it comes to the loving community of Christians, actually having that love for each other is kind of the point – it’s the fruit. But if we hop down to v.16 we can see the actions of these people that come out of a rootless heart. He says “These people are grumblers and fault finders; they follow their own evil desires; they boast about themselves and flatter others for their own advantage”. The person without God is easily identifiable because they live constantly self-seeking lives, to get their own ways, their own pleasure, their own desires. To live their truth, their best life.
But be aware, yes they grumble and complain, but maybe softly, in the corner with friends. It says they flatter other people and they boast, so they maybe they are charismatic and impressive. The follow their own evil desires so maybe they are hardworking and driven. We need to make sure we don’t judge spiritual Fruit with Worldly eyes. So they might be really likable, but in the end it’s always for their own gain. They have no life-giving fruit that is for the primary benefit of others so they are a hidden reef that trips up the gathering of Christian believers. Because when you have these people in your house groups and gatherings, they end up tripping everyone else up because they are only thinking about themselves…and who will pour into THEM, and how the group needs to change for THEM, and how the group needs to look more like THEM, and how they can even use other people there to help THEM. Always looking for their own advantage.
But when we love each other sacrificially, putting other’s needs before our own, treating them as more important than ourselves, the way Jesus loved us we start to become more like him and it gives life to our community. Compare the description of these people in Jude to the description of a believer in Galatians 5:22-23 where it says “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” Can you see how different those are?
Now, again I want to point out that there is a difference between being new in your Christian walk where you are just still learning to be this new person, and a person that still lives a self focused life but you aren’t new at all yet. And the main difference in humility. Back up In verse 12 it says that these false believers are shepherds who feed only themselves. Which gives us a great image of their selfishness that we find in the rest of the passage. But this phrase in the original Greek can more literally be translation as “sheepherding themselves”. Which again shows the heart of these people to not submit themselves, first to the protection and leadership or our Lead Shepherd, Jesus, but then also not coming under the teaching of the Elders of a healthy church. Instead they say, I know the pastor said this, but I’m going to do this. I know the Bible says this, but I’m going to do this. A true believe that is just young in there walk is eager to get that instruction from wise people that have walked the path before hand and know more about living in this new way of life. A false believer scoffs at their guide, their loving brother or sister, and worst of all, at God’s word. Instead of seeking out a safe and wise shepherd, they insist on sheepherding themselves.
And in the end, they will have no lasting spiritual fruit that helps themselves, or anyone else, or glorifies Gods. The truth is that when you insist on sheepherding yourself in life, you don’t have any real shepherd at all and will wind up no better off then you were when you started. Jesus says it like this Matthew 15:13 “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be pulled up by the roots. 14 Leave them; they are blind guides. If the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit.”
Jude solidifies this warning with that a quote from Enoch which we can read if we hop back up to verse 14., He says that “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.” Now this is quite an interesting passage because many people think Jude might be quoting from a Jewish test not included in the Bible called the book of 1st Enock, which leads to a lot of questions that would take us down a study for a different day. Pastor David went more into depth on that topic in last week’s house groups video so I won’t talk much about the theories on that today but let me just say that wherever Jude is quoting Enoch from, he’s doing it to tell us something in this passage about These People that is really important, and agrees with so many other places in scripture that the message is quite clear.
Living an ungodly life – that is a life without a reverent fear and trusting love of God - will end in judgement. Ungodly acts come from beings ungodly in your heart. And there is no middle ground. If you are ungodly, without God, then you are against him. And He will bring judgment against that who are against him.
The truth is we were all born godless, maybe it was a very active rebellion or a painful road for you or maybe it just felt more like a neutral stance but the truth is we are all start as ungodly people. But the Good News is as Romans 5 teaches us that “at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.”
You see the true gospel is not cheap grace, but it is a costly grace - It cost the life of the Son of God. And that is so high a value that it must radically change your life if you come into possession of it. It’s like when Jesus compares his kingdom to a treasure that a man stumbled upon in a field and went and sold everything he had to buy that field. He sold everything! Everything about his life after buying the field was different then his life before buying the field. It cost him everything he had before, everything he was before, but he knew that it was so worth it that he couldn’t hesitate for a moment and he couldn’t keep anything back, or he wouldn’t get it.
Dietrick Bonhoeffer, the German Pastor I mentioned earlier, says it like this: “Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a [you your] life, and it is grace because it gives [you] the only true life. It is costly because it condemns sin, and grace because it justifies the sinner”
And if you are ready to put your life at his feet so he can set you free from sin, and begin teaching you how to be the person that he created you to be… If you are ready to cast off the cheap grace, the rootless life that you have been living… If you are ready to sell everything you have and buy this field, then during this last song I want you to leave your seat and come meet me in the lobby and we’ll talk about how we can help you join the walk that we are on.
Copyright: Josh Pollard
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN
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