Welcome to Part Three of our in-depth study of the book of Jude. We've covered Jude's call to vigilance (in Part One) and his call to discernment (in Part Two) - now, we learn how to respond, how to fight back against the threat of the enemy and the deceptions of "these men."
A study in Jude - part three
Our battle plan
In the beginning of his letter, Jude urgently called the Church to vigilance, because deception was creeping in and going unaddressed. Godless men disguised as believers - wolves in sheep's clothing - were perverting God's grace and denying Christ's mastery in a way that imperiled souls.
Then he told the Church what traits to watch for in order to pick these men out from the crowd: they would be revealed by their disdain for authority, their reckless reliance on feelings above the truth, and their ultimate fruitlessness for the kingdom of God.
This letter is no less important for us today than it was for the churches of Jude's era. It may even be more so, because the wolves we are dealing with now have the ability to take their deception to a far higher platform - a worldwide audience. They are turning the grace of God into licentiousness by misusing sacred words like love, grace, and judgment; they are teaching, more loudly every day, that "it doesn't matter" what you do or what name you use for God or how you choose to identify yourself.
Now we know we must be watchful. We know what to be watching for. But what's the battle plan?
Remember the truth
But you, beloved, ought to remember the words that were spoken beforehand by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ, that they were saying to you, “In the last time there will be mockers, following after their own ungodly lusts.” These are the ones who cause divisions, worldly-minded, devoid of the Spirit.
If we are to have victory in this war, if we are to fight the good fight of the faith in a way that honors our Lord and Master, then a firm knowledge of and reliance on the truth of His Word is a nonnegotiable. If we have that, then we will not be surprised by the brutality of the fight, by the shrewdness of the enemy, or by the vileness of the worldly and Spiritless. We'll see it coming and we'll be able to make ourselves ready.
The truth will also help us to come into the battle from a right perspective, knowing that it is the mockers who cause the divisions, not we who fight back. So many times we back down from the battle in the name of preserving unity, but all we achieve is unification around the wrong thing. Going to war for the truth is not what divides us - the deceivers are already doing that. Yes, the call to war will inevitably divide the disciples from the deceivers, but that is the nature of truth - that's truth doing its job, and we can't be afraid of it.
Remember who you are
But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life.
Jude started his letter with a reminder of our true identities if we are followers of Christ, and he makes it part of his concluding call, too - because this matters. It is vitally important that we remember who we are, and our rightful role in the war.
But you, beloved: Jude just finished describing the mockers as those who are "devoid of the Spirit," and then says the word but. But you, beloved. Some are Spiritless, but we are loved - there is something different about who we are because we are in Christ, and beloved. That is powerful.
Building yourselves up on your most holy faith: Our foundation is faith - but it's not static. We are building on it. If we're good soldiers, we are growing, day in and day out, in our faith - in the ability to see things (including ourselves) the way God says they are, not the way our eyes see them.
Praying in the Holy Spirit: We have a weapon in hand that the Spirit-devoid mockers do not: access to God Himself in prayer. When the war is overwhelming and we are weak, do we remember that we are those with the unique privilege of access to God's throne?
Keep yourselves in the love of God: In verse one, Jude called us "the called, beloved, and kept." Here it is again: We have the opportunity to be kept (watched over, guarded) in God's love. Regardless of what is going on around us, we are safe.
Waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life: I love that phrase "waiting anxiously." In the Greek it communicates not just of waiting, but of expecting, and of opening oneself to eagerly receive. We have already benefited so much from God's grace, but there is more to come - and we are the recipients of mercy as vast as eternity!
We're loved, firmly founded, privileged with God's presence. We are carefully guarded by God's love and we are still waiting for the rest of His mercy to be showered on us. When we remember that this is who we are, and that this is how He has transformed us, we can do battle well - not because we need the affirmation or revel in the bloodshed, but because we see the value of what we have in Christ, and feel honored to contend earnestly for it.
Remember who you were
And have mercy on some, who are doubting; save others, snatching them out of the fire; and on some have mercy with fear, hating even the garment polluted by the flesh.
But we were not always whole in Christ. We were once lost just as these deceivers and their prey are lost, and we don't fight them ruthlessly, but compassionately - because we know what it is to stand exactly where they are. We need to remember who we were, and thereby remember who to look out for:
The doubting: Those who doubt don't need to be bludgeoned by our sense of certainty or self-righteousness, they need our mercy. Doubt is a very desperate place, because it becomes difficult to tell what is true from what is false, and our fears often muddy the waters and leave us feeling alone, unsure, and terrified. As we do battle compassionately, we need to reach out to the doubting not with a stack of Scripture verses to convince them of the truth, but with a mercy that actively demonstrates the truth of God's mercy toward us.
The lost: The lost, meanwhile, need straight-up saving. They are already in hell's clutches and it is imperative that we have the boldness and courage to run into the burning building and rescue them. It's dangerous and it's not pretty, but it is a crisis. These people don't need to be sermonized on how much better their lives will be with Jesus, they need to be snatched from the sinking talons of hell itself!
The unwise: These are the people who play perilously close to the cobra's den. They indulge the flesh and make poor choices, and every day they become more vulnerable and more deeply entrenched in the bondage of sin. Like the doubters, these souls need our mercy - but with fear, which is actually closer to the word "terror," and with a hatred for the flesh. Why? Because they are not the only ones who are tempted by the flesh. We all are. Even we who are new creations carry around the "old man" with us, and if we don't tread carefully as we offer mercy to the unwise, we too can get trapped in its grip. When we try to strip the "garment polluted by the flesh" away from someone else, we must hate it so much - and fear our God even more - that we fling it away before it can defile us, too.
If we want to fight this fight with the compassion it demands, we have to remember where we came from. We need to be able to empathize with the doubting. We need to recognize what's really at stake for the lost. And we need to know ourselves and our weaknesses, so that we don't track the same muck we were saved from back into the Church after trying to pull out someone else.
Remember who our God is
Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.
Finally, and most importantly, Jude's battle plan against deception ends with a simple picture: This is who God is. This is who we have on our side, fighting with us and for us.
He is able. When we don't have the strength to carry on, He can keep us from stumbling and make us stand firm. When we keep screwing up and feel lost in our shame, He still welcomes us into His presence, sees us as blameless, and offers us His joy. When we forget who we are in Him, we can look to who He is, because He is always the same - the only God, our Savior.
To Him be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever.
He will be glorified. He will be King. He will dominate and rule over everything we are battling against - we cannot lose this war, because He is on our side. We need only to contend earnestly for the faith.
Remember the truth. Remember who you are. Remember who you were. And remember who He is.
That's the battle plan. That's the strategy that has already changed the world, and will continue to do so until the day that the King Himself returns to claim the victory.
Are you ready?