And Both Of These Are True - Jude 17-25

On Sunday, Pastor Stacey preached from Jude 17-25. From Jude 17-25 we learned two things:

I. God expects us to keep ourselves in His love…

  • as we avoid the foolishness of those who divide believers.
  • as we nurture the faith of those who know God.

II. We expect God to keep us in His love…

  • as He guards our faith so that we never leave the life given to us by the Spirit.
  • as He protects our righteousness so that we never lose the record given to us by the Son.

You can listen to the sermon or read the sermon notes below.

Sebastián Marroquín grew up in a wealthy Colombian household. He had a loving mother and father. Marroquín describes his father as a very caring man. Because of the vast presence of illegal drugs around their South American home, his father would warn him about their dangers. Sounds like most loving fathers, except that Marroquín’s father was not like most fathers. That’s because his father was Pablo Escobar, one of the most brutal drug lords in history. Escobar was, as his son explains, a man of contradictions: loving father while also a ruthless criminal.

But aren’t all people are filled with contradictions?

For instance, the traits that we complain about in others we often find in ourselves. We criticize materialism while succumbing to it during the Christmas season. We condemn lying while telling half truths when convenient. We denounce anger while lashing out toward our spouses and children. And we would say that those who trust in Jesus should pray, read the Bible, and tell others the gospel; yet we sometimes make little effort to do those things ourselves. Deep down we know that we are filled with contradictions and so unintentionally, we project our ways onto God and the Scriptures.

For example, when we read a passage like Jude 17-25, we naturally assume one of two things: either man is responsible for his actions, therefore God cannot be entirely sovereign, or God is entirely sovereign, therefore the things we do really don’t matter. But Scripture says that man is responsible and God is sovereign. Both are true. And because both are true, we should embrace both, acknowledging that some things are beyond human understanding. God doesn’t contradict himself.

So what does it mean to embrace both of these as true?

On page 6 of your worship guide you’ll see an outline that clarifies these two doctrines.

1. God expects us to keep ourselves in his love

as we avoid the foolishness of those who divide believers. (v.17-19)
as we nurture the faith of those who know God. (v.20-23)
And at the same time:

2. We expect God to keep us in his love

as he guards our faith so that we never leave the life given to us by his Spirit. (v.24a)
as he protects our righteousness so that we never lose the record given to us by his Son. (v.24b-25)
Now first, God expects us to keep ourselves in his love.

Two ways: one, as we avoid the foolishness of those who divide believers.

In verses 17-19, Jude again describes the false teachers who had distorted the meaning and purpose of God’s grace. Now, to again distinguish between grace and mercy. Mercy is not getting what you deserve. Sin deserves punishment. But Jesus took that for us. Grace is getting what you don’t deserve. Righteousness deserves blessing. We are blessed because the righteousness of Jesus is credited to us.

Imagine you check your debit account balance or your credit card balance, and you’ve been credited with more money than you could ever spend. I don’t mean that your credit limit has been increased; I mean that you’ve been credited with money to spend that you never have to pay back. That how grace works. It is unearned favor. Only you’re not credited with money; you’re credited with the perfect life of Jesus, as if it was your own life.

These teachers lived and spoke as if this credit of Jesus’ righteousness had given them a license to sin. To use the analogy, God gave us the money to spend it freely, not just to fail and then be forgiven, but to indulge in sin and revel in it by rejecting the moral law of God.

This belief was going to destroy lives and wreck Christian communities.

Notice verse 17, “But you must remember, beloved, the predictions of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ. [18] They said to you, “In the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions.”

They scoff at, or mock the moral law of God. They scoff at those who instruct believers to turn from sin and pursue holiness. They mock these things openly, boasting that they have freedom. This can actually sound legitimate, because in a sense it’s half right. The person is giving praise to Jesus for what he’s done on the cross, talking about how amazing grace is, praising Jesus that the past doesn’t matter and the future is secure because of his grace. But understand this: false teachers are confusing. They are wolves in sheep’s clothing, therefore they are not always easy to recognize. In Acts 20, the apostle Paul tells the elders of the young church in Ephesus that he must

preach “the gospel (or good news) of the grace of God” and that he “did not shrink back from telling (them) the whole counsel of God.”

In Matthew 5, Jesus said he did not come to do away with the law of God. Any teaching that minimizes the moral statutes of God does not give people the whole gospel. Sadly, some people will recognize this and some won’t.

So notice verse [19], “It is these who cause divisions, worldly people, devoid of the Spirit.”

How do false teachers divide the church? Well, they are teachers who, when corrected by those who uphold God’s moral law, will cry “You can’t judge me; no one can judge me but God. You don’t understand grace. You don’t understand love.” And some believers will fall for this. Especially believers who, for one reason or another, are endeared to the teacher. Some sheep will follow a wolf because it sound honest. It sounds like truth. Really it’s what people want to hear. But if you look at the life of the teacher, perhaps their words from the pulpit or their personal lives, you would see that they are worldly and fine with it. They are “devoid of” or “they don’t have” the Spirit. Of course, they claim that they are the ones who have the Spirit! They claim they are the ones who “get it.”

While in reality, they aren’t born again, they don’t possess the Holy Spirit. And their teaching absolutely ruins people, because of this second way in which God expects us to keep ourselves in his love: as we nurture the faith of those who know God.

Both our own faith and the faith of others. There is a proactive component to the life of someone who follows Jesus. See verse [20], “But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, [21] keep yourselves in the love of God, we don’t do that by willfully indulging in immorality and scoffing at purity.

What you do matters. Obviously, I’m a Presbyterian pastor. We’re known for believing Calvinism,a set of doctrines that John Calvin actually didn’t create or label–that happened after his death. But the general idea is that God is sovereign over everything. So I agree with Charles Spurgeon, who was a Baptist preacher in England during the 19th century.

He wrote this about his belief in Calvinism: “If anyone should ask me what I mean by a Calvinist, I should reply, “He is one who says, ‘Salvation is of the Lord.’ I cannot find in Scripture any other doctrine than this. It is the essence of the Bible. Calvinism is the gospel, and nothing else. I do not believe we can preach the gospel, if we do not preach justification by faith, without works; nor unless we preach the sovereignty of God.”

But in light of that, I’m telling you that how you live and the decisions you make matter. You are responsible for them. What we see in the Bible is that God not only ordains the ends, but also the means to those ends. We saw this throughout the book of Acts. God ordained that people would hear the gospel and be saved, that the church would be established, but people still had to pray and worship and go and preach and suffer. They still had to obey. God ordains that many things will happen if you pray, if you obey him, if you build yourselves up in the faith, if you keep yourself in the love of God by the decisions that you make. You must still lead your families in worship.  You must still remain pure. You must still tell others about Jesus and what grace truly is.

See what else, the rest of verse 21: “waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. [22] And have mercy on those who doubt; [23] save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear,”

This doesn’t sound like stationary believers sitting around because God predestined everything. Whatever God has planned that he hasn’t told us in his Word, that is behind the curtain. It does not concern us one bit, otherwise he would reveal it.It’s like the little saying among children: “that’s for me to know and you to find out.” Those things are for God to know.  And whatever those things, they are entirely good and right. And we can rest knowing he is in control of it all. So we long for the day Jesus returns, and until then, we bear with people who doubt, with those misled by wrong teaching, those confused by the voice of the world.

I was one of these people. I’ve known the emptiness and the confusion of deep doubt. Doubt is often fueled by or accompanied by immorality. Think about it: if the Bible isn’t true, you don’t have to obey what it says. You can enjoy sin, at least for a time. Do you doubt the Scriptures because you don’t want them to be true? You like what the Bible calls “sin.”

Notice the end of verse 23, “hating even the garment stained by the flesh.” A true believer should hate sin. Romans 8 says, “For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. [8] Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” In other words, those who love sin or have their minds set on it are in direct opposition to God. If you’re holding on to something sinful, you’re diametrically opposed to God. You and God are on opposite sides regarding that issue. Jude writes this because the false teachers were living in a way that reflected that they loved sin.

Do you recognize that the decisions you make every day truly matter, that there are real consequences?  That your prayers matter. That your time reading the Scripture matters? That Sunday worship matters? That family worship matters? That serving others matters?

All these things make a real difference in your life and in the eyes of God. Are you avoiding the foolishness of false teaching? And re you willing to call a spade a spade, pointing out false teaching

for the sake of your faith and the faith of others? But while God expects us to keep ourselves in his love,

We expect God to keep us in his love, first as he guards our faith so that we never leave the life given to us by his Spirit. (v.24a)

Verse [24] “Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling.” Our responsibility does not minimize God’s sovereignty. The word “keep” here can also be translated from the Greek as “guard.” God is able to guard his people so that they don’t stumble or fall away.  How can that be?In John 3, Jesus explains that being born again spiritually is the work of the Holy Spirit. I try to tell everyone – go read John 3. The Spirit gives us life. In 1 Corinthians 2, Paul writes, [14] The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. Someone might be a nice person, even a religious person, but until the Spirit of God works in them, they won’t understand God’s gospel of grace. So since a person cannot work this in themselves or get it themselves,they can’t unwork it or lose it. God brought the person into life in Jesus, so only God can keep the person there. God can and will guard you to the end if you are truly born again.

Picture someone walking a tightrope high above the ground. What is the difference between someone with a net below them and someone without a net? One is caught if he falls; the other plummets to his death. Therefore the mindset of each person is very different. One must trust in himself. The other can trust in the net. We trust that Jesus will catch us.

Not only will God guard our faith, but also he protects our righteousness so that we never lose the record given to us by his Son. (v.24b-25)

The Spirit gives us live in Christ. The Son gives us his righteous record, having taken our sinful record and enduring God’s wrath on the cross. Notice the rest of verse 24: “and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory”

Even if you are born again, don’t you still commit sin? Don’t sinful thoughts and desires pop up?  Don’t sinful words slip out? Psalm 24 speaks of the holy presence of God in the OT tabernacle of worship.  David writes, “Who shall ascend the hill of the LORD?  And who shall stand in his holy place. [4] He who has clean hands and a pure heart.” Are your hands entirely clean today?  Your heart entirely pure? Do you ever give your deepest love and devotion to something other than the one true God? Yes you do.

So how can anyone be sure that you will stand blameless before God? You would have to be trusting in the righteousness of Jesus. That God will present you to himself blameless because Jesus has made you blameless. You didn’t earn it; you can’t lose it. Jesus gave you that record. So you will stand in the presence of God “with great joy” verse 24 says. “With great joy.” Isaiah 53 states, “it was the will of the LORD to crush him.” So it pleased the Father to send the Son to death. Hebrews 12 says that “for the joy that was set before him (Jesus) endured the cross.” So it pleased the Son to go to his death. Why did the Father and the Son do these things? So that we could one day be presented blameless, spotless, without blemish in their holy presence and with our hearts filled with great, unending, inexpressible joy. God made it so. And for that reason, verse [25] “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.”

Jesus is God. This in another verse supporting the doctrine of the Trinity. It supports the view that God is entirely sovereign. If a person chose Jesus when they could’ve rejected him, and if a person kept themselves in the love of God when they could’ve turned away from him, don’t they deserve just a little bit of glory? They at least deserve a pat on the back. I don’t see any glory going to man in this verse.  It all goes to God. Ephesians 3, “to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations.”

Are you able to rest in this truth, that Jesus secures your right standing with God? Have you trusted in Jesus in this way? If not, why not today?  Why not pray now, admitting your sin to God and telling him that you trust in Christ alone to save you? Do you fall into the trap of thinking that you add something to what Jesus has done? Do you see how it dishonors Jesus to think that, to carry guilt and shame? It dishonors Jesus to subject other believers to guilt and shame as payback. Because of how we’ve been forgiven, we can forgive and move on.

But it does assault the human intellect, that these two things are compatible: the responsibility of man and the sovereignty of God. The Scriptures do address this: In Isaiah 55, God says, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

Spurgeon addresses the human difficulty with these twin truths. He states that these are “two facts that few can see clearly. They are believed to be inconsistent and contradictory to each other. If, then, I find taught in one part of the Bible that everything is foreordained, that is true; and if I find, in another Scripture, that man is responsible for all his actions, that is true; and it is only my folly that leads me to imagine that these two truths can ever contradict each other…They are two lines that are so nearly parallel, that the human mind which pursues them farthest will never discover that they converge, but they do converge, and they will meet somewhere in eternity, close to the throne of God, (from where) all truth springs.”

As we come to this table, we don’t have to fully understand these things, but rather, to simply rest in God’s love and power.

Let’s pray.