Choosing tactics by the Spirit

Jude - Thirteenth in a series

In Jude 20 and 21 we are given three ways to build ourselves up in the faith: 1. Pray in the Spirit, 2. Keep yourself in the love of God, and 3. Look for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.

Prayer is an expression of the heart not limited to words; we know that the Holy Spirit prays for us in groans too deep for words. (Romans 8:26) Prayer is communication with God, yet there are aspects of it that do not fit that description. Without question, if we pray in the Spirit, prayer is not fully predictable nor definable, except that we have been promised by Jesus:

When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you. (John 16:13-15)

God hears and accepts many prayers that do not conform to his guidance on how to pray. However, in the goal to be built up in the faith, we must follow that guide. Study the Lord's prayer; read all that the Bible teaches about prayer. Then, pray respectfully and carefully. Like all other work in the life of faith, we can do nothing without Him. (John 15:5)

The second need is to stay in God's love. Life can be very cold and dark. The Christian walk is often a lonely one. How can we keep from shriveling up or hardening to bitterness? Only by being refreshed by the heart of God in Christ. Just as the life of prayer is a twosome even when praying silently, so the walk with God is with a friend who loves us. Even when following at some distance, we are not alone. Faith is needed to believe all these things. Have faith. When your faith is waning, pray in the Spirit. (Eph 6:18)

There are various translations of the third instruction:

  • keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. (ESV, NIV)
  • Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life. (KJV, ASV)
  • keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life. (NASB)

There seems to be a choice between keeping a lookout and doing so with desire or exuberant expectation, but in either case the object of our hope is God's mercy in Christ who died so that we may have eternal life. When possible, keep your hopes high!

Jude 22 and 23 give three tactics for rescuing souls from the cult that lured them from the faith, though at first glance there seem to be only two ways, and this is open to interpretation. And of some have compassion, making a difference: And others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh. (Jude 22, 23, KJV)

Compassion and aggressive action are obvious methods, so where is the third way? To understand, we need to look at the Greek. The phrase in verse 22, "making a difference," is diakrinomenouv or "to separate, make a distinction; to learn by discrimination, give judgment" by its initial definitions (Strong's No. 1252). In other words, as you evaluate your friend who has gone astray, decide whether to approach him with sympathy, or instead, fearfully, as you "carry him off by force," (Strong's No. 726) even as you literally hold your nose because of his filthy undergarments. Discerning and choosing which method to employ is in itself a tactic.

If you prefer, with regard to the first way, it may also be possible to interpret this phrase as having compassion while at the same time opposing him; to show love and patience even while contending against his deceived spirit.

It is important to take the right approach with friends. We all wither under rebuke, and some may become dangerously crushed in spirit. A wounded spirit, who can bear? (Proverbs 18:14) Therefore, compassion is essential in all cases. However, with some friends, no amount of loving expressions will soften the heart; if you would assist them to be delivered from evil, you must drag them or wrest them from it. Bold deprogramming measures are difficult to enforce. Perhaps fasting in advance will help, and needless to say, prayer.

Jude would have you to choose a way, should your church be under such attack with members falling away. If you have prayed in the Spirit, kept yourself in the love of God, and are looking for the mercy of Christ unto eternal life, you will know what to do.

Honest and dishonest sinners

Jude - Twelfth in a series

Jude gives three final defining points about the mockers… who walk after their own ungodly lusts. These be they who separate themselves, sensual, having not the Spirit. (Jude 1:18, 19)

Some commentators state that the concept of separating oneself from others in the church is to hold back from works of ministry whether by teaching or serving. Historically, at times certain tribes would not join in the larger effort to protect Israel. (Judges 5:16, 23)

Another, John Calvin, says, "He means that they separated from the Church, because they would not bear the yoke of discipline, as they who indulge the flesh dislike spiritual life."

It was not simply that they formed separate factions. Paul points out that there must be divisions in a church at times. The Lord uses differences in opinions to train us in good doctrine, for we must discern what is right in important questions. (1 Cor 11:18, 19) By hearing two sides we must choose, which is a strengthening action.

So, it was not simply that they held separate views; it was much more than that. Their lives were ruled by the flesh. To a new or non-believer, what does that mean? We all have flesh. We all have bodily urges and many needs to fulfill. We are all sensual to some end or desire and that is normal. So what is Jude's point? It is best summed up in Jesus' flat comment, The Spirit is what gives life, the flesh is of no use at all. (John 6:63)

The Spirit is God's Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity, given to believers to enable them to live in Christ. All believers have the Spirit, but it is a different matter to be FILLED with the Spirit.

I once heard a sermon that gave four points on how to be filled with the Holy Spirit. I wrote them down:

  • Put away all known sin.
  • Do not grieve the Spirit.
  • Do not quench the Spirit.
  • Be filled with the Spirit.

The first is not too hard to understand, and with the help of the Lord, not impossible to do. We are not conscious of many of our sins, so start with the things you are aware of. If you delay bringing your behavior in line with God's revealed will— the commands and enlightenment we are given in the Bible— you have made a choice to oppose God.

The second point reveals good things about God. Imagine, He is grieved if we fail to conform to his high standards. (Eph 4:29-32) Perhaps we envision him as angry, and this is true when people continuously rebel and commit extremely sinful deeds, but for the Christian trying to be obedient, taking one step forward and two steps back, the Spirit is grieved, an emotion attributed only to those who love us. Don't grieve Him further by giving up on your goal to make progress in your walk with the Lord; go back to step one-- put away your sin, and try again.

What is it to quench? Quenching is extinguishing a fire, to suppress, to stifle. Paul's instruction to the Thessalonians not to quench the spirit (1 Thess 5:19) was encouragement to stay strong in their devotion to Christ. The Spirit makes us zealous to serve and honor the Lord. We can put out this fire by being sensual and attending to the things that support the flesh rather than putting first God's kingdom and righteousness. (Mat 6:33)

Finally, seek greater fullness in your commitment to serve the Lord. We are told in Luke 11:13 that we must ask for the Spirit. Though we receive Him when we first turn from sin and confess belief in Christ, we need to continually be filled: Ask and you shall receive. Be earnest in your desire to have more life! (Eph 5:18; Ps 51:10-12)

The Christian is under strict instructions to be wholly committed and devoted to the Lord:

  • Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me. (Mat 10:37)
  • No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God. (Luke 9:62)
  • Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead. (Mat 8:28)
  • Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Mat 5:48)

Can the flesh assist us to fully give our hearts to God? No, only the Spirit can move us to zeal and total devotion.

The abundant life promised and flowing freely from Christ (John 10:10) requires being full of the Holy Spirit. The flesh comes under the rule of the Spirit, making it much easier to (mostly!) obey God's commands. And we are promised strength for this goal to follow Christ wholeheartedly: For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him. (2 Chr 16:9)

The intruders did not have the Holy Spirit. (Jude 1:19) Like the sincere Christians, they were sinners, but unlike them, they did not worry about putting away their sin. In that sense they were dishonest sinners. The honest sinner acknowledges failure and prays for help to be obedient. The dishonest one is settled in sensuality and sins willfully and without conscience. These ones are even more comfortable in their sin when they succeed in attracting followers. They honestly love it.

Peter and Jude

Jude - Eleventh in a series

There are similarities between Jude's letter and the second chapter of II Peter, but also differences. We will take a look.

First, Peter speaks of false teachers that "shall be… among you" not that already were, though as he continues, he seems to know these men as imminent troublers of the faithful. Jude warns that the evil men were in their midst.

Both Peter and Jude expose the charlatans, but Peter characterizes them more as false teachers (2 Pet 2:1) while Jude sees them as mockers (Jude 1:18). Both describe them as

  • entering the body by stealth
  • "spots" in the communion meals
  • sexually perverse and licentious
  • deniers of Christ, and as
  • condemned already.

Jude brings to remembrance the rebellious Hebrews under Moses, the angels who left their first estate, and Sodom and Gomorrha as three examples of those destroyed or expertly managed by God to exclude them from further rebellion; Peter points to "the angels that sinned," the old world of Noah's day, and Sodom and Gomorrha, as examples of God's dexterity in punishing evil while sparing the righteous, namely Noah, Lot and their family members.

Thus, Peter's emphasis is on God's power to save the righteous in the midst of catasrophe, (2 Pet 2:4-7) and Jude focuses on God's determination to punish rebellion as demonstrated throughout history. (Jude 1:5-7)

Both Peter and Jude write about Michael the archangel: Peter alludes to him (2 Pet 2:10, 11) but Jude cites an incident between Michael and Satan. (Jude 1:10)

In both cases it is pointed out that angels have sense and discernment enough not to spar with the devil, but the false brethren lack good judgment and are not afraid to "speak evil of dignities" (2 Peter 2:10; Jude 1:8), with Peter noting their presumptuous and self-willed nature, and Jude stating that they despise dominion and are slaves to their lower nature.

For mere men to rail against evil or even wonderful principalities shows complete lack of judgment that proper education and preaching might have corrected, unless the offender were without conscience (see previous post).

Jude's analogies of the offenders to natural phenomena include those that are lifeless and without dynamism and those with terrible force, driving and fierce. The apostates are intensely powerful while inwardly dead.

Four scenes describe the apostates: clouds without water, carried about of winds; trees whose fruit withereth, without fruit, twice dead, plucked up by the roots; Raging waves of the sea, foaming out their own shame; wandering stars, to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness for ever. (Jude 1:12,13) Peter likewise sees their emptiness and contradictory wild motion and force (2 Pet 2:17).

In five descriptors, Jude sums up the personality of the ungodly deceiver: These are (a) murmurers, (b) complainers, (c) walking after their own lusts (fleshly); and (d) their mouth speaketh great swelling words (boastful, arrogant), (e) having men's persons in admiration because of advantage (flatterers, controlling types). (Jude 1:16)

Peter also notes the trait of boastfulness (2 Pet 2:18) but dwells more on their lustful behavior and wanton alluring of weak believers who had recently been saved from such lifestyles. He warns that should they return to their former selves after having come clean by the knowledge of the Lord; it would have been better never to have known the new way of righteousness (2 Pet 2:20-22). Jude, in contrast, commands the strong to save the weak. (Jude 1:22, 23)

Jude's letter is reminiscent of Peter's, or vice versa, but a careful reading brings out differences. Yet, there are enough similarities to make plain there was a cult that affected many churches.

We also wonder if Jude had read Peter's letter or vice versa, and chose to repeat certain phrases and points as a way of enforcing the views.

Since Peter states in his second letter that he knows his death is near (2 Pet 1:14), Jude may have upheld and promoted Peter's words as a memorial, a needed exhortation, and as a method of confirming his insights.(Jude 1:17)

Paul also foretold that ungodly deceivers would strive to ruin the church, and John corroborated all these warnings. (Acts 20:29; 1 Tim 4:1, 2; 2 Tim 3:1-5; 1 John 4:1-3; 2 John 1:7-11; 3 John 1:9-11)

Thus we have in the Bible two thorough warnings against such men and shorter ones in other letters.

By the testimony of two or three witnesses the truth is upheld.(Deut 19:15)

Attention Readers

Have you visited the Biotech Blog on this website? Find information and resources to help you think about biotech as a Christian.

During the summer of 2017, I explored the topic of kidney donation. Is it right for a society to permit that? To encourage it? What do you think? Read the Live Kidney Donation Series!

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Learn more. The conscience cannot function without facts.


Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. -Mat 5:14

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