Tuesday, 30 June 2009

God only wise

To God our Saviour, Who alone is wise, Be glory and majesty, Dominion and power, Both now and forever. Amen. – Jude 1v25

Man has always sought wisdom. I guess of all cultures the ancient Greeks would have been the most obvious. They called their intellectual icons philosophers, or ‘lovers of wisdom.’ In the eighteenth century France had her philosophes whose goal was to use human reason to come to wisdom.

The Bible addresses the whole concept of Greek philosophy in 1 Corinthians 1.

Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence. But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God and righteousness and sanctification and redemption that, as it is written, "He who glories let him glory in the Lord.."

It is obvious that the wisdom of the world and the wisdom of God are not going to match up – they are contrary to each other. Here in Jude we read that God alone is wise and since He is the only One who is truly wise then His wisdom is the only true wisdom. True philosophers are those who love the only true wisdom found in Christ.

According to the world’s wisdom, typified here by the Greeks, the cross is foolishness. It makes no sense according to worldly philosophy that a Saviour would die on a cross of shame. It makes no sense that an all knowing, all seeing, all powerful God would choose to use the weak and base and ignorant and foolish things of this world to do His work.

But even the foolishness of God is greater than the greatest wisdom of men. The cross is the wisdom and the power of God. By means of the cross all human wisdom is made foolish.

God alone is wise. His wisdom is the only wisdom. Even, as Paul put it, if God had some measure of foolishness it would be superior the wisest of the wisdom of men.

God is not opposed to learning. We have to learn some things of the world to survive and minister. We must remember that the pursuit of that knowledge and awareness of the world does not allow us to be detracted from our pursuit of God and His wisdom. God uses Proverbs to keep our focus on His wisdom. Proverbs 4v7 puts it like this – ‘Wisdom is the principal thing; Therefore, get wisdom. And in all your getting, get understanding.’

Lets just make sure that we understand that we need to put pursue the wisdom that comes from the only One who is really wise.

Monday, 29 June 2009

Him who is able

Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, And to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy, - Jude 1v24

In the last few months we have bought a Wii and a Wii Fit game for the family. It has been helpful because it spurred me on to lose some weight and I am feeling much better now. One of the games on Wii Fit is a tightrope walk. I hate heights, so could never do this in real life, but on the Wii balance board and TV screen it is not too bad. All you have to do is balance your weight on the balance board while your character walks between two buildings. As it gets harder you have to contend with virtual wind and virtual birds and all that. It’s a lot of fun, but I have a hard time ever getting past the first level.

That’s not too serious when I am standing in my sitting room. Even my fall is a virtual fall so it is nothing more that aggravating that I can’t get across very often. But can you imagine if this was a real tightrope? I think back to the guy who once walked between the buildings of the old World Trade Centre in New York. One slip, one stumble, one mess up and it was certainly all over.

Our Christian walk is a lot like that tightrope walk. Any attempt to do it on our own would result in a slip up, a stumble, a fall, and a disaster. I could now more home to get to the other side spiritually on my own than I could cross a line between those two magnificent building that stretched so high over the sky line of New York.

This reminds me of an old illustration. While I am not certain of the veracity of the story, it does drive home the point. Supposedly a few years ago there was a tightrope walker who was crossing Niagara Falls. He did all of the showy stuff, and then he pushed an empty wheel barrow across the falls. He then asked the crowd how many of them believed that he could push a person across the rope in the wheel barrow. The crowd screamed and applauded and cheered. So then he asked, ‘Who would like to volunteer?’ When he did that the crowd of course went silent. Everyone knew he could do it, but were not so sure that they wanted to be the one to try it out.

The amazing truth is that we have One who is able to get us across the line to the other side. He has able to keep us from slipping up and falling to disaster. He will get us to the other side and present us without fault in God’s presence. He can, in a sense, push us across in that wheel barrow. Even in that wheel barrow though, we need to do our part. We don’t rock back and forth, we don’t try to climb out, and we don’t carry with us loads of rubbish that has no part being in our lives.

‘He is able, He is able. I know He is able. I know my Lord is able to carry me though.’

Sunday, 28 June 2009

Different strokes for different folks

And on some have compassion, making a distinction; but others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire, hating even the garment defiled by the flesh. – Jude 1v22-23

So, now that we know about these false teachers what do we do about them? They are here, we have been warned about them and reminded not to act like them, so what do we do?

I think we first need to understand our motivation. All through New Testament our job has never been to ‘sort them out.’ That is always up to God. Our task has always been to strive to win others and turn them around. Our job is to ‘pluck them out of the fires’ and show them the truth.

That being the truth, Jude tells us that we can’t treat all false teachers the same. We have to make a distinction or a difference if you will, in them so we can know how to help them.

On some we must show compassion. We must love them and treat them tenderly trying to show them that God’s path is the right path. By showing them His love and compassion we may draw some of them to him.

With others we need to see the sin and the flesh that defiles them, reaching down into the flames of hell to grab them out. This is a fearful thing to do, because it means, as a friend once said, that we need to get our hands dirty. This is dangerous, obviously. You can’t stick your hand in the fire without the chance of being burnt. This is the sense here. Be aware, hate the sin that has defiled them, but we have to go after them.

Some require love and patience and compassion. Others require boldness and immediate action. Some require drawing them with love. Others require walking into the fire and pulling them out.

We need God’s wisdom in know how to make the distinction.

Saturday, 27 June 2009

Keep yourselves

keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life. – Jude 1v21

We all now that these are scary days. I was telling some one recently that it almost seems that we are living in the midst of some kind of Armageddon movie. The world economy is in a shambles. Millions of people are losing their jobs. The aftermath of the Iranian election is a powder keg. North Korea is dropping hints that she may fire missiles on US territory. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan drag on. And with all of this, the death of Michael Jackson moves all other news to the background. It seems like a world gone mad.

What do Christians do at times like this? All over the world opposition to the church is growing. Laws are being passed that threaten our freedom and liberties to practice, preach, and proclaim our faith. What are we going to do?

We are going to do what the church has always done here. We are going to ‘keep ourselves in the love of God.’ We are going to protect and guard ourselves in His love and mercy. We are not going to be overwhelmed by the things of this world because we are going to remember that greater is He that is in us than He that is in this wicked old rotting world. We are going to keep in mind that this world is not our resting place. We are going to remember that this world never was going to like us and that it is still a sinful place. If we are wise we are not going to depend on laws and politics to save us or protect us because that is going to change and keep changing.

One thing does not change. The love of God and His mercy is as strong today as it ever has been. Maybe it is time that we stop trying to wrap ourselves in our national banners and emblems and wrap ourselves in the love of God instead. Change is not always the answer, sometimes no change is the best answer.

Friday, 26 June 2009

Self construction

But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, - Jude 1v20

Until the recent crash the Irish economy was on a massive decade long boom. The skyline of every city, town, and even village was dominated by massive cranes. At one time I counted nearly twenty of the huge construction cranes on the Dublin skyline alone. People were busy putting up building as fast as they could.

It is interesting that I never saw a single building building itself. Someone had to lay out they plans, get building permission, gather the materials, and do the construction. All the building up was done by someone.

The same is true spiritually, in a sense. We could not be built spiritually apart from the Holy Spirit. But there is an aspect of ‘building up’ that we have to do as well. We build ourselves up as we remember the words spoken by the apostles, as we watch out for false teacher, as we pray in the Holy Spirit, and a few more things in the verses to follow. Peter wrote that we diligently add to the foundation of faith such things as virtue, knowledge, and self control.

Key to this self construction is prayer. Because we still live in the flesh and have to deal with it we could not do this building without a power source. Prayer is that power source. Based and reliant on prayer we must be at the work of constantly building up our faith so that it does not stagnate and wither.

Thursday, 25 June 2009

Remember the words

But you, beloved, remember the words which were spoken before by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ: - Jude 1v17

While Jude points out a specific warning in the next verse, I think it is important to pause for a moment and reflect on these words.

‘Remember the words which were spoken before by the apostles.’ At this early stage of the church there was an importance being placed on things which had been spoken by those who had been with Jesus. Although Jude’s readers could not have grasped all that was meant by these words we can.

‘The words which were spoken before by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ’ have been recorded and preserved for us in the word of God. If it was important for these folks, who were not that far removed from the apostles to remember their words, how important it is that we heed that call to remembrance.

Those words are our connection to the Christ and His teachings. Almost 2000 years have passed. If it were not for the word of God we would not have the capacity to remember those words today.

If we don’t know those words we can’t remember them. If we don’t study, meditate, and put those words in our hearts we can’t remember them when we need them.

‘Remember the words’ was not just for Jude’s readers.

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Flattering people

These are grumblers, complainers, walking according to their own lusts; and they mouth great swelling words, flattering people to gain advantage. – Jude 1v16

Not only do these false teachers grumble and complain about their own condition, but they use all kinds of tricks to persuade people to their point of view. The speak ‘great swelling words’ to flatter other people. Their purpose is to gain an advantage over them.

It is clear that God hates flattery. Other then here there are twenty times in the Bible where he talks about it. Flattery seduces men, works ruin, spreads a net, corrupts, causes children to fail, and leads to sexual immorality. God will ‘cut off’ the tongue of the flatterer. There is no doubt about how God feels about it. It is one of those things that seems to stand out in scripture as somehow especially onerous to God.

Flattery is obviously destructive. It hurts the flatterer and the flateree. It is based on lies and selfishness. There is nothing wrong with positive comments and love show through genuine praise, but flattery is always based on what the person doing the praise can get for themselves.

God hates it. It is a mark of the false teacher. We must avoid it.

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Grumblers, complainers

These are grumblers, complainers, walking according to their own lusts; and they mouth great swelling words, flattering people to gain advantage. – Jude 1v16

I find this list of character traits of the false teachers in Jude fascinating. I also find the list challenging at times. I really don’t want to look like a false teacher. I don’t want my character traits in any way to make people think of them. That is one of the benefits of a teaching like this.

Grumbling. Complaining. Walking according to their own lusts. Speaking great swelling words. Flattering to get what they want. All of these characterise the false teachers.

I want to look at the first part of this verse today. There is a children’s song, and I don’t know it word for word, but it goes something like this. ‘Some people grumble, they dream of having more. They want a new doll, they want the dog who lives next door.’ Though intended for children these few words really express the essence of being discontent.

Here is an example. Last summer my family used Father’s Day and my birthday to buy me a new iPhone 3G. I was thrilled with it. I still am. I really like it a lot and am finding it very practical. I can email from anywhere. I never have to miss a Facebook update. I have several Bible translations at immediate access. Last week I bought a Strong’s concordance for it for $1.99. I love it!

But Apple has a new iPhone, the iPhone 3G S. You know what the ‘S’ stands for? Speed! Yes the new phone not only has a few neat new features, but it is fast. I haven’t even seen one yet, but this new phone is going to make mine look seem a dinosaur. As I was reading some reviews this morning I felt some twinges of the ‘new doll’ syndrome referred to above. After all, we all know that faster is better!

It is this kind of attitude, that if left unchecked, could lead to the grumbling, complaining, and walking according to my own lusts that Jude mentions here. This is where I need to stop, sit back, and check my attitude.

So what do I do now? Do I feel a little envious every time I see this new phone and complain, even to myself, that I don’t have one? Do I start figuring out what I can do to acquire one? Do I grumble, even inwardly while I wait ‘hours’ for my Bible on my old phone to open?

Or do I learn to be content and happy with what I have? I know what the false teacher would do. Do I really want to be like him?

Monday, 22 June 2009

The Lord comes

Now Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about these men also, saying, "Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of His saints, to execute judgment on all, to convict all who are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have committed in an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him." – Jude 1v14-15

I find it interesting that although the pseudepigraphic Book of Enoch never has had widespread acceptance as scripture God chose to preserve the part of it that He was wanted preserved for us. The book as over one hundred chapters as later divided, but we only have Enoch 1v9 preserved for us as scripture.

Enoch was indeed the ‘seventh for Adam’ and Noah’s great grandfather. Considering the longevity of these men we are talking vast amounts of time. Enoch has always been something of an enigma because we read that after living 365 years he simple ‘was not’ because God took him.

Despite all the mystery and secrets surrounding it we do have this one truth. Enoch prophecied that one day the Lord would come with a vast number of His saints to execute His divine judgement. There is a lot we could talk about here including the truth that we are going to be with Him even then, but the focus here is that though God is love He is also just and one day justice will prevail. The day will come when Christ will come back to convict all the ungodly of their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed in an ungodly way and for all the harsh things they have said in an ungodly manner.

God would not be just if evil went unpunished. Love would not really be love without justice. We could sit back in exult in the fact that one day all the bad guys are going to have to pay and take satisfaction in that, but I suspect that is not the response that this verse is meant to engender.

God’s love means that He does not want any of them to perish. He wants all to come to Him. When we see that one day His wrath is going to be poured out it should motivate us to share his message with them so that they can avoid His judgement.

Judgement is coming. Only by the grace of God have we avoided it. Our task now is to show other how to avoid it as well.

Sunday, 21 June 2009

Twice dead

These are spots in your love feasts, while they feast with you without fear, serving only themselves. They are clouds without water, carried about by the winds; late autumn trees without fruit, twice dead, pulled up by the roots; - Jude 1v12

It is rare that I would spend this many days on one verse, but there is a lot here about false teachers that should warn us about the dangers of getting involved with them and the need to stand up for the truth.

Here we find another tragic truth. The false teachers are twice dead. We are Christians are twice born, physically and spiritually. The false teachers are twice dead. Their physical death is assured, but the sad thing is that their spiritual death is also certain. Not only will their bodies one day die, but their spirits are also doomed to death.

False teachers may have their attraction. Their reasoning and their ideals come along and make us think that maybe there is another way. When we get discouraged we tend to look for something else, but really, why would we depart from the truth of ‘twice born’ for the error of teachers who are ‘twice dead?’

Saturday, 20 June 2009

Carried about by the winds

These are spots in your love feasts, while they feast with you without fear, serving only themselves. They are clouds without water, carried about by the winds; late autumn trees without fruit, twice dead, pulled up by the roots; - Jude 1v12

I am not a sailor by any stretch of the imagination. I have a hard time with bow and stern and port and starboard. I can handle a canoe, a rowboat, or a simple motor boat, but that is about it.

I do know enough to know that if a boat or ship is not anchored it will be blown and tossed about during a storm. It will be at the mercy of the wind and the waves.

Living in Ireland we know a little about the wind. Most folks don’t think about the wind as being a part of the Irish climate, but we can have some great windstorms. If the clothes are not secure to the line they will simply blow away.

These illustrations are yet another picture of the dangers of false teachers. They have no stability. They have no anchor. Every new wind of doctrine that comes along blows them about. Every new exciting fad that comes to the fore drags them along. They have no foundation. Their house is built on shifting sands.

The tragedy is that it is so easy for true believers to be caught in the same trap. Every new gimmick, as long as it is done ‘in the name of Christ’ tosses them about. Just like the clothes on the back line they simply disappear when a new wind blows.

The thing about the winds is that they are always changing. There is no place to find an anchor of stability. Christians can spend their whole lives fluttering back and forth between all kinds of teachings and fads.

Our anchor is the word of God. Rock solid, unchanging, secure, and stable. We do not need the fleeting winds that can only carry us to destruction. Let’s be sure that we cling to the anchor, steadfast and sure while the billow roll.

Friday, 19 June 2009

Serving only themselves

These are spots in your love feasts, while they feast with you without fear, serving only themselves. They are clouds without water, carried about by the winds; late autumn trees without fruit, twice dead, pulled up by the roots; - Jude 1v12

I suspect that the purpose of describing false teachers to us so clearly is two-fold. One is to warn us about them and the other is to warn us not to act like them and to give us a warning about our own lives.

One of the characteristics of these false teachers is that they do whatever they do, not to serve God, not to serve others, but to only serve themselves. Everything they do, even supposedly for God’s work, is for them. They only serve if they can profit. There is no servant’s heart and no attitude of love for the brethren. It is all about them.

Instead of looking at others, maybe we should take just a moment for some self examination. What motivates us to serve? Is it all about us? Do we serve because of what we get out of it? Are we willing to serve even when it requires sacrifice, doing without, and a lack of recognition? Why do we serve? Only we can answer that for ourselves.

Our service should be motivated solely by a desire to glorify our God. We do that when we love Him supremely and love our neighbour. We do that when we really don’t matter because we trust Him implicitly to sort out the details for us.

Who are we serving? Really, from our heart of hearts, who do we serve? Why do we do what we do? If we are truly serving Him the everyday tests, trials, and difficulties that we encounter are not really going to matter.

Thursday, 18 June 2009

Clouds without water

These are spots in your love feasts, while they feast with you without fear, serving only themselves. They are clouds without water, carried about by the winds; late autumn trees without fruit, twice dead, pulled up by the roots; - Jude 1v12

Of my 53 years on earth, I have spent about 35 of them living in the American south. When we moved to Ireland in 1995 someone told us, ‘You will miss the southern summers after a while.’ I was sure they were wrong. So far I am right.

I have to admit there can be some kind of ‘magic’ about an Alabama summer. The evenings when you see the lightning bugs and hear the crickets and see the heat lightning on the horizon can be special. I love the smell of a magnolia tree. I love an Alabama thunderstorm. I like the feel of a blast of air conditioning coming in from the heat. I like a baseball game at Joe Davis stadium on a summer night. I like a huge glass of sweet tea at a cookout. I love the feeling of anticipation in August as we gear up for another season of Alabama football. There are some nice things that stir up feelings of nostalgia in my heart and mind..

But, I don’t like than constant stream of sweat running down to the small of my back. I don’t like the sweat that forms all over just before the air conditioning kicks in. I don’t like burning myself with my seat belt. I don’t like the sauna like blast that comes when you venture out. I don’t like a car so hot that it has only started to cool off by the time you get to Walmart then you step out into the heat and when you come back the car is a blast furnace again. I don’t like the long dry spells when you would give anything for a rain shower for just a little relief but the only clouds that form are those wasteful, waterless, deceitful clouds that are caused by the 110% humidity but don’t have a chance of even giving a drop of rain and you keep sweltering and withering with no relief and no refreshment.

It’s that last point that we address today. ‘Clouds without water’ is how Jude puts it. With false teachers come false promises of something new and refreshing. ‘You don’t like your church or your gospel? Try this new and exciting version! We promise you stress free Christianity! Church without all those crazy hang-ups, that’s our offer!’

They may look nice, like those dark clouds on a hot summer day. They look great, but offer only disappointment. There is no refreshing water and no life-giving water.

Don’t be caught off guard by the dry, deceitful, deceptive clouds. Only clouds which really hold the water of life have any chance of refreshment.

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Speaking evil of the things they don’t know

But these speak evil of whatever they do not know; and whatever they know naturally, like brute beasts, in these things they corrupt themselves. – Jude 1v10

I think it is important to note that what we are looking at here are descriptions of false teachers; they are marks of those who are false teachers. That does not mean that everyone who does these things is a false teacher, but that we need to be very careful as believers that we do not identify ourselves with them by our behaviour. I don’t want to have anything to do with the characteristics of a false teacher.

Saying that, there are many who in the rush to be accepted and gather attention to themselves, and without thinking through the issues, act just like the false teachers. These guys we talked about yesterday are speaking evil of what they do not know. Two things are implied here. Some of them speak evil because they don’t know God Himself. Others speak evil because they don’t know anything about submission to authority. In that way, according to the next verse, they are following the pattern of the rebels of the Old Testament.

I think the problem is covered here in verse 10. Men tend to speak according to their own wisdom and knowledge. ‘Speaking evil’ happens because we don’t know the whole picture, all we see is one little slice; the slice that affects us. Does God know what is going on? Of course He does. He does not need us to mimic the false teachers who despise authority and those in leadership.

We need to be more focused on trusting God, praying for those in authority, and perhaps just keeping our mouths shut and letting Him deal with them

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Marks of false teachers

Likewise also these dreamers defile the flesh, reject authority, and speak evil of dignitaries. – Jude 1v8

I find this an interesting passage, especially in light of something that has become the norm among Christians today. Of the three marks of false teachers mentioned here, two of them deal with the same basic problem. False teachers, in addition to defiling the flesh, reject authority and speak evil of dignitaries.

It would be simple enough to say something like, ‘This is only speaking of God and godly authority,’ but there is no support for this idea. False teachers are those who reject authority of all kinds and speak evil of all sorts of dignitaries be they spiritual or earthly. The whole of God’s word stresses respect for all those in authority.

Authority is important. All authority is important. God’s word tells us to pray for those in authority. It tells us to speak evil of no man. It tells us to honour the king. It never tells us to rant and rave and rail against those in authority. The next verse in Jude tells us that even Michael the archangel would not bring a ‘reviling accusation’ against Satan himself, but simply said – ‘The Lord rebuke you.’ I don’t really understand how all of this works out when the truly wicked are in authority, but there you have it.

Do we really trust God enough to let Him deal with those in authority? Or do we think that somehow our attacks, rejection of leadership and speaking evil is going to accomplish anything? Is this kind of action a mark of truly trusting God, or is it trusting in our own power and wisdom to deal with the situation?

Monday, 15 June 2009


For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ. - Jude 1v4

False teachers have always been a very real danger for the church. Sometimes they are bold, clear, and forceful in their proclamation of error. More often than not however they are not so obvious. False teachers will quietly and subtly sneak in and at first look like they are just a part of the church. At the start they will make friends, mingle, and just become a part of things. Jude puts it perfectly when he says that they ‘creep in unnoticed.’ You would never suspect that these ‘creeps’ would cause any problems.

But they do. They enter in unnoticed and begin to undermine the church with denials and false teachings about Christ. They may deny His deity or His saving power. They may imply that His work on the cross was not enough by declaring the necessity of works for salvation. They may replace His work with some kind of list of rules and regulations that we need to follow to please Him.

Some may come in and try to use God’s grace with a licence to sin. They say, ‘Since Christ has saved me apart from my works I can do whatever I want. The more I sin the more I get to see His grace so I am just going to sin!’

We need to make sure that in our desire for love and unity that we do not lose sight of the danger of false teacher creeping in to the body. Love does not mean excusing error. True love and true unity are contingent on standing for the truth. It is not love to allow false teachers to corrupt the church. Not only is a lack of love for the church, but allowing error to creep in shows a lack of love for the false teachers. True love would seek to deliver them from the error. We can’t afford to allow these ‘creeps’ sneak in with their error.

Sunday, 14 June 2009

Earnestly contend

Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints. - Jude 1v3

Jude had important letter to write. He was committed and diligent to write a letter to talk about salvation. What better topic could he have than that? He had literally known Christ since the beginning and knew from his own life what it was like to know Christ, but also what it meant to come to salvation and ‘really’ know Him.

So he sat down to pen this letter, but something went wrong. He found it necessary to write of something else. We know in retrospect that the Holy Spirit was moving in his heart to have him right another letter. I think we have the clearest description of how God passed His word on to us. Here was a man with one intention, but the Holy Spirit breathed His words into the man so that we have this amazing little epistle.

What was so necessary? Jude was compelled by the necessity to write about the need to ‘earnestly contend for the faith’ that had been delivered to all saints. Instead of writing about salvation he was to write about the need to contend for it.

Right at the core of the Greek word here for ‘earnestly contend’ is a word that English readers will grasp immediately. Written in Roman characters the word is epagōnizomai. See the word ‘agonize’ there? I think this gives us a picture of how we are to contend for the faith. While we can’t build a doctrine on etymology, in this case we do get an idea about how important this contending is.

I am preaching today from Titus 3 and part of the message deals with avoiding foolish discussions, contentions, and battling over the law. While it is true that there are petty little things that we are not to get caught up in, there is something we have to fight for. Our challenge from Titus is that we must contend, or agonise if you will, for the faith that God gave us.

We are going to learn a lot more about the false teachers who are going to try and destroy that faith with their vain promises and false teachers. We might be tempted to say something like, ‘well that is not really worth fighting for, aren’t we told to try and avoid fighting over spiritual stuff?’

True, but we cannot compromise the truth of the gospel. We cannot compromise the faith. The faith is more than just the way of salvation. It is the whole body of faith as delivered to us by God in His word. It is the teaching. It is, to use a term that we don’t like to use very often, the great doctrines of the faith.

There is balance here. We MUST contend for the faith or false teacher will wreck havoc. We must be diligent and firm. We cannot compromise in any way, shape, or manner. From the rest of scripture though I think it obvious that even our contending must be done in a caring, loving, and meek manner.

I heard it put this way one time and I like this description. ‘Contend without being contentious.’

Saturday, 13 June 2009

Called, sanctified, preserved

Jude, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James, To those who are called, sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ: - Jude 1v1

I have always loved this little treasure chest called the Epistle of Jude. Virtually every phrase is packed with vital and important truths. It is almost difficult to get through the letter without pausing for every detail.

In his introduction Jude reminds us of three important truths about our salvation. The key to all of them is that salvation is of God, not us. We are:

Sanctified by God the Father
Preserved in Jesus Christ

There would be no salvation outside of God’s calling and drawing. All through the Bible we read of His calling of men to Himself. We are sinners, none of us would have come to Christ without God’s marvellous call of, ‘Ho, everyone that thirsts. Come to the water and drink.’ He took the first step. He sent out the call.

Not only did He call, but when we responded He sanctified us. He set us apart from the world and set us apart to Himself. We became His and the world had no power over us. Suddenly we were freed from the power that sin and the world had over us.

He called. He sanctified. Finally – His Son Jesus keeps us preserved in Him. We could not keep ourselves any more that we could saved ourselves in the first place. If our hope of ‘making it’ to the end depended on us none of us would make it.

He calls. He sanctifies. He preserves. Every aspect of salvation is His. Only our faith, which is from His to start with, makes it possible. What an amazing God we have Who would do all of this for sinners who deserve nothing from Him.

Friday, 12 June 2009

Name dropping

Jude, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James, To those who are called, sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ: - Jude 1v1

Yesterday I had the privilege of meeting Uachtarán na hÉireann, the President of Ireland, Mary McAleese at a function. Since I am a quiet kind of guy I didn’t mention it to anyone but meekly went on my way. I didn’t really want to make a big deal about it, so this is the first anyone will know.

Of course, that is not true. As soon as I could find a corner where I had mobile phone coverage I Facebooked my status as ‘Roger Parrow just met the President of Ireland’ so that all of my Facebook friends would know!

To an extent we all like name dropping. It gives us a special feeling to know that if we can’t be important, at least we can meet someone who is.

Jude could have been the ultimate name dropper. He was after all the brother of James, who in Galatians is called ‘the brother of the Lord.’ That would make Jude Jesus’ brother! Wouldn’t that sound impressive? His business card could have read ‘Jude, brother of Jesus’ and everyone would have had to pay attention!

And yet, for the opening of his letter he chose, ‘Jude, a bondservant of Jesus Christ and the brother of James.’ I suspect that if he did not have the same name as Judas Iscariot he may have just written, ‘bondservant of Jesus Christ,’ but he certainly needed to clarify which Jude he was.

I am always struck by Jude’s humility here. He saw himself as nothing special just because he was the Lord’s brother. He did not claim any false authority because of who he was or who he knew.

In reality, what better title could we have then to simply be ‘a servant of Jesus Christ?’

Thursday, 11 June 2009

A good testimony

Demetrius has a good testimony from all, and from the truth itself. And we also bear witness, and you know that our testimony is true. – 3 John 1v12

Yesterday we looked at imitating the evil and the good. We have already seen how not to behave. Now we get to see an example of the kind of Christian we can imitate.

Demetrius had a couple of things going for him. His testimony was right in two areas. He had a good testimony from everyone who knew him and he had a good testimony according to the truth. He had that unique ability to balance his testimony so that it pleased God and pleased others.

It is easy to say something like, ‘I don’t care what anyone thinks as long as my life lines up with the word of God.’ That’s all well and good, but it is not ‘all we have to worry about.’ Demetrius’ testimony was good according to the truth. He knew the importance of ‘this saith the Lord’ and lived according to it.

But he was also careful to live a life that gave him a good testimony before others. That is just as important. We do need to be concerned, not only with our testimony according to Bible standards, but also according to how we look before men.

That means that sometimes I need to sacrifice my Biblical liberty for the sake of others who don’t understand the situation or have their own personal feelings. While others cannot dictate every aspect of my life, I do need to be aware of them to keep my testimony pure and right even if we disagree.

Wednesday, 10 June 2009


Beloved, do not imitate what is evil, but what is good. He who does good is of God, but he who does evil has not seen God. – 3 John 1v11

When I was young I loved American football. Being away almost 15 years now has dulled that a bit, but I, believe it or not, can still remember the mid-60s when my favourite team was the Baltimore Colts. (Yes, the Colts really did play in Baltimore at one time) My favourite player, of course, was Johnny Unitas. He wore number 19 and high top black football boots. I watched him like a hawk. I still think he is the greatest pure passer to ever play the game. He set some records that are only now being broken. I throw an American football just like he did, with only the last two finger of my right hand on the laces because I am sure that it makes the ball fly in a better spiral and lets you throw a more effective bomb.

I learned all this almost 40 years ago. When I wanted to throw a football I wanted to copy the best. There we plenty of quarterbacks I could have copied. Bart Starr quarterbacked the Green Bay Packers then, but I didn’t want to throw like him because they were the ‘bad guys’ (meaning they beat my Colts). I am sure that Johnny U, was a much better person than Bart Starr.

What does childish mimicry have to do with John’s third epistle? Squeezed into a verse between the description of Diotrephes and Demetrius are these few words, ‘Do not imitate that which is evil, but that which is good.’ These men were direct opposites. One was evil and one was good. Paul wrote earlier that believers should watch his life and follow his example.

Sometimes, in order to fit in, we find ourselves trying to follow the evil instead of following the good. We mimic the world instead of mimicking God’s ways. We can find great Christian examples that we can learn from and follow their lead and their example. In this case we can follow Diotrephes’ example or we can follow Demetrius’ example.

One is evil, one is good. Which one are we going to imitate?

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

The Diotrephes Trap

I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to have the preeminence among them, does not receive us. Therefore, if I come, I will call to mind his deeds which he does, prating against us with malicious words. And not content with that, he himself does not receive the brethren, and forbids those who wish to, putting them out of the church. – 3 John 1v9-10

Diotrephes was quite a guy. He was a leader in the church along with Gaius. Whereas Gaius was well know for his testimony of being faithful in taking care of others. He met needs and just ‘did’ for people he came in contact with.

Next we hear about Diotrephes. He was a bit different. John writes that he ‘loves the pre-eminence.’ He was ‘found of being first.’ He was ‘ambitious for distinction.’ This was a guy who just loved for everyone to recognise him. He had to be the top dog, the ‘go to guy,’ the one was always recognised as number one. We can tell from the passage that he was a ‘my way or the highway’ kind of guy. He railed against John and he would not receive the brethren. Not only that, he practiced ‘secondary non-reception’ because he put out those who would receive the brethren. The fact that he had the power to do that leads me to believe that he was in a major leadership position; perhaps what we may now call the senior pastor. Yes, even pastors can get caught in the Diotrephes trap.

This guy sounds like a real jerk. He felt like the best way to make himself look good was to attack others and get rid of any opposition.

We need to be very, very careful that this fondness for being first does not take root in our lives. We all like a little recognition. We all like to feel important. We all like to be appreciated. There is nothing wrong when that is kept in balance.

But when we begin to love those things and put them before others we get ourselves in trouble. We can’t love God and pre-eminence at the same time. We can’t love others and pre-eminence at the same time. Loving pre-eminence is the absolute opposite of the humility God desires from us.

The Diotrephes trap is a nasty, vicious, and destructive trap. We must daily be on guard to avoid it.

Monday, 8 June 2009

Generous Gaius

Beloved, you do faithfully whatever you do for the brethren and for strangers, who have borne witness of your love before the church. If you send them forward on their journey in a manner worthy of God, you will do well, - 3 John 1v5-6

I like the personalities of the Bible. The Third Epistle of John was written to a believer named Gaius. We cannot with certainty identify who this Gaius is. There are several throughout the New Testament. From the first verse it is obvious that this was someone who was John’s close friend and someone whom Paul loved and respected.

Gaius is a great example of the kind of Christian we should be. Though we don’t know much about him, we do know that he was a generous believer who expressed tangible love. Whatever he did for the brethren, and even for strangers, he did faithfully. He was known as one who met the needs of others on a regular basis. He had learned how to put his love into action. His testimony was well known by both groups of people. It must have spoken volumes to the ‘strangers’ because they bore witness of it to John and to the church.

Gaius had sent them forth on their trip in a ‘manner worthy of God.’ Doing that, according to John, was ‘doing well.’

We need to ask ourselves how we are doing when it comes to meeting the needs and doing for others, especially in these tough economic times. When we meet the needs of God’s servants, as Gaius did, we become partners in their service and share in the blessing of serving Him.

Sunday, 7 June 2009

Walking in truth

For I rejoiced greatly when brethren came and testified of the truth that is in you, just as you walk in the truth. I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth. - 3 John 1v3-4

How exciting it must have been for John to hear from the brethren that the people he was writing to were continuing to walk in the truth. These folks were like children to him, he loved them deeply. He was concerned for them is every way, but especially about their spiritual condition.

I would have to agree with John, there is no greater joy than to hear that our children, be they our physical children or our spiritual children, are walking in the truth. What a blessing when those that God has allowed us to be involved with continue to do well. Part of that, I am sure, is the joy that God has chosen to use us, sometimes it might even border on pride.

Hopefully though the motivation for the true joy is the honest reflection that walking in the truth is what is best for those we love. Our joy comes in seeing our children prosper, that is just part of our nature. There is nothing wrong with that if our joys comes from seeing them walk in the truth of God’s word.

And it really is a great joy!

Saturday, 6 June 2009


Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers. - 3 John 1v2

Sometimes we can get the impression that God is somehow against any prosperity other than spiritual prosperity. The Bible spends a lot of time talking about the dangers of wealth. It also talks a lot about being content where we are and how our joy and contentment is not contingent on our material prosperity. It teaches that we can be joyful and happy and blessed as we focus on our souls prosperity and living for God no matter what the circumstances.

Here we find John however praying that his readers would ‘prosper in all things and be healthy.’ It is obvious that although the key aspect of our lives is that our souls prosper. John knew that his readers had that sorted. That is what is truly vital. We need to make sure that our soul’s prosperity comes first. We need to make sure that we are not focused on the things that we can see, but on the invisible. We need to have our priorities right.

With that in mind we can return to John’s prayer. I think he gives an example here about a proper prayer. Our prayers for each other should include all aspects of our lives. We clearly can pray for good health, but we can and should also being praying for each other’s prosperity in their endeavours in this life.

Friday, 5 June 2009

The Joy of Fellowship

Having many things to write to you, I did not wish to do so with paper and ink; but I hope to come to you and speak face to face, that our joy may be full. – 2 John 1v12

Part of what I have enjoyed on this particular journey through God’s word has been seeing something of the heart of the writers. This somewhat slow pace has allowed me to catch just a little of how they thought and felt.

We see something of that in John here. ‘I have a lot I want to say to you,’ John writes, ‘but I don’t want to put them on paper, I want to come see you face to face so that my joy may be full.’

I think we, or at least I, miss some of that today. Modern technology has made it so easy to stay in contact that something of that personal contact of which John writes has slipped away from us.

Whether is it ‘paper and ink’ or ‘keyboard and monitor’ it really is not the same as face to face fellowship.

I am grateful that now we can see each other face to face over a computer screen and hear each other voices and share photographs and such immediately. That really does add to the fellowship.

But it still is not face to face is it? A hug, an arm around the shoulder, a good handshake – all of these are lost in the coldness of technology. Maybe John was on to something.

I certainly have some food for thought for today.

Thursday, 4 June 2009

Do not receive them

If anyone comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him into your house nor greet him; for he who greets him shares in his evil deeds. – 2 John 1v10-11

After all the talk about love we might be tempered to say something like, “Ah, but love has its limits” when we see this passage.

‘If anyone does not have the true doctrine of Christ comes to you, don’t receive him or even greet him with. If you greet him you are sharing in his evil deeds.’

That makes it look like we don’t need to love those who are false teachers. I don’t think that is the case. True love does not mean we accept any and everything that comes our way. Loves means that we have to deal with unpleasant situations.

We have a couple of things to note here. It would not be love for Christ to accept those who mangle His doctrine. False teaching about the Saviour is not love for Him and we cannot accept or tolerate it. It is the pure gospel that is the motivation for pure love. When it is misused it is corrupted.

Secondly, if we accept false teachers and their teachings into our homes we are not loving our families because we are allowing false teachings to infect their hearts and minds. Part of love is protection.

Thirdly, if we accept false teachers we are not showing love to them. There are in error. For us to accept and tolerate it shows that we support them and their error. If we really loved them we would want to show them the way out of their error.

When we accept and greet them we are helping them to spread their error to others. That shows a lack of love for those around us.

Sometimes love means taking a stand. Dealing with false teachers is one of those times.

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

Keep yourself from idols

Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen. - 1 John 5v21

This seems like a strange way to end a book that has had so much to do with love doesn’t it. From the first time I read 1 John this has always seems kind of tacked on at the end.

But then, when you think about it, aren’t idols basically anything that demands our adoration? If we are adoring idols we cannot give God or each other our love. Idols come first, and anything else gets pushed into the background. Idols take our time from love.

All kinds of things can become idols if we let them. Money, pastimes, jobs, sports, possessions, and any other kinds of stuff can become idols. If we idolise those things, what are we going to do when a brother or sister needs us? What happens when we idolise a television programme so much that we get irritated when someone interrupts us? What happens when we idolise our money so much that we can’t use it to meet needs?

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

In His will

Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him. - 1 John 5v14-15

‘In His will’ are three vital words about prayer that often are forgotten. Some folks claim that ‘God loves you and wants to give you whatever you want!’ What?? Love means giving someone whatever they want? So if my child wants to play with a knife love means I give it to him?

Sorry for the mini-rant there. That bit always gets to me.

I was once chastised by a young preacher for praying in God’s will about a situation. He told me I lacked faith and that I should just “Tell God you want so and so and you want it NOW!’ Funny thing is that this chap was not a ‘name it and claim it’ preacher, but an independent Baptist!

I guess you can tell this is an issue I feel strongly about. Who do we think we are to tell God what to do and what is best for us? We can be like children demanding things from parents with no idea of the consequences.

We can have confidence when we pray if we remember one thing – our prayers must be in accord with His will. He hears whatever we ask – what a blessing. That being true we can be assured that when God does not give us what we want it is because it is not His will for us.

His will is always best. He loves us. He is involved in every aspect of our lives. He knows what is best. He acts in our best eternal interest. Just like my children did not always understand why I did not answer their request. Sometimes it was because I knew that giving it to them was not the best. Sometimes I may have just been selfish or thoughtless.

God is never thoughtless or selfish. When He does not give us what we want it is not because He does not hear us, but because He loves us and knows what is best for us.

Praise God for the confidence to pray in His will.

Monday, 1 June 2009

That you may know

These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God. - 1 John 5v13

Whenever I come across this verse one event come to mind. On Tuesday night, the 12th February, 1974 I was sitting in a basement room at the library of what was then Widener College in Chester, Pennsylvania. This really did not make any sense because I was fully ‘enjoying the freedom’ that came with living a thousand miles from home on my own. I was doing all the ‘stuff’ that college kids were doing in the 70’s (except drugs - they scared me) so going to a Bible study did not really fit in to that lifestyle. I had just happened to come across a flyer that had been torn from a bulletin board and thrown on the ground. I only picked it up because I hate litter so much. I saw the notice and had nothing else to do so I grabbed a Bible and headed out.

The study was led by a Christian professor (I wish I remembered his name) and sponsored by Intervarsity Christian Fellowship. He was doing a good study from 1 John about the importance of godly love. My eyes fell across the page to 1 John 5v13 and I saw these words for the first time – ‘that you may know that you have eternal life.’ I had heard he gospel here and there in my young life. I remember being in a gospel caravan at a county fair and a few years later at some kind of special meeting because a girl I liked invited me to go. I vaguely remember a VBS (Holiday Bible Club) from when I was very young. My broken neck the previous summer had reminded me of the frailty of life and uncertainty of the future. The seeds had been planted, God had sent me reminders, and this night was the time when He drew me to Himself and everything clicked.

As I sat there I remembered someone telling me that all I had to do to be saved was to acknowledge my sin and ask Jesus to forgive me and make me His child. So I did. I wanted to know it for a fact and no longer wonder. I yielded to God’s drawing and Christ saved me. The end of the verse says that we may believe, or as the NKJV puts it, continue to believe in His name.

I am so grateful that God used this verse to draw me to Himself. Since I put my faith in Christ I have known that I have eternal life and I continue to continue to believe in His name.

More than 35 years has passed since that February night. I knew that night that God gave me eternal life and I know it today.

Praise God for His word!