Wednesday 31 October 2012

The Letter of Jude
I invite you to look with me at the smallest book of the Bible, the Letter of Jude which is right at the end of the New Testament. It is only 25 verses long but its message is timelessly relevant.

This Letter is seldom if ever preached upon. This Sunday is when the Church recognises him and is the only occasion when he features in the Lectionary. The only time I have heard it preached was by an old Scottish Minister on Stornoway. It is probably the most unpopular Letter in the New Testament, , as it deals with absolutes and does not support the loose morality which exists and it seems so wrong that it should be so neglected, but it is an anathema to the politically correct elite who dominate our society and have infiltrated our Churches

The Letter begins by Jude identifying himself as the writer and a servant of Jesus Christ. He is humble in failing to disclose he is the (half) brother of Jesus, but obviously does not want to trade on that relationship.

He described those he is writing to. He means those who have responded to the call from God, and so are kept for Jesus as His followers.

In verse 3 Jude points out that he intended to write a letter about salvation, but noticed he faced Christianity being attacked from outside the Church and also from within. He found preachers were preaching false doctrine and advocating a gospel which fitted within their desires and approach and he saw a dishonouring of Christ which led to a deceiving of souls. They were teaching that God’s grace is so wide people can do what they wish and God will forgive any sin, but God set moral boundaries to define right from wrong. They were using the gospel to justify their immoral living and there are those in the Church today who are doing the same thing.

Consider the situation now existing within the Church. One half states it is acceptable to sleep around, have children freely outside of marriage,(even have them baptised at your wedding) have same sex marriage, practice homosexuality, believe there are many ways to God not accepting Jesus as the only way. Don’t have to take the Bible literally. The other half takes a completely opposite stance. In fact, you can find Churches in the same area in the same denomination teaching totally different messages, and we expect people to come to Church.

What does it say for a Church which has difficulty in selecting a leader, primarily because there are two factions who cannot agree a common Creed, and each wants a man who shares their belief.

So in verse 4 Jude stresses the need for the faithful to earnestly contend for the faith ‘once given’ to the followers of Jesus. The word faith means belief in the inspiration and authority of the Bible, the doctrine of salvation, the Trinity, the Deity of Jesus Christ, His Virgin Birth, His death and resurrection, His ascension in heaven, and His return one day to judge the world. This refutes the teaching of so many in the present that as the Bible was written so long ago we are not bound by its Word. When God gave his message to those He chose to reveal it, it was not just for the first century, but once given it was for all time, and never was it needed to be proclaimed so much than at the present time.
God has said it is our responsibility to take care of this faith and pass it to the next generation. Christianity is always just one generation from extinction. If we don’t contend for the faith, if we don’t fight for what is right, we will have nothing left to pass on to our children and our grandchildren. We are faced with a generation of people many of whom have never attended Church and consequently have no desire to encourage their children to do so.
There was a period in my lifetime when there were good congregations at both Morning and Evening services, and Sunday Schools were held; but now few Churches have an evening service and fifty people at Morning service is thought to be a good attendance, and of course children are nowhere to be seen. This situation is of course partially due to the way society lives, with broken homes, and children visiting the absent parent, and so many secular attractions held at the same time.

But, we have to also accept the Church itself has a case to answer. There has been a combination of factors which have contributed to such a falling off from Church. First, the failure to stand firm on moral issues and not show active opposition of the way society has embraced such a loose attitude. In other words, to show the Church has an alternative and offers something different, otherwise it has no purpose. The second point is that there are far too many Ministers prepared to go along with modern cultural trends and treat the Bible as nothing more than a loose guide. Until we get our act together things can only get worse. God will not bless a Church which indulges in false teaching.
False teachers are as prevalent in the Church of today as they were facing Jude, and are teaching the same falsities.

This Letter is in fact a call to arms for Christians and the Church, especially in Western countries. These are dark days for the Church. We live in a society that largely rejects religion and regards God as having no place in their lives. We live in times when truth is no longer taken as read, but rather accepted as being just what you want it to be. All the boundaries have been swept away, the spiritual moorings have been eroded, and morality is no longer based on Biblical teaching.

For many hundreds of years this country has been Christian. During this time Christians have played a major role in the abolition of slavery, the development of hospitals and education, and Methodist Christians were prominent in the formation of trades unions and workers rights, and generally the Church has been a force for good.

This is why I believe Jude’s letter is so important as an encouragement for all Christians of every denomination and of every age range to ‘contend for the faith’, that is, the body of truths that make up the Christian gospel. All Christians should be most concerned at the way things are going. The position is serious, and if Christianity is pushed out, the spiritual vacuum will be filled by something which might be quite unpleasant.

What Jude is saying is ‘wake up Church it is time to get back to the gospel that was once given’. The Bible states that Jesus died once and for all. It was finished complete by Him, and there is nothing that must be added or taken away.

No comments:

Post a Comment