2 May mercy, peace, and love be yours in abundance.
Occasion of the Letter
3 Beloved, while eagerly preparing to write to you about the salvation we share, I find it necessary to write and appeal to you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints. 4 For certain intruders have stolen in among you, people who long ago were designated for this condemnation as ungodly, who pervert the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.[f]
Judgment on False Teachers
5 Now I desire to remind you, though you are fully informed, that the Lord, who once for all saved[g] a people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe. 6 And the angels who did not keep their own position, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains in deepest darkness for the judgment of the great day. 7 Likewise, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which, in the same manner as they, indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural lust,[h] serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire.
8 Yet in the same way these dreamers also defile the flesh, reject authority, and slander the glorious ones.[i] 9 But when the archangel Michael contended with the devil and disputed about the body of Moses, he did not dare to bring a condemnation of slander[j] against him, but said, “The Lord rebuke you!” 10 But these people slander whatever they do not understand, and they are destroyed by those things that, like irrational animals, they know by instinct. 11 Woe to them! For they go the way of Cain, and abandon themselves to Balaam’s error for the sake of gain, and perish in Korah’s rebellion. 12 These are blemishes[k] on your love-feasts, while they feast with you without fear, feeding themselves.[l] They are waterless clouds carried along by the winds; autumn trees without fruit, twice dead, uprooted; 13 wild waves of the sea, casting up the foam of their own shame; wandering stars, for whom the deepest darkness has been reserved forever.
14 It was also about these that Enoch, in the seventh generation from Adam, prophesied, saying, “See, the Lord is coming[m] with ten thousands of his holy ones, 15 to execute judgment on all, and to convict everyone of all the deeds of ungodliness that they have committed in such an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things that ungodly sinners have spoken against him.” 16 These are grumblers and malcontents; they indulge their own lusts; they are bombastic in speech, flattering people to their own advantage.
Warnings and Exhortations
17 But you, beloved, must remember the predictions of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ; 18 for they said to you, “In the last time there will be scoffers, indulging their own ungodly lusts.” 19 It is these worldly people, devoid of the Spirit, who are causing divisions. 20 But you, beloved, build yourselves up on your most holy faith; pray in the Holy Spirit; 21 keep yourselves in the love of God; look forward to the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to[n] eternal life. 22 And have mercy on some who are wavering; 23 save others by snatching them out of the fire; and have mercy on still others with fear, hating even the tunic defiled by their bodies.[o]
24 Now to him who is able to keep you from falling, and to make you stand without blemish in the presence of his glory with rejoicing, 25 to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, power, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.
As you know, I have announced my retirement. Come the middle of February, I will preach my final sermon and pack up my office and head on out for new adventures.
One of the questions you will be pondering in months ahead is this – “what kind of pastor do we want?”
It is a good question.
I saw a comic the other day on the Internet. A group of people are sitting in a room and the words on the blackboard says, “Pastor Search Committee.”
One of the members is standing and says this, “So it is agreed. We have decided that what we want our of our next pastor is someone who will be an innovative pastor with a passion for the future with fresh ideas who will inspire us to do things exactly the way we have always done them in the past.”
I came across this in my files – it claims to be an old Report from a Pastor Search Committee:
It starts off: We do not have a final report to give. We have looked through scores of resumes and found fault with all of them, except for one stand out.
ADAM: Good man but has problems with his wife. One reference told us how he and his wife enjoyed walking in the woods dressed only in fig leaves.
NOAH: Former pastorate of 120 years with no converts. Prone to unrealistic
MOSES: A modest and meek man, but poor communicator; even stutters at times. Sometimes blows his stack and acts rashly in business meetings. Some say he left an earlier church over a murder charge.
DAVID: The most promising leader of all until we discovered the affair he had with his neighbor's wife.
JONAH: Told us he was swallowed up by a great fish. He said the fish later
spit him out on the shore near here. We hung up.
spit him out on the shore near here. We hung up.
PETER: Too blue collar. Has a bad temper, even said to have cursed. He's a loose cannon.
PAUL: Powerful CEO type and fascinating preacher. However, he's short on tact, unforgiving with young ministers, harsh, and has been known to preach
JESUS: Dynamic preacher, and at one time his church grew to 5000, He managed to offend them all; and his church dwindled down to twelve people. Seldom stays in one place very long.
JUDAS: His references are solid. A steady worker. Conservative. Good connections. Knows how to handle money. We're inviting him to preach this Sunday in view of a call.
Okay, on a serious level, you will have to think about what kind of preacher you want.
I suggest you think of a different question to ask. And if you have noticed the sermon title, you can guess where I am going with this – what kind of church member do you want your next pastor to see in you?
What kind of church member will you be?
This is one of the issues of the little New Testament book of Jude.
Jude is a very brief book in the New Testament. In fact, we just read the entire book.
Jude presents an image of two different people he finds in the church.
On one hand, there are the godly people – well, I would hope so! This is the kind of people we expect to see in church.
But on the other hand there are those people who are, in Jude’s words, “worldly people, devoid of the Spirit, who are causing divisions” in our churches.
` Jude even speaks harshly about these people, saying, “certain intruders have stolen in among you, people who long ago were designated … as ungodly.”
That really is a harsh word to use in talking about church members, to call them ungodly.
Jude says about these people, “These are blemishes on your love-feasts…” now that term, love-feast, was the way early Christians sometimes described worship in the Christian Church. People would come together to feel and show love to one another, and they would literally feast together. Everyone would bring food to share and they would also have the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper.
So Jude says that these people are “blemishes on your love feasts – worship services - while they feast with you without fear, feeding themselves. They are waterless clouds carried along by the winds; autumn trees without fruit, twice dead, uprooted; wild waves of the sea, casting up the foam of their own shame; wandering stars, for whom the deepest darkness has been reserved forever.”
So what are these ungodly church members like? Jude goes onto say, “These people are grumblers and faultfinders; they follow their own evil desires; they boast about themselves and flatter others for their own advantage.”
Yep, every church has these people.
Jude’s church had them.
And so does ours.
And Jude describes them well.
First, they are “grumblers and malcontents.”
Have you ever met someone in the church who is always grumbling? They grumble about the way the elders spend the money. They grumble about the youth programs. They grumble about the pastor and how he doesn’t visit, or about the sermons that are preached. They grumble about the church picnic. Anything and everything.
In my first church, there was a fellow named Andy. He complained about everything. He never once offered to help with anything. He never once offered solutions. He just complained and grumbled.
One of the church members worked hard to start a Men’s Prayer Breakfast. At our first meeting, we had a great breakfast. We had a great turnout. We had a great time. I was amazed, because we met at 6am on a Sunday!!! I didn’t expect very many to show up, but they did.
But Andy complained and grumbled. He kept talking about, “This is a failure. Hardly anyone is here. What a waste of time.”
I looked around and counted the men. There were 32 men. Okay, maybe that is not a lot – but there were only 35 men in the whole church!
But the damage was done. Andy’s grumbling convinced many that we had failed, and we never had another Men’s Prayer Breakfast at that church.
Constructive criticism happens when someone has a concern and takes the concern to the Session, the elders, or to the pastor.
Grumbling happens when the comments are said in small groups, behind the pastor’s back, or outside of the Session. Grumbling simply destroys.
You know where this started? With Moses!
Time and again in the Old Testament, Moses is leading God’s people through the wilderness, and many times they come across a challenge or difficulty, and the people grumble against Moses. Now this is one place I like the King James Version, because in that translation, the word is “murmur.”
It is in every church. Even Jesus experienced this from time to time. In chapter 6 of John’s Gospel there came a moment when Jesus was aware that his own disciples were murmuring, or grumbling about him.
Jude has little patience with this and calls this -- the behavior of the ungodly.
Churches full of people who grumble and find fault with the pastor, the youth programs, the Sunday School – they don’t grow. Who would want to go to a church like that?
So what kind of church member do you want to be?
Jude says, “These people are grumblers and faultfinders, they follow their own evil desires; they boast about themselves and flatter others for their own advantage.”
On the other hand, Jude paints an image of the kind of church member we need to strive to become:
“It is these worldly people, devoid of the Spirit, who are causing divisions. But you, beloved, build yourselves up on your most holy faith; pray in the Holy Spirit; keep yourselves in the love of God … and have mercy on those who are wavering.”
First, the godly person builds up his or her life on the foundation of faith.
A godly church member is not a perfect person.
Jude does not say, be perfect in faith, nor does he say, be mature in your faith.
He calls us to build up our faith.
It is a process. We need to be people of faith who are always building up our faith, growing every day in faith.
Faith is not a set of beliefs we build up on our own. Faith comes to us from Jesus Christ, through the apostles, through the Scriptures, and finally to us.
Faith is about what we believe, and it is about how we behave.
Faith is more than the reciting of the words of the Apostles Creed. It is a belief system that gives you comfort. It guides you in life.
This is a real contrast with the people Jude calls the “ungodly” in the church. The ungodly complain and grumble. They see the negative in everything.
A person of faith is able to see beyond the negative and to see God is still in control, God is still at work.
As you prepare to say goodbye to me as your pastor, and as you get ready to search for a new pastor, this is the kind of church member you need to be – a person who is always at work building up your faith.
Second, Jude says that the godly person is also a person of prayer. The be a person or prayer is to know that we are dependent on God, and God alone.
In the early years of the space program, Alan Shephard was the first American to fly into space. The countdown for the Freedom 7 capsule’s flight started at 8:30PM the night before, but Shepard did not enter the capsule until 5:15 AM on May 5th, 2 hours before the “planned” take off time, but the lift off would not happen until 9:20 AM. This was the period when Shepard is supposed to have coined what would become known as Shepard’s Prayer. It is one well known to astronauts today: “Dear Lord, please don’t let me mess up.” Although to be honest, this tough military man didn’t use the words “mess up” but something that even a pastor close to retiring ought not say – but you get the point.
After Shephard’s first American space flight, the news media always seemed interested in how the astronauts or their wives were engaged in prayer. John Glenn was the third American in space, and the first American to orbit the earth. When Glenn’s wife was asked by reporters how she felt about her husband’s safety, Anne Glenn, a strong Presbyterian, said she was praying to God for her husband’s safety.
And then came the next space flight. And Scott Carpenter’s wife refused to make any comment that she was praying for her husband.
Americans reacted negatively about this and perceived that she was a person who rejected prayer and faith.
But the story behind that was that they had a child who died at the age of six months. Rene and Scott had prayed for the health of their child, and the child died. She believed in God, but she felt that prayer was useless, because God would do what God would do.
But prayer is not a demand we make of God that God must answer the way we insist. Prayer often goes unfulfilled in the way we desire.
We pray because we need to express our dependence on God. Not to make demands on God.
We pray because we need God and we need a communion and relationship with God.
And for that reason Paul said in the New Testament, “Pray without ceasing.” (1 Thessalonians 5:17).
Jude says that one of our responses to the self-centered ungodly who seek only their own desires, is to become a person of prayer, so that we can seek what God desires.
This is a good work to remember as you move through the transition of saying goodbye to me in February and saying hello to a new pastor in a few months.
Pray for the elders, pray for the pastor search committee, pray for the outgoing pastor and pray for the pastor whom God has called to come here soon. Pray for the church.
And finally, the godly person will stay in the love of God.
It is a trap that all of us may face sometime in our Christian journey. We start off passionate for God, but then over the years, the passion fades away.
Jude encourages us, “stay in the love of God.”
In the Book of Revelation, the first thing we read are a series of letters to seven churches, each dealing with their own challenges.
When it comes to the Church of Laodicea, the words are painful. “I know your works; you are neither cold nor hot. I wish that you were either cold or hot. So, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I am about to spit you out of my mouth.”
Don’t be that kind of church member. Stay in the love of God!
When I was coming to the end of my seminary training and was close to graduating, I started looking for my first job as a pastor. One church wanted an associate pastor, but I didn’t know anything about the senior pastor. So I asked the dean of the seminary, “What is the senior pastor like, do you know him?”
“Yes, I know him very well,” the seminary dean said. “I would say that the best way to describe him is that he is a warm pastor.”
Warm? That sounded nice. But for some reason I pressed on and asked, “What does that mean when you say he is a warm pastor?”
The dean said, “Look it up in the dictionary. Warm – adjective. Not so hot.”
You don’t want to be a church member who is “not so hot.”
Be on fire for the Lord. Keep yourself in the love of the Lord.
Grace Covenant is at the beginning of an exciting time. You will naturally be asking about what kind of preacher you want to have.
The way you prepare for you new pastor is to ask yourself that other question, “what kind of church member do I want to be?
And now unto God the Father,
God the Son, And God the Holy Spirit be ascribed all might, power, dominion and glory, today and forever, Amen.
Dr. W. Maynard Pittendreigh
All rights reserved
Ministers may feel free to use some or all of this sermon in their own ministries as long as they do not publish in print or on the Internet without ascribing credit to the author.