Monday, November 26, 2012

Sermon on Jude 20-25, for the Last Sunday of the Church Year, "Presented Blameless"

Sermon Outline:
·         Jude, half-brother of our Lord. Contend for the faith. False teachers arising. Lawlessness, sensuality, perverting the grace of Christ.
·         20 But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit… To know true from false we must know what the true faith is. How to recognize a fraud? Be intimately familiar with the original, genuine, authentic article. Build yourselves up in the true faith. Take advantage of Bible studies offered; dig in the Word; ask questions; discuss; read; pray in the Holy Spirit for understanding and test your knowledge against the Word; fellowship—not alone (greater temptation to error).
·         Then we will be able to contend; to guard against false teaching. Watchfulness. Not blind to the danger of error—can lead to shipwrecking our faith; stir up doubts and wavering; fall into sin and temptation.
·         21 keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. Remain in the faith and love of God—know that Jesus’ mercy leads to eternal life. Not our own way, or own strength. Patience, grace, perseverance.
·         After guarding and strengthening yourself, help rescue others. Prey for the false teachers. Victims; fallen into sin, temptation, judgment. 22 And have mercy on those who doubt; 23 save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh. Three groups: doubting, those in the fire, and those who are dangerous, but still need mercy.
·         Hard to find certainty amid competing voices. Voices heard: “There is no truth; your truth is as good as mine; nothing is real; question everything; etc.” Even among Christians opinions diverge widely. Can nothing be said with certainty? Must we all be doubters and skeptics, taking nothing for certain? Jude describes the false teachers as relying on dreams and as waterless clouds swept along by the winds. Brother James described doubters like the waves of the sea tossed by the wind. Paul says the same, that if we are not grounded in true doctrine, we’ll be like children “tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine” (Eph. 4:14). Luther in his time said: “The Holy Spirit is no Skeptic, and it is not doubts or mere opinions He has written on our hearts, but assertions more sure and certain than life itself and all experience.”
·         Gentleness, patient teaching, loving encouragement to the doubters. Prayer in the Spirit: “Give us more faith!” Mercy, understanding.
·         Save others by snatching them out of the fire. Firefighter rescuing those in danger. Fishers of men—firefighters? Fire is judgment; left in sin, we’re skirting judgment, playing with fire. Battling a forest fire, a firebreak is often burned in advance, to stop the encroaching flames. Snatching others out of the fire, as though we stand in the firebreak, in the clearing, pulling others to safety. Jesus “pre-burned” a safe zone for us by facing God’s judgment at the cross. (Matt Hilpert). Snatched from the fire into the shelter of Jesus Christ. Those already snared in false teaching, left the church, left the faith, need to be pulled back to safety.
·         To others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh. The dangerous. Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Gal. 6:1. Show mercy with fear? Fear of falling into sin ourselves. One student wrote Prof. Eschelbach—didn’t like the word “fear” in the Bible. Response:
This word for “fear” occurs 178 times in the Bible. Whether we like it or not, the importance of the term cannot be dismissed. On the other hand, a person’s dislike of the word is probably a consequence of misuse in our time rather than any problem inherent in the word itself. The word “fear” means to have an honest and accurate perception of the forces to which we are subject and upon which we depend.  A person is right to be afraid of dehydration or starvation. A person is prudent who fears dangerous neighborhoods after dark. More importantly, fear does not exist in isolation, especially not in reference to God. While the “fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge,” the mercy of the Lord is upon those who fear Him (Proverbs 1:7; Luke 1:50).
·         Fear can be useful to protect; survival. Keep from recklessness, foolhardiness. But watch lest fear turn to cowardice; freeze us to inaction; or despair! Fear eventually must be replaced by love; from discipline to self-control and wisdom. Some are hard to help—danger to be pulled into sin yourself. But show mercy! Even the hard-headed and lost need patience and mercy. Us too!
·         Concludes with a beautiful doxology: 24 Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, 25 to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen. Only One is able to guide us through life, so we make it. Keep us from stumbling in sin, falling from our faith. Sets our feet back on solid ground—Jesus. If any doubts—pray in the Spirit, study the Word. If rescued from sin, give thanks and keep watch! If defiled and shamed from sin that has stained you, grab hold of His mercy! Take the clean garment of forgiveness He spreads over you in baptism. He alone presents you blameless. Presented blameless? After all I’ve done? Yes, Christ so loves His church, that He gave Himself up for her, dying on the cross, so He “might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.”(Eph. 5:26-27).
·         Joy, confidence, to face the Judgment. Blameless because of Jesus’ shed blood for our forgiveness. All glory, majesty, dominion, and authority be to Him forever and ever!

Sermon Talking Points
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1.      Read the 25 verses of the Book of Jude. The author of this short letter was the brother of James (cf. Jude 1 & James 1:1) and they both were the half-brothers of Jesus (Matthew 13:55; Mark 6:3; 1 Corinthians 9:5). The book is very similar to parts of 2 Peter.

2.      What was Jude’s purpose in writing? Vs. 3-4. What kind of people had crept into the church, and what false teaching were they spreading in it? See vs. 4, 8, 13, 16, 18, 19. How does one distinguish false teaching within the church, from the truth? Acts 17:11; 1 Thess. 5:21; 1 John 4:1

3.      How does he encourage the embattled Christians to strengthen themselves against the false teachings? V. 20-21.

4.      Jude also calls them to be active in helping those who have fallen victim to false teachings, or fallen into doubt. What should our attitude and approach be toward those who doubt? V. 22; Luke 24:36-40; Ephesians 4:2; 2 Timothy 4:2.

5.      How should we help those who have already given into temptation and are facing judgment, or who have defiled themselves and are filled with guilt or shame? V. 23; Galatians 6:1-2; James 5:19-20; Amos 4:11; Zechariah 3:2.

6.      How do verses 24-25 show that Jesus is uniquely able to save and protect us? What does it mean for us to be presented blameless before Him? Romans 8:1; Ephesians 5:25-27. How does this give us confidence to face the judgment? How shall we rejoice, now and into eternity?

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