Tuesday, August 4, 2020

EmmDev 2020-08-04 [Jude] Saviour but not Lord

Saviour but not Lord

In verse 4 Jude gets to the nitty gritty of the false teaching that is so dangerous that he deviates from his natural inclination to celebrate the salvation he has in common with his audience.

He makes two important points:

And we're going to start with his second one...

What is it that these false teachers do that has him so concerned?
In a nutshell, these people are perfectly willing to take what God offers (providence, grace and mercy) but they are completely unwilling to let God be God in their lives.

As I mentioned in the introduction to Jude, the heresy he was dealing with was an early form of gnosticism which reduced faith to a cerebral affair. Drawing from Platonism, they argued the body and soul were separate entities and, as such, the body was just the cage or vehicle of the soul. This meant that what you did with your body didn't matter. These "gnostics", who argued that their thoughts (their "knowledge" - gnosis(Greek)) were what mattered, would indulge in immorality and other fleshly excesses with impunity.

Basically, they were happy to have Jesus as their Saviour, but they didn't want Him to be their Lord.

Today there are many who fall into this trap. Maybe not as blatantly as the gnostics did, but in many subtle ways they are quick to talk about God as a forgiving and merciful God, but they are not willing to accept His laws and standards.

They want to be their own god but still expect Jesus to be their Saviour.

The first point that Jude makes is that this tendency has been around for a long time and warns us that this was as wrong then as it is now... (tomorrow we'll look at some old examples of this.)

So this is the bottom-line... False and Fake religion often boils down to this very simple point: People want to have what God offers without doing what God requires. We are not immune to this temptation - we want Him to be our Saviour, but we don't always want Him to be our Lord.

For certain men whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are godless men, who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord.      (Jude1:4)

Thursday, July 30, 2020

EmmDev 2020-07-30 [Jude] Entrusted

(Apologies for the missed eDev yesterday!)


Our faith is a legacy, a heritage and a baton that we have received and that we must pass on.

The Greek word Jude uses for "entrusted" gives the sense of giving over, passing on and committing. It is even used to describe betrayal in the sense of "handing someone over" (What Judas did to Jesus) Think of his kiss... he was effectively handing Jesus over... "He's all yours..."

The picture I have is of a relay, where each runner does his best to get the baton to the next runner.

Jude is very worried about the next "handing over." He is afraid that something is going to go wrong in the transmission of the faith that was entrusted to them.

He finds it necessary to contend for this shared and entrusted salvation message.

Here are a few quick questions...

  • Do you recognise that faith was entrusted to you? Who are the precious people who passed faith on to you?
  • Our salvation is a shared one. Even in lockdown we still need to be very eager to preserve our connectedness in Christ. What are you doing to maintain your connection with your spiritual family?
  • Will you pass on the faith that was entrusted to you?

Jude is ready to go out of his comfort zone to "contend" for this faith. We must too...

Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints.      (Jude1:3)

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

EmmDev 2020-07-28 [Jude] Default Mindset

Default Mindset

Today's verse highlights a very very important principle: we should never get tired of talking about and celebrating the simple but amazing-incredible-awesome truth that we have been saved.

As Jude writes to his audience, he makes it abundantly clear, right at the outset, that he would prefer to talk about the glorious truth of their shared faith.
The sad thing about Christians is that our conversation often gravitates towards the negatives. We easily get sucked into the failings of leaders, the scandals of those that "we always had a bad feeling about", the minor doctrines that we're for or against, or the gossip and power struggle dynamics that often beleaguer faith communities.

Jude would prefer not to talk about the false teaching that threatens the community he is writing to, but the threat is real and serious and so he writes because he has to and not because he wants to.
But I really like his default mindset...

"He's eager to talk about the salvation they share."
This means he is still enthralled with "Amazing Grace" and that he feels a deep sense of connection with his fellow Christians.

What an incredible mindset to have!

Jude has given us a simple dipstick to test our spiritual health...

Are you still keen and excited to think about and share your joy and amazement at salvation with others, especially with fellow believers?
Or are you being sucked into all the other stuff?
What's your "default mindset"?

You may have some heart-work to do...
Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints.      (Jude1:3)

Friday, July 24, 2020

EmmDev 2020-07-24 [Jude] Mercy, Peace and Love

Mercy, Peace and Love

There is an attractive humility about Jude. He is not an apostle. And while he identifies himself as James' brother, he could have introduced himself as Jesus' brother. (Technically half-brother)     But Jude doesn't do this - he doesn't create a sense of a "family business" and he doesn't assume that everyone knows who he is...

As we saw yesterday, Jude sees the church through a beautiful lens. They are called (the Holy Spirit is implied here), loved by God and kept by Jesus.
But then we hear his heart for them: Mercy, Peace and Love.

Mercy is what we experience from God - He doesn't treat us our sins deserve. He doesn't leave us to fulfill the demands of righteousness on our own. Jesus takes our place. We have received incredible, free, no-strings-attached mercy.

Peace is the result of receiving mercy. I don't have to earn salvation. I don't have to strive. When I fail, I don't have to feel as though all is lost. I have peace with God. My relationship with my Father is not based on my achievements or my failures, but on the once-and-for-all-sufficient sacrifice of Christ. When He looks at me, the Father sees me through the spectacles of Christ's sacrifice. He's done it - He's got this. I have peace.

Love is when mercy and peace are experienced deeply and fully. We can fall in love with the God who did this for us and we can love those He loves (and this includes ourselves).

But Jude isn't wishing us something we don't have...
He's reminding us to walk on the road already built for us.
He'd like us to abound in it - to experience it more and more.

Will you open your heart to that??

Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and a brother of James, to those who have been called, who are loved by God the Father and kept by Jesus Christ: Mercy, peace and love be yours in abundance.      (Jude1:1-2)

Thursday, July 23, 2020

EmmDev 2020-07-23 [Jude] A caring warning

A caring warning

After a two day break, I want to resume EmmDevs with a short series based on the second last book in the New Testament - the letter of Jude...

The consensus is that the author is Jude (Judas), the brother of Jesus. Jesus had 4 brothers James, Joseph (Joses), Judas (Jude), and Simon. During Jesus' public ministry, the brothers were mocking and skeptical. At one point they even felt He was out of control and out of His mind.

But the resurrection changed everything!

James became the head of the early church, Jude wrote this letter and Mary and her sons were prominent in the early church. Neither James nor Jude claim to be Jesus' brothers, but the early church recognised them as such.

From his letter it is clear that Jude cares about the church and is worried enough to write a letter when he sees trouble brewing...

Scholars think it was written somewhere between 65-80AD at a time where the church was threatened by a form of false teaching that said that because you had been forgiven, you could do whatever you liked with your body because your soul was going to heaven. These false teachers took pride in their intellect and argued that the rules didn't apply to them...

This was called "Gnosticism" (from the Greek word "Gnosis" which means "knowledge.")

Jude wanted to protect the early church from this early form of Gnosticism. He uses a very rich grounding in the Old Testament to warn his readers from the pending threat.

Jude isn't an apostle and doesn't claim to be one. He does not parade his credentials. He doesn't pull the "hey-I'm-Jesus-little-brother" card. What makes his letter so appealing is his very very obvious love for the church... It is said that "people don't care how much you know until they know how much you care..."
From the "feel" the letter has, it is obvious that Jude cares greatly for the church.

But, first and foremost, Jude conveys God's love for the church!
Look how he describes believers as "Called", "Loved" and "Kept".

This is who we are:
"Called" (by name and for a purpose)
"Loved" (so much that He gave His Son)
"Kept" (sustained by God's faithfulness and care)

Next time you pass a mirror, stop and gaze at your reflection and remind yourself: "I am Called, Loved and Kept!"

Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and a brother of James,
To those who have been called, who are loved by God the Father and kept by Jesus Christ:
Mercy, peace and love be yours in abundance.      (Jude1:1-2)

Friday, July 17, 2020

EmmDev 2020-07-17 [Snapshots of Jesus.] Sending


We're reaching the end of my photo-album of snapshots of Jesus.
The disciples were locked away fearfully. They thought it was all over... but it was just the beginning. Jesus appeared offering them peace with nail-scarred hands. He has been through the absolute absence of peace so that they may have peace. He brings joy into fear.

And He sends them out. "As the Father sent me..." Our mission is to go into the world. But we need to page back through our album... Look at the photos of Jesus we've collected. We must go with the same compassion, love, care, mercy, determination and reassuring-doubt-dispelling practical-in-your-face love that we have seen in Jesus.

He will give us His Spirit to help us and empower us. He will inspire and energise us. If we are willing and responsive, He will show us what to say and how to live.

And what we proclaim offers forgiveness. It is not that we forgive, but the Gospel shows people how they can be forgiven. If we share the gospel, they can be forgiven. If we withhold the Good News then they cannot believe and therefore cannot be forgiven. We must go!

We've reached the end of the album... but this is not because the album is full - there are still a lot of blank pages... These pages are for fotos of you and me going out into the world with Jesus in our heart through His Spirit and in the power of His resurrection love.

FLASHBULB: The risen, peace-giving Jesus inviting us out into the world with Him to love like He did, care like He did, and reach out like He did. He doesn't ask us to do anything He has not done!

Again Jesus said, "Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you." And with that he breathed on them and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven."      (John20:21-23)

ps: I hope you've enjoyed this series....
God bless and Love,

Thursday, July 16, 2020

EmmDev 2020-07-16 [Snapshots of Jesus.] Forgiveness


We have almost no information for this snapshot. And so I have to do some "supposing":

Somewhere between Simon Peter running to the tomb, finding it empty and "wondering to himself what had happened" and the Sunday night (when Jesus appeared to all of the disciples,) Jesus appeared to Simon Peter alone.
Simon Peter had failed. He had denied Jesus and called down curses to prove his point. We know the details of the later encounter that Peter has when Jesus walks with him on the shores of Galilee: In that encounter Peter gets three opportunities to express love for Jesus to atone for his denials.

So this first encounter is not about sorting out the denials.

I wonder if there was even a lot said. I wonder if Peter didn't just fall down in worship and relief. Relief? Yes relief! He walked away from the empty tomb wondering what had happened. Now he knew! Hope was rekindled, faith had been revitalised.

Sometimes we are also in the trap of doubt and failure. We find it hard to believe in God's goodness and forgiveness. We are painfully aware of our own darkness and failure and doubt that God is interested in us. We have a long list of failures that we need to "sort out" before we can "crawl back to God." (which is what we think we have to do...) We make coming back to God a very complicated business.

I think this first encounter between Jesus and Peter just cuts past all of Peter's "ifs and buts." He just needs to experience God's presence and love. (After all, isn't that what the story of the Prodigal Son is all about?)

FLASHBULB: "Peter, you think coming back to me is a complicated business, but here I am!!! I will specially come to you!! No need to say anything or do anything, just experience my presence and my love!"

They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together and saying, "It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon."      (Luke24:33-34)

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

EmmDev 2020-07-15 [Snapshots of Jesus.] Reassuring


I have a theory about Thomas:

Although many call him "doubting Thomas", the other references to Thomas in the New Testament reveal him as someone with courage (he urged the rest of the disciples to follow Jesus even if they had to die with Him) and as someone who asked penetrating and acute questions.

So why did he have such "doubts?" John records the following:
Now Thomas (called Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, "We have seen the Lord!" But he said to them, "Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it."
The name Didymus means "twin." I can't help but wonder if something terrible might have happened to Thomas' twin. When Jesus died on the cross, it may have caused all sorts of horrible memories to return for Thomas. Questions about pain, death and the meaning of life.

Thomas was rattled.

Jesus is gentle with Thomas. He doesn't rebuke him - but invites him to see the reality of the resurrection in the context of the cross-scars.

Thomas is transformed. He finally has an answer for pain - Jesus has been there and has returned. Jesus knows our broken hearts and our broken lives. Jesus has suffered and He is alive. Jesus brings a real answer - not a cheap platitude - to the problem of pain. And Thomas offers us the New Testament's most powerful creed: "MY Lord and MY God!"

FLASHBULB: Jesus compassionately reaching out to Thomas with those horribly scarred hands offering him comfort in the midst of his pain: "Stop doubting (stop struggling and suffering) and believe (hope again!)"

Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe." Thomas said to him, "My Lord and my God!"      (John20:27-28)

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

EmmDev 2020-07-14 [Snapshots of Jesus.] Preaching


There were two on the road to Emmaus on the day Jesus rose from the dead. The road to Emmaus is about 11km and Jesus walked with them for most of the day but they were "kept from recognising Him."

Why would Jesus spent most of His resurrection day like this?

He could have:
- appeared in the temple
- confronted Pontius Pilate
- gathered an army of followers

Instead He uses up most of the day walking and talking with two nearly unknown followers!

Because He was laying a foundation. To soothe their troubled hearts Jesus could have revealed Himself to them, but instead He preached. He unpacked scripture after scripture about Himself so that they had a firm foundation on which to stand.

Did it work?

After they finally recognised Jesus and He disappeared from their sight, they could testify that their hearts were on fire as they heard the word being preached.

There is nothing that keeps us on track better than a regular Bible reading habit. I've seen many Christians stumble and fall, but those who withstand temptations and trials are those who have a firm foundation in the Bible.

FLASHBULB: Jesus passionately teaching all these Old Testament Bible Passages: His voice excited, His face passionate, His eyes shining. He is teaching about what He had come to do and has now done through His resurrection. If He took time on resurrection day to teach, we should take time to listen!

And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.      (Luke24:27)

Friday, July 10, 2020

EmmDev 2020-07-10 [Snapshots of Jesus.] Risen


This week a friend sent me a photo of the headstone that has been placed on her late husband's grave. It was a simple stone, not quarried, and the wording was simple, but the stone, although basically rectangular, had a rounded feel around the edges and I went goosebumps when I saw it because I immediately thought about the "stone that was rolled away!"

Death is not permanent.
The grave will not hold us,
because it could not hold Him!

The tomb is empty, the stone is rolled away.
My 2000 year old snapshot is a stone rolled away from a garden tomb with baffled women and disciples peering inside. My current snapshot is the headstone of a faithful servant of God who we buried in the solid hope and profound comfort that death is a defeated bully.

FLASHBULB: The stone rolled away - not because Jesus was stuck inside (He appeared to the disciples behind locked doors) - but because we needed to know that HE HAS WON!

On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.       (Luke24:1-3)