Trusting God's Power - Jude 24

This is a sermon by Nathan Buttery from the evening service on 24th September 2000.

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The phrase "Reach for the Moon" has, it seems in recent weeks, taken on new proportions. Two men, one based in the United States and the other here in Britain have made hundreds of thousands of pounds by selling plots of land on the moon to the general public. The British agent, a man called Francis Williams, has set up a website where you can buy acre plots of the moon for around £15 with a deed certificate, a map and mineral mining rights thrown in as well. It seems too good to miss doesn’t it? Part ownership of the moon! Fantastic. Or is it? For a start no-one is quite sure whether it is legal, and in any case, even if it was, when is anyone going to have the time, effort and money to take up their share of the moon and emigrate. Let’s face it, it’s all a bit of a scam, and even Mr Williams describes the scheme as a bit of harmless fun! They have promised much but delivered little!

And so it was with the false teachers of Jude’s day. Jude, you’ll remember if you have been with us these past three weeks, was writing to Christians whose church had been infiltrated by false teachers. They had slipped in unnoticed and Jude has to write to these Christians to warn them about these false teachers. For, says Jude in verse 4, they are changing the grace of God into a licence for immorality and they are denying Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord. These false teachers were promising much but failing to deliver. In fact they didn’t just promise the moon, they promised heaven itself. They were saying that they had forgiveness and they were on their way to heaven, and they were saying they could do what they wanted with their bodies. Do what you want they were saying, because you’re forgiven! They promised much. But they failed to deliver because Jude says they are actually on their way to hell. They promised heaven, but they got hell, because they ignored, distorted and abused the Word of God.

We could sum up Jude’s message by three d’s. Don’t be deceived by their subtle talk, Jude tells his readers. And don’t be destroyed by their wicked ways. He’s spent much of his letter reminding the readers of Bible history, that many down the ages have ignored God’s word to their peril, and these men do the same today, he says. Instead you need to contend for the faith and stand firm against them. And then lastly he says don’t be disturbed. For it would be very easy for the readers to have read Jude’s letter and to have been shocked into thinking, "How earth can we cope? Surely we too will fall? There’s so much pressure on us to conform, surely we’re going to end up the way of the false teachers like all those other examples Jude has given from the Bible!" But Jude brings his letter to a conclusion by giving his readers a great reassurance. You can make it. God will bring you to heaven. You are not going to fall. God will keep you.

And as we come to the end of this letter, I guess that’s what many of us will be thinking. Jude has had some strong things to say to us. He’s shot his warning bolts across our bows. And we may be tempted to think "How can we survive? We too face false teaching and pressures from the world to make us neglect God and his word. The tide is just to strong, I can’t cope with this for much longer. Am I really going to make it to heaven?" And Jude’s answer is yes you are. And that’s the great news that Jude ends with. And there are two wonderful lessons for us to learn from Jude’s final sentences.

 

1) Trust in God’s Power (v24)

2) Rejoice in God’s Character (v25)

1) Trust in God’s Power (v24)

And how is that power seen? Well Jude says in two ways:

 

a) God’s power to keep us- And it’s a power which keeps us from falling in verse 24. "Now to him who is able to keep you from falling." So what does Jude mean here? Surely he doesn’t mean that we never sin? That would be ridiculous. All of us sin. Has God broken his promise? Well of course not. It’s not that we don’t fall down from time to time. Each of us sin and have little tumbles. Rather God is able to keep us from falling permanently. He will never let us go, he’ll always keep us. And the Bible is full of such promises to believers. In Hebrews 13 the author reminds the readers that God has promised, "Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you." Jesus in John 10 says that no-one can snatch his sheep from his hand. So the Christian can have absolute confidence that God will never leave them or forsake them and that God will keep them from falling. That is a promise we can hold on to.

Often I think to myself: "It is a complete miracle that I am still a Christian." I look back over the last year and think of all the ways I have sinned and mucked up, all the mistakes I have made, how I have failed God times and again, and yet I am still a Christian. Doesn’t that strike you as amazing? And it’s true for each one of us here who are Christians. It is a miracle any of us are still Christians. And the fact is if it were down to us, then we would have given it up long ago. Rather God is keeping us. That’s how we’re still Christians. It is by grace we are saved and by grace we continue. Sometimes we are tempted to think that it is by grace we are saved and then God leaves it to us. No, God saves us and then he keep us. We’re to trust him because he’s got the power to keep us.

Now this is the flip side of the coin that we looked at first last week. For then we discovered in verse 21 that we are to keep ourselves. So is Jude contradicting himself? Well no. Last week I used the illustration of rock climbing. When you are rock climbing you have a rope attached to your waist which is controlled by the chap at the top of the cliff and he holds onto the rope. And when you fall or slip is able to stop you from falling to the ground. But last week we discovered that Jude was telling us that we cannot just sit back on the rope and expect the man at the top to haul us up. No we are to put in the effort ourselves to climb the cliff face. In the same way we’re to keep ourselves in God’s love. And we saw that that means obeying God and his Word. This week the encouragement is that there is someone at the top holding on to us when we do fall off. And he is never going to let us go. Nor is he going to cut the rope when we fall off so many times that he gets bored. Rather God is a loving Father who is patient with his children and will keep us till heaven.

You see those two truths go hand in hand in the Bible. We must keep ourselves in God’s love, and yet God is also able to keep us. We cannot just let go and let God because that shows we’re not bothered to obey God. He won’t have it. And yet we can have confidence that as we scale the rock face, God will never let us go. And of course the false teachers were trying to con people into cutting the rope and doing things their way. They were not bothered about God’s ways. They ignored his Word. But they did so at their peril. They were heading for hell. But for the Christian who is concerned to keep themselves, there is the wonderfully reassuring truth that God will let not let you fall. He has the power to keep you. Are you worried by what the future holds? Are you fearful as to where you will be in ten or twenty years time. Well one thing we can have absolute confidence in is God’s ability to keep us. So trust in that power to keep you from falling.

 

 

b) God’s power to present us- But the second way we see God’s power is in his power to present us. And what is that presentation? It is, in verse 24, the power to "present us before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy." The background that Jude has in mind here is the OT sacrificial system. The only sacrifices that God would allow were perfect ones, lambs with no blemishes, bulls and goats with no broken limbs. And the reason was that only perfection could be acceptable before God’s presence. Anything unclean or less than perfect would be destroyed by his perfect holiness. And only the cleansing blood of sacrificed animals allowed any sort of access to God. So when Jesus came to take our sins upon him he too had to be perfect to enter to God’s presence. Jude’s point is that if we are to dwell in God’s presence for ever then we too must be perfect, but of course that is something we do not have. But the Bible’s teaching is that whilst we are forgiven now and perfect in one sense, yet in another that sin still affects us. If you like the charge has been dropped. We are declared innocent. Yet the effects of the crime are still with us. And yet day by day God is making the Christian more like Jesus. That process of recreation is being effected in us. Over the years, whilst the progress is slow and painful, we can see that change taking place. Maybe we are becoming more loving to others, maybe that temper is less than it was, maybe our language has been cleaned up. Well one day says Jude that process will be perfected. Not only will we be forgiven in declaration, but we will literally be perfect as well. We’ll be spotless and blameless. That lingering slime of sin will be finally and fully cleansed from us. That’s what Jude is talking about here. One day we will stand before God in heaven as perfect human beings, perfectly remade in the image of Jesus Christ. It seems hard to believe at the moment doesn’t it, but it’s true and God has the power to do it, says Jude. He will present us before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy.

Over the last week it’s been hard to ignore the Olympics. And one of the events I happened to catch was the men’s triathlon. And I just managed to catch the end, and it was quite a sight. As the leading athlete came into the stadium there was a huge roar, and it was clear he was absolutely delighted. He hugged everyone he could see. You name it he hugged it. His joy was clear for all to see, and everyone was overjoyed to see this athlete make it home. And he stepped up to receive his prize with great joy. Now imagine a different race if you will. It’s the last lap of your Christian life. You can see the gates of heaven, and all along the road there are crowds and crowds of people cheering you on. The whole place is awash with joy and delight as you at last enter the gates. You’ve never heard such an incredible noise before, singing and cheering and the most amazing delight. And then you come before a huge throne as God beckons you near. And he asks: "Why should I let you into my heaven?" And you reply: "There is nothing I have done to earn it. But rather your Son Jesus Christ died in my place on that cross. He took my sin. And he gave me his perfection. And now I have received that gift fully. I am perfect and you have given me that awesome gift." And God replies: "Welcome, my son, we’ve been expecting you!"

Well what a wonderful day that will be! What a tremendous day to look forward to. And Jude says we can have absolute confidence in God to be able to present us as perfect on that great day. There can be no doubting his power. Do you doubt sometimes that you’ll make it? Do you despair when you hear of false teaching and the sin and temptation that constantly surrounds you? Well hear this great encouragement tonight and trust in this powerful God. Trust in God’s power: The power to keep us from falling and the power to present us without fault before his glorious presence with great joy.

 

2) Rejoice in God’s Character (v25)

But Jude doesn’t leave it there. He goes on and urges us to rejoice in God’s character. And as we come to the end of this mini series on Jude, it is striking that Jude should finish his letter by reminding us just what kind of God God is. Because the heart of false teaching as we have seen over the weeks is to reduce God to a pocket size imitation. It is to poo poo his judgement, to water down his moral standards, to ignore his warnings, to reject his way of salvation, in other words to make God weightless and put man on the throne. So how appropriate the we should end by seeing how is really on the throne. Because it is only as we see the true God we serve that we will keep ourselves in the truth, and it is only as we see what the true God is like that we’ll have the confidence to trust in his power. And what an awesome God he is!

 

a) He is the only Saviour- First he is the only Saviour, or to be correct, he is the only God who is our only Saviour. So as Jude finishes his letter he emphatically states that this God is the only God. There is no other. That is the testimony of the Bible from cover to cover. And he is not a God who is uninterested in his creation, who is distant and unknowable, rather he is our Saviour. He is a God who has got his hands dirty. And how do we know him. Well Jude tells us later in the verse. It is through Jesus Christ our Lord. Everything that relates to God is known through his Son Jesus Christ. And that is why we are to contend for the exclusive unique revelation of God in Jesus Christ. The only way we can know God is in Christ. But of course many today will reject that claim. They will want to suggest, even professing Christians, that there is more than one way to God. Christianity is very respectable, but we are not to offend others by suggesting Jesus is the only way. Jesus is just one way among many, we’re told. So religion nowadays is just like going to a supermarket. You walk into Tesco’s’ nowadays and you can buy about ten varieties of potatoes. So take your pick. Just so on the shelves in the religion section there are many to choose from- Islam, Buddhism, Judaism, Hinduism, New Age, and of course Christianity. And it’s for that reason that Prince Charles has called himself not the Defender of the Faith, but Defender of faith. Because it’s politically incorrect to say that one is right and the other is wrong. But Jude says that’s a load of rubbish. There is only One God and he’s our Saviour, and we can know him in Jesus Christ. So do you want to know what God is like, then look at Jesus Christ. That’s what he is saying.

Imagine for a moment we are stranded in the sea with our boat having sunk because of a freak wave. All of a sudden there is hope on the horizon. A rescue boat is speeding towards us. And as it approaches a number of people say: "Yes, I can respect the rescue boat as one way to be rescued, but I’m convinced there is another boat on the way. I’ll just hang around a bit, maybe swim around and see what happens." But you say: "No there is only one boat. It’s all or nothing." But can you imagine if someone who knows the rescuers were to say "Yes it’s OK. There are a number of boats. You just hang around and wait. I’m sure you’ll be fine." Or imagine those who just clamber on the boat without a thought for those still struggling in the ocean.

Do you see why this truth is so crucially important? People’s eternal destinies are at stake. This is why we need to be contending for the truth in this vital area. You see if people get the impression from us that there is hope outside Christianity then we are deceiving them. We’re stopping them from getting to the help they need. They are being prevented from coming to the rescuer, the only God and Saviour. We’re just making the way to hell more comfortable, which is a terrible thing to do. Rather by putting our necks on the line and showing people the Saviour we’re doing them a huge favour. We’re pointing the way to the rescuer. And we need as a church to be constantly reminded of this central truth, especially as we embark on Project Newland. The very aim is to enable building work to facilitate our spreading of the gospel here in Hull. What people most need to hear is that there is a Rescuer who is interested in them. There are not many rescuers. There is just one. Jesus didn’t say "I am one of a number of options. He said: "I am the way and the truth and the life." He is the only Saviour.

 

b) He is the Glorious King- And then lastly Jude reminds us that all the glory and majesty and power and authority belong to him. This is not a vague wish, but a statement of fact. This is what God is like. It is true now, and it has always been true and there is no doubt that it will always be true. And so each of our lives as Christians are to be lived in the joyful knowledge that God is the true King. And all our days are to spent in worshipping him and serving him and living for him wholeheartedly, longing for that great day when we will see him face to face, when finally our troubles will be over and we will see him as he truly is. And so we need have no fear whether God has the power to keep us or the power to present us before him perfect, because he is the only Saviour and the glorious King. When we see his character for what it really is then we’ll delight to trust him and contend for the faith he has given to us. So rejoice in God’s character.

Well we’ve seen over the last few weeks that Jude is timelessly relevant. His message has hit home sometimes painfully, sometimes reassuringly. But the most important thing that we can do is to take his message to heart. We need to contend for the faith in an age which is opposed to the gospel. We need to remember God’s justice over those who will distort the message and to watch ourselves that we don’t fall into the same traps. And tonight we’ve heard that God has the power to keep us from falling and to present perfect before him. And we’ve heard that he is the only God who is our Saviour and glorious King. So will you fight? And will you keep trusting the awesome saving God who is able to keep you?

 



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