Dr. Richard L. Strauss
July 28, 1974
This morning we learned that we're in a battle. Satan is fighting for the souls of men. And he's using people to do his dirty work, even people who profess to be Christians. Jude says he's even using some leaders in the professing church of Jesus Christ. That's the frightening fact that Jude has established so forcefully.
If we're going to win this battle, we first need to know who the enemy is. In our last lesson, we saw him described: his aims, his activities, his characteristics, and his end. But that's not all. We also need to know how to wage the war. So we turn tonight to the strategy we follow. The enemy we face. The strategy we follow.
The first part of Jude's strategy is not clearly stated to be such. It's not stated like, "Now this is your strategy..." But I think it's implied here. It's found in the very first verse of the epistle, in the salutation of the letter. Jude gives such a careful description of a true Christian, we cannot help but conclude that the first and foundational facet in this strategy in this warfare is to remember who we are.
1. Remember Who We Are
Before I read the verse, let me illustrate. A soldier isn't going to be very effective at war unless he knows who he is, who he belongs to, who he's fighting for and why. The best soldiers are driven by national pride and patriotism. So maybe we should find out who we are and what we're fighting for and why, and then we'll be better Christian soldiers. We're identified in verse 1. Actually, the verse identifies the recipient of the letter, but the description is true of every believer.
I'm going to read this in the New International Version. I think it is much closer to what Jude actually wrote.
"To those who have been called, who are loved by God the Father and kept by Jesus Christ" (Jude 1b).
Three things characterize a Christian: he's been called, he's loved by God the Father, and he's kept by Jesus Christ.
Now we have another triplet. I didn't say anything about this in our last message, but perhaps you noticed: Jude loves triplets. You see them all through his letter. For instance, in verses 5, 6, and 7, there are three Old Testament illustrations of apostates who were judged by God. In verse 8, there are three characteristics of these apostates. Down in verse 11, they are like three Old Testament characters. In verse 19, again a triplet.
In verse 1, the triplet is three things that characterize the true believer. He's called. He's loved. And he's kept.
a. Christians are Called
The draft is over now, but that used to be the way most men got into the Army: They were called. This is how we get into the Lord's army. God points His finger at us and He says, "I want you!" God's people are called. The whole process by which we are called in graphically described in Romans chapter 8--verse 28, which every Bible student knows.
"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose. For those God foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those He predestined, He also called"--there's our calling--"those He called, He also justified; those He justified, He also glorified" (Romans 8:28-30).
In all this, we were called after the good pleasure of His own will, according to God's purpose. Some say, "Oh, that's not fair. How come God calls some and He doesn't call others?" Of course it's fair. God is always fair. In Isaiah 45:21 He is called a "just God." In everything God does, He's fair. He's never unfair. God would be fair if He condemned every single one of us to eternal separation from His presence; that would be fair. But God is far more than fair. Instead of doing that, He says that anybody who wants to can come and be saved.
"Let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life" (Revelation 22:17b).
That's how gracious our God is. Now, I don't understand how both can be true: how God can call some, and yet how anybody who wants to be saved can be saved. Don't ask me to explain that because I can't. But I know that both are true because they are both found in the Word of God. I'm a child of God and a servant of Jesus Christ because God put His hand on me one day and called me. And I joined God's army--the only army that counts for eternity. The army of Jesus Christ.
You say, "Well, how do I know whether I'm one of those who have been called?" I'll tell you how you can know. You admit to the Lord tonight that you're a sinner, that Jesus Christ died for your sin, and you accept Him as your Savior and you put your trust in His shed blood, and you will thereby demonstrate that you are one of God's called ones. A very special person. Uniquely and individually invited into the family of God and into the service of Jesus Christ. Trust the Lord Jesus, and you will know and we will know that you are one of God's called ones, because anybody who wants to--who really is convicted of his sin and understands his need--can be born anew. Trust the Lord Jesus now and become one of these of whom Jude is writing: one who is called.
b. Christians are Loved by God
But that's not all. Christians are loved by God the Father. That's a beautiful thought. The KJV says "sanctified by God the Father" but the best reading is "loved." In the Greek text, the word is in perfect tense which means that it is action in the past with continuing results. He loved us in the past and He loves us now. As a matter of fact, He always will love us. He loved us, He loves us, and He'll love us forever.
There are so many miserable Christians in this world who are certain that nobody loves them but God does. He loves the unattractive, and the less intelligent, and the insecure, and the poverty stricken, just as much as He loves the beautiful, the brilliant, the confident, and the rich. It makes no difference to God. If you're one of His children—if you've trusted the Lord Jesus as your Savior—He loves you even if you haven't. In fact, if you haven't, He loves you so much that He gave His Son to die for your sins. That's how much God loves you. If you trust Him as Savior, you become one of His very choice loved ones now and forever. He'll never stop loving you.
It was said of Jesus towards His disciples, "Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end" (John 13:1b).
There are other passages in the gospel of John about His love.
"The Father Himself loves you because you have loved Me and have believed that I came from God" (John 16:27).
Do you love the Lord Jesus? Do you believe that He came from God? God loves you. You can rest assured in that love.
"I have given them the glory that You gave Me, that they may be one as We are one--I in them and You in Me--so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that You sent Me and have loved them even as You have loved Me" (John 17:22-23).
God the Father loves you as much as He loves His very own Son. And that's a great deal of love.
You know, fellas in the army on the front lines are much more effective when they know somebody back home cares for them. As a matter of fact, more than one soldier has gotten careless because he was depressed over a lost love. So if you want to be in top shape for the battle—the spiritual battle the Apostle Jude tells us about—then rest secure in your heavenly Father's love.
We have been called and we are loved by God the Father.
c. Christians are Kept by Jesus Christ
This is really the most exciting of all: We are kept by Jesus Christ. That is a great truth misunderstood by many, many people. The word kept literally means "to watch over, to guard, to keep and not lose." We will not be lost. We are kept by Jesus Christ. It means to protect, to preserve. That's the meaning of the word right here in the epistle of Jude. We are kept by Jesus Christ.
And again, it's perfect tense. Past action with continuing results. We were saved and now we are kept and shall be kept in His love forever. When we respond to God's call, we are declared righteous according to the epistle of Romans. And we're born into the family of God according to the Apostle John. And we receive eternal life from God's hand.
How can a person be unborn, or lose something that God says is eternal? I can't understand how anyone can say we can lose something that God says we have eternally. We don't lose our salvation. God says He holds onto us. We are kept by Jesus Christ. He guarantees our safe passage to glory.
"For those God foreknew He also predestined... And those He predestined, He also called; those He called, He also justified; those He justified, He also glorified."
One hundred percent of those whom He foreknew shall ultimately enter His presence as glorified beings. One hundred percent. Not one of them is lost. We are kept by Jesus Christ.
There are many, many passages in the New Testament that teach this great doctrine. Maybe we could turn to just a few of the more prominent and significant ones to help you understand this if maybe you have misconstrued it in past days. We've already talked about Romans 8:28-30. Note the whole rest of that chapter.
"All those the Father gives Me will come to Me, and whoever comes to Me I will never drive away" (John 6:37).
"My sheep listen to My voice; I know them, and they follow Me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of My Father’s hand" (John 10:27-29).
Think of that. Here we are in the hand of Jesus Christ and over His hand is the hand of the eternal God of the universe. That's great security, isn't it? But you say, "Ah, yes, but we can take ourselves out of there." I guess John thought some people might say that. He thought there might be some people who would think they could take themselves out of that kind of a situation so I think he gave us the answer to that over in 1 John.
"They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us" (1 John 2:19).
If anybody seems to be a Christian and then seems to remove himself from that inviolable position in Jesus Christ's hand, John the Apostle says they are just showing that they were never really of us in the first place. I'm not just making excuses to answer your hypothetical questions. The Word of God says that whomever comes to Him He will not drive away. The Word of God says no man shall pluck the saved out of God's hand. We're one of those men. And if for some reason we seem to have thrown over our faith as some seem to have done, it's just an indication that we were never that sincere in the first place or that we never really put our trust in Jesus Christ for salvation. Maybe it was an emotional experience. Maybe it was something else that we did, but we were not really born into the family of God because once we are, we're God's children. You just can't get out of that kind of relationship.
I was born into the Strauss family and it doesn't matter what I do to hurt him or offend him or destroy him, I'm still his son and nothing can change that. He could disown me but it doesn't change things; I was born to him and nothing can change that. One day I was born into God's family and God says it was a forever transaction. I'm one of His forever children. So are you if you've ever trusted the Lord Jesus Christ and His shed blood for your eternal redemption.
There are other passages of Scripture as well, like John 17:11, where Jesus prays that God will keep all those who are His. You think God the Father is going to answer the prayer of God the Son? He most certainly is.
In Ephesians 4:30, it's revealed that we are sealed to the day of redemption. God has planted His divine seal upon us and it is until we experience the ultimate in our redemption when Christ comes back for us.
In Philippians 1:6, we're told that He who has begun a good work in us will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ. God is going to keep working in our hearts and lives if we genuinely know Him until the day we see the Savior.
Can you imagine the kind of boldness and power a soldier would have with the absolute guarantee of his invincibility? Nothing could harm him. You know, kind of a Superman who just walks out on the front line. No bullet can touch him. What tremendous power he would have in the battle. Well that's the way it is, spiritually speaking. We are invincible and we're free from all concern about our eternal well-being, just as such a soldier would be free from all concern for his physical well-being and free to give himself fully to the fight. As far as I understand the Scripture, a Christian can only be free to live, and free to grow, and free to enjoy the victorious Christian life when he has assurance of his eternal position in Christ. Then he's not worried about whether he's really saved. You are saved and you will not lose that. You are invincible, now move out and win the battle. Let's fight the foe and win.
However, a Christian does not use this as an excuse for sin. On the contrary, his deep, experiential knowledge of God's limitless grace will inspire new depths of gratitude and devotion. Christian, remember who you are. There is no hope of really being used of God in this great spiritual battle unless you really know who you are: called of God, loved by God, kept by Jesus Christ.
2. Expect Opposition from the Enemy
There is a second step in Jude's strategy. It's over in verses 17 and 18.
"But, dear friends, remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ foretold. They said to you, 'In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires'" (Jude 17-18).
Step number two is: expect opposition from the enemy. Don't be surprised if the enemy starts attacking because the Apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ told us they would. Jude reminds us that all the other Apostles warned of false teachers. Paul did. He said, "I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock" (Acts 20:29). He told us in the last days "some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons" (1 Timothy 4:1). They would depart; they would apostatize, just as these men did according to Jude.
Peter told us the very same thing. "But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them"—or paid the price for their redemption (2 Peter 2:1).
"Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world" (1 John 4:1).
Jude told us. Paul told us. Peter told us. John told us. Why should we be surprised if all of a sudden some people begin to oppose us with false doctrine? By this time we ought to have our defenses up yet many Christians still get caught napping. They get fooled because somebody claims to be a Christian or they talk about Jesus even though they deny the great doctrines of the Scripture.
But there is another facet of this subject that the Apostles warned us about, of which many Christians are ignorant. There will be scoffers—men who mock the truth, Jude told us. These men who mock the truth will sooner or later turn their scorn upon us personally. That's a promise in the Word of God.
Jesus told us they would hate us. "'If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated Me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember what I told you: "A servant is not greater than his master." If they persecuted Me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed My teaching, they will obey yours also'" (John 15:18). And down in verse 21 it says, "They will treat you this way because of My name, for they do not know the One who sent Me."
Don't be surprised if people start fussing at us because of our Christian stand. The Word of God warned us it would be so.
Paul warned us, too. He said, "For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for Him" (Philippians 1:29). You can expect it.
"In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted" (2 Timothy 3:12). If you're suffering persecution it may just be an evidence that you're living godly. If nobody is opposing your stand, maybe you're not living godly.
"Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed" (1 Peter 4:12-13).
The Apostles told us. It should come as no surprise when the people of the world begin to mock us for our testimony. Even people who call themselves Christians. Expect opposition. Be ready for it.
Remember who you are. Expect opposition. That's a good start. But that still doesn't tell us how to wage the war.
3. Wage the War
In Jude verses 20-23, Jude outlines seven strategic steps. This is how we fight for the faith.
"But you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life. Be merciful to those who doubt; save others by snatching them from the fire; to others show mercy, mixed with fear--hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh" (Jude 20-23).
I think these are very significant. Extremely important. Let's list them.
a. Build Yourself Up in the Faith
Do you want to win this battle? Do you really want to be used of God to accomplish something significant in this war? Then build yourself up in the faith.
Note that the first step is not: lash out at the opponent with anger or with a verbal barrage. It isn't claw their eyes out and stab them in the back. It never says we are to become hateful or contentious. It says build yourself up in the faith.
And we know now how Jude uses that word faith, don't we? Back in verse 3, remember—when he said "contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to God’s holy people"? He's talking about the Word of God. The whole body of Christian truth committed to us in the Word, which we are to believe and practice. That's what it means to build ourselves up in the faith. The Word builds us up and makes us strong. I love that statement that Paul made to the Ephesian elders in Acts 20. He says, "Now I commit you to God and to the word of his grace, which can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified" (Acts 20:32).
What builds us up? The Word of God's grace. I'm afraid God's army has too many 98-pound weaklings in it, spiritually speaking. People who need some spiritual body building, who need to get into the Word--memorize it, meditate on it, obey it--so they can grow strong in their faith. It will tone up their spiritual muscles and get them ready for the warfare.
The Word is our only offensive weapon. All the other pieces of armor in Ephesians 6 are defensive in nature. Learn how to use it skillfully. "By building yourselves up in your most holy faith." That's the first step to victory.
b. Pray in the Holy Spirit
Keep reading in verse 20: "...praying in the Holy Spirit." Now it doesn't say, "Be sure and say your prayers every day." I'm afraid that's what most of us are doing: saying our prayers. It says to pray in the Holy Spirit. The idea is something more like this: Always keep the communication lines open with the Commander-in-Chief, who is the source of all wisdom and strength. Converse with Him from your heart--a heart controlled by His Spirit. You see, when the Spirit of God takes full possession of our heart and our thoughts, and our motives and our desires, our requests will be made according to His will. When we pray according to His will He hears us and He answers. That's where the real victories are won. Praying in the Spirit.
I've said this before and I'll say it again--and I'll say it again many times I'm sure. I am firmly of the opinion that this at Emmanuel Faith Community Church is our greatest need. That is people who love to pray and are willing to give of their time and their energies to lend their voices and their hearts to corporate prayer and claim victories—victories in individual lives whom Satan is attacking, victories in our total assembly of believers, victory in our outreach into a lost community and a lost world. When we pray more, God is going to work with greater power.
And while you're praying, don't forget the exhortation of the Lord Jesus in Matthew 5:44—"Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you." Put the enemy on the prayer list. What better way to get rid of the enemy than to get him saved. Pray in the Holy Spirit.
c. Keep Yourselves in God's Love
Next in verse 21 is an interesting exhortation: keep yourselves in the love of God. It doesn't say "keep loving God." We need to do that, but that's not the emphasis here. It doesn't say "keep God loving you." God's going to do that despite our own miserable failing hearts. What it says is "keep yourself in His love." What does that mean?
I think it means we should enjoy God's love. Be conscious of it. Live in the light of it. If you start thinking God hates you, just remember that He loves them. Even when he disciplines us He does it in love. We do hateful things in God's sight, but we confess them to Him and He forgives us; and that forgiveness brings the sweet reassurance of His love. But you know, obedience is a pre-requisite for keeping ourselves in the love of God.
Jesus says, "As the Father has loved Me, so have I loved you. Now remain in My love" (John 15:9). How do remain in His love. The next verse tells us. "If you keep My commands, you will remain in My love just as I have kept My Father’s commands and remain in His love" (John 15:10). Continually enjoying, consciously experiencing the love of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Living in God's love will do something else for us, too. It will transform the hatred we are tempted to feel toward those who oppose us and persecute us for our faith. It's a strange battle, isn't it? You fight it with love. Keep yourselves in the love of God.
I think some fundamental preachers have long since departed from this strategy in God's battle. God cannot honor it, I am convinced. God's strategy is build yourself up in the faith, pray in the Holy Spirit, and keep yourself in the love of God. That's the kind of individual God is going to use to bring about some real resounding triumphs.
d. Look for the Coming of Christ
Verse 21 continues with another strategy: Wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life. Let's just abbreviate it by saying: Look for the coming of Christ--because that statement could refer to nothing else but Christ coming for His own. That time of merciful deliverance from these sinful bodies. That time of entrance into the fullness of life in Christ's presence. Look for the coming of Jesus Christ. If you want to win this battle, if you really want to do the job in this army, look for the coming of the Commander-in-Chief: the Lord Jesus.
Now that seems like a strange way to fight a battle: with one eye on the enemy and one eye on the skies. You'd think you'd get zapped from behind that way. But you don't. It's a strange battle and it's not fought like normal battles are fought. In the one, you keep one eye peeled to the skies, looking for "the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ" (Titus 2:13).
That blessed hope is a strengthening hope and a purifying hope. That's what we need for this battle: power and purity. I know it's a strengthening hope because in Philippians the Apostle Paul said:
"Our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables Him to bring everything under His control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like His glorious body" (Philippians 3:20-21).
That's power when He brings everything under His control. That's the power that can give us victory in the conquest today. It's a powerful hope.
It's also a purifying hope. "Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. All who have this hope in Him purify themselves, just as He is pure" (1 John 3:2-3).
If you want to be used of God in this battle you've got to be pure. There are no victories for people with impurity in their lives. If you're really looking for the Lord, you'll be fighting the good fight of faith victoriously.
Now the last three steps in the strategy all have to do with witnessing. We win this battle for souls primarily by making ourselves available to the Holy Spirit to bring people to the Savior. That's what the battle is all about. It's a battle for souls. So while we need to build ourselves up in the faith, and pray in the Holy Spirit, and keep ourselves in the love of God, and look for the return of Jesus Christ, what we also need to do is to begin sharing Jesus Christ with those around us.
e. Be Merciful to Those Doubting
I'd like to use the New American Standard Bible (NASB) on this next one. I study these things pretty thoroughly and I tried to pick the translation I felt most adequately communicated what the Apostle Jude actually said. I think the NASB does a good job here: "have mercy on some, who are doubting." That's literally what the text means.
Some reliable ancient manuscripts say "convict some who are doubting" but "have mercy" seems to be a slightly better reading. But they both basically mean the same thing. Some people are on fence; they're confused; they doubt; they're wavering. We need to know the Word of God well enough to mercifully show them the truth and bring them to a persuasion of the truth and a saving faith in Jesus Christ.
All around us in the world today there are people who are on the fence. "Yeah, I kinda wanna be a Christian but I'm not really sure. I have a lot of questions that are unanswered. I'm not really sure I can live the life." Do you know how to show them from the Word of God the answers to their problems and bring them to saving faith by the power of the Holy Spirit using the Word?
f. Save Others out of the Fire
The sixth strategy is in verse 23: "Save others, snatching them out of the fire" (NASB).
Some unbelievers are so far from the truth and so deep in sin, the flames of hell seem to be lapping up around them. Don't give up. Keep on sharing Christ. Keep bearing testimony to God's saving grace. Maybe God will use your witness to snatch them out of the fire. Save others out of the fire.
g. Show Mercy Mixed with Fear
Finally, in verse 23, the New International (NIV) says: "On some have mercy with fear, hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh."
This third category is pretty risky. This is where some people get out there and go behind the enemy lines. Jude wants us to have mercy on them but he wants us to walk very gingerly, very carefully. The minefields are loaded. Danger all around us. We are to have mercy but mixed with fear. While we are to love their souls we are to hate their sin and everything associated with it, which is pictured by clothing contaminated by the flesh. It's an illustration of their sin.
Love the sinner. Hate his sin. Share Jesus Christ with him but watch out you don't get ensnared in his Satanic trap. To others have mercy mixed with fear.
We can illustrate that in a number of different ways. For instance, there have been believers who have been caught in the clutches of covetousness while trying to win wealthy people to Jesus Christ. They get so caught up enjoying the comforts of these wealthy people and the luxuries they enjoy, and before you know it Satan has them sidetracked. They're not witnessing anymore; they're enjoying all these things. That becomes their motive. Watch out for snares like that.
Or there have been others who have gotten hooked on alcohol while trying to win the socially elite to Jesus. Holding the glass and taking a sip now and then so you can witness to them. Forget it, friend. You're better off if you don't touch the stuff. It's poison. To others have mercy mixed with fear. Walk carefully.
Or there were some who have become overly enamored with intellectualism when they were trying to win the intelligentsia to Jesus Christ. Before you know it, they were themselves doubting the truths of the Scripture.
Or there have been some who have become physically involved with a member of the opposite sex to whom they were witnessing when it would have been better to have turned that person over to someone of the same sex.
Or some water down the gospel to make it more palatable for those to whom they are witnessing.
You see, Satan has all kinds of traps and snares to catch us in. To others have mercy mixed with fear. In other words, keep your eyes wide open when you get into battle.
All right, here is the strategy that Jude reveals to us:
- Build yourself up in the faith
- Pray in the Holy Spirit
- Keep yourselves in the love of God
- Look for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life
- Have mercy on some who are doubting
- Save others by snatching them out of the fire
- To others have mercy mixed with fear
It's an invincible strategy. So let's go to it, shall we? Let's get out on the front line and get in the fight. Let's stop rocking ourselves to sleep with all the comforts of this world. Let's recognize there is a war on. We have a great promise of victory in Jesus Christ. Ultimate victory. It's found in the doxology of Jude--one of the great doxologies and one I love:
"Now unto Him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy, to the only wise God our Savior, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen" (Jude 24-25).
We are in God's army. Let's move out in the power of the Holy Spirit. Let's have some victories this week. Let's pray.
Heavenly Father, thank You for Your Word, for the challenge of it, for the enlightenment of it. Lord, we pray that we'll use the facts we've gleaned from Jude tonight and not just walk out and forget them but integrate them into the very fiber of our being, and follow the divinely-revealed strategy for victory through Jesus Christ. For it's in His name we pray. Amen.