Why should we contend for the faith? – Part 2

Why do I need to contend for the faith? Before I answer that question, let me encourage you by saying,

You don’t have to, nor should you, contend for the faith on your own.

In the middle of verse 3, when Jude says,

“I found it necessary to write to appeal to you to contend for the faith” (Jud 3b)

When Jude wrote that, he didn’t have one person in mind. The “you” in this verse is plural. So instead of reading it as saying, “you, by yourself, alone, contend for the faith”, you should read it as, “you guys together contend for the faith” or as we might say down in Georgia “ya’ll contend for the faith”.

Contending for the faith, then, is not something you do by yourself, just like Jessica didn’t finish that race by herself (see last post). She needed help. She needed Laura to finish that race because she wouldn’t have struggled on by herself. In the same way, we need others besides us so that we might continue to contend for the faith.

Yes, contending for the faith is going to take a lot of work, but you should be encouraged to expend the energy knowing you don’t have to do it on your own. We should be running beside one another, encouraging one another to contend for the faith. A single soldier doesn’t fight a war, and single Christian doesn’t contend for the faith. We do it together.

But again, why contend in the first place? It seems like something that is difficult, it seems like something that I am going to have to work at, even if I have others working with me. So why do I need to contend for the faith? Baked into that question is the beginning of the answer. It has to do with the two word phrase “the faith”.

 What does “the faith” represent?

Everything found in Scripture falls under the heading of “the faith”. It’s the whole body of theology and doctrine found in Scripture. It is the teaching that God has given in His Word. It is the truths about man, the gospel, God, Jesus, the church, the Christian life. Everything found in Scripture falls under the heading of “the faith”. That’s what we are to contend for.

We must contend for the faith because of false teachers.

Look at verse 4,

“For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.” (Jud 4)

Jude tells us that false teachers have staged a covert operation to infiltrate the church and deceive church members, leading them astray and away from Christ. Notice the “certain people” — false teachers — “have crept in unnoticed”. That’s the idea of the covert operation.

This is not a hypothetical instance

Jude is bringing up but something that is occurring right then in that church. There are people who have crept in unnoticed with the intention of deceiving Christians.

But here’s the thing,

This is not an isolated event.

  • In Galatians 2, Paul highlights the idea that false teachers secretly slipped into the church to to try to lead them astray.
  • In 2 Peter 2:1, Peter warns that false teachers have and will seek to “secretly bring in destructive heresies”.
  • In 1 John 2:18-27, John tells us that false teachers rose up in the church, have left, and are seeking to take others with them. He is warning the church not to follow them.

The idea that false teachers are covertly infiltrating and trying to influence church members is not an isolated event. The churches to whom Jude, Paul, Peter, and John wrote all had to deal with some form of false teaching and teachers, who were secretly trying to destroy the health of the church and lead people astray.
Just as it happened in those churches it can happen in ours.

The apostles predicted it would happen.

Look at verse 4,

“For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.” (Jud 4)

Look at verses 17-19

“”But you must remember, beloved, the predictions of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ. They said to you, “In the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions.” It is these who cause divisions, worldly people, devoid of the Spirit.” (Jud 17–19)

False teachers sneaking into the church in an effort to mislead is nothing new. It is nothing out of the ordinary. It is not an isolated event. It happened in the first century and all throughout the ages since then. It can happen in our church as well. In fact, it is predicted that it will.

Knowing that false teachers can and are trying to infiltrate the church, we must contend for the faith.

That is why we put forth the effort, that is why we expend the energy, that is why we are constantly on guard. Because false teachers are actively seeking to infiltrate the church, and there may be some here already.

I know what you’re probably thinking,

“I know my church, I’ve been there for a while, there are no false teachers. We have structures and systems in place to keep them out, to guard against it.”

You know, that might be true. You might know your people well. You might have systems in place to help keep false teachers out. But that doesn’t mean they won’t try. That doesn’t mean they won’t get in. That they won’t infiltrate your church.

Even if false teachers haven’t physically infiltrated the church, that doesn’t mean that their false teaching can’t or hasn’t infiltrated your church

We live in an age where we are constantly bombarded with messages from all over. Some of the messages we hear and our people hear very well could be a false message. Facebook is full of them! You or your people may unintentionally bring that message into the church as you discuss things one on one with someone, dialogue in Sunday school, or discuss in Bible study. Just because a false teacher hasn’t physically infiltrated the church, doesn’t mean that their false teaching can’t. So we have to be vigilant

We have to run everything through the grid of Scripture

Everything we hear in conversation, we read, we are taught in Sunday school class, and even from the pulpit, we must run it all through the grid of Scripture. We can’t assume anything.

But in order to run the messaging, we hear through the grid of Scripture,

We have to know scripture.

We can’t even begin to guard or contend for the faith if we don’t know the faith — if we don’t know our Bible’s. This is why we have to constantly read Scripture. Not just alone, but we need to read scripture in community with other people. Whether that be Bible study or one-on-one discipleship, we need to read scripture, and we need to read it in community.

But in order for us to do that:

We have to prioritize times of Bible study.

I believe this is where many of us fall short. We are willing to prioritize all kinds of other things in our life, but we aren’t willing to prioritize the Scriptures. Instead, we let other things consume us, things that have no lasting impact. Things that pull us away from the Bible and community with others. So we must prioritize the text in our own lives and we must study scripture in community with one.

We must prioritize times of Bible study and we must lead our people to do the same because:

Our life and their life literally depends on it.

False teachers don’t want you to know and believe the true gospel. They don’t want that for your people either. They want nothing more than to lead us away from the life-giving message found in God’s Word. So we must prioritize the text in our life and we must study Scripture in community with one another and we must lead our people to do the same, so that know their Bible.

I know this isn’t always easy. So how?

How do we motivate ourself and our people to prioritize the text in their life and study with one another in community?

We must be motivated by the gospel and we must motivate our people with the gospel. We have a God who loves us so much that He sent His only Son to die for us, in order to draw us back into relationship with Him. He’s given us His Word in order to tell us about that so that we might be able to experience salvation and know how to live in this world. We must see the value of Christ. We must help our people see the value of Christ. We must present the Word in such a way that they are captivated by Jesus, that they are drawn in by Him so that nothing else matters except Jesus.

We must be motivated by the gospel and we must motivate our people with the gospel.

Resources

[1] https://www.cnn.com/2018/10/03/health/fast-food-consumption-cdc-study/index.html

Post developed from my sermon: Why do I need to contend for the faith?

Why should we contend for the faith? – Part 1

There are things in life that are not all that important, and then there are those things that are worth fighting for. Our health is one of those things, it is worth the fight. But many Americans are losing the battle. Not only do we overeat, but we eat a lot of bad food. A recent article I read reported that 1 out of every 3 Americans eat fast food on any given day. To put that into perspective, close to 85 million people eat fast food every single day. What makes that so bad for our health is that:

“Fast foods tend to be high in calories, fat, salt and sugar, which — when consumed in excess — can be associated with obesity, high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes and heart disease, among other health risks.” [1]

But if we are going to fight for our health, and I think most of us would agree that our health is worth fighting for, we have to cut back on how much we eat and what we eat. For some of you, that might be a new revelation. But most of you that we shouldn’t eat as much as we do and we shouldn’t be eating the food we eat, at least not on a regular basis.

It is easy for us to grow apathetic and allow foods to creep into our diet that isn’t healthy for us. That is especially true when we get busy with the daily grind of life. The last thing we are thinking about when we are trying to get to a meeting, accomplish a deadline, or get our kids to their third practice that week is how healthy the food is we are eating. But we can’t let our guard down if we are going to contend for our health.

That is not only true of our physical health but of our own spiritual health as well. If we are going to keep ourselves spiritually healthy, then we have to constantly be on guard, we have to constantly fight for our spiritual health just like we have to constantly fight for our physical health. One way we keep ourselves spiritually healthy is by contending for the faith. This is what Jude tells the church in verse 3,

“Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.” (Jud 3)

Jude is concerned for this church. He wants them to contend for the faith. His letter is not accidental. It’s not like Jude picked up his iPhone to respond to an email, and the next thing he knew he was carefully crafting his next Facebook story or Instagram message that he was going to tag this church in. We often get distracted by our phone. But that is not the case for Jude. He didn’t get distracted. He had a real concern that drove him to write an urgent letter to the church telling them to contend for the faith.

Why is that? Why the urgency? Why the change of plans? Why are they to contend for the faith? Why should we contend for the faith?

In order to answer that question, we first need to know what it means to contend.

What does it mean to contend?

A couple of months ago Laura Mazur and Jessica Robertson — two women who had never met before — reached the 14-mile marker of the Dick’s Sporting Good’s marathon in Pittsburg at the same time. While there were plenty of people who reached that mark in tandem with others, this pair was unique because they were in dead last. Laura was a seasoned marathoner, but Jessica wasn’t. This was actually her first marathon. She was in last place and exhausted. Knowing that she still had 12 miles to go, she felt completely defeated.

The two began chatting. Once Laura found out how Jessica felt, she told her, “If you stay with me, I’ll stay with you and we will finish this race together.” That is exactly what they did. A while later they crossed the finish line together, holding hands. As they struggled to the end, hands clutched, a spectator took a picture of them, posted it on social media, and it has since gone viral.

The struggle they felt and the energy they expended to finish that marathon is the idea that Jude is communicating through this word “contend”. Contending for the faith, then, is not an easy thing. It is not something you do casually or occasionally. It is not a sprint. Or a jog we take a few times a week. It is a marathon. It’s a daily fight. A daily struggle. It involves us daily putting forth effort and energy as we engage in a conflict for the faith.

Hearing that, you might be thinking, “All this contending is going to require a lot of effort on my part. So why do it? Why put forth the effort?” Why do I need to contend for the faith?

Next Time

I’ll continue to answer the question: why do I need to contend for the faith? next time.

Resources

[1] https://www.cnn.com/2018/10/03/health/fast-food-consumption-cdc-study/index.html

Post developed from my sermon: Why do I need to contend for the faith?

Are You Wholly Committed to God?

My generation and even more so the generation coming after me has commitment issues.

Take marriage as an example. The Sacramento Bee, which is a newspaper in California, reported that nearly half of all Californians 18 and older are currently not married, and of those currently not married, nearly 35% have never been married. Comparing these numbers to 1960, we see that 26% of Californians were married and only 13% had never been married. These numbers are on the rise.  It has been estimated that in next 5-10 years, there will be more people who are unmarried than married in California [1].

While these are statistic for California, this trend is occurring all over the nation. People in my generation and the generation after me just aren’t getting married. One of the reasons for this trend, certainly not the only reason, but one of the reasons for this trend is our issue with commitment.

But it’s not just that we are afraid to get married. Nowadays it is difficult to find anyone who has worked for a company longer than 5 years, attended one church most of their life, or even someone who has lived in the same town. We not only lack relational commitment but job, church, and geographical commitment as well. We have commitment issues.

We aren’t to hold back with God

When it comes to our relationship with God, however, we aren’t to hold back. We are to commit ourselves wholly to Him. In verse 1 of Genesis 17, God comes to Abraham and asks him to do two things – (1) to “walk before him” and (2) to be “blameless.”

When God tells Abraham to “walk before him”, what He means is that every step, every action that Abraham undertakes would be done with God in mind. The second idea — that Abraham would be “blameless”— re-enforces the first. In order for him to be blameless before God, he must completely and without qualification, give himself over to God.

God, then, is essentially asking Abraham to be wholly committed to Him. To give all of himself over, not leaving any part back. God wants it all – His job, family, leisure time, money, and sex life.

God expects the same from us. He expects us to be wholly devoted and committed to Him. Which means we can’t section off or compartmentalize our life. We have to give God our whole self.

It is difficult to give God our whole lives

For a generation struggling with commitment issues and one that is accustomed to holding things back, giving it all to God is difficult. In reality, giving our whole self over to God is difficult for anyone, not just my generation. We don’t want to give up control over our lives. We want to be able to call the shots and have options. But God asks, and even requires us, to give up control and commit ourselves fully to Him, if we are going to have a relationship with Him and experience the blessings that come from that relationship.

How do you know that you are wholly committed to God?

To help you figure out where your commitment lies, I have listed three questions below for you to reflect on.

(1) What do I prioritize in my life?

To figure this out, all you have to do is look at the things you spend your time, money, and energy on.

When your time is crunched, what gets pushed to the side? Is it more likely to be your Bible or is Facebook, Netflix, Hulu, or some topic you are researching on the internet?

When you get your paycheck, what do you spend your money on first? Is it your tithe, missions, or something else kingdom related? Or is it something for your home, a trip to the movies, or a day at Six Flags? In other words, how do you plan your budget? Do you give God what’s leftover or does He get your firstfruits?

What do you devote most of your energy to throughout the week? Is it the advancement of God’s kingdom or your own kingdom?

All these are good questions to ask because your priorities are often revealed by what you spend your time, money, and energy on.

(2) Where do you turn when you are facing issues at home, work, or church?

Do you turn to the Bible or human wisdom? If you turn to the Bible, are you willing to allow it to direct and guide your decisions, even if it is unpopular or will require  sacrifice on your part? If you are wholly committed to God, He will be the first place you turn, and His wisdom will be the wisdom you follow.

(3) Do you just say you know God or do you obey Him?

John says in the second chapter of his first letter,

“And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him:” (1 Jn 2:3–5)

Those who say they know God without obeying Him aren’t wholly committed to Him.

Question for Reflection

  1. Are you wholly committed to God or are you holding something back?

Resources

[1] http://www.sacbee.com/site-services/databases/article60699136.html

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Post adapted from my recent sermon: Are You Wholly Committed to God? which you can listen to by clicking here.