Summary: There is only one God and the only way to approach him is through faith in Jesus. Glory to Christ! We will want to insist on this truth in our dealings with one another.
“I even I am the Lord, and apart from me there is no…” Come on Sunday School children. This is the memory treasure you’ve been working on during the month of November. Help me recite it. “I even I am the Lord, and apart from me there is no…savior. I have revealed and saved and proclaimed - I, and not some foreign god among you. ‘You are my witnesses,’ declares the Lord, ‘that I am God’” (Isaiah 43:11, 12).
So you’ve memorized that Bible passage, but do you believe it? Do you believe that there is no other god than the God of the Bible? Or do you think, as many people do today, that God goes by many names: Allah, Vishnu, or even Yoda? As we continue our Tweets from Heaven sermon series we’ll be wrapping up our look at the short New Testament book of Jude. As we do, we’ll see how Jude agrees with the prophet Isaiah. He too proclaims that there is only one God and the only way to approach him without fear is through faith in his Son, Jesus Christ. #Glory2Christ! That’s the theme of today’s heavenly tweet. As we rejoice that we have a savior from sin in the person of Jesus, we will also see how God wants us to insist on that truth in our dealings with one another. Listen to our text from Jude 22-25. (Read text.)
Do you remember what prompted Jude to write this letter? False prophets had joined the ranks of believers and were teaching that because we have forgiveness through Jesus, it doesn’t matter if we sin. Jude made it clear, however, that God will not tolerate this attitude. The guy who keeps racking up speeding tickets because he figures he has more than enough money to pay the fines, is in for a rude awakening when the police finally take away his license for repeatedly breaking the law and putting others at risk. Jude told his readers that God did something a lot more drastic when he destroyed the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah for their repeated sins.
Although Jude wanted his readers to be on guard against these false teachers, he also wanted his readers to know that these false teachers weren’t yet a lost cause. Listen again to what Jude said. “Be merciful to those who doubt; 23 snatch others from the fire and save them; to others show mercy, mixed with fear--hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh” (Jude 22, 23). “Be merciful.” Should it surprise us to hear Jude urge that of Christians? Of course not. After all, God has been merciful to us and has not dealt with us as we deserve. Therefore he wants us to be merciful to those who doubt. If a fellow Christian is struggling to understand or believe a certain teaching of the Bible, that’s not an invitation for us to belittle them. Instead it’s an opportunity for us to show patience as we seek to strengthen their faith by explaining the truth they are struggling to believe.
Now that word “doubt” could also be translated as “dispute.” So Jude wanted his readers to be merciful even towards the false teachers who didn’t just doubt the truth but were also disputing it! That of course didn’t mean that Jude’s readers were to let the false teachers continue to exert their influence. It meant that they were to be patient in their dealings with them since false teachers are also people for whom Jesus died and won forgiveness. Jesus wants false teachers to repent too so they can enjoy the glories of heaven.
But our situation might be a little different than the one Jude was addressing. I haven’t heard anyone in our midst promoting false doctrine lately. But disagreeing over how we should carry out the church’s business or accomplish a task at home happens just about any time two sinners get together. So how are you going to handle those disputes? The way Jude urges you to handle them: with mercy. That means listening to one another and doing your best to understand what the other is saying before drawing conclusions or questioning motives. But that takes patience doesn’t it? It also means swallowing our pride and acknowledging that we actually might not have all the answers and so we would do well to listen to others.
Jude is quite adamant that we reach out to one another in love like this. Listen again to his picturesque language. “…snatch others from the fire and save them” (Jude 23a). When we call someone to repentance it’s like trying to snatch a sliver of steak before it slips through the grill and onto the burners below where it’s lost to us forever. This kind of snatching takes some careful maneuvering though doesn’t it? You have to move the tongs into just the right position and squeeze them ever so gently before you can safely yank that piece of meat free. In the same way it takes some careful maneuvering to call wayward sinners to repentance. You need courage to speak to them about their sin, but tact as well lest the message is lost because of the way in which you presented it. But God wants us to make this effort! He does not want us to stand idly by while people we know hurt their relationship with Jesus through repeated sin. Think of the patient effort God made to rescue Lot. He sent two angels who had to more or less drag Lot and his family out of Sodom before fire rained down from heaven. Who is in your sphere of influence that you can snatch from the fire? Don’t just pray for God to work a miracle and change that person’s heart. Pray that he would use you as his earthly angel, as it were, to snatch the individual from the coming fire of Judgement Day.