It was the winter of 1944. The German army was in a desperate situation and ultimately launched what became known as the Battle of the Bulge. A key part of their strategy was to disrupt and mis-direct reinforcements that the Allies would be sending into the battle. They called it “Operation Grief” and they sent German spies dressed as US Military Police who infiltrated the American line where they setup road blocks and directed military units the wrong way. The plot was quickly discovered and 18 of the infiltrators were caught and tried and executed.
But even though the plan fell apart quickly, the greatest damage came in the afterward. Soldiers did not know who to trust. Several American soldiers were killed for not answering questions about the United States correctly. And High ranking officers were detained when their credentials were questioned. (Paul Barreca, Sermoncentral.com)
An Infiltrator can cause great damage because he can create doubt among those fighting for good.
APPLY: In this letter from Jude we find the church has an infiltrator problem. They have enemy spies in their midst.
Jude 3 & 4 tells us “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. 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.”
For the next 4 weeks we’re going to talk about how to contend for the faith once delivered to the saints. Each week we’re address a different aspect of what we need to understand so that we can effectively contend with those who would undermine our faith.
And every week we’re going to start out with this statement… We don’t have to APOLOGIZE for our faith. We don’t need to rally to God defense. Our God is bigger than we are and He doesn’t really need for us to defend Him. But God still calls for us to contend for our faith. He calls us to stand up boldly and declare what we believe in, and to stand firm against false teaching/teachers.
ILLUS: When I was in my early 20s I had conversation at a secular college in my home town with a couple of professors… and we were talking about Christianity. These professors were not favorably disposed toward our faith and as we stood in the dining area of that college it became apparent to me that I was out of my depth. These guys were way smarter than I was. I was on the edge of despair – because it was obvious I wasn’t scoring any points. But it was then that God delivered these men into my hands. I didn’t convert them, and they didn’t concede defeat… but God put doubt into their minds.
What happened was – one of them confidently said “Jeff you need to see this from an unbiased position.” And it was then that a light came on in my mind and I remembered something I’d heard a few weeks before that. I looked at the professor and said “There’s no such thing as an UNBIASED position.” And his friend turned to him and said “HE’S RIGHT!”
From that point on they became distracted by this and pretty much let up on me.
Everybody has a bias. I’m biased toward God… those men weren’t. And depending on what a person’s bias is - either for God or against Him - that bias will determine where they spend eternity.
We believe (our bias is) that Jesus is the Way, the TRUTH and the Life and that no one comes unto the Father EXCEPT through Him. 2 Thessalonians 2:10 talks about people who are deceived by those who oppose Jesus. It says that “They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved.”
You see, it’s critical that we contend for the faith once delivered to the saints because people will go to hell if we don’t stand up for our faith.
Satan knows that and he uses INFILTRATORS that slip into churches to make it hard for folks to know who to trust. The letter of Jude focuses on people who are infiltrators. He calls them deceivers, godless men, evil people (he doesn’t mince any words).
But what drives these godless individuals is their bias. And what is their bias? Jude tells us: “(They) pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and (they) deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.”
These folks have a motivation. An agenda that drives them. They are “biased”. And their bias is: They want to be in control. They want what they want from Christianity and they’re not above changing the rules whenever it suits them. They pervert the Grace of God. They deny Jesus is our master and lord. They don’t want God telling them how to live. They want to live how THEY want to live and they want the church to be ok with that.
A few verses later Jude compares these people to 3 godless folks from Scripture:
First he starts with a Cain (Cain and Abel) “Woe to them! For they walked in the way of Cain.” (Jude 1:11) Cain’s problem was that he was filled with hate. When he couldn’t get things his way he got ticked and he killed his brother.
I John 3:12, 14-15 tells us about his: “We should not be like Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother’s righteous….
We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death. Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.”
A CAIN kind of worshipper is someone who thinks they can come to church and harbor hatred in their hearts. This kind of person infiltrates the congregation with their hatred. They spread their bitterness like a venom. And after a while people take sides. One group begins to gravitate toward the angry person and say things like “I never liked that guy either.” Then others gather around the object of that man’s hatred and try to defend him. And then there are who kind of stand in the middle, half afraid something is going to blow up, walking on pins and needles and just wishing the whole thing would go away.
ILLUS: I served a church like that. About a 1/3 of the church were just angry people, they got mad every time they didn’t get their way. In fact one of the Elders would throw a fit in board meetings and stomp out every time he wouldn’t get his way. And the leadership just let it happen. Because of that… the church was always tense and uneasy. It was such a strained atmosphere that I didn’t even dare hug anyone in that congregation for fear of being accused of something.
An INFILTRATOR who imitates Cain is driven by anger and bitterness.
Now there are others who have a different driving force… they’ve “abandoned themselves for the sake of gain to Balaam’s error” Jude 1:11
Balaam was an Old Testament prophet who sold out for money. Israel had just left Egypt and was on its way to the Promised Land passing thru the land of Moabites. The Moabites weren’t excited about that, so they tried to hire Balaam to curse Israel. They knew if Balaam would curse the Israelites they would be truly cursed and easily defeated. But God had a little talk with Balaam about that …and for a while Balaam listened to God. But eventually the money was just too good, and ultimately Balaam found a way to compromise the morality of many of the Israelites. And when all was said and done God ultimately punished him for his disobedience.
Now, an infiltrator of the church who imitates Balaam is one who is impressed with money
James warns us against this: “My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, “You sit here in a good place,” while you say to the poor man, “You stand over there,” or, “Sit down at my feet,” have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?
Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him? But you have dishonored the poor man. Are not the rich the ones who oppress you, and the ones who drag you into court? Are they not the ones who blaspheme the honorable name by which you were called?
If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors.” James 2:1-9
ILLUS: Some years back we had a doctor and his family come to visit our congregation. A guy I really respect was standing beside one of the Elders and myself and he excitedly said “We’ve got a doctor coming to church.” The Elder and I didn’t say anything… we just kind of looked at him. My friend paused for a moment and then grinned sheepishly as he said: “Oh, we’re not supposed to be impressed with that are we?” I smiled back and said “Nope.”
ILLUS: I’ve known churches where having Doctors/Lawyers/Politicians have become a point of pride. When they talk about their congregation they’ll often talk about how many prominent and successful people attend there. They are often more concerned with selling their church that way then they are about talking about how much they love Jesus. Every time I’ve seen that happen I find those churches eventually become shallow and empty. The rich folks in their midst eventually begin to call the tune. It’s called the golden rule – “He who has the gold… makes the rules.”
That’s the trap of Balaam’s sin - loving money and success to the point where those things are more important than the grace of God. That’s their bias… the driving motivation of Balaam kind of worshippers.
The third group of infiltrators are the KORAH worshippers. Jude 1:11 tells us that these folks are like those who “perished in Korah’s rebellion.”
Who was Korah? Well, he was a guy that didn’t like the idea of Moses running things. He thought he could do a better job and so he staged a rebellion to remove and replace Moses and Aaron as leaders of the nation. As you can imagine, God wasn’t real pleased with that.
Numbers 16:28-33 tells us that Moses said, "This is how you will know that the LORD has sent me to do all these things and that it was not my idea: If these men die a natural death and experience only what usually happens to men, then the LORD has not sent me.
But if the LORD brings about something totally new, and the earth opens its mouth and swallows them, with everything that belongs to them, and they go down alive into the grave, then you will know that these men have treated the LORD with contempt."
As soon as he finished saying all this, the ground under them split apart and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them, with their households and all Korah’s men and all their possessions. They went down alive into the grave, with everything they owned; the earth closed over them, and they perished and were gone from the community.
What motivated Korah and his followers? They wanted to run things. They wanted to be in charge. When they things weren’t done their way they become very annoyed and they created a power struggle in the “church”.
And that’s what Korah kind of worshippers do - they push to CONTROL the church. They struggle for power with folks who they think aren’t doing things right. One of the phrases you’ll hear them say is “This is MY church!”
Really? Is it their church? (No) Well, whose church is it? It’s God’s church isn’t it. Jesus died on the cross to establish this church and it belongs to Him. It’s not MY church and it’s not YOUR church. It doesn’t belong to the elders or the deacons or anyone else. It’s the church of Christ (that’s what’s on the Marquee). But KORAH people forget that, because they want power/control.
Now as I was working on this sermon I got this far and it occurred to me I hadn’t a thing about doctrine. And that’s odd, because when people think of contending for the faith… they often think “DOCTRINE”. In fact I preached on this text several years back and as I revisited that sermon I found that the whole sermon was about doctrine.
But as I was working on this sermon I realized that these infiltrators of the church were rarely driven by doctrine. I mean, they’ll warp Scripture to fit their needs (I’ve seen folks do it). But in reality - doctrine (for these enemies of the church) - is 2ndary. The real motivation for these people is something else. It could be bitterness/hatred. It could be pride and the desire to be surrounded by wealthy and successful and important people. It could be the desire to run things (their way). Or it could be their sin or the sins of someone they care about. Or it could be an entirely different motivation. But they all have an underlying motivation that drives them to damage the church.
NEXT WEEK we’ll talk about doctrine… but we need to realize that the enemies of the church they are rarely being honest with us. In fact they may not even being honest with themselves. That’s why Jude says they were “… 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.” Jude 1:4
So HOW do we contend for the faith with these folks? Well we could do it the SALLY BROWN way (Peanuts cartoon). Sally says to Linus: "I would have made a great evangelist. You know that boy in front of me in school? I convinced him that my religion is better than his religion." Linus asks, "Well, how did you do that?" And Sally answers, "I hit him over the head with my lunch box."
We COULD do it that way. But Paul warns Timothy not to do that. In II Timothy 2:23-26 “Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.”
Christians are not to be argumentative. Now I realize how hard that can be. If someone attacks threatens our faith the first impulse is to strike out and beat folks up side the head with our Bibles. But God tells us that’s not His style. That’s not what He wants us to do. It’s also frustrating to us sometimes because changing the minds of these “infiltrators” of the church is nigh on to impossible. But that’s ok, because we’re not called to necessarily be successful. We’re called to be faithful and stand up firmly for the faith once delivered to the saints. To contend (gently and without resentment or harshness) against those who attack our faith.
When we do that, and trust God, we may not win those who attack the faith… but we may win others who watch how we conduct ourselves when we stand up for Christ.
And that’s the focus of my final illustration.
CLOSE: Years ago, in the first church I served there was a man named Marvin. Marvin was a great guy, but he rarely came to church. His wife Lela was an angel of a woman who did all kinds of things in the church but it was hard on her because her husband would have little if anything to do with the church.
One day I lined up a day to go out and visit with them. I didn’t go with the intention of talking about doctrine or even to talk about the church. I just wanted to get to know them. About half way through my visit, their daughter and her husband came in. They went to a church that didn’t like the Churches of Christ and they especially were angry that we taught that baptism was part of what folks needed to do to belong to Christ. And they began to try to argue with me. I wasn’t there to argue doctrine. I just wanted to have a nice visit with Marvin and Lela and this other couple kept trying to drag me into a quarrel. I did my best to address their accusations but I sensed the evening was going downhill in a hurry. When I finally got into my car I was SO depressed because I just knew I’d never see Marvin in church ever again.
But the next Sunday, Marvin showed up for church. And the next Sunday Marvin came to church. And the next Sunday. Then I got a call from Marvin. He wanted me to come over to talk. So I went over and we spent about a half an hour in his workshop talking about everything under the sun. Eventually I said “Marvin, I love talking with you about all this, but I suspect there’s something else on your mind.” He said “Yes. I want to be baptized into Christ.” And that very afternoon we baptized Him for the forgiveness of his sins.
It was only later that I discovered why Marvin had been so antagonistic to the church – everyone he knew argued about doctrine. There was rarely any talk about Jesus and how much He loved folks. It was more often people slapping each other across the heads with their Bibles. One of our preachers even went out to visit with him one time and said “Marvin, you’ve got good enough clothes to come to church don’t you?” And Marvin replied “Yep. Just not to your church.”
When Marvin saw that I was doing my best to avoid getting in an argument he realized Christianity could be something more than quarrels and fights. He was won to Christ, not by the deftness of my arguments, but by the gentleness of how I dealt with his daughter and son-in-law.
I’m not saying we should back off on what we believe. I’m saying that we need to be careful not to allow ourselves to get into arguments and quarrels over our faith. We need to trust the Spirit of God to “convict men of sin and righteousness and judgment” (John 16:8). That’s HIS job not mine. I’m not called to beat people into submission, but to stand firm for what God teaches us in His Word.