What we need is encouragement. I believe it is up to the church of Jesus Christ to model from an authentic faith and godly character what looks like not just in good times. God is exposing the idols and the fractures that already existed but were covered by good times and things moving in our apparent favor. We have a frustration right now, but I believe God wants to set us free from that frustration, from that desire to see things go the way we want rather than getting on board with what God is up to.
Yes, He is working. His goodness and faithfulness are not quarantined to just good times and smooth sailing. The entirety of Hebrews could be summed up with three words: “Jesus is better”—than the angels, than Moses, than Melchizedek, than the old covenant—better!
Say this with me: “God will give you everything you need to do everything He commands.” Even now? Yes. But things aren’t “normal.” True, but God is not confined by “normal.” But “church” isn’t the same. But the Great Commission is not quarantined, everyone! How does God equip us? By the Spirit! And through the Spirit we receive what we need.
In our ARBC Worship Ramp-Up, we look at how “getting back to normal” may be an idol that we long for in order for the church to get back to what it should be. Yet, Hebrews 13:20-21 applies to COVID season as well.
In Ephesians 4:30-32, we see how bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and slander can overtake us and must be put away. Why? Sometimes things happen and it’s natural to let these things get to us. Beware!
When looking at the characters of Ahab and Elijah in this biblical account, both saw the others as “troublers of Israel.” You see, Ahab and Elijah both had a vision for how the people of Israel were to be led. Ahab’s vision was to trust and follow the Baals. The culture and the church have competing visions for the direction of the land. Each sees the other as troublers. What must God’s people do?
The epistle of Jude is only 25 verses long. What this book of the Bible lacks in quantity, it makes up for in quality. Chapters such as Romans 8 and 1 Corinthians 15 are longer chapters than Jude is as a book. Still, Jude carries with it a spiritual gravity that must weigh on the heart of every believer.
In Jude 17-23, we read:
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. But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. And have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh (Jude 17-23 ESV).
In verses 22-23, we see a threefold approach to dealing with those far from God.
Have mercy on those who doubt
Save others by snatching them out of the fire
To others, show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh.
At first glance, you might question the use of “care” in the title after reading off this list. Oftentimes, we associate care with comfort–yet these items do not equate care with comfort, but care with rescue.
Have mercy on those who doubt. Some of you understand how one can be in the faith but still need grounding. Warren Wiersbe noted,
“Our responsibility is to have mercy on them, or show compassion toward them, by seeking to lead them away from the influences of the apostates. This type of ministry demands a great deal of love and patience, and we must keep in mind that immature believers are like little children who think they know right from wrong. If you say no to them, they will only rebel and become more stubborn.” (Wiersbe, The Bible Expository Commentary, Vol. 2, p. 561).
Jude warned the readers about the scoffers coming along to deceive and lead those wavering in the faith astray. Rather than feeling frustrated at fellow believers who have a hard time getting their spiritual feet underneath them, come alongside them and help them see the joy of following Christ.
Save others by snatching them out of the fire. While some waver, others opt to join the apostate group that leads them away from God’s rescuing design. Snatch them out of that fire. This is no time for conversation but confrontation. As the angels snatched Lot out of Sodom, we as followers of Jesus must not disregard them but help them distance themselves from these rebels.
How many times have Christians given up on those who leave their church and follow another group that disavows Christ and His saving work? We may even quote 1 John 2:19, “They went out from us, showing that they were never a part of us.” While that may be true, that does not give the church license to write them off. One time, Joe Greene, long-time defensive lineman for the Pittsburgh Steelers, was so frustrated with losing that he decided to quit. He admitted, “The whole time, I was praying inside that someone would stop me.” Someone did, and they went on to win four Super Bowls in the 1970s. Will we be that person to stop someone else from walking away? Inside they may be begging someone to stop them.
To others, show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh. As we try to help others in their sin stay near to God, we must approach this “with fear,” that is, cautiously. In the Old Testament, if someone touched an unclean garment, they themselves would become unclean. The priests would burn garments they determined were unclean.
We want to see people rescued from their sin and from sinful teachings that take them away from the things of God. However, we do not want to be sucked in to that sinful behavior as well.
This all comes down to discernment. Dig into the Word and prayer, stay faithful in your walk, and pray God gives you discernment as to how to handle any situation of this nature that arises. We do not want anyone surrendering to the brokenness that sin produces–nor do we want that for ourselves either.
They show God is still at work. They show God works personally. They show God works intentionally. They show how you lived before Christ. They show how you came to a crisis point. They show how your life was changed by Christ. They show an opportunity for others to be changed by Christ.
But your testimony is not the gospel.
The gospel reminds you of God’s design. The gospel shows you have wandered from His design (sin.) The gospel shows that we are broken because of our wandering. The gospel shows the futility of trying to fix our brokenness in our own way. The gospel is about how Jesus rescues us from our brokenness. The gospel shows us we need to turn hard from sin and turn hard to Christ. The gospel shows how we are restored to God’s design and purpose through Christ.
Have a testimony–that differs from person to person.