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Living for Jesus in an Un-Christian World: A Study of the Epistle of Jude (Principle #2)


5 Though you already know all this, I want to remind you that the Lord at one time delivered his people out of Egypt, but later destroyed those who did not believe. 6 And the angels who did not keep their positions of authority but abandoned their proper dwelling—these he has kept in darkness, bound with everlasting chains for judgment on the great Day. 7 In a similar way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion. They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire.
8 In the very same way, on the strength of their dreams these ungodly people pollute their own bodies, reject authority and heap abuse on celestial beings. 9 But even the archangel Michael, when he was disputing with the devil about the body of Moses, did not himself dare to condemn him for slander but said, “The Lord rebuke you!” 10 Yet these people slander whatever they do not understand, and the very things they do understand by instinct—as irrational animals do—will destroy them.
11 Woe to them! They have taken the way of Cain; they have rushed for profit into Balaam’s error; they have been destroyed in Korah’s rebellion.
12 These people are blemishes at your love feasts, eating with you without the slightest qualm—shepherds who feed only themselves. They are clouds without rain, blown along by the wind; autumn trees, without fruit and uprooted—twice dead. 13 They are wild waves of the sea, foaming up their shame; wandering stars, for whom blackest darkness has been reserved forever.
14 Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about them: “See, the Lord is coming with thousands upon thousands of his holy ones 15 to judge everyone, and to convict all of them of all the ungodly acts they have committed in their ungodliness, and of all the defiant words ungodly sinners have spoken against him.” 16 These people are grumblers and faultfinders; they follow their own evil desires; they boast about themselves and flatter others for their own advantage.
17 But, dear friends, remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ foretold. 18 They said to you, “In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires.” 19 These are the people who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit.

A number of years ago lightning struck the English church of the liberal bishop David Jenkins, a man who had publicly denied the Virgin Birth and the deity of Christ. Some conservative Christians rejoiced in what appeared at the time to be an act of God’s judgment against unbelief. Philip Yancey asks, however, “Why should David Jenkins provoke divine wrath when the outright blasphemer Bertrand Russell lived unpunished into cranky old age? If God consistently sent lightning bolts in response to bad doctrine, our plant would sparkle nightly like a Christmas tree.” (Philip Yancey, Disappointment with God)

The Nature of God
We learn in this section that the God who delivers is also a God who destroys! We all love a delivering God. We struggle with the very idea of a God who can destroy people, especially His people (v. 5). We have forgotten that “It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Heb. 10:31). We skip over verses that tell us that our God is “a consuming fire” (Heb. 12:29). We euphemize God’s threats of judgment (Ezek. 18:4, 20 – the soul that sins shall die; Jn. 3:36- the wrath of God abides on him) in the Bible, sometimes contrasting the God of mercy in the New Testament with the God of wrath in the Old Testament (an old liberal fallacy, by the way). We swallow without thinking the universalists’ error that God’s primary attribute is love — and He, therefore, is incapable of executing His wrath on the wicked, and especially on His own people! But we are wrong. The God who delivers is also the God who can destroy!

Three Historical Examples
Jude gives three illustrations of God’s judgment in verses 5-7. He brought destruction upon His own people in the wilderness and in the Promised Land. He also brought judgment upon a category of angels “who abandoned their positions of authority” (v. 6). Much speculation has surrounded this example Jude uses of AWOL angels, but his point must not be missed: they are “kept in darkness, bound with everlasting chains for judgment on the Great Day.”

The third example of God’s judgment Jude gives is that of Sodom and Gomorrah (v. 7). Their story is told in Genesis 19. Although many who support a pro-homosexual lifestyle have worked hard to deny that God’s judgment on Sodom and Gomorrah was for their sin of homosexuality, such efforts fail in light of the biblical text itself. They “serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire” because of their “sexual immorality and perversion.”

Historical Ignorance
These present false teachers, who have caused Jude to write his battle plan for these believers, have not paid attention to God’s acts of judgment in history. Instead, these dream-driven heretics pollute themselves, abuse celestial beings, and slander what they don’t understand (vv. 8-10). Although we know very little about the dispute between the archangel Michael and the devil about Moses’ body, he serves as an example of careful respect for spiritual beings. These false teachers show no such respect.

Jude moves from his example in the angelic world to three this-world illustrations of rebellion against God’s authority:

(1) the way of Cain – We read of Cain’s jealousy and killing of his brother Abel in Genesis 4.

(2) The Balaam story is a fascinating one found in Numbers 22. There is much more here than a man’s conversation with his donkey, for Balaam’s greed led to his rebellion against the Lord.

(3) Korah’s rebellion (against Moses and Aaron) is recorded in Numbers 16. The Lord desires “to consume them in a moment” (v. 21). The congregation is told to get away from the tents of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram “lest you be consumed in all their sins” (v. 26). Moses predicts that the earth would open its mouth and swallow them up because “these men have rejected the Lord.” (v. 30). The earth indeed opened up, swallowed them down alive, then closed over them. But the Israelites rebelled against Moses and a plague killed 14,700 of God’s people the next day (v. 49)!

Wow! Jude pulls no punches when he rails against these contemporary false teachers! They have so polluted God’s truth that they deserve the very ground they stand on to open up and swallow them alive!

Malignant Metaphors
Jude then uses six strong metaphors to describe the effects these false teachers are having upon God’s people:
They are blemishes at the Christian love feasts, eating with these believers without hesitation.
They are shepherds who feed only themselves.
They are unstable clouds who provide no rain.
They are unfruitful trees twice dead.
They are wild waves foaming up their shame.
They are wandering stars awaiting God’s judgment.

Although much could be said about each of these metaphors, Jude is making the point that these false teachers are unashamedly mixing in with God’s people, making promises they cannot keep, shamelessly producing no fruit, and, therefore, merit the blackest darkness of God’s judgment!

However, these false teachers did not take God by surprise. Enoch predicted their judgment (v. 14) and the apostles foretold the coming of ungodly scoffers in the last times (v. 18). The negative effects of these grumblers and faultfinders divide God’s people, for they do not have the Spirit (v. 19).

How interesting that Jude the former scoffer who became a servant of Jesus Christ warns these believers about those who seek to confuse and disrupt God’s people!

The Ugliness of Unbelief
If the principle in verses 5-19 is that we should speak clearly of God’s judgment against unbelief, why is unbelief so bad? Many in our culture define “belief” as a person’s “opinion,” and “we certainly don’t persecute people for their opinions, do we?!”

Certainly some beliefs are mere opinions. “I believe the Cubs will win the World Series this year.” But what if I said to you, “I don’t believe you when you claim you did not steal $20 from me”? Am I merely expressing an opinion? Or am I not making a statement about your character, about whether you can be trusted, about your honesty? If my statement is only a statement of my opinion, then why do I feel a need to ask for your forgiveness when I find my twenty-dollar bill in my car?

Unbelief in the Bible is cosmic treachery, spiritual rebellion. It is essentially I-am-God-ism! It is disrespect of God’s person, a challenge to His integrity, an attempt to de-throne His rule.

When someone in effect says, “I will not affirm reality as God describes it! I will not speak the truth as God gives it! I will not submit to His will!”, these statements are not mere opinions. They are preparations for God’s judgment, as surely as Cain’s murderous action, Balaam’s greed, and Korah’s insurrection!

 
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Posted by on December 15, 2021 in CHRISTIAN LIVING

 

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IF THE GOSPEL REALLY IS TRUE . . . We Have a HOPE! (Part 8 Final)

I don’t agree with Karl Barth on much, but his question — “Is it true? Is the Christian faith true?” is essential to biblical Christianity. We’ve seen that certain conclusions follow IF Christianity is true. For example, we have a message for the world which is both good news and bad news. Second, we have every reason to challenge other worldviews and religions as to their response to the gospel. Third, if the gospel is true, we have a complete justification to make the Bible our absolute guidebook for life. Fourth, we agreed that we desperately need the people of God, the church. Our fifth conclusion was that we can honestly face the suffering in the world without becoming cynical or callous. We have a theodicy which helps us understand evil and suffering.

Let’s look at a sixth — and final — conclusion and it is this —

IF THE GOSPEL IS TRUE, THEN . . .

We can be biblically hopeful about the future because our God is sovereign. Someone has posted the following on Facebook —

I think that’s a terrific way of thinking about the Christian life! Despite life’s challenges, the follower of Jesus is, in a sense, neither a pessimist nor an optimist. He or she is a realist who is eternally grateful that his cup “runneth over”!
%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%We have an eternal hope that God will wrap up history, exercise righteous judgment, reward the godly, forever separate the ungodly from His kingdom, and will usher us into an eternity of worshiping and serving our blessed Savior! There is no greater hope, is there?

What might be some characteristics of one who is biblically hopeful? Several occur to me: (1) We will not overestimate man’s abilities to solve his own problems. We will care about our world and cooperate to alleviate man’s suffering, but will recognize that only the Lord can meet a person’s deepest needs;
(2) We will cling tightly to the truths of Scripture and allow its worldview to be our worldview. This means identifying and rejecting the “wisdom of the world” and being determined to stand with God’s people, even when they are suffering;
(3) We will affirm with the Apostle Paul that “our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” (2 Cor. 4:17) What’s the “them” in that text? Logically, the “them” refers to our troubles, our outwardly “wasting away” (v. 16)

Today’s Challenge: Do a bit of a word study of the term “hope” in the Scriptures. What are several truths you can share with those who read this blog?


 

 

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on June 26, 2021 in gospel

 

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The Theology of Calvin . . . and Hobbes (History)

 
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Posted by on March 16, 2021 in Calvin & Hobbes

 

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If . . . Then . . . ! (A Study of 2 Peter 2:4-10)

Some of you might want to see how I approach a section of Scripture like the following. We read in 2 Peter 4 —-

Notice how often Peter uses the word IF!  Let’s structure the above paragraph along the lines of the IF’s that he uses —

The sinning angels, the ancient world judged by the flood, the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, the case of Lot — all these historical examples lead to Peter’s THEN . . .

And Peter’s conclusion is a double one: (1) The Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials and (2) He knows how to hold the unrighteous for punishment. Peter then applies those truths to the present false teachers who follow their flesh and despise authority.

Today’s Challenge: Thank the Lord for His acts in history and His protection and holiness today!

 
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Posted by on September 23, 2020 in 2 Peter 2

 

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The Theology of Calvin . . . and Hobbes (History)

Followers of Jesus ought to care about HISTORY! Why? History shows man’s many accomplishments — as well as his mistakes. And we can learn not to repeat those same mistakes. We believe that God is sovereign over the affairs of men and nations. And we believe, as one theologian put it, that the Holy Spirit too has a history. That is, He has guided and led others in God’s family to grapple with issues, to wrestle with the application of Scripture, and to stand strong for the Lord in the circumstances of life. Therefore, we should care about HISTORY.

 
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Posted by on July 19, 2020 in Calvin & Hobbes

 

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The Theology of Calvin . . . and Hobbes (Education)

History — and education — are important! A growing understanding of history is critical if we are to (1) avoid the mistakes of the past; (2) learn from the mistakes of our predecessors; (3) trust God to lead us in our NOW. As a theologian, I would argue that we should care deeply about what is called “historical theology.” Historical theology is the study of how Christian doctrines were understood by believers in the past. We should be grateful for how Tertullian coined the term “Trinity” to account for the teaching of God’s Word. We should thank God for Athanasius’ battle for the full deity of the Lord Jesus. We should praise the efforts of Martin Luther to stand against the Catholic practice of selling indulgences (thereby compromising salvation by grace alone through faith alone). We must grow in our understanding of history and many other subjects — and not see such learning as hopeless!

 
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Posted by on June 22, 2020 in Calvin & Hobbes

 

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Getting to Know . . . I Samuel (6:1-12) History and Sovereignty!

The Philistines make plans to send the ark back to the Israelites. The priests and the diviners advise sending it back with a guilt offering of five gold tumors and five gold rats! These were to be modeled after the tumors and the rats “that [were] destroying the country.” They add — “and give glory to Israel’s god” (v. 5).

Hoping that God would lift his hand from them, they challenge them not to “harden your hearts as the Egyptians and Pharaoh did” (v. 6). And they know their history — “When Israel’s god dealt harshly with them, did they not send the Israelites out so they could go their way?” (v. 6)

They give instructions for a new cart with two cows that have never been yoked. “Watch the cart! If it goes up to its own territory, then the Lord has brought this great disaster on us. But if it does not, then we will know that it was not his hand that struck us but that it happened to us by chance” (v. 9).

They followed their religious leaders’ instructions — and the cows went straight up toward Beth Shemesh, not turning to the right or to the left.

What can be learned from this event?  Certainly, that the God of Israel is sovereign.  He is also a God of history.  His actions on behalf of His chosen people were well-known by the Philistines.  He is also in control of the animal world.  The cows did not hesitate in their “mission” to return the ark to Israel, despite their natural inclinations.  And sometimes the Lord condescends to our “tests” to prove that He is the Lord (v. 9).   Our story continues tomorrow.

 
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Posted by on November 13, 2018 in I Samuel 6

 

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Pray for My Teaching Trip to Myanmar August 9-September 4! (Part 2)

Friends: I have the privilege of teaching two theology courses to students at the South East Asia Bible College (here is their website) in Yangon, Myanmar (formerly Burma).  I have taught in Asia in 2000 (India) and recently had the privilege of teaching at Word of Life Bible Institute in South Korea.

I will be going over the basic doctrines of the Christian faith, using my two books DocTALK and DocWALK. I know virtually nothing about Myanmar, so let’s dive into some history.

Here are some facts I’ve learned about Myanmar:

1. Although Burmese is the most widely spoken language, several ethnic groups have retained their own identities and languages (over ten additional languages).
2. 89% of the population practices Buddhism; Christian and Muslim number around 4%
3. The country is marked by high infant mortality rates and short life expectantcies. The HIV/AIDS epidemic poses a serious threat to the Burmese population. Burma is ranked 130 out of 177 countries in terms of life expectancy, educational attainment, and adjusted real income.
4. The country is known for human rights violations and internal displacement of ethnic minorities.
5. The last Burman royal dynasty, the Konbaung, was established in 1752. The British gained complete control of Burma in 1885, converted the economy from subsistence farming to a large-scale export economy. By 1939 Burma had become the world’s leading exporter of rice.
6. Burmese independence was gained 1948. From 1948 to 1962 internal struggle weakened the democratic government’s hold on power. The military was invited in 1958 to rule temporarily to restore political order. General Ne Win’s coup in 1962 abolished the constitution and established a xenophobic military government with socialist economic policies.
7. Student-led demonstrations took place in 1988 (more than 1000 demonstrators were killed). Aung San Suu Kyi, a general’s daughter, assumed the role of opposition leader to the government. A new ruling junta called the State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC) sent the army to suppress ongoing public demonstrations (another 3000 were killed). The SLORC ruled by martial law until national parliamentary elections were held in 1990. The SLORC refused to acknowledge the victory of Aung San’s party (National League for Democracy).
8. The ruling junta changed its name to the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) in 1997, but did not change its policy of autocratic control and repression of the democratic opposition. It continued to subject Aung San Suu Kyi to varying forms of detention and other restrictions on her movement, which it periodically lifted only to reinstate later. On May 30, 2003, Aung San Suu Kyi and a convoy of her supporters were attacked by a group of government-affiliated thugs. Many members of the convoy were killed or injured, and others disappeared. Aung San Suu Kyi and other members of her party were detained, and the military government forcibly closed the offices of the NLD. Today, only the NLD headquarters in Rangoon is open, all the party’s other offices remain closed, and Aung San Suu Kyi and NLD Vice Chairman U Tin Oo remain under house arrest.
9. In November 2005, the ruling regime unexpectedly relocated the capital city from Rangoon to Nay Pyi Taw, further isolating the government from the public. Power is centered on the ruling junta–the State Peace and Development Council, or SPDC–which maintains strict authoritarian rule over the people of Burma. The Prime Minister is appointed directly by the SPDC. Control is maintained through intimidation, the strict censuring of information, repression of individual rights, and suppression of ethnic minority groups. The SPDC continues its harsh rule and systematic human rights abuses today, and insists that any future political transition be negotiated on its terms. It proclaimed a seven-step roadmap to democracy beginning with a National Convention process, purportedly to develop a new constitution and pave the way for national elections. However the regime restricts public input and debate and handpicks the delegates, effectively excluding pro-democracy supporters.
Although the SPDC changed the name of the country to “Myanmar,” the democratically elected but never convened Parliament of 1990 does not recognize the name change, and the democratic opposition continues to use the name “Burma.” Due to consistent support for the democratically elected leaders, the U.S. Government likewise uses “Burma.”
10. Burma remains the world’s second-largest producer of illicit opium–although it amounts to only 11% of the world’s total. Annual production of opium is now estimated to be less than 20% of mid-1990 peak levels. Burma is also a primary source of amphetamine-type stimulants in Asia. Although the Burmese Government has expanded its counternarcotics measures in recent years, production and trafficking of narcotics and failure to adequately prosecute those involved remains a major problem in Burma.
11. The United States has imposed broad sanctions against Burma under several different legislative and policy vehicles. The Burma Freedom and Democracy Act (BFDA), passed by Congress and signed by the President in 2003, includes a ban on all imports from Burma, a ban on the export of financial services to Burma, a freeze on the assets of certain Burmese financial institutions, and extended visa restrictions on Burmese officials. Congress has renewed the BFDA annually, most recently in July 2006. Due to its particularly severe violations of religious freedom, the United States has designated Burma a Country of Particular Concern (CPC) under the International Religious Freedom Act. Burma is also designated a Tier 3 Country in the Trafficking in Persons Report for its use of forced labor, and is subject to additional sanctions as a result.
The United States downgraded its level of representation in Burma from Ambassador to Chargé d’Affaires after the government’s crackdown on the democratic opposition in 1988 and its failure to honor the results of the 1990 parliamentary election.

Please pray for safety as I travel to Myanmar (Burma) to teach this month.  Thank you.

 
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Posted by on August 5, 2018 in Myanmar

 

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Jonah: Belief Contradicted by Behavior (Part 10)

Let’s think about Jonah’s first orthodox statement:  “I am a Hebrew and I worship the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.”  He is compelled to own up to his identity.  He is literally forced to acknowledge his religion and his God.

Instead of being the willing missionary God called Jonah to be, he winds up being having to identify himself to pagan sailors who have run out of religious options.

“I am a Hebrew” — Did these sailors know anything about the covenant people of God?  Perhaps they had heard of God’s exploits with His chosen ones.

I know very little about the chronology of the book of Jonah, but here is what I found:  It appears that the events of the book of Jonah took place around or just after the reign of King Jeroboam II, who reigned from 786-746 BC. So the events of the book of Jonah most likely occurred during the 8th century BC.  it appears that the author of Jonah was familiar with the book of Joel (Jonah 3:9 refers to Joel 2:14), written around 400 BC.  So, it seems likely that the book of Jonah was written between 500 BC and 200 BC, though due to themes that are present within the book, the most likely date of composition is sometime during the 5th or 4th centuries BC. (http://gracecommentary.com/jonah-date/)

If one asks, when and how was Israel conquered by the Assyrians, we learn the following:  Assyria’s conquest of the northern kingdom of Israel began approximately 740 BC under King Pul. First Chronicles 5:26 notes, “So the God of Israel stirred up the spirit of Pul king of Assyria, the spirit of Tiglath-pileser king of Assyria, and he took them into exile, namely, the Reubenites, the Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh, and brought them to Halah, Habor, Hara, and the river Gozan, to this day.” These tribes, located east of the Jordan River, were the first ones conquered by Assyria.

Nearly 20 years later, about 722 BC, the capital city, Samaria, was overtaken by the Assyrians under Shalmaneser V. After first forcing tribute payments, Shalmaneser later laid siege to the city when it refused to pay. Following a three-year siege, 2 Kings 17:5-6 notes that, “in the ninth year of Hoshea, the king of Assyria captured Samaria, and he carried the Israelites away to Assyria and placed them in Halah, and on the Habor, the river of Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes.” And in 701 BC the Assyrians marched south into Judah; however, they were unable to capture Jerusalem due to the Lord’s intervention (2 Chronicles 32:22). (https://www.gotquestions.org/Israel-conquered-by-Assyria.html)

From this information should we conclude that Israel has already been conquered by Assyria or that it was soon to take place?

The Assyrians of today are the indigenous Aramaic-speaking descendants of the ancient Assyrian people, one of the earliest civilizations emerging in the Middle East, and have a history spanning over 6750 years.  Assyrians are not Arabian, we are not Kurdish, our religion is not Islam.  The Assyrians are Christian, with our own unique language, culture and heritage.  Although the Assyrian empire ended in 612 B.C., history is replete with recorded details of the continuous presence of the Assyrian people till the present time. (http://nineveh.com/whoarewe.htm) (to be continued)

 

 

 
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Posted by on August 10, 2017 in Jonah

 

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Psalms of the Salter: Some Thoughts on Really Living for the Lord (Psalm 16)

Psalm 16

A miktam of David.Screen Shot 2016-07-22 at 5.26.24 AM

Keep me safe, my God,
    for in you I take refuge.

I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord;
    apart from you I have no good thing.”
I say of the holy people who are in the land,
    “They are the noble ones in whom is all my delight.”
Those who run after other gods will suffer more and more.
    I will not pour out libations of blood to such gods
    or take up their names on my lips.

Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup;
    you make my lot secure.
The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
    surely I have a delightful inheritance.
I will praise the Lord, who counsels me;
    even at night my heart instructs me.
I keep my eyes always on the Lord.
    With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.

Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices;
    my body also will rest secure,
10 because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead,
    nor will you let your faithful one see decay.
11 You make known to me the path of life;
    you will fill me with joy in your presence,
    with eternal pleasures at your right hand.

 
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Posted by on August 10, 2016 in Psalm 16

 

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