Jude: Building one another up in an upside down world

UnknownIt doesn’t take much to convince us that something is not right—the world is not the way it is supposed to be. For Christians, there is a kind of clarity to this judgment: we live in a “fallen world” and look forward to the day when God will fully restore all of creation to its pre-fallen state. But for now, it is as if the world is turned upside down.

In this upside down world it is easy for us Christians to become clueless—susceptible to the beliefs, emotional response patterns, and values of the very culture we seek to be salt and light to as Christians—and naïve—no longer able to distinguish the gospel-centered life from the religious life, or biblical faithfulness from a kind of worldly self-salvation plan. And we cease being a source of encouragement to one another as God intends.

So, the question I want to consider in this post is: How can we build each other up in an upside down world? How can we faithfully walk with God as our hope, joy, and peace? How can we skillfully navigate the contours of a fallen world as faithful followers of Christ?

In the little New Testament epistle Jude, we find some answers to our questions. In fact, in verses 17-25 Jude gives three exhortations and a promise, three ways that Christians can build each other up in an upside down world.

First, Remember

Jude says in v. 17: “Remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ foretold.”

Remember the word of God. The Bible is God’s love letter to us and our guide for living under the banner of Christ. It is the only book that is alive and that understand us. In fact, I wonder if western civilization and its decline are in a large part due to a failure to remember. As a culture, we have been cut loose from a largely biblically informed Judeo-Christian view of the world—and as a result our culture has become a culture of what one psychologist calls “empty selves”—narcissistic, individualistic people who are bent on filling themselves with experiences and things that they hope will satisfy. (And of course they never do.)

But in the Bible we find timeless truth on how to live life well. And we find the word—the person of Christ—our only hope for meaning and purpose and hope. So remember the word. Turn to in often, mediate on it, read it, memorize it, “delight” in it as the Psalmist says in Psalm 1:2—and share it with others.

Second, Keep Yourselves

In v. 21 Jude employs: “keep yourselves in God’s love” or as the New Living Translation states it “keep yourselves safe in God’s love.”

How do we keep ourselves safe in God’s love? Part of the answer is seen in the three other verbs we find in vs. 20 and 21: buildpray, and wait.

In v. 20, Jude says “But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in the most holy faith…” The NLT makes this clearer, when it translates verse 20 as follows: “But you, dear friends, must build each other up in your most holy faith.” We must build each other up. The verb denotes a constant activity, a life-long process. As the German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer once suggested, Christians never relate directly to one another. As Christians, Jesus is always the third party: He’s always mediating, always interceding, always the buffer of grace and truth between the two. So, if we want to build one another up—think about your relationships with others as a kind of love triangle—get to know each other through the lens of Jesus.

Listen to Bonhoeffer in his book, Life Together:

The believer therefore lauds the Creator, the Redeemer, God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, for the bodily presence of a brother. The prisoner, the sick person, the Christian in exile sees in the companionship of a fellow Christian a physical sign of the gracious presence of the triune God.[1]

And we “pray in the Holy Spirit” (v. 20)—we pray for the unconverted; we pray for those who are drifting; we pray for each other—that we would ground our identity in Christ as Lord.

And then we wait (v. 21)…for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ. Why? Because we are part of a larger story—God’s story—and He is unfolding it both in our lives and in the world in HIS TIME, WHEN HE WANTS IT—and so as Christians, our lives are permeated by long periods of waiting—but don’t despair.

Third, Show Mercy

In v. 22, Jude states, “Be merciful to those who doubt.”

Jude is urging those who are convinced to help those who doubt. And this is something we need to get better at as Christians because the reality is that we all, at times, doubt. Jude says “be merciful”—don’t encourage those who doubt to ignore their doubts. Rather, encourage them to lean into their doubts. And the good news is—Christianity can handle it! In fact, at the font of our faith is Jesus Christ himself, “in whom” according to Colossians 2:3 “are hidden all treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”

Faith and doubt are not mutually exclusive.

Listen to C.S. Lewis:[2]

Faith … is the art of holding on to things your reason has once accepted, in spite of your changing moods …. That is why Faith is such a necessary virtue: unless you teach your moods ‘where they get off’, you can never be either a sound Christian or even a sound atheist.

It’s ok to doubt—it is healthy to ask questions about your faith. But don’t allow your doubts to cause you to run from Christianity. Rather, lean into your doubts—as Tim Keller says, doubt your doubts, and make your way to Christ—He can handle our doubts.

As Jude finishes his exhortation to fellow believers in Christ, he then turns, in v. 24, from our part, to God’s part—and he breaks out in song:

To Him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great Joy—to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore.

May we join with each other and break out in worship of our brilliant and beautiful Christ!

To listen to a sermon I recently preached on Jude 17-25, click here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



[1] Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together (New York: Harper & Row, 1954), 20.

[2] C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (New York: Harper Collins, 2001 edition ), 140-141.

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