Sunday Message, 28th August – Saints under Pressure (Conclusion)

Jude: To live for Jesus

Jude 17 – 25

 

This story appeard in our newspapers in April 2011.  The extract is from the Daily Mail online:

“An electrician faces the sack for displaying a small palm cross on the dashboard of his company van.  Former soldier Colin Atkinson has been summoned to a disciplinary hearing by the giant housing association where he has been employed for 15 years because he refuses to remove the symbol.  Mr Atkinson, a regular worshipper at church, said: ‘The treatment of Christians in this country is becoming diabolical…but I will stand up for my faith.’”

People have started to identify these little stories coming through in our country and are suggesting that they are a persecution.  Friends, I have to say that if this is all we have to contend with in our society, then we’re doing ok.  I don’t believe we should be getting upset about this stuff, friends.    Here in the UK, we are some of the freest believers in the whole of the Christian world.  We are all sitting here this morning with no government officials sitting in the room to monitor us as they do in some parts of eastern Europe, let alone out to kill us.

You go to China and ask a Christian there if he would be troubled at not being able to put a cross in his van, he would laugh at you.  ‘Don’t be silly’ he’d say.  ‘Our lives and our work for the gospel are too precious to be jeopardised by giving ourselves away by pointless religious trinkets like this.’  You see, when real persectution happens, its not what you stick round your neck or what you put on your dashboard that marks you out for Jesus, its the content of your life, character, and the way you live for Jesus.

Jude’s Context

Jude says, ‘Hey, remember that Jesus and the apostles said that there would be trouble?  We’ll here is what you do.’   All around these guys are lies and half truths about what it means to follow Jesus, so even in the church there is falsity.  On top of that, Christians are being slaughtered everywhere.  We believe that Jude, a half-brother of Jesus, is writing here in around AD 70 and by this time, Paul had died a martyrs death along with many of the other apostles…Peter crucified upside down because he didn’t feel he deserved to be crucified like Jesus was.  It was challenging time to follow Jesus!

There is trouble around and Jude is writing to encourage believers everywhere.  Not just to give them a sort of Monty Python “cheer up, always look on the bright side of life” sort of encouragement but to challenge them to continue to stand for Jesus, to continue to live a Kingdom lifestyle and live the Kingdom message of loving God and loving others.  In verse three of his letter he writes:  Dear friends…I felt compelled to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to God’s holy people.

I don’t know what goes on in your life.  I don’t know if people in your family think you’re a bit silly for even bothering with the church thing, let alone faith.  I don’t know if you have it easy, or if you get a bit of hassle at work or at home for following Jesus.  I don’t know if you are ashamed to be a follower of Jesus or bold as a lion.  I think there is, however, one thing I do know.  I believe that if people see in us people with a heart to love, to care, have compassion…lives of integrity without hypocrisy, with commitment and hope instead of small-minded criticising of our ‘broken Britain’ , the world would see Jesus and not a stuffy old church with no relevance to the day to day lives of people.

Lets be the solution!  Lets be the salt and the light and the hope and the contrast instead of the moaners and naysayers.  Jesus said ‘you’ll know them by their love!’  Do those around you know you for your unconditional love for them?

Jude helps us gain some perspective.  The first thing he says is ‘build yourself up.’

1.       Build yourself up

 20 But you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, 21 keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life.

He says to these believers: build yourself up in your faith.  See to it that your life is on that continual path of fantastic transformation from the inside out.  He says, don’t let the world squeeze you into its mold or be wiped out by doubt about the God your serve, but be in the presence of God, make him a living reality in your life.  Make love the focus….loving God, loving others.  This is your life’s ambition until you die.

My granny used to say ‘ye cannae tak it wae ye.’ In other words, the things you see, your possessions, your job or your money…mean nothing at the end of the day.  But the quality of your character, the work of God in you, faith, hope and love….they are eternal.  Build your inner life with God and when any persecution comes it won’t matter because your eyes are fixed on other things.  Paul said, ‘for me, to live is to live for Jesus and because of that, to die is a bonus!’

2.       Be on a mission

But hey, its not all about you!  We’re here to live our lives for others.  The story goes back in the day that William Booth wanted to send a message to all his officers around the world of The Salvation Army at Christmas.  Back then they were in about 50 countries but with several thousand officers.  Being a bit careful with money, he refused to be extravagant at the cost of mailing this message – you had to pay for each word.  So he decided on his word.  It was ‘Others’.

We live not for ourselves but for Jesus.  We’re to love God, and love others.  Jude says:

22 Be merciful to those who doubt; 23 save others by snatching them from the fire; to others show mercy, mixed with fear—hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.[f]

Be on a mission, says Jude.  There is a task to be done.  Firstly, there are those who are doubting because of all these uncertainties about Jesus around.  Be merciful to them.  What does it mean to show mercy?  It means don’t be harsh…embrace them and by the quality of your love they will see the truth.

Secondly, there are those who are to be snatched from the fire.  In other words, there are those ‘out there’ who need to hear the gospel.  Be on a mission!

Thirdly, he turns to our response to the persectors.  We hear echoes of Jesus here….bless those who persecute you.  Jude says ‘have mercy.’  ‘Forgive them, they don’t know what they’re doing’ said Jesus from the cross.  But Jude says ‘show mercy, mixed with fear.’  He isn’t denying that there is a sinful world but he says ‘as you go into this world, mix your compassion with fear for the destiny of these people, recognising that the rewards of sin is death and separation from God for eternity.’

Friends, are you on a mission?  Does your life carry the hope and message of the gospel of Jesus?  If not, build yourself up.  Then be on a mission.  But finally,

3. Believe God for the future

Jude closes his letter with a fantastic declaration of the glory and majesty of God! He says:

24 To him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy— 25 to the only God our Saviour be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.

And as he reaches that crescendo, the reality of any persecution fades into all insignificance because, you see, if you are following Jesus and building yourself up in prayer and faith by the Holy Spirit, if you are on a mission to share the hope that is inside you, your own life becomes one that is owned and sustained by the God who will not let you go!  He is the one who keeps you moving, the one who keeps you at peace, blessed and gives vitality to your life.  He is the one that you will praise and enjoy forever and everything else will grow dim.

Build yourself up.  Be on a mission.  Believe God for the future….trust him with it.

Andrew Clark

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