While much of Indiana is too flat to appreciate the metaphor, having a dam breach is not something anyone wants to see. The result is destruction, and devastation everywhere down stream, as massive amounts of pent-up energy in the form of water suddenly are unleashed on an unsuspecting population. We’ve gotten quite used to the protections afforded us by the Constitution of the United States, and of Indiana, much like a dam, they have protected us quite well.
All too often on the national scene, and right here in Indiana, we’ve seen the dam come under stress. We’ve been assured by our politicians that it wasn’t necessary to shore up our founding documents with amendments that affirm our Judeo-Christian roots.
In essence, the dam is doing just fine, thank you very much.
And then there was RFRA, the first wave of water came crashing over the breach we “didn’t need to worry about.” Who needs to talk about the moral decay when the rule of the mob is more powerful than the rule of law?
If you are a person of faith, you may just now be waking up to the reality that persecution is coming. What we’ve experienced pales in comparison to what our brothers and sisters overseas experience. They are paying with their lives by becoming modern-day martyrs at the hands of extremists because they refuse to renounce their faith.
As Hoosiers, we experienced the first little ripple. You see, here in America in general, and Indiana more specifically, we’ve had it easy. We’ve been lazy. We think persecution is being rejected, or being frowned upon. Perhaps a closed door here or there. But now, the dam is breached, and we just walked though our first ripple of persecution. Because we’ve been living for so long under an amazing document, the Constitution of the United States, and the rule of law, we haven’t prepared for the new reality.
The transition that’s coming our way is like when you were in high school and you took Drivers Ed. The book work seemed pretty easy. We were pretty confident that we knew how to drive, but then when we nervously got behind the wheel of the car for the first time, it was an entirely different scenario. It was the real deal, and suddenly all the head knowledge we had disappeared. The stop signs looked much different behind the wheel of the car.
Persecution is the same way. We can talk about it till the cows come home. We can read Fox’s Book of Martyrs, but until the first time we stand up and are called a bigot or hater because we believe in biblical principles, we have NO idea what to do.
I’ve spoken to several of my friends and my heart broke as they told me stories of being unfriended by family and friends. We shared tears when they told me of the hurt and pain they faced as they stood for religious freedom, some for the very first time. I think even the battle-scarred old faithful activists were surprised at how much the darts hurt this time. The hate shot from the left was hotter than it had ever been in the past. I know my spirit was pretty bruised by the end.
The book of Jude sounds the alarm in a way that came alive this week for me. It’s full of answers to what our job is during these last days. I challenge you to dust off that tiny book and read it! You can do it in less than two minutes!
2 Timothy 3:16-17 says, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God[a] may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” Jude doesn’t hold anything back. (I imagine he didn’t have many friends after writing this) He knew a freight train was coming and he wanted to do everything in his power to wake up the saints!
He opens his letter by telling the saints that they need to CONTEND for the faith! This to me is not a typical passive role that we have adopted as Americans. This is not a live and let live attitude. The Merriam Webster dictionary defines the word “contend” as this:
to argue or state (something) in a strong and definite way or to compete with someone or for something : to compete with a good chance of winning
Jude then goes on to tell them that they probably already were aware, but secretly godless men had slipped in among them in the church. Those who had exchanged the grace of God for a license for immorality and those who deny Jesus is the only sovereign Lord. (v4)
Notice the word “secretly” and think of the current day, Americanized church. Has this happened to us? This means they were living their lives as the body of Christ, with no knowledge of what had slipped in. Were these tolerance promoting, free-living individuals who cried love, love, love? Were these authors of self-help books who had a knack for “tweaking” the Word of God to fit their own message? If they were secret, they would have had to emulate the church for a long time before showing their true colors. If they were secret, no one knew they were there! Jude caught it and said…. WAIT…. DANGER ROGER DANGER!
He reminded the church what happened to God’s own people after their deliverance out of slavery in Egypt, when they disobeyed. (v5) He reminded them what happened to the people of Sodom and Gomorrah. He reminded them that with one swift hand, God wiped the rebellious people OUT. He had harsh words for these secret men that probably would not have been tolerated in the church today.
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. They are wild waves of the sea, foaming up their shame; wandering stars, for whom blackest darkness has been reserved forever. –Jude 12-13
Ouch! He is serious!
He goes on in the next several verses to say what will happen to these men if they did not turn the ship around! I can see the reaction now, “Dude, lighten up would you? Someone hand that guy some Valium! We get it, what do you want us to do with all your bad news?” (all of my type A readers just yelled a big AMEN!)
He answered with hope AND instruction.
My favorite word in the book of Jude is… BUT…..
But, dear friends, remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ foretold. They said to you, “In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires.” These are the people who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit. –Jude 17-19
But you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life. Be merciful to those who doubt; save others by snatching them from the fire; to others show mercy, mixed with fear—hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh. –Jude 20-23
Let’s talk friends.
We didn’t handle the ripple very well here in Indiana. We caved with just a couple of bigots and hater names thrown at us. We caved when about 30 shillings of silver was offered and economic terrorism was threatened. It’s not over. The next ripple will be bigger. It will also be stronger. It will come faster than the last. It might even look like a wave. This wave is for everything. The enemy wants the church. They want the true followers of Christ. If they can silence the truth, then they effectively silence the gospel.
The first ripple was a test round for the left. This time, they are organized and they are prepared to plow over anyone in their path, they don’t care who you are, just as a ripple or a wave doesn’t care what’s in its way.
So what is our responsibility, and how do we stand in the fire? He gives us instructions on where we are to stand both personally and as we look outwardly towards others.
To you personally he says:
- But you dear friends, build yourself up in the most holy faith.
- You can’t do this thing alone. You cannot stand in the fire without first building your faith. You may think you can do it, but with each push the enemy gives, you will weaken. Take a look at the faith Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego had when faced with the fiery furnace. When they said, “King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” Folks, that is faith. They had it BEFORE they were thrown into the fire! Build up your faith. Note the word “yourself” in this verse. The time has come for us to become self-feeders and not wait on our pastors to build us up. Sometimes there is a danger of waiting for someone else to build your faith. You can be led astray. Get in the Word so that the Holy Spirit has something to work with to build your faith!
- Pray in the Holy Spirit.
- This is not a physical battle. This is SPIRITUAL. It requires the Holy Spirit. If you even attempt to make it through persecution without high-caliber warfare in the heavenly realm you are going to be chewed up and spit out by the enemy. Not only do you need to be praying for wisdom, and courage, but you need to pray for protection. Just this week, it was reported that an Indiana woman was assaulted for her biblical stand on marriage. Pray, pray and when you arise from your knees pray again. I have learned what it means to pray continuously in my spirit.
- Keep yourselves in God’s love.
- It is tough to stand on the front lines. You grow very tough skin. If you are not careful you can let bitterness and resentment sneak in. I struggle with this. Personality type, stupidity or selfishness (I don’t know which one) drives me to do this myself. When I do this myself, I grow bitter and discouraged. I’m not a biblical scholar so don’t know the Greek or theology on this statement, but I do know, if I do not CONSTANTLY remind myself of the love of God, I can grow bitter and discouraged. By doing all that he has commanded… building myself up in my faith, praying and leaning on him, I keep myself grounded in his love.
- Keeping ourselves in God’s love is more about cooperating with God as He loves us. It’s about knowing our position as adopted children of the Most High. It’s about acting in this reality.
- Wait for the mercy of our Lord.
- What is the mercy of the Lord? Is it his return? Are we looking towards heaven with expectation of his return? Are we waiting in hope for his return? Sometimes it is easy to focus on the yuck that surrounds us and we forget… He is coming soon. He is coming for his bride. Are you waiting in anticipation?
As to your responsibility towards others he gives us this instruction.
- Be merciful to those who doubt:
- This is tough for those of us who have grown up in the church. Especially to those of us who have grown up in fundamental religious circles. We assume everyone has read the same Scriptures we have. We assume everyone knows what God says about right and wrong. I know I do a lot of assuming. Slow down and be willing to open scripture. Be willing to teach.
- Save others by snatching them from the fire.
- If you see your friend driving along the road and you know the bridge is out ahead, you would do what it took to get his attention to stop the vehicle from plummeting into the raging river. You would do what it took to snatch your friend from the jaws of death. It’s no different with sin issues. Sin separates us from the almighty God. Sometimes you have to say the tough things. My friends with the prophetic gift have this one down! (I am one) We need to balance the other portions of this scripture. However, there are those who are mercy givers, who struggle with this. They want to love, love, love, and sometimes we need to do what it takes to snatch our family and friends from the fire. As the days grow shorter and shorter, I feel a pull to do what it takes.
- To others, show mercy with fear… hating even the clothing stained with corruption.
- This part of the verse is a perfect picture of truth and grace. He asks us to show mercy while at the same time, hating what sin does. Hating what corruption does. Exposing it. Some say it is “either or” I say it is “both and.”
These are tough days. They are days unlike we have ever faced. I think many of us were caught off guard as to how quickly it was going to happen, and how bad it was going to get. We need to recognize it, and then decide to put on the full armor of God and fight. The waves are here. We need all hands on deck. Are you ready?