Jude 1:20-21 But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray 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.
Jude is a very interesting and at the same time somewhat obscure individual. He was one of Jesus’ younger brothers, but not nearly as prominent as James. About all we know of him is his listing among the children of Mary and Joseph, (Mark 6:3) and this letter, in which he claims his kinship with James but calls himself “a servant of Jesus Christ.” (verse 1) The letter closes with a glorious, encouraging doxology that has been delightfully set to music by Don Francisco, (verses 24-25) but the majority of the letter talks about men who were making trouble, false teachers who were leading others astray. He then turns to the intended recipients of the letter, and by extension us, and talks about what we are to do in contrast to the false teachers. These two verses stress personal responsibility more than anything else, with the repeated admonitions to “build yourselves” and “keep yourselves.” In the doxology he does say that God does the heavy lifting, but here he stresses our participation. Far too many Christians seem to expect everything to be handed to them in one way or another. We bemoan the “entitlement mentality” we see in society, not recognizing that we have it ourselves in terms of our faith and salvation. We love to quote Ephesians 2:8-9, which talk about salvation and faith being a gift, but ignore verse 10, which talks about God having prepared stuff for us to do. We ask God for more faith, but fail to exercise the faith we have already been given, when using it is what makes it grow. We want to bathe in God’s love, forgetting that Jesus strongly and clearly connected love with obedience, as he talked with the disciples in the upper room before His crucifixion. (John 14:15-26) God has already provided everything we need, but we are to be intentional in laying hold of it. Verse 20 was often quoted in the early days of the Charismatic Movement in terms of speaking in tongues, to point out that exercising spiritual gifts builds us up. That’s certainly not limited to tongues, but it’s amazing to me how many people I encounter who have had an experience with the Holy Spirit and have spoken in tongues, but who yet fail to use that gift in praising God and praying for others. That’s not being a good steward of God’s provision! We are to desire to grow, and be active participants in that growth, so that God won’t have to keep changing our diaper, as spiritual infants.
This certainly applies to me! I have had periods of growth, but I have also had periods of coasting, or even regression. Loving obedience to Christ can sometimes feel like hard work! As a pastor I naturally desire that each member of the flock be active in pursuing God, in pursuing growth in Christ, but I’ve got to set the example. I get tired of spoon-feeding them at times, but too often I fail to apply the truth I already know. I don’t want them to be so self-centered, but I demonstrate that myself all too often. I too need to build myself up in faith by exercising it and keep myself in God’s love by full and instant obedience.
Father, thank You for this reminder. Thank You also for the rather shocking reminder that none of us is guaranteed tomorrow, when the husband of a neighboring woman pastor went out to walk the dog on New Years Eve and fell over dead with a heart attack. The wake I attended last night was sobering for all the participants. Help me make full use of the time, and everything else, You provide, so that all of Your purposes for me may be fulfilled, for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!