When these people eat with you in your fellowship meals commemorating the Lord's love, they are like dangerous reefs that can shipwreck you. They are like shameless shepherds who care only for themselves. They are like clouds blowing over the land without giving any rain. They are like trees in autumn that are doubly dead, for they bear no fruit and have been pulled up by the roots. They are like wild waves of the sea, churning up the foam of their shameful deeds. They are like wandering stars, doomed forever to blackest darkness. -- Jude 12-13 (NLT)
The letter from Jude is a short missive towards the end of the New Testament right before Revelation. Often overlooked due to the location and length, Jude is an interesting insight into yet another dimension of God's warnings to us about false teaching in these, the end days. The letter starts with Jude saying that he was going to write about the glorious salvation we all share but then felt compelled instead to write about the rise of false teachers who were infiltrating the church. God has spent a great deal of time and a great portion of Scripture to reveal to us the dangers of false teaching and/or prophets. It is not a minor matter to Him, even though we may sometimes think it is not a big deal. It is a big deal because time is running out beloved. There is a world of unbelievers who will spend an eternity separated from God unless someone reaches them with the true Gospel of Jesus Christ and His Holy Spirit saves them. The church was the chosen vessel of God to bring the Gospel to the lost. So the math was real simple for the devil. Disrupt the church and he disrupts the plan God has for drawing as many as possible to Him.
I say this because some ungodly people have wormed their way into your churches, saying that God's marvelous grace allows us to live immoral lives. The condemnation of such people was recorded long ago, for they have denied our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ. -- Jude 4 (NLT)
So the devil sets out early and attacks the church often. He has not stopped since the days of Jude to this very day. When you see all sorts of egregious apostasy and doctrinal errors, do not be surprised if the enemy is not the one whispering the lies into the ears of those who do not want to feel the true conviction of the Holy Spirit. We note from the fourth verse in Jude here that the heresy du jour was the notion that the grace of God allows us to not worry about morality anymore. Now many might dismiss this as obvious heresy but I have seen very recently just this doctrine being perpetrated by Christians who ought to know better. Just look at disgraced former mega-church pastor Rob Bell. He led a congregation in excess of ten thousand people. Suddenly one morning he woke up and decided that love wins. Not God -- love. He decided that his new loving God could never allow anyone to go to a place such as hell. This is essentially the same exact heresy that Jude describes above. That the love and grace of God eliminate His wrath and holiness. This is simply man recreating God in his own image and it has been going on since we started. The Apostle Paul warned Timothy:
For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to sound and wholesome teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear. They will reject the truth and chase after myths. -- 2Timothy 4: 3-4 (NLT)
We live in the age of itching ears. When the Bible says that broad is the path that leads to destruction, we should realize that the path with more people on it may not be what we should aspire to. The problem however is that we have accepted using worldly measurements for success and used them to define fruit bearing. Beloved there are churches all over this country with thousands if not tens of thousands of people in attendance but that does not mean it is a sign from God that it is of Him. A church that is populous is not by default fruitful. Broad is the path! What about unity preacher? What about the verses about unity? What about them? I can think of no greater scheme of the devil then to plant an apostate church and then make people stay there thinking they are serving God by being unified. There is no unity or fellowship with darkness. A church that is serving itself, or other carnal ends is not in the light -- period. While we are here, let us take a look at the words of the Master Himself:
Do you think I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I have come to divide people against each other! From now on families will be split apart, three in favor of me, and two against--or two in favor and three against. "Father will be divided against son and son against father; mother against daughter and daughter against mother; and mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.' " Then Jesus turned to the crowd and said, "When you see clouds beginning to form in the west, you say, "Here comes a shower.' And you are right. When the south wind blows, you say, "Today will be a scorcher.' And it is. You fools! You know how to interpret the weather signs of the earth and sky, but you don't know how to interpret the present times. -- Luke 12: 51-56 (NLT)
The true Gospel is sharper than a two edged sword and divides people against each other. The object of God is not to have everyone sing kumbya but to call everyone to true repentance and then unify behind Jesus Christ. Not behind the latest model of church growth that is based upon secular humanism. Not behind snake oil salesmen and hip music. J-E-S-U-S C-H-R-I-S-T. We continue to see the sad reality of the modern church uniting behind themselves. Their own sense of community relevance. Let me ask you -- do you think Paul cared if he was relevant to the culture in which he was preaching? Of course not! Culture was the problem! Paul is bringing a Word against their culture. In many of the areas they served multiple gods, gods of wood and stone, and practiced all sorts of evil -- including sexual orgies and witchcraft. Why in the world would Paul want to be relevant to that culture?
Yet that is what we hear a lot as an excuse for the secularization of the church. We hear that they are just trying to "reach as many for Jesus" as possible and to do that they need to be "relevant to the culture of the next generation. Nonsense and heresy beloved! The object is to call them out of that culture, not to mix the church into it. The modern teen culture over the past decade has seen the enemy take more and more territory. We have seen a vast increase in suicide, gun violence and an obsession with a culture of death. We have seen an increase in total disrespect for authority and parents. We have seen the plague of "cutting" where teens slice themselves up so they can feel something in their lives. Drug abuse, hopelessness, and an increase in teen pregnancies and disease. Why in the world would the church want to become relevant to that culture? The goal should not be to try and have people fit Christ into their fallen culture but rather to have Christ save them from it.
Yet like Jesus says here in the Gospel of Luke we have become skilled at reading the signs in the sky but remain ignorant sometimes to the signs all around us, even in our own churches. I think sometimes we become spiritually lazy. Church can so easily become a country club where the saints are entertained instead of the triage emergency room God designed it to be. We fool ourselves into thinking we are doing the will of God because the name Jesus is uttered enough. We can get lazy and fall into a flawed thinking that says that I will only have to answer for specifically things that I do or say but what we lend our spirit to, we lend the credibility of God to. Not only do we run the risk of having to answer why we would stay in the middle of a system that we knew was not serving God but there is always a certain level of arrogance within us that thinks we won't somehow be affected. The Bible says that bad company corrupts good character for a reason.
This brings us to our key verses for today from Jude. These verses are not speaking just about the dangers of believing false teachings. They are not speaking just about the dangers of sitting under false teachings. They are also speaking about the dangers of breaking bread with them in fellowship. Sometimes we need to check ourselves as to who it is we let into our lives. Who it is that we let into our homes. There is a spiritual war going on that we remain too ignorant of. The first warning here is that these people are like dangerous reefs which can shipwreck us. Once again our silly pride can rise up within us and make us believe that we are impervious. That no one can change what I know and believe. I am sure Rob Bell felt that way once and then when the enemy attacked he found a ripe and fertile ground to plant his lies of universalism. There is no question that Rob Bell is shipwrecked in his theology. Paul warned Timothy of this:
Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers. -- 1Timothy 4: 16 (NIV)
If we persevere in our lives and our doctrine, then we save ourselves and those who hear what we have to say about God. Instead of persevering however, we tend to compromise too quickly. A watered down Gospel does not lead anyone to Christ. The second comparison is that these people are like shameless shepherds that care only for themselves. For us this means a false sense of security. The shepherd is supposed to protect the sheep no matter what. Jesus taught on the parable of the 99 and 1, where the shepherd went after the one lost sheep. When we start to allow false teachings into our fellowship, we eventually stop being able to discern very well what is false and what is true. This happened to the church at Corinth when they were allowing and in fact proud about a man in their congregation who was sexually involved with his stepmother! Paul rebukes them and in doing so, says something very telling:
Your boasting is not good. Don't you know that a little yeast works through the whole batch of dough? -- 1Corinthians 5: 6 (NIV)
The problem with the little compromise (yeast) is that it starts to cloud our judgment when bigger compromises come our way. It is only our arrogant pride that thinks we can dance with the devil and not hear him whisper in our ear.