Sermon on Jude 20-25 for the Sunday of the Fulfillment, November 25, 2018
- Jesus clearly tells us “No one knows about the day or the hour” of the end of the world or the Day of Judgment (Matthew 24:36). But what would you do if you knew for certain when the world would end? There was a radio preacher who made his prediction a few years ago. He had billboards and vans painted that said, “The End Is Near! May 21, 2011.” I think most people ignored that. Long ago, someone made a prediction like that and it became a national movement. In the 1840s there was a preacher named William Miller, and he said “I believe that the second coming of Jesus Christ is near, even at the door, …—on or before 1843.” And later he specified a date: October 22, 1844. He published thousands of booklets, explaining how he came up with the date. Some quit their jobs because they believed they were now in the “eternal Sabbath.” Some sold all they had and made an effort to be and act like children because Jesus said, “unless you become like little children you cannot enter the kingdom of God” (Mark 10:15). The day came. The day went. And there the people were. The day came to be known as “the Great Disappointment.” All that Miller, and the preacher in 2011, and the many others who predicted dates for the end of the world have done is confirm what Jesus said: “No one knows the day or the hour.”
- We believe, teach and confess, “He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end.” At the end of today’s Gospel, Jesus urged us to always be watchful. Jesus was encouraging his disciples to look at the signs of the times. And throughout history, watchful Christians have always looked at the state of the world and the decay of society and wondered, “Could the end be near?” Peter (2 Peter 3:10) and Paul (1 Thessalonians 4:15, 5:23, 2 Thessalonians 2:1, 8) wrote that way in their letters. John’s Revelation was written with an immanent urgency: “…to show his servants what must soon take place” (Revelation 1:1). All this means that Jesus encourages and expects his people to always be ready. As you do your work. As you take your leisure. As you go about your life.
I. Be Faithful.
- Jude also writes about the second coming of Jesus, and he tells us what to do while we wait. “Continue to build yourselves up in your most holy faith as you keep praying in the Holy Spirit. 21 Keep yourselves in God’s love as you continue to wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, which results in eternal life.” “Build yourself up in your most holy faith.” If you have ever heard the word “edify,” this is what it means: Do things that will increase faith. There is only one thing that will do that. Continuing to hear the Word and promise of God. That’s the doctrine of the Means of Grace. God’s grace comes to us when we hear his Word—especially his words of promise in the gospel of Jesus that tell us about what Jesus has done for us, who he is as the Son of God, and how he brought us forgiveness and all the promises connected to it—and who we are and what we have coming because we are connected to Jesus. The promise of God is what builds us up in faith—knowing, accepting and trusting what God says—and trusting that God will do what he has promised. So “continue to build yourselves up in faith” means “keep reading.” “Keep hearing.” And our response is, “Keep praying.”
- The next thing Jude writes is much the same. “Keep yourselves in God’s love as you continue to wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, which results in eternal life.” God’s love and grace are the same thing. But here is a different angle. He says “keep yourself in God’s love.” Are there times when we are tempted, or actually do, step outside of God’s love? The devil and the world tempt us to step out of God’s zone all the time. “Love yourself most of all” instead of “Fear, love and trust in God above all things.” “Live for yourself” instead of “Love your neighbor.” “Fill yourself up with self-serving pride”—which really lead to anger, selfishness and unforgiving attitudes, instead of clothing ourselves with Christ and his humility. We are saved by faith in Christ’s work for us—no doubt about it. But he wants us to live by faith—to live what we say we believe. At home, at work, as we conduct our business—everywhere. Keep yourselves in God’s love. The love and mercy of God are ours because of Jesus. The result of his love is eternal life. So hold on to it! Always be watchful! Watch the world around you. Watch yourself!
II. Show Mercy.
- We receive God’s love. We are also to reflect God’s love. When we are serious about our faith there are special temptations that come along with that, too. Just as selfishness leads to pride, diligence can lead to pride also if it isn’t combined with love. So Jude says, “Show mercy to those who are wavering.” Within our Christian community, or when we look at the state of the Christian faith in our society it’s easy to think, “Those people ought to shape up. See how far they’ve fallen!” But that’s very cold and very empty. It’s missing love and mercy. Nothing is less effective in reaching out to the weak or the lost. Instead, “Show mercy to those who are wavering.” Be patient. When trying to correct someone who may be weak in faith, be humble and think of your own weaknesses and your own need for God’s mercy.
- “Save others by snatching them out of the fire.” Jude is talking about judgment. Here he is talking about sharing our faith with someone who doesn’t know it—or gently correcting a wavering Christian to save them from God’s judgment and to share God’s grace in Christ with them.
- “Show mercy to still others with fear, hating even the clothing that is stained by the flesh.” Here he is talking about the example of a Christian life. Several times, Scripture uses “dirty clothes” as a word-picture for sin and guilt. Don’t make sin a habit. Don’t get comfortable with sin—the way we sometimes get comfortable with a pile of dirty laundry. Display fear of God and fear of his commandments. Avoid sin. Let your light shine before others. This is the witness of a Christian life.
III. Give Glory to God.
- Jude ends with a doxology—a word of praise that is much like the last lines of the Lord’s Prayer, “Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you faultless in the presence of his glory with great joy, 25 to the only God, our Savior, be glory, majesty, power, and authority through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all time, now, and to all eternity. Amen.” This praise is praise to God for what he does and what he will do. It’s also assurance to Jude’s readers, including us. Jude fast-forwards to the end to give us hope (expectation of good things because God has promised). “He will keep us from stumbling and present us faultless in the presence of his glory with great joy.” As we wait, we give God glory in all things—knowing also that he is the one who empowers us to do all the things he has commanded us. He lifts us up when we fall. He covers us empowers with his righteousness.
- When people believe in God’s promises that are connected to Jesus, when they complete their lives in faith, when they stand before God in judgment, clothed in the righteousness of Jesus, who gets the credit? Our God does. The glory is all his—but he shares the glory with us. What does the master say in one of Jesus’ parables? “Well done, good and faithful servant! … Come and share your master’s happiness!” (Matthew 25:21).
Conclusion: What the doomsday cults do seems to be a scrambling to get ready at the last minute—and we know that just can’t work because nobody knows when the end will be. Instead, Jesus wants us to live our Christian lives—with constant watchfulness, with our faith shining brightly in our lives—remaining in his love, reflecting his love in mercy for others, and giving all glory to God—knowing that one day he will share that glory and victory with us. God is faithful. He will work this in us. We wait with faith in him, and strive to live that faith.
Jude 20-25 (EHV)
But you, dear friends, continue to build yourselves up in your most holy faith as you keep praying in the Holy Spirit. 21 Keep yourselves in God’s love as you continue to wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, which results in eternal life. 22 Show mercy to those who are wavering. 23 Save others by snatching them out of the fire. Show mercy to still others with fear, hating even the clothing that is stained by the flesh. 24 Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you faultless in the presence of his glory with great joy, 25 to the only God, our Savior, be glory, majesty, power, and authority through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all time, now, and to all eternity. Amen.