Contending for the Faith

Steve Viars July 29, 2006 Jude 0:

- If you can remember this, it will date you...
- a number of years ago, there was an advertisement that played on TV picturing men and women with big black circles under their eyes simulating a black eye...
- the point of the commercial was always, I’d rather fight than switch...and if memory serves me correctly it was actually for a particular brand of cigarettes which shows how far this goes back because its not even legal to advertise cigarettes any more...
- but this company believed, in a somewhat humorous fashion, that there were some things worth fighting for...worth taking a stand for...I’d rather fight than switch...

- that image calls up an important question for followers of Jesus Christ...
- is there any sense in which the Christian life is like a fight?...are there things for which we have to take a stand?...
- we may not like it...we may not find it to be a comfortable thing...but does God’s Word use the imagery of a soldier to describe part of what it means to live for God in this day and age?...
- that’s not a hard question to answer, is it?...clearly the answer to that is “yes”...
- we’re told in Scripture to... Ephesians 6:10-11 - Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.
- we’re also told to... 1 Timothy 6:12 - Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called and have confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.
- a couple of weeks ago when we studied the book of Philemon, we saw Paul referring to Philemon’s son... Philemon 2 - to the beloved Apphia, Archippus our fellow soldier, and to the church in your house:
- there are many places in the Word of the God that use similar imagery to describe followers of Christ...
- that is why some of our hymns have emphasized these ideas...which one probably comes to mind quickest?...Onward Christian soldiers, marching as to war, with the cross of Jesus, going on before...
- the great hymnwriter Isaac Watts once preached a sermon from I Corinthians 16:13 - 1 Corinthians 16:13 - Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong.
- when he published the sermon, he added a poem that we now sing as a hymn...
Am I a soldier of the cross? A follower of the Lamb?
And shall I fear to own His cause, or blush to speak His name?
Must I be carried to the skies on flowery beds of ease?
While others fought to win the prize and sailed through bloody seas?

- so whether we are comfortable with it or not, there are times when Christians have to adopt the stance, I’d rather fight than switch...
- now all of that immediately has to be balanced...
- we’re not talking about the church fighting physically...we might have to do that on behalf of our government---that is an entirely different discussion...but the church doesn’t function as literal, physical soldiers...
- John 18:36 - Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here.”
- [of course that wasn’t long after He had to repair one of the Roman soldiers’ ears because Peter had a momentary confusion about this topic...]
- so we are not talking about physically fighting people, we are talking about fighting ideas and values and approaches and beliefs...
- we also would say that while these biblical images of being willing and able to fight are important, they also have to be balanced with everything else the Scripture says about how we are to carry ourselves...
- Galatians 5:22-23 - But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.
- Colossians 4:6 - Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one.

- one of my concerns about evangelical Christianity in our community and in our country is that God’s people sometimes take a stand in an inappropriate way...lacking civility...
- [recommend Civility by Stephen Carter and Sinners in the Hands of an Angry Church by Dean Merrill]

- another balancing issue is that we have to be sure we are taking a stand in the right place...
- sometimes Christians seem to be confused about what arena they are in...
- what we should expect from people inside our church family is different than those outside our church...
- what we should expect from people who call themselves Christians in our town is different than what we should expect from our government, or the media, or other members of our community in general...

- then there’s the issue of taking a stand for issues that really matter...
- it would appear to me that evangelicalism seems to attract some people who just like to fight...
- and it seems to have very little to do with standing for Christ...or advancing His purposes...
- it is just that the church provides a convenient place for them to vent their anger about any multitude of topics that in the grand scheme of things really don’t matter very much...we call that majoring on the minors...
- so when you put all that together, yes the Bible clearly says that there are principles for which we must stand...like a good soldier...willing to fight...as long as we do it at the right time, in the right way, with the right people, in the right arena...
- figuring all that out requires the wisdom only God can give...

- one book of the NT that can really help make sense of this discussion is the little book of Jude, and I’d like to invite you to open your Bible to that book this morning...[page 188 of the back section of the Bible under the chair in front of you and page 1524 of our Chinese English Bibles...]
- this morning we’re concluding a short series we’ve been doing entitled...Small Books with Big Messages...and each one of these books brings an important perspective to the question of how we relate to others...that is a crucial issue for our theme this year of Gearing Up for Greater Effectiveness...
- we started with the book of Philemon –  which has the theme of Model(ing) the Power of Forgiveness.
- it is a great story about a runaway slave named Onesimus and about how God restored him through the beauty and power of biblical forgiveness...
- and part of the point of that book is that we are all Onesimus’s—we were all runaway slaves---we were all in need of forgiveness...and so the way we respond to those who are sinning, or those who have sinned against us...needs to be guided by the truth of how much we too had to be forgiven by God Himself...
- then we studied 2 John – Value the Truth.
- that’s the book that says there are some false teachers that you cannot associate with...you should not even invite them into your house or support them in any way...you have to separate from them because you do not want to association to confuse or compromise the truth...
- right on the heels of that last week came III John - The Balance of Christian Unity.
- that’s the sad story of a man in the church who would not work with anyone...his name was Diotrophes, and he loved to have the preeminence...so he wanted to keep the church small and isolated so everyone would be exactly like him...
- and so the key phrase that might summarize all we studied thus far might be “gracious balance”...going as far as we can to work with others but never doing so in a way that would confuse or compromise core biblical truths...

- that brings us to the book of Jude – which teaches us to Contend Earnestly for the Faith.
- let’s begin reading...read Jude 1:1-4a [through the word unnoticed...]

- let’s stop there for just a moment...
- the writer of this book is the half-brother of Jesus Christ...we use that terminology to somehow describe the relationship between Jesus who was conceived of the Holy Spirit when Mary was still a virgin, and Jesus’ other siblings whose biological parents were Mary and Joseph...
- what is amazing is that Scripture teaches that many of Jesus’ siblings did not believe His message...until after the resurrection...
- incidentally, James was also one of those men...James, the author of the book by that name, the pastor of the Jerusalem church...but the Bible is clear in places like John 7:5...John 7:5 - For even His brothers did not believe in Him.
- Jude and James were brothers, and therefore half-brothers of Christ...as I said, after the resurrection they became faithful followers of Jesus...so much so that Jude referred to himself in verse 1 not as the brother of Christ...or even half brother, but as Jude 1 - Jude, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James...
- Jude said in these verses that he wanted to write the church a positive letter about their common salvation, but that an event had changed what had to be done...
- what did verse 4 say...For certain persons have crept in unnoticed...
- now, if you are interested in where this fits in to the rest of Scripture, I would encourage you to take the time this week to read the book of 2 Peter...because in that book Peter says, the apostates, the false teachers are coming...in this book, Jude is saying, the apostates are here...

- now, with that in mind, let’s read through the rest of this book...
- read Jude 1:4-25...

- I am sure that we would all agree that the key theme here is...Contend Earnestly for the Faith.
- and I recognize some here might say...but what does that have to do with us today?...this is some battle that happened long ago...
- friend, this battle continues to rage and in many ways has just intensified...
- and the fight is not with the government, it is not with the media, it is not with people in our community in general...
- the issue here is with people who say they are part of the family...who say they are followers of Jesus Christ...but who take positions on important issues that violate Scripture...you say, well, does that happen today?...regrettably, yes...
1. We had a solemn reminder in the last couple of weeks of what many community leaders said was a defining issue for this community for nearly a decade...the gay rights agendas...
- and the leading example of that was a young man in our community who was the son of an elected official who had been accused of sexually molesting children...
- and the question was raised about whether it was appropriate for such a person to work in one of taxpayer supported social service homes for young boys...
- and our local media and some government officials and many in our community proclaimed that man’s innocence...and labeled anyone who saw that issue differently as being mean spirited, and bigoted, and homophobic...
- but some of the people who were most outspoken about promoting gays rights were religious groups in our town from theologically liberal churches...
- they advanced their agenda to the point that the persons who said they were abused dropped the charges...they no longer wanted to face the venom being generated in part by some of these theologically liberal religious groups...
- our local newspaper demanded an apology for anyone who took a more conservative view of that issue...and vilified people of conservative faith---it was a very difficult period in the history of our town...
- the young man in turn moved to Wisconsin...where he continued to molest children...and when he was caught he had carefully documented and labeled videos of his actions, including the two boys from here in our community...he was recently sentenced to 100 years in prison...
- but here’s the hard truth...the members of the media, and the politicians, and the theological liberals in our town share in the responsibility for those actions in Wisconsin...be not many teachers, for their is the greater judgment...
- and a local Christian attorney was exactly right this week when he suggested that the same people who were demanding an apology from religious conservatives need to step forward...like people of integrity...and acknowledge how wrong they were...and how much damage has been done as a result...
2. A local leader of Planned Parenthood recently said that crisis pregnancy centers are harmful to women in our town... and are selfish and disingenuous in their mission of trying to save babies from abortion and mothers from the scars of taking the life of their baby...
- but what is especially alarming about that topic is that a group is rising up in our state called the Indiana Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice which promotes abortion in the name of God...
- and that has been going on at our county fair this week...
- so if you are visiting with us today – I think it is fair to say that I do not believe in stirring up fights...but the clear fact of the matter is...there are people in our community who, in the name of God, are promoting ideas that clearly violate the faith that was once and for all handed down to the saints...and we have to decide...how does God want us to function when such conditions exist?
- the book of Jude can really help us...with the time we have remaining, let’s look for Three important truths to help us relate to those who believe differently.

I. The Characteristics of False Teachers.


- one of the important distinctions that needs to be drawn is that Jude was talking about conditions...
A. Inside the church.
- verse 4 says we are talking persons who  -- v. 4 - ...crept in...
- this is something that was occurring, and is occurring, within the boundaries of people who claim to be followers of Jesus Christ...
- how we respond to that, and relate to that, is different than what we might expect of a person in the media, or the government, or the general community...
- so we always have to ask, what arena are we in?...
B. Operate by stealth.
- v. 4 – crept in unnoticed
- sometimes folks ask us why persons desiring membership here have to meet with a couple of our deacons and tell about their faith in Christ, and then why when people want to serve especially in teaching positions, they have to agree to certain leadership standards....
- this is why...we cannot be asleep at the gate...this whole book explains the serious issues that are at stake...
C. Presence was predicted in God’s Word.
- v. 4 – long beforehand marked out for this condemnation
- as I mentioned earlier, Peter had spoken about this in II Peter chapter 2...but Jesus spoke about this, Paul spoke about it...
- what was and is going on in this area was prophesied ay back in early OT history...
- we could not say...nobody warned us...[cf. Acts 20...]
D. Ungodly - v. 4
- the polar opposite of what they are pretending to be
E. Turn grace into licentiousness – v. 4
- that word means – absence of moral restraint...
- that is always one of the marks of false teaching is that it promotes freedom from the clear commands of God’s Word regarding personal holiness...
- I’m not talking about man-made lists and all of that...but whenever somebody starts a sentence with the words “has God really said...”...be on your guard...
F. Deny the Lordship of Christ – v. 4
- they will not even allow Jesus their Master...
G. Unstable source of truth.
- v. 8 – also by dreaming
- they have literally dreamed up their positions even what they contradict Scripture
H. Defile the flesh – v. 8
I. Reject authority – v. 8
J. Profane
- v. 8 - revile angelic majesties...
- even the holy angels are offended by these ideas and actions done in the name of God...
K. Lack understanding – v. 10
L. Reject the natural law.
- v. 10 – they revile...the things they know by instinct.
- even the natural laws of biology would teach the appropriate use of sexual organs...
- even the natural law would teach the importance of a mother protecting the life growing inside of her...
- it is animalistic, the text says, to ignore such obvious principles...
M. Grumble – v. 16
N. Find fault – v. 16
O. Follow their own lusts – v. 16, 18
P. Speak arrogantly and in an attempt to flatter – v. 16
Q. Mockers – v. 18
R. Cause divisions – v. 19
S. Worldly minded – v. 19
T. Without the Holy Spirit – v. 19

- why do we have to at times, contend earnestly for the faith that was once and for all delivered unto the saints whether we like that responsibility or not...it is because of the dangerous and harmful characteristics of persons whose lives and beliefs are ultimately fueled by our adversary himself...
- and if you say, well PV you’re being pretty overwhelming in your description here---I’m actually skipping some very important pictures in places like verses 11-13 for sake of time...there really is much more that could be said...
- now, if we walk away from this part of the discussion saying---this gives me somebody to be sinfully angry with, to tear down, or to Lord myself over...I think we would be missing the point...
- we should not respond to this information with sinful anger but with focused concern...especially because of what the book tells us about...


II. The Future of False Teachers.


- the road of believing and promoting such false ideas leads to a horrible end...we should never want anybody to suffer such consequences...
- we are contending earnestly as a mission of mercy...for the purpose of rescuing those who have rejected God and His Word...
A. Destruction – like the unbelieving Egyptian armies – v. 5.
- the holiness of God demands that sin be addressed...either by the finished work of His Son on the cross appropriated by faith in Christ...or by standing before God on one’s own merit and falling woefully short...
- that is why the writer of Hebrews said... Hebrews 10:31 - It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
B. Eternal bonds under darkness fro the eternal judgment of the great day – like the fallen angels – v. 6
- if it was a temptation for angels, with everything they knew and observed, to rebel and follow false teaching—think about how powerful the temptation is today...
C. Undergoing the punishment of eternal fire – like the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah because of their gross immorality – v. 7

- friends, I understand that this is not particularly pleasant...but it easy as followers of Jesus Christ in the lazy days of summer to go to sleep at the wheel...and to fail to recognize what’s truly at stake...
- and again, these principles are not found in Scripture so we could tear someone else down, but that we would function in a way that demonstrates our understanding that significant issues of eternity are at stake...
- [if time – develop the argument of why we would return good for evil in Romans 12]

D. From select historical examples.
- these characteristics of false teachers acting in God’s name and their future have occurred repeatedly in church history...where it was necessary for God’s people to content earnestly for the faith that was once and for all delivered unto the saints...
- and time doesn’t even begin to allow to do justice to the significance of these topics, but I would like to at least mention them this morning...
1. In Paul’s ministry
- Galatians 3:1-3 – O foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you...having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?
2. In Jude’s ministry.
- his message is – the false teachers are here --- those who believe God and His Word have to face it whether we find it comfortable to do so or not...
3. in John’s ministry.
- a few years later in church history the apostle John would face this with the false teaching known as Gnosticism...

- we could also fast forward to the 1500’s in Europe when the church had become so corrupt that the Bible had taken from the hands of the common man and priests were actually selling indulgences so that deceased loved ones could be bought out of purgatory...
- and a German monk named Martin Luther began studying the book of Romans and was dramatically converted...and then he nailed his 95 theses to the door of the Wittenberg Church setting off the...
4. Protestant reformation.
-  returning the church to the principles of salvation according to God’s Word alone, by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, to the glory of God alone...
- someone had to be willing to contend earnestly for the faith...
5. The struggle for religious freedom in America.
- many who came to our country were fleeing religious persecution...
- but ironically, in many places they established a state church which made church attendance mandatory and created a system where the church was supported by taxation...
- and a outspoken Baptist named Roger Williams saw the danger of all of that and he argued for religious freedom for all people, believing that a relationship with Christ was an individual decision every person had to come to apart from government coercion...
- he contended earnestly for principles that have become part of our country’s greatness...
- the most important religious struggle in this country began in the early part of last century...
6. The fundamentalist/modernist debate in America.
- in the 1920’s the liberal theologians in Europe were pronouncing that God was dead and that the Bible was man made...
- those beliefs swept our country in the 20’s and 30’s...
- at the same time many liberals were embracing the social gospel which suggested that doctrine doesn’t matter anyway...and they turned their attention to fighting poverty and other social ills apart from the proclamation of Christ...l
- and that set off the great divide in many denominations between the conservatives who believed the Bible and the theological liberals who did not...
- and a whole generation of people contended earnestly for the faith...
- [recommend Culture Wars – also explain why we are more like some non-Baptist evangelicals than we are like some Baptists...]
- now, everything we have said so far is very important, but it really doesn’t get us to what this looks like practically...
- that is why the last verses of this book are so crucial...

III. The Strategy for False Teachers.


A. Don’t be caught off guard.
- v. 17 – But you, beloved, out to remember the words that were spoken beforehand...
- many of us might say – I wish I never had to contend earnestly --- [can’t we all just get along] --- this side of heaven, the forthright is answer is – no.

B. Build yourself up in the faith.
- v. 20 – But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith.
- the best way to avoid error is to strengthen your understanding of truth...
- [cf. FBI classes, catalog...]
- [cf. ABF’s, and your kids---ministries this fall, and your friends...]

C. Pray
- v. 20 – praying in the Holy Spirit

D. Keep yourself in the love of God.
- v. 21 – keep yourselves in the love of God
- you say, what does that mean?...
- Jude is talking about doing your part to walk out the practical implications of the truth that you know...
- false teachers always appeal to the flesh...they promote a form of godliness that makes you, and your desires central...it’s “Christianity with you being the master”...

E. Be looking for the coming of Christ.
- v. 21 – waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life
- [if time – develop, the events of the middle east...]

F. Show mercy to those who are yet without Christ – vv. 22-23
- read vv. 22-23

- [develop the importance of the book concluding in this way...also look at the center section of the FBI cat – this is how we are trying to overcome false teaching...this is how we are trying to contend earnestly...]

- [conclude by talking about how these four books fit together, and the implications on who we work with...]

Steve Viars

B.S. - Bible, Baptist Bible College
M.Div. - Grace Theological Seminary
D.Min. - Westminster Theological Seminary

Pastor Steve Viars has served at Faith Church since 1987. He and his wife Kris were married in 1982 and have two married daughters, a son, and two grandchildren. Pastor Viars’ gifted teaching ministry, enthusiasm for the Word of God, and organizational skills are instrumental in equipping Faith Church. He oversees the staff, deacons, and all Faith ministries and serves on the boards of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, Biblical Counseling Coalition, Vision of Hope, and the Faith Community Development Corporation.

Read Steve Viars’ Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Viars to Faith Church.

View Pastor Viars' Salvation Testimony Video