by Mike Ratliff
They said to you, “In the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions.” It is these who cause divisions, worldly people, devoid of the Spirit. But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. And have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh. (Jude 1:18-23 ESV)
I spent the weekend in Oklahoma. I spent time with my mother and father. My mother is in a rehabilitation hospital following a heart attack and stroke. She has a very hard time putting clear thoughts together into coherent speech. It was amazing though how much I could understand what she meant. I tried to comfort her in the Lord and let her know that I loved her and this stuff made no difference to me. My Dad is in a lock-down facility for Alzheimer’s patients. He cannot understand why we do not take him home after a visit with my mother. I thought I was going to have to force him back into the unit Saturday evening. He does not understand that he is incapable of taking care of himself or my mother any more than she could take care of him or herself. I prayed all weekend that God would give me wisdom and patience during all of this. I was able to respond to my dad with a patience that I did not think I had.
Saturday evening I was playing with my grandson. He is 8 months old. We were having a lot of fun. I was lying on my back on the floor holding him up high. We were giggling. Then all of sudden, he spit up some Formula. It went all over my face, into my mouth and up my nose. It was on my shirt. It tasted awful. My son-in-law made sure he posted that event on his Facebook page.
I reacted very quickly to the spit-up event. I gently put my grandson down on the floor as I tried to get air into my nose and mouth. My wife, daughter, and son-in-law were having a lot of fun with it though. Eventually my daughter came to my rescue with some baby wipes. My concern, though, was for my grandson. His eyes were huge. He had a look on his face that revealed some deep concern. After I got my face wiped off, I talked to him very gently, hugged him, and give him a big smile. It did not take long for him to realize that all was well.
God’s grace is far greater than mine. His is infinite while mine is finite. Those who are maturing unto Christlikeness will over time find themselves in circumstances in which it would be ‘the natural thing to do’ to react within a self-protective or self-focused mode instead of reacting as Christ would. However, as their humility becomes more and more predominate over their pride they will find themselves reacting towards others with an unconditional love. I reflected on these things during my 5 hour drive home today.
When we love one another with that unconditional love that only comes from God then we will be gracious as His is. My gentleness with my mother and grandson are mere shadows of God’s gentleness with His children. We deserve eternal Hell yet our Lord Jesus Christ went to the Cross and died for their sins. Think long and hard on that one my brethren. That is Grace. On the other hand, God is also just. His Love and Grace do not trump His justice. He is going to judge all sin. Those in Christ have already had their sins judged as Christ died on the Cross. All outside of Christ are still in their sins and will be judged with no advocate there to take their judgment away.
God’s love and grace is also seen in His tough love with His children. My firmness with the Dad is a form of tough love. If I gave in to what he wanted I would allow him to return to his home with no one there to care for him. That is what he wants. He would not last very long. He would forget to take his medications. He would not stay on his very strict diabetic diet. He would forget that my mother is in the hospital and would probably wander off looking for her. It breaks our hearts to ‘force’ him to stay at that place where his meds are given to him as they should be and his diet is correct. However, we love him so we do what is best for him. God does this with us as well.
There are all sorts of things I would like to have that God does not allow. He blocks me from doing things. He keeps me from possessing certain things. I would like these issues with my parents to be taken care of, but my sister, myself, and my brother along with our spouses and children are all involved in attempting to do what is best for them even though they are resentful and rebellious about it some of the time. This is what God does for us. However, He is a great deal more patient with me than I am with my parents.
What about God’s justice? Does His grace trump His justice? In the book of Jude, we read of an urgent appeal for the Church to earnestly contend for the faith.
Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ. (Jude 1:3-4 ESV)
Why are believers being urged here to contend for the faith? This appeal is also necessary. The readers are being exhorted to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. This is the Gospel. The genuine Gospel is unchangeable and uneditable. It is complete, however, certain people have crept in unnoticed. These people are not elect. They have long ago been designated for condemnation. They are ungodly people who pervert the grace of our God. How? They turn it into sensuality and deny our Lord Jesus Christ. This sounds like a description of today’s church to me. Any attempt to market the gospel by using appeals to the flesh in order to build interest and get people to come to a “church” falls into this category of apostasy.
Now I want to remind you, although you once fully knew it, that Jesus, who saved a people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe. And the angels who did not stay within their own position of authority, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains under gloomy darkness until the judgment of the great day– just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire. (Jude 1:5-7 ESV)
God’s justice is not trumped by His grace. It was by His grace that the Israelites were taken from Egypt into the Promised Land. However, how many of the original Israelites who left Egypt made it? Only two survived the journey, Joshua and Caleb. Those who entered the Promised Land with them were the children of those whom God took from slavery. God caused those in unbelief to die on the way. I also offer you from the New Testament the case of Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5).
Currently much of the visible Church is in a very fleshly, immature, unholy state. When we have professing Christian men saying that semi-nude pictures of the current Miss California are not “porn” then we know that they have a compromised understanding of holiness and purity. Professing Christians who use people’s holiness as a standard (either of good or evil) are walking according to the flesh. Why? There is only one standard of holiness and purity for the Christian. That standard is God’s holiness and purity. There are certain “pastors” and “teachers” who profess to be Christians while telling their followers that God’s grace trumps his justice so there are no boundaries to their fleshly pursuits. This teaching says that all who profess Christ as their Saviour can live any way they want because they are forgiven. These are guilty of perverting the grace of our God into sensuality and denying our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.
The Lord is going to return at the proper time. He will return with thousands and thousands of his Holy ones to execute judgment. Therefore, let us seek to mature in Christ so His character will become manifest in ours. We will then graciously snatch many from the fire while we earnestly contend for the faith, withstanding those who teach what is false until our Lord returns.
Soli Deo Gloria!