I want to draw you into the amazement that you and I are still Christians.
I want to draw you into an analysis of how that came to be
I still love the ministry of God's Word, my spiritual calling as a husband and a father.
I complete this year 60 years of being a Christian, 32 years of being a pastor at Bethlehem, 44 years of being a husband, 40 years of being a father. We are about to install my successor at Bethlehem.
I am amazed that I have lasted as a Christian, a pastor, a husband, a father. I want to draw you in Biblically to why I am amazed.
An entry from my journal in 1986. I was 40 years old, and it is not untypical. It is a reflective of an emotional vulnerability I have lived with as far back as I can remember. My sons were 14, 11, 7, and 3.
"Am I under attack by Satan to abandon my post at Bethelehem, or is this the stirring of God to cause me to find another ministry, or is this the stirring that we must go another way at Bethlehem than building. I hate building. I have no desire to lead the church through this. I am a preacher, poet, writer, thinker. This is where my heart flourishes. Can I be the pastor of a church moving through a building program? Yes, by dint of a massive effort of will and the help of God. The planning meetings have left me feeling very empty. The church is looking toward a vision, and I don't have it. The vision the staff zeroed in on, building a new sanctuary, leaves me feeling empty. I have no desire to do it. Or perhaps I am just in the pits today. Lord, have mercy on me. I feel so discouraged. Even when I know most of my people are before me, I am so blind to the future of the church. Is it because it is not my future? Perhaps I shall not live out the year and you have spared the church a vision I cannot live out. Have mercy on me. I must preach on Sunday, and I can barely lift my head."
That was 26 years ago. We built that building, and another one, and another one. And I hated it every time. There were worse days, much worse days, days when my marriage was under attack, my soul was under attack.
I am amazed that I am still a Christian, amazed that I am still a pastor.
If my faith in Jesus and my eagerness to know his Word, and my sexual continence and my spiritual marriage committment, if any of that were dependent on me, I would have failed long ago. If the decisive cause for any of those things must come from me, it will not come, because it isn't there.
Therefore I am amazed that I am still a Christian and still love the ministry.
Personalizing Jude, "Now to him who is able to keep me from stumbling and to present me blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen. (Jude 1:24, 25 ESV)"
I think Jude was amazed when he wrote that, amazed at the keeping of God. It took glory and majesty and power and authority beginning to work before creation, working at the moment of my now, and working forever to keep me a Christian, to keep me in the ministry.
This is the ways doxologies work. First, they say something about God, something he has promised to do, then they ascribe attributes about God that account for his doing that.
Jude is amazed at what it takes to keep you a Christian.
Do you have any idea the degree of Divine glory and majesty and power it took to keep you alive to this very moment. How would you talk about the measurement of the glory, power, and dominion? It sounds big. How big?
How do you quantify the force or power of a Spirit creating a being and keeping it alive forever. Is it like pounds of pressure, like kilowatts of electricity?
God creates spiritual life when we're dead. We know that.
That which is born of the Spirit is spirit. John 3:6 - Once we had no spiritual life. I am born of the Spirit. The demons are spirits, this is not like that. This is Holy Spirit. This is God emenated, God sanctified spirit, and God made that. He brought it into being.
The life that you would have without the Holy Spirit, if you disunited with Christ, you wouldn't be a Christian. There would be no life. This being a Christian would be being united to Christ, having the Spirit, being in the vine. There's no autonomous life in me. He creates that, and only he can, and then, for 60 years, having begun before eternity and having been at work every millisecond of my life, made me a Christian, and if He doesn't keep it up, I won't be.
The giving of this life, and the moment-by-moment sustaining of this life is a work of God, which is why I said at the beginning, if the decisive cause of my faithfulnees must come from me, it will not come, because it is not there. It is not in me as mine, autonomous, independent. I bring nothing decisive to my creation, and I bring nothing decisive to the ongoing spiritual life in me. I exist as a Christian by it. I didn't create it, and I don't keep it in being.
Jude is amazed at this.
So how are you going to measure that?
I can only think of two ways.
This is the difference between us and God, thus the amazement should be off the charts.
Glory and majesty and power and authority, and I assume he chooses words like that because he wants us to realize it takes just about everything he's got.
Any measure of authority can't be measured in some sort of scientific measurement. This text is saying it takes glory and majesty and power and authority. You should be absolutely stunned that you are still a Christian.
Part Two - An analysis of how that happens.
How does he keep me when I have given no evidence at all that I haven't shown faith that he can save a neighbor much less a terrorist? How does he keep me when the fuel tank of death defying devotion to world missions seems empty. How does he keep me when he holds out a treasure that I want as much as anything and he tells me I can't have it?
How does he do it? How does he keep me alive? You alive? Serving, married, etc.
The book of Jude begins and ends with a strong statement of assurance that God is decisively our king. I don't think the word able there is intended to mean he is able but he might not. I think it is, "He is mighty to keep you."
To all those who are
When a person is called the are kept. 1 Corinthians 1:8-9. He will sustain you guiltless to the end. God is faithful by whom you wre called, meaning, if He called you, you were done. You will be kept.
Romans 8 - Those he predestined, he called, and those he called he justified, and those he justified he also glorified.
It's done in the mind of God. No dropouts. There is an absolute certainty between being called and being kept. That is the framework of Jude. This is a book about being kept by divine, omnipotent, faithful power.
Between those things, he wanted to go one direction but says he must address false teachers. There is a kind of Christian who perfers the grace of our God into sensuality. They think they're saved, they're in the church. They're not saved. THey're like those who were saved out of Egypt and then were destroyed because they don't believe. They're professing Christians, and they're not called, and they're not kept, because they crave sensuality. They don't crave Christ. That's the difference between a Christian who is not called and not kept. People who are prize the God of grace. They don't just use the grace of God to get what they want.
After all these warnings, Jude tells us what we must do and what we should do not only for ourselves in order to be kept (21-22), but what we must do for others in order for them to be kept (22-23).
But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith. Do what you have to do. And praying, guided by, animated by, carried by the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God. There goes your message. Or, not.
Keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life.
I worked harder than any of them, yet it was not I, but the grace of God, as Paul says. Or as Jude says, keep yourselves in the love of God because God keeps you in the love of God. This is the Christian life. This is the mystery, not only of sanctification but of preservation.
V. 1 - The order and the logic in this book is very important. The love of God called you, and the love of God will keep you. Therefore, keep yourselves in the love. Keep yourself in God's committment to keep you.
What does that mean?
Keep yourselves in the love of God. That is the main verb in these verses, and they are particples, which I think jude is meaning for us to take as referencing the main verb.
Keep yourselves - main verb - building in faith, keeping in prayer, waiting for mercy.
Keep yourself in the omnipotent committment of God's love to keep you. Trust His committment to keep you. And then, wait patiently for God. Life won't always go the way you hoped. This is so simple. I suppose in my little prayer nook in my study where I have a prayer bench I built in 1975, I suppose as I bent over that bench thousands of times, the most common prayer has been lead me not into temptation, keep me from evil. My kids are at the breakfast table. Keep me. I can hardly remember their name.
Pray by the Holy Spirit, not by yourself, by your own energies. If you are crying out "Abba, help!" the Holy Spirit is witnessing with you. THe means of God's keeping you. From him and through him and to him-I am so thankful-are all things. The Psalm I've prayed this with most often. Preserve me O God, for in you I take refuge.... Even if I can't even move, I won't let Him go.
And here I am, amazed. I mean, how many days in this weird, emotional cauldron called me, how many days have there been when it felt I can't go on? I can't go on. I can't preach the sermon. I can't go to the meeting, and yet here I am.
And my praying and trusting doesn't rob him of any of his glory and majesty and power and authority. My praying is a gift. My faith is a gift, which means my doing these two things, which are the two things I do along with waiting to keep myself, are being enabled by God. I am kept by being kept to do the things I must do. It's not of me but of you. I couldn't even be here if it weren't for you.
There's a way to do effort by faith.
The glory and the majesty, the first two, I think consist very much in the power and the authority of God to keep you that way. You say, what's glorious and majesterial by God's keeping me in order to pray and trust in order to keep me? God would say, it's power and authority. It doesn't matter if you understand how his soverignty and your will interact. What you need is to say he's got the power and right and authority to do it, and that's glorious and majestic.
I'm still saved after this kind of bellyaching and wallowing in self-pity. What makes you think you're going to wake up a Christian tomorrow. "Now unto Him who is powerful." I am called. He will wake me up a Christian tomorrow.
When He acts on you this way to keep you and stir you up from within, He is fulfilling the new covenant.
Jeremiah 32:40 - I will make with them a new covenant, that I will not turn away from them.
I will not allow them to shipwreck their lives.
Here's where this covenant shows up in the text. We know that the new covenant was bought by the blood of Jesus. If this covenant, if these terms are going to come true, he had to purchase it with his blood. He purchased absolutely everything, including their new birth, which is what we offer people in the Gospel.
So, when you read verse 25, that's what you should hear "through Jesus Christ our Lord." The only God, our savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord.
How does that prepositional phrase work here. If you were diagramming the sentence, how would you attach it. The glory and power and majesty is moving in on my heart every day. It's coming through Jesus Christ, and when I am granted to awaken from the stupor of my self pity, I do that through Jesus Christ. I can't even do that except through my Lord Jesus.
Through Jesus Christ is the Gospel in this doxology. Don't underestimate the power of the Gospel to keep you. He will not let your foot be moved. He keeps you. He who keeps israel will not slumber or sleep . The Lord is your keeper. He will not smite you by day. He will keep your going out and coming in from this time forth and forevermore because that has been bought by the blood of Jesus.
Therefore, keep yourselves in the love of God.