Recently, someone in my family turned their back on the Gospel. She made a very clear and out of the blue life decision, which left little doubt in my (and others’) mind that she had abandoned her faith. Indeed, she even clearly spelled out to my brother, in a letter, that she was no longer interested in the Gospel!
This came as such a shock to me. Because: she had gone on mission trips, been a youth group leader (even my own youth group leader, for 2 years), been in Bible study groups, been attending church for years. She would say every ‘Amen’ and even close her eyes during the worship songs! It shocked Courtney and I so much that we had a long discussion, (actually, it was more like several long discussions, over several weeks) about our own susceptibility to turn our backs on the Gospel.
The problem with discussing this topic is that we (as Christians) always discuss other people. We talk about ‘such and such’ who got caught up in ‘this and that’, or ‘a friend’s sister’ who married a non-Christian and then slowly retreated from Church. We talk about our uncles, cousins and old housemates. We then move seamlessly from talking about these other people to asking the questions: “Did they lose their salvation?” or “Were they just never saved in the first place?”
We never consider how their abandonment of the Gospel should affect us. You see, the Bible is riddled with people who turned their backs on the Gospel: Judas Iscariot, being the classic example (others include, Cain, Balaam, Korah). And Christians often read about these people and cannot get past asking those two questions. But, have you ever considered why the accounts of these people are in the Bible in the first place? The stories of these people are there for our benefit. Had you ever considered that the account of Judas’ abandonment of the Gospel, was recorded to warn you that anyone, even you yourself, can turn their backs on the Gospel? We are supposed to read about Judas and realise that anyone, even a disciple of the Lord Jesus himself, could abandon the Gospel.
As Christians we often think, “Of course, I will keep the faith. Others abandon the Gospel, but not me, I’m the real deal.” But, it’s this very thinking which causes many people to turn their backs on the Gospel. People don’t think they need to keep themselves in the faith, they think that it will just happen naturally. But, the countless obituaries of ‘fallen’ Christians stands as a warning to us, that keeping the faith, does not just happen naturally. If it did, then my family member would not have abandoned the Gospel. So, whenever we hear of a person who has abandoned the Gospel, it should be a wake-up call to us, to take stock and to consider that we need to keep the faith. Because, one day, people could be asking those two very same questions about us.
Therefore, we cannot just ignore the question of how to keep the faith (because countless others have ignored the question, and consequently, have abandoned the Gospel). We need to know how to keep the faith. For that, we turn to the Book of Jude.
Jude explains why he writes in verse 3: “I felt compelled to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints.” Jude is writing to urge these people to contend for their faith. Jude thinks that faith is something to be contended for. To be struggled over. To have effort exerted on behalf of. He writes like this because some people have already lost the contest for their faith (v. 4).
Jude further explains why his readers should contend for their faith. They should contend for their faith because “the Lord delivered his people out of Egypt, but later destroyed those who did not believe.” (v. 5) The reason Christians need to fight for their faith is that not everyone makes it to the end. Many people were delivered out of Egypt, and yet, only two made it to the promised land. The truth is: many people are in the Church, and, not everyone is going to make it to the end. Sadly, this may even be true of Hope Community Church here in Nambour.
The same is true even of angels. And this is where Jude’s theology begins to come through. Verse 6: “The angels who did not keep their positions of authority – these God has kept in darkness, bound with everlasting chains for judgement”. You see, according to Jude, God has kept something for everyone. For these angels, who have not kept their positions of authority, for them, God has kept judgement.
For those who have turned away from the Gospel (v. 8-12), for them, God “has kept blackest darkness forever.” (v. 13)
However, Jude has confidence in his Father, and so, he addresses his readers as “those who have been called, who are loved in God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ.” (v. 1)
However, although Jude is confident that God is keeping his readers, he still commands his readers: “Keep yourselves in God’s love.” (v. 20)
God kept the angels in darkness, bound for judgement, because they did not keep their positions of authority. God kept blackest darkness forever for those who turned away from the Gospel, because they did not keep themselves in God’s love. You see, God has kept something for everyone. What will have been kept for you depends on whether or not you “keep yourself in God’s love” or not.
But, thankfully, it is not up to us to “keep ourselves in God’s love”. Jude closes by praising God, because God is the one “who is able to keep us from stumbling and to present us before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy.” (v. 24)
Truth be told, I am not able to ‘keep myself’ in God’s love. And I dare not presume to be able to keep myself in God’s love, because if I do I might find that one day deepest darkness has been kept for me. But, the Gospel is this: God is able to ‘keep me’!
How can we know whether or not we will keep the faith? Well, practically speaking, verse 20 explain that the way to keep yourself in God’s love is by: “building yourself up in your holy faith” and “praying in the Holy Spirit”.
But, at the end of the day, the only real option is to cast yourself upon and “wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ” (v. 21). I do not know whether or not I will keep the faith, but I know that God is able to keep me in the faith, and so I cast myself on his mercy and love.