The little epistle of Jude, and we're reading from verse 14 this morning to recap a little bit on what we have been learning thus far in this study. Verse 14 and we enter again at this personality of Enoch: "And Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these, saying, Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints, To execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against him". Now we saw last week 'The Apostates Final Fall', when they will stand before the Lord Jesus Christ and be judged for those deeds that they have done, for the words that they have spoken and the devices that they have devised. Verse 16, we saw the character of these people: "These are murmurers", grumblers, "complainers, walking after their own lusts; and their mouth speaketh great swelling words, having men's persons in admiration because of advantage. But, beloved, remember ye the words which were spoken before of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ; How that they told you there should be mockers in the last time, who should walk after their own ungodly lusts. These be they who separate themselves, sensual, having not the Spirit". Now, these are the verses that we're going to concentrate on today: "But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost, Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life".
Let us pray: Father in heaven, who inspired these pages by Thy Holy Spirit, we pray in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, our Saviour, that Thou mayest come to us through the word of God. By Thy Spirit, lift up these words and apply them unto our hearts. Feed us on the bread of heaven, we pray. Fill us with the Holy Ghost, we ask. In Jesus name, Amen.
I've entitled my message this morning: 'The Great Escape'. We have seen in last week's message, verses 14, 15, 16, the peril of those who are apostates. Those who fall away from the truth, and in theory those who never have the truth, in the beginning, in their hearts - they had a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof - and we saw that one day they will face God! They will have to answer to God for those teachings that they have taught, for the lives that they have lived. We saw that they will be left behind when the Lord Jesus Christ comes - as we see in verse 15 and 14 - with ten thousands of His saints, they will be left behind to face the tribulation that will come upon the whole earth. The apostates final fall.
But today we are looking at 'The Great Escape' - and thus far, from verse 1 right down to verse 19 in this little epistle, Jude has been talking to us about these apostates. He has been outlining who they are, what they believe, what they preach and teach, the way they live their lives - and we have an acute, beautiful picture of how we can recognize these individuals, even in our world today. But from verse 14 on, he begins to turn the tone of his letter and he begins to tell us how we, as believers, can do the injunction that he has given to us in verses 3 and 4, to defend the faith, to contend for the faith, to - as the church of Jesus Christ - militantly take up the arms of the word of God, and the whole armour of God, and fight the fight of faith against the devil and his false teachers.
He gives us the backdrop of the character of Enoch that we took some time to look at. Now he looks at us individually, and the verses we are going to look at today - verse 20 and 21 - give us a fourfold formula of how we can stand against apostasy. He tells us how we can make the great escape from false teaching. Remember that this little book is a letter, and I want you to imagine that it was sent to you, and you're reading this letter - and he's making these scathing, judgemental, condemnatory remarks of apostates, all the way through - and it's addressed to you! And perhaps you start to panic, and think, 'Is Jude talking about me? Is he talking about our assembly? Who is he getting at? Do I show these characteristics in my life, of an apostate?'. What must it have been to get to verse 20, where Jude introduces this language: 'But ye, beloved'. He is making the distinction: 'You're different, I want to talk to you, you haven't reached the stage that these boys have reached - you are still holding on to the faith, but there is a danger that you will let it go, there is a danger you'll dilute it and you will fall away! So I want you to listen to these four things I'm going to tell you to do!'.
'Ye beloved' - what an expression! And it's put in concrete as we look at the doxology in verse 24: 'Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, or stumbling'. And any reason why we have not fallen into apostasy, in the day and age in which we live, is because He is able! Don't you think it's because of your Bible knowledge for one minute! Don't think it's because of the tradition of your fathers and the church that you have been brought up in! If you are standing firm in the faith today that is once delivered to the saints - God has done it! Glory be to His name! For He is able to save to the uttermost, and He is able to keep us from stumbling. So I believe, if we are standing on the word of God today, God can say to us: 'But ye, beloved'. He can make the distinction to us today if we are walking in His word, and if we are trusting and obeying - isn't that wonderful? We have an awful enemy, but He that is in us is greater than he that is in the world.
We read in 1 Corinthians 10 and verse 13, a wonderful verse: 'God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it'. And in the world in which we live, of apostasy, the world in which Jude lived, of apostasy, the world in which Enoch lived, of apostasy, before the flood - God is able! No matter where we live, no matter what time we are in, and no matter what environment is round us of sin and iniquity, God is able to keep us from stumbling and He can make a way of escape!
How? The example He gives us is Enoch - and we saw that Enoch walked with God, Enoch pleased God - and therefore, from that context, He comes to us in our age today, by the Holy Spirit, and in verse 20 and 21 He tells us His way of escape. God's way of the great escape from apostasy. 'Ye, beloved' - one - 'building up yourselves on your most holy faith' - two - 'praying in the Holy Ghost' - three - 'keep yourselves in the love of God' - four - 'looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ'. This is the way! God has given us His means of avoiding falling away!
There is actual apostasy and, I believe, there is spiritual apostasy. What do I mean by that? I mean that you can, not be apostate, but harbour within your heart the spirit of apostasy. I mean that you can be saved by the grace of God, but by your actions, your words and your thoughts you can be moving slowly away, falling away from the grace of God and the truth of God. I'm not meaning you can be lost, but I'm meaning this: you can be lost in your sin and not see Christ! This is how not to backslide. Jude is telling us today how not to apostasize, how to survive in an age in which we live, how to escape the spirit of the age and live holy and godly lives, like Enoch, when the whole world is against us!
I believe the Western church today is, perhaps, the least effective church - numerically speaking - in the whole of the world. If I was to put it in the words of the Lord Jesus Christ: 'The salt has lost its savour and it is therefore good for nothing but to be cast out and trodden underfoot of men'. The church of Jesus Christ, where we live and in Europe today, to a large extent, is trodden under the foot of the world! Yes! The church that our blessed Lord said He would build and the gates of hell would not prevail against it - that church can be trodden underfoot of men! You might say, 'That's very strong'. Most people I talk to who admit they're in a backslidden state, after a little while, admit to me that their backsliding did not start when they stopped attending the meeting. It didn't start when they fell into open, public, heinous sin. But their backsliding started in the very presence of God, when they moved away from walking with God! I believe that the lack of spiritual progress in our city, in our nation, and in our continent is because the soldiers of Christ are absent without leave, with regards to prayer and the word of God.
That is why Jude tells us - now take this, take this from the Holy Ghost to your heart today - first of all his injunction is this: 'Build up! Build up!'. The amplified version says this: 'build yourselves up, founded on your most holy faith, make progress, rise like an edifice, higher and higher, praying in the Holy Spirit'. Now there are three questions I want to ask of Jude in this little verse. What is the structure that is being built? Secondly, who is the builder? And thirdly, what is the foundation that we are to be built upon?
One: the structure. Look at the verse: 'building up yourselves' - you are the structure, you are the one who must be built up to prevent apostasy, you are the building. Wasn't it Peter that said: 'We are lively stones making up the church of Jesus Christ'? 'This building', I hear this said in this hall, 'is the house of God'. Nonsense! This building is a building! You are the house of God! You are lively stones making up the temple of God, and your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit - and that is why we are told to build up ourselves upon our most holy faith.
That is the structure, who is the builder? 'Building up yourselves' - that's not just identifying who is being built up, but it's identifying who is doing the building. You must build yourself up, you have a responsibility before God to begin building. We have a 'coach potato' mentality in Christianity today. We are spoon-fed from the pulpit - and many Christians, all they know and understand is: 'If the Pastor says it, I believe it', and we have so many beliefs that we can adhere to and [put a] tick beside - but do we know why we believe them? Do we know the authority of the word of God that testifies that belief? Have we done what Paul has said to Timothy, 'to study to show ourselves approved unto God'? Not unto men now! Approved unto God! For so many of us, I fear the Bible is only opened on Sunday morning and Sunday evening. We are the structure to be built, we are to build ourselves up - ourselves, we are the builders, it is our responsibility.
What is the foundation? Look: 'on your most holy faith'. The faith! That isn't necessarily the faith that we exercise when we believe, but he's talking about what we read about in verse 3: 'The faith once delivered' - once and for all delivered - 'to the saints'. If you turn with me to Acts chapter 20, Acts chapter 20, and this possibly is what Jude is referring to which he reminded them - 'remember ye the words which were spoken before of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ' - for you remember in Acts chapter 20 he reminds the Ephesian elders, how he told them night and day and warned them that these men would come out from among them and bring false teaching. And in verse 32 he says: 'And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified'. What will build us up? The word of His grace! That is the faith, the word of God, the Bible, the Scriptures - and it is our most holy faith, and anything that is most holy we will treat with honour that is due it! We will give it the time, we will give it its rightful place in our lives, in our hearts, in our decisions, in our families, in our homes.
Can I ask you: there are four injunctions upon the Christian concerning the word of God, how many of them do you fulfil? One: read the word of God - do you read it? Do you read the word of God every day that you have breath? Secondly: we are to meditate upon the word of God. Not get our two or three chapters done for the day and say, 'Well that's my duty done to God for today' - but do you meditate upon the word of God, do you 'chew the cud' of God? Going over the word, letting it become part of you, be inwardly digested and make up your whole spiritual being. The Psalmist says in Psalm 1 and verse 2: 'In thy law do I meditate day and night'. Thirdly: do you memorise it? The Psalmist asks the rhetorical question of a young man, and maybe there's a young man asking this question today: 'How can a young man cleanse his way?', and he answers, 'By taking heed according to thy word'. Listen: 'Thy word have I hid in mine heart' - have you, that you may not sin against Him? And fourthly, there is studying the word of God, understanding the word of God to show yourself approved unto God. What were the words of the Lord Jesus Christ in His temptation? Listen: 'Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God'. What did Job say? Listen: 'I have esteemed the words of his mouth more than my necessary food'. The poet said:
'Too busy this morning,
I'll say a prayer, quick.
Tonight I'll have time
To study and to think.
Tonight I'm too tired
To study God's word.
I'll wait till next week,
Then I'll worship the Lord.
Next week came too fast,
But it seems that I may
Have more time next month,
Lord, to read and to pray.
Next month, oh yes,
I just wonder why
My love for the Lord
Is about ready to die?'
Do you know what Watchman Nee said? 'No prayer, no Bible: no breakfast'. He got to God's words before he got to his food. If we were to do that today, how many of us would have a breakfast? How many of us would be found before the face of God before we enter upon our lives - seeking God's face? Can you do without breakfast, without lunch and without dinner for too long? But Jesus says: 'That's not what you're to live by alone - it's by the words of God!'. It was an enlightenment upon me to realise that 72 hours is the time it takes to read the whole word of God, at reading speed. And that has been tested by the tape recordings that have been taken - you can buy them in the Faith Mission Bookshop, tapes of the Bible - and it lasts in length 72 hours. Do you know, that is the average time every human being takes to watch television for a fortnight? Two weeks television would get us through the word of God! Yet there are people who say to me: 'Oh, it's too much for me to read through the Bible in a year! I couldn't possibly do that!'.
I almost was brought to tears when I read this story in a book entitled 'Disciplines of the Christian Life'. An example of a man who had just become a Christian, and in a freak accident had lost his sight and lost the use of many of his limbs - he couldn't read the word of God any more! He was only saved, he was beginning to enjoy reading the word of God, and studying it, and meditating upon it, and memorising it - and suddenly that was all gone. He heard about a woman across the water, who was in the same predicament as him, and she would get the Bible in Braille, and she would lift to her lips and read it with her lips every day of her life. So he got a Bible like that, and just as it came through the post and he couldn't wait to get it open, and he brought it to his lips - and when he brought it to his lips he found that the damage was greater than he thought! And his nerve endings had been severed and he couldn't do it. Can you imagine how he felt? But there was one time, as he was trying again, his tongue accidentally touched one of those little dots - and he felt it! And at the moment of the writing of that book that I read, he had read the Bible through four times!
It was said of Mr. Jeremiah Whitaker that usually he read all the epistles in Greek, in the New Testament, twice every fortnight. Mr. Robert Cotton read the Bible through 12 times in a year. Archbishop Cranmer is said to have been able to repeat the whole New Testament from memory! Ridley, who was burned at the stake, said: 'The walls and trees of my orchard, could they speak, would bear witness that I here learned by heart almost all of Paul's epistles'. Oh, that we would get back to the faith of our fathers. There are some times when I read these accounts, that I ask of myself: 'Are you really in the household of faith?'.
I read a story this week about a prisoner who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ. And he was imprisoned in a dark cell, [so dark] that he could not read, and the only time that light came into that cell was when the door opened and the prison guard came and put his breakfast before him, for a few seconds. And do you know what he said? 'I can find my mouth in the dark' - he esteemed the words of God more than his necessary food! Are you building up yourself in your most holy faith? Are you? Are you building yourself upon the foundation of the word of God?
Secondly, he tells us, verse 20b: 'Praying in the Holy Ghost'. The second edifice of how to prevent apostasy - what is the function he's talking about? It is prayer, to get before God, to pray before His face - and look at it, it is not an optional extra to salvation, but I believe it is a sign of it! If you were to be asked the question: 'How do you know you're saved?', I don't doubt that many of us would say, 'Well, on - for me - the 3rd November 1984, after Sunday School one day in this place, I trusted the Lord Jesus Christ'. But I'm not so sure that's what God goes upon - I believe that God goes upon the now, and God looks upon the life, to testify whether the life of God is in your bosom, whether it is being shown in the things that you do, the habits that carve out your life's practice. I believe that is how we know! Do you pray? E.M. Bounds was right when he said: 'No prayer, no blessing. Little prayer, little blessing. Much prayer, much blessing'. That is the function that we must get down to, and if you want to see the measure of a man or a woman's Christianity, look at their prayer life! Wasn't it M'Cheyne said, 'What a man is on his knees, he is, and no more'! What are you?
Can God look, as 24 hours goes by, under the roof of your home and find you not one minute on your knees? How can we call ourselves 'Christ's-ones' if we are not building up ourselves in our most holy faith, if we are not praying in the Holy Ghost? That is the function, but he also tells us of the unction: 'Praying in the Holy Ghost'. It's not empty words at a prayer meeting, it's not even words on our knees before God, to say a prayer to get it over with, to get our conscience salved - it is praying in the Holy Ghost! I'm not so sure that God answers all prayers, I used to think that - but I've come to the realisation that He can't answer prayer that's in the flesh. I've been reading, lately, the sermon on the mount again, and the Lord Jesus Christ over and over again, as He's talking about fasting, as He's talking about praying and alms giving and so many good deeds - He was saying that the Pharisees do these things to be seen of men. Doing good works to be seen of men, seen of men, seen of men! But He goes on to say that when we do it for God in secret, we will be rewarded openly! God does not answer prayer in the flesh, but in the Spirit. Some would say that is tongues - it is not. Some would say that is having a baptism of the Holy Spirit - it is not. As you look throughout the whole of the word of God and the Scriptures you find that to pray in the Spirit, first of all, is to pray in the will of God upon the word of God. Taking the promises of God and claiming them, knowing that you are praying in His will, according to His sovereign plan. Secondly, it is to pray in surrender to the Spirit of God. When your life is totally given over to the Holy Spirit you can know that you are praying in the Holy Ghost. And thirdly, when you are walking in the Spirit. For if you walk in the Spirit, what does the word of God say? 'You shall not fulfil the lusts of the flesh' - and my friend, if you are fulfilling at this minute the lusts of the flesh - whatever they may be - your prayers will be hindered, and you can be sure you are not praying in the Holy Ghost.
Then he says, thirdly: 'Keep in the love of God'. Verse 21: 'Keep yourselves in the love of God'. Now that does not mean 'Keep God loving you', because God does love us! - and even when we didn't love Him, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Neither does it mean: 'Keeping us loving Him'. Let's see what it does mean. Well, it's personal - you see that, it's just like the building up your faith - verse 21: 'Keep yourselves in the love of God'. The onus is on you, and I feel today that I, in much of my life, have 'Edenitis'. Do you know what that is? 'Edenitis' - God said, 'Why did you take of that fruit of that tree?'. What did Adam say? 'The wife that You give me told me to take it'. What did Eve say? 'The serpent that You made told me to take it'. And we blame this, we blame our family, we blame our work, we blame the high flying nature of business today, we blame absolutely everything, we blame a Christian that has hurt us - but we don't realise that the responsibility of our walk with God is yourselves! For we shall all stand and give an account to God.
It is not only personal but it is relational. What's he talking about in keeping yourselves in the love of God? He's talking about fellowship. He is saying walk consciously every moment in the enjoyment of the love of God. They weren't doing that, if you look at verse 11, they went in the way of Cain - the way of works, not the way of God. They ran greedily after the error of Balaam, that was not the way of the love of God. They perished in rebellion, that was not the love of God. They were not actively keeping themselves in the love of God - how do you do that? We don't have time to read it, but if you were to turn to 1 John 1 and verses 6 to 9, what does it say? 'If we walk in the light, as he is in the light', that's how you keep in fellowship. If you're walking according to the word of God, if you're praying according to the word of God and in the Holy Spirit - God will show, and uncover your sins to you, and if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
Oh, you'll not fall into apostasy, you'll not backslide - if you're reading the word of God, if you're praying in the Spirit of God, and if you're continually in fellowship with God. And as one Spurgeon said, 'Keeping short accounts with God' - when you sin, putting it under the blood! It is also relational in this sense: how can you expect to grow when you're absent from the body? If I chopped my arm off, and left it here for six months, it wouldn't grow, it wouldn't move, it wouldn't have life. If you sever yourself from this body you will not have life either - your life will disappear, because you are not keeping yourselves in the love of God, God's fellowship. Are you at the breaking of bread? For that's where you will see the love of God testified in the emblems of body broken and blood shed - that is where Christ is portrayed as dying! And if you're not there don't ask the question of God, why your Christian life is not on fire. Don't ask the question why you're succumbing in your mind and thinking: 'Can that not be right?', or, 'What about him? He's a very nice person, and that's what he's doing, surely that's OK?'. My friend, listen! Keep yourselves in the love of God, it's not something He'll do for you, for you can do it yourself.
And fourthly: 'Looking for', he tells us to build up, to pray in, to keep in and, 'Looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life'. It means this: 'looking earnestly, earnestly expecting the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ'. Don't let any cold, calculated theologian or preacher throw cold water on the embers of the fire of looking for the Lord Jesus. Looking for Him! Waking every day and thinking, 'Perhaps today Lord?' - why? Because He is our Saviour, we look for Him - and by Him coming for us it is showing His mercy. For we are not appointed unto wrath, and we will not go through that great tribulation that will be poured upon the earth for its apostasy, for its unbelief - but we are to comfort one another with this fact: to look for the mercy of our Saviour!
What does the apostle say? 'And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as He is pure' - and the way to avoid apostasy is not just building yourself up upon the word of God, it is not just praying in the Holy Ghost, it is not just keeping yourself in fellowship with God, but it is looking for the Lord Jesus Christ our Saviour and our salvation! Do you do that? For if we did that, I'm sure that there would be many things that we wouldn't do, and many things that we would start doing. Paul had the second coming of the Lord in mind when he said this in Romans 13 and 11 - let's look at it quickly, Romans chapter 13 and verse 11: 'Knowing that the time now is high - it is high time! - to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed'. Do you remember Enoch? Methuselah meant, 'when he dies it shall come' - and from that moment on he walked with God. Once God told him, 'I'm coming!', he walked with God. When are we going to start? It's possible, in the age in which we live, to avoid the apostasy and the rot in the world and the church, by building up, by praying in the Holy Ghost, by keeping in the love of God, by looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ. But, like much of Christianity, the onus is on you. These are things to do, my friend, and you must do them - and not to do them is sin.
The church father Chrysostom was arrested by the Emperor. He was tried and he was tortured, and they attempted to make him recant - and he shook his head! And the Emperor said to the guards, 'Throw him into prison!'. One of the guards shouted, 'No! He will be glad to go to prison, for he delights in the presence of his God in quiet'. 'Well, execute him then!', said the Emperor. 'He will be glad to die', said the soldier, 'for he once said that he wants to go to heaven. I heard him say the other day! There is only one thing that you can do to give Chrysostom pain', said the soldier, 'and that is to make him sin. He said he is afraid of nothing but sin, and if you can make him sin you will make him unhappy'. Do you know [that] not to build yourself up in your most holy faith, not to pray in the Holy Ghost, not to keep yourself in the love of God, not to look for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ is sin. And if they are absent in your life, I would say - upon the authority of the word of God - it is doubtful if eternal life is up ahead for you. Look at the verse - all these things are 'unto eternal life'.
May we all, today, make sure that we are in the household of God.
Let us pray together. After our brother Jimmy's funeral yesterday, his brother said to me about the last hymn that we sang that he was once in a meeting that applied that to believers - do you know what the hymn was? Listen to it, believer:
'Have you any room for Jesus?
He who bore your load of sin.
As He knocks and asks admission,
Sinner, will you let Him in?
Room for pleasure, room for business.
But for Christ the crucified,
Not a place that He can enter
In your heart for which He died'.
Our Father, we pray today that we may hear the knock-knock of the nail pierced hand, looking to come in unto us and sup with us, and us with Him. And may we begin today, if never before - or in a way that we have never before - walk with God, that we may guard our hearts, our lives, and our minds from this evil age in which we live. And that it may be said of us, when we are not, 'He, or she, pleased God'. In Jesus name, Amen.
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered at The Iron Hall, Belfast, Northern Ireland, by Pastor David Legge. It was transcribed from the sixth tape in his 'Jude: The Acts Of The Apostates' series, titled "The Great Escape" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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