Shipwrecked Faith from a Shipwrecked Church
Reflections on the book of Jude
On the Backside of the Bible
No one sets out to become an apostate, it’s never the result of one abrupt, drastic turn away from the Lord. Instead, apostasy is most often the product of a pattern of sinful compromises that harden and gradually steer a professing believer away from the truth.
It was actually years later that I discovered a book in the Bible by that very name.
Ok, I knew it was there all the time. I mean, who didn’t? After growing up with Bible sword drills and verse memorizations every week in Sunday school, we all knew— everybody knew there was a book in the Bible named Jude. We just didn’t know anything about it.
And why should we?
Our preachers never preached about it. Our Sunday school teachers never talked about it. And most of us got bogged down and quit our One Year Bible reading program back in the middle of the book of Numbers, in early March. There was no way we would ever make it even close to the book of Jude, which began on December 8th.
Plus, it’s only one chapter long— just 25 short and confusing verses. And I’m talking about some strange and confusing verses.
Think about it. We’re usually pretty comfortable with verses that are easy to understand and easy to memorize. I guess that’s why we’re naturally drawn to the short ones— the classics.
“Jesus wept. Yep, got that one memorized. It’s John 11:35”
“For God so loved the world, yada, yada, yada… yeah, I know that one too.”
“All things work together for good for those who are called according to…uh, to…er, to something. I forgot how that one ends.”
“And God helps those who help themselves.” Oh yeah, feelin’ pretty good, thumbs in suspenders, smirk on the face, chest puffed out.
Come to think of it, the only verse in Jude that is even included on Bible memorization cards is Jude 3. And usually only the last half of the verse makes it past the censors. It reads:
Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints.
That verse isn’t for a novice, either. You’ve got to be a Bible memory veteran to talk about anyone earnestly contending for anything in the church— unless it has to do with change, the pastor’s salary, King James, the way we did things before, hymns, choir robes, Easter cantatas, or the annual church budget meeting. Then people will earnestly contend for their wants, opinions, rights and desires.
And they’ll contend for it to the death.
Let’s face it, most in the church of today are so Biblically illiterate or apathetic in their understanding of Scripture that they don’t even know what the faith is that was handed down, once for all, to the saints.
“I didn’t think our church had saints? Do we? I thought that was just some sort of Catholic thing. What does the word, saints, mean anyway?”
To make matters worse, Jude is located right at the end of the Bible, on the backside of the New Testament. How important is a one chapter, backsided book in the Bible anyway? What can 25 verses really say to us today?
No, that’s not exactly true. I guess I’m going to have to reign in my poetic license a bit. It’s not actually at the end of the Bible— but its pretty close.
Jude is the last book before we enter into the dark, mysterious waters of the Revelation. Jude seems like nothing more than the flyleaf to the Revelation. Just some blah, blah, blah print on the left side of the page.
Oh, and the Revelation. Well, we were never to read the Revelation. Never!
Because it’s mystical, cryptic, puzzling and kind of scary. In fact, as kids we were all warned by our Sunday school teachers, an old, solemn man with a Vincent Price look about him, to never read the Revelation alone, or at night, or on the third Tuesday of May every other leap year. If we did, we could go blind or crazy or even worse— we could end up watching reruns of Gilligan’s Island forever.
That thought still keeps me up late at night.
Play it Again, Sam
But, as to my nature, I disregarded the warnings of those who had my best interest at heart, and read the book of Jude anyway.
And, wow! It was fantastic!
Can I say that again? Only this time in all CAPS?
And WOW! It was FANTASTIC!
We know that Luke penned his gospel account of the ministry of Jesus and then moved into what is known as the Acts of the Apostles in order to give us a clear, accurate and chronological account of the life of Jesus and the ministry of the early church. If we call the fifth book of the New Testament the Acts of the Apostles, then we could probably call the next to the last book of the New Testament the Acts of the Apostates. Why? Because it deals almost entirely with those in the church who have defected from the true faith, are the “tares among wheat” Jesus warned about or are simply a Satanic terrorist cell grafted into the Body to wreak havoc, much like a cancer cell in the human body.
“What exactly is an apostate?” you ask. Good question.
The formal, academic, dictionary definition is as follows:
One who has abandoned one’s religious faith, one’s principles, or a cause. A disloyal person who betrays or deserts his cause or religion or political party or friend, etc.
But that doesn’t do the term justice for me. An apostate is a loser with a capital L. They are the scum of the earth, a modern day Judas, Benedict Arnold, OJ Simpson, or Bill Clinton with his, “I never had sexual relations with that woman.” They are like Obama’s Press Secretary that will come out and lie to your face knowing full well that everyone in the room knows they are lying.
An apostate is one who will smile at your face, say “Amen” to your prayers, raise their hands with you during your praise and worship sets, and then, when you turn your back on them, like Brutus of old who led the assassination of Julius Caesar, they will sink their dagger deep between your shoulder blades, up to the hilt, twisting it, driving it deep, sneering all the while, longing to watch you die. And they do it again and again and again.
“Et tu Brutus.”
One final thought before we jump right into the murky waters of the text.
You need to understand, before we go any further, that the apostates are everywhere— like kudzu. They’re in your church. They break bread with you whenever you come together to celebrate Communion with what you think are fellow believers. They, like Judas at the Last Supper with Christ, are at the very table with you, taking from your hand the bread of fellowship.
They smile, they nod in agreement, they clasp hands with you in committed ministry— but they do so with malice and deceit.
They are the ones that are quick with gossip and always seem to be close to everything evil in your church.
They are the “wolves in sheep’s clothing” Jesus warned us about. They are the Hymenaeus and Alexander that Paul warned Timothy about. They have some of the largest churches in America and are seen more often on Christian television than reruns of The Andy Griffith Show. They may sit next to you during choir practice. They may serve with you as an Elder or a Deacon in your church. They may be your Sunday school teacher, your Youth Pastor, your Discipleship Director. They may even be the man behind the pulpit, the guy with the backwards collar, the supposed Man of God who serves a god with a little “g”.
Believe me, they are everywhere. Jesus said we would know them by their fruits—and by nothing else.
But don’t take my word for it.
Listen, for just a moment, to what Jude says about them in just a couple verses:
Yet in the same way these men, also by dreaming, defile the flesh, and reject authority, and revile angelic majesties.
But these men revile the things which they do not understand; and the things which they know by instinct, like unreasoning animals, by these things they are destroyed.
Woe to them! For they have gone the way of Cain, and for pay they have rushed headlong into the error of Balaam, and perished in the rebellion of Korah.
These are the men who are hidden reefs in your love feasts when they feast with you without fear, caring for themselves; clouds without water, carried along by winds; autumn trees without fruit, doubly dead, uprooted; wild waves of the sea, casting up their own shame like foam; wandering stars, for whom the black darkness has been reserved forever.
These are grumblers, finding fault, following after their own lusts; they speak arrogantly, flattering people for the sake of gaining an advantage.
hese are the ones who cause divisions, worldly-minded, devoid of the Spirit.
Sobering, isn’t it.
Well, are you ready?
Are you ready to begin a journey into one of the most neglected books of the Bible that deals specifically with what makes the church of today less than it was in the past— a mere shell of its former glory?
Well? What sayeth ye?
Coming next – Chapter One: Who Was Jude?