Can we "lovingly" tell the truth?

One common reaction to Truth Currents or other discussions of current events from a Biblical perspective is often a call that people issue that tells us that we need to be more loving, that we need to be non-judgmental, that we need to promote unity and not division. The implication is that those Christian traits are somehow compromised by Biblical discernment and taking a stand for truth.  This suggested rivalry between loving our neighbors and standing for truth in our generation is a faulty understanding of what Christians are called to do in their lives on this earth.
We prefer kindness over confrontation, commonality over debate. But grace and truth are not contradictory. In fact, they go together. Now I understand truth without grace is certainly a dangerous temptation to be hard-hearted and mean-spirited. By the same token, grace without truth is a cheap sentimentality that soothes over our disagreements. But in the process, it minimizes God and His Word.

I want to share some encouragement today that comes from a New Testament writer by the name of Jude. He was a half-brother to Jesus but he was too humble to point that out in his little postcard of a letter that’s only twenty-five verses. It’s a brief but powerful message for serious followers of Jesus in the year 2020.

In Jude he starts by saying these words in verse 3.

"Dear friends, although I was eager to write you about the salvation we share, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was delivered to the saints once for all."

I feel exactly the way Jude does. He says, “I wanted to write a letter to you that was light-hearted and uplifting. I wanted to talk about things we enjoy talking about. I wanted to talk about the salvation we share, the way God is working in our lives.”
 
Listen, as a Pastor I would much rather be talking about our common faith, what God is doing in us, what Jesus is showing us in His Word. I would love to be talking about those kind of uplifting and encouraging things. But Jude says that his circumstances, the days in which he lived, demanded that he give attention to something else.

He said, I want to appeal to you “to contend for the faith that was delivered to the saints once for all.” In other words, he said, “I’d love to talk about something nice and encouraging, but I need to talk to you about something else.” The times demand that we step up and contend for the faith. Now, not contend, not argue, not defend our own opinions, our own positions on social issues.
He says, “I want you to contend for the faith that was delivered to the saints once for all.” In other words, there’s a content to the gospel and that has been handed to us. It has been passed down generation to generation. We don’t have the privilege. We don’t have the permission to change that Gospel and to argue points that we like or points that we don’t like. He says, “This has been delivered to us and I want you to contend for this.” This is the heart of Christianity in difficult times.
Man, Truth Currents was not my number one idea that I wanted to do and yet I feel like the days in which we live demand that we contend for the faith, that we evaluate the world around us from a Biblical perspective. And there’s just not that many people doing it. It’s up to you and to me to contend for the faith.

Jude says, “Here’s our crisis moment.” He describes his crisis moment and it matches ours. In verse 4 he says:

"For some people, who were designated for this judgment long ago, have come in by stealth; they are ungodly, turning the grace of our God into sensuality and denying Jesus Christ, our only Master and Lord."

He says we have an infiltration into the church, into the cause of Christ, into the Kingdom of God. We have an infiltration of some people who are changing the message. They are false teachers. And he describes then in three categories. He says some of them are sneaky. They’re tricksters. They come in and they win people with their smooth talk and their easy way of handling scripture. These are preachers who are preaching something different from the content of the Gospel.
He says there are those who are ungodly men, who sell immorality as Christian freedom. In other words, we have the freedom in Christ to do all of these things. Paul is very clear as well as Jude that there are standards. There are boundaries because we are loyal to Jesus Christ. So, anybody that says you can do anything and just ask for forgiveness. That’s a dangerous position. That’s an unholy take on scripture. We contend with that. We challenge that.

He says there are those who are heretics because they have a twisted view of Jesus Christ. You see this a lot in our generation in commercials. PETA says, “Well, Jesus would be a Vegan.” Some other group says, “Jesus would think this,” or “Jesus would support Black Lives Matter.” They’ve taken Jesus and made Him unrecognizable from scripture because they’ve twisted Him until He’s a caricature that fits whatever mold they’re trying to squeeze Him into. Jude says, don’t let that go unchallenged. We contend for the faith. We know who Jesus was because God has given us that description and that picture in the Word of God. Any presentation of Jesus Christ that is contradictory to scripture, anybody that says, “Well, if He lived today, He would be different.” – No! He’s the same yesterday, today and forever.

Well he goes on to give us a strategy. In verse 17,18:

"But you, dear friends, remember what was predicted by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ;
they told you, 'In the end time there will be scoffers living according to their own ungodly desires.'"

I think he’s telling us that we need to have an increasing familiarity with the Word of God.  He says, “You know from what you’ve been taught from the God’s Word that in the end time there will be those people who have distain, who show disrespect, who act like there’s nothing of God that’s true.”

How do we counter that? We know the Word of God.

I looked up some statistics this week and this is what I found. Half of all Americans have never read the Bible. 40% of Millennials believe the Bible is simply a book composed of fables, legends and moral precepts. 56% of self-identified church-goers admit they hardly ever read their Bible. 25% of Americans believe the Bible is a storybook of fables and legends. More than half of all of our young people ages 18-24 don’t believe the Bible is the inspired Word of God. And the most dangerous statistic I found, 51%, more than half of Americans, say the Bible was written for each person to interpret and he or she chooses.

NO! The Bible means what it means. It is the revelation of God. Our obligation is to study it, to understand it, to know what God’s position is on things and to live by that, to contend for that in our culture.

So what’s our action plan. Well, he tells us that too.  Verse 20-21:

But you, dear friends, as you build yourselves up in your most holy faith praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting excitingly for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ for eternal life.

He says three things. “Build yourself up in your most holy faith.” He means, study the Bible so you understand theology. We think theology is hard. It’s not any harder than anything else. You just apply yourself because we want to know what we need to know about God, about salvation, about sin, about the way mankind was created, about our dominion over the earth. We need to know a theological grasp of God’s Word.

But it also means to participate in the communal fellowship of a local church, to share life together with other believers. That’s important. You can’t sit in your isolated bubble and follow Jesus Christ. It is a group project. We do it together.

He says you need to “pray in the Holy Spirit.” That means you need to develop a strong Spirit-filled prayer life.

And he says “wait expectedly for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ.” That is, we live in the expectation that Jesus is coming back. I don’t care what you see on the news. I don’t care about the riots. I don’t care anything you read about on the internet. It’s all temporary. We are living in anticipation of a new day that is coming.

How do we contend for the faith? He tells us that and this is the last thing. (22,23) "Have mercy on those who waiver; save others by snatching them from the fire; have mercy on others but with fear, hating even the garment defiled by the flesh."

This is what he tells us. Contending for the faith requires discernment. You don’t just randomly go out into a mob or a crowd and start arguing Bible truth with people throwing rocks and Molotov cocktails.

He says there’s three categories. There are doubters. He calls them “those who waiver.” Those are people who are possibly believers but they’re Biblically illiterate and they’re morally confused. They can’t trust Christianity because they’ve never seen a real Christian. We reach that group of people, the doubters, by living out an authentic Christianity in front of them by our words, our words and our attitudes.

The second group, they are the contaminated ones. They are participants in the sinful trends and the movements of our day. He says we reach that group with patient godly influence and conversation that’s designed to draw them back toward the light to bring them home to the truth.
The doubters, they could be believers but they’re confused, they’re Biblically illiterate. We live an authentic Christian life in front of them. The contaminated, we enter into debate and we have patient conversation to try and help them see that what they are holding to, what they believe will crash and burn. You can’t live by their worldview. We give them the truth.

But there’s a third group. He calls them the contaminators. He says these are people who are sold out to evil. They are the propagators of ungodliness in our generation. They’re the ones driving what we see on the news every night. He says we are to remember them in prayer. We are to call out before the Throne of Grace that God would do something by His Spirit in their lives. This is ancient language he uses. It basically says we are supposed to hate the sin and love the sinner. But he says be very careful with fear. We don’t enter into debate with this category of people unless we have specific divine instruction.

God told Elijah to go stand before Ahab. God told Moses to march into the palace of Pharaoh. God told John the Baptist to speak publicly about the sins of Herod. God probably set up Paul to have a direct encounter and interview with Emperor Nero. But except for those divine appointments that God sets up, we are to be very reluctant to engage in debate with those who are sold out to evil. The debate is probably not profitable. We attack that segment of society through prayer.

Contending for the faith begins and ends with a life lived in unashamed loyalty to Jesus Christ.
Dallas Willard is a university professor who’s written several books. But there’s a quote of his that always comes back to me when I have conversations with people. This is his quote.

"Because I make my living as a university professor and philosopher, I am frequently asked, in so many words, 'Why do you follow Jesus Christ?'  My answer if always the same. 'Who else did you have in mind?'"

We follow Jesus. And we contend for the faith by simply engaging those who are willing to be engaged to help them understand that there is no other Master to follow that will build us up and make us better. Every other Master the world has to offer will lead us to destruction.
Contending for the faith, it’s not what we set out to talk about. We wanted to talk about something fun. But the times demand that we step up as followers of Jesus Christ and we put Him on display. And we answer the challenges of our generation and contend for the faith delivered to the saints once for all.

This is Truth Currents.
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