How to fight for the faith

Dear friends, I wanted very much to write to you concerning the salvation we share. Instead, I must write to urge you to fight for the faith delivered once and for all to God’s holy people. (Jude 3, CEB)

It is sometimes implied that Jude does not deserve our attention because it is a disputed addition to the canon. We who say with Jesus our Lord that the last will be first, somehow hold Jude’s contested inclusion in the New Testament as a mark against it.

When I read Jude, though, I feel it is among the most timely texts in the New Testament. Its warnings and exhortations seem to speak directly to our day.

In this verse, Jude tells the church that he’d rather write to it about the salvation that they share — or that all Christians share — but he is compelled to address other matters. The influence of false teachers among them has left him with no choice but to exhort them to reclaim or hold on to the ancient faith of the people of God.

It is interesting to me that all the examples in the letter are Old Testament stories — even if some apparently belong to writings that were not in the Old Testament canon that would later be settled. We read of the Exodus, the revolt of the fallen angels, and Sodom and Gomorrah. We read of Cain, Balaam, and Korah. We read of Enoch and Adam.

And we read Jude’s counsel to the church — the means by which we should fight for the faith delivered to the chosen people and opened to all through faith in Jesus Christ.

But you, dear friends: build each other up on the foundation of your most holy faith, pray in the Holy Spirit, keep each other in the love of God, wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will give you eternal life. (Jude 20-21, CEB)

Build each other up. Pray in the Holy Spirit. Keep each other in the love of God. Wait for the mercy of Jesus Christ.

These are the tactics with which we are urged to fight for the faith.

In the verse 19 — right before the quote above — Jude names the scoffers and the ungodly as the source of division within the church. They are worldly and without the Spirit.

But what does Jude suggest as a response to these people who divide and disrupt the church?

Build each other up. Pray in the Holy Spirit. Keep each other in the love of God. Wait for the mercy of Jesus Christ.

We are exhorted to have mercy on those who waver and are led astray by false teaching and have mercy on those caught up in sin, even as we hate the defilement of the sin itself.

Fight for the faith, I hear Jude teaching, by being disciples of our Lord and Savior.

Blogging the Psalms: 90

From everlasting to everlasting you are God. (Psalm 90)

The Psalms know nothing of my great skill at cramming God into a box.

To read the Psalms and pray them every day — I must confess that I am still developing the discipline to pray them rather than merely read them — is to be reminded of how small I often make God.

A few minutes, Lord, I have for you before getting in the shower, but then my mind is turned away. The dog is whimpering and needs to go out. There are school lunches to pack, showers to take. Did I miss a spot shaving again? Better check e-mail before getting in the car. What was it that I forgot?

And on and on through the day.

Our days may come to seventy years,
    or eighty, if our strength endures;
yet the best of them are but trouble and sorrow,
    for they quickly pass, and we fly away.

I lie down at the end of day. It has been a good day. Many things were done. Many boxes were checked. The week grows shorter, but tomorrow has fewer tasks than today.

Or it was a bad day. It all went wrong. The list got longer. The vultures circled. And yet, even so, it comes to an end. Another day goes down to bed.

You, Lord, remain.

Teach us to number our days,
    that we may gain a heart of wisdom.

Teach me to number my days. Teach me to receive each one as a gift. Teach me to make each one a sacrifice to you, Lord. Let me come into your house with praise. Show favor to your servant.

Even when the dog won’t stop whimpering at my feet and the work of the day piles up.

Teach me to see the everlasting God when my eyes are drawn down to the dust.

May the beauty of the Lord our God rest on us;
    establish the work of our hands for us—
    yes, establish the work of our hands.

Those who divide

These people are grumblers and faultfinders; they follow their own evil desires; they boast about themselves and flatter others for their own advantage. But, dear friends, remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ foretold. They said to you, “In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires.” These are the people who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit. But you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life. Be merciful to those who doubt; save others by snatching them from the fire; to others show mercy, mixed with fear — hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh. (Jude 16-23, NIV)

Getting off the Roman road

I missed this post last year when Howard Snyder wrote it, but found it thanks to this little number about ways we distort the gospel.

In the older post, Snyder takes aim at the over-importance we often place on Romans.

“All roads lead to Romans”? Not really. The Bible is a complex landscape with many roads, paths, trails, byways, and a few tunnels. We don’t know the Bible until we understand this. The more we do, the more we will see that all roads in the Bible lead to Jesus Christ, and the road he walked. Prioritizing Romans runs the danger of prioritizing Paul over Jesus; the epistles over the gospels; dogmatics over the very person of Jesus Christ and of the church as his body.

The post also includes an illuminating discussion of John Wesley’s canon within the canon.

Why the Bible is inspired

As sacred canon (or authoritative standard) for the church, we believe the Bible is not primarily inspired for us to know things (epistemology). We learn quite a lot from the Bible, of course. But this is not its primary function in and for the church. Instead, the Bible is inspired and given by God to the church in order for Christians to know God through personal and corporate salvation (soteriology).

– Bill Arnold, “A Response to Adam Hamilton’s 3 Buckets Approach to Scripture