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Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Exodus 20:3

Since the LORD God is our Maker and Redeemer, we are to have no other gods before Him – or, more literally, before His face. And, since He is present everywhere and sees all, this means we are to have no other gods but Him!

He is the only true God, He made us and gave us life (Gen. 1 and 2; Psalm 139:13-16; John 1:1-5) and we should “fear, love and trust in Him above all things” (Martin Luther’s Small Catechism).

The Bible teaches us that all other gods are nothing but useless idols (1 Cor. 8:4; Psalm 96:5) and we should remember that the LORD God is the Almighty Creator and honor Him as such by obeying His commandments and avoiding all that displeases Him.

Because the LORD God is our Maker and also our Redeemer, we have every reason to love Him with all our heart, soul and mind and gladly live our lives for Him (cf. Matt. 22:37; 2 Cor. 5:15).

God has so wonderfully made us and provided for all our needs; and He has, through Christ’s sufferings, death and resurrection, redeemed us from our sins and the eternal punishment we so deserve. Does He ask too much when He commands that we honor Him, love Him and trust Him with all our heart, mind and soul and commit our entire lives to His care and keeping?

Have we done this? We must all admit our utter failure, for we so often neglect Him and push Him out of our lives as though He did not exist. Instead of giving Him the honor due His name as our Maker, Redeemer, and our Judge, we take His Word lightly and ignore and disobey His commandments, which He gave to us for our good (cf. Rom. 7:10ff.).

Every time we sin against any commandment of the LORD, we are also failing to fear, love and trust in God above all things. We think and act as though we ourselves know better than God. We place ourselves, other people, and even the things of this world before the loving God who gave us life in our mother’s womb and won for us everlasting life in Christ Jesus, our Savior. We fail to give Him the glory and honor due unto His name! Cf. Psalms 96 and 100.

And what is the punishment for disobeying God’s command? Is it a slap on the wrist? Or is it the eternal punishments of hell? The Bible says: “The soul that sinneth, it shall die” (Ezek. 18:20); and, “But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death” (Rev. 21:8).

How thankful we can be that God has not turned His back on us as we so often have done to Him! Though we have forgotten Him, He has not forgotten us. Though we have rebelled and disobeyed, He still kept His word and promise (cf. Gen. 3:15) and has given to us His only-begotten Son to be our Savior. Christ Jesus went to the cross in our stead and atoned for our sins and the sins of all and rose again in victory that we might receive pardon and forgiveness through faith in His name! Cf. John 3:16; Rom. 5:8; Gal. 4:4-5; 1 John 2:1-2.

And again, when we consider all He has done to honor us, how could we fail to honor Him with godly fear, love and trust in His holy name?

LORD God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, be merciful to us and forgive us for our many failures to honor You as the LORD God, our Maker and Redeemer. Enable and teach us to fear, love and trust in You above all else. We ask this for the sake of Jesus Christ, God the Son and our Savior. Amen.

[Scripture is quoted from the King James Version of the Bible.]

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“Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.” Matthew 7:15-20

It is the responsibility and duty of every Christian to be watchful and on guard against false prophets; for outwardly false prophets may appear to be fine Christian pastors and teachers, but inwardly they are ravening wolves which destroy and scatter God’s flock.

The Apostle Paul, too, warned against such when he said to the elders of the church in Ephesus, “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears. 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” (Acts 20:28-32).

It will happen. There will be false prophets and false teachers who do not faithfully preach and teach God’s Word. And, they will cause divisions in the church and gain followings for themselves. Instead of building upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets — the Word of God — with Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone (cf. Eph. 2:19-22; 1 Pet. 2:1-10), they will build on the sands of false doctrine, on human understanding and opinion, and manmade traditions.

The end result, of course, is that those who do not love the truth and hold fast to Christ and His Word are deceived by the lies of the devil and robbed of the salvation Christ won for them when He suffered and died on the cross for the sins of all.

The Bible tells us: “For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you” (1 Cor. 11:19; cf. 2 Thess. 2:3-12).

That is also why Paul wrote to Timothy: “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution. But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived. But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them; and that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Tim. 3:12-17).

Thus, for the sake of each of our soul’s salvation, Jesus would have us judge those who preach and teach God’s Word to us. Like the believers in Berea, we should search the Scriptures daily to be sure that what we are being taught is in truth God’s unadulterated Word (cf. Acts 17:10-11). If we don’t, we might easily be misled into unbelief or sin.

Jesus said in Matthew 7:16-20: “Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.”

And what is the fruit of a prophet? What does he produce that we might judge? First and foremost, it is his teaching. Thus, we must always compare the teaching of pastors and teachers to the Scriptures, for the Scriptures are the inspired and unerring Word of God.

Isaiah also wrote: “To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them” (Isa. 8:20; cf. Jer. 23:16ff.; Deut. 13:1ff.). If a pastor or teacher is not speaking and teaching in full accord with God’s unerring Word, he is a false prophet and we ought to flee from him and hear him no more.

What if the error is only a small point here and there? Is it alright to continue to hear such a preacher? Consider how Satan worked in the Garden, causing doubt regarding the fruit of a single tree. Consider that any error and false teaching comes from the devil, the father of lies, and is meant to deceive us and lead us away from Christ and His truth, even if only little by little (cf. John 8:44).

Consider that Jesus, earlier in His Sermon on the Mount, warned against changing the smallest letter or portion of a letter of God’s Word (cf. Matt. 5:17-20). If a preacher will not humbly yield to the clear and plain truth of God’s Word, he is a false prophet — beware of him, Jesus said, for in the end his errors will tear, divide and scatter the flock like a ravenous wolf. Cf. Rom. 16:17-18; 1 Tim. 6:3-5; 2 John 8-11; Titus 3:9-11; Eph. 5:11; Jer. 15:19.

If one added a single drop of a deadly poison to a clear and clean glass of water, would you drink it? I dare say that none of us would; for even if that drop of poison were not enough to kill us, it could still do damage and might over time, if we continued to ingest it, cause our death. So why then would anyone wish to continually expose himself to the deadly poison of error and false teaching? Even if it did not immediately destroy faith, it very well might over time. And, even more importantly, why would any believer and disciple of Christ wish to be unfaithful to His Word in any point? Cf. Matt. 28:19-20; 1 Cor. 5:6; Gal. 5:9.

A preacher and teacher of God’s Word must also be judged on the basis of his conduct and manner of life — not that any will be perfect and without sin, but there should be the sincere and earnest purpose to live in accord with God’s Word, repent of all sin and error and be conformed to the image of Christ Jesus.

Where one lives in continual disregard of God’s commandments and in open sin, one would not expect to find the good fruits of faithful preaching and teaching of God’s Word and an exemplary life to lead and guide God’s flock in the way everlasting.

Thus, our Lord Jesus, who shed His holy and precious blood for the sheep, desires that none of us be misled and deceived by false prophets and be separated from Him. He desires that we all continue in the true and saving faith revealed to us in God’s unadulterated Word — that we trust in Him [Christ] alone and His atoning sacrifice on the cross for pardon, forgiveness and life eternal. He warns us against false prophets that we might always hear Him and His Word and continue to trust in Him unto life everlasting.

After all, He alone is “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6; cf. Acts 4:12). Only in Him is eternal salvation!

Dear Lord Jesus, Shepherd and Redeemer of our souls, grant that we be not deceived and misled by the many false prophets who have gone out into the world, but hold fast to You and to Your Word unto life everlasting. Amen.

[Scripture quotations are from the King James Version of the Bible.]

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“And he commanded the multitude to sit down on the grass, and took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, he blessed, broke, and gave the loaves to his disciples, and the disciples to the multitude.” Matthew 14:19 (Read Matt. 14:13-21)

What do you do when the situation seems hopeless? Certainly, the situation must have seemed hopeless for Jesus’ disciples; He had told them to feed the multitudes of people, and they only had five small loaves of bread and two fish with which to feed this crowd of over five thousand.

What did Jesus do? We read in Matthew 14:19 that “He commanded the multitude to sit down on the grass, and took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, He blessed, broke, and gave the loaves to his disciples, and the disciples to the multitude.”

In St. John’s account of this same event, we read that “Jesus took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed to the disciples, and the disciples to those who were sitting down, and likewise of the fish, as much as they wished” (John 6:11).

Our Lord Jesus did not fret and worry over the tremendous shortage of food to feed this multitude. He simply trusted in His heavenly Father, gave thanks to Him for the food He had provided (John 6:11), blessed it, and distributed it to the people by means of His disciples.

And we know the results: “And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up twelve baskets full of the fragments that remained. And those who had eaten were about five thousand men, besides women and children” (Matt. 14:20-21).

“What a miracle!” we say. But here we see not only a great miracle of Jesus, our Savior; we see an example for us when the situation seems hopeless – when there is not enough food, money, clothes, etc. to meet our needs.

We could look at the insignificance of what we have compared to our apparent need and say as did the disciples of Jesus when they had only five barley loaves and two small fish: “But what are they among so many?” (John 6:9). Or, we could do as Jesus did, and give thanks and look to heaven and trust in our heavenly Father to supply us with all our needs (cf. Phil. 4:19; Jer. 32:17)!

In Philippians 4:6, we read: “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” St. Paul also writes to the Thessalonians: “Pray without ceasing. In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you” (1 Thess. 5:17-18).

The Bible also tells us: “He who did not spare his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not also with him freely give us all things?” (Rom. 8:32).

God has already supplied our greatest need by sending His own dear Son to suffer and die for us sinners so that we might have forgiveness for all our sins and everlasting life with Him in heaven through faith in His name. Shall He not also, since He gave us His own Son, Jesus Christ, to redeem us from sin and eternal punishment, provide for all of our other needs of body and soul? We can trust in Him who so loved us that He spared not His own Son!

O dearest Jesus, grant to us a faith like Yours to trust in the loving hand of Your dear Father to provide us with all our needs of both body and soul. We call upon You for the sake of Your holy life and innocent sufferings and death in our stead. Amen.

[Scripture is quoted from the Revised Common Version of the Bible.]

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“Jude, the servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James, to those who are sanctified by God the Father, preserved in Jesus Christ, and called: May mercy, peace, and love be multiplied to you.” Jude 1-2

Note that Jude, the brother of James — either one of the apostles (Luke 6:16) or the brother of James and a half-brother to the Lord Jesus Christ (Matt. 13:55 ) — simply calls himself a servant of Jesus Christ, claiming no position of authority as an apostle or as a brother to Jesus.

So also we, whether pastors, teachers, or lay workers, are all servants of the Lord Jesus Christ who seek to carry out His will and mission in this world.

Jude writes to those sanctified and set apart by God the Father, preserved in Jesus Christ and called to faith in Him. He writes to those who have graciously been brought to faith in Christ Jesus and are preserved in that faith by God’s working. Therefore, it is not to those who are Christian in name only but to those whom God has called and sanctified through faith in Christ Jesus that Jude addresses this letter.

And though we hear these words often, the blessing of verse two which Jude uses to greet his readers is worthy of careful consideration. It is not only a well wish but the prayer and blessing that God’s mercy in Christ Jesus, the peace of sins forgiven won by Jesus’ innocent sufferings and death, and God’s love which comes to us in His Son be multiplied and increase.

Oh, that we might know and grasp in faith the richness of God’s mercy upon us for Jesus’ sake! Oh, that we might know that peace of God which passes all understanding, and that we might begin to grasp the greatness of His love for us in sending His only-begotten Son to be the propitiation for our sins and save us from the wrath and judgment to come!

We thank and praise You, O Father, for the mercy, peace and love You have shown to us in Christ Jesus, our Savior. Grant that we hold hast to Him unto life everlasting. Amen.

“Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write to you concerning the common salvation, it was needful for me to write to you and exhort you that you should earnestly contend for the faith, which was once delivered to the saints. For some men have crept in unexpectedly, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness and denying the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ.” Jude 3-4

Jude’s original intent was to write of the common salvation won for all through the holy life and innocent sufferings and death of Christ Jesus, our Savior; but the fact that men had crept into the church or churches undetected and were turning the grace of God in Jesus Christ into a license to sin and indulge in the desires of the flesh, and were denying the only true God and Jesus Christ whom He has sent, prompted him to write a brief letter urging his hearers to “earnestly contend for the faith, which was once delivered to the saints.”

We don’t know the specifics, though similar warnings can be found in 2 Peter, 1 John, and in the letters to the seven churches in the Book of Revelation. Could it be Gnostics who thought that what one did in the body really doesn’t matter? Or was it a form of carnal Christianity that used God’s grace as a license to indulge in sin since salvation is by grace and Christ paid for all sin? Are the words broader because they are to be applied to all sorts of perversions of the Gospel?

Thus, we ask ourselves if there are those within the pale of churches today who abuse the grace of God offered and given us in Christ Jesus in order to indulge in the sinful desires of their flesh. Do we also use God’s grace as a license to sin?

Did Christ die for all sin that we might continue on in our sinful ways without consequence? What does the Bible say? “Shall we continue in sin so that grace may abound? By no means. How shall we, who are dead to sin, live any longer therein?” (Rom. 6:1-2). “He died for all so that those who live should not from now on live to themselves, but to him who died for them and rose again” (2 Cor. 5:15).

And, does it ever happen that people become associated with churches who, whether by their teaching or lifestyle, advance such errors among believers and cause others to fall with them?

What was the faith once delivered unto the saints? Where can we find and learn its teaching?

Remember that we “are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone” (Eph. 2:20). Remember that “all Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, and for instruction in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly furnished to all good works” (2 Tim. 3:16-17).

Thus, for what faith are we to be earnestly contending? Are we to stand by when people within the pale of the church teach contrary to the Bible or attempt to change its meaning to accommodate their own sinful views or lifestyles? Notice also that those who abuse and pervert the true doctrine end up “denying the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Through the Scriptures, O God, You have revealed to us the faith once delivered to the saints. Give us the strength and the willingness to contend for that faith against those who would depart from the teaching of Your Word and turn Your grace into a license for sin and deny You and the Lord Jesus Christ. In His name, we pray. Amen.

“I will therefore put you in remembrance, though you once knew this, that the Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe. And the angels who did not keep their first state, but left their own habitation, he has reserved in everlasting chains under darkness to the judgment of the great day …” Jude 5-6

Can one have true and genuine faith in the Lord Jesus Christ as one’s savior from sin and yet continue in willful disobedience and rebellion against His Word?

The apostle John writes: “He who says, ‘I know him,’ and does not keep his commandments is a liar and the truth is not in him” (1 John 2:4). He adds: “Whoever commits sin also transgresses the law, for sin is the transgression of the law. And you know that he was manifested to take away our sins, and in him there is no sin. Whoever abides in him does not sin. Whoever sins has not seen him, neither known him” (1 John 3:4-6).

Thus, Jude adds the examples of the children of Israel who sinned in the wilderness and of the angels “who did not keep their first state” but sinned against the LORD God who had created them to be His servants and to do His will.

So also, we should not be deceived into thinking that God will not judge and punish those who abuse His grace and turn away from Him and the salvation He provided for us in His Son.

The writer of the Book of Hebrews says (in Hebrews 10:29-30) of those who willfully turn back into sin: “How much more severe a punishment do you suppose he shall be thought worthy of who has trodden under foot the Son of God, has counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified an unholy thing, and has done an indignity to the Spirit of grace? For we know him who has said, ‘Vengeance belongs to me. I will recompense,’ says the Lord. And again, ‘The Lord will judge his people.’”

Keep us, O God, from the presumptuous sin of abusing Your grace and turning back to the sin from which You redeemed us. Grant unto us true repentance and faith in the shed blood of the Lord Jesus. In His name, we pray. Amen.

“Even as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities around them in like manner, giving themselves over to impurity and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire. Likewise also, these filthy dreamers defile the flesh, despise dominion, and speak evil of glorious [ones]. Yet Michael the archangel, when contending with the devil and disputing about the body of Moses, did not dare bring against him a railing accusation, but said, ‘May the Lord rebuke you.’ But these speak evil of those things which they do not know. But what they know naturally as brute beasts, in those things they corrupt themselves.” Jude 7-10

Sad to say, even within the outward pale of churches, there are those who would imagine that there is nothing wrong with the sexual perversion of our day. They say the prohibitions of Scripture were culturally influenced and are not true reflections of God’s character or will.

But how do they answer the fact of God’s judgment upon Sodom and Gomorrah and surrounding cities (Gen. 18-19)? How do they answer God’s judgment upon Canaan (cf. Lev. 18)? And, indeed, we might add other judgments upon cities and nations to the mix.

Yet, in spite of the Biblical records of God’s judgments upon cities and nations for their abominations, people today – even within the outward pale of churches – condone such sin and ridicule those who warn of God’s wrath and impending judgment.

As Jude writes, they speak evil of those who oppose such abominations and they rail against them – something the angels of God would not even do when contending with the devil. What these people don’t know they ridicule; and what they know naturally as unthinking animals, in those things they corrupt themselves (cf. Rom. 1:18ff.).

How sad are the conditions in the world today! And, even more sad – that such forms of thinking and lifestyles have come to be accepted among many who count themselves to be Christian and followers of Christ!

God’s judgment is near. Now is the time to repent and look to the Lord God for mercy in Christ Jesus before it is too late!

O God, have mercy upon our nation and the churches and religious leaders of our land. Grant that we would heed Your Word and repent of our evil ways, looking to You for mercy in Christ Jesus. Give us boldness to contend for the true Christian faith in the face of such opposition to the truth. Amen.

“Woe to them! For they have gone in the way of Cain, have run greedily after the error of Balaam for reward, and have perished in the gainsaying of Korah. These are spots in your feasts of charity when they feast with you, feeding themselves without fear. They are clouds without water carried along by winds. They are withered autumn trees, without fruit, twice dead, plucked out by the roots. They are raging waves of the sea foaming out their own shame. They are wandering stars to whom the blackness of darkness is reserved forever.” Jude 11-13

Will God judge those who pervert the true doctrine and use the grace of God as a license for sin?

Jude describes them to have fallen into the sin of Cain, who turned from the faith and even killed his brother Abel who was counted righteous through faith (cf. Gen. 4). Like Balaam (Num. 22-25) who, for the sake of earthly gain, found a way around God’s word and commandment and caused the children of Israel to fall into sin and be cursed, so these hypocrites were quick to follow in such erring ways for their own gain. Along with Korah and those who spoke against God’s called servants (Num. 16), these are likewise condemned to perish.

Jude describes them as “spots in your feasts of charity when they feast with you, feeding themselves without fear. They are clouds without water carried along by winds. They are withered autumn trees, without fruit, twice dead, plucked out by the roots. They are raging waves of the sea foaming out their own shame. They are wandering stars to whom the blackness of darkness is reserved forever.”

These claimed to be believers and Christians but had no evidence of faith in their lives. Their lives and teaching were a denial of their Savior and of His doctrine.

Do we have those today who only go through the outward motions of the Christian faith while their hearts are far from the Lord? Are there those who seek to explain away and get around the teaching of the Bible on subjects that are in conflict with current cultural views?

And, what about us? Are we guilty of the same things?

Grant that we hold fast to Your Word, O Lord, and not compromise for the sake of peace or worldly gain. Have mercy upon us and forgive us for our sins and failures. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.

“And Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these, saying, ‘Behold, the Lord comes with tens of thousands of his saints, to execute judgment upon all and to convict all who are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have impiously committed and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against him.’” Jude 14-15

We know from Genesis 5 that Enoch walked with God by faith and that God translated him into heaven so that he did not die (cf. Heb. 11:5). From Jude’s letter, we learn that Enoch, like Noah, also warned the people of his day of God’s coming judgment upon all who remained impenitent and lived in opposition to God and His ways.

And this prophecy of Enoch that “the Lord comes with tens of thousands of his saints, to execute judgment upon all and to convict all who are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have impiously committed and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against him” applied to the hypocrites among the churches to whom Jude wrote, and it applies to the hypocrites and unbelievers of our day, too!

Our Lord Jesus will soon return in the clouds of heaven with His holy angels to execute judgment upon all who have not turned from their sinful ways to Him in faith. Those who repent and trust in the redemption Christ accomplished by His life, death and resurrection will be received into the eternal joys of heaven. But those who continue in impenitence and unbelief will be found guilty and condemned to the eternal fires of hell (cf. 2 Thess. 1:7-10).

Thus, judgment awaited those of Jude’s day who turned the grace of God into a license for sin; and the same judgment is coming upon those of our day who turn from Christ and His doctrine and indulge in the pleasures of sin.

Your Word warns us, O God, of Christ’s return and His judgment upon all who have not believed in His name. Grant that we truly repent and look to Jesus and His cross for mercy and forgiveness. And grant that we, like Enoch, speak the truth in love and warn our generation of God’s coming judgment upon impenitent sinners. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

“These are murmurers and complainers, walking after their own lusts, and their mouth speaks great swelling words, having men’s persons in admiration because of advantage. But, beloved, remember the words which were spoken before by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ, that they told you, ‘There would be mockers in the last time who would walk after their own ungodly lusts.’ These are those who separate themselves. They are sensual, not having the Spirit.” Jude 16-19

Should we be surprised at the unbelief of our day? Should we be surprised that, even within the outward pale of the church, people pervert the truth to support their selfish and sinful ways?

The answer, of course, is no. The apostles of our Lord Jesus warned us. The Scriptures tell us that persecution can be expected and “evil men and seducers will become worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived” (2 Tim. 3:12-13).

Though they often champion unity in the churches, they are the ones “who cause divisions and offenses contrary to the doctrine which you have learned” and they “do not serve our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly, and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple” (Rom. 16:17,18). And it is for that reason that Christians who hold to the faith of the Bible are commanded to “mark” and “avoid” them.

In the days of drought following the prophecy of Elijah, Ahab said to Elijah, “Are you he who troubles Israel?”(1 Kings 18:17) Elijah answered (v. 18): “I have not troubled Israel, but you have, along with your father’s house, in that you have forsaken the commandments of the LORD and have followed Baalim.”

So also today, many would accuse those who contend for the faith once delivered to the saints of causing trouble in the churches and causing division. The real cause of trouble and division, however, rests on those who compromise the clear doctrine of God’s Word.

Thus, in Jude’s day, even if the churches must put out those who turned the grace of God into a license to sin, it was the unbelieving who separated themselves from the churches by their unbelief and sin.

It should be noted that those of whom Jude speaks use persuasive words and speeches and make use of personal and political connections to gain advantage, but they have not the Spirit of God. Instead of submitting to God’s Spirit and the God-breathed Scriptures, they walk after their own fleshly lusts and use carnal means to get their way.

Keep us from walking according to the flesh instead of yielding to the Spirit of God and to the truth revealed in His Word. Preserve us from their pernicious ways. Amen.

“But you, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying by the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life.” Jude 20-21

What did Jude direct his beloved hearers to do? Indeed, it is similar to what Paul commanded Timothy: “But continue in the things which you have learned and have been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from a child you have known the sacred Scriptures, which are able to make you wise to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim. 3:14-15).

Jesus also said to the Jews who believed in Him: “If you continue in my word, you are my disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:31-32).

Since the Spirit sanctifies us through the Scriptures (John 17:17; Rom. 10:17), we build ourselves up in our most holy faith by continuing in the Scriptures and praying for the Holy Spirit to teach and guide and lead us into all truth. We keep ourselves in the love of God which moved Him to give His only-begotten Son to die for us and pay in full for all our sins (John 3:16; 1 John 4:9-10), and we look for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ – His merciful gift of forgiveness and life everlasting.

In other words, we cling to Jesus and His Word. We hold fast to His promise of forgiveness and life everlasting for the sake of His innocent sufferings and death in our stead. We look forward to His glorious return and partaking of His mercy and pardon on that day. We continue to hope and live for the life eternal which Jesus will give to us when He comes again in glory to judge the living and the dead.

O gracious and merciful Savior, keep us in Your Word and grant that we cling to You by faith, trusting and looking forward to partaking of Your merciful gift of life everlasting in Your glorious kingdom. Amen.

“And on some have compassion, making a difference, and others, save with fear, pulling them out of the fire, hating even the garment spotted by the flesh.” Jude 22-23

What are we to do while we await that day when Christ returns and, in mercy, receives us to Himself in heaven?

Like Enoch, we continue to warn the impenitent and unbelieving of God’s coming judgment upon all who continue in rebellion against Him. We warn those who use the grace of God as a license to indulge in their sinful longings and desires.

But we also show mercy. We have compassion on those misled and overcome by sin. We warn them of the consequences of their sin and offer them the comfort of God’s pardon and forgiveness in Jesus Christ. Patiently and compassionately, we reach out to the lost and erring that they too might come to repentance and be saved through faith in Christ Jesus and His cross.

Some we “save with fear, pulling them out of the fire, hating even the garment spotted by the flesh.” We use the utmost care that we too are not drawn into sin and error through the weakness of our own flesh. We recognize the danger and consequences of sin – death. But, through the right application of God’s Word, we pull them from the impending fires of hell, hating their sinful deeds, and show them the right way – a life lived by faith in the Son of God.

God, grant that we might bear witness to Your impending judgment upon sinners but also to Your mercy and forgiveness in Christ Jesus, our Savior. Preserve us from our own sinful longings and desires. Keep us from temptation and deliver us from evil. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

“Now to him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, to God the only wise, our Savior, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and forever. Amen.” Jude 24-25

What a beautiful doxology! Jude closes in words of faith and praise to the LORD God who has brought us to know and trust in Christ Jesus and the salvation He won for all.

It is the LORD God, by means of the gracious working of His Spirit through the Word, who is able to keep us from falling into sin and unbelief. He is the only one able to preserve us in the true faith and present us faultless before the throne of His glory. And He does so with exceeding joy!

And “to God the only wise, our Savior, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and forever. Amen.”

The fact that we believe and are saved through faith in Jesus is entirely to the glory of God. We were dead in our sins, but God through His Word graciously raised us up to life through faith in Jesus and His blood shed for us on the cross (cf. Eph. 1:3ff.; 2:1ff.). And, “He who has begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:6).

All praise and glory be to You, O Lord Jesus, for redeeming us, bringing us to faith and preserving us in the faith once delivered unto the saints. Grant that we continue in Your Word, hold fast to You and to Your doctrine and contend for the true faith in this dark and sinful world. Amen.

[Devotions are by Pastor Randy Moll. Scripture is quoted from the Revised Common Version of the Bible.]

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“Hear another parable. There was a certain householder who planted a vineyard, hedged it around, dug a wine press in it, built a tower, and lent it out to farmers, then went into a remote country. And when the time of the fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the farmers so that they might receive its fruits. And the farmers took his servants and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. Again he sent other servants more in number than the first, and they did to them in like manner. But last of all, he sent to them his son, saying, ‘They will reverence my son.’ But when the farmers saw the son, they said among themselves, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and let us seize his inheritance.’ And they caught him, cast him out of the vineyard, and slew him. Therefore, when the Lord of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those farmers?” They say to him, “He will miserably destroy those wicked men and will lease out his vineyard to other farmers, who will render him the fruits in their seasons.” Jesus says to them, “Did you never read in the Scriptures, ‘The stone which the builders rejected, the same has become the head of the corner. This is the Lord’s doing and it is marvelous in our eyes’? Therefore, I say to you, the kingdom of God shall be taken from you and given to a nation bringing forth its fruits. And whoever falls on this stone shall be broken, but on whomever it falls, it will grind him to powder.” And when the chief priests and Pharisees had heard his parables, they perceived that he spoke of them. But when they sought to lay hands on him, they feared the multitude, because they took him for a prophet. Matthew 21:33-46 (Cf. Mark 12:1-12; Luke 20:9-19)

This parable of Jesus was spoken as a warning to the religious leaders of the Jews. The people of Israel were God’s planting, His vineyard. God had redeemed them and made them His own people.

The chief priests, scribes and elders were like the wicked vinedressers in this parable. They were entrusted with the task of caring for God’s people by teaching them from the Word of God and leading them in worship and in service to God. But when God sent His servants, the prophets, to call the people to repentance, the prophets and their message were rejected. Some were even mistreated and killed.

God sent John the Baptist to prepare His people for the coming of their Messiah. John called on all to repent and be baptized that they might receive forgiveness from the Lord God, but the religious leaders of the Jews rejected John and his baptism (cf. Luke 3:1ff.; 7:29-30; Mark 1:1ff.).

Finally, God sent His own beloved Son; but He and His Word were rejected by them too. Their Christ they handed over to Pontius Pilate to be crucified.

The religious leaders of the Jews were to be building the kingdom of God by rightly teaching the Word of God and preparing the people for the coming of their Messiah and Savior, but they laid aside and rejected the Chief Cornerstone, Jesus Christ (Psalm 118:22). Instead of pointing people to Jesus their Savior, they rejected and killed the very Son of God!

Unless they repented, they faced eternal destruction and torment in hell for their rejection of Christ Jesus (cf. John 3:18,36; 2 Thess. 1:7-9). Because these leaders of God’s people rejected Christ, God put others in charge of His flock, faithful shepherds who would feed God’s flock with the pure Word of God (cf. Jer. 23:1-4).

Pastors today can take admonition from this parable of Jesus as well! They are to faithfully proclaim the doctrine of the Apostles and Prophets – the true Word of God – and they are to faithfully hold up Christ Jesus and His redemptive work as the central teaching and cornerstone of the Christian Faith. They are to point those in their care to Jesus and His cross so that they would trust in Him and receive forgiveness and life through faith in Jesus’ name.

However, many pastors set aside the Christ of the Bible and reject His Word. Instead of pointing their hearers to Jesus and His cross for pardon and forgiveness, they direct them to human works and man-made traditions. They seek to make followers for themselves rather than disciples of Christ Jesus.

Christian congregations, too, must take great care to build upon Christ and His Word, lest they forsake the only true foundation and set aside the Chief Cornerstone, which is Christ their Savior.

Bring those into Thy fold who still to Thee are strangers; guard those who are within against offense and dangers. Press onward with Thy Word till pastor and his fold through faith in Thee, O Christ, Thy glory shall behold. Amen. (The Lutheran Hymnal, Hymn #485, Verse 7)

[Scripture is quoted from the Revised Common Version of the Bible.]

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