Long December

by

This month is a time for decisions. A year is ending, another is about to begin. We remember Christ’s decision to come to earth and take on flesh. The gatherings of families remind us of those nearest and dearest. Many people have anniversaries around Christmas.

The most important of all decisions is to turn from our sins and to trust in Christ. The little letter of Jude shows us the contrast between a life lived with true faith and a life lived without it.

Faith” in the Greek is both a verb and a noun, more like our word “trust.” So, there is the objective faith — the truth content of the Gospel of Christ — and there is subjective faith, our belief, our faith and trust in that Gospel. This little letter is packed full of truth about faith.

Where does our faith come from? How do we get it? Jude describes us in verse 1: “To those who are called, beloved in God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ.” This is who we are as Christians. God has called Christians. He has called us out from the world, and called us into an assembly, the church. Notice Jude doesn’t say that we’ve called ourselves, or even that the church has called us, but that God has called us.

God the Father has loved Christians. This is why He has called us. We have been loved before the foundations of the world in Jesus. We are the beloved of God! We’ve been called and loved and kept. We’re kept through trials (we certainly can’t keep ourselves!). We’re kept by the power of Jesus Christ, by His constant and sure care.

So, it seems from first to last that our identity as Christians, as people whose lives are marked by faith, Jude says, we owe to God.

Where does faith come from? God. As Paul says, “This is not your own doing; it is the gift of God …” (Eph. 2:8).

We can also be confident in knowing that the truth will prevail. God is the final evaluator and judge. He will say what’s right. He will judge the ungodly — whether angels or humans. He is the one who, according to verse 6 of Jude, kept them in eternal bonds under darkness for the judgment of the great day. And even as He has judged the ungodly angels, so He will judge the ungodly men. “Behold, the Lord came with ten thousands of his holy ones, to execute judgment on all and to convict all the ungodly of all their deeds of ungodliness that they have committed in such an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things that ungodly sinners have spoken against him” ( Jude 14–15). God will have no successful opponents.

But we can be confident when Christ returns, He will come to bring Christians to eternal life. We read in verse 21: “keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life.”

Who will ultimately say what is right? God. He is the beginner of faith, and He is its final judge. Our faith is a faith that will last into the furthest reaches of the future.

But what about our faith today, in the present?

Look at this justly famous benediction: “Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen” (vv. 24–25). In these faithless days, it is an encouragement to be reminded God is our keeper, our promised presenter and our Savior.

In the first verse of Jude’s letter, he calls these Christians those who not only have been, but are right now being kept for Jesus Christ. Not kept in the sense of being kept in custody, but we are being kept in safety, from falling, from harm. As John Flavel said, “As God did not at first choose you because you were high, so He will not forsake you because you are low.” He will keep you.

And our God is powerful not just to keep, but also to cleanse. And so in that presence, which caused Adam to hide and Isaiah to fall down and confess his uncleanness and Job to repent in dust and ashes, in that very presence, Christians will be presented without fault and with great rejoicing!

So how do we live with faith in such faithless times? How do we keep going? The answer is all in God Himself. Our continuing in the faith is based on His faithfulness to us.

Of course, sometimes the truth seems hidden to us. I remember hill-walking in England. Places that from a distance look impassible proved to be easily negotiated by following a well-laid path, while stretches that looked quite easy might in fact conceal a great ravine.

Sometimes we need to change our position in order to see the truth.

Augustine said that if we do not believe, we will not understand (credo ut intelligam). You may be one of those who needs to work more on understanding. Or, on the other hand, you may have understood increasingly that the claims of Christ are true, and that you stand under God’s righteous judgment. To you I say, as this year draws to a close — change your position. Pray to God for this faith we read of in Jude’s little letter.

As Jesus said, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15).

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