Conflict is never easy, and is in my opinion one of the hardest things to engage in as a Christian. One reason why conflict is so hard is as Christians we are both saints and sinners. As Christians we have a positional identity as adopted sons and daughters of the King, and yet we because we haven’t been glorified by Jesus we still sin. This is one of the chief reasons why conflict is so hard, because in dealing with difficult situations we are confronted by our own sin and the sins of others. In his helpful new book Pursuing Peace a Christian Guide To Handling Our Conflicts Dr. Robert Jones a Professor and seasoned Pastor writes to help Christians understand how the Gospel relates to conflict and how to engage conflict situations by applying the Gospel to our lives.
One of the greatest struggles in my own life as a Christian as it relates to conflict has been in handling criticism in godly ways that glorify God. Owning up to our own failures is never easy and often times I have minimized my own part in various conflict situations in my life rather than taking responsibility for my sin and repenting for them. Thankfully I’ve learned from these various situations and have repented of my sin, but still have a long way to go in terms of dealing better with conflict situations.
Dr. Jones in chapter six identifies three steps for apologizing that makes a difference, confessing our sins to those we have offended. The first step is to identify your offenses, using a “plank list” and confess our sins to God, receive his forgiveness, and seek his help” (91). Ken Sande gives seven vital characteristics of confession, “First, address everyone involved, second, avoid, if, but and maybe, third, admit specifically, fourth, acknowledge the hurt, fifth, accept consequences, sixth, alter your behavior (at least explain how you intend to do so), and finally ask for forgiveness and allow time” (98-103).
Having been on the receiving end of true confession and also having given true confession I can tell you that true confession brings healing, but that it takes time for healing to occur especially when the hurt has been deep. Pursuing Peace a Christian Guide To Handling Our Conflicts by Robert Jones is an important book because it helps us to focus not on ourselves, but upon the work that Jesus did to reconcile us to God, which provides the framework for Christian’s reconciliation with each other. This book will help Christians to learn how their reconciliation with God relates to dealing with difficult people, handling criticism and more in a godly way by holding up the treasure of Christ to a watching and waiting world. I recommend every Christian read Pursuing Peace a Christian Guide To Handling Our Conflicts to learn how the Gospel relates to conflict and how to handle difficult situations in God-glorifying ways.
Author: Robert Jones
Publisher: Crossway (2012)
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the Crossway book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
Many pastors have a difficult time determining whether—or what—to preach at a funeral. Here are four Do’s and two Don’ts.
1. Preach the gospel. Funerals force all in attendance to admit their mortality, including their eventual death and judgment. Although we hide ourselves from death continually (do you see animals die, do you bury your own dead, etc.?), funerals force us to look mortality in the eye. Whenever we admit that death is real, understanding that it’s “the wages of sin” is just one step further. God is the one who has judged sin temporally through death; however, He has crucified His Son so that sinners will enjoy Him forever through Christ. Christ’s death propitiated God’s wrath toward sinners. Sinners simply must repent, placing their trust in Christ alone for their salvation. Hopefully, this “face-to-face” meeting with mortality will send your hearers running to the cross for salvation.
2. Accommodate. Some of you may disagree with me on this; however, I will gladly read poems that speculate concerning eternity if the family of the deceased requests it. I will, however, qualify what I’m about to read by saying, “The family has asked me to read this poem titled __________.” Just because you read it does not mean that you necessarily approve of all the theology that it contains. Although I will not read a heretical poem for anyone, I will gladly read a poem that I disagree with that is still in the realm of orthodoxy.
3. Preach the truth concerning heaven and hell. There are more sermons on heaven than on hell in today’s pulpits. As pastors, however, we should emphasize both places since the authors of Scripture emphasized both. You should not allow this rare opportunity to pass you by to preach the result of trusting in Christ: heaven, and the result of rejecting Him: hell.
4. Preach the gospel from the deceased’s perspective. Something interesting that the Scriptures teach is that both heaven and hell are full of entities with a desire for evangelism. Peter says that the heavenly angels desire to look into sharing the gospel (1 Peter 1:12), and Jesus says that those in hell wish someone would share the gospel with their loved ones so that they wouldn’t have to come to such a place (Luke 16: 27-31). Bring this reality up by saying, “If the deceased could be here today, he would tell you to place your trust in Jesus Christ; for he knows today more than ever that Christ is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and that no one gets to the Father but by Him (John 14:6).”
1. Correct theology beyond the gospel. If the gospel does not hinge on the theology that is believed or being presented by someone else at the funeral, then you have no need to correct it at this time. The gospel should be the emphasis, not 100% correct theology. Basically, whatever is in the realm of orthodoxy should be tolerated. Only come against what you know to be 100% false, and don’t be arrogant. After all, you should not be as sure about eschatology as you are about the resurrection of Christ.
2. Speculate about the deceased’s location at this moment: heaven or hell. Regardless how godly or ungodly a person was, we do not know 100% whether this person is in heaven or hell at this moment. We must be careful not to preach people into heaven or hell. Instead, we must seek to be vague about what we do not know, and instead, focus on the power of the gospel for those that believe. Your sermon is not for the deceased (he’s not there) but is rather for those present. Emphasize the fact that all those who trust in Christ will be reconciled to God through Christ, absent from the body and present with the Lord until the day Christ returns, and their bodies are raised from the dead and join their spirits to rule and reign with Christ, forevermore exalting God. Oh, happy day!
What are your thoughts?
This is our weekly roundup of posts for 7/23-7/28/2012. If you have any feedback on how we can serve you our readers better, I would appreciate it. Thank you for reading and allowing us to minister to you throughout this past week through these posts.
Monday July 23rd: Divorce and Remarriage by Dave Jenkins http://servantsofgrace.org/2012/07/23/divorce-and-remarriage/
Tuesday July 24th- The Spiritual Credibility Gap by Dave Jenkins http://servantsofgrace.org/2012/07/24/the-spiritual-credibility-gap/
Wed July 25th- Growing into the depths of the Gospel by Dav: http://servantsofgrace.org/2012/07/25/growing-into-the-depths-of-the-gospel/
Thursday July 26th- 10 Contemporary Sacred Cows that need to be tipped by Jared Moore http://servantsofgrace.org/2012/07/26/10-contemporary-sacred-cows-that-need-to-be-tipped/
Friday July 27th- Being Honest With Our Kids About Death by Greg Dutcher http://servantsofgrace.org/2012/07/27/being-honest-with-our-kids-about-death/
Saturday- Some Do’s and Don’ts When Preaching a Wedding by Jared Moore: http://servantsofgrace.org/2012/07/28/some-dos-and-donts-when-preaching-a-wedding/
What should you expect when preaching a wedding? What do others expect of you? Here are five important do’s and “don’ts.
1. Preach the gospel, reminding the couple and the audience that their marriage is to communicate the gospel (Eph. 5). There will be numerous non-Christians in attendance as well as numerous married people that are contemplating divorce or adultery. You have a rare opportunity to give them the truth.
2. Whatever the bride, groom, and families want you to do that does not violate your conscience or the Scriptures.
3. Arrive early but never late to the rehearsal, pictures, wedding, and anything else the family wants you to attend.
4. Know what you are going to say verbatim; don’t “wing it.” Notes are fine to read from, but don’t sound choppy. You are not the center of the ceremony, Christ is. Don’t detract from Christ.
5. Counsel the couple if at all possible before marrying them. This counsel should be full of Scriptural counseling, not merely advice from your many years of experience. If the couple will submit to the Scriptures as authoritative over their marriage, emotions, feelings, etc., literally nothing can make their marriage fail.
1. Expect to be paid. You may be paid, or you may not be. If you are paid, it won’t be much money; so don’t ask to be paid unless they ask you.
2. Be a comedian during the ceremony. Once again, do not detract from Christ.
3. Offer suggestions to the wedding planner, family, etc. unless they ask you for them. You are not choreographing the wedding.
4. Preach a sermon, but preach the gospel. You should include Ephesians 5 or some similar verses that communicate God’s plan for marriage; however, there is no need to preach a detailed sermon. Include all that is necessary to communicate God’s plan for marriage (the gospel) in the smallest amount of time possible. The ceremony will be full of other time-stealers, so your window for presenting the gospel is brief.
5. Ignore the wedding planner’s desired order of the ceremony. Pay detailed attention during the rehearsal to how he or she has organized the ceremony. Once again, you do not want to detract from Christ. If you mess up the order of the ceremony, you will detract from Christ.
What are your thoughts?
I wanted to wait at least a week to write about my own response to last week’s tragic shooting in Aurora. Partly because I can’t even begin to imagine the horror, shock and (just now, I’m sure) onsetting grief of the families who lost loved ones. Like many of you, I have spent the last week tearfully watching the accounts of horror and heroism that have emerged from that Colorado movie theater. But there is another reason I have waited. Almost two thousands miles away, my 13-year-old daughter and I were at the midnight premier of the Batman movie. I needed some time to process that too.
It was a wonderful evening. Samantha and I met my brother and sister-in-law at the theater at 11:15- it was already packed. We purchased absurd amounts of popcorn and treats and spent 45 minutes in the crowded theater analyzing the previous two installments of the film franchise. Could Bane come anywhere close to rivaling Ledger’s performance as the Joker? Would Batman die at the end of this one? Is Christopher Nolan REALLY done with the series? It was trivial, random and completely fun! We thought the movie was terrific, and Samantha and I drove home at 3:30 wondering if we were going to be able to settle into some semblance of sleep.
Needless to say seeing the reports of carnage and chaos the next morning on Fox News hit home in a way that may have been somewhat different had we not been at the premier. A few days later my daughter asked me the question.
“Dad- it could just have easily been us, couldn’t it have?”
I don’t why it is but for every parent it seems almost instinctive to say, “No- we were safe, Samantha. Those things hardly ever happen.” Understandably, we don’t want to talk to our children about death. But I am grateful the grace of God enabled me to respond far better.
“Yes- Samantha. There is no reason but God’s providence and pleasure that we didn’t die.”
That’s exactly what I said. As I uttered those words it was almost like an out-of-body experience. It was like watching a stranger address my daughter in a harsh tone. I wanted to rebuke myself!
Samantha has had a difficult year. My father-in-law, her precious Pop Pop died this past fall; and her spiritual Pop Pop (Roscoe Adams- my precious pastor) died this past April. I can’t deny there was a sadness in her eyes, but she surprised me. She simply nodded in an understanding way and went back to her day with an ever-maturing theology I never expected her to have so young.
I don’t presume to be an expert on exactly when to speak plainly to our kids about death. 13 is certainly a pretty safe age, I think. But my main concern is that all of us as Christian parents strive to tell our kids that this life is really the “pre-life.” A thousand years from now and ten thousands years beyond that our kids will be living- in one of two neighborhoods. How can I not prepare them for that reality?
Those dear people in Aurora were just like my daughter and me. One moment buzzing about Hollywood glitz, having some innocent fun- the next moment standing before their Maker. Only providence were Samantha I permitted to go on living in this “pre-life” for a period of time known only to Him.
in your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there was none of them. – Psalm 136:16
I had a vague memory of the eloquence of John Piper talking with his own daughter about a tragedy in his neck of the woods some years ago. Google easily let me find it even though it was five years ago. Piper said it far better than I could.
Come rest your head and nestle gently
And do not fear the dark of night.
Almighty God keeps watch intently,
And guards your life with all his might.
Doubt not his love, nor power to keep,
He never fails, nor does he sleep.
Talitha is sleeping now. But one day she will die. I teach her this. I will not always be there to bless her. But Jesus is alive and is the same yesterday today and forever. He will be with her because she trusts him. And she will make it through the river. (Click here for the full post).
I am so thankful for Piper’s eloquence. But I am even more thankful for the promise of the gospel- the world is temporary- but Jesus has secured an existence for his people in the world to come! May God help us teach our kids this glorious news.
Pastors/elders/teachers want to be liked. Some want to be liked so much that they’re willing to entertain their hearers while preaching the Bible. They wrongly assume that because people enjoy their sermons, they enjoy Jesus, as well. The problem is that if we’re seeking to entertain our hearers, then we don’t believe God or Scripture can hold the attention of God’s people. In other words, you may say, “The Bible is worthy of your attention,” but if you’re using entertainment to communicate this, then you’re undercutting your message with your methods. If the Bible is worthy to be heard because God is its Author, then you shouldn’t have to use entertainment to get Christians to listen to it. You just might be entertaining your hearers to death.
Easter Sunday was just a few months. With the heightened cultural interest in the resurrection of Christ, churches pulled out all the stops to persuade attendees. Churches gave away cars, money, iPads, food, etc. Should churches bribe sinners to attend worship services? Here are four realities about bribing sinners: 1) Bribing people to hear the gospel is absent from Scripture. 2) Bribing people to attend a worship service encourages them to attend worship for sinful reasons. 3) Bribing people to attend a worship service communicates the opposite of the gospel. 4) Bribing people to attend worship does not make disciples. Due to these reasons, I think Christians bribe sinners to hear the gospel because they’ve reversed the order of the two greatest commandments: First, to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind, and second, to love your neighbor as yourself. Bribing people exalts loving one’s neighbor above loving God, because the purpose of evangelism is to glorify God, not to glorify sinners or Christians.
Numbers, numbers, numbers—that’s what’s emphasized throughout evangelicalism. Is there anywhere in Scripture where Israel’s strength or the church’s strength were in numbers? No. Is there anywhere in Scripture where God evaluated His church or their ministry based on numbers? No. So why is there a huge emphasis on numbers today? The answer is because, in the Western part of the world, bigger is better. Some also argue that numbers are important because souls are important, but if you really care about souls, you’ll labor to make disciples, not to merely baptize unrepentant, salvation-ignorant people who do not understand the lifelong commitment they’re making. The Great Commission has been redefined today as baptizing those who confess Christ as Lord, with the Great Omission being the command to “teach these Christians everything that Christ has commanded” (Matt. 28:18-20). Repentance and faith in Christ is the beginning of Christianity. When a believer is baptized, he or she has just begun his or her public identification with Christ. In order to truly fulfill the Great Commission, the local church must take these baptized believers and teach them everything Christ has commanded.
Have you ever heard another believer say about worship, “I didn’t get anything out of that.” Next time you hear this, say, “It’s not about you.” God alone deserves to be glorified in worship. The only time we shouldn’t get anything out of worship is when God isn’t glorified. If the word of God was sung, prayed, and preached faithfully, and you didn’t get anything out of worship, then repent and worship because God is worthy of worship. Worship is not about us. God is the center of worship, not us.
The goal of worship is to glorify God, not to feel good. Have you ever read the Psalms, the hymnal of God’s people for thousands of years? They’re not always happy or joyful. In other words, they’re not nostalgia-inducing. Today’s worship in the local church is largely about an atmosphere that encourages worship. The test of “true” worship is often how good one feels when he or she leaves the worship service. Specific lighting, styles of music, sentimentality, singing phrases over and over, etc. serve to create a euphoric feeling that hearers will long for the rest of their lives. The problem is that the feeling, the nostalgia, becomes the god the believer longs for instead of the true God who is worthy of worship when believers feel like it and when they don’t.
There is such a large emphasis on preaching “relevant” sermons today, which often translates to sermons that “meet people’s needs,” regardless how selfish, narcissistic, and godless these needs may be. The preacher’s goal is not to make the Bible relevant, but to help his hearers see how relevant the Bible is! The Bible is the Word of God and is timelessly relevant! The Bible transcends all societies, cultures, fads, etc. If you’re “making the Bible relevant,” then change your name to “the Holy Spirit.”
There’s an emphasis in our culture on being tolerant of other individuals and their ideas. This mentality has infiltrated the church, as well. Various interpretations of Scripture are tolerated, often based on the perceived sincerity of an individual instead of the intrinsic social, historical, and grammatical properties of the text itself. The text does not have multiple meanings, but one meaning that has multiple applications. We cannot act like interpreters who have more authority than the author who originally penned the words. It doesn’t matter what we “think” or “feel” about the text. What matters is what the author meant, what his recipients understood, what the Holy Spirit intended, and how all these truths apply to our daily lives. Don’t jump authorial intent to make yourself the “new author” by applying the text beyond the meaning of the text.
Something that’s interesting about much of children’s ministry and youth ministry is that ministers are terribly concerned with being liked by these immature Christians or unbelievers. They’re desperately concerned with their hearers enjoying their songs, prayers, and sermons. Furthermore, parents are very concerned with whether or not their children enjoy going to worship at a local church. What happened to truth? What about God? What happened to “he who has ears to hear, let him hear”? Ministers and parents everywhere, for sake of hearing the applause of children and youth, are compromising the truth on the altar of being liked or possessing an easy life. I realize if a child hates church, then every worship service you attend will be a battle, but that doesn’t free you to give your child another reason other than God to attend worship. Furthermore, if you’re a minister, don’t believe children and youth love Jesus because they love entertainment, and you’re trying to communicate the gospel through entertainment. How can you get a selfish person to see the value of Jesus and their need for Him by appealing to their selfishness? If children and teenagers are saying, “I don’t care if God has spoken or not—I won’t listen to Him unless you entertain me,” then they neither love God, Jesus, His Word, or the local church.
Love has been radically redefined in the local church as being “accepting of all, while holding no one accountable to Biblical faithfulness.” How many churches consistently practice Biblical discipline? Very few. Even though God has always held His people accountable to His Word, and even though Biblical discipline is commanded in Scripture, local churches have redefined Christian love to include “tolerance of unrepentant sin” while excluding “loving accountability to God’s Word.”
If you and I evaluate our ministries, defining them as “successful” or “unsuccessful” based on our own arbitrary observations, then we’re making demigod evaluations. A demigod is a deified mortal. In order to truly evaluate our ministries as successful or unsuccessful, we must have God’s all-knowing evaluating ability. In most conferences and denominations, those who are held up as examples are those who have large churches. They’re often held up as examples because of demigod evaluations carried out by those in various leadership positions. These ministers may be more successful or they may not be. The truth of the matter is that we cannot accurately evaluate our ministries or other people’s ministries beyond the Word of God, as if we know the hearts of everyone who attends these churches. In other words, faithfulness to Scripture should govern and motivate your ministry, not a demigod evaluation made by you or others. Pursue faithfulness to Scripture in light of Christ’s redeeming work, not arbitrary ego-boosting or “calling of God” destroying submission to demigod evaluations.
What are your thoughts?
This is our weekly roundup of posts for 7/15-7/21/2012. If you have any feedback on how we can serve you our readers better, I would appreciate it. Thank you for reading and allowing us to minister to you throughout this past week through these posts.
Sunday 7/15: Lift Up Your head and Sing for Joy a Quote shared from Aaron Armstronghttp://servantsofgrace.org/2012/07/15/lift-up-your-head-and-sing-for-joy/
Monday 7/16: Book Review The Jesus Scandals Why He Shocked His Contemporaries (And Still Shocks Today) Reviewed by Dave Jenkins http://servantsofgrace.org/2012/07/16/book-review-the-jesus-scandals-why-he-shocked-his-contemporaries-and-still-shocks-today/
Tuesday 7/17/2012 People you shouldn’t marry (Part 1) by Richard Rohlin http://servantsofgrace.org/2012/07/17/people-you-shouldnt-marry-part-1/
Wed 7/18/2012- Dallas and the spitfire An Old Car, An Ex-Con, And an Unlikely Friendship Reviewed by Dave Jenkins http://servantsofgrace.org/2012/07/18/book-review-dallas-and-the-spitfire-an-old-car-an-ex-con-and-an-unlikely-friendship/
Thursday 7/19/2012- Speaking the Truth in Love, Sanctification and Apologetics by Dave Jenkins http://servantsofgrace.org/2012/07/19/speaking-the-truth-in-love-sanctification-and-apologetics/
Friday 7/20/2012- Jesus, His Critics and How to Handle Criticism by Dave Jenkins http://servantsofgrace.org/2012/07/20/jesus-his-critics-and-how-to-handle-criticism/
Saturday 7/21/2012 Contending for the Faith by Dave Jenkins http://servantsofgrace.org/2012/07/21/contending-for-the-faith/
With few words Jude in Jude 1:3-4 reveals the reason for the composition of his letter: first, he wants to encourage the readers to affirm their faith; next, he alerts them to the danger of immoral people who have slipped in among them; and last, he opens the eyes of the believers to the life and doctrine of their opponents.
Jude 1:3, “Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.”
“Love.” Jude addresses his readers with a common greeting of that day” beloved”. Here put this greeting in the context of the address (“to those who are called, beloved in God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ” v.1) and the blessing (“mercy, peace, and love be multiplied to you” v.2).
As a Pastor, Jude clearly distinguishes between the recipients of his letter and the false teachers. He expresses his love to the readers, but also tells them to be aware of the pernicious teachings of these heretics. The term beloved demonstrates his affection for the members of the Christian church.
“Salvation.” Because of his pastoral love, Jude composes his letter and writes, “although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” (vs.3). Jude indicates that circumstances caused him to change the content of the letter he was planning to write. We have only a few words about the content of this intended epistle: “the salvation we share.” We do well not to speculate what Jude would have written. But what does he mean by the phrase we share? The letter itself it too brief to provide any evidence that Jude is addressing both Jewish and Gentile Christians. If we lack support for making a distinction between Christians of Jewish and Gentile backgrounds, we have to look at the purpose of Jude’s epistle for an answer to this question.
Writing his letter to strength the believers in their faith, Jude refers to the common bond of salvation they possess (Titus 1:4; Acts 2:44). Moreover, he intimates that this very bond helps them withstand false teachers in their community who do not possess salvation. In verses 3 and 4 a contrast is evident between the salvation the believers share and the condemnation God reserves for the godless men.
“Faith.” Jude reveals his personal interest in the spiritual life of the readers. He says, “I felt I had to write.” He notes the necessity of exhorting the believers to contend for the faith. Notice that at the beginning and end of his letter Jude mentions the same subject. In the opening of his epistle he urges the readers “to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.” He concludes his epistle with the exhortation: “But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit” (vs.20).
What is this faith Jude mentions? In view of the context, we understand the word faith to mean the body of Christian beliefs. It is the gospel the apostles proclaimed and therefore is equivalent to the “apostles’ teaching” (Acts 2:42). Thus, it is not the trust and confidence that the individual believer has in God, for that is subjective faith. In this passage Jude speaks of Christian doctrine, that is, objective faith.
The context in which Jude discusses faith relates to its deposit in the community of the saints. Jude writes about “the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints.” The saints, are the members of the church. They have received God’s revelation, just as the Jews, as Paul says, “Have been entrusted with the very words of God” (Rom. 3:2). God delivered His truth to Jesus Christ (John 3:34), and Jesus committed God’s truth to the apostles, who in turn entrusted it to the believers.
What is the deposit of faith? The apostles transmitted the gospel to the church, which in turn proclaimed it throughout the world (I Thess. 1:6-8). The idea of tradition, of the Gospel as an authoritative message committed to and handed down in the Church, was integral to Christianity from the start. The apostolic teaching as a body was transmitted once for all to the church (Luke 1:2; Rom. 6:17; 1 Cor. 11:2).
Jude urges his readers “to contend for the faith.” He encourages the believers not only to fight for the faith, but also to depend on that faith for spiritual help. The New Testament concept to contend is familiar to his readers. It means to exert oneself without distraction to attain a goal. It means self-denial to overcome obstacles, to avoid perils, and if need be to accept martyrdom. Jude implies that the members of the church must exert themselves in spreading the gospel and defeating heresy (II Tim. 4:7).
Jude 1:4, “For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.”
Why does Jude urge the recipients to contend for the faith? Jude says, “For certain people have crept in.” As pastor-teacher, Jude observers a dangerous development in the church. He feels the need to alert the members to be on guard and oppose the men who have slipped into the Christian community. Jude places the term certain men over against the greeting of dear friends (v.3) and indicates that the believers are facing adversaries to the faith. As Paul warns the Galatians to watch out for “false brothers” (Gal. 2:4), so Jude instructs his readers to oppose “godless men.” And Peter tells the readers of his second epistle to beware of “false teachers” who have entered their community and who secretly teach pernicious doctrines (2 Peter 2:1).
Jude does not indicate whether these godless men at one time belonged to the Christian community; and these infiltrators are dishonest in their relations with the believers, for they furtively slip into the church. By their secrecy they reveal their motives. Probably they were itinerant teachers who were bent on destroying the church of Jesus Christ. The New Testament presents numerous warnings on the believers to avoid strange teachings from false teachers (Phil. 3:2; Col. 2:8; 2 Tim. 3:6; 1 John 3:7; 4:1; 2 John 7).
“Ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality.” What are these intruders doing that they deserve divine condemnation? To put it in the words of Paul, “They profess to know God, but they deny him by their works. They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work.” (Titus 1:16).
Jude does not say these men are atheists. He indicates that they slyly enter the Christian church by acknowledging the existence of God; otherwise they would be denied entrance. But their personal conduct betrays godlessness (vv.15,18), for these men think that God’s grace allows them to indulge in unbridled sexual freedom.
The word grace signifies God’s forgiving love whereby the sinner receives freedom to serve God and to express His gratitude. These false instructors, however, teach the Christian to use that freedom not to honor God but to satisfy their sexual lusts (Gal. 5:13; 1 Peter 2:16; 2 Peter 2:19). These people pervert the teachings of God’s word by engaging in a life of sexual filth. The term license for immorality is an expression Peter employs to describe the shameful homosexual conduct of the Sodomites (2 Peter 2:7).
“Deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.” This is the second characteristic of heretics. Except for describing their conduct, Jude provides no information about how they deny Jesus. The Greek indicates that these godless persons are constantly renouncing the divine authority of Jesus Christ who has absolute sovereignty in every area of life. The nineteenth-century Dutch theologians Abraham Kuyper pointedly stated, “there is not so much as the breadth of a thumb in every area of life of which Christ has not said: ‘It is mine.’” Jude designates Jesus Christ as our only Sovereign and Lord and intimates that we cannot have any other master besides Jesus Christ.
The past decade or so has seen perhaps the greatest increase in information the world has ever known. The internet is loaded with good information and also information that isn’t helpful. Christians are thrust into this environment as we have been called by Jesus to be in the world, but not of the world. The Bible teaches Christians to speak “the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15) and to “always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you” (1 Peter 3:15)
Ephesians 4:15, “Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ.”
The idea of full Christian maturity is characterized in verse 14 from its negative aspect; in verse 15 positively. In striving to reach the goal and in advancing in that direction believers are goaded by the desire that they may no longer be like children in a tempest-tossed boat which they cannot manage.
Error is never overcome by mere negation. Over and against the deceitfulness of the errorists, the Ephesians should adhere to the truth that is practice integrity. And what ministry (Ephesians 4:12) can be more noble than that which, while resolutely opposing deceit, sets forth the truthfulness of life and lip over against it and does all this in the spirit of love?
There are two great enemies of a successful ministry, whether carried on among believers or among unbelievers. One is a departure from truth, compromise with the lie, whether in word or deeds. The other is a chilling indifference with respect to the hearts and lives, the troubles and trials of the people whom one is ostensibly trying to persuade. Paul has the real solution, the truth must be practiced in love (3:18; 4:2; 5:1-2), which was exactly what he was constantly doing (2 Cor. 2:4; Gal. 4:16, 19; 1 Thess. 2:7-12); and telling others to do (1 Tim. 4:111-13).
In fact, love must mark all of life. By means of such behavior we will impart a blessing not only to others but to ourselves also, for we will “grow up in all things into him who is the head, even Christ.”(Ephesians 4:15). We must grow up into union with Him. The same intimacy of conscious oneness with Christ is stressed in Romans 6:5, where the idea is expressed that believers are “grown together” with him. Such statements do not in any way obliterate the infinite distinction between Christ and Christians. They do not indicate identity but intimacy. The distinction between believers and their Lord is clearly enunciated here, for the latter is called the head, while the former are designated “the entire body.” What is meant by growing up in to Christ is interpreted by the apostle Paul in Phil. 1:21, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” In other words in the words of Horatius Bonar, “So shall no part of day or night from sacredness be free, but all my life, in every step, be fellowship with thee.”
In addition to speaking the Truth in love, Christians are to speak and always be ready to give a defense of the faith (1st Peter 3:15) The Apostle Peter in 1st Peter 3:15 gives the basis for Apologetics, “but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15).
Christians must consecrate Christ Jesus in their hearts. The heart is the central part of man’s existence, “for it is the wellspring of life” (Prov. 4:23). When the heart is controlled by Jesus Christ, the believer dedicates his entire life to Him. Then the Christian is safe from fear and is able to defend himself against his opponents.
Peter adapted this quotation from Isaiah 8:13, which says, “But the Lord of hosts, him you shall honor as holy. Let him be your fear, and let him be your dread.” In his day, Isaiah told the people not to fear the invading Assyrian armies but to revere God. In his epistle, Peter has the same encouraging message. However, he changes the wording by honoring Christ as the Lord Almighty, so that he is the Lord Christ. The position of the term Lord in the sentence creates two different translations: “sanctify the Lord Christ” or “sanctify Christ as Lord.” Although both versions make good sense the second translation is better because it imparts greater emphasis to the word Lord.
“Be prepared.” When Peter exhorts the readers to be ready to witness for the Lord at all times, does he mean that Christians should speak indiscriminately about their faith? No, not at all. Jesus says in Matthew 7:6, “Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you.”
Christians, then must be discreet, “shrewd as snakes and innocent as doves” (Matt. 10:16). They must know when and how far and to whom it is expedient to speak. Christians should respond to opportunities to speak boldly for the Lord Jesus Christ. When Peter tells the readers to be ready, he means that they not only should be willing but also should have the ability to speak for Christ. Therefore, they must know the teaching of the Bible and Christian doctrine so they are always ready to give an answer.
“Give an answer.” The admonition to “give an answer to everyone who asks you” is not limited to times when a Christian must take the stand in a courtroom. In some instances the Christian must defend himself against verbal attacks from hostile unbelievers. At other times he is asked to teach the gospel to a neighbor who shows genuine interest in understanding the Christian religion. The term everyone is inclusive and relates to all circumstances. When we revere Christ as Lord, we experience that “out of the overflow of the heart our mouth speaks’ (Matt. 12:34). Accordingly, our verbal expressions should be exemplary, and wholesome. We should demonstrate an ability to give an answer to everyone who asks us about our faith in Christ (Col. 4:6).
“Reason.” What does a Christian have? He has hope, says Peter. Although hope is one of the three Christian virtues (1 Cor. 13:13), faith and love seem to overshadow it. In sermons and discussions we often neglect to talk about hope. Nevertheless, in his epistle peter mentions hope frequently. In the Greek, the verb occurs in 1:13 and 3:5, and the noun in 1:3, 21, and 3:15. What is the hope that a Christian possesses in his heart? Hope is patient, disciplined, confident waiting for and expectation of the Lord as our Savior. The write of Hebrews exhorts in Hebrews 10:23, “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.”
1st Peter 3:15b-16, “yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.”
“Yet do it with gentleness and respect.” Peter instructs the readers to exercise gentleness, and this he echoes with the words for Jesus (“I am gentle and humble in heart” (Matt.. 11:29), whose example the believer should adopt.
When we sanctify Christ in our hearts, we should exercise gentleness and respect toward all men. In our behavior we exert ourselves to demonstrate gentleness toward persons who are spiritually weak (rom. 15:1-2). In our conduct we make every effort to show honor and respect toward God and toward those whom god has placed over us (2:13-17; Rom. 13:1-7). We strive to be living models of the example Christ has set.
“Having a good conscience.” Christians who have a clear conscience are readily motivated to show their respect and obedience to God. When as a prisoner in Jerusalem Paul defended himself before the Jewish Sanhedrin, he exclaimed in Acts 23:1, “And looking intently at the council, Paul said, “Brothers, I have lived my life before God in all good conscience up to this day.” that is, before god he had done his missionary work in all sincerity and truth; his conscience was clear.
“Those who revile your good behavior.” To opponents of the Christina faith, a Christian who professes his faith in Christ has already provided sufficient evidence of wrongdoing. Moreover, numerous accusations can be leveled at an innocent Christian.
Notice the similarity with a preceding verse in this epistle. There Peter writes, “Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.” (2:12).
“May be put to shame.” When unbelievers maliciously direct falsehoods against Christians who seek to live by the example Christ has set, truth eventually triumphs. When the evidence shows that the conduct of Christians is blameless, the unbelievers themselves are put to shame by their own slander.
The writer of Hebrews tells the readers to leave behind the elementary doctrines about Christ and to move on to maturity (6:1). A Christian must be able to formulate his faith in elementary propositions so that when he/she is asked about his/her faith, he/she is able to speak about Christianity. He/she must be able to lead others to Christ and refute the charges of unbelievers. In evangelizing neighbors, a Christian should have the elementary qualifications to teach others the way of salvation. When she/she confronts the attacks of the humanist and the atheist, a Christian should have a basic working knowledge of the Scripture to be able to substantiate the phrase the Bible says. And when members of sects in the doorbell, the well-informed Christian should become the teacher to lead these visitors to the Lord Jesus Christ.
Discipleship is not a program but the very mission Jesus gave the Church to fulfill. Discipleship is not only doctrinal but also relational. Discipleship that is divorced from doctrine is not discipleship. Discipleship apart from a relational foundation is just the pursuit of knowledge apart from transformation. In His ministry, Jesus cared about what people believed and how they lived. Jesus spent time with people who were hurting, ill, sick, afflicted, and demonized. Jesus showed people in His life how not only to care for people, but how to love people the way they were created to experience love. Biblical discipleship is thoroughly grounded in the person and work of Jesus who cares for, and longs for people to come to Himself in order to know and serve Him.
In his helpful new book Dallas and the Spitfire An Old car, An Ex-Con, And An Unlikely Friendship by Ted Kluck and Dallas Jahncke write to demonstrate that discipleship is not only biblical and grounded in the person and work of Jesus, but also that discipleship needs to be relational. This book is a nitty gritty exploration into what it means to follow Jesus in all of life.
One of the more significant points in the book is the contemporary notion of discipleship the author notes as “people meeting with people culture that when you met with someone, you can’t make a life decision of any kind without running it by them first. The Discipler becomes a de facto Life Coach. And while this “people meeting with people” phenomenon has been mostly good for our church, there are still a lot of college guys walking around who don’t have the backbone to have a cup of coffee with a girl without running it by six elders and reading four books by dead puritans first. I think this is ridiculous” (8).
Mr. Kluck is spot on in this observation (I quoted above). Meeting with people can be good but discipleship isn’t just meeting with people and then getting godly Christians “approval” to engage in behavior. While seeking godly advice and counsel is good and necessary when we lift up seeking “godly” counsel to the detriment of seeking God in prayer and His Word for ourselves, we are lifting godly people up to the place of primacy in our lives and not only quenching the Holy Spirit who lives to instruct us in the Truth, but also committing idolatry.
Mr. Kluck notes that he didn’t feel “qualified to disciple anyone”, and in my experience many Christians feel that way. They feel this way, because they think they have to clean themselves up before they can be of any “use” to God (as if we could do any better than what Jesus has already done for us through His death, burial, resurrection and the present ministry of the Holy Spirit who indwells us, convicts us of our sin, and points us to the Truth about Jesus).
I wholeheartedly recommend Dallas and the Spitfire An Old car, An Ex-Con, And An Unlikely Friendship, because it’s unlike any book on discipleship you’ve ever read. Most books on discipleship are just theory on what discipleship is and maybe contain a mix of personal stories and Scriptures, but this book is what I call “theology in motion” in that in story form, Kluck writes to show us how the Gospel can and does penetrate the hearts of all of us in order to help us grow deeper in the Truth of God’s Word and the grace of God. This book will help Christians to grab hold of the messy nature of discipleship and see into the window of the ways of a gracious God who has come to seek, save and sanctify sinners. This is a book that will grab your heart-strings, stir your affections, point you to the Truth of God’s Word and make you smile all at once.
Authors: Ted Kluck and Dallas Jahncke
Publisher: Chosen (2012)
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the Chosen Books book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”