Contending For the Faith

April 25, 2021 Speaker: Reid Strahan Series: The Church: Members of Christ and One Another

Topic: Truth Passage: Jude 1:3–3, 1 Timothy 3:15–15, Titus 1:9–9, Philippians 1:27–29

I want to talk today about the importance of contending for truth, AS A CHURCH. This also means we must stand against error, as a church.  Jude said he “found it necessary” to urge believers to contend earnestly for the faith.”(Jude 3) Paul wanted the Philippians to “strive together for the faith of the gospel” (Philippians 1:27)  Paul said “the church is the pillar and support of the truth”. (1 Tim.3:15)  He said elders must be able to “exhort with sound doctrine AND refute those who oppose it”. (Titus 1:9)

So we have to be aware that we are in a fight for truth. Faith is under attack from all directions, and must be defended. This takes vigilance and wisdom. Error is seldom obvious.  Jude 4 describes those who “pervert” or “distort” God’s grace.  A teaching may sound like truth, when it is NOT!

You may feel you have all you can handle with your own troubles and trials, and can’t worry much about sound teaching.  Or you may think that all that matters is your own personal peace, or your sense of God’s presence, and if that feels right, you are not that concerned about what is taught.  

But living IN the truth and standing FOR the truth is really important for you, and for us as a church.  Whenever you read anything, or listen to anything, ask yourself: Does this sound anything like Paul or Peter or John or the other writers of NT scripture?  Is this teaching solidly tied to the scripture?

Of course there is a certain kind of Christian who sees Christianity as JUST information and fighting for the right information.  And they lack Life, and the Spirit, and Love, and are really dead.  That is NOT contending earnestly for the faith!! 

And there is certain kind of Christian who believes THEIR interpretation on every detail of the Bible is final.  They call everyone else a heretic, and like to use that word a lot!  They don’t love people; they love proving they are right, and they can be downright proud about it.  They are often filled with head knowledge but devoid of the Spirit. They are often combative and sow division. That’s not what Jude is talking about either. 

Contending for the faith, does mean striving earnestly for the truth.  It does not mean being contentious. Paul said, “The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth...”.   So there is a right way to do this.

And we should do this!  There is a great need in the church today to stand for God’s truth and AGAINST error. 

Jesus made it clear that this is an important issue to HIM! He said to one church, “I know your deeds, your love and faith, your service and perseverance, and that you are now doing more than you did at first. Yet I have this against you. You tolerate the woman Jezebel” and what she teaches, which is leading people into immorality.  Christ rebuked another church because “you hold to the teaching of the Nicholatians”.  To another church he warned “I have a few things against you: There are some among you who hold to the teaching of Balaam,”  It matters to Jesus Christ what we teach, and what we tolerate and who we tolerate.  Sobering!

I can’t deal with every aspect of truth and error this morning, but I want to set before you the essence of the faith, and the purpose of the gospel, so you can use that, like a template, to confirm truth and test for error.

The “faith once delivered to the saints” is the teaching that came to us from God, inspired by the Holy Spirit, through the apostles. It is the faith the apostles taught us to have. The essence of that faith, is that Christ died for our sins… and that we are saved from our sins through a Savior, Jesus Christ.   There is much more than this, but this is the core truth of our faith.

According to the Bible, our real problem is sin and separation from the God who made us. All that is wrong with us, all our brokenness, and misery, come from sin.  Our single biggest problem which is facing God’s wrath and judgment comes because of our sin.  And the solution to all this is Christ, the cross of Christ where sin was dealt with, and the Spirit of Christ poured into our hearts to make us new men and women.  It is through Christ we are restored to fellowship with God and joy and freedom in His presence.

Any teaching that is not zeroed in on this analysis of our sinful condition, and Christ as our solution, is NOT the faith delivered once for all to the saints!  Teaching that minimizes, denies, or ignores that sin is man’s core problem, is not the true faith. Teaching that fails to proclaim that the gospel of Jesus Christ is to be healed, from the sickness of sin, is NOT the true faith. Teaching today that mainly offers success, promotion, financial benefit, self-love, self-fulfillment, or finding our personal destiny, trivializes our real problem and diverts us from Jesus, God’s real solution to our sin!    

The gospel, believed and obeyed, DOES generally lead to doing better in life – people who stop stealing, and get off drugs, and do their work as unto the Lord, generally are more successful.  Marriages do better when husbands and wives stop sinning.  These things are an overflow of forgiveness of sins, and putting sin to death, and walking in the Spirit. But the gospel is not merely giving out tips on how to be more successful, or to get promotion, or make more money, or to fulfill your own dreams.

The gospel mainly deals with sin and salvation, death and life, heaven and hell, everlasting shame and everlasting glory. The Bible from front to back is about Salvation from Sin! And if we understand that sin is our problem, that is the best news ever!! JI Packer “Salvation always means being rescued from jeopardy and misery, so that one is now safe”.  God “saved’ Israel from Egypt, and Jonah from the fish’s belly.  It the NT salvation is salvation from sin and it’s consequences.”  

Jesus is Savior because he releases us from our sins, the horrible effects of sinning and the penalty for sinning.  Sin is what ruined us, Sin got us kicked out of the garden, sin is what makes us miserable, sin enslaves, sin ended the intimacy with God we had in the beginning, it destroyed our Paradise, and brought us under a curse.  We feel that! We live in the pain of that to some degree every day!  Ultimately, sin results in death and everlasting shame and contempt.  Sin is what we need to be saved from!!

Jesus said, “Everyone who sins is a slave of sin” and “if the Son of Man sets you free, you will be free indeed”.  Paul said, “The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord”.  “But because of his great love for us, God being rich in mercy, made us ALIVE with Christ, even when we were dead in our transgressions (sins)”.  THE faith once delivered, is about being SAVED from our sins and being made NEW, ALIVE and FREE, indwelt by God’s Spirit, with a glorious future with God.  And..

So..If sin is our problem, and it is, then ONLY Jesus can save us!  Only he can release us from our sins, heal our broken fallen lives, and save us from God’s wrath for our sins.  There is no set of rules, no religion, no psychology, no therapy that can do that!  JI Packer said, “Ultimately the gospel is the only true psychology, for NO LESS A POWER CAN BREAK THE TYRANNY OF SELF IN THE HUMAN HEART”.  The gospel is the only thing that can deal with our root problem!

That’s why John breaks out into this beautiful praise to Christ in Revelation 1:5,6 “To him who loves us and released us from our sins and made us to be a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be the glory forever and ever.”   This verse encapsulates the faith.  Jesus loves us and because he loves us he released from condemnation FOR our sins, and FROM our problem of actually sinning.  Or as Peter puts it “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness.”

We are in God’s kingdom and we serve God now, as his priests.  In our sins we had no right to approach God, but Christ gave us immediate and direct access to God, to serve and love and enjoy Him!  The Spirit of Jesus has been sent into our hearts.  We will soon enter the new heaven and earth, wherein righteousness dwells, and we will see the face of God and serve him day and night forever, in fullness of joy.  We will share in the glory of Christ, and in his rule and reign. 

All this blessing flows from the truth that Christ died for our sins! Paul said “By THIS gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you.  For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins”  1 Cor. 15:2,3

So beware of any teaching that does not sound like this!

Jude found, in his day, that this message of sin and salvation was being twisted.  He said, “Certain individuals have slipped in among you “who pervert the grace of our God into a license for immorality”  NLT “They say God’s marvelous grace allows us to live immoral lives”, and deny Jesus Christ our Lord. (They deny him by denying that he delivers us from sin, or by denying the effectiveness of his work on the cross.)

Using the gospel to approve immoral living is a serious error because the very reason Christ died for us was to free us from slavery to sin, and to enable us, by the Spirit, to love God and desire to please him. 

So to somehow pervert this amazing work of grace into a toleration of sin, or permission to go on living in sin, or to wink at a perversion of the faith delivered to the saints. 

The error Jude addressed in his day is rampant in our day. Church after church, Christian after Christian is caving in to the present day teachings of the LGBTQ sexual revolution. And OFTEN using the grace of God to approve it.

Clearly referring to sexual sins, Romans 1:26 says, “God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones.  In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.” 

Verse 32 “Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.” 

It is not only practicing these sins that is condemned!  It is approving them. There is tremendous pressure on the church to APPROVE the present sexual revolution in our society. 

We love people caught in any and ALL sin.  We befriend them and care about them deeply.  We will lay down our lives for them. But God’s grace is NOT APPROVAL of sin! Grace is DELIVERANCE FROM sin, through the blood of Jesus and the inner renewal by the Spirit of Christ.  

Some believers who would never dream of approving of sexual sins, have never the less, been affected by this false grace message: which is that grace covers sin but does nothing to break it’s power over us and doesn’t even require that. That leads to a ho-hum attitude regarding holiness, or even resistance to holiness or talk of obedience.  Of course there are multitudes of perverse teachings, this is only one.  But if you know the essence of the faith, you can discern many different errors.

Jude concludes his letter by telling us what each of us can do to keep ourselves in the faith once delivered to the saints. 

Verse 20 “But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. And have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh.” 

*First: Build YOURSELF up in your most holy faith.  Make every effort to grow spiritually. Seek to be strong in the Lord and in your faith.  Seek to know and understand the holy faith revealed in the scriptures. 1 Tim. 2:15 Paul told Timothy, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a worker who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth”. 

*Second: Pray in the Spirit. We are to walk in the Spirit and to pray in the Spirit. We don’t just say words! We seek to be in conscious fellowship with the Spirit AS we pray.  We pray with the Spirit’s help. MLJ said, “The Spirit in you brings you right into the presence of God.  (Prayer) is a living act of fellowship and communion.”  God has send the Spirit of his Son into our hearts prompting us to cry out “Abba Father”.  We align our hearts with the cry of the Spirit, as we pray.  

*Third: Keep yourself in the love of God.  Live your life trusting in God’s love, consciously aware of God’s love, and enjoying God’s love. On the one hand nothing can separate us from the love of God, but our EXPERIENCE of the love of God can be more or less as we keep ourselves near to God.  Jesus said, if you obey my commands you will abide in my love.  Those who abide in God’s love will not be looking for some new strange teaching. Because the love of God satisfies our soul and makes us truly happy like nothing else.  It is a safeguard!

*Fourth: Keep your eyes on the glory that is coming. Jude said to be “waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life”.  Remind yourself the best is yet to come.  Talk of these things. Spiritual optimism, spiritual hope, happy anticipation of the mercy and glory of eternal life to come keeps us safe.  People without hope become vulnerable to false teaching. Instead of being happy in the promises of glory they are looking for something else

*Fifth: Be merciful to those in error, but with discernment. 

Some are already under the influence of false teaching. Jude said, “have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh.”

We show mercy on those who are led into false teaching. Jude said, we may actually be used by God to snatch them from the fire of judgment! But Jude also warns us about the danger of this kind of ministry. He said, “Do this with fear.”  Fear, because you don’t want to be contaminated by the error or sin of the person you are trying to help.  So you help with a kind of healthy detachment, “hating even the garments...”  

This cross contamination often happens with a person in the sin of bitterness. Someone, in mercy will listen and listen, and instead of helping that person out of bitterness, soon they absorb that bitterness into their own heart. That happens also with false teaching!  So.. Be merciful but with fear!  Hating the pollution…in that person.  Yes! Go help the person in error, show mercy, but be sure you contend earnestly for the faith as you do that!

This comes down to having an awareness that not everything that uses Christian language or Bible verses is true.  So we are to be humble, and careful, and realize our need to know the holy faith delivered to the saints, and to contend for it.  Let’s do that together as a church!

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