Sunday, August 12, 2012

Jude: Pressing On To Endurance. ユダの手紙

We are living in some very uncertain times.  Reports are that Israel might attack the Iran’s nuclear plants before the US election in November. A lot of countries are disturbed by that.  The leader of Iran has stated that he is preparing for the end of the world as he looks forward to a military strike against Israel.  We are talking about Armageddon. 
We are really living in a different world than the one Jude wrote to.  We are not under a One World system: POX ROMA, or Roman law does not drive our economy or our way of life.  However, while slavery has been outlawed since the mid 1800’s, it still affects the lives of many 1,000s.  At that time, the world used one language; now, knowing Chinese is looked upon as a good language to know for the years to come.
There are some things that are the same.  Jude was concerned with what he found in the growing faith of this young church—or rather, what was lacking in their growing faith. 
~ Taken from Olive Tree Commentary. This epistle is addressed to all believers in the Gospel.  Its design appears to be to guard believers against the false teachers who had begun to creep into the Christian church, and to scatter dangerous (doctrines), by attempting to lower all Christianity into a merely nominal belief and outward profession of the Gospel.  Having thus denied the obligations of personal holiness, they taught their disciples to live in sinful (ways), at the same time flattering them with the hope of eternal life.  The vile character of these seducers is shown, and their sentence is denounced, and the epistle concludes with warnings, admonitions, and counsels to believers.
この手紙は、福音のあるすべての信者に宛てたものです。その目的は、キリスト教信仰を単なる名目上の信仰あるいは福音を外面上の職業に落とし込もうと試み、かつキリスト教の教会に忍び込み危険な教義を始めていた、偽教師から信者を守るためにあります。個人の聖別に関する義務を拒否していながら、彼らは永遠の命について希望をうそぶき、罪深い道に生きることを、彼らの弟子たちに教えていました。これら誘惑する者の下劣な文字が示され、その文は非難されており、その上で警告、訓戒、そして信者たちへの忠告をもって終了します。  オリーブの木注釈書から引用
Jude first intended to write about the Salvation that was common between them.  Instead, he was concerned for the life style of the believers.  From the teachings of Jesus, we are to live in the world but not be part of the world system.  We are encouraged to live above the world—looking to the higher calling of the Lord.  From a life of sin and of uncleanness to a life that reflects His holiness.  From a life that is self-centered to realize that God is at work in each of us—even those who behave like Jonah and run the opposite direction.
Jude saw a danger in the Church and it bothered him enough to write this letter to the early church—a church that was at that time, mostly of Jewish believers who now follow Jesus as the Messiah.  He goes back into Jewish history to prove some points and reminds them of where they had come from. 
Life on this planet is kind ‘a difficult.  In a study done in 1988 from the University of Louisville, scientists reported that 13% of all coins and 42% of paper money carry infectious organisms.  There is danger all over the place: A man was visiting Africa’s Victoria’ Falls.  He notices that the closer to the falls he got, the heavy cloud of mist impaired his vision.  While he was walking along the path that skirts the gorge on the Zambezi River, he noticed a sign on the rim but could not make it out.  Not wanting to miss something important, he slithered and slid through the mud to read the sign, which said: “Danger! Crumbling Edge!”  How close to the edge do you want to be?  Jude says: Be careful!
Let’s get right to it, shall we.
Jude is identified as a  Servant of Jesus and as the brother of James.  Servant しもべ because he is under Jesus’ rule and that he belongs to Jesus.  All that he is about is centered on his relationship with this Man, Jesus.  He gave up His own life for him.  Jesus had gone to the Cross for Jude.  Jesus had died for him.   He also rose from the Grave for him.  Sound familiar?  If this is what happened to you, than you too are servants of Jesus. We need to live that way!
His second claim is that he is the brother 兄弟 of James.  Most likely, this James was the head of the early church based in Jerusalem.  That James was the writer of the Book of James and also had a close relationship with Jesus Himself—might even be His brother.  Looks like Jude was in possession of James’ letter and takes James’ last verses of his letter to heart, when he wrote 5:19 “My brothers, if one of you should wander from the Truth and someone should bring him back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins.”  That seems to be in Jude’s heart as well. (Might be a good role for us to take also…when we know of someone who has wandered away from the Faith…to call them on that and offer the Joy only Jesus can give in having them return to the Faith once again.)
Jude writes to the “Called ones”.  The Selected Ones.  The Special Followers of Jesus.  These who are part of the Called of God who follow the teachings and life-style of the Lord Jesus.  This is not someone who was born into the family of believers or lived among Believers but one who has placed a personal trust in the Finished Work of Christ on the Cross.  They are not the people who just LIKE things about Jesus but do not FOLLOW Him.
These ‘called ones’ were special in two ways: They were the ones who were LOVED by God AND who were KEPT BY Jesus. John 14:21. Whoever has My commands and keeps them is the one who loves Me. The one who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.”
How does being loved and being kept by God feel or look like? They enjoy the heart knowledge of sins being forgiven.  They have a heart of thankfulness—of gratefulness.  There is a concern for a lifestyle that reflects the attitudes of the Lord.  Life is holy.  Holiness is sought after—hungered for—desired.  When that love becomes cold, it is replaced with indifference and ends in spiritual death.  Jude does not want that to happen to the Church.  Neither do we.
We can see from these verses that this is based on a relationship: a relationship with the Father and the Son through the Holy Spirit.  And the fruit of that relationship is Mercy 慈悲, Peace 平和 and Love.
At this point in his letter, we learn his full purpose for this letter. この手紙の主な目的 He writes: 3 Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt compelled to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to God’s holy people. 4 For certain individuals whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord.
In other words, Jude exhorts the believers to be steadfast in the Faith. ゆるぎない信仰の薦め This really bothers Jude, as it should us as well.  When we see friends fall away, fade away in their zeal, start to deny their own Faith, start to make excuses for not worshipping with the Body, we too, should be concerned. We might say: “Who am I to say anything?”  “I’m not living such a good Christian life either!” STOP right there!  If that is your attitude toward your Brothers and Sisters than you too need a kick in the pants.  We are community.
If in your neighborhood, you start seeing a man stockpiling guns and bombs, shouldn’t that concern you?  If you see your neighbor’s daughter start to hang around drug users and gangsters, should you not be concerned?  No? Not your business?  When will it be your business?  When they start shooting at you? We can pray—certainly—and we can act.  Remember James’ exhortation.  You could save that person from Hell fire.
Jude is strongly exhorting his readers and US to be steadfast in the faith. Perseverance 忍耐力. Romans 5:1-5 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. To be lax in this walk of Faith is not a license for immorality 不道徳のためにある許しではない .  At this point of the letter, Jude begins to point to times in their history—and times in our own history—where all sorts of evil takes place.
Some struggles are good for us.  When I hear some say that they hope their children don’t have to experience the hardships they went through—I really don’t agree.  Those hardships and struggles made us who we are today.  A person can be disadvantaged in many ways, and one way may be NOT having had to struggle. 
Jude looks to the History of God’s People 歴史:彼の人々.  Israel had been chosen as God’s Special People.  No other nation on earth had that calling.  And yet, along the way of Faith, God’s love and commands were continually tested and avoided.  The mighty works and miracles during their time in Egypt—were forgotten. 
Angels, who were to hold positions of honor in the Heavenly realms, left their positions of authority 天使:御座の左の位置 to follow the Prince of Demons, Satan himself.  Those angels were sent to the place reserved for Satan in the end times. We now know from Scriptures, that place will also be where Man would be sent—separated from God for all of eternity. It is not a small thing to grow spiritually dull.  Even Angels—who, for eternity, knew God, even they turned away from His blessings.  Jude says: BE CAREFUL!  Be aware!
The third illustration is that of Sodom and Gomorrah ソドムとゴモラ:腐った人々のグループ.  The Bible tells us of the evil lives there but the real reason for their downfall was not JUST their outward sexual misconduct but that they were cold in heart to people in need.  They gave themselves over to sexual immorality and perversion BECAUSE they lost their moral compass.  They put self-interest before anything else.  What will make me feel good?  How do I please myself? Forget about others, how can I succeed?  It doesn’t matter what I do, or what I believe, as long as I don’t hurt anyone.  A false belief that will bring disaster as in Sodom & Gomorrah.
Be sharp! Don’t be deceived. Self-deception has almost become an art form today.  I heard of a schoolteacher who lost her life savings in a business scheme that had been elaborately explained by a swindler. When her investment disappeared and her dream was shattered, she went to the Better Business Bureau. "Why on earth didn't you come to us first?" the official asked. "Didn't you know about the Better Business Bureau?" "Oh, yes," said the lady sadly. "I've always known about you. But I didn't come because I was afraid you'd tell me not to do it." The folly of human nature is that even though we know where the answers lie--God's Word—The Authority, we don't turn there for fear of what it will say.  (~Jerry Lambert).
We will need to end the study here.  Next week: the Way, the Truth and the Life来週: 道であり、真理であり、生命である.  In closing: The Greeks had a race in their Olympic games that was unique.  The winner was not the runner who finished first.  It was the runner who finished WITH his torch still lit.  I want to run all the way with the flame of my torch still lit for Him.  You, too?
J. Stowell, Fan The Flame, Moody, 1986, p. 32. 
To Him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you before His glorious presence without fault and with great joy— to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore!  Amen.