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Jude is a one-chapter book that deals with a church full of apostasy.  Jude, the half-brother of Jesus who did not even believe until after the resurrection, focuses on what exactly the enemies to a healthy body of Christ look and act like, who true believers are, and what true believers ought to do when faced with false teachers and enemies of the faith.  John MacArthur informs us that, “Jude lived at a time when Christianity was under severe political attack from Rome and aggressive spiritual infiltration from Gnostic-like false teachers who sowed abundant seed for a gigantic harvest of doctrinal error…Christianity was thought to be extremely vulnerable.  Thus, Judge called the church to fight, in the midst of intense spiritual warfare, for the truth.”

Fight, indeed, brothers and sisters.  That is our biblical charge from Jude in our modern day which so mirrors theirs.  Read and reread MacArthur’s words.  We are they.  They were us.  Make no mistake, we live in an era where the church is chock-full and overflowing with false teaching, false teachers, error, and vulnerability.  Apostasy is the “abandonment of true, biblical faith.”  If ever there was a time where this were ubiquitous, it is now.

Whose job is it to combat such things?  If teachers are false, who will be true?  Like Jude, we – you and me, not somebody in charge somewhere – must commit ourselves to fighting the good fight through the condemnation of apostates and urging our brothers and sisters to contend for the faith, faithfully.

Jude spends a great deal of time in his very concise book describing what apostates look like.  He does this for a very specific reason.  He’s not just talking about the bad guys of his day and hoping someone feels bad for him.  Jude is giving us intricate details about who and what to look for in our churches and communities so that we might rise up and fight whenever we see these kinds of people and things taking hold and harming or potentially harming our brothers and sisters.

Jude writes his book to, “those who are called, beloved in God the Father and kept for Christ Jesus.”  Jude is clearly writing this charge along with his detailed descriptions and instructions to believers.  His first order of business is a charge to “contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.”  Once for all – no one else can come along and deliver new details in addition to the gospel.  No one can change the details of how to obtain salvation, who it’s for, or another gospel of any kind.  The Word of God is fixed and unchanging.  It does not “progress” or evolve nor does it need to.

Contend.  Jude commands believers to contend.  Contend against what?  Against who?  Here’s what they look like:

These people creep in, he says.  They sneak into our fellowship under the radar.  He describes them as, “designated for condemnation.”  They have actually been marked out for ultimate destruction, Jude remarks.

He describes them as ungodly perverters of grace who deny Christ.  In other words, they neither live in a way that honors God in their personal lives, nor do they apply and extend grace appropriately.  They either deny grace to those God has given it or they cheapen grace by changing it into a sensual lust and licence for themselves and those around them to act immorally on a false presumption that God will have mercy apart from repentance.

Jude takes some time to remind us, before he goes on about these ones, that though Christ (Christ!) saved his people out of Egypt, he did not spare the majority of even those whom he had just delivered when they disobeyed and displayed their unbelief in the desert that followed their deliverance.   He goes on to talk about the angels who lived in heaven long ago and rebelled against God.  Even they were not spared, rather, punished severely for all eternity due to their disobedience.  He talks about Sodom and Gomorrah and how their sexual deviance and gross immorality brought God’s swift judgement and sent them to eternal fire.  Why does Jude go to all of these examples?

Jude is warning those who are sneaking around the church living in these ways that these are the kinds of judgments God will bring if they do not repent.  If his own people and his own angels were not spared, how much less then, will we be spared if we presume upon his grace, live in sin, and lead others astray?!

In verse 8 Jude says, “Yet in like manner these people also…”  In like manner; likewise; in the same way —– you who are doing these things in today’s world.  Jude is calling them out, identifying the people in his day with these who were judged and punished in the history of God’s world.  He describes them further as relying on their dreams, defiling the flesh, rejecting authority, and blaspheming the glorious ones.  He shows them up by giving an example of how Michael – the very highest angel – did not even dare to speak arrogantly to Satan, but left all judgement to the Lord.

So these are people who are often sexually immoral and/or homosexual, rejecting the authority of Christ and the Scriptures, and presumptuous about having their own authority in the spiritual realm.  They use a false narrative about their own dreams to manipulate and persuade others to believe and follow their heresies and accept their misconduct.

Jude calls them blasphemers twice.  They blaspheme, or speak sacrilegiously and disrespectfully about the true things of God and God himself.  These people speak foolishly of all they do not understand.  He says they are destroyed by what they do understand.  The reason is because they have no excuse to disobey what their own instincts tell them is right and wrong.  When they do, they destroy themselves and any chance of salvation.  They rebel against the very knowledge inside themselves that is meant to draw them to Christ.

Jude breaks for a moment to cry out, “Woe to them!”  Woe, indeed.  He brings up Cain, Balaam, and Korah.  These are more Old Testament personalities that both the Jews and the Christians would have known well.

Cain, the jealous, insecure murderer.  People like Cain will step on and stamp out anyone who acts more faithfully or does God’s work in a more holy way than they do.  We all know church leaders like this, don’t we?

Balaam, the greedy seeker of ill-gotten gain who leads others into sin and has to be rebuked by a donkey.  These are those who use the gospel for money and teach others to do the same.  A deceiver who cares only for personal gain.  We all know church leaders like this, don’t we?

Korah, the leader of rebellion who rebelled against the God-appointed men of his time, Moses and Aaron.  False teachers rebel against the authority of the truth and anyone who would hold them accountable to it.  We all know church leaders like this, don’t we?

Jude goes on to call these men hidden reefs, shepherds feeding themselves, water-less clouds, fruitless trees, twice dead, uprooted, wild waves, and wandering stars for whom darkness awaits.  Here we have another warning.  If you act in these ways within God’s church and among God’s people, let’s be clear, darkness awaits you.  What do all these allusions mean?

Hidden reefs is meant to convey the sneaky, hiding men who lie in wait to cause destruction.  Hidden reefs are underwater rocks dangerous to ships traveling through.  When hit unawares by the boat, they harm and destroy from a covert place.  They feed themselves through self-interest and greed.  They produce no water or fruit where they promise and pose to do so.  They are not only dead in sin, they are dead to the promise  salvation by their own corruption of it.  They are wild, rogue, and wandering.  They have no solid foundation from which to lead anyone including themselves.  In short, these false teachers are complete hypocrites.  They spring up and burn out in their useless ambitions.

Jude brings up Enoch and again warns of the judgement to come on evildoers such as these.  He mentions their being “ungodly” four times in a row.  He puts great emphasis on the severity of these men’s sin.

Jude is still not done!  He indicts the apostates as grumblers, malcontents, sinful, loud boasters who are guilty of partiality, favoritism, and gross self-interest.  They are ungodly scoffers who cause division and are void of the Spirit.  These guys complain, brag, exclude, and self-love on the daily.  They mock, laugh, and taunt true believers, incite disagreements, and they have no communion with the Spirit of God.

Jude does not mince words.  He tells us exactly what to look for.  Can you even imagine a church leader today going down this list and calling out apostates?  They’d be locked up for hate speech!  Sadly, it is more needed today than it even was then I imagine.  Nevertheless, this is who they are.  This is what to look for.  These are the kind of men you warn, and warn again.  These are those we must not submit to or ignore in any way.  Remember, they are leaders and false teachers within the church.  These are not some guys somewhere teaching a cult-group in a cave.  These are men and women in the church who must be fought against and rebuked publicly!!!  That’s Jude’s charge to all believers in the face of apostasy.

Finally, that is who they are.  But Jude has something else for us.  He tells us who we are.  Three times in the text he calls us, “beloved.”  True believers are loved immensely by Christ.  We are God’s beloved people and, though we must fight evil, we able to trust in Him.

Jude commands believers to build themselves up in faith, pray in the Holy Spirit, stay in God’s love, wait for the mercy of Christ, and trust Him.  He tells us one other thing we must do in the midst of apostasy.  We must have mercy for those who doubt.  We must work tirelessly to save others and snatch them out of the fires of sin and judgement.  In addition to contending against false teachers, we must pick up the pieces of those who would follow them and truly be our brother’s keeper.

Jude’s entire thrust is that we would be the vigilant sailors on the ship continually proclaiming, “Not on my watch.”  Not on my watch will apostates and false teachers succeed and thrive within God’s church.  Not on my watch will sinners be damned by following them.  Not on my watch will the apostates go un-warned or un-rebuked.  Not on my watch!  I have been commanded to contend for the gospel and fight with all my being.  Go and do likewise.

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plot

Esther chapter 9 gives us a great satisfaction with the kind of justice God will eventually bring to all of his own people.  Sometimes, he even allows us to experience the victory of justice here on earth.

The very day that had been marked out by the murderous Haman’s decree for the Jews to be annihilated became here the very day when God’s people were victorious against all their enemies.  Likewise, the day of our death is Satan’s final attempt to defeat and destroy us, but God has changed it into the day of our greatest blessing and victory – eternal life with Christ.

When the war broke out on this fateful day, fear fell on all the non-Jewish people.  God had sent a holy fear upon them when the second decree written by Esther and Mordecai was published.  Therefore, many would not oppose the Jews as the first decree had encouraged.  In fact, just the opposite happened.  These people actually joined and converted to Judaism!

Moreover, all the officials and rulers of all the provinces sided with the Jews, too.  They had fear of Mordecai over them.  They had doubtless heard of the man who would not bow to a man second only to the king out of his fear of God and was elevated to the position second only to the king!  That’s not a man you mess with when the king is your boss.

So the Jews fought (and won!) a fierce war against all those who sought their destruction despite the first decree.  In some sense, vengeance by humans seems antithetical to God’s order.  Matthew Henry testifies about it saying, “That which justifies them in the execution of so many is that they did it in their own just and necessary defense.  They stood for their lives, authorized to do so by the law of self-preservation, as well as the king’s decree.”

Mordecai and Esther, in honoring God at the peril of all worldly gain and even their very lives, saved themselves and the entire Jewish nation.  They are a prime example of how those who are willing to lose their lives for the sake of God’s glory, will save them.  Haman, on the other hand, is a prime example of how those who spend their entire lives trying to save themselves, end up losing their lives/hearts/souls/minds in the end.

I mean, what’s worse than dying on the gallows you built for the one who ordered your execution?  What’s worse than all your worldly possessions and even your position being given to the one you hate and were plotting to kill out of pride and jealousy?  I know!  It’s your children having to experience the very same fate you did.  Haman’s ten sons were hanged in public view for all to see their shame.  Haman lost his life, his dignity, and his whole family in his dubious efforts to save and worship himself.

Notice the nature of the Jews in how they refuse to loot and plunder those they overcame – those who sought to kill, steal, and destroy them.  They do not take any spoils of the war.  They kill only armed men while allowing their women and children to remain alive.  The Jews displayed God’s mercy and their own mission as being solely self-protective rather than the vicious, malicious, or idolatrous ways their enemies were toward them and their destruction.

In other words, the Jews killed in self-defense alone.  Those attacking them attacked murderously and for personal gain.  We ought to recognize the difference between self-defense and the mere attacking of another for personal gain in all conflicts between humans.  God always considers such things.

Lastly, when the last man fell and the war was over, Mordecai called a feast.  It was called “Pur” meaning “lots.”  By casting lots, Haman had decided what day the Jews would die.  But God had other plans.  By calling their festival “Pur” they were recognizing God’s absolute sovereignty over all human events.  The 13th day was a day of fasting, lamenting, and remembering the day they were to be destroyed.  The 14th and 15th day were to be days of feasting, praising God, and remembering his mercy for them.  Notice they did not celebrate the day of the victory over their enemies, but fasted and prayed on that day.

God can change destruction into victory…when we honor him.  God can call off enemies and instill holy fear in those who would attack and destroy his people…when we honor him. God can give us the favor of authorities…when we honor him.  God can give us victory over all who would come against us…when we honor him.  God can shame those who seek to shame us…when we honor him. God can create a plot twist any time he wants to in any situation…when we honor him. 

Never, never give up.  Honor him.  Keep honoring him.  Even in the face of great injustice, pain, and death, honor him.  The Lord exalts those who honor him.

“For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”  ~Luke 14:11

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jfk

Esther chapter 8 can be summed up in a word some never see this side of heaven: vindication.  Here, we have both Esther and Mordecai receiving back reward, honor, and retribution in return for their courage and selfless adherence to doing what was right.

In chapter 7, Haman was hanged on the gallows he had made for Mordecai.  Swift justice for his pride-induced deceit and plotting took his life away.  Now, the one he most hated was given his greatest possession and his ever-coveted position close to the king.

The king gave Esther and Mordecai charge over Haman’s house and his signet ring – the same ring used to sign the edict to kill the Jews was given to Mordecai the Jew.  With this ring, Mordecai and Esther were also given all authority to make any new laws they thought necessary to save their people.

Interestingly, Esther had already been given the signet ring when she came to the king begging for him to spare the lives of her people in Esther 8:3-6.  Notice how, despite the fact that she was the queen and already had been given the king’s signet ring with which to make irrevocable laws, she did not presume upon him or act upon her authority without first showing great deference and respect to her king.  In other words, Esther said a very humble and heartfelt, “please” before assuming any authority even when she had been given it.

Because Haman’s edict to destroy the Jews was also irrevocable, the edict Mordecai and Esther made was a call to fight.  Basically, it said that the Jews now had permission to fight back, plunder and take revenge by all means necessary if they were attacked by any person or army.

When the people heard this, they feared the Jews.  They recognized it as God’s mighty hand being with them and many even converted to Judaism out of fear.  Mordecai wore the royal robes and there was joy for all of God’s people because of he and Esther’s courageous work.  With fighting the good fight, courage, and personal sacrifice comes conversion and reward.

At first glance, vengeance doesn’t seem like the most godly plan…until we put this account in context.  When we recognize that fighting was not what anyone wanted, rather, that there was no other option to protect themselves, and that both God and the king had ordained this order to warn anyone who would attack them, we can appreciate the words found in Ecclesiastes: “…a time for war…” It just reminds me of that old Kenny Rogers song, “The Coward of the County.” “…I walk away from trouble when I can…but sometimes you gotta fight when you’re a man…”  

Courage.  Respect.  A call to fight.  These are things we would do well to practice today in the modern church and our culture alike.  We have an entire church full of people refusing to fight for their beliefs in the face of complete annihilation and extinction!  Make no mistake, true Christianity is under attack.  Christians ought to remember that there is a time for war just as sure as there is a time for peace.  Sometimes you gotta fight when you’re a Christian.

And, in return for selfless courage, deference, and respect to Him, the Lord will assuredly bring vindication – if not here then in heaven.

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“But what happens when a community can’t receive dissenting opinions?  At the very least, it won’t benefit from those with the gift of discernment, and because of the pressure to conform, those with the gift might be tempted to remain silent about the danger they see.  But in the silence, the community risks coming under the control of false, manipulative leaders while those who do have insight from God are ignored.”  ~Hannah Anderson,  All That’s Good

We live in a day where near everything must be filtered in order to be deemed consumable: water, pictures, speech, news, and, certainly, all teaching.  I personally have never had the ability to “listen” to anything from conversation to advice to sermons without a million bells and whistles faithfully, yet often frustratingly, going off inside instructing me, warning me, and disgusting me – sometimes all at the very same time.  It’s just how the Good Lord made me.

In her new book on discernment, Hannah Anderson describes the term as “the ability to sort between a host of options and pick what is good.”  She spends a great deal of time parsing out Philippians 4:8 and talking about how it relates to our modern-day influx of information, our difficulties and differences in relationship, and our personal filtering capabilities.  Hannah, who personifies Biblical truths using personal stories, gives her readers a better eye and a bigger heart in the area of conflict – be it in the world or in our own hearts.

The writer also makes some excellent arguments about isolationism vs. engagement culturally, relation-ally, and ecclesiastically.  She does not shy away from both the apparent dangers and obvious benefits in what 70’s musician Jim Croce termed a “wild world.”

In review,  All That’s Good was an honest and balanced breath of fresh air for those of us who have spent our lives feeling “plagued” by a gift that just keeps on giving despite its – often unfortunate – results.  In a culture who fails to critically think, openly dialogue, and who sees debate as an all-out war rather than a mutual growth opportunity, I don’t have to say that with discernment comes being misrepresented, maligned, misjudged, and, more oft than not, merely marked out for misery.

I would have liked to have heard more about God’s voice and the Spirit’s interactions with us on the working out of discernment, and, perhaps, more about how to remake what the author calls “an unhealthy community” who “discourages, mocks, and ruthlessly excludes those who ask uncomfortable questions.” Then again, I suppose that’s the purpose of you and I reading this book.  You and I are the answer.  You and I are the change.  You and I are called to speak when no one wants to say it.  You and I are called to press into the hard things God wants us to hear.  You and I are called to be the ones to befriend the hard-truth tellers.  You and I are called to listen intently, fairly, and openly to both sides of every story and be the answer to the chaos and camaraderie to which we are called in Christ Jesus.

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king

Entering Esther chapter 7, while Haman’s wife is still telling him he is going to lose (imagine that), the king’s men come to get him for the second feast Esther has prepared for he and the king.

The king again asks Esther’s request.  This time she reveals Haman’s dubious plot to kill the Jews.  She courageously asks for her life and the life of her people.  She even goes so far as to say they would accept being slaves if it meant honor and advantage to the king, but Haman’s plan was not slavery, rather, annihilation.

The king angrily asks who would plot and plan such a thing.  She points right at the man sitting across from the both of them: Haman.  Remember that no one knew until this very moment that Esther was Jewish.

The king is so irate that he takes a walk outside in his garden.  Haman was literally his  best friend.  He is likely considering how foolish he’d been to approve of something without considering the false allegations Haman had made against this entire people group.  Nevertheless, this guy has to choose between his best friend and justice for innocent people; His best friend and the truth; His best friend and his queen.  His idea of who his best friend was supposed to be and who Haman actually was.  It’s a difficult and traumatizing place to be.

Not only that, but this king has a temper.  Remember Queen Vashti?  He has zero tolerance for the usurping of his God-given authority.  He has some serious righteous anger when people close to him start to think they are in charge above him.

Meanwhile, Haman begs for his life from Queen Esther.  The king walks back in, confronts him on his improper etiquette, and further indicts and accuses him.  One of the king’s men tells the king of the gallows Haman had built for Mordecai, the man he just got done honoring for the sparing of his life.  That was the final blow.  The king said, “Hang him on that.” 

Esther and Mordecai’s courage saved them and their entire nation from sure destruction.

The pride of the self-interested, self-proclaimed kings inside someone else’s kingdom always cause themselves a great fall.

Who is king in your world?  Do you have citizenship in the kingdom of heaven where Christ is king or do you have your own kingdom where you pretend to be king in his stead?  Do you make your own rules and honor yourself or do you obey Him and live to honor him?  Pride and self-interest will destroy anyone it masters.  We serve a jealous king.  If he is ruling and reigning, we cannot.

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pride

The night before Esther’s second feast, the king suffered a bout of insomnia.  Instead of tossing and turning, he decided to have one of his servants read the chronicles of past events to him.

It just so happened that he heard once again of the good deed Mordecai the Jew had done for him in uncovering and informing an assassination plot against him.  He asked what had been done to honor Mordecai.  His servant told him nothing had been done to reward or honor this man so he sought immediately to make plans to do so.

The king could not wait to honor Mordecai for saving his life.  His best friend, Haman, could not wait to kill Mordecai.  When Haman comes into the palace in the early morning, his plan is to further slander and discredit Mordecai and basically ask for permission to kill him on the gallows he had made for that very purpose just the day before.  But before Haman can even speak, the king asks Haman what he thinks the best way to honor someone with whom he is pleased with would be.

Thinking, in his grandiose pride, that, of course, it must be he whom the king sought to most honor, Haman describes allowing the honoree to wear the king’s royal robes, ride the king’s horse, wear his crown, and be paraded through the city escorted by the nobility.

From Haman’s ideas of honor, we can easily see what he personally most desired.  Haman wanted public applause and awe.  He wanted recognition and accolades.  Mordecai, on the other hand, sought after only truth and justice.

One can only imagine this crooked killer’s sinking despair, disappointment, anger, and embarrassment when the king sent him to do all the things he most desired for himself for the one he hated most and was plotting to murder that very day – Mordecai the Jew.

Afterward, Mordecai returns to his dutiful place and Haman goes home to sulk and sob.  Even his own wife tells him he has been beaten and will surely fall.

Only God could have orchestrated this chain of events.  God kept the king awake at night.  Of all the tales written in the chronicles, God presented Mordecai’s deeds the night before Esther sought to expose the plot to kill him.  God humbled the most arrogant man by having the king call upon him to place all the honors on the one he sought to kill that day.  God exalted Mordecai for his obedience and humility.

Pride goeth before a fall.

All the people in our church and state today hating, plotting against, slandering, and falsely accusing the most honorable men and women of the world would do well to take note of Esther chapter 6.  The next chapter will be too late to repent.  When God orchestrates a chain of events, your indecent and murderous plans will come to utter ruin.  Your doom is surely coming soon.

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