Lesson #13: To win a battle you first need to identify your adversary.
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. Jude 1:4
About 10 years after I started at my first professional job out of college, I decided I needed a new experience. So, I accepted a job at one of our vendors. I was worried that I wasn’t as experienced as the other professional staff because I had only worked at one job. But almost instantly I was able to identify the warring factions.
You see, the fire I went through starting a new public relations and marketing department at the age of 21 prepared me in more ways than I had realized. While others at my new company struggled with office politics I already knew how to work around the “up, in your face, dragon lady” and the “she speaks sweetly to your face and then stabs you in the back.” These two women were powerful forces who worked solely for their benefit and at the expense of others. Had I not quickly assessed the situation I would’ve been tossed about in turmoil like the rest of the staff.
They are wild waves of the sea, foaming up their shame; wandering stars, for whom blackest darkness has been reserved forever. Jude 1:13
A number of the letters written by Jesus’ disciples include warnings to churches about the enemies within their midst. It’s appropriate that our next mini-letter, written by our LORD’s half-brother Jude, is a call to arms against the infiltrators. Why? Because it also is the last book before Revelation. It’s almost a final warning to secure the gates, gather the brethren, and stand strong against the enemy before Christ comes.
These people are blemishes at your love feasts, eating with you without the slightest qualm—shepherds who feed only themselves. They are clouds without rain, blown along by the wind; autumn trees, without fruit and uprooted—twice dead. Jude 1:12
So how, as Christians, are we to discern who the “blemishes” are in our churches and protect our hearts and minds from them?
Let’s first state that every false teacher, every apostate comes from Satan. He is the enemy. As the Great Liar, Satan has plenty of fodder to create chaos in our midst. When our motivations stem from fame or popularity, greed, lust, and more, Satan is quite happy to make us like yeast — using us to spread his lies about God and Jesus.
I am currently looking for a new church. But I’m going about it much differently than in the past. For the first time I’ll be able to truly evaluate whether the teachings of a church are biblically based. It’s amazing how what God has led us through in our lives always serves to prepare us for the next trial. I could never had known that starting a small Bible study over a year ago would be one of my greatest weapons against falling prey to apostasy.
apostasy [ uh–pos-tuh-see ]
a total desertion of or departure from one’s religion, principles, party, cause, etc.
When I first started going to church, we selected the church of my husband’s family. I trusted my in-laws’ choice and therefore felt comfortable with attending the same denomination. As for the theological ins-and-outs, I really didn’t understand them or care to know much about the details.
And there lies the dangers. Satan loves when we are ignorant about God. Sometimes we take more effort dissecting the ingredients in our cereal than what is taught to us from a pulpit. We think, “Hey, they’ve got training and approval from someone higher up so they must know what they’re talking about.” And for the most part that’s probably true. But there’s plenty of churches that have few ties to standard, accepted, religious teaching. There are also all the authors, TV and radio preachers, podcasters, Instagrammers, and yes, bloggers.
Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. 1 John: 4:1
My younger daughter was mentoring a new, young member of her church. This young woman was distraught and thought she had failed God. Why? Because she couldn’t speak in tongues. Her church, in which she had grown up, taught that every single person who truly is a follower of Jesus speaks in tongues. In one short conversation based on scripture this woman’s life was changed. Because of the truth of the Bible.
My parents are in their 80s. I find that when they speak to their doctor, they treat what he says with almost reverence. They don’t question a word any doctor says. I keep telling them that doctors are just people. They also don’t always have the best bedside manner. So, questions go unanswered. And fears and missteps with their health abound.
The same is true with faith leaders, be they pastors, priests, elders, deacons, Bible study leaders, famous authors, or church committee members. They are all people. Yes, they may have at some point received a calling but they are still people. And people sin. Some get greedy. Some lie to protect themselves. They all make mistakes. It’s our responsibility as Christians to know the Word of God enough to question if something doesn’t sound right.
The short letter of Jude has an emphasis on sexual immorality and its promoters who have burrowed into our Christian lives. How many of us are willing to say to our pastor search committee that our applicants must not be living with someone outside marriage or can’t be homosexual? In fact, our major denominations have decided neither of those is a “big deal.” And I ask, is that biblically based?
If we want to escape the (Christian) struggle we have but to draw back and accept the currently accepted low-keyed Christian life as the normal one. That is all Satan wants. That will ground our power, stunt our growth and render us harmless to the kingdom of darkness.A.W. Tozer
The struggle, the battle, the enemy. The Christian life is not a playground. Yes, we have peace in the fact that Jesus, God and the Holy Spirit have our backs. They direct us and empower us. But to truly live a complete Christian life is to face the enemy. We are to be always on watch for those that would twist the Word of God.
It sounds harsh to say but according to the renowned Bible commentator Warren Wiersbe an apostate is not a true believer who has abandoned his salvation. Instead, it is a person who said they accepted the truth but then turned away from the truth.
These are the people who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit. Jude 1:19
As Christians we want to live by Jesus’ admonishment to love one another, especially our brethren. But at the same time, he called out the “den of vipers.” Jesus has never asked us to forgo the truth in the spirit of getting along. Our first steps are to be honest as to who our adversaries are and to acknowledge that Satan is always at work creating chaos. Only then can we pray for direction and preparation for any battles that may ensue.