For certain individuals whose condemnation was written aboutlong 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 4 (NIV).
The only real liberty in this world is found through faith in Jesus Christ. Sorry to my secular friends, but that’s just how it is. Only by freeing us from the spiritual penalties of our sinful actions can we be free – truly liber – to do as we please. Having faith in Christ then teaches us that, to do as we please, means doing things in ways that please Christ. It’s not to gain His favor or earn attaboy’s: it’s to serve Him by serving others. We do that by living our lives, using the talents and opportunities He gives us.
Yet freedom isn’t free; liber isn’t libertine. Salvation from Christ isn’t a ‘get out of jail free card’ for us to go on wallowing in sin. And wallowing in sin can mean either continuing to commit those sins or also not letting Christ take them over for us. To do so is to say of our faith, “I know better.” That’s idolatry. It’s the start of a slippery slope that ends at denouncing faith. Christ has promised that there is nothing in heaven or earth that can take us away from Him…but we’re free to denounce Him. Just like He’s free to turn us over to the consequences of our choices. That’s a fate too terrible to contemplate.
But it’s the fate Jude was talking about when he mentioned that people in the world have already condemned themselves long ago. In Jude’s time, it was the rise of the Gnostics, who twisted the true faith into things it never said. And it included the Judaizers, who insisted on polluting The Way with Judaic regulations and practices; doing things that took away from the complete salvation given only by Christ.
We aren’t so different, you know. We find ways to burden each other, especially in matters of faith. Control, strict doctrine, church discipline: there are good and useful purposes for these manmade practices but, in the hands of unloving practitioners, they abuse the free grace given by Jesus. You must do it our way; baptism only by immersion; true communion can only be close communion; grape juice instead of wine: the list could go on and on. If you don’t know the things of which I’m speaking, consider yourself blessed.
The people who would maliciously wield good knowledge and practices to serve their own desires were the kind of people Jude was warning us about. They would take the freedom of living in Christ and twist it into chains with which to weigh down unsuspecting believers. They’re still alive today.
For further reading: Galatians 2:4, Titus 1:16, 1 John 2:20, Jude 5
Lord Jesus, help me to be on the lookout for anyone who would change Your Word into something else
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