Lessons in the Book of Jude
by Bob Burridge ©2013, 2016
Lesson 5: A Reminder to the Godly Jude 17-19
It’s easy to forget things.
As we get older we get particularly good at it. But forgetting is not as bad as it seems. It can be a helpful tool in certain situations. It’s not as important to remember a lot, as it is to remember what’s important.
There are some principles to consider with the problem of memory and the process of forgetting.
First: there is the crowded closet principle. When closets get jammed full of things, those items near the bottom of the stacks, or stored long ago behind the new things, become hard to get at. As we grow older and learn more our minds also fill up with a lot more to retrieve than when we were younger or just beginning to learn about something new to us. There is a lot more to sort through. The older information is probably still in there somewhere, but like a closet stuffed with so many things, you can’t find what you need as quickly as you want. You might even forget that it’s there.
Second: there is the family budget principle. We only have so much money to spend or we run out. Sometimes families may have to stop eating out for a while, or make the clothes last a little longer before replacing them. You cannot buy everything. There are limits based upon your resources.
When it comes to remembering you can’t remember everything equally as well all the time. We seem to be able to build and maintain only a limited number of useful pathways leading to the things we store in our memories. The ones we have need to be managed very wisely. There is no need to remember a 7th grade school locker number and combination 30 years later. But it was very important when you were in 7th grade and in a hurry to get things on the way to class. You probably have no need to remember all the gifts you received on your 3rd birthday and who gave them. If we try to equally remember every phone number we ever call, the lyrics to every song we hear, every place we have ever set something down to pick it up again later, we would over tax our brains very quickly. We have to forget some things.
Like the family budget you have to prioritize. You don’t spend hundreds of dollars a month renting movies for the family while you lose the house because you couldn’t make the mortgage payment. Since you can only handle so many paths to the things stored in your memory, it’s not wise to work on memorizing useless trivia and waste the paths to things you really need to remember. We need to forget somethings we don’t use often so we can keep track of what we need to find easily. We need to keep using information or it gets lost, the pathways that lead to it are directed to the things that actually occupy our thinking. The more a piece of information is accessed and put to good use, the stronger the paths will be that lead you back to it in your mind.
To make it more complicated things are changing faster all the time. For the major part of human history life was relatively very simple. To say something to someone you went to them or sent a messenger to them. To watch a play you went to a theater where actors performed on a stage. To look up information you went to an encyclopedia set on your book shelf.
That’s all changed now. We have seen the invention of the post office, then the telephone, all within decades of one another. Today, not long after those inventions, we dash off e-mail from our smart phones, send text messages, and use a constantly growing population of social-media applications. We can even send pictures and videos to people anywhere in the world from wherever we happen to be. Our computers and mobile media devices can search for information instantly at millions of web-sites. There is a lot more to know than just how to go next door and ring the doorbell. It’s even more complex because every few weeks upgrades are sent out that sometimes change the new way you just learned to do things. Then new products require you to eventually get rid of the old television, computer, or cell phone. The older things are no longer supported so it’s “keep up or get left out”. The cascade of new and changing things demands a lot of memory space.
Sometimes we would rather not remember unpleasant or challenging things. We are too willing to forget them, and use those brain connections for more positive memories. While we should not just keep our focus upon the negatives, we dare not let down our guard and forget about them. That’s what evil people want. An unsuspecting victim is an easier target to lure into danger.
The infiltrators who come into the church take advantage of this weakness. They distract us, get our minds busy with other things. They want us to forget that we are lost sinners in need of the grace of a Sovereign God. They would rather turn humble worship centered on God’s word into a time of entertainment centered on our own feelings.
In our last study of Jude, we saw that knowing our spiritual enemy is crucial. The spiritual war continues all the way to the final Judgment Day. The “exit strategy” has been worked out. The end will not come until our Lord’s return. Meanwhile, we need to recognize deceivers so we are not easily taken in by them. We need to warn others about them, and we need to present the truths that directly counter their attacks. Knowing them also helps us appreciate our advantage as covenant children of God. So Jude gave us a profile of these dangerous people in verses 12 to 16.
Next, Jude offers a reminder to the church:
Jude 17, “But you, beloved, remember the words which were spoken before by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ:”
We should never forget the warnings our Lord’s own Apostles have given to us.
These are things we absolutely need to remember. We need to work on it, to keep the pathways to these memories strong and active. Do not become so focused on dealing with the many little things, that you neglect the important ones. As Paul taught Timothy, the best way to deal with error, is to know God’s truth. Once warnings are given, time often wears us down. We forget, and let down our guard. We need to keep this warning in mind. Know the enemy well, remember God’s truths, and don’t walk into a trap.
Peter wrote a similar warning in 2 Peter 3:1-4, “Beloved, I now write to you this second epistle (in both of which I stir up your pure minds by way of reminder), that you may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us, the apostles of the Lord and Savior, knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, and saying, ‘;Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.’ ”
Jude wants the Christians to think back so they don’t forget God’s teachings.
These dangerous people are here in this last era of redemptive history.
Jude 18-19, “how they told you that there would be mockers in the last time who would walk according to their own ungodly lusts. These are sensual persons, who cause divisions, not having the Spirit.”
It does not fit the context to put this into the end times when Jesus Christ returns in final judgment. The expressions “the last time” or “the last days” were used by the prophets and New Testament writers to mean the last period of God’s unfolding plan, the time of the New Testament church.
The Apostle Peter tells us that the prophesy of Joel applied to what was taking place right then on the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2:16-17, “But this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: ‘And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, That I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh; Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, Your young men shall see visions, Your old men shall dream dreams.’ ”
The same expression is used in the first two verses of the Book of Hebrews, “God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds;”
Here Jude applies it directly to his readers. All who have lived since the birth of Christ, including us today, live in the last time.
During that time there will be those who are mockers. They have no respect for authority appointed by God or for the ways of God himself. They belittle those who disagree with them, or who get in the way of what they want to accomplish. Showing a lack of respect for others is a repeated theme in Jude.
They follow after their own ungodly lusts. Jude uses this word “ungodly” many times in this short letter to describe these infiltrators. They try to satisfy their natural desires in ways contrary to what God prescribes. They prefer to live like animals giving in to whatever urges they have.
They cause divisions. That’s their contribution to the church. They confuse and divide the people over issues where they should be united. Because of their mockeries and disrespect they undermine the leaders God has called to be in charge. They imply that their leaders are less enlightened, less spiritual than they are. Those who follow them are filled with egotistical and unfounded pride.
They are sensual persons devoid of the Holy Spirit. The word translated as “sensual” here (or as “worldly” in some translations) is hard to bring directly into English. It’s the Greek word “psuchikos” (ψυχικός) which comes from “psuchae” (ψυχή) from which we get the words “psyche”, and “psychological”. It refers to that part of the human spirit that houses our feelings and passions. These intruders are governed by what they feel and want, rather than by God’s word. Their values and goals are informed by those of the fallen world. They devalue the priorities God gives in his word. There is pretended spirituality, but no real spiritual discernment. Paul wrote of this in 1 Corinthians 2:14, “But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”
Their spirit is empty. They brag about how spiritual they are, and how unspiritual everyone else is. In reality the Holy Spirit is not active in their twice dead hearts. Their spirit is out of control, enslaved by sin, without the Holy Spirit to direct them.
This adds to Jude’s profile of the ungodly who might creep in among us. We need to recognize them, see the dangers they pose and remember their fate. God will surely judge them as he did in the days of Noah, and in so many other situations all through history.
As informed believers we need to make sure we are not deceived and that we do not join in with them. We need to counter their efforts by effectively promoting the truths they deny or mock. We need to do all we can as sincere members of Christ’s church to help others to find the right and healthy way, avoiding the deceivers.
The central matter is remembering what we have been
told by God himself in his word.
That is how we learn the truth and come to know God’s priorities. Repeat the promises and warnings often. Sing songs of them, and pass them on to your children. Make strong the pathways to God’s word in your mind. Remembering God’s truth will neutralize the danger of these infiltrators of the church. The better we know what is right and true, the better we recognize lies and wrong priorities.
A good working knowledge of what God has made known is the best immunization for ourselves and our families against the diseases these false teachers spread among us. We should be more concerned about spiritual plagues than we are about our physical health and safety.
Psalm 119:11 reminds us to remember, “Your word I have hidden in my heart, That I might not sin against You.”
(Bible quotations are from the New King James Version of the Bible unless otherwise noted.)