Three vital things for every Christian to give himself to today

Text Jude 20, 21 Time 06 03 16 Place Childs Hill Baptist Church
I would like us to look tonight at two verses from the Book of Jude. Jude tells us that he was a servant of Jesus Christ and a brother of James that is to say then that he was one of the brothers or half brothers of Jesus. Mary was his mother and, unlike Jesus, he had Joseph as his father. While Jesus was on earth his brothers were unsympathetic to his message, even hostile to some extent, but after the resurrection they came to believe and James became prominent in the church in Jerusalem. Jude obviously also had an important role though less is known about him beyond this letter. He had the same name as Judas Iscariot but we tend to say Jude and Judas in order to distinguish.
Jude had originally hoped, it would seem, to write something like Paul's Letter to the Romans - I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, he says. However, he explains that he felt instead compelled to write and urge his readers to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to God's holy people. This was because of false teachers who had got into the churches or as Jude calls them certain men whose condemnation was written about long ago ... godless men, who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord.
The bulk of the letter is taken up with this subject. Then towards the end he has a number of more positive exhortations. These are like an antidote to the false teaching that even at this early stage was found everywhere. It is these that we want to look at this evening. They are in verses 20 and 21
But you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in God's love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life.
Typically we have mention of God the Father (God's love) our Lord Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. Also of faith (your most holy faith) and love (God's love) and hope is implied in the reference as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ.
In verse 2 Jude begins Mercy, peace and love be yours in abundance. Here he speaks at the end of God's love ... the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ and being brought to eternal life which is the highest form of peace. So I want to say five main things to you

1. Consider how Jude addresses us here
Jude begins his exhortation (20) But you, dear friends. Literally, beloved, dear ones. This is a favourite way for biblical writers to address their readers. The approach is a friendly and loving one, one marked by kindness and sympathy. This is why minsters and vicars traditionally address their congregations as 'dearly beloved'. That sounds a little old fashioned now – Dear friends sounds better. I don't use that phrase but I hope that is the way the exhortations come across – as friendly and loving recommendations.

2. See the need to give yourself to building yourself up in the faith
In contrast to what he has had to say about the false teachers, Jude wants to call on the believers he is writing to, to give themselves to three things in particular and I think these are very helpful things for us to have in mind. We can think of them as three separate though related things or one thing with two particular aspects to it.
Firstly, we should concentrate daily as believers on building ourselves up in the faith
building yourselves up in your most holy faith he says. It is an unusual phrase in some ways and there are several things to say about it.
1. First, you notice that Jude places responsibility on each person to do something. Faith is a gift, it is only God who can save a person. That is clear from elsewhere in the New Testament. However, each individual believer has a responsibility too, one that he must not neglect.
2. The responsibility concerns his faith. Here the word faith is being used in a quite an objective way. The word faith refers to the things that a Christian believes, the doctrines or teachings. We all have a responsibility as far as this faith is concerned.
3. He specifically calls this faith your most holy faith. This is a Jewish phrase. The true faith is something very special, very precious; something unique. It is holy because of its origin - it is from God, its character - because it reveals God and its results - because it is by this means that a person becomes holy.
4. Your – Don't miss that Word either. Although it is the same gospel that saves us all, we must make it our own. It must become my most holy faith. Is it yours?
5. The thing is to build yourself up in or on this most holy faith. If you think of the things believers hold to as a foundation – now says Jude everything must be built on this. Or if you think of the most holy faith being like a building, like a temple, then what Jude is calling for is a growing understanding of this faith, an increasingly mature grasp of it.
However we understand it, this is what we are being called to do and to live out. To be a Christian you must trust in the Lord Jesus Christ. That is essential. Having been converted, we must not stand still. There must be progress. There must be development. There must be growth in grace. We must go on from faith to faith, from one level of faith to another. From one level of understanding and experience to another.
Obviously, what we endeavour to do for ourselves, we must also seek to do for others. We must build one another up in the most holy faith. However, the stress here is on our own individual responsibility.
Are we doing that? Are we building ourselves up in our most holy faith? There needs to be growth. We need to work at developing and expanding our faith. The way to do that is through use of the ordinary means – Bible reading, meditation on the Word, coming to church, to communion, self-examination and, of course, prayer. That is the subject of the next exhortation. In fact the other two exhortations are really ways of building oneself up in the faith.
3. See the need to give yourself to prayer in the Holy Spirit
Jude goes on and praying in the Holy Spirit. We speak often enough on prayer – its importance, the need to be earnest, the advance of God's kingdom, and relying not on our own righteousness but on God's mercy. Here is an exhortation to prayer. There are many in the Bible. In particular Jude tells us to pray in the Holy Spirit. What does he mean by that? Is that a special sort of prayer? In fact, it is the only way of really praying at all if we want to pray in the right way. In Romans 8:26, 27 Paul says that the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's will. To pray in the Spirit is to pray relying on the Holy Spirit to guide us about what to pray and how to pray. It is, on one hand, looking to him for help as we pray and on the other being guided by what he has revealed in Scripture about what should form the content of our prayers. If we really want to pray then we need to know our Bibles and be filled with the Holy Spirit. One of the reasons that we are so poor at praying is that we lack the Spirit's power and we lack a knowledge of the Word he has given us. More of his work in our lives and the more praying there would be. A better knowledge of his Word and the better our praying might be too.
So again we ask do you pray? Do you pray in the Spirit? This is one way to build yourself up in your most holy faith and something that we should all be doing. Do give yourself to prayer.

4. See the need to give yourself to keeping yourself in the love of God
The third exhortation, again a little strange at first sight. 21 keep yourselves in God's love. When ever we read of God's love or “the love of God” as it is more literally we have to decide what love is in mind – ours to God or his to us. Here it is clearly his to us. Jude isn't merely saying simply keep loving God but the more complex Keep yourselves in God's love.
Once again there is a strong emphasis on human responsibility. Jude is not suggesting that we can lose the love of God as such but he is emphasising the importance of co-operating with God's love and not setting ourselves against the love he has put on us. We must be watchful, on guard and make sure we seek to remain in that sphere of influence. Obviously, building ourselves up in our most holy faith and giving ourselves to prayer in the Spirit will tend in that direction but there are no doubt other things we can do. There should be no resistance to God's love, certainly, but only a willingness to do everything to draw nearer and nearer to God and to his love.
Do you know the name William Chalmers Burns? He died today in 1668 in China where he was a faithful missionary. One writer reminds us that love is not to be a rare mood of the soul, but its sublime habit. In the Middle east there can be a striking difference in the appearance of the same tract of country at different seasons of the year. What at one time is a garden, glowing with brilliant hues, and rich with pasture, at another is an absolute waste, frightful and oppressive from its sterility. So is it too commonly with the soul, which at one time is like a watered garden glowing in the heavenly sunshine and then directly cold and desolate. It ought not so to be. God’s love to us is ever glowing, revealing itself in new and richer tokens, and our love to him should reflect the same constancy.
The brightest lamp will burn dim in an impure or rarefied atmosphere, but William Burns was enabled so to keep himself “in the love of God” that he was but little affected by his surroundings. Prayer was as natural to him as breathing, and the Word of God his God as necessary as daily food. He was always cheerful, always happy, witnessing to the truth of his own memorable words: “I think I can say, through grace, that God’s presence or absence alone distinguishes places to me.”
Are you in danger of wandering? Of wandering away from God's love? Don't make that mistake! See the danger. Rather, do all you can to keep yourself in God's love. The question is not how far can I go away from God and still be saved but how close can I come to one who loves me more than I can know?
 
5. What to keep in mind a you do these vital things
Finally, Jude adds this as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life. All this building yourself up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit and keeping yourself in God's love must be done in a waiting attitude – an attitude that waits for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring us to eternal life. Yes, the emphasis on human responsibility is undeniable. You must build yourself up, you must pray and you must keep yourself in God's love but all the while you have to wait on the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life not relying on anything else. This ought to be our attitude not only with prayer but with everything. When you become a Christian that is only the start. It isn't everything. A certain patient waiting is necessary then until we see the full mercy of Christ and so enjoy eternal life.
We hear a call to build ourselves up in our most holy faith and we feel we have made so little progress. We must begin again then and give ourselves to this building work. 
  • We hear a call to pray in the Spirit and we honestly wonder how much of our praying is of that sort. We see how little progress we have made and we look to God for mercy.
  • We hear a call to keep ourselves in God's love and again we see how often and how easily we have gone astray. We must look to God for mercy in Christ that we will not stray again.