Epistle of Jude: A Plead to Choose Life

…that there is a clear contrast between good (which leads to life) and evil (which leads to death). I know for me personally, sometimes my thoughts deceive me into thinking that sin is okay. The stronger the temptation, the stronger the lie.

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Most scholars believe that the author of this letter was the brother of James (who wrote the Book of James and was Jesus’ brother). Early church tradition dates Jude’s death around 62 AD (meaning the letter was probably written sometime before then), however there is also internal and external evidence to suggest that Jude probably wrote this toward the end of the century, somewhere between 70-80 AD.

Jude is most likely addressing Jewish believers since he makes obscure Old Testament references as well as allusions to books from the Apocrypha that would make more sense to the Jewish rather than the Gentile believers. False teachers were attacking these believers and hoping to lead them into a lifestyle of sin:

For certain intruders have stolen in among you, people who long ago were designated for this condemnation as ungodly, who pervert the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.

Jude 4

Jude makes the point to his readers that since the beginning of time those who lived a lifestyle of licentiousness (lust, excess, immorality, etc) always came under judgment. Therefore, no matter how enticing it was for them to listen to these false teachers (who might seem on the outside to have more fun), they needed to pay attention to the past. Since all sin is a vicious cycle (as it produces slavery), then what happened in history was proof that a lifestyle of sin today would eventually lead to an unhappy ending:

Now I desire to remind you, though you are fully informed, that the Lord, who once for all saved a people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe.

Jude 5

Likewise, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which, in the same manner as they, indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural lust, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire.

Jude 7

Jude then makes an interesting contrast between those who fear the Lord and those opposed to Him:

But when the archangel Michael contended with the devil and disputed about the body of Moses, he did not dare to bring a condemnation of slander against him, but said, “The Lord rebuke you!:

Jude 9

The angel of the Lord didn’t dare bring an accusation against the devil (recognizing accusation as sin), whereas Satan disregarded the Lord and attempted to abscond Moses’  body against God’s will. The angel feared the Lord; the devil did not.

As a side note, the above verse might be an allusion to the Assumption of Moses, a Jewish apocryphal pseudepigraphical work that’s not considered by most Christians to be Holy-Spirit inspired. There are, however, other possibilities to what this passage alludes to that you can read up on by clicking here.

Anyway, my point is that there is a clear contrast between good (which leads to life) and evil (which leads to death). I know for me personally, sometimes my thoughts deceive me into thinking that sin is okay. The stronger the temptation, the stronger the lie.

It’s not that God will condemn us if we do sin (there is nothing that Jesus isn’t willing to forgive), or that we should feel guilty, ashamed or discouraged in our daily struggles. But we must recognize that both a lifestyle of continual sin and short-term, circumstantial sin is not from God and is not a good idea in any circumstance. It’s what Jesus came to help us escape from, once and for all:

For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, that He might bring you to God, after being put to death in the fleshly realm but made alive in the spiritual realm.

My fellow Bible-lovers at Korean BBQ
My fellow Bible-lovers at Korean BBQ

1 Peter 3:18

The false teachers who were coming against the original reader were teaching otherwise, and it seemed like their ideas were infiltrating the Christians’ thoughts since Jude had to write this letter to them. They were to hate sin and remain separate from these teachers, for by doing so they would continue to have life:

And have mercy on some who are wavering; save others by snatching them out of the fire; and have mercy on still others with fear, hating even the tunic defiled by their bodies.

Jude 22,23

…“In the last time there will be scoffers, indulging their own ungodly lusts.”  It is these worldly people, devoid of the Spirit, who are causing divisions.  But you, beloved, build yourselves up on your most holy faith; pray in the Holy Spirit; keep yourselves in the love of God; look forward to the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life.

Jude 18-21

As long as we today set our minds to hate sin and desire to overcome, the Holy Spirit will then renew our minds, which is the only possible way to lose our desire for sin and instead follow God:

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Romans 12:2

This is why followers of Jesus are called victors and conquerors, because Jesus gives us the ability to overcome all sin:

Who will separate us from the love of Christ? No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.

Romans 8:35,37

…for whatever is born of God conquers the world. And this is the victory that conquers the world, our faith.

1 John 5:4

And if there is ever any confusion over what will bring life or death in a particular moment or decision, simply asking God will bring clarity:

But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth…

John 16:13

Again, the point of this blog entry isn’t to push people to be “better” or “stop sinning,” but rather to point out that temptation and sin is never from God, and that all sin, in the end, will lead to death:

Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death. Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren.

James 1:13-16 apple

And finally, because I love happy endings, the good news is that sin will eventually be done away with forever so that we never have to endure the struggle again!

…so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.

Hebrews 9:28

2 Peter: Taking Hold of Grace

Peter’s second epistle was probably written somewhere toward the end of his life (since Peter believes he is dying), which early tradition holds was around 64 AD:

…since I know that my death will come soon, as indeed our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me.

2 Peter 1:14

Peter warns the original reader of the coming false teachers that will attempt to slow them down in their walks with God.

Some of these false teachers taught the concept of libertinism, which was a popular belief in the apostolic age that early Christians fell victim to. Libertinism taught that since everything material and all things of the flesh were evil (while only the spiritual was good), then moral restraint against the desires of the flesh was unnecessary. Since the flesh was bad, why not just abuse it?

As a result of this belief, Christian adherents to this doctrine fell into immorality that would keep them from growing stronger in their relationship with God. It would be tempting for them to just follow the ways of the false teachers since it was more enticing than holiness. But this depraved lifestyle the original reader would be tempted to follow was just a form of slavery!:

…they speak bombastic nonsense, and with licentious desires of the flesh they entice people who have just escaped from those who live in error. They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption; for people are slaves to whatever masters them.

2 Peter 2:18,19

Peter stood up for the truth against the false teachers by arguing that the power of God was given to the original reader to overcome all immorality they were suffering from. They didn’t have to keep desiring their sin, but live in complete freedom:

Yes
Yes

His divine power has given us everything needed for life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 

2 Peter 1:3

Thus he has given us, through these things, his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may escape from the corruption that is in the world because of lust, and may become participants of the divine nature.

2 Peter 1:4

As followers of Jesus, Peter’s listeners were to take hold of the power given to them because it would be God’s power alone that would free them from their desire to sin. True life was freedom from the cycle of sin, and if the Christians took a hold of this grace, they would also take a hold of the life God wanted to bless them with:

For this very reason, you must make every effort to support your faith with goodness, and goodness with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with endurance, and endurance with godliness, and godliness with mutual affection, and mutual affection with love.
2 Peter 1:5-7

Therefore, brothers and sisters,be all the more eager to confirm your call and election, for if you do this, you will never stumble. For in this way, entry into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be richly provided for you.

2 Peter 1:10,11

God has given each one of us today the grace and power needed to change and be the people deep down we all want to be. We cannot do it without relying on and having faith in His grace. The Israelites under the Old Covenant were unable to be the holy nation God wanted them to be, and so we are also unable to walk out in His image unless we rely solely on His grace, which has now been given to us through Jesus!

This is why the age we live in is so exciting, because we have been gifted with the grace and knowledge of God like never before. This grace and spiritual knowledge of God will finally set us free from our own destructive ways and bring us the joy and life and freedom we have always wanted! This is the good news of the gospel!

May grace and peace be yours in abundance in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.

2 Peter 1:2

Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that was to be yours made careful search and inquiry…now been announced to you through those who brought you good news by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven—things into which angels long to look!

1 Peter 1:10,12

1 Peter: Eternity Brings Meaning to Life

Most conservative scholars agree that Jesus’ disciple Peter wrote both 1 and 2 Peter sometime between 62-67 AD, although the tradition holds that Peter died under Nero’s persecution in 64 AD in Rome. Although Peter addresses specifically the Jews in the Diaspora in the opening line, from the content of the letter it is clear that he also had a Gentile audience in mind.

1 Peter was another one of my favorite books of the New Testament to study because I walked away with this deep truth permeating my spirit that the eternal reality is the only thing that matters; it’s the only thing that lasts! My focus, therefore, shifted from focusing on what’s temporary here on earth to focusing on what actually has an eternal worth.

For example, many women, including myself at times, strive to meet the world’s standard for beauty, not realizing that this is actually completely meaningless and short-sighted, as the only beauty that will last is one that comes from within:

Do not adorn yourselves outwardly by braiding your hair, and by wearing gold ornaments or fine clothing; rather, let your adornment be the inner self with the lasting beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which

Overlooking Harper's Ferry, WV
Overlooking Harper’s Ferry, WV

is very precious in God’s sight.

1 Peter 3:3,4

This truth about lasting beauty is hard for us to accept because of the fear of man. We want to meet the world’s standard for beauty because of the fear that we will be rejected or less valuable if we don’t. Not that we shouldn’t take care of ourselves and neglect our physical appearance, but God’s standards are much different (and He won’t reject us even if we don’t live out eternal beauty here on earth).

Since God is the one who reigns forever, His perspective on beauty should give freedom to all who struggle with physical appearances. The only challenge is that we must believe in His eternal truth regarding beauty. Eventually, the truth will take root in our spirit where the immense pressure to conform to the world’s standard no longer phases us. Hallelujah.

Although the above verse stood out to me, the main point of Peter’s letter was to give his readers hope that there was eternal purpose for their suffering:

In this you rejoice, even if now for a little while you have had to suffer various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith—being more precious than gold that, though perishable, is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.

1 Peter 1:6,7

…rejoice insofar as you are sharing Christ’s sufferings, so that you may also be glad and shout for joy when his glory is revealed.

1 Peter 4:13

Peter points the original reader to the eternal hope they have in Christ to put all of their circumstances in the proper perspective:

Therefore prepare your minds for action;discipline yourselves; set all your hope on the grace that Jesus Christ will bring you when he is revealed.

1 Peter 1:13

Through him you have come to trust in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are set on God.

1 Peter 1:21

And when the chief shepherd appears, you will win the crown of glory that never fades away.

1 Peter 5:4

Peter’s letter showed me how important it was for me to live for the eternal only. Although I had the knowledge of eternity before, I had to study this letter and discover this truth on my own for it to have an impact on me. This revelation that the Holy Spirit gave me expanded my vision beyond this age, which Peter urges the reader to do:

Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh,arm yourselves also with the same intention (for whoever has suffered in the flesh has finished with sin), so as to live for the rest of your earthly life no longer by human desires but by the will of God.

1 Peter 4:1,2

And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, support, strengthen, and establish you.

1 Peter 5:10

I don’t want to base my decisions in life on whether or not I will experience pain. I want to do what’s right, in God’s sight, as this is the only thing has eternal meaning and value. And I know that doing the will of God might mean that I sacrifice many earthly comforts, whether it’s sleep, money, or some kind of pleasure. But having this eternal perspective makes it a joyful sacrifice (and honestly the only thing that makes logical sense since the world is passing away).

Living for eternity is the only way to live as it brings purpose to everything that we do, for if we lived for a world that is passing away anyway, what possible meaning could there be?

All flesh is like grass
    and all its glory like the flower of grass.

Along the Pacific Coast Highway
Along the Pacific Coast Highway

The grass withers,
    and the flower falls,
 but the word of the Lord endures forever.

1 Peter 1:24,25

Hebrews: There is Power in Belief

Even though He truly is the Most High, it is much easier for us to put our hope in things that are immediate and seen, such as our careers, our spouses, our families, friends, achievements, etc.

The author of Hebrews is generally unknown, although there are good arguments to suggest that it was Paul (but with strong evidence against this claim), Luke, or some have suggested Apollos or Barnabas. The basic message behind the letter was to convey the superiority of Jesus and the New Covenant to the Old Covenant.

The letter was probably written to a small group of Jewish believers in Rome (suggested by Hebrews 5:12) who at the time were tempted to to revert back to the old ways of worshiping God, perhaps because the Roman Empire protected Jewish religion but did not protect the Christians.

Graduation night!
Graduation night!

The author of this letter warns the Jewish reader that everything from their history, which they could see in the physical, was lesser than Jesus and pointed forward to Jesus, who ushered in a better covenant, a spiritual kingdom that they could not necessarily see. Therefore, it would have been a foolish decision to revert back to the ways under the Old Covenant.

For instance, the written law was a defining aspect of the Old Covenant that the Jews no longer needed to focus on. Jesus Himself, not the written law, was the only way to holiness since the law proved ineffective in making mankind holy:

There is, on the one hand, the abrogation of an earlier commandment because it was weak and ineffectual (for the law made nothing perfect); there is, on the other hand, the introduction of a better hope, through which we approach God.

Hebrews 7:18,19

The Jewish believers also had no need for human priests to make them clean before God. Jesus was the superior and last high priest they needed:

For it was fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, blameless, undefiled, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens. Unlike the other high priests, he has no need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for those of the people; this he did once for all when he offered himself.

Hebrews 7:26,27

Thus it was necessary for the sketches of the heavenly things to be purified with these rites, but the heavenly things themselves need better sacrifices than these. For Christ did not enter a sanctuary made by human hands, a mere copy of the true one, but he entered into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. Nor was it to offer himself again and again, as the high priest enters the Holy

A fellow Bible graduate and I
A fellow Bible graduate and me

Place year after year with blood that is not his own; for then he would have had to suffer again and again since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the age to remove sin by the sacrifice of himself.

Hebrews 9:23-26

The Jews’ temptation to revert back to the Old Covenant made me realize how tempting it is for people today to put our hope in everything but Jesus. Even though He truly is our greatest hope, it is much easier for us to put our hope in things that are immediate and seen, such as our careers, our spouses, our families, friends, achievements, etc. Perhaps for the Jewish believers at the time it was the law, the priesthood, and the temple.

Believing in Jesus and seeking Him in relationship each day requires faith because He is invisible yet alive. But having faith each day can be the most challenging aspect of our faith. How does one find life, hope, guidance, and all of our needs in an Invisible Being?

Although it can be hard to wait on God for our needs, faith is the only way to truly live:

…but my righteous one will live by faith. 

Hebrews 10:38

The author of Hebrews therefore pleads for the original reader to approach God in faith to see their needs fulfilled:

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Hebrews 4:15,16

…let us approach with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.

Hebrews 10:22

And without faith it is impossible to please God, for whoever would approach him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.

Hebrews 11:6

God rewards those who seek Him! It’s not about just believing in God for life after death, but believing God for all of our practical and spiritual needs today. For the original reader of the Book of Hebrews, they had to believe Jesus for everything they had previously trusted the old animal sacrifice system and priesthood for: holiness and relationship with their Creator. But now, they were to approach Jesus Himself.

Opposed to my faith is fear. Fear says to me, “What if He doesn’t come through? What if I can’t really trust Him for wisdom, for my finances, for contentment, etc.?”

But He always does, even if it’s not in the way and in the timing I expect.

For instance, whenever I have to prepare a presentation of some sort, sometimes I’m afraid He won’t give me wisdom and guidance in the timing that I need. I simply cannot control when God speaks to me or not. But God knows my presentation deadline and has always given me bouts of wisdom when I need it before the deadline. He’s never late. I can trust Him.

God has been teaching me over and over again that fear is not my friend. It lies to me. I shouldn’t partner with it by agreeing with it. So I no longer want to let fear stop me from boldly approaching God each day and moment for all of my needs, including my needs for intimacy and comfort in Him!

But we are not among those who shrink back and so are lost, but among those who have faith and so are saved.

Hebrews 10:39

2 Timothy: Keep Moving Forward No Matter What

Second Timothy is most likely the last letter Paul wrote and it is filled with emotion as he writes to his beloved “child” Timothy. I definitely cried a little reading Paul’s last letter having fallen in love with him from studying the rest of his letters.

He most likely wrote the letter in Rome while imprisoned under the emperor Nero’s persecution of the Christians from about 64-68 AD.

Like in his first letter to Timothy, Paul encourages him to remember the gift for teaching that was inside of him. Timothy had probably been facing many setbacks as people refused to listen to the truth. Can you imagine questioning the situation God has called you to when you see so little progress? But Paul encourages Timothy to continue:

For this reason I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands; for God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline.

2 Timothy 1:6,7

Timothy was not to look at his circumstances to determine whether or not he would move forward in his calling, but rather remember that the Holy Spirit was in him, and he was called by God, and continue on despite persecution:

Do not be ashamed, then, of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel, relying on the power of God.

2 Timothy 1:8

Guard the good treasure entrusted to you, with the help of the Holy Spirit living in us.

2 Timothy 1:14

No matter what, Timothy was to follow Paul’s example and dedicate his life to whatever he was called to, keeping the eternal perspective in mind:

Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, so that they may also obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory.

2 Timothy 2:10

As for me, I am already being poured out as a libation, and the time of my departure has come.

2 Timothy 4:6

This letter is so inspiring! If you ever need a reminder as to why you’re doing what you’re doing (assuming you’re in the will of God), then read 2 Timothy.

Going through all my work from the CSBS
Going through all my work from the CSBS

Even though we’re  not all apostles like Paul, God is still working for those called into business or into whatever other vocation He’s placed you in. There is value in everybody’s line of work, which makes it all the more important to persevere and rely fully on God when the circumstances look bleak.

Paul endured so much for the sake of his calling, which was to spread the gospel and make disciples. But at the end of his life, there seemed to be little hope for the gospel moving forward as certain faithful people had ditched him (not to mention the fact that Paul himself was in prison):

You are aware that all who are in Asia have turned away from me, including Phygelus and Hermogenes.

2 Timothy 1:15

Do your best to come to me soon, for Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica…

2 Timothy 4:9,10

But there is always hope. The truth is always released. God is never stopped. No matter what kind of blockage or setbacks you are experiencing in following God, He is always working for you and is always more powerful than countering forces. Perseverance is the key ingredient.

Consider William Wilberforce who pursued the abolition of slavery in England. The majority seemed to oppose him for decades despite his devotion to the cause. The situation seemed desperate and hopeless. And yet, because God was with him, the law banishing slavery was eventually passed, but this came one year after Wilberforce had died!

Paul never focused on his negative circumstances and wondered where God was.  He never looked at the fruit of his ministry and wondered what difference he was making. He knew that God was with him always.  He knew that as long as God called him to wherever he was, the truth was going forth.

Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead…that is my gospel, for which I suffer hardship, even to the point of being chained like a criminal. But the word of God is not chained.

2 Timothy 2:9,10

What persecutions I endured! Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them.

2 Timothy 3:11,12

At my first defense no one came to my support, but all deserted me. May it not be counted against them! But the Lord stood by me and gave me strength.

2 Timothy 4:16,17

Paul was an incredible man with a deeply established trust in God. This trust made him immovable. This kind of trust is the kind of trust that keeps us moving forward with God, not looking at the circumstances, but instead looking at God and looking forward to what’s head for those who persevere:

You then, my child, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.

2 Timothy 2:1

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. From now on there is reserved for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have longed for his appearing.

2 Timothy 4:7,8

Titus: the High Call of a Leader

Cretans are always liars, vicious brutes, lazy gluttons.

Titus 3:12

Paul took this quote from Epimenides (a Greek philosopher and poet) of Knossos, an ancient city on the island of Crete said to be Europe’s oldest city. His intention was to call out the Cretan church, the church Titus was serving, to show them that they weren’t living according to the way God willed for them:

That testimony is true. For this reason rebuke them sharply, so that they may become sound in the faith…

Titus 1:13

So although the believers in Crete had accepted Jesus, they were still immature in their faith:

There are also many rebellious people, idle talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision; they must be silenced…

Titus 1:10,11

They were slanderers and addicted to wine:

… tell the older women to be reverent in behavior, not to be slanderers or slaves to drink…

Titus 3:3

They weren’t living self-controlled lives (i.e., they weren’t showing the fruit of the Holy Spirit):

 Likewise, urge the younger men to be self-controlled.

Titus 2:6

And they had found themselves getting involved in pointless debates:

But avoid stupid controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless.

Titus 3:9

So Paul urges Titus to appoint leaders over the church who would set a good example. The leader was to be godly in every way, because without this example, the believers would continue in their sin:

For a bishop, as God’s steward, must be blameless; he must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or addicted to wine or violent or greedy for gain; but he must be hospitable, a lover of goodness, prudent, upright, devout, and self-controlled. He must have a firm grasp of the word that is trustworthy in accordance with the teaching, so that he may be able both to preach with sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict it.

Titus 1:7-9

This list for what Paul deems a godly leader is convicting. The leader needed to have proven godly character and a proven godly life with a strong knowledge of the truth. Otherwise, the believers in Crete, who were struggling in the same area of their faith where they should have already matured, were without help from anyone in their midst.

Though it was their own personal responsibility to follow God’s will, their leaders’ job was to help them overcome their worldly passions. They needed someone to model the godly life for them, to stand out above the crowd, to show that it was both possible and in God’s will for them to walk in holiness.

This just shows me how important it is for all godly leaders today to let God examine their whole lives, leaving not one area untouched, so that they can lead the way into holiness. In doing this, the people they lead will be more likely to choose for themselves to submit wholly to Him.

But when godly leaders allow compromise in their lives, it might cause the less mature who follow them to stumble in their walks with God. Even though everyone will be personally accountable for their own decisions, leaders of a community have a partial responsibility for their followers’ decisions, too, and can better help the people they serve by undergoing complete transformation and renewal by the Holy Spirit first.

Overlooking Los Angeles and Griffith Observatory
Overlooking Los Angeles and Griffith Observatory

He it is who gave himself for us that he might redeem us from all iniquity and purify for himself a people of his own who are zealous for good deeds.

Declare these things; exhort and reprove with all authority. Let no one look down on you.

Titus 2:14,15