Today my message is entitled “Avoid Danger.” There are all kinds of dangers in our world today. There are physical dangers from sicknesses, accidents or evil people. There are emotional dangers that can impact our lives through stress and worry. There are also spiritual dangers, such as temptations and false teaching. How do people respond to the dangers in their lives? Some people just ignore danger and go on like noting will ever hurt them.
Proverbs 14:16 (ESV) One who is wise is cautious and turns away from evil, but a fool is reckless and careless.
This verse from Proverbs contrasts the approach of a wise person and a fool to danger. A wise person is cautious when they are aware of danger and turns away. A foolish person is reckless and careless, thinking that they are invincible. At the other extreme are people who worry about and are anxious about every danger, real or imaginary around them.
Proverbs 22:13 (ESV) The sluggard says, “There is a lion outside! I shall be killed in the streets!”
This lazy person doesn’t go outside to work because he fears being attacked by a wild animal. In today’s world, we still have people afraid of living a normal life because of various perceived dangers. Neither of these two approaches to danger are wise for the believer. How should we respond to the very real dangers that we face?
Philippians 4:6 (ESV) do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
God’s Word instructs us to not worry about the dangers that we face in our lives. Yet, we are not to ignore them either. The most important thing is to pray and ask God for wisdom and protection in dealing with dangers in our lives.
I have just finished reading through the Psalms again. I have been struck by how many Psalms deal with prayers for God’s help in times of trouble and danger. In our world today, there are many dangers. Seems like there are new Covid variants on a regular basis that could impact our health. The rise in inflation could impact our finances. Yet, the greatest dangers are not physical or financial.
The greatest dangers are spiritual, which are not easily recognized. These spiritual dangers can impact our relationship with God, which is the most important thing in our lives. So today, we’re going to learn how to avoid spiritual danger and have faith to deal with the other dangers as well. This morning, we’re going to be studying the book of Jude in the New Testament. It occurs right before Revelation and is only one chapter long. Yet, is gives us some very important teaching on spiritual dangers.
Jude 1:3 (ESV) Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.
The purpose of the letter of Jude was to encourage believers to “contend for the faith.” The word contend in the Greek language draws from an image of a military battle. Contend describes an active, intense and ongoing struggle. Of course the opposite of contending for the faith is just to ignore or succumb to the attacks on the faith. What is this battle about that Jude is writing about? The battle is to keep the faith of the church pure and strong. Not contaminated with false teaching or any kind, but solely based on God’s Word. Why was it necessary for this battle to be fought?
Jude 1:4 (ESV) For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.
The danger arose from people who had become part of the church, claiming to be believers and thinking that they were believers. However, these people were not godly, but ungodly. Specifically, these people taught that because of God’s grace and forgiveness, they did not have to obey God’s commands in His Word. This verse mentions the sin of sensuality, which means various types of sexual sin. They reasoned that they could sin as much as they pleased, simply asking God for forgiveness continually. According to Jude, this type of thinking and behavior denies the Lordship of Jesus. Those who acknowledge Jesus as Lord, as do all true believers, seek to obey His commands and live a godly life. This is not what these people in the church were doing.
Jude 1:5 (ESV) Now I want to remind you, although you once fully knew it, that Jesus, who saved a people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe.
Jude then gives an example from the Old Testament where God delivered Israel from slavery in Egypt. This deliverance is often seen in the New Testament as an illustration of salvation. However, Jude notes, that even though these people were saved, Jesus destroyed them in the wilderness because they didn’t truly have faith. In the next verses, Jude gives two other examples of angels and people who sinned who came under God’s judgment.
These examples serve as a warning both for those who were false teachers and those who were tempted to listen to and follow them. The examples also give us hope that God will deal with those who deny Jesus through their lifestyles. Jude begins his letter with strong words about the danger of false teaching.
Do we have this type of dangerous false teaching today? Yes, it is rampant across churches in America and around the world. What types of false teaching are we talking about? The false teaching 2000 years ago had to do with sensuality and the same teaching dealing with sexual immorality is prevalent today. A common false teaching is that couples can live together before marriage if they love one another. The Bible teaches that sexual activity of any kind before marriage is sin. Now, this sin, as well as others can be forgiven if it is repented of and forsaken. The issue is the teaching that it is not sin and may actually be preferred.
Another increasingly common false teaching is that homosexuality is normal for some people and so is not sin, especially if the people are married. The Bible clearly teaches that homosexual activity is sin at all times. And that marriage is only to be between one man and one woman. The Bible is our standard with regard to sexuality and will never change.
Jude 1:8 (ESV) Yet in like manner these people also, relying on their dreams, defile the flesh, reject authority, and blaspheme the glorious ones.
Jude next turns from the teaching of these false teachers to their character. They rely on dreams, not the reality of God’s Word. Sometimes God does speak through dreams, but it will always line up with the Bible. The defile the flesh or engage in sinful sexual activity in their own lives.
They are not under authority in their ministries, they answer to no one. They speak arrogantly of defeating the powerful forces of evil with their own power. False teaching comes from false teachers whose character is not godly.
Jude 1:12 (ESV) These are hidden reefs at your love feasts, as they feast with you without fear, shepherds feeding themselves; waterless clouds, swept along by winds; fruitless trees in late autumn, twice dead, uprooted;
False teachers participate in the Lord’s supper and eating with other believers. They call themselves shepherds or pastors, but their motive is to become rich and not to help others. They do not bear the fruit of the Spirit in their lives when examined closely.
Jude 1:16 (ESV) These are grumblers, malcontents, following their own sinful desires; they are loud-mouthed boasters, showing favoritism to gain advantage.
Everything about false teachers revolves around themselves. They are prideful, boastful and always looking out for their own advantage. There were many false teachers in Jude’s day and there are many today. Unfortunately, there are many gullible people today who do not recognize them or their teaching. Those who follow and listen to false teachers become like them, in their character and understanding of God. God desires to help us to identify and stay away from false teachers.
Now, it’s not our responsibility to go around and try to identify false teachers in our world, whether on television, internet or in local churches. What we are called to do is to be careful about the teachers and teaching that we listen to and believe. One of the gifts of the Spirit is the gift of discernment. I believe that the gift of discernment is for every believer to discern between truth and falsehood.
How do you develop in the gift of discernment? The easiest way is to grow in your knowledge and understanding of God’s Word. The more that you understand the Bible and listen to the Holy Spirit, the easier it will be to discern what is false.
Now, we must recognize that false teaching is rarely 100% false. False teaching that we are talking about describes itself as Christian. So, false teachers will use the Bible in their teaching and some of what they say will be true. However, other aspects of their teaching will be false and damaging. We must learn to distinguish both the character and content of false teachers. Let’s look more closely at how we should respond to false teaching.
Jude 1:19 (ESV) It is these who cause divisions, worldly people, devoid of the Spirit.
False teaching often causes divisions in churches or between Christians. It often-times twists Scripture or creates arguments about minor points. Again, the character of false teachers comes through. They are worldly, not godly people and are not full of the Spirit. As you grow as a believer, you will be able to discern those who are full of the Holy Spirit and those who are not. As believers who are committed to the truth of God’s Word, how else should we respond to this danger?
Jude 1:20 (ESV) But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit,
We are to build ourselves up in faith. Where does faith come from? Faith comes from hearing and putting into practice the Word of God. Secondly, we are to continually pray in the Spirit. As we rely on the truth of the Bible and the power of the Spirit, we will be well prepared to identify and respond to false teaching. What about others that we know, who are following false teaching and have beliefs that are not founded upon the truth of God’s Word?
Jude 1:22-23 (ESV) And have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh.
There are false teachers who promote false teaching to believers and churches. We pray that God will silence their false teaching, but our major emphasis should be on helping those who have believed their falsehoods. False teaching often leads people to doubt what God’s Word and true churches teach. We are to have mercy on those who doubt the truth of God’s Word. We show mercy by praying for and with those we know that are following false teachers and going to churches that embrace false teaching. We ask God for wisdom to show mercy by directing them to the truth of God’s Word.
This verse speaks of snatching some out of the fire, speaking of the fire of hell. In other words, some have fallen so into sin through false teaching, they are headed for an eternity without God. They think they are saved, but they are not because they have embraced falsehood. Finally, when we show mercy to those who have embraced false teaching, we must be careful. We must be careful, lest in our desire to rescue someone, that we fall into the same error that they have fallen into. God calls us to help those who have embraced false teaching in their lives.
Probably one of the biggest reasons that false teaching is not recognized and dealt with is the widespread belief in relative truth. Relative truth is the belief that each person can believe whatever they want and that can be their truth. There are those who claim that whatever they believe the Bible says is their truth, whether others agree or not. Many believe that it doesn’t matter what church you go to, for all churches that claim to be Christian are just different flavors of the same truth.
All of these beliefs about relative truth are in fact false teaching. The Bible teaches not relative truth, but absolute truth. Absolute truth is the truth of the Bible that is the same for every person and for all time, it never changes. The absolute truth of the Bible is based on the unchanging nature of Jesus, who is the truth. Our response to false teaching and to help others must always be based on the absolute truth of the Bible.
The warnings in the Bible about false teaching are there for a reason. God desires for us to understand the danger of false teaching, both for ourselves and for others. The Bible gives us principles to identify the character of false teachers. God calls us to avoid false teaching and to help those who have fallen into it. Our standard of truth is God’s Word, understood with the help of the Holy Spirit. May God help us to be people committed to God’s truth, living it out by the power of the Spirit.