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Worship Theme: We watch and wait for the unknown hour of Christ’s return.

Sermon Theme: Spiritual Protection While You Wait

What’s really certain in life? It has been said that the only certain things in life are death, taxes, and uncertainties. I think that we agree with that sentiment. I would add, and maybe it’s in line with the uncertainty piece, I would add that we can be certain that there will be troubles in this life, hardships and challenges. Because of that, you strive to protect yourself from as many troubles and uncertainties that you can. Think about how you might do that. You might have a security system to protect your home or work to prevent break-ins. You might go to the doctor for a yearly physical or have a regular exercise routine to protect your body. You may have savings or investments set up or purchase various types of insurance to protect your finances. You want to protect what is important in your life.

As people who follow and trust in the Lord, there is another certainty in life. That certainty is that there is eternal life with the Lord. We’re certain of that because of Jesus, the Savior who lived and died for our sins and assures us that there is life by his resurrection and victory over death. And another thing that you can be certain of, is that that same Jesus is going to come again on the Last Day to bring us to be with him eternally. Those are much greater certainties than death and taxes!

But there is one uncertainty that gets thrown in the mix, we don’t know when Christ Jesus will return. So, we wait. We wait in a world and in a life that is filled with a lot of other uncertainties. And that means, that your spiritual life and faith in the Lord need to be protected against the uncertainties of this life while you wait. Today, the reading from the book of Jude offers up some super practical advice and encouragement for you to protect your spiritual life while you wait.

I’m guessing that many of you aren’t very familiar with the New Testament book of Jude. It’s short book of the Bible – only one chapter with 25 verses tucked right before the book of Revelation. It was written by a man named Jude who according to biblical evidence is one of the brothers of Jesus. The theme and purpose of his writing is found in the opening verses, “Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt compelled to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to God’s holy people. For certain individuals whose condemnation was written about long 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 was not offering up a warning that false teachers were going to come, but a warning that there already were immoral men among them who were perverting the grace of God. It’s a warning that still stands true for us today. There are too many Christian churches that are not faithful to God’s Word, dismissing truths, twisting its content, loosening morals, ignoring God’s commands and legitimizing sins. Add to that an unbelieving world that denies God’s existence and minimizes Christ’s saving work, we truly need the encouragement to protect our faith lest we lose it.

When you seek to protect something, you want to protect it from all angles. Jude’s encouragement for spiritual protection in today’s reading looks at it from all angles too – looking inward, outward, and upward. Let’s start by looking inward which means looking at yourself and your relationship with the Lord.

Jude encourages you to spiritually protect yourself by “keeping yourself in God’s love.” This has the idea of staying in God’s good graces. Now if you were to stay or get back into someone’s good graces, let’s say like with your spouse, what would you do? You’d probably prioritize time with them, change your ways, show you appreciate them, a gift or two, help them and so on. What’s that look like in your relationship with God to remain in his love?

If your Christian ears are sensitive enough, they might be burning with this idea that I have to do something to keep myself in God’s love. I thought we can’t do anything to earn God’s love! You’re right. We can’t earn God’s grace, it’s un-earnable. Because of sin and doubt you can’t make yourself lovable to God. But that’s not Jude’s point. Jude doesn’t mean, “Live in such a way to make yourself lovable to God.” Instead, keeping yourself in the love of God means to keep yourself in harmony with God’s ever-present love. Here’s an important truth about the life of the Christian: your spiritual will-power, once dead in sin, is reborn and made alive with Christ so that you desire to do God’s will and stay in his love. Jude is appealing to your new nature, set free and made alive in Christ, to stay in God’s love.

Here’s how… first, “build yourselves up in your most holy faith.” The battle against misleading teachings and temptations doesn’t take place on a battlefield, but rather in your heart and mind. But like on a battlefield, you need to arm yourself and build your faith up. Read the Word. Hear the Word. Sing the Word. Share the Word. Remember the Word. Eat and drink the body of the Lord. Satan’s lies and the world’s attacks cannot stand when your faith is built up in Christ.

Next, “pray in the Holy Spirit.” As with any strong relationship, whether in marriage, with friends or with co-workers, communication is key. The same is true in protecting your spiritual relationship with God. After you listen to him speak to you through his Word, speak to God. Come to him in faithful prayer with all of your struggles, challenges, fears, and anxieties. The Lord will not only listen every single time, but will answer as he knows is best for you. Even in those moments that you don’t know how to pray or what to pray for, turn to the Lord with a humble heart of faith and know that his Spirit intercedes for you.

Finally, Jude encourages you to “wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, which results in eternal life” (EHV). Just as Jesus came once to rescue you from sin, he will, as he has promised, come again on the Last Day to bring you to the fulfillment of eternal life. So, wait with faith that is alive, alert, watching, and eager for Christ’s coming. As you rest on these truths, you will find the protection that you need for your spiritual life.

There’s another angle to the spiritual protection that is needed while we wait. Jude next turns us outwardly. A soldier doesn’t just defend himself, but also protects those around him. In the same way, while we wait, God wants you to be part of the eternal rescue team. As one who knows the mercy of God in your life, share that mercy with others. “Be merciful to those who doubt; save others by snatching them from the fire.” So many, maybe even you, waver between faith and moments of unbelief. There are others who are in danger of falling into the fires of hell because of their stubborn refusal to acknowledge Jesus as their Savior or to turn from their disobedience of God’s commands. People so weak in faith, that they are in the very real danger of being separated from God forever. With patience and love, spend time with those people encouraging them with God’s sure promises showing them his mercy. As you show this mercy, do it “mixed with fear – hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.” When you show mercy to those who are spiritually vile and disgusting (Yes, they need God’s grace, mercy, and eternal protection too!), guard yourself so that you aren’t corrupted and fall into the allure of sin.

While we wait for the Last Day, you’re not the only one who needs spiritual protection. Look around you. Who needs the mercy of God in their life? Who needs to be rescued from Satan’s grasp? God is calling on you to show that mercy to them. As God’s redeemed people, bought from sin and eternal death by the blood of Jesus, we aren’t just concerned about our own spiritual welfare, but faith in Jesus moves us to be genuinely concerned about the spiritual welfare of others too.

Finally, Jude turns our gaze upward. Waiting is never easy. Guarding yourself against the attacks of a sinful world are near impossible, even for the strongest Christian. But it’s not hopeless because as you turn your gaze upward, you see who is there to guard and protect you and your faith.

Jude concludes his short letter by turning your eyes and focus on God and he is able to protect and keep those who put their faith in him. If you want someone to help you out, you want to know their qualifications and that they can really help you. For instance, if you need some electrical work done in your house, you don’t want a “pretend-to-know-what-I’m doing-cuz-I-watched-a-YouTube-video” hack like me. You want someone licensed and skilled. Same thing when you’re looking for a financial advisor, tutor, baby-sitter or whatever.

Listen to how Jude describes the one who has your back. To him who is able to keep you [who is able to guard you closely] from stumbling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault [because of Christ, you are faultless and that’s the way God sees you through faith] and with great joy—to the only God our Savior be [listen to all of these impressive characteristics of the God who protects you] glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen. Our victory in Jesus is forever. That we can be certain of! Let your eyes of faith look upward and see the one who guards and keeps you.

Waiting is hard, especially when there are so many uncertainties around us in this life. But when you remain in God’s love, you can wait for Jesus’ return with the certainty that your faith is protected now and forever. “The peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7). Amen.

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