Build Yourself Up in the Faith
“Ever present God, you taught us that the night is far spent and the day is at hand. Grant that we may ever be found watching for the coming of your Son. Save us from undue love of the world, that we may wait with patient hope for the day of the Lord, and so abide in him, that when he shall appear, we may not be ashamed; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.” (UMC Book of Worship)
But, dear friends, remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ foretold. 18 They said to you, “In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires.” 19 These are the people who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit.
20 But you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, 21 keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life.
22 Be merciful to those who doubt; 23 save others by snatching them from the fire; to others show mercy, mixed with fear—hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.
The Great Tradition
“Jude says that his beloved people must continue to build themselves up in their most holy faith, forever reforming themselves according to the Holy Spirit’s guidance; in other words, by building congregations up, by their preaching, in the teaching of the Holy Spirit.” (Oecumenius)
Prayer of Confession
“We admit to you, most merciful God, that we regularly fall short of holiness, and engage in behavior and entertain attitudes that not only prove self-destructive and hurtful to others, but detract from the gospel we profess with our lips. Forgive us, we pray, and help us to grow in love toward the perfect image of Christ Jesus, whose coming brings both joy and judgment for us all. In his blessed name we pray. Amen.” (Paul Laughlin)
We may be tempted to think of the “last days” or “end times” as some distant event. A closer look at Scripture teaches us that it was the resurrection of Jesus Christ that brought forth the “last times” Jude addressed in his letter. As mentioned in a previous devotion, we are living between the two advents of Jesus, but in a very real sense, this whole period should be considered the “last times.”
And what does Jude say about these last times? He reminded his first readers, just as he reminds us, that in such times “scoffers” (false teachers who mock our beliefs and hold the Christian faith in contempt) desire to break the body of Christ into pieces. These are people who follow their own passions and desires instead of submitting to the Lordship of Christ and the teaching of his appointed Apostles. And they are deceivers who want to drag down everyone else with them.
So, what can followers of Christ do during such times? Jude says we must build ourselves up in the faith that was “entrusted to God’s holy people” (Jude 3). Oecumenius said we must continue to reform ourselves in the holy faith taught by the apostles. This too is part of the Great Commission. It is part of what it means to make disciples. For Jesus not only declared we must go into all the world and make disciples and baptize them in the triune name, but to also teach these new followers to obey everything our Lord commanded (Matthew 28:19-20).
We should not think this is a “one and done” sort of thing. A life of genuine Christian discipleship is one of constant growth, for there is never a time when we no longer need to grow. If Christlikeness is our goal, then that is a lifelong pursuit. Thus, when we reflect on Jude’s warning that the last days will not be like walking a smooth trail, but closer to navigating rocky terrain sabotaged by false teachers, then how much more must we build ourselves up in the faith! Therefore, let us take heed to these inspired words of wisdom of the Apostle Paul in Colossians 2:6-7, “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, 7 rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.”
As we navigate the challenges of these “last times,” let’s follow Jude’s wisdom by actively and intentionally engaging in building ourselves up in faith, maintaining God’s love, and extending his mercy to others. The Advent season is a perfect time for us to reflect on these principles and put them into practice, as we await the celebration of the birth of our Savior. And let’s pray for God’s guidance and strength as we walk with Christ, that we may be lights in the darkness, bringing hope and love to a world in need. Amen.
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Listen, my son, and be wise, and set your heart on the right path: (Proverbs 23:19)
“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.