I am again today thinking about lightning. We usually associate lightning with rain storms. However, the majority of the thunderstorms that have swept through our valley this summer have been devoid of rain. While the massive thunderclouds and lightning can certainly capture your attention, they do not bring any of the life-giving rain our drought stricken region could certainly use. Even worse, these waterless lightning storms have caused massive destruction by starting countless wildfires; some burn only a few acres but others burn millions of acres.
In the book of Jude, false teachers are compared to many natural events including waterless clouds:
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; wild waves of the sea, casting up the foam of their own shame; wandering stars, for whom the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved forever (Jude 1:12-13).
Like these summer lightning storms, false teachers may make a lot of noise and get a lot of attention, but they only bring destruction. These false teachers may use the name of Christ to fill stadiums or gather TV audiences, but they are waterless clouds sowing destruction in their path. While their judgment is assured, I hope that you have not been caught up in that path of destruction.
And, do not fooled. Even very small churches can be led astray be false teachers. Just as those lightning storms cause both small and large fires, so to do false teachers lead astray both small and large congregations.
The little book of Jude packs quite a wallop into its 25 verses. While most of it is focused on calling out false teachers, there was one little word that really caught my eye when looking through it this week:
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 (ESV, Jude 1:5).
Can you guess which word it is? I know that every preschooler at church would guess the word because they shout it out as the answer to 90% of all questions – JESUS! Take a look at that verse above again. We usually do not think of Jesus being the one leading the people out of Egypt a few thousand years before his birth. But, Jesus himself affirmed his existence prior to that event:
Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am. (John 8:58)
Now, depending upon your translation of the Bible, you may have either “Lord” or “God” in place of “Jesus” in Jude 1:5 as there are ancient textual variants on this verse. The modern translators have to decide which ancient version is most likely the original. But, ultimately it does not matter much since we Christians, like Thomas before us, proudly declare Jesus to be both our Lord and our God:
Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28).
Are you tired of all the hyper-judgmental Christians and wish people would just return to the simple love and acceptance of the early Christian church? Do you ever wonder what version of the Bible these people are reading? As one example, I recently read a short article (only about 600 words) by a best-selling Christian author that included an extremely long list of inflammatory language and name calling. Some examples from the article include calling people:
- Perverters of grace
- Unreasoning animals
- Loud-mouthed boasters
- Followers of ungodly passions
If that was not bad enough, the judgment heaped upon these people was downright shocking:
- Designated for condemnation
- The gloom of utter darkness has been reserved for them
- Their coming judgment was compared to Sodom and Gomorrah where the Lord rained down sulfur and fire from heaven
- They are predicted to perish as in Korah’s rebellion where the earth swallowed up Korah and his family
It would be so much easier to be a Christian if there were not people like this author in the churches. And, if Christians would come out with a strong reprimand for judgmental people like this author, I think the pews would not be so empty on Sunday.
If you have reached this point of the article and have not realized that this is all sarcasm, you had better go read your Bible. Unless it is missing the book of Jude, your Bible contains all that strong language in that little 600-word letter written by Jude, the half-brother of Jesus. If your version of Christianity does not allow for the language of Jude in denouncing false doctrine, then perhaps you should look in the mirror and realize it is just “your version” and not Biblical Christianity. In fact, it is probably “your version” of Christianity that Jude is warning others about. And, it is perhaps your condemnation that he is predicting.