I like to read and memorize catchy sayings, especially well-woven punchy advice. “Words, like sunbeams, when condensed, burn deeper” continues to help me control my often long-winded responses. “A stitch in time saves nine” reminds me to take care of issues before they escalate.
Such advice seems terse and even harsh at times, but it has saved me much grief.
Memorizing scripture serves a similar purpose, but with more important results. Scripture, as the Word of God, gives pithy sayings. It also delivers comfort, encouragement and high level divine insight.
But it does more than that.
Several years ago I was disappointed with how little scripture I had memorized. I read the Bible daily and used its ideas and words in my personal and professional and even my scholarly work. But I wanted to memorize more sections of scripture. So I picked a New Testament book to memorize—Jude. Yes, I like to start small.
This one chapter book had rich imagery and direct prose and ended with one of the greatest benedictions of all time:
Now, to him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy, to God our Savior, who alone is wise, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and forever. Amen. v 24, 25
What a promise to claim each day?
But what challenged and changed my heart was not the imagery or powerful promises but its direct and confrontational tone.
At first. I was shocked as I spoke out Jude on my walk around my quiet neighborhood. Would people think I was weird? The words seemed in my mouth to be bitter and harsh, even angry…
“‘Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of His saints, to execute judgment on all, to convict all who are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have committed in an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him’” v 14, 15
Pretty harsh stuff….right?
Jude was speaking deep love, better known as truth. Jude wanted to write to them about all the great and marvelous love of God and when he looked at what they needed to remind them of that love, was a challenging reminder to contend for the truth. “I felt compelled to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to God’s holy people.”
I, like the people Jude was writing to, were the ones NOT accustomed to receiving love.
What had happened?
I realized that my own lack of resolve, my own wimpy following of Christ had kept me walking at a safe and comfortable distance. I didn’t like Jude’s harsh words because I wouldn’t have liked Jesus’ harsh words. I loved his kisses but not his corrections.
I would have pulled back just like all the other followers did when He got too demanding.
If God’s fullness of love is demonstrated in Jesus and in Jesus’ words we hear God’s own words, then I needed to get used to his loving but seemingly harsh advice.
Hebrews 12:5-8 confirmed my growing suspicious about what was wrong in my own life:
My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline,
and do not lose heart when he rebukes you,
because the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.”
Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all.”
I didn’t like Jude because I didn’t want to be fathered by God.
If God is love, and God’s fathering is always in love, and he wanted to father me with discipline, I could decide to run or receive. I DESIRED SUCH A LOVING FATHER!
My own slippage as a true follower of God had lead me to a see discipline as an enemy of love. It is the core of love. My lack of resolve on several important principles needed strengthening if I was going to be faithful, successful and a good leader.
Getting back on track–like fighting obesity and financial debt and sexual impropriety–takes some harshness. Just ask the Biggest Loser contestants.
The only other option is to continue our sloppiness all the way down to the grave and beyond. Floating down the stream with the masses (the broad way) would disappoint God and make our lives miserable. Being a people pleaser instead of letting God direct our lives is no way to live. Welcome to the narrow way. Few will find it, but those who do will find it marvelously wonderful.
I needed a wake up call. Thanks Jude. I accepted it.
I believe a lot of Christians and Adventist need a similar wake up call.
Ellen White, a good wake up call writer, said this about the deceptiveness of a sentimental love:
“While it formerly denounced Christ and the Bible, it now professes to accept both. But the Bible is interpreted in a manner that is pleasing to the unrenewed heart, while its solemn and vital truths are made of no effect. Love is dwelt upon as the chief attribute of God, but it is degraded to a weak sentimentalism, making little distinction between good and evil. God’s justice, His denunciations of sin, the requirements of His holy law, are all kept out of sight. The people are taught to regard the Decalogue as a dead letter. Pleasing, bewitching fables captivate the senses and lead men to reject the Bible as the foundation of their faith. Christ is as verily denied as before; but Satan has so blinded the eyes of the people that the deception is not discerned.idea that love is sentimental is grown unable to make a stand for truth.” (Great Controversy, p. 558).
Hearing Jude speak truth to me was bitter in my mouth, but my taste buds needed to change, not the words.
Scripture carries more than pithy sayings. It carries authority.
And Jude was getting me to that authority.
Where did he get it. If you read his statement above, most of it comes from Enoch? Jude was sharing words he knew from his religious community Enoch had gotten straight from God as a prophecy against the people at the time of the flood.
Duane, by memorized scripture in the 20th century from Jude, a writer in the 1st century was helping to keep alive Enoch’s truthful love as a stern but necessary message to the people of the world who faced the coming final judgment.
Many were not be able to receive Enoch and Noah’s words and many will not receive those who repeat those words in our time. But some will!!!
God helps us all.
Scripture—its words and meaning—deliver us from our feeble selves and our feeble minds and from our feeble culture to a reality of God. But sadly, the time has come of what Paul spoke:
“For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.” 2 Timothy 4:3, NIV
AsI noted elsewhere about the prodigal son, I was coming back to my senses, both to a fuller understanding of the radical love of God and also how good a manager he was and is.
Too often we forget that love has strong words and that some people are just what Jude said: “spots” in our communities, “clouds without water, carried about by the winds; late autumn trees without fruit, twice dead, pulled up by the roots” (vs 12, 13).
Thanks Jude. Thanks Enoch. Thanks God.
Speak the Truth in Love. I need it!!