Welcome to Leaving LaodiceaThe Survival Manual for the Coming Underground Church
Why is Diligence Such a Neglected Discipline Today?
Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation,
I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith
which was once for all delivered to the saints.
There seems to be a difference between those whom God uses in a mighty way, and the rest of Christianity. It’s not their skill or education that makes them most likely to succeed in the kingdom of God. It’s certainly not their pedigree or upbringing that matters. For 1 Corinthians teaches that “God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise” (1 Cor. 1:27). God can take anyone, of any background and experience, and turn them into a D.L. Moody or a Billy Graham.
It seems the single attribute that separates those who serve Him with reckless abandon and those who just go through the motions, is commitment. Or, to use the words of Jude, being very diligent.
It appears Jude had a different intention for this letter. He begins by saying he wanted to “write to you concerning our common salvation (Jude 1:3). But in the span of the same sentence, Jude pivots by saying something has changed. “I find it necessary (as the Holy Spirit changes his focus) to write to you exhorting (helping, encouraging) you to contend (strive, struggle) earnestly (not casually or haphazardly) for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 1:3). In other words, what began as a letter exploring the nature of our “common salvation” has now changed. The Holy Spirit is moving in a different direction.
It’s this new direction, the warning and rebuking of the apostates within the walls of the church, that gives Jude a special place in the New Testament. But we’ll talk more about that later.
The phrase Jude uses, very diligent, means “speed, haste, earnest in accomplishing something, zeal.” It implies someone who is totally committed or single-focused with tunnel vision aimed at completing the task set before them.
It’s a trait we honor in every area of life except the spiritual. Michael Phelps, for example, won more Olympic Gold Medals than anyone in history. Do you think he was able to accomplish that feat with a haphazard attitude towards his sport? Of course not. We applaud his commitment, his diligence, and the obvious sacrifices he made to achieve success in his field. But do we applaud the same in other Christians?
For some reason, we see diligence and commitment as a necessary element of success in every form of life except in our relationship with Christ. We admire those who make sacrifices to attain certain levels of success, like Michael Phelps, yet we assume the same is not required of us. When we study the lives of great men of God, we see that’s not true. Those who accomplished great things for God also sacrificed great things for God. They were very diligent about serving Him. As Jim Elliott said, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.”
Mercy, Peace, Love and Multiplied
Mercy, peace, and love be multiplied to you.
It looks like this verse presents us with a few more Greek words to define. First, there’s the three-word salutation Jude employs: mercy, peace, and love. In Paul’s general epistles, his opening salutation usually only involves grace and peace.1 In the pastoral epistles and 2 John, mercy is added to the mix.2 Now, in Jude, love replaces grace. We then find the Holy Spirit choosing to amplify the blessings of mercy, peace, and love by using the word multiplied instead of given or added— which is breathtaking in its implications. Let’s take a look at each of these.
The word mercy (éleos) refers to “compassion, kindness or goodwill towards the miserable and afflicted; it’s a state of active pity, accompanied by a sense of piety and innate goodness.”3 It’s not getting what we deserve, which is pretty much the opposite of justice.
Some teach that mercy is just another word for grace. But that’s not true. There’s a gulf of difference between these two words. Mercy is when God chooses not to punish us for what our sins rightly deserve (Rom. 6:23). We are spared the chastisement we’ve earned. And grace, on the other hand, is when God chooses to go a step further and bless us in spite of our sins. One is the removal of just punishment, and the other is the pouring out of divine blessings.
Next, the Greek word for peace (eirḗnē) means “to be in a state of tranquility, harmony, and accord; it’s the opposite of war and dissension and arises from the reconciliation with God and a sense of divine favor.”4 Psalm 7:11 says “God is a just judge, and God is angry with the wicked every day.” But not with us. We are at peace with God due to the sacrifice of His Son on our behalf.
But Jesus spoke about another peace. Jesus promised us this peace when He said, “Peace I leave with you, My peace (eirḗnē) I give to you” (John 14:27). Note, it’s His peace. It’s the very peace He experienced in the midst of His pain and suffering, that He now gives to us.
A few chapters later Jesus said the only peace that can overcome the tribulation of the world is found in Him (John 16:33). And this is just a taste of our inheritance as children of God and joint-heirs with Christ (Rom. 8:17).
How are we Sanctified and Preserved in Christ?
Jude, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James,
To those who are called, sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ.
There are two key words we are going to look at today. The first is sanctified and the second is preserved. Let’s look at what they both mean before we go any further.
The word sanctified (hagiázō) means “to render holy, to separate from profane things and dedicate to God, to purify, consecrate, devote, or set apart from common to sacred use.”1 It’s the condition of a believer after regeneration takes place, after their salvation. Some Bible translators replace sanctified with the word beloved and that is unfortunate. It would then read, “to those who are called, beloved in God the Father, and kept (preserved) for Jesus Christ” (NASB). Although it is true we are beloved in Him and by Him, the essence of what Jude is saying about his intended audience is that they have been set apart by God the Father for a holy and righteous purpose. They have been, past tense, sanctified. And their sanctification came by way of the Holy Spirit who now lives in them and their salvation is now “sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise” (Eph. 1:13).
Most of the modern Bible translations remove the word sanctified and replace it with beloved. In essence, they make the verse more about us and what we receive from God and less about who we become by God. That seems to be the way we go today, living in the land of self-indulgence and having our narcissistic attention focused solely on us. But to be sanctified is to be changed into something that reflects the nature of our God. And that nature is holiness. It was the single attribute both Isaiah (Isa. 6:3) and John (Rev. 4:8) heard the angels proclaim when they were allowed to see the throne of God.
But we are not only changed, we are changed for a purpose. We are “set aside for a holy purpose” in much the same way the Old Testament priests would take gold and silver utensils and remove them from common use and set them aside to be used exclusively in the temple of God. There was a change in their purpose and their audience. We are to be sanctified, like God, and reflect His glory and His holiness, just like His Son. To change that into “beloved” is to lessen our responsibility and our calling. Are we also loved and cherished in God the Father? Yes, without question. But we are also created for a purpose. And that purpose is not for our self-gratification, but to be used by the One who gave us eternal life. We are to be like the One who saved us. Sanctified. Set apart. Holy, because He is holy (1 Pet. 1:15-16).
It should also be noted that the person of the Godhead who came to reside in those sanctified by God the Father is the Holy Spirit. Note His name, attribute and description: Holy Spirit. Not loving, or forgiving, or gracious Spirit (which He is also). But Holy Spirit. His nature is holy. And it’s this Holy Spirit that now lives in us to do His will through us, His bondslaves. Again, are we beloved? Absolutely. But more so, we are called to a deeper purpose. We are set-apart for something much more important. We have the privilege of allowing the Holy Spirit to manifest His life through us.
In John 20 we find some events that took place on that momentous Sunday, the first day of the week, when Jesus was raised from the dead. Some of those events took place early that Sunday morning and other events happened later that day, at evening. It was at this time, in the evening of the same day, that Jesus appeared to His disciples and others who were hiding for fear of the Jews (John 20:19). And then, to this frightened and confused group of friends and disciples, Jesus spoke these words:
John 20:21 – “Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.”
His words to them were comforting and also challenging. Just like they are to us today. And then Jesus uttered some of the most misunderstood words in all of the gospel accounts. He said:
John 20:23 – “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”
Do you see how a lazy interpretation of this verse could lead you to believe that God has granted fallen, mortal men the ability to forgive sins? And those sins are forgiven, not because they are confessed by the one who has sinned, but by the forgiveness of an uninterested third party. How can that be? Want to know more? Then keep listening.
This is day five of our 40 day adventure. And today, I’ve been thinking about getting older.
Sometimes, when we get older, we think it’s our time to slow down. “After all,” we reason, “I’ve done my part. I’ve worked hard and paid my bills and raised my kids. I’ve done more than my fair share. Now it’s time for someone else to carry the torch and lead. I’m just going to kick back, relax, retire, and die.”
But that’s not the example we see from Scripture.
In AD 60, Paul was imprisoned in Rome. He was treated well and allowed to stay in his own house at his own expense, for two full years “preaching the kingdom of God and teaching the things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ with all confidence, no one forbidding him” (Acts 28:31). It was during this time he wrote his prison epistles: Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon.
Paul was in his mid-sixties. About retirement age.
Paul was imprisoned a second and final time during the summer of AD 66. The cause of his arrest may be found in a statement Paul made in his final letter to Timothy: “Alexander the coppersmith did me much harm. May the Lord repay him according to his works. You also must beware of him, for he has greatly resisted our words” (2 Tim. 4:14-15).
This time, Paul was not allowed to remain under house arrest, but was thrown among the most vile of prisoners in the Mamertine prison or another such dark and horrid place. This prison was more like a dungeon, or a pit that could only be reached by a ladder or rope let through a hole in the floor above. There was little ventilation and sanitation was non-existent. If the idea was to reduce men to mere animals before they faced trial and execution, then the Romans did their job quite well.
It was in this desperate condition, accompanied only by Luke (2 Tim. 4:11), that Paul penned his last letter to Timothy. Paul was now in his late sixties, well past retirement age.
Trying to live the Christian life in the flesh is exhausting and, quite honestly, impossible. But that’s how many believers live today. They start out well, full of hope and empowered by the Spirit, and then digress into a life of flesh, pride, and reliance on human wisdom rather than the wisdom of God. But the early church shows us the “abundant life” Jesus promised those who follow Him fleshed out in real time (John 10:10).
And it’s all based on faith.
Look at the faith involved in the healing of the lame man at the Gate Beautiful. Question: Whose faith is the agent God uses to perform this sign and wonder?
Acts 3:6-7 – Then Peter said, “Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.” And he took him by the right hand and lifted him up, and immediately his feet and ankle bones received strength.
Note what happened here. Peter had something that he was able to give to the lame beggar. What was that? And how did Peter know he possessed whatever he possessed? And the healing took place, not when Peter spoke the affirmation, but when he “took him by the right hand and lifted him up” (Acts 3:6). That’s faith. But whose? The beggar’s? Not really. It was the faith of Peter.
What does this mean? And what can we learn about exercising our Spiritual gifts in the world today? Want to know more? Then keep listening.
Today is day four in our 40 day adventure.
For the last couple of months I have been preaching about the Holy Spirit and His gifts, focusing on John 14 and 1 Corinthians 12-14, but specifically on 1 Corinthians 12:4-11. We have asked the Lord to show us what these gifts mean, are they all still operating in the church and, if so, what does that look like today? That’s right, we’ve dealt with all the controversial topics that tend to divide the body of Christ: second filling, baptism of the Spirit, Cessationism vs. Continuationism, the five-fold ministry, tongues and the interpretation of tongues, the role of apostles and prophets, if any, today, what is a word of knowledge and word of wisdom, and all the other crazy, scary stuff. It’s been quite an eye opening experience to see, not what I was taught in Seminary or grew up believing in a Southern Baptist church, but what the Scriptures actually teach regarding the role of the Holy Spirit in our lives and in His church back then, as well as today.
Naturally, in the course of this study on the Holy Spirit, we moved to the Acts to see how this was played out in the early church in real time. Last Sunday we preached about Peter’s sermon (Acts 2:14-39) and the amazing results of a 297 word message, excluding Scriptures, that was empowered by the very Spirit they received a few verses earlier (Acts 2:1-4). The Promise of the Father was given (Acts 1:4), and 3,000 people joined the 120 in faith in the risen Lord Jesus.
What an amazing day that must have been.
But now what? How do these 3,000 new believers, many from areas outside of Jerusalem (Acts 2:5-11), grow in their new faith? What are they to do? Where do they go? How do they learn? There would be so many questions each of them had. Where would they go to find the answers?
If they returned back home to Egypt or Rome, for example (Acts 2:10), who would disciple them? Who would teach them truth from error? They would be the only ones in their country that had received salvation as evidenced by the giving of the Holy Spirit (Eph. 1:13-14). No one carried the light of Christ to their families and friends but them. No one was to speak into the darkness but them. They were alone. Uncertain. Literally babes in the midst of Jewish wolves. By returning home they were, in effect, being sent out as missionaries to tell others about the new life found in Christ— the Christ whom they knew nothing about other than what Peter had preached, and what they were just now discovering for themselves.
It was a recipe for colossal failure. Much like sending an eight year old to convince an atheist University professor of the validity of the New Testament text. They were vastly outgunned and woefully inexperienced in the things of Christ. They needed a time to grow, to mature, to understand what just happened to them. They needed time to come to grips with their faith in the Lord Jesus, and what that faith meant from that moment forward.
A New Home
So, most likely, many of them stayed. Where else were they to go to hear about the “wonderful works of God” (Acts 2:11).
Once, after Jesus proclaimed His unpopular, politically incorrect truth about the kingdom of God that offended the half-committed, many of His followers “went back and walked with Him no more” (John 6:65). Jesus had been telling them about the all-consuming relationship they were to have with Him. This new life they had experienced, this born-again reality was not like going to the synagogue once a week to dance around their Jewish maypole, feel good for a moment or two, faithfully perform their religious duty, and then go back to life as usual.
This was different.
Religion tries to make us feel good about ourselves by following some man-made ritual that, at least on the outside, makes us look better than we were before— especially when we compare ourselves with ourselves or with others who are struggling like us.
But this was different. Completely different.
What Jesus came to bring was a totally new life. The old man, our old life, is not rehabilitated or made better, or less offensive, by Christ’s sacrifice. He is put to death. Dead and buried. Just like Christ. Jesus sees nothing in us worth bringing into the new life He’s purchased for us (Isa. 64:4). Nothing. So all of the old man, the pride, fear, lusts, wants, desires, religion, rights, needs, literally everything— dies. Everything gets buried. Everything rots. And the new man, what Paul later called the “new creation” in Christ, is born again (2 Cor. 5:17). Born anew. Born from above. Resurrected to a new life (Rom. 6:4), created in the image, or likeness of God (Eph. 4:24), and secured by the indwelling presence of God Himself— in the person of the Holy Spirit (Eph. 1:13-14).
This was a message the religious crowd in Jesus’ day, and in our day, finds offensive. So they left Him to find another guru that was willing to teach what they wanted to hear, about how to have Your Best Life Now!
The best way for the early church to disciple the 3,000 who came to faith after the preaching of Peter’s sermon would be to let them learn to live like the disciples had lived for the last three years. Think about it. How did the disciples of Jesus, who had left everything to follow Him, support themselves during the time they went from city to city with Jesus? Did they take out a home equity loan on their house? Did they max out their credit cards to fund their extended mission trip? Did they cash in their 401k, take the tax hit, and continue on with their vision quest with Jesus? What did they do?
They lived by faith. Just like the early church did. Consider the following:
Acts 2:44-45 – Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need.
Acts 4:32-35 – Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul; neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common. And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all. Nor was there anyone among them who lacked; for all who were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the proceeds of the things that were sold, and laid them at the apostles’ feet; and they distributed to each as anyone had need.
Did you ever wonder how that is even possible? How can we trust each other that much, like they did? Seems impossible, doesn’t it? Want to learn more about living by faith? Then keep listening.
The context of Psalm 3 deals with David’s great betrayal at the hands of his own son, Absalom, whom he dearly loved (2 Sam. 18:33). Absalom had driven his father from the holy city, Jerusalem, and was seeking to usurp his kingdom and take his life. David’s guilt as a failed father towards his rebellious son must have been unbearable. Adding to that the guilt of his own sin with Bathsheba and the murder of his close friend, and her husband, Uriah the Hittite (2 Sam. 11:15), may have caused David to feel Absalom’s actions were justified, a fitting penalty for the sins of David’s past.
The future looked bleak. There was division within his own family. To regain his kingdom he would have to wage war against his own son, forcing him to repay evil for evil to the one he loved. God was grieved and David was unsure as to what to do.
There is much for us to learn about God and our own problems in this psalm. Note, for example, what happens when we, like David, focus on our problems and what others say about our situation:
Psalm 3:1-2 – LORD, how they have increased who trouble me! Many are they who rise up against me. Many are they who say of me, “There is no help for him in God.”
But now, the focus has shifted from what is before us to our God and all He has promised. You can almost feel David’s faith begin to grow:
Psalm 3:3-4 – But You, O LORD, are a shield for me, my glory and the One who lifts up my head. I cried to the LORD with my voice, and He heard me from His holy hill.
As Corrie ten Boom once said, “There is no pit so deep, that God’s love is not deeper still.”
David realizes God has not abandoned him. He has cried out to his Lord, our Lord, and his voice had been heard. God was still on His throne and He still loved his son, David, no matter how desperate the circumstances. The same truth applies to each of us when we get our focus off our problems— the immediate, the overwhelming, and focus instead on what lasts— the Eternal, the Lord, the Sovereign One.
And the result of that change in focus? No more fear. Rest and peace in the face of turmoil. Confidence in Him and Him alone. “God’s got this. I’ve nothing to fear.”
Psalm 3:5-6 – I lay down and slept; I awoke, for the LORD sustained me. I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people who have set themselves against me all around.
After all, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Rom. 8:31). Great question. Answer, no one. Not even Absalom.
This thought brings great courage to David. God is not finished with him yet. Today and tomorrow are just setbacks. But God’s plan endures to all generations.
Finally, that confidence is expressed in action. David, and each of us, find our prayers going from “Help me, please, for I am dying” to “Arise, O Lord” and do what You promised to do for your children.
Psalm 3:7-8 – Arise, O LORD; Save me, O my God! For You have struck all my enemies on the cheekbone; You have broken the teeth of the ungodly. Salvation belongs to the LORD. Your blessing is upon Your people
Did you get that? “Your (God) blessing is upon Your (God) people.”
Today is the second day of a 40 day adventure with the Lord.
Yesterday, day one, was a good day. I experienced much peace and was able to pray more than I have in a long time. It seemed like my prayers were effortless and more natural and I had a deeper sense of His presence with me. I know this is only the beginning, but I am greatly encouraged. I was able to spend more time in prayer and meditation on His Word as my mind seemed to be more in tune to spiritual things, rather than carnal things. I find it amazing that after just one day, I can already see changes in my life.
Today I arose early, a little before 6:00am. For some reason I couldn’t turn my mind off. I was thinking about our conversation yesterday, how the Lord wants to speak with each of us, with me and you, in a more personal, intimate way that maybe we have not allowed Him to do in the past. I am convinced He wants to reveal His heart to us in ways we’ve never understood or experienced before.
This is what my desire is with Him. And this is what I have been praying this time with Him will accomplish.
My Fear of the Holy Spirit
Then I started thinking about my fear of the Holy Spirit. No, you heard that right. To be completely honest, I’ve always been a little frightened of the Holy Spirit. Why? Because I don’t understand Him. I find it difficult to get close to Him. I can’t get an image of Him in my mind and He’s hard for me to relate to.
God the Father, not so much. From the Old Testament, I see Him as unapproachable, fire and smoke and thunder from Mt. Sinai erupting like an active volcano (Ex. 19:18). When I think of His voice, I see it booming from the heavens, loud, frightening, much like I viewed the Wizard of Oz when I was a young child. To me, He seems more like a boss, or a ruling monarch, and less like a father. I know much of my caricature of God is based on my own dysfunctional and somewhat abusive relationship with my own father. And I know I’ve imposed character traits and motives on Him that belonged to my earthly father, and that’s unfair and wrong. But that’s something we’ll have to talk about at another time.
Jesus, on the other hand, I understand much better. I see Him walking the dusty roads of Galilee in the New Testament and I long to be there with Him. I see Him having endless patience with people like Peter and Thomas and me. I greatly admire His compassion for the woman caught in the act of adultery (John 8:1-11), and His love for the Samaritan woman He met at Jacob’s well (John 4:5-30). I wonder what it must have been like to minister with Him as He unselfishly met the needs of people He didn’t even know when He multiplied the five loaves and two fish and fed them all (Matt. 14:13-21). And I see Him encouraging His disciples into a deeper life of faith when He beckoned Peter to step out of the boat and walk on water with Him (Matt. 14:28-32).
Jesus I like. Better yet, Jesus I love and want to emulate my life after Him. I want to devote my life trying to walk like Jesus, to live like Jesus, and to love like Jesus. Why? Because He’s left me a tangible, written example of who He is in the Scriptures.
But the Holy Spirit? I’m not so sure. He’s wispy, like an apparition, and hard to get a reading on. I know He’s an equal member of the Godhead, fully God, yet I’ve always viewed Him as some sort of power that emanates from God the Father or is used by Jesus the Son. Like He was some sort of possession of the Father and the Son, and not co-equal with them.
I’m not sure why I feel that way about the Holy Spirit. Maybe it’s because I have a hard time getting close to something I don’t understand. For me, at least, my mind rules most of my life and my emotions and passions are left subject to what I think. When my mother died a couple of years ago, for example, I remember sitting at my desk asking myself how I was supposed to feel about what just happened. What’s the proper emotion? In other words, I was going to mentally determine the proper response with my intellect and then allow my emotions to feel what my mind gave them permission to feel. It’s no wonder I’ve had such a hard time relating to the Holy Spirit.
So, what’s the Holy Spirit like? How can I learn to relate to the One who lives in me when I often see Him like a ghost, or something like a mist or a force that emanates from some other being— that being God.
Something About Us
This is a collection of the many questions I have struggled with and the answers I have found regarding the relationship between authentic faith in Christ and much of what is portrayed today as Biblical Christianity. Especially with the coming darkness looming over all of us, including the church.
Come with me. It should be a wild ride!
To find out more about us and what we believe, just continue reading…