Welcome to Leaving LaodiceaThe Survival Manual for the Coming Underground Church
Proverbs 5:1-2 - My son, pay attention (listen carefully, give heed, obey) to my (not the world's) wisdom; lend (extend, stretch out) your ear to my (not the world's) understanding, (why) that you may preserve (watch, keep, guard) discretion, and your lips may keep knowledge.The Proverbs are all about wisdom, understanding, and knowledge. And the key to living in these blessings is to forsake the wisdom of this world, which is moronic (mōría) at best, and embrace the wisdom that only comes from God (1 Cor. 3:19). It's a daily choice, sometimes an hourly choice, we can make. So how 'bout it? Are you up for the challenge? And one more:
Proverbs 5:21 - For the ways (path, journey of one's life) of man (each man, you and me) are before the eyes of the LORD, and He (the Lord) ponders (to make level, to weigh, to guard or watch carefully) all his (each man, you and me) paths (goings, the circle of a camp).Did you catch the meaning of this proverb? Our life's journey, our life's choices are laid out before the Lord. Nothing is hidden from Him. He sees all. Everything. Good and bad. Is that a good thing that nothing is hidden from God? Or not such a good thing? That depends on your view of God as your Father.
What is Your Heavenly Father Like?There are two ways to look at this proverb. And they are basically determined by our perception of what God the Father is like and how we choose to interpret the word, ponder (pālas). One way is to focus on the part of the definition that means "to make level, to weigh." The image would be of a large legal scale, with our actions on one side and God's righteousness on the other. We would then see God as a great Judge with a mighty hammer waiting for us to cross the line, to do something disappointing to Him, something embarrassing to His character. And once the scale becomes unbalanced towards our sin and not His righteousness, WHAM! - down comes the hammer. In essence, "All our lives are before the Lord and He is waiting, just biding His time, until we mess up. And when we do, geez, out comes His iron fist." This is a picture of an abusive father who is head over a dysfunctional family. This is not what our God is like.
How Can Grace Become Sin?
For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ. Jude 1:4In this verse, Jude tells us four things about these "certain men who have crept in unnoticed" in the church: (1) their condemnation or judgment was determined long ago, (2) they are ungodly, (3) they turn the grace offered by our God into a license to sin, and (4) they deny the Lord Jesus Christ.1 This is the inevitable outcome of someone who only sees one side of God's character— grace. When we only believe the nature of God is grace alone, we tend to see Him as an all-forgiving Father who puts up with the sins of His children and is either too afraid, weak or insecure to confront their behavior. He becomes nothing more than a Get Out of Jail Free card whose only purpose is to clean up our mess, pay for any damages, and continue to give us access to His unlimited American Express to fund our carefree lifestyle. He becomes, in effect, a bad parent by showing only grace to the willing sins of His children and not demanding repentance, accountability, responsibility, and retribution. But God is anything but a bad parent. When Jesus confronted the woman caught in the act of adultery, He first offered her grace, then repentance.
John 8:10-11 - "Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?" She said, "No one, Lord." And Jesus said to her, (grace) "Neither do I condemn you; (repentance) go and sin no more."Grace is only one side of the character of Christ. The other side has to do with the consequences of rejecting grace.
Wrath of the LambThere is a chilling verse in the Revelation that should strike fear in those who take the grace of God for granted and use it as an excuse to sin. This verse shows a different side of Jesus. There's no more "Gentle Jesus, Meek and Mild" as the children's song goes. Jesus, referred to as the Lamb of God, now comes with something we'd never expect from a lamb— wrath.
Revelation 6:15-16 - And the kings of the earth, the great men, the rich men, the commanders, the mighty men, every slave and every free man, hid themselves in the caves and in the rocks of the mountains, and said to the mountains and rocks, "Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb!"Did you catch that? Those under condemnation for the sin and rejection of the truth were trying to hide from the wrath of the Lamb, the wrath of Jesus. In fact, Jesus said, "the Father judges no one, but has committed all judgment to the Son" (John 5:22). Jesus, with His judgment, also brings wrath.
Matthew 4:23 - And Jesus went about all Galilee, (1) teaching in their synagogues, (2) preaching the gospel of (what) the kingdom, and (3) healing all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease among the people.In fact, Jesus said the object of the gospel He preached, and commanded us to preach, is the kingdom of God. Consider what Jesus said in His olivet discourse:
Matthew 24:14 - "And this gospel of (what) the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come."There are also certain kingdom characteristics in the lives of believers that the Scriptures point out to us as signs of His kingdom. In essence, when believers manifest certain characteristics of the kingdom in their lives, we can know the kingdom of God is present. And, conversely, when a believer doesn't manifest these kingdom characteristics, we can also safely assume the kingdom of God is far from them. This is a sobering thought. Character, holiness, and sanctification matter. Do you want to discover more about the signs of life in the kingdom? Then keep listening.
We Have Met the Enemy and He is Us
For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ. Jude 1:4Churchill once said, borrowing from an old African proverb, "When there is no enemy within, the enemies outside cannot hurt you." While there is much truth to that proverb, the opposite is also true. "When the enemy is within, the enemies outside can hurt you." And they can hurt you bad. Often permanently. This was the situation Jude was warning the church about in his letter, and the same situation we find ourselves today. The enemy has breached our walls and is now inside the camp. What are we to do?
Who Are These Certain Men?Jude, after calling believers to "contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints" (Jude 1:3), begins to tell us why it's so imperative to defend our faith. He says, "For certain men have crept in unnoticed" (Jude 1:4). There are several words that need further scrutiny. The first of these is certain. The Greek word is tis and means "a certain one, some person whom one cannot or does not wish to name."2 In other words, "It's one of those guys. You know who they are. I don't even need to call them by name." These certain men have crept (pareisdúō) into the church unnoticed, or by stealth. The word means to "enter in craftily, under cover of darkness, like a thief."3 They, like a terrorist sleeper cell, blend in with the others waiting for a time to attack from the inside, from the unprotected underbelly of the church. They are most sinister. But who are these guys? Jude describes them as those "who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ" (Jude 1:4). But we'll look more into this at a later time. They are, in effect, pastors void of holiness. Businessmen, masquerading as pastors, who see the church as their next current startup. They're entrepreneurs, building their own product, brand, and empire within the church. Jesus called them "false prophets"— ravenous wolves in sheep's clothing (Matt. 7:15). And we don't seem to care they're among us, spreading like kudzu.
Why We Must Continue to Contend for the Faith
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. Jude 1:3We are engaged in a bloody war. It's a war taken to us, laid on our doorsteps— a war we cannot afford to lose. To the victor goes the heart and mind of the church. In the past, Satan has attacked the church both outwardly and inwardly with mixed results. In Acts, for example, the external attacks from the religious establishment were countered by the church speaking "the word of God with boldness" (Acts 4:31). And the internal attacks only led to "great fear came upon all the church" (Acts 5:11) and increased ministry to others (Acts 6:7). In each of these, the church only grew stronger.
A Single VoiceIn its early history, the church would meet in authoritative councils to define truth or orthodoxy and address heresy. When a falsehood would arise that became popular among the people and threatened to lead them away from the truth of the gospel, church leaders from all over the world would gather to examine the heresy, compare it to Scripture, and issue a binding statement that would define Christian belief for the church at large. These binding statements became known as creeds. Some of them, the Apostle's Creed and the Nicene Creed for example, codified for us the doctrines we often take for granted. But today it's different. There's no authoritative voice for the church and little accountability. With the internet, pretty much anything goes. And with most Bible-believing Christians not believing the Bible, the spread of heresy and false doctrine is rampant.
The Non-Negotiables of Salvation
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. Jude 1:3Jude's intention was to write about their common salvation— the salvation believers share together. One of the definitions of the word common (koinós) means "belonging to several, of which several are partakers." Jude's letter was originally designed to talk about the salvation they shared and what it all means. But something changed. Now the Holy Spirit has moved Jude on to a related, yet new topic. He finds it now necessary to encourage those who share this common salvation to learn how to contend or strive or fight earnestly for the faith on which their salvation was built. It's as if the object of their faith was under attack, which it was. To "contend earnestly for the faith" implies it's a single, finite faith. It's a faith that isn't fluid or breathing, or doesn't change with the whims of each generation. This is the faith "which was once for all (final) delivered to the saints" (Jude 1:3). And the faith that undergirds their common salvation is what we call the gospel.
Look What We Done With the GospelIf the faith, the gospel, is unchanging and finite, why do we see so many interpretations of the gospel within the Christian church? At last count, it has been reported there were over 33,000 Christian denominations worldwide, which reeks of chaos. No single entity now speaks authoritatively for the church at large. If the world, for example, wants to know the Christian view on homosexuality, they can ask ten different pastors and get seven different answers. But our faith, like prophecy, is not open to private interpretation (2 Peter 1:2). It's a faith that was delivered from Jesus Christ based on His rules and standards, and accountable only to Him. We didn't secure the way to salvation through consensus. He paid for it with His own blood. What we've done to His church is splinter it into a million different fragments all separated by personal nuances that seem to work with our personalities. If someone preaches holiness too much for our taste, they're legalistic. If someone is more licentious than we feel comfortable with, then they're liberal. We judge everything by ourselves, creating God in our image and according to our personal likes and dislikes. Assuming, of course, that God feels like we feel and thinks like we think. Which He doesn't (Isa. 55:8-9).
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. Jude 1:3There 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.
Some BackgroundIt 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.
Very DiligentThe 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. Jude 1:2It 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.
MercyThe 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.
PeaceNext, 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. Jude 1:1There 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.
SanctifiedThe 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.
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…