Don’t Get Defensive

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May 7, 2019

Jude 20-21 (The Message)

But you, dear friends, carefully build yourselves up in this most holy faith by praying in the Holy Spirit, staying right at the center of God’s love, keeping your arms open and outstretched, ready for the mercy of our Master, Jesus Christ. This is the unending life, the real life!

CONSIDER THIS

Let’s be clear: there are legitimate false teachers out there who are leading people away from the apostolic faith found in the authority of Scripture and the Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds. And we’ve also seen the last few days how the false self and false teaching go hand in hand. We’ve seen the what and the why, so how do we defend the faith from false teaching?

By not getting defensive. 

Think about our primary posture when someone comes against us or what we believe, and it usually starts with fear and anger. Our first response is to get them before they get us; to argue, scold, politic, or even cynically ridicule. And if we’re not careful, defending the faith this way can take over our lives and we “become a monster to defeat a monster.” 

But turning to Eugene Peterson again, he says, “There is far more, of course, to living in Christian community than protecting the faith against assault or subversion. Paranoia is as unhealthy spiritually as it is mentally. The primary Christian posture is, in Jude’s words, ‘keeping your arms open and outstretched, ready for the mercy of our Master Jesus Christ.’”

In other words, don’t get defensive.

Instead of exhausting ourselves tearing arguments down, Jude calls us to build each other up in prayer and by the power of the Holy Spirit. Instead of running off to fight, he calls us to run into the center of God’s love. 

Jude is echoing what the Apostle Paul says about the battle and the “armor of God” in Ephesians 6:10-17:

Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.

Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm. Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness. For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared. In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil. Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.

Instead of getting angry and vengeful towards false teachers, we’re called to remember that our battle isn’t really with them but with spiritual forces. 

And if we pay close attention we see that all our defensive armor is really Jesus Christ himself: Truth, righteousness, peace, faith, salvation, word. As we saw a couple of weeks ago in 2 John, Jesus doesn’t just speak the the truth, he is truth. He doesn’t just have peace, he is peace. He doesn’t just offer salvation, he is salvation. He doesn’t just speak the word of God, his is the Word who existed in the beginning. Do you see where this is going? 

Jesus Christ is our first and last line of defense. Our primary task is not getting defensive, but running into his defense. The first part of how we defend the faith has nothing to do with our position with the other person, but everyting to do with our position in Christ. 

So how should we interact with a person we consider a false teacher or enemy of the faith? Good question, becaue the battle belongs to the Lord. 

To be continued…

THE PRAYER

Jesus, give me more and more mercy, peace, and love. I put on the full armor of God, which is you, and pray that by the power of the Holy Spirit you would keep me safe and build me up. Amen.

THE QUESTION

Does today’s text cause you to reconsider your posture towards those you see as false teachers or enemies of the faith? 

For the awakening,
Omar Al-Rikabi

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Omar Rikabi is a United Methodist Pastor serving in North Texas. When not telling stories, Omar likes to watch movies with his wife Jennifer, read books with his three daughters, and work in the kitchen cooking and grilling for family and friends. You follow him on Twitter @omarrikabi or visit his blog omarrikabi.com

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