False Positives

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May 4, 2019

Jude 12-16 (NLT)

When these people eat with you in your fellowship meals commemorating the Lord’s love, they are like dangerous reefs that can shipwreck you. They are like shameless shepherds who care only for themselves. They are like clouds blowing over the land without giving any rain. They are like trees in autumn that are doubly dead, for they bear no fruit and have been pulled up by the roots. They are like wild waves of the sea, churning up the foam of their shameful deeds. They are like wandering stars, doomed forever to blackest darkness.

Enoch, who lived in the seventh generation after Adam, prophesied about these people. He said, “Listen! The Lord is coming with countless thousands of his holy ones to execute judgment on the people of the world. He will convict every person of all the ungodly things they have done and for all the insults that ungodly sinners have spoken against him.” These people are grumblers and complainers, living only to satisfy their desires. They brag loudly about themselves, and they flatter others to get what they want.

CONSIDER THIS

Hey Jude… we get it, false teachers are bad. But does anyone else think he’s gone a bit too simile heavy for too much of this little letter?

But did you notice there’s a pattern: humans and animals (shameless shepherds), sky (clouds without rain), land (trees without fruit), sea (wild waves), and the cosmos (wandering stars doomed to darkness). These are all elements of the created order in Genesis 1 and 2, and all of creation was broken at the fall in Genesis 3. False teachers perpetuate what happened in Eden over a lie, and this still impacts everything between you and me.

That’s the reason for Jude’s strong warning, because being false doesn’t look as obvious as we think it does. Since the beginning when Satan tempted Eve, the work of false teachers has often appeared just righteous enough that we almost can’t tell the difference. And because every part of creation is infected, it can impact every part of our lives. 

So how do we let false teaching in? As I asked yesterday, how can we participate in it without even knowing it? The clue is in the line: “When these people eat with you in your fellowship meals commemorating the Lord’s love…”

Jude is talking about Holy Communion, one of the most sacred sacraments and practices of the church that form us, both individually and as a people. Jude is warning of letting false teachers and their teachings infect believers’ sacred space and time. 

Now remember, churches then met in more intimate home settings, and part of their practice was to share a full meal that ended with Holy Communion. In this setting traveling teachers would come through and infect the congregation. 

Our church culture and practices are different today, but the danger is still real. The warning for us is not so much who weekly preaches in your pulpit, but who daily speaks into your soul.

Another way to ask this is: What is your primary source of discipleship? Discipleship means you closely follow the teaching of someone, so who is that primary person or persons? In my experience, the primary source of discipleship for many, many people are the voices of social media, cable news, and talk radio. And if we’re really, really honest a good portion of that combination broadcast people who are “grumblers and complainers, living only to satisfy their desires. They brag loudly about themselves, and they flatter others to get what they want,” many times while trying to sound just righetous enough.

What is the impact in our lives if our primary source of discipleship is rooted in gossip, fear-mongering, and sensationalism? It metastasizes in our souls and witness. In his introduction to Jude in the Message translation, Eugene Peterson says, “Our spiritual communities are as susceptible to disease as our physical bodies. But it is easier to detect whatever is wrong in our stomachs and lungs than in our worship and witness. [A] dangerous, even deadly, virus in our spiritual communities can go undetected for a long time.” 

The same is true in our own souls. Peterson calls Jude’s letter a “diagnosis” for a group of believers who “apparently didn’t know anything was wrong.” 

We’ll see the prescription next week. To be continued…

THE PRAYER

Jesus, give me more and more mercy, peace, and love. If I’m going to be your disciple, may you be the one to disciple me most, through the power of your Holy Spirit and in your word. Amen.

THE QUESTION

What is a primary source of your disciplehsip that maybe shouldn’t be? 

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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