May 6, 2019
Jude 17-19 (NLT)
But you, my dear friends, must remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ predicted. They told you that in the last times there would be scoffers whose purpose in life is to satisfy their ungodly desires. These people are the ones who are creating divisions among you. They follow their natural instincts because they do not have God’s Spirit in them.
So we’ve looked at the what of Jude’s letter (defend the faith) and we’re closing out the why (because of false teaching). But before we get to the how there’s one last reason we need to know about.
Anyone out there remember the old GI Joe cartoon series? Every episode ended with a PSA (public service announcement) for kids about things like not talking to strangers, what to do in case of a fire, or making sure to tell the truth. They always ended with the refrain: “Now you know, and knowing is half the battle.”
Today Jude wants to remind us of something we should already know: that in the days after Jesus’ resurrection and ascension, before he returns (which is the time we’re living in), there would be scoffers whose purpose in life is to satisfy their ungodly desires.
The word “scoffer” here is the Greek word empaiktes, describing a mocking and rejection of divine authority. And the rejection of divine authority is the root of all sin when Adam and Eve looked to be fulfilled by something other than God.
In other words, they looked to something false. And when you become false, you teach false. The real endgame of false teachers comes from the false self, which is the identity and sense of worth we’ve created for ourselves apart from God. It’s the fallen (natural) instinct we follow when we reject the Holy Spirit. In his book The Way of the Heart Henri Nouwen defines the false self as compulsive, saying:
“Compulsive is indeed the best adjective for the false self. It points to the need for ongoing and increasing affirmation. Who am I? I am the one who is liked, praised, admired, disliked, hated or despised. Whether I am a pianist, a businessman or a minister, what matters is how I am perceived by my world. If being busy is a good thing, then I must be busy. If having money is a sign of real freedom, then I must claim my money. If knowing many people proves my importance, I will have to make the necessary contacts. The compulsion manifests itself in the lurking fear of failure and the steady urge to prevent this by gathering more of the same – more work, more money, more friends.”
This could apply to any of us. It’s easy to get worked up over theological arguments and say, “They’re wrong! They’re a false teacher” while never realizing any of us could be operating out of the false self, which as disciples called to make disciples, makes any of us a false teacher.
It’s a battle, and that’s why we still need this letter. But maybe it’s also the reason so few read, study, or preach from Jude: because either we don’t know our false self and the division it’s creating, or the enemy wants to keep it that way.
But now you know, and knowing is half the battle.
Jesus, give me more and more mercy, peace, and love. Forgive me if I have created division out of my false self, whether that division is in my community, my family, or just in me. Free me by the power of your Holy Spirit. Amen.
Where do you see evidence of the false self in your life, and where do you see the possibility of the Holy Spirit?
For the awakening,