Clouds Without Water

Lookout-960x700It’s been a delightfully cloudy day here in drought-ridden Southern California. I heard via Facebook from a friend who lives in the middle of the state that they were having rain. Ah, if only our clouds would produce some rain. But the weather forecast gave us only a fifty percent chance of getting measurable precipitation from this weather event.

So I look with longing at the gray sky, the unproductive sky that promises by appearances to bring us what we need, only to disappoint in the end.

Jude uses these kinds of clouds as a metaphor to describe false teachers. They looked promising on the outside, but like a tree that appears healthy and productive, yet doesn’t yield any fruit, false teachers don’t give what hungry hearts need.

Perhaps the worst trait of these false teachers is that they create division in the Church. They are “hidden reefs in your love feasts” and care for themselves, not for others. They are mockers who follow their own lusts; they cause divisions, are worldly-minded, devoid of the Spirit. (Jude 1:18-19).

I’ve been thinking about division in the church of late. Jesus said, “By this all men will know you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35) So we are to love other Christians—that’s unequivocal. But love doesn’t always look like unity.

I mean when a child disobeys a parent and receives discipline, there may be a time when the relationship seems to hang in the balance. The child is angry and rebellious and determined not to give in. The parent is frustrated and adamant and determined not to give in. Where’s the unity in that?

So love doesn’t always look like unity, though the appearance might be passing.

In those moments when there’s a struggle, when love desires unity, a mending of the brokenness, there’s a temptation to yield for no other reason than to restore togetherness. And in the back of my mind, I’ve thought, isn’t that what love is supposed to do?

But here is this passage in Jude saying the mockers, the ungodly ones who have crept into the Church, are causing divisions. Is it the responsibility of believers to yield to the demands of the ones creating division, the “persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ” (v 4b)?

So how do we know who is turning grace into a license to sin?

I’d say, we have to turn to the authority of God’s word to answer that question. Who is advocating a departure from the clear instruction of the Bible?

In our culture there are progressives who “deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ” by re-imaging Him or reducing Him to a mere man or stripping from Him the miraculous power He demonstrated day in and day out.

There are also people on both sides of the sex wars who ignore Scripture’s instruction to husbands and wives, who care more for themselves and their advancement than they care for God’s name and glory. Talk about divisions!

The sad thing is, these progressives, these feminists or advocates for the manoshpere, are clouds without water. No rain comes from them to wash away the grim, to water the soil, to produce a crop. In other words, all their rhetoric doesn’t solve any problems. In fact, they create divisions in the Church. They are the problems.

But what are the rest of us to do? Hating disunity, do we capitulate?

Sure, OK, if you want to believe the Bible is true as a metaphor and not literally true, we’re fine with that. We don’t want there to be any division in the church. Or, sure, if you want to believe that a husband as the head of his wife can—or should—dominate her and control her instead of serve her and sacrifice for her as Christ did for the Church, we don’t want to actually denounce you, because, you know, unity. Or how about this one—sure, if you want to believe that there are certain things we have to do in order to be saved, that’s your choice, so you can be part of our church and teach in our Bible studies because we don’t want to offend you or cause division.

The people following God’s word are not causing the divisions. It’s the people who are departing from the Bible that are causing divisions. What are we who believe the Bible to do—rail against the offenders? picket? leave for a different church?

The latter seems to be the choice of a good many Christians. Or maybe it’s just leave without the “for a different church” part.

But leaving isn’t an option, God commands us to assemble together. And any other congregation is as likely to have hidden reefs as the one we’re thinking of leaving.

Here’s what Jude tells believers to do:

But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life. And have mercy on some, who are doubting; save others, snatching them out of the fire; and on some have mercy with fear, hating even the garment polluted by the flesh. (vv 20-23)

I’ll distill that into four points:

1) grow some spiritual muscle by praying, maintaining your relationship with God, and looking forward to life with Him.
2) have mercy on people who are doubting
3) save others
4) have mercy with fear on those living in sin

What does it look like to have mercy on those who are doubting or who are living in sin? That’s another whole blog post, but I’m pretty sure it doesn’t involve hurling invective, in person or on line.

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5 Comments

  1. We have just hit out rainy season here. Though our drought riddled famers need the rain more than whst we do here in the city

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  2. Thankfully, we can rightly divide Scripture by comparing passage with passage and in numerous passages we are told to avoid and turn away from false teachers.

    17 Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them. 18 For those who are sure do not serve our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly, and by smooth words and flattering speech deceive the hearts of the simple. Romans 16:17-18

    A man that is an heretic after the first and second admonition reject; Knowing that he that is such is subverted, and sins, being condemned of himself. Titus 3:10-11

    So we must warn, at most twice, and then reject. For many of us that means leaving church. May Christ make us valiant for Him. Amen!

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  3. Great one Becky. I hope you will write that blog post you mentioned at the end, as it would be a great lesson for us all.

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  4. Amen and thank you. I’ve not been reading all the blogs I follow (so I’m not really following?) so I have a long list of posts I haven’t read (I’ll never read likely … life moves forward). But I enjoy yours, so picked this most recent post. I appreciate your perspectives and commentary. By the way, I also live in the central valley and delighted in the rain yesterday (and drove nice and slow last night to a special prayer meeting at church)! My kids and grandkids live in so Cal.

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  5. Rebecca You sound so strong here. good for you. But you ask this question, What does it look like to have mercy on those who are doubting or who are living in sin?
    Jesus has an answer compassion. Remember the woman who had committed adultery and people were ready to stone her? He just said, “He who has not sinned throw the first stone”. Then , when thsy had left, he said( more or less) ‘They’ve gone. I do not convict you. Go and sin no more.’ he gave her a second chance. With the rich young man, Jesus suggested how he could do good for others;he rejected it and, as he left, Jesus was sad.
    We can’t always convince others but we can have love for them, be saddened by their choices and PRAY for them.

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