I’m a big believer in balance. That’s why I love the “tension” verses and passages so well, the ones which concentrate paradoxical truths in tension for us. And since we just spent the last three weeks focusing on virtues, I wanted to spend a day on a more comforting message.
Before we go any further, I want to reiterate a very important point. If at the end of our last study you felt majorly guilty, then either you misunderstood what I was trying to say, or I communicated very poorly. The point of lessons like these is not to make you feel guilty. The main point of these lessons is not ultimately even to improve your character, although that'll be a result of what we’re looking for. They serve a two-fold purpose: 1) They're meant to encourage you to examine yourself to make sure you’re really saved. If you aren’t showing any signs of becoming like Christ, then you need to question whether or not you belong to him. And 2) they’re meant to spur you on to cultivate your relationship with your Savior.
But no matter how many times I emphasize that point, most of us (including myself) tend to feel guilty when we look at ourselves and compare where we are with where we should be. That’s why I wanted to end the year with these passages.
Please let me remind you that the Corinthian church, to judge by the Pauline epistles, was the most screwed-up church in the 1st century. Paul basically spent 15 chapters ripping these guys for screwing up so badly. But near the beginning of the book, he gave them a word of hope: He will keep you strong to the end, and you will be found blameless on the Day when Christ returns. And this is because. . . who is faithful? The Corinthian believers? Oh, please. No, all the true believers at Corinth would turn out all right because God is faithful.
Then we come to the Thessalonian church. They had their problems too, but they certainly weren’t as bad off as the Corinthians. But no matter what the situation, Paul knew that some things would happen to them eventually. Now, this is a good example of why we need to read Scripture carefully and in context. If all you read was vs. 23, you might think “Yeah, Paul hoped that God would completely set them apart through and through and make them blameless. That doesn’t mean that it would definitely happen.” But see the next verse. Again we see Paul appeal not to the faithfulness of believers, but to the faithfulness of our Lord. He’s faithful, and he will do it. Not hopefully he will do it. He will do it.
And finally we come to the last words of Jude. Can I remind you of something? Jude was a half-brother of Jesus. That means that while his brother was walking around, Jude didn’t believe in him. He'd rejected him as Savior and Messiah. But once the Lord Jesus was resurrected, Jude became a believer and a leader in the church. So he knew about failure. But he also knew about grace. And this was his only hope, and ours. His Savior will keep us from falling and present us before himself without fault and with great joy.
And appropriately enough, right after declaring our security in Christ, Jude makes sure all glory goes to the One who deserves it. We deserve none of the glory or honor or praise. He does. He planned it all out, he executed it (at great cost to himself), and he'll complete it. And what do I refer to as “it”?
Our salvation. We were saved from the penalty of sin, we're presently being saved from the power of sin as he progressively remolds us into his likeness, and one day we'll be saved from the very presence of sin. And our salvation will come full circle. Not because of our faithfulness, but his.
And here's my favorite song by Caedmon's Call: "Only Hope"
Lord Jesus, thank you. What do I want this year? A closer relationship with you. No matter what the cost. Please make me into what I am.