Between Jesus and me

Some people from our church are on a road trip through the Bible – we are praying and reading through the Bible all year – and I’ve joined them. We’re in Deuteronomy and Luke this week and the contrast in relationships is striking. The people of Israel were invited to the mountain to hear from God and get close to Him personally, and they chose a “go-between” to do the risky business of faith: Moses.

The disciples were invited to the dinner table to listen to Jesus and fall in love with Him, and they said yes: they “went there” in faith, believing God is both good and just. Faith was still risky; in fact, each Jesus-followers at the table except John died a violent death representing the Good News of the Kingdom (excluding Judas, but that’s for another post.)

But here is the interesting response from the Lord toward the Old Testament people of God: “I heard what they said and that shows they revere me, and have a holy fear and respect for their Lord and will obey me.” In the next breath, the Lord invited them to fall in love with Him with all they have and are!

Jesus changed things. We don’t need a “go-between” to be in His presence and fall in love with him. But love alongside a deep fear and respect for how awesome He is can go together. The weaving together of love and fear of the Lord God keep the wonder fresh: what will following Jesus look like today?

Between Jesus and me there is no longer a priest or a go-between; a growing love for His Presence and a wonderful respect to listen and follow are there instead.

Happy Palm Sunday, Everyone! Hosannah to King Jesus!

Greater the darkness; more visible the victory.

I know people who have gone through great tragedy and experienced dark days. Businesses fail. Homes are taken. Children (or spouses) stray. Partners betray. What felt secure evaporates in a brief moment. And dark times and deep questions often follow.

And you might ask, Why bring this up? Because we all face those dark nights of the soul.

How you and I as Christ-followers respond in the darkness, and especially how we take one step at a time toward God’s grace and purposes in that darkness, has a great impact on people. We give hope to others when we pursue King Jesus and keep loving and serving others when our days are dark.

When Jesus was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane, he announced it as the hour “when the power of darkness reigns.” (Luke 22:53). And for the next three days, the darkness crescendoed around the city of Jerusalem and across the heavenlies.

And heaven’s greatest coup came in the deepest darkness. What was usurped for millennia by the Conniver in the Garden of Eden was reclaimed for good in the dark hours in the Garden of Gethsemane.

Jesus is acquainted with the darkness; He does His best work when people need hope and salvation. And that’s when He does His best work in and through you and me.

This week, Renovation Vineyard Church begin our journey through the dark days of Jesus’ Passion as we move through the hours just before Easter Sunday and His unmatched triumph over the enemy and the grave.

Trusting His Victory in the Darkness – Pastor Rick

3 John 1:1-14 Pastor Rick’s Study Notes and Small Group Questions

Pastor Rick’s Study Notes:

3 John 1:1-14

(PRT)

v. 1 The elder writes to the beloved Gaius, whom I genuinely love, too. v. 2 Beloved, I pray that you’ll prosper in everything you do and stay healthy, just as you prosper in your soul. v. 3 For I am incredibly glad to hear from those brothers and sisters who travel and declare the Truth that you continue to walk in the Truth. v. 4 I have no greater joy than to hear my children are living in the Truth. vv. 5-6 Beloved, you are faithful in working and serving those brothers and sisters who are traveling and they tell the story of your love in action in the presence of the church gathered. You will have done a beautiful work that is in line with God’s character as you send them on. v. 7 For in fact, they travel all about  to make known the Name and take nothing from those among the Gentiles when they do. v. 8 That means we, then, should hold up our end for brothers and sisters like this; in doing so, we work together for the Truth. vv. 9-10 I have written of this to the church, but Diotrephes, the one who longs to be first among all, does not even recognize us. Because of this, in the event that I come, I will remind the church of what he is doing. He says hurtful words. He accuses us. Additionally, he is not satisfied with just these things; he doesn’t welcome the brothers and sisters and stands in the way of those who want to do so and drives them away from of the church. v. 11 Beloved, don’t mimic what is evil and hurtful; instead imitate what is good. The one doing good is aligned with God; the one doing evil has missed God completely. v. 12 A good testimony about Demetrius has been reported by everyone as well as by the Truth; and we also can testify, and you know we can vouch for him and our witness is true. vv. 13-14 I had more things to write you but I don’t want to say it with ink and pen. Instead, I hope to see you soon. Then we can speak person-to-person! Peace to you and greetings from your friends. Say hello to our friends by name.

Study Notes:

v. 1 The elder writes to the beloved Gaius, whom I genuinely love, too.

Gaius (at least as a name) has a marvelous history with the church and has gained much respect. There are four Gaius’s in the New Testament. This one may be one of the three from Corinth, Macedonia, or Derbe. Here, John acknowledges this status of beloved and affirms his own love for this man, too.  The phrase “in truth” is a part of this verse; truthfully, genuinely.

v. 2 Beloved, I pray that you’ll prosper in everything you do and stay healthy, just as you prosper in your soul.

That the journey of your life will be characterized by success and good health, and beyond to a prosperous soul in the spiritual journey, too.

While Paul commits to “pray” in  his letters all the time, this is John’s only time in his three letters. John clearly considers Gaius the best of friends.

The word for prosper means to have a good journey, a prosperous journey. He covers it all here: health physically, relationships in the journey, spiritually. John is trusting that Gaius’s soul is in good hands.

John prays for this “above all things.” Prosper means to succeed.

v. 3 For I am incredibly glad to hear from those brothers and sisters who travel and declare the Truth that you continue to walk in the Truth.

The “adelphie” – the brothers (and sisters) who love one another, and they are traveling preachers and teachers who “martureo” – give witness – to the Truth. By now, late in the first century, the Good News of the Kingdom was also called the Truth. Gaius steadfastly walks in this Truth. John is a keen wordsmith. These brothers and sisters travel and witness to the Good News; and they bear witness to Gaius’s goodness.

This Truth is John’s word for the overarching word from God that gives Kingdom wholeness to a person.

v. 4 I have no greater joy than to hear my children are living in the Truth.

John’s joy is knowing that those whom He was given the privilege of leading to the Truth are still in the Truth. Children – teknon – reminds me of John’s earlier letter (1 John 2 – “beloved children, who have been forgiven and who know the Father.”) Living the truth is literally “walking around” in Truth.

Gaius may be one of John’s converts and most certainly one he has poured his life into in discipleship.

vv. 5-6 Beloved, you are faithful in working and serving those brothers and sisters who are traveling and they tell the story of your love in action in the presence of the church gathered. You will have done a beautiful work that is in line with God’s character as you send them on.

These two verses are difficult to translate word-for-word. John commend Gaius for both working with and serving those who are traveling and this story has made it to the church. It’s a beautiful work, a worthy work, worthy of God’s praise and reflecting His character. He loved people; Gaius loves people.

The work is worthily of God.

v. 7 For in fact, they travel all about  to make known the Name and take nothing from those among the Gentiles when they do.

They go out and come in on behalf of the Name and get no payment from the Gentiles. That makes it a good thing, a beautiful work, when Gaius hosts them and sends them off with food and help. Until now, the world was divided into two groups from the Jewish mindset: Jews and Gentiles.  Is there a shifting here in defining people groups? The Gentiles who don’t know Christ yet are not asked to support these who travel and preach; but the Gentiles who do know Christ are commended, as are the Jews who know Christ as encouraged in their giving. A new family around the globe forms around the Name.

The Name of Jesus is worth giving one’s journey to.

v. 8 That means we, then, should hold up our end for brothers and sisters like this; in doing so, we work together for the Truth.

Hold up our end could be receive this charge or obligation. We should and they did. By doing so they became co-laborers in taking the Truth. It’s a fair thing to say that, when we help by giving, surrendering our time or resources, hosting, or praying for those who go in and out with the Truth proclaimed, we co-labor. It is our work together.

vv. 9-10 I have written of this to the church, but Diotrephes, the one who longs to be first among all, does not even recognize us. Because of this, in the event that I come, I will remind the church of what he is doing. He says hurtful words. He accuses us. Additionally, he is not satisfied with just these things; he doesn’t welcome the brothers and sisters and stands in the way of those who want to do so and drives them away from of the church.

John has commended this practice of hospitality to those who are traveling preachers, but the commendation has been diverted by a person in the church who is either jealous or power hungry. He doesn’t even receive the efforts to promote this practice. This person, Diotrephes, has a trust issue with John and has rejected his thoughts. That someone would stand in the way of the last living original Apostle is unthinkable.  Even more so, he has rejected and drive off from church those who want to give space and help to the traveling ministers. John’s concern isn’t his feelings, even though this man threw shade on him; he is concerned that people are not being helped, others are leaving the church.

Don’t miss the point that John wrote about this earlier; that means he sent a First John, a Second John, and a Second John 2.0, before this Third John. The leaders had letters going back and forth in greater evidence than just what we have preserved by the Holy Spirit for the Bible. So, in this case, John wrote to the church Diotrephes was a leader in and to Gaius also about this person’s intentional flaw.

v. 11 Beloved, don’t mimic what is evil and hurtful; instead imitate what is good. The one doing good is aligned with God; the one doing evil has missed God completely.

This juxtaposition of good and evil is strong in Scripture. Here John is clear: if you continue to oppose the good that God is doing, you will have taken your eyes from God and you don’t see Him anymore. John is using what he wrote earlier in his first letter: obedience shows that we know God; evil doing demonstrates we have not even seen God.

v. 12 A good testimony about Demetrius has been reported by everyone as well as by the Truth; and we also can testify, and you know we can vouch for him and our witness is true.

We don’t know if this is the same Demetrius that used to make idols to Artemis in Ephesus. Possibly? It would make sense that someone with authority might “vouch” for a Jesus-follower who may have had a “previous life.” Don’t we need that! Remember that Paul needed Barnabas, Ananias, and others to open the door for  acceptance.

In this case, Demetrius has a good reputation by those who know him and by John’s record. But perhaps more important, his life is measured by “the Truth” – what does this mean? My take is this is that characteristic of a life devoted to the Good News that the Spirit testified to others that, when we see that person’s bearing, it is a good life one is looking on.

vv. 13-14 I had more things to write you but I don’t want to say it with ink and pen. Instead, I hope to see you soon. Then we can speak person-to-person! Peace to you and greetings from your friends. Say hello to our friends by name.

John had a lot more on his mind, but he expected to see Gaius sooner than soon. Person-to-person is really mouth-to-mouth, but that means something entirely in English.

Small Group Study Questions:

3 John 1:1-14

  1. Letter-writing is a lost art. Do you still write letters (the one’s with stamps)? Can you remember receiving a letter from someone you loved who had been away for a while? How did it make you feel to open it and read it?
  2. Read vv. 1-4. What can you tell about John’s relationship with Gaius, the recipient of this letter?
  3. Read vv. 5-8.  What main quality does John the Apostle commend that Gaius shows? Who does he show this hospitality to according to these verses?  When we show hospitality and give to others who serve God, what does John say we are doing?
  4. Read vv. 9-12. John uses two different people as illustrations. Who is Diotrephes? What is John’s opinion of him? Who is Demetrius? What does John think of him?
  5. What one thing from these verses can you learn from and adopt into your own life?
  6. How can we pray for you?

Luke 21:1-4 Pastor Rick’s Study Notes and Small Group Questions

Pastor Rick’s Study Notes:

Luke 21:1-4

(PRT) Luke 21:1-4

v. 1 Then Jesus looked up and saw those who were wealthy tossing their gifts into the offering baskets. v. 2 He also saw a certain poor widow as she dropped in two small coins worth less than a penny. v. 3 And Jesus said: “With all honesty, I can say to you that this poor widow has given more than all who have tossed in their offerings. v. 4 For what they gave was small compared to their surplus; but out of her poverty, she gave all she had to live on.

Study Notes:

v. 1 Then Jesus looked up and saw those who were wealthy tossing their gifts into the offering baskets.

Jesus had been in the Temple teaching during this last week of his ministry. No less than five times in this teaching time in the Temple, Jesus teaches on giving, generosity, and the impact of greed as opposed to generosity. This passage is a tangible illustration of what Jesus taught.

He looked  up and saw that the gifts were out of the wealthy’s excess. The “treasury” is the way giving happened in the Temple. This treasury was set up in the Courts of the Women as a place specifically for the tithes as people moved into the Temple. By the days of Jesus, there were thirteen chests with openings trumpet-shaped to catch what was thrown toward the chests as people passed by.

The picture here is Jesus with his followers sitting in the Courts of the Women opposite the chests and, right after arguing about taxes (“give to Caesar what he’s due; to God what He’s due,” Jesus looks up and begins to watch the wealthy parade by tossing their coins into the basket by way of the noisy trumpet-shaped openings. Some of the gifts are large. But all are measured from the givers’ surplus. The widow in line gives and can only scrape together to coins worth a portion of a penny; but she gives knowing that was it for her resources. She’s given all she has, not in desperation or in giving up, but in trust that God has her and He will be faithful. Marks word for “poor” indicates that she knows she has no influence, no resources to convince anyone of her station; hers was a simple station of living day-by-day.

v. 2 He also saw a certain poor widow and she was dropping in two small coins worth less than a penny.

Her two small coins were “lepta” or small copper coins used as the lowest common coinage. Most people would pass them by if they saw them on the ground. What others might discard, God can take and multiply into the grandest work or gift to the Kingdom.

v. 3 And Jesus said: “With all honesty, I can say to you that this poor widow has given more than all who have tossed in their offerings.

This must have been a shock since the greater the gift the greater the giver in this culture.  Truly, verily, in all honesty.

v. 4 For what they gave was small compared to their surplus; but out of her poverty, she gave all she had to live on.

Jesus is making a comparison here. If I have a lot and give a little bit in comparison, my offering isn’t a big as what a person gives sacrificially even though it is less for the books. God’s books are different and reflect the generosity of the heart and not the balance of the check book.

Note of importance: Jesus doesn’t condemn the rich for their giving; he lifts up the heart of sacrifice of the poor who give out of their need and not their surplus. It’s a measure of generosity.

Small Group Questions:

Luke 21:1-4

  1. Have you ever witnessed real generosity? What happened and what made it real to you?
  2. Read Luke 21:1-4. What two things does Jesus see when He looks up? Is he surprised by what He sees?
  3. Because Jesus praises the widow, do you think He is condemning the wealthy? Why or why not?
  4. How does one’s generosity reflect God’s personality and actions?
  5. This passage speaks about consistent giving (the tithe) and extravagant giving. In what ways can you personally become more generous?
  6. How can we pray for you today?

Philemon – Pastor Rick’s Study Notes and Small Group Questions

Pastor Rick’s Study Notes:

(PRT)

vv. 1-2 Paul, imprisoned for Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother, to Philemon our beloved fellow servant, as well as our sister Apphia and Archippus our fellow warrior, and to the church that gathers at your home. v. 3 Grace to each of you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. v. 4 I give my God thanks always as I think of you by name in my prayers. v. 5 I keep hearing about your love and the faith that you have in relation to the Lord Jesus and among all the saints,  v. 6 and pray that your faith’s partnership might become active in understanding every good thing that we have inside us because of Christ. v. 7 Yes! We have this overflowing joy and we’re encouraged by your love. Brother, you have refreshed those set apart for God inside and out. v. 8 For this reason, I can boldly call on you with my need (though I could demand it in Christ because it is right to do.) vv. 9-10 On account of our love, I, Paul, only urge you as one who’s been around a long time and even more so as one imprisoned for the sake of Christ Jesus; I appeal to you for my child in the faith. Yes, even Onesimus, whom I have lead toward the new birth while in my shackles. v. 11 He was useless to you in the past, but now is useful both to you and to me. vv. 12-13 I have sent him back to you. This one who has my deepest affection, I have a mind to employ (to take your place here) so he can help me in prison for the sake of the Good News. v. 14 I won’t, though, without your consent; though because of your usefulness and goodness, you might be willing to allow it. v. 15 For it could be that he was separated from you for a short time as a slave, so that you could have him for all time. v. 16 Now a slave no more, but more than a slave. He is a beloved brother, to me especially. But for you? How much more, both in the flesh and in the Lord! vv. 17-18 Since, then, you consider me your partner, welcome him as you would me; and if he has hurt you or owes you anything, put it on my tab. v. 19 It’s me, Paul, who wrote this in my own handwriting. I will make good on any debt owed, even though I might say you have a debt to me for your own life. v. 20 Yes, brother, let me benefit from you in the Lord. Assure my heart in Christ! v. 21 I’m certain of your consent to my request and know that you’ll go beyond what I’ve asked. v. 22 In the meantime, then, get the guest room ready. I hope to come to you in answer to your prayers. vv. 23-24 Epaphras, my fellow convict in Christ Jesus, says hello. Mark, Aristarchus, Demas and Luke and my fellow servants also send greetings. v. 25 May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen.

Study Notes:

vv. 1-2 Paul, imprisoned for Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother, to Philemon our beloved fellow servant, as well as our sister Apphia and Archippus our fellow warrior, and to the church that gathers at your home.

Archippus is Paul’s fellow soldier in the field, battling the enemy’s work. The church is the gathered believers and they met in Philemon’s home. Any one of these three mentioned could be the shepherd of this flock that calls his home his church family.

Until the third century, there were no “church buildings.” They met in homes and businesses and used public spaces. For Colossae, there were likely multiple “churches” that made up the church in Colossae, all meeting in homes.

Three things about this letter. 1) God’s work of moving his children to Kingdom values is clear. 2) The needs of the individual believer matter. 3) Each life is meant to be the redemptive story.

v. 3 Grace to each of you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Second person single as Paul considers how much each person in this house church needs God’s abiding peace and overflowing grace.

v. 4 I give my God thanks always as I think of you by name in my prayers.

Giving thanks always as well as remembering, recalling, making mention of those Paul has named earlier. Literally, it is “at all times making remembrances of you upon my prayers.”  He recalls them as he prays.

v. 5 I keep hearing about your love and the faith that you have in relation to the Lord Jesus and among all the saints, 

Multiple people have told Paul about Philemon; certainly Archippus, Onesimus, Timothy, and others.

v. 6 And pray that your faith’s partnership might become active in understanding every good thing that we have inside us because of Christ.

This phrase, partnership, is the fellowship we have together in making the things of Christ a part of our experience.

v. 7 Yes! We have this overflowing joy and we’re encouraged by your love. Brother, you have refreshed those set apart for God inside and out.

Paul had experienced this refreshing personally; who doesn’t need refreshing from the Lord inside and out.

v. 8 For this reason, I can boldly call on you with my need (though I could demand it in Christ because it is right to do.)

This verse is a bit difficult to nail down. The verse looks back on what’s already been said, therefore: Paul has great or ample confidence or boldness in Christ at his command to ask for a solution to a problem, and he could demand it as this is befitting his relationship with the church. 

vv. 9-10 On account of our love, I, Paul, only urge you as one who’s been around a long time and even more so as one imprisoned for the sake of Christ Jesus; I appeal to you for my child in the faith. Yes, even Onesimus, whom I have lead toward the new birth while in my shackles.

Paul’s appeal is based on the wisdom of his many years and his restricted life in prison as well as the fact that Onesimus, who was dead in the spirit, has come alive in Christ through Paul’s witness. He looks back to v. 5 and Philemon’s love shown practical, and he makes his case for this man’s slave.

The word for old man here can also be ambassador. Could it be that he is writing as both?

This letter is a juxtaposition of slave and prisoner/free, useless/useful, and alone/in partnership.

Luther says we are “all the Lord’s Onesimi.”

v. 11 He was useless to you in the past, but now is useful both to you and to me.

This slave’s name says he is useful but in running away, he has been useless to Philemon. This play on the name carries throughout the letter. Onesimus is useful and worth something to his owner.

vv. 12-13 I have sent him back to you. This one who has my deepest affection, I have a mind to employ (to take your place here) so he can help me in prison for the sake of the Good News.

Paul’s chains are the result of preaching the Good News; he needs help in prison and want to retain, keep from returning to his owner, and employs as his helper, his minister. A little phrase “for you me” hints to Philemon that Paul has the right to call on him to come and serve him in prison; but Onesimus will take his place.

v. 14 I won’t, though, without your consent; though because of your usefulness and goodness, you might be willing to allow it.

Paul plays on the word useful again as he hope Philemon might reconsider out of goodness (this word can mean usefulness.) I imagine that, when Philemon read this letter out loud to his gathering, they laughed at Paul’s puns and wordplay as much as they rejoiced to hear Onesimus is one of the family now. Paul’s humor is here, but his need is, too. He’s in shackles and still preaching, discipling, doing the work of the Kingdom. He needs help.

v. 15 For it could be that he was separated from you for a short time as a slave, so that you could have him for all time.

This servant was a part of the economy of slavery and was missed in the household, not just because he was not present but because his tasks were left to others. He was lost to his owner for a short time when he ran away; but he is now found to him as a brother who is willing to return and face the consequences. The relationship changed radically between slaveholder and slave because of Jesus. Both got upgrades. One is now free to serve at his work for the other who loves him like a brother.

v. 16 Now a slave no more, but more than a slave. He is a beloved brother, to me especially. But for you? How much more, both in the flesh and in the Lord!

The little phrase “how much more” is an old way for exclaiming in a great way, it’s a huge difference!

What about slavery? Scripture acknowledges that slavery is a part of the culture, but there is a progressive revelation through both words and actions that slavery is not a Kingdom value. In the OT, the people of God used slaves. In the NT, slave owners became Christians and are challenged to embrace the slave as brother. The declaration is this: neither Jew nor Gentile, slave nor free, man nor woman – you all are one in Christ Jesus.” Slavery was universal throughout this time. But the seeds of heaven’s values were firmly planted into redeemed hearts and slavery’s days for the Christian were numbered. The communion table is the perfect symbol of this: the rich take with the poor, the male with the female, the slave with the free, the conquered with the conqueror.

vv. 17-18 Since, then, you consider me your partner, welcome him as you would me; and if he has hurt you or owes you anything, put it on my tab.

Paul may be adding this because, even though Philemon is a Christian and a leader, he may have been hurt or put out by this action, and he may have had to hire someone to take his place. Paul  is going to bat for this new Jesus-follower.

v. 19 It’s me, Paul, who wrote this in my own handwriting. I will make good on any debt owed, even though I might say you have a debt to me for your own life.

Just in case Philemon might think Onesimus conned someone into writing this, Paul assures him it’s his handwriting and he is good for the debt owed. Just a reminder, though, that Philemon is indebted to Paul for his own life in Christ. In the end, we owe much more than we can claim we are owed; we might be offended or feel the pain of what we thought we were due, but it’s all small potatoes compared to the riches we have in Jesus.

v. 20 Yes, brother, let me benefit from you in the Lord. Assure my heart in Christ!

Paul continues his play on “useful” with another word that means this and “benefit.”  The former slave’s name, Onesimus, is the word used here and elsewhere for wordplay. Another chuckle from the crowd. Assure can mean refresh; but the previous sentences as asking for assurance that he will be kind in response to his slave’s return.

v. 21 I’m certain of your consent to my request and know that you’ll go beyond what I’ve asked.

He knows his friend but still wants assurance that he will do what he’s asked and beyond. In fact, Paul uses a word that also means “obey me.”

v. 22 In the meantime, then, get the guest room ready. I hope to come to you in answer to your prayers.

“to come to you” really means that I hope that I will be delivered and presented to you as a present, that God will carry me along to show up on your doorstep because you have asked him to. Maybe this is additional pressure (as in, “don’t make me come there”) but more likely, it’s a promise to come to renew their friendship (and, with the wordplay, enjoy an inside joke with his gathering.

vv. 23-24 Epaphras, my fellow convict in Christ Jesus, says hello. Mark, Aristarchus, Demas and Luke and my fellow servants also send greetings.

Paul ends where he starts, with relationships.

v. 25 May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen.

This is the most personal that Paul gets in his letters. It may be his shortest, but there is such an intimacy that shows what kind of friend he is to those he disciples.

Small Group Study Questions:

Philemon 1

  1. Have you ever “lost” a friend and he or she returned (maybe they moved away or your relationship was restored?) How did you respond to this “return?”
  2. Read vv. 1-6. The first churches were in homes (in fact, the first church buildings didn’t show up until 300 years later!) How did this benefit the church in these early years? What do these verses say church in Philemon’s home was like?
  3. What does it mean to be  generous (v. 6)? What does generosity have in common with “all good things” we have in our walk with Christ Jesus?
  4. When you hear the story of Philemon (the slave owner) and Onesimus (the slave) in this chapter, what is your main “take-away?”
  5. Philemon’s name means compassionate kindness and Onesimus means useful servant. Did they both live up to their names?
  6. Since you have become a Christ-followers, how do you live up to the name of the Savior you carry? How can we pray for you this week to help you do so?

Jude 1:3, 20-25. Pastor Rick’s Study Notes and Small Group Questions

Pastor Rick’s Study Notes:

Jude vv. 3, 20-25

v. 3 Beloved, I’ve been very eager to write to you about the salvation we share and especially the need to urge you to stand up for the faith that one time for all has been entrusted to those set apart and made holy by God.

v. 20 You who are beloved, build yourselves up in the purist things of your faith; keep praying in the Holy Spirit.

*v. 21 Remain in God’s love and keep anticipating the mercy and kindness of Jesus Christ our Lord leading toward eternal life.

v. 22 Show a patient kindness to those who are struggling to believe.

v. 23 But to others, pull them up from the fires and pull them toward a right relationship with God; still others, show them compassion even as you despise and shudder at their lives sullied by their sinful nature cut off from God.

v. 24 And to Him who is able to keep each of you from stumbling, standing blameless and celebrating in the presence of His glory;

v. 25 To the only God, our Savior Jesus Christ our Lord, yours is the splendor, majesty, power and dominion before time began, until now, and through all the ages. Amen.

v. 3 Beloved, I’ve been very eager to write to you about the salvation we share and especially the need to urge you to stand up for the faith that one time for all has been entrusted to those set apart and made holy by God.

Those who are loved. It seems that Jude, James’ brother and the half-brother of Jesus, had been eager to write this gathering of Christians about their shared redemption in Christ Jesus; but the urgency is made all the more crucial by the news of selfish and wicked people seeking to hijack the faith. The salvation shared is the “koine” or common salvation, that is, common to all. He writes to the saints. Hagios. We who are His have this incredible trust given, to make Jesus known to the next generation. It can also be noted that this is the same Jude mentioned in the Gospels who sought to take Jesus home fearing he’d lost his mind and mocked him for not going to Jerusalem earlier like others who wanted to be seen and heard. Jude is the last mentioned when Jesus’ half-brothers are listed, so probably the baby brother.

“The faith” is that core set of beliefs that by now had become the “kerygma” and the “beliefs.” Delivered or Entrusted.

The “stand” is for the Faith and at the same time against the preceding: 1) choosing a lifestyle that contradicts the holiness of God (v. 4) or “I am opposed to what doesn’t affirm my feelings or identity”2) following what feels good instead of what is faithful and right and the reign of individual expression or “I am what I feel” (vv. 9-11), 3) grasping for power and influence – the reign of personal power or “I am what I control” (vv. 16-19). Summary: power, sex, expressive individualism. In the culture, these three lead to destruction; in the church, they lead to splits, shame, and spiritual death.

v. 20 You who are beloved, build yourselves up in the purist things of your faith; keep praying in the Holy Spirit.

Again, beloved. We are responsible for doing what is needed to build ourselves up in the practical working out of our beliefs the Father delivered to us. This use of “pistis” is the practical, live by faith; contrast this with verse three, “the faith.”  And to build up, we need the most holy things that make our faith so powerful. Knowing what our faith is built on is essential. Praying in the Spirit is needed. The reflexive “yourself” leads the next verse and but goes with “keeping yourself” or remaining in God’s love instead of here.

v. 21 Remain in God’s love and keep watching with anticipation for the mercy and kindness of Jesus Christ our Lord leading toward eternal life.

This is the kind of waiting and anticipating that is both expectant for a positive outcome and looking to receive what is needed; in this case, God’s mercy poured out that will take us toward eternity. Note the triune implications in these two verses: praying in the Holy Spirit, Remaining in God (the Father’s love), and looking for the mercies of Jesus the Son.

v. 22 Show a patient kindness to those who are struggling to believe.

The word for doubt is a complicated word again reflexive meaning doubting or hesitating, but for good reason in considering and trying to decide. Mercy, or patient kindness, is due to that person.

v. 23 But to others, pull them from the fires and pull them toward a right relationship with God; still others, show them compassion even as you despise and shudder at their lives sullied by their sinful nature cut off from God.

Again, Jude uses words that are hard to translate word-for-word with just one word. Rescue them by snatching them from the fire and toward God. The word means from something toward something in the rescue. Even more graphic, show compassion and mercy to those who are stained by a life without God. He is saying that we love the person, even though we might recoil from the sin.

v. 24 And to Him who is able to keep each of you from stumbling, standing blameless with joyful celebrating in the presence of His glory;

Able as in powerful enough to keep us on our feet and standing at attention exulting and celebrating in joy because we are in God’s presence.

v. 25 To the only God, our Savior Jesus Christ our Lord, yours is the splendor, majesty, power and dominion before time began, until now, and through all the ages. Amen.

This is one of several early “doxologies” that developed as a way of praising God at the end of one’s words. Four-fold praise here; seven-fold in Revelation.

Small Group Questions:

Jude 1

  1. Jude was the brother of James and half-brother to Jesus. He is one of Mary’s kids. What does it mean to  you to know that Jude came to believe that Jesus is both Savior and Lord (read verse 24-25)?
  2. What is the difference between “the Faith” and “your personal walk of faith?” How can you build up your “Faith” and your “faith” in 2023?
  3. Have  you ever gone through a time of doubting and struggling to believe? What helped settle you struggle and doubt?
  4. Have you ever been where your life choices left you far from God? What or who pulled you back toward the Father?
  5. How can we pray for you?

Pastor Rick’s Study Notes on Isaiah 6:6-8

Pastor Rick’s Study Notes:

Isaiah 6:6-8

vv. 6-7 Then one of the seraphim took a set of tongs, carried a glowing coal from the altar, then flew to me and placed it in my mouth. He said, “See: this live coal has touched your lips and now your guilt is removed and your sin is canceled.”

Seraphim are a class of angel. In this case, he is the bringer of fire for both cleansing and calling. The live, or glowing, coal came from the altar of God. At the touch of the coal to Isaiah’s lips, the guilt and sin are removed. The coal is symbolic of the fire of the Holy Spirit sealing us from the sin and guilt we carried until we invited Jesus to save us.

Guilt in this verse can also be sin or depravity. Canceled can be forgiven here. The word is foundationally “covered” as in the mercy seat covers our sin.

Remember that, Isaiah is in the Temple of the Lord, heaven’s own Temple. And it is here that God has brought him “in the Spirit” (v. 1). His glory filled the Temple. The Temple is the place of perpetual worship, led by angels, before the God who is holy. It is from the altar of this Holy Place and from the throne upon which the Holy God reigns that the live coal comes.

It is in the Holy God’s presence that Isaiah sees himself – unclean, unworthy, undone. v. 5

It is this posture of need, of openness and honesty, of worship, that our passage meets Isaiah.

Interesting that the outcome of looking on the Holy God with one’s eyes is death. But God provided from His holiness to sustain Isaiah; it’s the same for us as we require His holiness to sustain us in our own lives.

Note that both sin and guilt are covered, are paid for here. We sometimes carry the guilt long after God has forgiven the sin.

Symbolic of the Holy Son of God who baptizes with fire is the burning coal to Isaiah.

Seraphs are angelic beings who are associated with attending to the throne of God, His holiness, and the altar fire.

v. 8 Then I heard the voice of the Lord and He asked, “Who will I send? Who will go for us?” And I said, “See, I’m here. Send me.”

Note that it is the Lord speaking both in the singular for Himself and in the plural as for the Triune God. John 12 indicates that Isaiah saw the glory of the Lord Jesus in the Temple. The Spirit of God took Isaiah to the heavenly Temple. God Triune is Present.