When Good Religion Goes Bad (or: Why “Good” Folks Need the Gospel Too)

atheist-superman-300x231
Don’t throw away the cross, Supes! For what does it benefit a man to gain the whole (Daily) Planet and yet lose his life?

We Christians may tend to think that there are other “faith systems” out there, other than biblical Christianity, that, while they may miss out on the whole truth, they still contain a lot of good in them, and maybe God will sorta smile and wink at their adherents at the end of the day, because after all, they were just trying to live a good life, and honor God, and what’s so bad about that? Maybe you have friends who are, in general, upstanding and moral people. And maybe you might, sometimes, possibly be tempted with the idea that you don’t really need to tell them about the Gospel–Because after all, you think, They might not know the full truth about Jesus, but they’re such good people! I’m sure they’ll be fine. The Gospel is “good news” for really bad sinners, not good folks like these… right? 

Not according to Jesus. According to Jesus, manmade religion (or “faith systems,” or lifestyles, or worldviews) that purport to show God great honor, while denying the necessity of the cross and resurrection of Jesus–those aren’t some kind of lesser piety. They’re not “Christianity Lite.”

According to Jesus, such systems amount to nothing less than cold, hard, condemnable satanism.
The Devil is fine with us ascribing all kinds of honor to the Lord, as long as we miss the cross, burial and resurrection of Jesus–and our need for the Savior who did all that for us.
“Good” religion goes bad when it substitutes “goodness” for the Gospel. Even Christ-likeness is no substitute for the crucifixion.

The Gospel is the good news, that Jesus came to die for sinners like you and me–so that we could die to our old life (which was really death) and receive His life. Get the Gospel, and you get God’s life. Reject the Gospel, and whatever else you may have–however “good,” you’ll lose your life and miss out on God’s life.

This is serious business–which it would have to be, to make Jesus call one of His top three disciples “Satan.” So if Jesus takes it that seriously, maybe we ought to reconsider how we think about those other “faith systems” (really they should be called works systems, since they deny salvation by grace alone through faith alone). Trying to show God honor, while denying God’s plan (by which He was more incredibly honored than He could have ever been by any scheme moral man could have come up with!) is from Satan.

In the immortal words of Admiral Ackbar, “It’s a trap!”
That’s what’s going on in Mark 8:31-38. It’s what Jesus has saved former moralists like me from, and it’s what we have to remember when we’re communicating the Gospel to our religious, well-intentioned, and moral friends. In so doing, we’re giving them the best “good news” we could give them.

¿Es el Cristianismo exclusivo? (Primera Parte)

Note: I originally wrote this article in English with the title, “Is Christianity Exclusive?,” for my previous blog. You can read it in English here. Thanks to Antonio Salgado for translating it into Spanish. biblia-1140x760

El cristianismo ha sido llamado religión más exclusivo del mundo. Después de todo, se presenta una visión de Dios y el reino de Dios, que está completamente centrada y enfocada en un solo requisito. Otras religiones ofrecen un sistema de normas y prácticas religiosas que puede seguir, para adherirse a las creencias y formas de vida para que pueda llevar a cabo. La idea es que, a medida que tratan su más difícil de hacer lo mejor, Dios (o Alá, o Jehová, o quien sea) podrá ver tu corazón y, tal vez, llenar los vacíos en su obediencia defectuosa e imperfecta. Hay un gran número de sistemas de fe que ofrecen esto. Los métodos y los requisitos varían, pero la esencia general es el mismo: hacer lo mejor para obedecer, y lo más probable es ponerse en No podemos garantizarlo, pero las probabilidades son mayores que la media..

No es así con el cristianismo (o, como los primeros seguidores lo llamaron, “El Camino”). Hay uno, único, inalterable e inflexible exigencia de estar en “buena con Dios” según la Biblia (la Biblia es la fuente de las creencias cristianas – a diferencia de otros sistemas de fe seudocristianas, como el catolicismo romano, que tiene un gran cuerpo de tradición de la iglesia que se mantiene en pie de igualdad con la Biblia). Sólo hay un requisito de una persona debe cumplir con el fin de ser perdonados de sus pecados y se transfiere desde el estado de “bajo la ira” a la condición de que este requisito es “justificado.”: Jesús tiene que salvar.

Eh? ¿Por qué me hacen parecer que el requisito es algo que Jesus hace, en lugar de algo que tengo que hacer? La razón es porque eso es lo que la Biblia enseña. Contrariamente a lo que cada otra religión enseña (que yo sepa, y yo soy un estudiante de la filosofía religiosa, por lo que vale la pena), en el cristianismo no hay nada que puede hacer – en absoluto – para merecer el favor de Dios. Cuando se trata de la salvación, no se puede hacer absolutamente nada para ganarla. Todo totalmente, totalmente, descansa por completo en la obra de Jesucristo para salvarte. Él vivió la vida perfectamente obediente que nadie pudo. Sin embargo, él murió como un asesino, cuando los pecadores como nosotros merecemos castigo. Hizo un cambio cósmico, salvando efectivamente a todo aquel que cree en Él. Solo aquellos que creen esto, se arrepientan de sus pecados (porque quién no, después de ver lo mucho que Dios los ama en sacrificar a su propio Hijo?), Y la confianza en la obra terminada de Jesús será salvado.

Debido a esto, el cristianismo es exclusivo. Toda paisaje espiritual y religiosa del mundo está plagado de falsas puertas que conducen a callejones sin salida, y Jesús es la única puerta que conduce al reino de Dios. Entrar a través de él, el autoproclamado “puerta estrecha” (Mateo 7:13), y serás salvo. Salvado del reino de la oscuridad, del pecado, de la destrucción, de la adicción, la delincuencia, de rebelión contra Dios, de vivir su vida fuera de la gracia y la bondad de Dios. Guardado en el reino de Dios, lleno de perdón y la misericordia, la bondad, el propósito y el placer. Y Jesús es la única manera de entrar. Punto. La Escritura no puede ser más claro en esto.

Es por eso que los primeros cristianos fueron llamados “seguidores del Camino.” El “camino” no es un sistema; el Camino es una Persona. Él es un ser humano, que también es Dios encarnado. Dos naturalezas (una humano, una divina), un hombre, un puente perfecto entre Dios y la humanidad. Jesús es la persona perfecta para cerrar la brecha de otro modo infranqueable entre la gente pecadora y el Dios Santo y perfecto. Así que el cristianismo es exclusivo. Cualquier cristiano que es honesto estará de acuerdo con eso.

Pero el reino de Dios es también sorprendentemente, inclusivo. Voy a explicar por qué en la segunda parte de este artículo.

A Few More Thoughts on Spiritual Warfare

Yesterday I preached at Park EB from Ephesians 6:10-20. The subject was “The Armor of God,” and together we homed in on what the Apostle Paul calls the “Breastplate of Righteousness.”

Some takeaways: 

In this passage, Paul reminds followers of Jesus, that God has given us His own armor to fight our spiritual battle–remember, our enemy is not “flesh and blood” but spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. I know, this sounds like a very foreign concept, if you didn’t grow up in the church, or you are new to Christian teaching. So I addressed the seeming strangeness of spiritual warfare in the first few minutes of my talk.

Here’s the takeaway from this passage: you and I are in the middle of a spiritual battle, against invisible forces that are vastly stronger than us, and completely malevolent. Our only hope is to take up the weapons and equip ourselves with the armor God has provided for us. In particular, we talked about how “practical righteousness” protects our hearts and minds against Satan’s attacks, temptations and accusations.

The crucial piece to remember is two-fold:

  1. Any spiritual defense must, must, must originate in your relationship to God, and that can only be found through Jesus Christ. It’s Jesus who won the victory against evil, when He conquered sin and death by dying and rising from the dead. And it’s Jesus who empowers His followers to wage spiritual warfare, who continues to win our battles for us, as we put on His spiritual armor and follow Him into battle. If you are not a follower of Jesus, I would urge you to take the claims of Jesus, recorded in the Bible seriously, and put your faith in Him (and I would be happy to discuss this with you more if you want. Hit me up).
  2. We strengthen our “breastplates” and eliminate gaps in our armor, when we commit every day to living in obedience to the commands of Jesus. And these commands are not burdensome (Jesus is not a tyrant but a loving King) but actually liberating.

Further reading/viewing: 

Want to discuss this or anything else related to the Bible, God, Jesus or the spiritual life? Shoot me an email at my new address: jsettecase@parkcommunitychurch.org

Before you #ShoutYourAbortion, read this.

Back in 2013, before Aliza became pregnant with #LukeyWah, we were most certainly not trying or expecting to have another baby. When she thought she might be pregnant again, we talked about it. We had two babies already, so close together, we didn’t see how we would have the financial resources (or the time, or the sanity) to provide for another one. Not to mention, Aliza had a bad back, and another pregnancy could have potentially been bad for her health.

Having another baby didn’t make sense to us. But both agreed that, if she were actually pregnant, it would be because God just wanted us to have another baby, plain and simple.

Sure enough, Aliza was pregnant. Lukas William was born August 5, 2014.

Lukey’s life has been one filled with drama and hardship. When he was 10 months old, we found out that he has leukemia. It has not been easy having another baby in the family, especially one needing so much special attention.

But we are so, so happy to have him!

First, it was in the course of that pregnancy, through getting a checkup from her midwife, that Aliza discovered she had thyroid cancer. Her general practitioner had missed it!

If it hadn’t been for Lukas, we would never have caught Aliza’s cancer so early. That’s one of the reasons we gave him the middle name William, which means “Defender of Man.”

Further, Lukas’ name means “Light,” and his little smiling and joyous face has been a light to everyone that meets him. Through his sickness, Aliza and I have been able to share the “Light” of Jesus Christ with many people whom we wouldn’t have otherwise met.

Because of Lukas, hundreds–probably thousands–of people are rallying together in prayer for a common cause.

Because of Lukas, our children Jakob and AnnaSophia have a new playmate, best friend, and someone to take care of.

That little unexpected, potentially hazardous pregnancy blossomed into one–no, several–of the greatest blessings our family has experienced. The Bible says, “Yes, sons are a gift from the LORD, the fruit of the womb is a reward (Psalm 127:3). That is absolutely true–even for the unexpected ones, or the ones with special needs, or the ones you just don’t know how to provide for.

No child is an accident, no matter how they got here. Respect life, and celebrate babies. Instead of shouting your abortion, shout THAT.

A Tale of Two Sauls

1 Samuel 18:10-11; 19:1
1000 B. C.
Saul, the first king of Israel, abused his authority and viciously pursued and tried to destroy David, who would become the ancestor of the Messiah. God intervened, Saul’s plan was later vanquished, and he was killed in battle.

Acts 8:1-3; 9:1-6
Fast forward a thousand years:
Saul, an Israeli religious scholar (Pharisee), abused his authority and viciously pursued and tried to destroy the fledgling church, the movement begun by the Messiah, the descendant of David. God intervened, Saul’s plan was vanquished, and Saul became Paul–the world’s greatest missionary and apostle of the faith he had tried to destroy.

God’s plan to usher in His kingdom through His Messiah, Jesus Christ, cannot be stopped by mere mortals. You and I must end up like one of the two Sauls–either destroyed while shaking our fist at the King, or humbled and transformed by repentance and faith in the King.

In Matthew 4:17, the the Messiah says, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” How will you answer His command?

Gospel vs. Nonsense

1 Timothy 6:20-21 (my translation): “O Timothy, guard the deposit, turning away from the profane nonsense and contradictions of the falsely-called ‘knowledge,’ by which some, in professing it, have deviated concerning the faith. Grace be with you all.”

Paul the Apostle warns his protege, Timothy to “Guard the deposit.” In guarding the deposit, which is “the faith”–that body of biblical truth encapsulated in the Gospel of Jesus Christ–the young paster is admonished to “turn away from… falsely called knowledge.”

There are myriad systems out there in opposition to the Gospel, claiming to be “knowledge.” Paul says about these would-be Gospel competitors, that they are characterized by “profane nonsense” and “contradictions.”

That’s exactly right! In my studies I have encountered many other worldviews than the biblical one, including Mormonism, Buddhism, Atheism, Cultural Christianity, Secular Humanism, Jehovah’s Witness-ism, and Roman Catholicism. Once you get past the flowery language and sophistry,(profane nonsense), each one is absolutely filled with fatal, self-contradicting truth claims (“contradictions”).

I don’t say this to condemn anybody who adheres to any of those above worldviews. Instead, I say this because I love people in those worldviews, and to encourage my fellow believers in Jesus Christ:

There is only one coherent, cogent, cohesive and (most importantly) universally true worldview, and that is the one put forth in the Bible. Deviating from Scripture must necessarily lead a person into systems which are rife with profane nonsense and contradictions. That is no way to live. Your human mind was created to find truth and to sort out contradictions.

I encourage you, Christian, to stand steadfast upon the Bible as the true word of God. And I encourage you, if you are not a believer, to come to the Bible and let it speak on its own terms. To echo the last words of Paul in this book, “Grace be with you all.”

Jesus is With Who?

In the God News According to Matthew, chapter 28, verses 18-20, Jesus says, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you.”

Then He says, get this: “And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Jesus tells them to keep it in mind that He will always be with them. Always. Until the end of the age, which is another way of saying, “until the end of the world.”

So here’s the question: since those disciples are now dead and gone, passed on to their eternal home, to whom does Jesus’ promise to be “with you always, to the end of the age” apply?

The answer is earlier in the passage. When Jesus says, “Go… and make disciples… baptizing them… and… teaching them,” He is instructing His apostles on how to establish and continue the global movement known as the Church.

So when He says, “I am with you always,” that’s not just a promise for the apostles, but for the Church He has just commanded them to start.

Are you a Christian, a member of Christ’s Church? Well then, Christian, Jesus Christ is with you TODAY, and always, even until the end of the world. “Remember” that today.

Some Thoughts on God’s Promises, During Holy Week

There are many Psalms that contain what seem to be promises of physical safety and prosperity. These often vex me. After all, I don’t believe in the so-called Prosperity Gospel. I don’t believe that, if I am faithful, God will necessarily reward me with health, wealth, successful kids, influence, or whatever. No, I believe that the promises of blessing and life to God’s faithful ones are more of a spiritual nature–with, of course, physical fulfillment as well, in the eschaton (age to come–think new Heavens and new Earth).

So then, when I read a passage like Psalm 91:11-12, I have to pause. The Psalmist writes,

For he will command his angels concerning you
to guard you in all your ways.
On their hands they will bear you up,
lest you strike your foot against a stone.

On the surface, this looks like a promise of physical safety. The Lord will send His angels down whenever I (or whomever the promise is for) is in trouble, and no harm will befall me.

But I say I have to pause, because I have seen too much in my life to think that this could possibly mean physical safety alone. Saints all over the world are struck with cancer, natural disasters and persecution. And not only that, but every Christian who has lived so far has died  in the end. So much for physical safety. So what is the real meaning of this promise, and others like it?

Taken in context, these two verses are part of a song (“psalm”) in which the Lord promises to watch over and protect the one who “holds fast to me in love” (verse 14). The promise is less about physical safety than it is about this: no suffering, no pain, no loss, no death will ultimately be devoid of meaning or purpose in God’s economy. For those who “hold fast” to Him, for the one who, “knows my name” (verse 14 again) and “calls on me” (verse 15) God will “be with him in trouble… will rescue him and honor him.”

Those who faithfully rely on God for salvation will be vindicated in the end. On Judgment Day, they will not be put to shame.

There’s only one problem: none of us is perfectly faithful. Which of us can honestly say that we rely on the Lord the way we ought to? Who among us makes the Lord the focal point of our lives, every moment of every day. So if these spiritual and eschatological promises are for the one who faithfully clings to the Lord always, then they must not be for us. At least, they must not be for us, if they depend on our own efforts to be faithful.

So who can claim these promises? Only a perfect man. Only Jesus Christ.

As man, Jesus perfectly exemplified what it looks like to hold fast to God in love. He was totally faithful. He knew God intimately, because He was (and is) God the Son. There was never a time in His life when he went off-track, spiritually speaking.

Then look at what happened to Him. He was betrayed. He was falsely tried. He was wrongly convicted as a rebel and tortured. He was killed in a brutal way, dying on a cross. He was buried in a tomb, literally dead to the world (so much for physical safety in this life!)

And yet, Jesus was vindicated in the end, wasn’t He? After He was raised from the dead, He ascended to the right hand of the Father (Daniel 7:13; Luke 22:69), from where He reigns as King over all creation (Psalm 110:1). It was this joy, the joy of His future exaltation, to which Christ looked forward, even while he was staring down His impending passion and crucifixion. Hebrews 12:2 says that, “For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” He suffered in this life, but He was vindicated after His death. His faithful perfection (and perfect faithfulness) earned Him His Father’s blessing–and the revelation that all His suffering had not been in vain.

The promises of Psalm 91 are wonderfully richer and deeper than mere physical safety and blessing in this life. Jesus eschewed physical comfort in this life in order to perfectly obey the will of the Father, and He was rewarded with everlasting blessings and joy.

So Psalm 91 is true–God does vindicate and deliver the one who trusts in Him faithfully. This is perfectly fulfilled in Jesus Christ. But here is the amazing thing for you and me. Remember, you and I are decidedly not faithful enough, not obedient enough to earn God’s blessings. But Christ is faithful. Christ is perfectly obedient. And spotless life qualified Him to die as the perfect sacrifice on behalf of faith-failures like you and me. “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly” (Romans 5:6). The ungodly are you and me–sinners who have no business claiming God’s promised blessings on our own merits. Naturally speaking, we are enemies of God.

However, because Jesus Christ died for us, we do not have to justify ourselves by our own efforts to be perfect. In Romans 5:9-11, Paul describes it this way:

Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

To summarize, it is Christ’s faithfulness that justifies us before. It is God’s grace that saves us, and it is He who gives us the faith to trust and rely in His Son. So now we can look at passages like Psalm 91 and say, “Whoa, I could never claim these promises of God’s protection. I’m not faithful enough. Thank God Jesus is!” By faith in Him, we are seen as faithful. We are credited with a “free gift of righteousness” (Romans 5:17) that we didn’t earn. In biblical language, we are “justified.”

And that righteousness which is credited to us gradually begins to become an actual reality in our daily lives, as we grow closer to Christ. So over time, Christians experience a greater ability to “hold fast to [Him] in love.”

Our reliance on God’s faithfulness grows, and makes us able to find joy, even when the physical circumstances of life do not live up to our expectations. Because Christ vindicates us, we can face down life’s pain and eventually even our own deaths without fear, knowing that the Lord tells us the truth when He says, “With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation” (Psalm 91:16). The everlasting blessing and joy that Christ now experiences, have been promised to us, who trust in Him. Because Jesus got it, we’ll get it too.

God’s promises to His Faithful One are true–and they are true for us because His Faithful One is our Lord and Savior.

This IS the Great Tribulation.

saeed-abediniPersecution of Christians is nothing new:

“But Jews came from Antioch and Iconium, and having persuaded the crowds, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing that he was dead. But when the disciples gathered about him, he rose up… they returned to Lystra [where he had just been stoned] and to Iconium and to Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:19-22).

“Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated— of whom the world was not worthy–wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth” (Hebrews 11:35b-38).

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“Also I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God….” (the Apostle John, recorded in Revelation 20:4).

“Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man” (Jesus Christ, recorded in Luke 6:22)!”

“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (Jesus Christ, recorded in John 16:33).

“Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you” (1 John 3:13).

But persecution cannot take away God’s love:

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“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us” (the Apostle Paul, in Romans 8:35-37).

“Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the LORD your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you” (Deuteronomy 31:6).

“The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” (King David, in Psalm 27).

And persecution cannot kill our hope:

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“Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, ‘Who are these, clothed in white robes, and from where have they come?’ I said to him, ‘Sir, you know.’ And he said to me, ‘These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
‘Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence. They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes‘” (Revelation 7:13-17).

“Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. And they have conquered him by the blood of the lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death. Therefore, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short” (Revelation 12:10-12).

The Great Tribulation has been going on for 1,982 years. We have been sheltered in America, but that has not been the nearly universal experience of believers for the last two millennia. This Lent, let’s pray for our brothers and sisters of the persecuted Church

What Does the Bible Say About “50 Shades of Grey?”

By now, you know that “50 Shades of Grey” is going to be arriving in theaters. What do we make of this?

I, for one, have been encouraged by how the Reformed and Evangelical worlds has responded to this film’s release. For two high-quality pieces, click here and here.

For all I could say (and have said) about this film, I am going to turn things over to the biblical author (and half-brother* of Jesus Christ), Jude. His short letter (only 25 verses) has a surprising amount to say about our entertainment choices.

Jude, the self-described “servant of Jesus Christ and brother of James” (1:1), writes to “those who are called, beloved in God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ” (1:1). In other words, if you are a Christian, Jude is writing to you.

He kicks off his work with an exhortation for Christians to “contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” (1:3). The fact that we need to contend, indicates that there will be something to contend against. There will be false ideas creeping into the Church, against which faith-filled men and women will need to wage ideological warfare. The sexual ethic promoted and celebrated by “50 Shades of Grey” is one of those false ideas.

How does Jude address the message of this movie? He warns us against those who would “pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ” (1:4). As believers, we are free. Completely free. And that freedom means that we no longer have to sin. Sin used to hold us in bondage, but Christ killed our sin when He died on the cross. But it is a perversion of Christian freedom to say that we may now go and pursue the “50 Shades” kind of sensuality–a sensuality which rebels against the God-given parameters for sexuality. Sex is a gift from God, designed to be enjoyed between one husband and one wife, within the secure and blessed context of marriage.  To take sexuality out of this context and distort it the way “50 Shades of Grey” does is to “defile the flesh” and “reject authority” (1:8).

Is this legalism?

Saying that Christians should not watch this movie is not legalism, any more than warning your child not to play with a steak knife is legalism. The knife is dangerous. So is sexual perversion. It is dangerous in this life, and perilous for the next one.

Jude warns us against the coming judgment of those who distort the truth of God’s freedom, and twist it into something profane: the Lord Jesus will return, “to execute judgment on all and to convict all the ungodly of all their deeds of ungodliness that they have committed in such an ungodly way…” (1:15).

What Christian Grey does to women in this story is ungodly. It is dehumanizing and destructive. It is a distortion of God’s beautiful gift. And Christ will not let it go ultimately unpunished. But of course, Christian Grey is a fictional character. The real judgment for sin will come upon those who celebrate, indulge in, and imitate his behaviors.

Jude exhorts us to hate “even the garment stained by the flesh” (1:23), that is, to avoid even the accoutrements of our sinful culture. Jude would warn us against even watching the “50 Shades of Grey” trailer and allowing ourselves to be enticed by it. Jude would make it clear that Christians who ignore biblical teachings on sexual holiness are “scoffers, following their own ungodly passions” (1:18).

For my part, I have been plenty guilty of letting the wrong kind of messages into my mind via the entertainment I feed my eyes. The way forward? Repentance, trust in Christ’s atoning death for my sin, and re-commitment to God’s way. Speaking of God’s way….

Two ways to live

There are really only two ways to live: the way of death and the way of life.

The way of death is what “50 Shades of Grey” promotes. Imagine an entire society in which this movie’s model was the norm for male-female relationships. On second thought, don’t imagine it. It makes the stomach turn.

The way of life is God’s way, promoted by the Bible. Yes, it’s old-fashioned. But get the images of Stepford wives and “Mad Men” husbands out of your head. It’s not 1950s old fashioned; it’s as old as the creation itself. The Lord created men and women to live together in marriage as equals, serving one another with complementary but equally valuable roles. A society built on this kind of ethic is one in which life is cherished, in which husbands may thrive as self-sacrificing leaders to their families, where wives may thrive as their essential, supportive companions, in which children can grow safely under the protection of parents who are partners in love and service.

The entertainment of the world is often enticing. It is tempting. If we are not careful, we are liable to slip into it without even noticing. The sin nature is slippery like that. Yet for the Christian who wants to live a godly life, Jude offers this sin-proof solution: “But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life” (1:20-21).

And lest we start to think we are oh-so-much-better than those carnal Christians who give into temptation (as if we ourselves would never do such a thing!), Jude tells us to, “have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh.” There is no room for pride here. The answer to sin is not self-righteousness but humble hope, remembering that apart from the preserving grace of God, we perish.

Build yourself up in your faith. Pray in the Holy Spirit. Keep yourself in God’s love. Wait for the mercy of Jesus. Believe in God’s promise of something vastly better than what the world offers. And help others to resist sin and cling to the Lord–without falling into sin yourself. This post is my humble attempt to do that.

 

*Because Jesus had no earthly father, any other children born to Joseph and Mary besides Him would naturally be the Lord’s half-brothers and half-sisters.