September 7, 2010

Contending and Building

Jude says two very different things at the polar ends of his short, single chapter epistle. He begins by admonishing his readers to “contend earnestly” for the Christian faith (v.3) – to fight for the truth; to ensure that false doctrine has no place in the church; to battle for the purity of the gospel! But then, toward the end of the letter, he urges the same readers to “build themselves up on” the Christian faith (v.20) – to grow in the truth; to ensure that the church increases in its appreciation for Bible doctrine; to fall ever more in love with the pure gospel!

Now those are two very different things are they not – contending and building? It’s the difference between building a house, and fighting off an intruder who tries to break into it! It’s the distinction between cutting the weeds out of your overgrown flower bed, and planting the good soil that has been prepared. Both are necessary! But they are quite different tasks! And, as with tending a garden or caring for a home … some of us are more prone to enjoy one task or the other.

That is to say that some of us may love to read the scriptures, and pore over the concordance, and study the maps, and so on. But when it comes to standing up for truth (at church, or in the home, or in the public square) … well, let’s just say that we’d rather be in the library or the easy chair than on the battlefield!

But others of us are bent in exactly the opposite direction! We are glad to debate the truth of Bible doctrine – at work, or school, or wherever the opportunity arises. But we are not always so good at loving it, and growing in it, building ourselves up on it. We’d rather tear down false doctrine than delight in and study the true!

I can recall an argument I got into on the school bus when I was in the 5th or 6th grade. I well remember arguing (with the help of a couple of my classmates) the merits of being a Baptist – how our denomination was the best, and the most biblical, and so on. I can’t remember who I was arguing against (a Presbyterian, a Methodist, a Roman Catholic, a Mormon? I’m not sure). But that didn’t really matter. I just enjoyed arguing, I think! Nevermind the fact that I was not yet a Christian … and was still sunk deep in my sins! Nevermind the fact that I did not know Jude from Judges. I was contending for the faith! Or so I thought!

Now what that illustrates is just how easy it is for some people to contend for the faith without building themselves up on it! I was arguing for biblical doctrines which I did not really understand … and certainly had not yet come to appreciate, much less love! And some of us may be in the same boat (or on the same school bus, I should say!). We may “contend earnestly for the faith” … but not actually be growing in it ourselves. In fact, we may allow for the fact that we have tried to persuade our co-workers that Jesus really did rise from the dead; or that salvation really is by faith alone … I say we may allow the fact that we contend for those Bible doctrines to convince us that we really must be growing in them ourselves. But the truth may tell a different story!

So let’s not be content to know the basics of Christianity … and to contend for them earnestly (important as that is!). Let’s also grow into deeper and deeper maturity! Let’s climb the heights of biblical revelation and know our God all the more! Let’s make sure we “keep ourselves in the love of God” (Jude 21) by “building ourselves up on our most holy faith”!

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