April 18, 2011

"Keep yourselves in the love of God", Part 1

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. Jude 20-23

The key to this one long thought comes right in the middle: “Keep yourselves in the love of God”. That’s the command that Jude is concerned about. That’s the fire he wants us to keep lit – “the love of God”. All the other verbs surrounding that one main command explain how we can actually go about accomplishing it. How do you “keep yourselves in the love of God”? By “building yourselves up on your most holy faith”; by “praying in the Holy Spirit”; by “waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus to eternal life”; and by having “mercy” on doubters, backsliders, and so on.

So again, there’s one command, and then four sub-points that explain how to go about keep that one command. The main thing is that we “keep ourselves in the love of God”. That’s the fire that Jude wants us to keep lit. And then all the other things (building, praying, waiting, and having mercy) are like logs that we can throw on the fire to keep it burning. ‘Keep the fire of love burning’ Jude is saying. ‘And here are four ways you can do it.’

We’ll come back, over the next two weeks (Lord willing), and talk about those four sub-points; those four logs that can be thrown on the fire of “the love of God” to help keep it lit. But, today, let’s just think about the main command – “keep yourselves in the love of God.”

That phrase alone deserves some careful attention, doesn’t it? Because, at first blush, it sounds quite unbiblical. “Keep yourselves in the love of God”? How is that? I thought we didn’t have to do anything to make God love us, or to keep God loving us! I thought Jesus already did everything that needed to be done to demonstrate the love of God for us (Romans 5.8)! Surely there is nothing we must do to keep God loving us; to keep ourselves in His love! Jesus already did it for us! So what gives? How can Jude come along and tell us to keep ourselves in the love of God?

Well, the answer to the question ‘what gives?’ is to realize that the phrase “the love of God” can mean two different things. Usually, if we used the phrase “the love of God”, we’d be talking about God’s love for us … as in ‘The love of God is amazingly demonstrated in that He sent His Son to die for us.’ But we can also use the phrase “the love of God” to refer to our love for God. For instance, ‘For the love of God, please stop sinning!’ In other words, ‘If you really love God, you’ll stop sinning in that way!’ And it is this second idea that Jude has in mind in the 21st verse of his letter. “Keep yourselves in the love of God” he says. In other words, keep yourselves loving God; keep the zeal of your devotion to Him burning brightly.’ That’s what Jude means. And that’s what he goes on about for four verses here toward the end of his letter.

He wants us not to allow our love to flicker out. He wants us to throw more and more logs onto our zeal for the Lord; to keep the fire stoked and the flames burning brightly. And so does God Himself. Consider what He’s done for us … giving His only Son to die in our place; giving His life in exchange for ours! And should we not be devoted to a God like that? Should we not love Him with all our hearts! Yes! But our love tends to grow cold, doesn’t it? Familiarity with the things of God may not breed contempt, but it often breeds complacency. And that’s why we must keep ourselves; why we must fan the flames; why we must throw logs onto the fire. “Keep yourselves in the love of God”! O, how I pray that will not merely be a Bible verse for us to know, but a lifelong quest and commitment!

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