I . . . urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to God’s holy people. (Jude 3)
Daniel J. Habben
For Lutherans, October means Reformation. We are reminded that salvation is free—a gift through faith in Jesus. We are motivated to stand guard so that no one takes this truth from us. We are also urged to fend off a false teaching that Jude summarized like this: “They . . . pervert the grace of our God into a license for immorality” (Jude 4).
Forgiveness: Not an invitation to sin
Unfortunately, that false teaching is as likely to come from within our own hearts as from any outside source. We might gleefully belt out Reformation hymns about God’s free grace and favor but then feel free to gaze at the latest racy video clip making the rounds. We might rejoice that we are clothed in Christ’s righteousness through Baptism but shrug at how our wardrobe choices make it difficult for others to stay pure in thought. We might cherish Jesus’ gentle words of encouragement and forgiveness but excuse our own nitpicking and criticism of others. When we realize these sins, we might rush to assure ourselves that we are forgiven but make no move to change. How easy it is to pervert God’s grace!
An invitation to someone’s house is not permission to leave our dirty socks on their living room floor. Likewise, when Jesus invites us to taste his forgiveness and experience the freedom that comes from lifted guilt, this is not an invitation to shrug our burden-free shoulders at our sin! We can’t embrace Jesus’ forgiveness and cozy up to sin any more than a man would be allowed to embrace his wife while holding his ex-girlfriend’s hand.
“But temptation is all around us. We can’t avoid falling into sin!” Yes, but that’s not an excuse to sin. And that’s why Jude implores us to contend for the faith. Contending means struggling. It’s what you do when you deny an urge to spit back at someone who has just belittled you.
God is with us in the struggle
Contending for the faith is a lifelong effort. Every minute of every day you’ll need to make conscious adjustments to your attitude, the same way you make constant adjustments to your car’s steering wheel. If you don’t, you’ll end up in the ditch.
Thankfully, contending for the faith is not a solo task. Jude wrote: “To those who have been called, who are loved in God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ: Mercy, peace and love be yours in abundance” (Jude 1,2). God’s abundant love moved him to send Jesus to die for our sins. It also works to keep us in the faith for Jesus.
You’re like a war medal a proud father has received for his son’s act of valor. The medal is sent to the father for safekeeping while the son continues to fight on the frontlines. Do you suppose the father will throw that medal in the junk drawer with greasy bolts and rusty nails? Of course not! He will guard and keep the medal in a safe place until his son comes home to claim it.
That’s exactly what your Father is doing right now as you ponder his Word. He is keeping you safe for his Son until Jesus comes to claim you at the end of time.
Yes—God’s mercy, peace, and love are yours in abundance. It’s a truth we celebrate at Reformation. It’s also a truth that empowers us to daily contend for the faith as we strive to live holy lives for Jesus.
Contributing editor Daniel Habben is pastor at St. John, Saint John, Antigua.
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Author: Daniel J. Habben
Volume 105, Number 10
Issue: October 2018
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