Caring For Sick Christians: Jude’s Spiritual Triage

doctor blog

The church should stand at the ready to confront sin and error. Jude warned Christians that doctrinal viruses would sweep into local churches, destroying the healthy bodies who host them. To handle spiritual pandemics well, the local church should readily quarantine the fake Christians, flushing out false doctrine. If the wicked refuse to repent, the church should then force them out of the body, following the steps laid out in Matthew 18. But even the best prevention methods can fail. False teachers can infect health believers while the church awaits the surgical processes of church discipline. When the viruses of error begin to infect true believers, the local church must stand at the ready to care for those spiritually ill. Jude writes,

And 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. (22-23)

Jude calls his readers to rescue three types of Christians, the doubting, the almost destroyed, and the filthy.

When men and women stumble into church exhausted by sin and the unstable messages of culture, they need mercy instead of rebuke. The woman whose homosexual desire that causes her to doubt the convictions of her faith should be meet with softly spoken spiritual truth. The man who questions the humanity of Christ should be welcomed into his pastor’s office. And the teenager who comes to church wrestling with the truthfulness of the Bible should be invited to voice his questions so that he can find biblical answers. The soul who doubts should not be criticized for doubting but shown mercy. Christ continual forgives us when we wonder from the foundations of our faith. Can we refuse to extend to others what God has given to us?

Secondly, we need to be ready to snatch some from the fire. Some brothers and sisters move from questioning the commands of God to leaving the commands of God. When a friend calls to say they will leave their spouse in the morning to pursue their one true love, we should run to their home and plead with them to forsake their sin. When a nephew tells us they have decided to undergo gender reassignment surgery, we should ardently call them back the joy of Christ. And when our college friend tells us they are going to join the Mormon church, we should contend with them, calling them to return to sound doctrine. If we do not warn them, these men and women will ingest sin into their souls and will experience the firers of hell. When we see or hear of brothers or sisters about to step in front of the bus of destruction, we should snatch them from the fires doom.

Lastly, we need to have mercy with fear. Some go behind doubting and preparing for sin. They become infected by sin refusing to follow the quarantine guidelines of truth. We will come across men and women who have welcomed sin into their soul and deemed it to be a sign of grace. To such Christians, we are to show mercy with fear. We are to remind our immoral friends that sexual immorality in all of its forms ends in judgment. When a friend slaps the coexist bumper sticker onto his car and proclaims that all ways road lead to heaven, we are to rebuke him. And when a women proclaims that gossip can cohabit with the gospel, we must clearly denounce her as a fraud. Jude says such people wear stained garments. The expression means, these Christians have stained underwear. To welcome those who have wet the spiritual bed into our churches is to welcome all kinds of worldly filth into the kingdom of God. Instead of embracing their sin, Jude calls us to hate it. We are to unequivocally call those infected by sin to repentance. If they will not repent, we must remove them according to the procedures laid out by Matthew 18. If love filth, our churches will become the filth. We must show mercy with fear.

Spiritual virus will come. Are we ready to care for the sick, rescuing the doubting, snatching others from hell, and confronting those stained by the world? Are you ready?

Don’t Box Up Baby Jesus…Just Yet

blog boxing up baby JesusAs the last round of Christmas trees are marched to the curb in preparation for their impending doom, the ceramic baby Jesus perched atop the mantel is squeezed back into his Styrofoam sarcophaguses in preparation for his impending banishment to the top of self of basement closet. Until the Easter lilies return, most souls forget about the savior encased in his protective covering. The child whom the shepherds celebrated thousands of years ago seems to offer little hope to the souls tormented by pornography, credit card debt, bullying, and mental illness.

Indeed if Jesus transformed himself from a baby into a full grown man in the spawn of the months that separate Christmas from Easter, he would have little encouragement to offer to weary and worn souls. But Jesus did not skip through life in the span of four months. He lived with us.

Instead of returning Jesus to the basement of irrelevance, men and women should place the Christ child in center of their imagination and watch him mature into the man who went to the cross.

Because Jesus was fully human, he can fully sympathize with our predicament. Jesus did not suspend reality while on earth. He suffered under it, feeling the pain of circumcision, the discomfort of hunger, and the agony of the cross. He also knows the tempting power of lust, covetousness, and depression. He can speak to the suffering soul with authority for he experienced the predicaments of those he came to save from sin and sorrow. Jesus remains relevant to the human soul because he was fully human.

But Jesus is simply a human, pontificating about life as he bounced about the hillside of Palestine. He is also fully God. While Jesus came to live amongst the broken so that he could sympathize with humanity, he also came to deliver the men and women who suffered alongside of him. Jesus did not mature into a full-grown man in a matter of minutes because he wanted to live the life sinners were supposed to live. Galatians 4:4-5 states, “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.”

Jesus did not get circumcised because he lacked affiliation with God. Jesus who created the universe in conjunction with God the father and God the Holy Spirit had his foreskin removed to fulfill the law for his children. The Son of God had to walk about this earth in perfect harmony with the law of God so that the Son of God could exchange his holiness for the sins of his children on the cross and thereby transfer children of darkness into the kingdom of his light. Jesus can redeem sinful men and women through his death, burial, and resurrection because he fulfilled the law for us.

The imagination fixed upon the growing Jesus will sustain the weary soul. When the couple believes their marriage has twisted into sins that Jesus could never address, they should recall that Jesus experienced all of our temptations and defeated them. When the woman is tempted to assume that her past sins are beyond fixing, she should look and see Jesus offering her his unstained past. When the man fears that his latest sin will remove him from paradise, he need only to remember that he carries not the faults of his life about his shoulders but the glory of Christ’s spotless life. And when the youth afflicted with unspeakable hardship doubts that God will see him or her through to the next day (much lest to the next year), he should meditate on the tears his savior shed before cross, recalling that the power of God over death. The imagination captivated by the story line of Jesus cannot help but concluded:

“15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” – Hebrews 4:15-16:

Baby Jesus offers relevant hope to the modern soul because he grew into a man, died on the cross, and rose again. Will you embrace this hope? Will you leave Jesus up in your soul this year?

How Real Is Your Faith?

faithWe are all about trusting Jesus. We love to sing about how great is a our God. We nod in devoted agreement as our friend encourages us to, ‘keep believing.” And, we get squeamish when someone mentions how hard their family life is. More Faith!

We often associate faith with passionate prayers, faith healings, and moving choir solo’s. Those who trust do incredible and noticeable things for God. But according to the Scriptures that greatest displays of faith come during the normal moments of life. Those who are truly trusting in the sovereign rule of God are those who obey God regardless of their circumstances, who love others well, and who faithfully share the Words of God.

While Israel waited for their new king to appear, Samuel was living out the gospel. In 1 Samuel 9:15-27, we encounter one of those occasion where God peals back the edge of heaven to give us insight into his plans. He tells Samuel that Saul is coming his way by divine order. The lost donkey’s were no accident; they were a divine instrument of God designed to accomplish his will. God tells Samuel that his replacement is coming. And Samuel responds to God’s revelation with obedience, love, and proclamation.

51YR+MUIt2L._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_Though Saul’s inauguration would end Samuel’s political rule, crushing the Prophet’s hope for a family dynasty, he submits to God’s commands. Samuel obeys God and installs Saul as the King of Israel. Friends if we believe as A.W. Pink said, “that God is God in fact, as well as in name, that he is on the Throne of the universe, directing and working all things after the counsel of his will (Eph 1:11),” then we will obey God. We will attend church even if that means our son will go from starting point guard to professional bench warmer. We will tithe even if that means we can’t afford that new sports car or that vacation rental. We will share Christ even when our cousins and uncles mock us for being prudes. We will obey even when its costly because we understand that God reigns. We understand that God gives talent, money, and good friends.  Real faith produces unconditional obedience. Those who trust God will obey God even when obedience diverges from their feelings and appears costly.

Next, Samuel loved Saul. He prepared choice food for Saul and his servant. Samuel gave the soon-to-be troublesome king lodging. Samuel cares for Saul because he knew Saul arrived by God’s design. If we share the same knowledge, we will not see the wayward children, the cranky bosses, and the annoying church member sniffing a few rows behind us as divine aberrations that must be avoided at all cost. We will not seek to drive away unpleasant people. Rather, we will love them. We will speak well of them. We will encourage them. We will bring them meals. We will pray for them. We will invite them into our homes. We will love them.

Friends this is one of the greatest signs of true faith. If our heart of stone has been replaced with a heart of flesh, we will love those who hurt our platforms, who disrupt our lives, and who set us on edge. Recall Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:43-44

  You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?  And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?

Friends if we have faith, we will love our enemies. We will not attack those who attack us. We will love them because we realize God has placed them in our lives by his decree!

Lastly, we will share the Word of God. Samuel tells Saul all that the Lord has told him. If we trust in God, we will share his revealed Word with our friends and family. We will long to see the single-mom with the five loud kids come to faith. We will long to share the gospel with the guy who has a Mohawk, tattoos, and cutoff khaki shorts, and we will continue to share the gospel with our rebellious daughter who routinely mocks our faith. We will embrace the challenges that come with caring for a single-mom who will bring a life-time of financial struggles into our church. We will welcome the guy whose very presence will challenge our suit and tie sensibilities. And we will welcome our daughter back into our church even if that means people will talk and question our wisdom. Why? We do these things because we trust in God’s sovereignty. We trust that the gospel we hold is the same gospel that will give these and thousands of others hope. So, we preach the gospel accepting all the challenges that come with new converts.

Do we trust God? Do we obey God when obedience is convenient and inconvenient? Do we love the loveable and the unloveable? Do we share the Word of God? Do we have faith?