When was the last time you felt spiritually compelled to do something that was not at all what you had wanted to do or planned to do? Surely you’ve had times when you just believed with all your heart that you were being led by God to do some particular work or job, so you set out to fulfill that plan. But then, out of nowhere, you see a totally different need that you feel you are being compelled by God to deal with that doesn’t fit at all what you had believed was His plan for you or your life.
Look closely at the little book of Jude in the New Testament. Jude begins the letter by calling himself a servant of Jesus Christ and bother of James. Obviously, if he is James’ brother and James was the brother of Jesus, then Jude was the brother of Jesus. Yet neither James nor Jude in writing their letters refer to themselves as being of the same physical family as Jesus but as his servants. He said he was writing to those who had been called, who are loved by God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ. I would trust that most who read this feel you are among that group that have been called of God, loved by Him and kept by Jesus, so it is a letter for us. Focus on verse 3 of the only chapter in the book. “Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt compelled to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to God’s holy people.”
I can picture Jude as he plans to write this book about the salvation we share and the excitement of proclaiming to all who would hear the wonder of how we are saved from sin through the love and grace of Almighty God and the sacrificial offering of Jesus on the cross so that he could pay the price for our sins and offer us his righteousness. It was going to be a good news volume that would paint a beautiful picture of what it means to be saved and live for Jesus in the world. Who wouldn’t want to write a book like that? I wonder if he ever got started on the manuscript for that book or if as he sat down to write, he felt the hand of God upon him compelling him to write a whole different kind of book than he had planned.
I suspect it was similar to those times when one has studied and prepared a sermon on some topic that you feel certain will uplift the church and bless the lives of those who are there, only to get ready to get up or even stand up to begin your message of good news only to get this strong feeling of being compelled by God to go in a whole different direction and preach on a topic that you hadn’t thought about or planned on before. There have been times like this when I preached that sermon I felt God was pushing me to preach only to have someone come out afterward to say, “How did you know what I was going through?” Every time I have had that to happen, I am totally puzzled by the person’s remark and have no idea what they are talking about. I’ve even had some to say you must have known. How could you have talked about the very thing I needed so desperately if you knew nothing about it?
God had a message for Jude to write that was not in his plan but was in God’s because of the desperate need at the time. God’s push was for him to urge the Christians to “contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to God’s holy people.” Why was it so important for him to write this at this very time? Why couldn’t God have allowed him to write volume one on the salvation we share and then do volume two on the challenge to contend for the faith? Because God saw an urgency due to what was going on in the world at the time. “For certain individuals whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are ungodly people who pervert the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord.”
There can hardly be a greater danger in our spiritual life than perverted grace. The grace of God is amazing, wonderful, transforming and offers salvation to all people. It is because of grace that people who are dead in trespasses and sins can be made alive again and can reign with Christ in his kingdom. Out of that grace we become the workmanship of God created in Christ Jesus for good works that God before ordained that we should walk in them (Ephesians 2:10). Grace brought Jews and Gentiles together in one body by the cross slaying the hatred and enmity that was between them to bring them together in one body by the cross.
So how did people pervert God’s wonderful grace? They turned it into a license to sin. It became their card to get them into all kinds of immorality and to even turn their backs on Jesus the real king and Lord of every Christian and deny his place as the head over his body the church. Perverted grace gives us the feeling that everything is okay. That such matters as obeying God and following his direction are old fashioned and out of date, so we can follow whoever we want or simply go our own way and be alright. One of the most overlooked Scriptures on grace is found in Titus 2:11-14. “For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope – the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is right.”
Anytime the picture of grace is that it is a license to do our own thing and go our own way and still be right with God, it is a perversion that will lead us totally away from God, from salvation and from being the people God calls us to be. There have always been those who secretly slip into the body of Christ to pretend to be God’s chosen teachers who are more intent on getting followers for themselves or their notion than to follow Jesus.
How are we to be the people God wants us to be in such times? Contend, fight for the faith that was once for all time delivered to the people of God. God’s plan and God’s message to the world hasn’t changed. We may find better ways of delivering the message so more grasp it’s meaning and power. But if we change God’s will in the process we have set out on a course of our own. “The faith” isn’t our personal beliefs or individual faith. It is the standard of God’s word that produces personal faith in the Lord. Always knowing how to apply the teachings of the Bible isn’t easy and knowing when a teaching was intended to be temporary and when it was intended by God to be permanent isn’t easy. But if we use these challenges as an excuse to head out on our own ways or leave the standard of God’s word then we have left the faith and left the Lord in the process.
Sometimes the things we are compelled to do go against what we long to do, but in the end, fulfill the mission of God and meet the needs of people all around us. Often we are faced with choosing whether we will follow the things we are eager to do or the things we are compelled to do by God. It is seldom the case that what God compels us to do will be the things that are in our comfort zone or what will make us popular with the people around us. But it will please God and fulfill our mission.