I am amazed at how certain people will think that, because they were privy to a special time of blessing or a notable time in church history, they are somehow exempt from living the Christian life in the present day.
Occasionally, I will run into people who went to the church where I pastor — Harvest Christian Fellowship — when we first began in the 1970s.
“Greg, I haven’t seen you for a long time,” they will say. “It’s good to see you again.”
“Where have you been?” I will ask. “I haven’t seen you at church.”
“No, I haven’t been around for quite a long time. But I remember those old days,” they will tell me. “They were something, weren’t they?”
“Those were great days,” they continue. “I loved the 70s. God was really working in the Jesus Movement, wasn’t He?”
“Yes, He sure was.”
But my question for them is what have they been doing lately? How are they doing with the Lord today?
It is wonderful if God did a work in your life 20, 30, or 40 years ago. But God wants to make His mercies new to you every morning (see Lamentations 3:22–23). This is why Jesus said, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me (Luke 9:23 nkjv, emphasis mine).
This is the very problem Jude identified in his epistle. There were some believers who were not moving forward spiritually. They were sloppy in their understanding of biblical teaching. As a result, they were vulnerable to false teaching.
They were resting on their laurels, thinking that because they had been blessed in the past, they were exempt from living a godly life in the present.
Jude then presented an important theme: “Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life” (verse 21 nkjv). Jude was saying, “If you don’t want to go the way of some of these people that I am about to discuss, then you have to keep yourselves in the love of God.”
What an interesting phrase that is: “keep yourselves in the love of God.” The Bible says we “are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation” (1 Peter 1:5 nkjv), but in Jude, we are exhorted to keep ourselves in the love of God.
Obviously, there is God’s part. He is ready to keep us. But we also must take practical steps to keep ourselves in His love.
Does that mean that we are to keep ourselves in a state where God will love us? That is virtually impossible because, no matter how hard we try, we ultimately will fall short of His standards.
Rather, to keep myself in the love of God simply means that I need to keep myself in a place where God can actively bless me.
A good illustration of this is the prodigal son. He was loved by his father, but he foolishly took his portion of the inheritance and went to a distant country, where he lived as a fool. Ultimately, he came to his senses and returned to his father.
The question is: Was he still his father’s son while a prodigal? He was a wayward son (no doubt) and a distant son (without question), but he was still his son.
Was he keeping himself in the love of his father or in a place where his father could actively demonstrate his love? No. His father probably didn’t even know where he was at the time.
When he returned home and his father forgave him and threw a party for him, was he then in a place where the father could actively show his love toward him? Yes.
In the same way, when we disobey God, when we do things that we should not do, it is not that God stops loving us or that we have ceased to be true Christians. But we have essentially taken ourselves out of the love of God. We have removed ourselves from the place where God can actively show His love in our lives.
Simply put, Jude was reminding us that we must keep ourselves from all that is unlike God, from all that would violate His love and grieve Him.We must stay away from the things that could tear us down, and stay close to the Lord and in fellowship with believers who build us up. In other words, keep ourselves in the love of God.
Out of their long and painful journey has come a really helpful survival guide, so to speak. It’s a book called Suffer Strong: How to Survive Anything by Redefining Everything. It’s not just an inspiring story of triumph through trials but a how-to book for accepting God’s plan and recognizing His providence even when it feels like your world is shattered.