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Contending Earnestly...

Here are three areas in which Jesus expects you to contend earnestly.

Every Christian has a duty to confront evil. There are at least three areas:

1) The evil that you come up against in your own life. Hidden sins have to be exposed, brought to the light, and renounced. We took a brief look at some of that vast subject in the previous pages.

2) Evils that you see in the Church around you. This is particularly true of evils tolerated or condoned in the group where you are nourished spiritually.

As a member of the body of Christ, if the Spirit of Christ is in you and alive, you have a duty to judge in the Church. Paul obliquely reminded the Corinthians of this. He wrote, “Do you not judge those who are inside?” (1 Cor 5:12.)

If you don’t confront sin where it is openly exhibited and tolerated, you are encouraging demons in their activity, NOT the Spirit of God. More about this later.

3) Then there is another big area of evil that you are to confront. You are expected to contend for the truths that Jesus passed on to us as His beloved. And that does not mean just pay lip service to them. Jude expressed the force with which you need to do this. He used the words very diligent and earnestly:

Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 3).

In most churches, there is little diligence or earnestness to contend over such matters. They are left to the pastor, or the church hierarchy to handle. “After all, we are just members,” most people opine – meaning that they think they don’t have any say in such matters and that it would be wrong for them to contest what ‘the church’ or the ‘leadership’ teaches.

Nothing could be further from the truth! This lukewarmness has firmly locked many in Satan’s arms.

Not Abrogating Your Responsibilities

Let’s take a closer look at what our duty is, as followers of Jesus, in this regard, so we bring Him the glory He deserves (Jn 15:8).

1) In your own life
The hidden sins of the spirit in people are what God sees as more damaging than the sins you might see ‘on the outside’. You may see a person breaking the Sabbath by going shopping, or to a concert. But God sees the resentment, unforgiveness, or greed in you that you have learned to live with for years! And that sin of the spirit is far more damaging than a person doing something like the above when they are not yet aware that such is inappropriate.

Do you know that God considers deceit more harmful or pernicious than sexual sins committed out of weakness? If you don’t believe me, read the list in Proverbs 6:16-19. I’ll list them here for speed:

Pride; lying (deliberate falsification out of wrong motive); murder (including hatred); inner motives of malice or wickedness; lack of hesitation to do evil; ‘stitching’ someone up by lies; causing disharmony among brethren (gossip is a killer in this category).

Those are seven heinous sins – the worst in God’s rulebook! Yet sexual indiscretions are not among them. I’m not playing down their evils. Don’t get me wrong. Sexual sins cause havoc in society. They are among the most widespread cause of misery, and God doesn’t tolerate them. But the way most humans approach sin, some of the seven sins above are often regarded as far less bad than sexual ‘mistakes’.

The first one, pride, is nearly completely over- looked! It is well underestimated. Yet it was the root of original sin. It caused Lucifer to lose his position and become the enemy of God (Is 14; Ezek 28). Other sins of the spirit are in the same league. I mentioned some of those on page 6, column 2.

You must confront these attitudes vehemently in yourself, for Jesus will not live in you unless you do. However, the rewards for accepting this challenge and earnestly combating such evils are immense:

If you abide in Me and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples (Jn 15:7,8).

Those underlined words are no light matter! He wants zeal. Complacent lukewarmness repels Jesus.

Remember also that Jesus said:

He who does not love Me does not keep My words (Jn 14:24).

So, you are on trial now, to see how much you love Him. Remember also that Jesus inspired ALL the New Testament, so even though Jude, Peter, John, Luke and others wrote the words, Jesus inspired them and stands behind them. Your duty is to live by them. The earnestness with which you do, shows how much you love Him. And that is what causes fruit to be born in your spiritual life.

Many Christians profess to love Christ, but deny Him by their deeds. They prefer to let fear, doubt, apathy, laziness and other sins reign in their lives, than to take a bold stand for truth, uprightness and integrity.

Now let’s move on from the personal front, to the fellowship front.

2) In your fellowship group or church
It takes guts to confront wrong, when you see it taking place in the body. It’s not easy. A lot of people shy away from saying anything. They fear to tread on people’s toes and hurt their feelings.

But that’s fear of man, not fear of God. Fear of man brings a snare (Prov 29:25). Fear of God brings release and victory (Prov 3:7,8; Ps 112:1; Ps 34:7-9).

If you see an evil being tolerated ‘in the Church’, it is your duty to do something about it, not ignore it.

Your first responsibility is for the spiritual well- being of your brother or sister, so you should go to them first (Matt 18:15-17) and see if you can help them as Galatians 6:1 and James 5:19-20 outline.

There is a wishy-washy concept in most minds about it being ‘wrong to judge’ another. This is based upon a misunderstanding of what Jesus meant in Matt 7:1. But what Jesus said there was in the context of hypocritical fault-finding, not in matters where wanton sins are being tolerated and not dealt with.

In 1 Corinthians 5:12-13, we have an explicit statement about the judging that NEEDS to take place within the fellowship of believers for spiritual health to be maintained. Do read it.

I have explained in other articles such as Should You Judge In The Church?, about this essential duty, so I won’t repeat that here. However, below is an apt summary comment on 1 Corinthians 5:13.

Whereas God judges those who are not a part of the church, He has delegated responsibility to the church to exercise its own discipline. Exercising the ban... is the method of discipline, provided the attempts described in Matthew have been executed first (Matt 18:15-17). The ban should be the decree of the whole church together (1 Cor 5:4). A study of the NT reveals a number of habitual, visible unrepentant acts which clearly call for church discipline: (1) sexual immorality, (2) covetousness, (3) idolatry, (4) reviling [slander], (5) drunkenness, (6) extortion (1 Cor 5:11), (7) disorderliness / laziness (2 Thes 3:6-12), (8) false teaching (1 Tim 1:18-20), (9) divisiveness (Titus 3:10-11). (Footnote on 1 Cor 5:13, NKJV Believer’s Study Bible.)

[Man’s] Government is charged with jurisprudence in civil matters. In the ecclesiastical arena, each local congregation must assume the exercise of its own discipline. Jesus provided a programme whereby the local assembly could protect its own sanctity and admonish an erring brother. The system involved three possible encounters with a brother overtaken in a fault. After the individual approach by one brother, one or two additional brethren are to be taken to confront the wayward brother. Only if this failed was the matter to be brought before the entire congregation. Furthermore, the last action involved two steps, the first being an appeal and admonition from the church, and the second, the exercise of the ban. The entire procedure is designed to prevent this exclusion from the church. Few cases would ever proceed beyond the first and second provisions. Even when a case demanded the ultimate drastic action of exercising the ban, the intent was redemptive. The disbarment from fellowship would hopefully awaken the rebellious person. On the other hand, the reputation of God’s people would be protected if no disposition for repentance was forthcoming in the erring brother (cf. 1 Cor 5:1-13; 2 Cor 2:5-11; Gal 6:1,2). (Footnote on Matt 18:15-17, NKJV Believer’s Study Bible.)

3) For truths that Jesus has given us
As mentioned on the previous page, there is an injunction in Jude 3 which you must obey. Like the one in 1 John 4:1 about testing the spirits, it is rarely kept. You are to contend for truth – for the faith Jesus gave.

Do you know what the word contend means? It means you are to confront heresy when you see it, and use all the force at your disposal (not physical force, but spiritual force) to counter wrong teaching.

One dictionary defines contend as “to engage in a quarrel”. And you are not merely to do that casually, or with apologies, respecting contrary opinions, with guarded words, softness and lashings of tact – the way most politicians and even ecclesiastics try not to offend others. John the Baptist got the accolade for the most approved contender of his time (Matt 11:11).

And look what he said to the religious leaders! He verbally whipped them in contending with them (Matt 3:7-10). So did Jesus! (Matt 23.) So, don’t be afraid of what others think. Be afraid of what God thinks, and muster the zeal to contend as you should.

Jude says you are to contend earnestly. Not half heartedly, not timidly, not apologetically, not fearfully.

The vivid expression epagonizomai (Gk) is translated “contend earnestly” and is related to the English word “agony”. The term is associated with strife and combat of a most vigorous and determined variety. The present tense of the verb indicates that the Christian struggle is to be continuous. Jude believed that the foundational tenets of the Christian faith were under attack. Nothing but vigorous counter-contention would be sufficient. (Footnote on Jude 3, NKJV Believer’s Study Bible.)

The record we have of what former prophets said gives us a good example of how to do it (Is 58:1).

It is because few believers obey Jude’s words that the visible Church you see is riddled with error and protected by wrappings of hypocrisy.

When you point out openly the sins and heresies of church leaders, you are not reviling (1 Cor 5:11). You are doing what is right. Reviling is slander. When you speak the truth – no matter how unpleasant it is to others’ ears, especially church leaders! – you are not reviling, but contending. You will invariably find them slandering YOU for speaking the truth!

Why is the light-bringer repelled? Because of the motives of ‘wolves’, hiding behind ecclesiastical garb, who serve only themselves (Jude 12-19), and because many ‘sheep’ don’t see through them.

Malcolm B Heap

Copyright: Midnight Ministries, PO Box 29, Aylesbury, HP17 8TL, UK