Dear MAGA: 20211024 Open Topic

This Sanctuary Sunday Open Thread, with full respect to those who worship God on the Sabbath, is a place to reaffirm our worship of our Creator, our Father, our King Eternal.

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Glory, Majesty, Dominion, and Power

How Doxologies Work

Doxologies refer first to something that God has done or will do, and then they ascribe attributes to God that account for that action, or are expressed in the action. So, for example, we might say, “Now to Him who fashioned the intricacies of the human eye and every molecule and atom in it — to Him belong infinite, inscrutable wisdom and skill.” Or we might say, “Now to Him who adopts dirty, abandoned, rebellious children into his family — to Him belong compassion and boundless mercy.”

In other words, the attributes that we ascribe to God are the ones that account for the action we are praising, or that come to expression in the action we are praising. His wisdom and skill are expressed in making the eye. His compassion and mercy are expressed in adopting of unworthy foundlings. These attributes account for the actions we are celebrating. So it is in Jude 1:24-25.

“Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of His glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.”

Jude is celebrating three things:

  1. God keeps us from stumbling.
  2. He presents us before the glory of God blameless.
  3. And He presents us before the glory of God with great happiness.

And then Jude says: What came to expression in these three acts of God was God’s glory and majesty and power and authority. That’s what it takes to keep us as Christians for our years. This perseverance was the effect of God’s glory and majesty and power and authority.

Considering the Measurement

Do we have any idea of the degree (the measure) of divine glory and majesty and power and authority that it took to give us spiritual life when we were dead (Ephesians 2:5), and to keep us spiritually alive moment by moment for our years, and to stir up that spiritual life in such ways that it resisted sins and loved holiness and pursued spiritual fruit in the life of the church?

Do we know the degree of glory and majesty and power and authority that took? No. We don’t. We have no terms of measurement for such glory and majesty and power and authority. How do we quantify a Spirit creating and sustaining spirit? Or a Spirit acting on spirit to sustain the life of that spirit?

God creates spiritual life when we are dead. “That which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (John 3:6). We had no spiritual life. Then the Spirit acted in us. And now we are spiritually alive. We are spirit. This is not spirit like the demons are spirit. This is Holy Spirit. This is eternal, spiritual, God-created, and God-sustained spiritual life.

Our Life Is God’s Work

This spiritual life that we have is not ours intrinsically. It is not ours autonomously. We have this life to the degree that we have the Holy Spirit in us, and to the degree that we are united to Christ — which are interwoven realities. It is not the kind of spiritual life that we would have if the Spirit left us or we were not united to Christ. We would not be alive if we were not united to Christ by the Spirit. Our life is Christ’s life. The Spirit’s life.

The giving of this life, and the moment by moment sustaining and keeping of this life, and the stirring up of this life so that it treasures holiness and ministry is a work of God. If the decisive cause of our faithfulness to Christ must come from us, it will not come, because it is not there.

We bring nothing decisive to our creation. And we bring nothing decisive to the ongoing existence of this divine spiritual life in us. We exist as Christians by it. We did not create it. We don’t keep it in being. Not any more than the universe came into existence by its own power or is upheld by its own power (Hebrews 1:3).

Jude is clearly amazed at what it takes to sustain spiritual life — to keep it from collapsing and to bring it to glory blameless and happy. He must sense that what it takes to keep us believing — to keep us alive — is very great. So how do we join him in this God-exalting amazement?

Two Ways to Measure What It Takes

How do we then measure what it took for God to bring my spiritual life into being and keep me alive and holy and happy to the day of Christ? There are only two ways that I can see that we can measure what it takes to accomplish the preservation of our spiritual life?

One is to think about the fact that creating and sustaining spiritual life is something we cannot do at all, and that God alone does it. And the difference between nothing and anything is infinite. Let me put it this way: If God says to us: Create a being with divine spiritual life and sustain it, we will say, “We can’t.” And we will be right. We absolutely can’t. Then He does it with a word or a thought.

The difference between our absolute inability — our nothing — and His absolute ability — His everything — is immeasurable. Indeed it is immeasurably great. That’s the first way we can measure what it took to give us life and preserve it blameless and joyful to the day of Christ. We know we can’t do it and He can. The measurement of what it took to create us and keep us alive is the distance between us and God. It is an infinite wonder that God creates and sustains our spiritual life — that we are still Christians.

And the second way we know the measurement of what it took for God to sustain our spiritual life blameless and joyful before the glory of God is that He reveals it to us in verse 25: it took glory and majesty and power and authority. If the first computation of the infinite difference between our contribution and God’s contribution to our spiritual life does not make sense, then just take God’s word for it. Our creation and our preservation takes divine glory and majesty and power and authority. And any amount of divine glory and majesty and power and authority is infinitely greater than what we bring to our creation and preservation.

How God Keeps Us

How does God keep us

  • when Paul’s strategies of not losing heart (2 Corinthians 4) seem remote,
  • and when the language to articulate the gospel with words one more time won’t come,
  • and when we’re depressed not just because our church has false converts, but you fear you may be one,
  • and when you can remember countless times when you gave no evidence of trusting the power of the gospel to convert a neighbor, let alone a terrorist,
  • and when Spirit-empowered, gospel-driven, faith-fueled effort seems as likely as flying by flapping your arms,
  • and when the fuel tank of death-defying devotion to world missions seems empty,
  • and when your treasure is held out to you and God says, “You can’t have it,”
  • and when the crown jewel of the new Jerusalem that you are trying to lead is cut in slivers by an airplane propeller, or by the seduction of the prophetess Jezebel?

How does God keep us — keep us alive, keep us believing, keep us serving?

Called, Loved, Kept

Notice that Jude’s letter begins and ends with the assurance that God is decisively our keeper. We have already seen the end. Verse 24: “Now unto him who is able (who is strong) to keep you. . . .” Now look at the beginning: Verse 1: “Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and brother of James, to those who are calledbeloved in God the Father, and kept for Jesus Christ.” We are called. We are loved. And we are kept. The love of God moves him to call his elect to himself out of death and unbelief. And those whom he calls he keeps.

This is exactly what Paul teaches: God keeps those whom he calls. None is lost.  “He will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom you were called” (1 Corinthians 1:8-9). The called are sustained guiltless in the last day. The keeping is implicit in the call. That is what Jude means in verse 24. Then Paul says it again in Romans 8:30: “Those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.” None of the called is lost. The called are kept. That is a rock-solid teaching of Paul and Jude.

Jude’s Warning

So Jude establishes first and last the decisive work of God in keeping his own. And in between, he warns against the false teachers (verse 4) who “pervert the grace of our God into sensuality,” and who presume that they are saved but (verse 5) are “destroyed because they don’t believe.” So these professing Christians are not called and they are not kept. And the evidence that they are not called and not kept is that don’t crave Christ, they crave physical sensations. They don’t prize the God of grace; they prostitute the grace of God.

Then after those many warnings, Jude tells us what we must do for ourselves (verses 20–21) and for those we love (verses 22–23), in order to go on being kept by God. I’m only going to deal with what we do for ourselves because this brings out the paradox of the Christian life most clearly. Verses 20–21:

“But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life.”

“I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me” (1 Corinthians 15:10). Or as Paul says in Philippians 2:12-13, “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.”

Keep Yourselves in the Love of God

Here in Jude, it goes like this: “Keep yourselves in the love of God (verse 21), for God is the One who keeps you in His love.” The order and logic are supremely important. Verse 1: the love of God called us; the love of God will keep us. Therefore, keep ourselves in the love of God. Keep ourselves in God’s prior commitment to keep us.

And what does that mean? “Keep yourselves in the love of God” (verse 21) is the main verb — the only imperative verb in verses 20–21, and the other three verbs are supporting participles — they define how Jude understands keeping ourselves in the love of God. Verse 20: 1) “building yourselves up in your most holy faith;” 2) “praying in the Holy Spirit;” 3) (verse 21) “waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life.”

The key words in those phrases are “faith,” “prayer,” and “waiting.” So, keep ourselves in the love of God — keep ourselves in the omnipotent commitment of God’s love to keep us, by trusting that omnipotent commitment, by praying for its daily application to the specifics of our lives, and by waiting patiently for God to finish His merciful work. We pray for God to keep us (“Preserve me O God!”). We trust the promise that He will (“for in you I take refuge”). And we wait for His mercy.

God Is Not Robbed

And in none of this do we rob Him of the glory and majesty and power and authority by which He decisively, faithfully, omnipotently keeps us. Because even our praying is His doing — it is by the Spirit that you pray (verse 20). And our faith is His doing, not our own, “it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8). Our praying for His keeping, and our trusting in His keeping, is His keeping.

The glory and the majesty of His keeping consists very much in the power and the authority that He has to keep us through the means of our keeping ourselves in the love of God. We are not robots. And we are not autonomous. We are a new creation, a new race. Our coming into being and our being sustained is unlike anything the world can ever experience. It is a mystery. A daily miracle. We are those who by prayer and trust keep ourselves in the commitment of God’s love to keep us praying and trusting.

God Fulfills the New Covenant

God’s act to keep you praying and trusting so that you remain in his love and are kept blameless and joyful for the glory of God — that act is the fulfillment of the new covenant. “I will make with them an everlasting covenant, that I will not turn away from doing good to them. And I will put the fear of me in their hearts, that they may not turn from me” (Jeremiah 32:40). The new-covenant promise is that God will act so decisively for his newborn elect that they will not turn from him. They will be kept. They will pray and they will trust and they will keep themselves in the love of God. He will see to it. Our praying and trusting him to keep us is His keeping us. This is God’s new-covenant promise.

And this new-covenant fulfillment in our lives was secured, purchased by the blood of Jesus Christ. “This cup is the new covenant in my blood” (1 Corinthians 1:25). When Jesus died for us, all the promises of God became Yes in him (2 Corinthians 1:20). “I will see to it that my own will not turn from me into destruction (Jeremiah 32:40). I will keep them from falling.” That is a blood-bought, new-covenant promise.

And that is the ultimate reason why Jude 25 says, “To the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority.” The glory and majesty and power and authority that it takes to keep you and me alive in Christ — to keep us praying and trusting, to keep us in the love of God — was secured for us sinners, when Christ died for us. Therefore the glory and majesty and dominion and authority that keeps us from falling and presents us blameless and joyful to God is through the blood of Jesus Christ — the blood of the covenant. And therefore when we ascribe glory and majesty and dominion and authority to God we do it through Jesus Christ.

Don’t Underestimate the Power of the Gospel

We must not underestimate the power of the blood of Christ to keep us from falling. It’s power was at work “before all time” (Revelation 13:8), it is at work “now,” and it will be at work “forever.” Our keeping began before creation, it is happening now, and it will never end.

He will not let your foot be moved;
   he who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, he who keeps Israel
   will neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord is your keeper;
   the Lord is your shade on your right hand.
The sun shall not strike you by day,
   nor the moon by night.

The Lord will keep you from all evil;
   he will keep your life.
The Lord will keep
   your going out and your coming in
   from this time forth and forevermore.” (Psalm 121:3-8)

He sealed that promise with the blood of his Son.
Therefore, keep ourselves in the love of God.

Resource by John Piper

On this day and every day –

God is in Control
. . . and His Grace is Sufficient, so . . .
Keep Looking Up

Hopefully, every Sunday, we can find something here that will build us up a little . . . give us a smile . . . and add some joy or peace, very much needed in all our lives.

“This day is holy to the Lord your God;
do not mourn nor weep.” . . .
“Go your way, eat the fat, drink the sweet,
and send portions to those for whom nothing is prepared;
for this day is holy to our Lord.
Do not sorrow,
for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”

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