Thursday, November 9, 2006

God's children will stand firm!

At a prayer meeting this past Tuesday morning, a man spoke on the Epistle of Saint Jude, which begins like this: "Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints" (v. 3). Little did I know that later that day it would strike home.

Clarissa and I met up with a friend named "Rose" who came to faith last year after a two-year period of searching, coming to our church every weekend, and spending a lot of time with us. We rejoiced! But she then left for a nine-month internship in Italy, where apparently all she could find were unorthodox Catholic churches. One of the big questions haunting many people coming from an Islamic background is "Is Jesus really God himself and not just a prophet?" Yet the priests she spoke with in Italy told her that she was mistaken and that Jesus was not God, but rather the son of God. Whether or not it was a matter of semantics (i.e., by "God" they all meant "God the Father"), no priest can claim Jesus is not "God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made" (Nicene Creed). Rose was rocked so far to where she said, "I don't know what to do; I'm not a Muslim anymore but I'm not a Christian." Who ordains these ministers?

If you know me, there are a few things that really set me on edge: when people conned or wronged, people who don't pull their weight and do their share of the work, and bad theology. So just when Clarissa and I were hoping to spend time with Rose rejoicing in the common salvation we together share, we found a need to contend for the faith. Saint Paul warns of people who distort the true faith, "whose talk will spread like gangrene" (or, as John Calvin translates, "their word will eat as doth a canker"). Such are "men who have gone astray from the truth . . . and they upset the faith of some" (2 Timothy 2:16-18).

But amidst these buffeting winds there is a sure hope: "Nevertheless, the firm foundation of God [possibly the church, who in 1 Timothy 3:15 is described as 'the pillar and foundation of the truth'] stands, having this seal, 'The Lord knows those who are His.' " Jude's greeting rings with the same beauty: "To those who are the called, beloved in God the Father, and kept for [or by] Jesus Christ" (v. 1; cf. v. 24). No deceiver will ever lay hold of the Almighty's church, his chosen and beloved children! He will slay all such distorters with the breath of his mouth while dealing ever so gently and mercifully with those of us whose faith has been rocked, the "bruised reeds" and "faintly burning wicks" like our friend Rose. We reassured her of this, that just because she doubts some things doesn't mean that God has left her, and that we would continue to be wrestling for her in prayer to be kept by Jesus Christ, as she really is.

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