DO YOU know your duty? Your duty, that is, as a Christian.
Jude puts before us three related duties. We are (1) to build ourselves up in the faith; (2) to pray in the power of the Holy Spirit; and (3) to keep ourselves in the love of God (Jude 20-21). Each is important. Every child of God will benefit from thinking through the meaning of each. On this occasion I share with you some thoughts on the instruction to keep ourselves in the love of God.
Here is the first point to note. Jude’s use of the imperative tense, the tense of command, tells us that this is a duty. It is a duty we are expected to fulfil. It is not an optional extra. Nor is it mere advice. Jude, inspired by the Spirit of God, in his short letter reminds Christians that, as well as growing in faith and praying in the Spirit, they are to keep themselves in the love of God. It is an obligation laid upon us by God himself.
Secondly, the focus is on God’s love. A Christian is a person who loves God. Jesus teaches that we are to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul and mind (Matthew 22.37). That is with all our being. Such is the responsibility of all people. But we do not do what we ought to do. A Christian is a changed person. His or her natural hostility to God is replaced by love for God. The new desire to love that can be seen in Christians.
What motivates a person to love God? The Bible provides a definitive answer. It is the love of God for us. We love, says John, because he first loved us (1 John 4.19). How does God demonstrate his love for us? He gave his only begotten Son (John 3.16). A Christian with gladness proclaims, the Son of God loved me and gave himself for me (Galatians 2.20). Our love for God is in proportion to our grasp and experience of his love for us. To know his love poured into the heart by the Holy Spirit (Romans 5.5) is no vain or imagined thing. It is a real, essential and defining feature of a Christian’s life.
Thirdly, God’s love for us is a voluntary love. He freely chooses to love. God, who loves himself, has a general love for all people. That is why he causes the sun to shine and the rains to fall on the ungodly as well as the godly. He also shows a special love. It is for his people. It is experienced by those who are chosen in Christ Jesus before the foundation of the world. In eternity God freely chose that from among the mass of mankind who would descend from Adam, the first man, there will be some who experience the special love he has for his elect.
Fourthly, God’s love for us is a Jesus-centred love. It is mediated to us in Jesus. He lived and died, giving himself to death on a cross for us and our salvation. No person can get to the Father except through faith in Jesus. An individual comes to taste of and experience God’s love through faith in Jesus. It is impossible to please God without faith. And there is no access to God except through faith in Jesus, who is the way the truth and the life (John 14.6).
And fifthly, a Christian actively seeks to remain in God’s love. We guard and protect what we have received. And we strive to ensure that the love God has for us is kept safe. We do not want it to wither or be withdrawn. We seek to see it maintained. But how, do you ask?
One way in which we keep ourselves in God’s love and enjoy it more is to meditate on the fact that it is freely shown to and lavished upon us. God’s love is pure grace. It is not deserved or earned. In short, it is free sovereign grace (Hosea 14.4; Romans 11.5-6; 2 Timothy 1.9).
Another related way to guard our experience of God’s love is to think about its fruit. It is the cause of and explanation of (1) our election (Romans 9.5); (2) our effectual call (Galatians 1.6,15); (3) our adoption (Ephesians 1.5-6); (4) our justification (Romans 3.24); (5) our forgiveness (Romans 5.20); (6) our conversion (1 Corinthians 15.10); (7) our faith (Acts 18.27); and (8) our salvation (Ephesians 2.5,8). Furthermore it is the reason (9) why we have the Bible, the written Word of God (Acts 14.3); and the love of explains (10) why Jesus suffered for us (Hebrews 2.9).