In recent years, we have heard of some high profile individuals who had professed Christ as their Saviour either: renounce their profession of faith; or promote a form of grace that tolerates any human desire and choice. Others have experienced unfortunate moral failures, have repented and are walking with the LORD. It’s easy to start a race; finishing requires discipline, diligence, patience, endurance and a love for what is to be won. When we hear of these reports, it’s far too easy to judge these individuals. When we see these occurrences, are we missing the point? We should not be so self-confident as to think we would never produce similar thinking or missteps. The mere fact that Jesus said, “Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:41) is a clear indication that our journey requires alertness.
The great news is we can be entirely confident in our Saviour’s ability to: (1) keep us from fatally stumbling; and, (2) present us faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy. Refer to Jude 1:24. The question is how to finish well. Not one Christian starts their walk thinking they would ever compromise their Saviour’s covenant for some desire or pressure. Many who find themselves compromising the LORD’s standards are doing so to be “loving” or avoid conflict with others who do not share the same values. They may believe they are correct or at least doing their very best to be Christlike.
So then, how do we ensure we finish faithfully? How will we produce fruit? What will we stand for in the end?
We will be looking at one example of a man who finished, but not well; and then, we will contrast that story with the Holy Spirit’s caution in Jude about the steps that lead to unfruitfulness. The book of Jude will also reveal much about those among us who wrongly consider themselves to be the bride of Christ. Because we do not know anyone’s heart, nor the end of their journey, it’s wise not to come to conclusions about others. Our role within the body of Christ is to pray for all, spur each other on with the actual Word, and be careful of who influences our lives.
- Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart, having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever (1st Peter 1:22 to 23).
Let’s begin with Asa. His account can be found in 1st Kings, chapter 15; and, 2nd Chronicles, chapters 14 through 16. In the interest of time, I will recap Asa’s life highlighting a few principles. Then we will turn to the book of Jude. These passages will provide a high-level process for finishing well and will demonstrate the following:
- someone can be committed to the LORD, but fail to finish well;
- God’s grace gives us the strength to live as He desires; it does not give us the liberty to intentionally break His heart;
- there is a delusion of insistent or beseeching autonomy that ends in death; and,
- finishing faithful and fruitful requires unapologetic devotion.
Someone can be committed to the LORD, but fail to finish as well as they should.
Scripture informs that king Asa’s actions pleased the LORD his God. He was the great-grandson of Solomon and became the king of Judah (the southern kingdom) at the end of Jeroboam’s reign in Israel (the northern kingdom). There were also perverted persons in the land. They did according to all the abominations of the nations which the LORD had cast out before the children of Israel. (1st Kings 14:24). In the original text, the word “qâdêsh” is used for “perverted” which the King James Version translates as sodomite (Strong’s H6945). These persons were male devotees to licentious idolatry by prostitution.
1st Kings 15:11 reports Asa was similar to David in his behaviour towards the LORD. Asa banished those who practiced perversion because it was against the law of God recorded in Deuteronomy 23:17. He not only directed his people to seek the LORD and obey His commands; Asa removed all the pagan emblems of worship to false gods throughout his kingdom. Other high places remained.
Asa’s desire for pleasing God was sincere. He did not just impose the laws on his subjects; Asa maintained these standards within his family. 1st Kings 15:13 provides the record of the disposal of Asa’s grandmother (Maachah) from being queen mother because she had made an obscene image of a Phoenician goddess. After Asa restored God’s order, Judah enjoyed a period of peace; at least during the early years of his reign because the LORD gave them rest from all enemies.
Note: The LORD is the One who gives us favour with others. He also permits and even stirs up adversaries to accomplish His purposes.
During this time of calm, Asa fortified towns and he gave the glory to the LORD for the success they were experiencing. He had an army of 580,000 warriors (52 percent were from the tribe of Judah and 48 percent from the tribe of Benjamin). Although Asa had amassed a large army, it wasn’t large enough to stand alone against all enemies. There was an Ethiopian leader named Zerah who attacked Judah with an army of 1,000,000 men and 300 chariots, but Asa believed that God was capable of defending them.
- Asa cried out to the LORD his God, and said, “LORD, it is nothing for You to help, whether with many or with those who have no power; help us, O LORD our God, for we rest on You, and in Your name we go against this multitude. O LORD, You are our God; do not let man prevail against You!” (2nd Chronicles 14:11).
So the LORD defeated the Ethiopians in front of Asa and his army. As the Ethiopian army fled, Asa’s army pursued them and overtook them at Gerar.
This is important to note. When outnumbered and unable to defeat his enemy within his strength, Asa relied on and fully trusted upon the LORD. He did not retreat; he went out in the Name of the LORD.
As Asa was returning from battle, Azariah son of Oded, journeyed to meet the troops with a message from God. He said:
- Hear me, Asa, and all Judah and Benjamin. The LORD is with you while you are with Him. If you seek Him, He will be found by you; but if you forsake Him, He will forsake you. “For a long time Israel has been without the true God, without a teaching priest, and without law; “but when in their trouble they turned to the LORD God of Israel, and sought Him, He was found by them. “And in those times there was no peace to the one who went out, nor to the one who came in, but great turmoil was on all the inhabitants of the lands. “So nation was destroyed by nation, and city by city, for God troubled them with every adversity. “But you, be strong and do not let your hands be weak, for your work shall be rewarded!” (2nd Chronicles 15:2 to 7).
What an encouraging word to receive! Be strong for your work will be rewarded! Sometimes we can be so captured by God’s work in our lives, that we are falsely confident we would never do anything to take ourselves out of the favour of the LORD.
If the LORD sends you a warning or a message during times of victory or rest, take heed and remember the LORD knows what lays ahead. He is omniscient and He knows our hearts.
Throughout Scripture, the LORD reminds His people that when we draw near to Him, He reveals Himself to us. Here are some verses that offer the promise of finding Him: Deuteronomy 4:29; Psalm 91:15; Isaiah 55:6 and 7; and Hosea 5:15.
Additionally, Jesus told His followers:
- “So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. “For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. (Luke 11:9 to 10).
And He said to the lukewarm church:
- “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me. (Revelation 3:20).
The opposite is also true: if you forsake Him, He will forsake you. He will not abandon a person He is in covenant with (Hebrews 13:5) , but if intimacy with Him is not desired, He will allow us to be somewhat distant until we have had enough of the absence and humbly return. If it seems to us that we are not sensing the LORD, something needs to change. It may be that fellowship has been broken or that He is simply calling you into a deeper place. The required action is still the same: seek Him in prayer and in the Word diligently until He answers.
Let me ask you a question: How long do you call someone who is either pouting or too busy to talk to you?
After Asa was encouraged by the prophecy, he took courage and repaired the altar of the LORD, which stood in front of the entry room of the LORD’s Temple. He assembled the people which included the tribes Ephraim, Manasseh, and Simeon that moved from Israel to Judah when they saw that the LORD was with Asa. Fifteen years into Asa’s reign, Judah performed an enormous sacrifice to the LORD of 700 cattle and 7,000 sheep and goats from the plunder they had taken in the battle. 2nd Chronicles 15:12 to 13 states:
- Then they entered into a covenant to seek the LORD God of their fathers with all their heart and with all their soul; and whoever would not seek the LORD God of Israel was to be put to death, whether small or great, whether man or woman.
Then the LORD gave them rest from all of their enemies. While there were skirmishes between Asa’s people and Baasha’s people (1st Kings 15:16), there was no war until the thirty-fifth year of the reign of Asa.
THIS IS KEY: Scripture states that Asa’s heart was loyal all his days. (Refer to 2nd Chronicles 15:17). So far so good, right?
In the 36th year of Asa’s reign, Baasha (king of Israel) invaded Judah and fortified Ramah to circumvent free movement to and from Judah. Instead of calling out to the LORD, Asa entered into a pact with Ben-hadad (king of Syria) using the temple and palace treasures to buy security. By bribing Ben-hadad to break his treaty with Baasha, Asa had sought to weaken Baasha’s forces. Asa hoped with diminished resources, Baasha would retreat and it worked. After Ben-hadad attacked the towns of Israel, Baasha retreated from Ramah.
Hanani (the seer) confronted Asa with a rebuke from the LORD. Hanani explained to Asa that by trusting in another man’s defences, Asa missed the opportunity for the LORD to destroy the Syrian army. Hanani reminded him of how the LORD defeated the Ethiopian army when Asa relied on God to fight his battles. Hanani said:
- “For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him. In this you have done foolishly; therefore from now on you shall have wars.” (2nd Chronicles 16:9).
Enraged by this message, Asa imprisoned Hanani. He also began to oppress his people. It seems to me that the tentacles of bitterness are far-reaching and can often affect the behaviour of those we call decent people.
Three years after Asa made a deal with the world, Asa developed a severe foot disease. Again, he didn’t seek the LORD’s help; instead, he turned solely to physicians for a solution and died two years later. Note: seeking involves waiting for the LORD’s reply. Where there is no peace, we must wait for the LORD. Acting based on fear is not of the LORD.
- Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6 to 7).
Earlier we had noted that Scripture records Asa as a righteous king although he did not finish well. He did not turn his back on the LORD, and the LORD did not reject him as king. Asa merely failed to avail himself of the benefits of the LORD’s covenant. It’s almost as though Asa forgot who his source of protection and peace was. Instead, he was leaning on his natural understanding and it appeared to have worked until he was told he could have had better success.
God’s grace gives us the strength to live as He desires; it does not give us the liberty to intentionally break His heart.
In reading Jude, I find comfort during this time when so many high-profile Christians are communicating messages that contradict biblical doctrines. In this short book, we see that the Holy Spirit wants us to know that:
- as followers of Jesus Christ, we must contend for the faith presented by the Word of God;
- the LORD’s grace is what keeps us coming to Him but it is not a licence to sin; and,
- we have His indwelling presence to help us maintain our lives with and in Him.
Praise God, we can finish well! Let’s take a look at how this book starts and ends!
In Jude 1:1, we see it is written:
- … To those who are called, sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ: …
In verse 24, the same message is affirmed:
- … Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, And to present you faultless Before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy…
A person who relies totally on Jesus Christ for salvation is:
- called by God (past tense);
- being sanctified by the Spirit of God (present tense);
- being preserved by the intercessory prayer of Christ (present tense); and,
- kept by all members of the Trinity from stumbling (present tense), in order to be presented in heaven free of accusations (future tense).
Since our redeeming LORD is our Judge, no accusation of human sin can stand against His people. Because we rely fully on God’s way of reconciliation, our Judge pardons us.
- Avraham called the name of that place Yahweh-Jireh. As it is said to this day, “In the LORD’s mountain it will be provided. (Genesis 22:14 Hebrew Names Version).
Just as Yahweh or Jehovah-Jireh provided for Himself a sacrifice for Abraham, He provided “The Sacrifice” for our redemption. David prophesied about the Messiah saying:
- Our fathers trusted in You; They trusted, and You delivered them. They cried to You, and were delivered; They trusted in You, and were not ashamed. (Psalm 22:4 to 5).
Paul later wrote:
- … God was manifested in the flesh, Justified in the Spirit, Seen by angels, Preached among the Gentiles, Believed on in the world, Received up in glory. (1st Timothy 3:16).
- Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. (Romans 8:33 to 34).
The Holy Spirit assured in these bookend Scriptures in Jude because the rest of the text between them forewarn about those who abuse God’s grace. By digesting the message of Jude, we see both historical and prophetic examples that caution believers about those who cause others to suffer loss.
While Jude had wanted to write about salvation, the Holy Spirit had prompted Jude to warn about individuals who circulated within the church. These people perverted the grace of God by propagating permission to do whatever their flesh desired with the rationale that a believer’s sins are completely forgiven. These people’s message correctly reinforced that Jesus Christ will never condemn those who He has saved; but, it was contradictory to the purpose of salvation.
A regenerated person is set apart to a life of holiness and is continually increasing in it. You see, ‘grace’ is the reason we emulate our Saviour, and it is the strength to do so.
- Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy.” (1st Peter 1:13 to 16).
While these individuals travelled in Christian circles, delivered messages of grace, and claimed to be believers in Jesus Christ, Jude called them the opposite. He referred to them as those “who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ.”(Jude 1:4).
Paul also wrote Timothy about these types of individuals. He said:
- But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away! (2nd Timothy 3:1 to 5).
Grace is the LORD’s divine influence upon the heart that makes us so grateful that we do not want to sin against His unmerited love and favour. It is very much a part of His power to change us.
In verses 5, 6 and 7 of Jude, we are reminded of how the LORD dealt with congregant or corporate disregard of God’s commands and character.
- First, the unbelieving children of Israel: saved from Egypt but later died without receiving their inheritance of the promised land. (Refer to Numbers 14 for details on this). The LORD purposed to save them.
- Second, the fallen angels: God has reserved in everlasting chains under darkness for the judgment of the great day. (Refer to Isaiah 14:12-14, Revelation 12:4, and Genesis 6:1 and 2). The LORD did not purpose to save them.
- Thirdly, Sodom and Gomorrah (and the surrounding cities): gave themselves over to immorality and pride resulting in suffering in eternal fire. (Refer to Genesis 19 and Ezekiel 16:49). The LORD purposed to save a righteous remnant that left sin and damn the unrighteous.
What did these three examples have in common? Verse 8 tells us that each of these groups defiled the flesh in some way, rejected authority, and spoke evil of dignitaries.
Jude’s warning is that there were individuals who infiltrated the church and they had a similar descending pride of those Old Testament groups. They valued their opinion and desires above God’s Word; they believed their incorrect evaluation of God’s character regardless of what God declared. They came to a consensus about rebellion against the LORD’s ways; they promoted disobedience as the exercise of freedom.
- And this occurred because of false brethren secretly brought in (who came in by stealth to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage), (Galatians 2:4).
- They profess to know God, but in works they deny Him, being abominable, disobedient, and disqualified for every good work. (Titus 1:16).
- But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction. (2nd Peter 2:1).
Whether these infiltrating individuals were just “dreamers” or demonically inspired, Scripture informs us of their destiny. Please take note of these next few verses:
- But these speak evil of whatever they do not know; and whatever they know naturally, like brute beasts, in these things they corrupt themselves. Woe to them! For they have gone in the way of Cain, have run greedily in the error of Balaam for profit, and perished in the rebellion of Korah. (Jude 1:10 to 11).
The delusion of insistent and beseeching autonomy ends in death.
Because verses 10 and 11 relate to individuals, it’s worthwhile to understand their specific errors to: (1) avoid making the same miscalculations; and (2), avoid allowing those who do these things to influence our thinking. These examples will also help us identify a 3 step process of descent.
- But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death. (James 1:14 to 15).
Descent Step 1: Choose the Wrong Direction
The Way of Cain: Cain tried to worship God. The problem was that he wanted to worship God the way he had decided and not the way God had defined. He valued his way above what God said and expected God to be happy with his offering. This sounds familiar today.
In reviewing the account of Cain and Abel in Genesis 4, we learn Cain was a farmer and Abel was a shepherd. This itself is very telling. Why did Abel tend sheep? We can assume it was not for food because God did not permit killing animals for a food source until after the flood. (Genesis 9:3). Additionally, one does not need to expend energy to care for numerous sheep just to clothe themselves. I believe the LORD had told them to offer a blood sacrifice and this is why Abel knew to offer a burnt offering (and perhaps why he tended sheep). In Hebrews 11:4, Scripture tells us:
- By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts…
- So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. (Romans 10:17).
Cain’s sacrifice was a demonstration of works. Doing something that appears to be good with the motive of pleasing God but without believing and doing what God said (1st John 3:12, Genesis 4:4 to 8). There is no righteousness apart from faith in what God has said; what He has said is outlined in His Word.
- But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. (Hebrews 11:6).
The way of Cain is religious works without relationship; it is unbelief. Relationship is established through affectionate agreement.
When Jesus dictated his letter to the church in Sardis, He said:
- “… I know your works, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead… Remember therefore how you have received and heard; hold fast and repent. Therefore if you will not watch, I will come upon you as a thief, and you will not know what hour I will come upon you. … He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels. “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” (Portions of Revelation 3:1 to 6).
After’s Cain’s rejected offering, the LORD had compassionately talked with Cain instructing him to repent by doing what was right (Genesis 4:7). So Cain had known what was right but his heart would not yield to God’s warning. Rather than repent, Cain became jealous of his brother and killed him. Jesus compassionately promises to never blot out a repentant person from the Book of Life. This means to stop doing what is wrong because of belief in Him, and to start doing what is right because of love and respect for Him.
Just as a side note: While I refer briefly to some of Christ’s words from the book of Revelation in order to explain these common errors of some in Christian circles, I encourage you to pursue a study of the book of Revelation to understand what the Word has revealed about Jesus Christ, and the culmination of world history, before we enter eternity. My reference to these passages is not intended to explain the letters to the churches.
Regardless of the various interpretations from many good scholars, the central message of repentance, allegiance to Jesus Christ, and the imminent return of Christ are all agreed upon doctrines. We have been placed in this time with so many resources available to help us understand the book of Revelation for a reason. Now let’s get back to the book of Jude.
Descent Step 2: Error Unrepentantly in the Wrong Direction
Neither Balak nor Balaam had to try to stop the children of Israel because the LORD told them to leave Moab alone (Deuteronomy 2:9). Why didn’t they know this?
When Balak’s delegation reached Balaam with the offer, Balaam inquired of the LORD. This is bizarre (to say the least) because anyone who heard from God about His chosen people would have known that His covenant stated:
- “But if you indeed obey His voice and do all that I speak, then I will be an enemy to your enemies and an adversary to your adversaries. (Exodus 23:22).
The mere fact that Balaam decided to ask God for permission to take the job suggests that Balaam’s heart treasured personal gain over the well-being of God’s people. Balaam played with the thought of the benefits that could come doing something he knew was wrong.
- And God said to Balaam, “You shall not go with them; you shall not curse the people, for they are blessed.” (Numbers 22:12).
At first, Balaam turned down the offer because God had spoken to him. When Balak persisted with a better offer, Balaam prayed about it again. Here we see an important lesson.
Continuing to pray for permission about something that you know is wrong can lead to demise. It is better to ask God to remove the desire than to persist in hoping to manipulate God.
- And God came to Balaam at night and said to him, “If the men come to call you, rise and go with them; but only the word which I speak to you.. that you shall do.” … Then God’s anger was aroused because he went, and the Angel of the LORD took His stand in the way as an adversary against him. And he was riding on his donkey, and his two servants were with him. (Numbers 22:12, 20 and 22).
God did not change His mind; instead, He was putting Balaam to a test. The LORD confronted him and his donkey. The donkey did not have spiritual gifts yet saw the Angel of the LORD; Balaam however was blind to Him.
I have learned that even those who have been given gifts from God can make unfortunate selfish mistakes to gain something they value. The Word of God states that the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. (Romans 11:29). This does not mean that those who operate in His gifts escape justice! God is righteous! It just means, in His foreknowledge and sovereignty, He gives people gifts and uses them for bigger purposes than we understand at a given time. A gift and a calling without agreement to God’s Word will cause spiritual blindness or delusion. We are all individually responsible to know and obey God for ourselves.
Balaam was corrupt but he was not a false prophet because he prophesied saying:
- So he took up his oracle and said: “The utterance of Balaam the son of Beor, And the utterance of the man whose eyes are opened; The utterance of him who hears the words of God, And has the knowledge of the Most High, Who sees the vision of the Almighty, Who falls down, with eyes wide open: “I see Him, but not now; I behold Him, but not near; A Star shall come out of Jacob; A Scepter shall rise out of Israel... (Numbers 24:15 to 17).
This prophecy is echoed in the following Scripture about our Saviour: Matthew 2:2 and verses 5 to 6; Luke 1:78; 2nd Peter 1:19; Revelation 22:16. Clearly, God can use the corrupt for His purposes:
After treating the donkey cruelly for objecting to go in the direction Balaam was trying to drive her, the LORD gave the donkey the ability to remind Balaam that she never behaved this way before. The LORD then opened Balaam’s eyes so that he could see spiritually. 2nd Peter 2:16 says that Balaam “was rebuked for his iniquity: a dumb donkey speaking with a man’s voice restrained the madness of the prophet.” The LORD provided a supernatural event to demonstrate to Balaam that his desire for prestige was influencing his behaviour in profound ways. The Angel of the LORD actually called his way perverse or yâraṭ in Hebrew (Numbers 22:32). This word means to precipitate or hurl headlong. This would be like driving recklessly into danger. Listen to the conversation at this point:
- “The donkey saw Me and turned aside from Me these three times. If she had not turned aside from Me, surely I would also have killed you by now, and let her live.” And Balaam said to the Angel of the LORD, “I have sinned, for I did not know You stood in the way against me. Now therefore, if it displeases You, I will turn back.” Then the Angel of the LORD said to Balaam, “Go with the men, but only the word that I speak to you, that you shall speak.” So Balaam went with the princes of Balak. (Numbers 22:33 to 35).
Balaam should have realized that the LORD was not pleased and he should have stopped. The LORD gave permission to go further because He was using the evil desires in Balaam’s heart to declare promises for the children of Israel. Balaam ended up blessing Israel 4 times throughout chapters 23 and 24.
Later, the children of Israel indulged in sexual immorality with the Moabite women and joined in idolatry. (Refer to Numbers 25:1 to 3). Jesus said it was Balaam who taught Balak how to bring harm to the children of Israel. Jesus told John to write to the compromising church in Pergamos saying:
- “These things says He who has the sharp two-edged sword: “I know your works, and where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is. And you hold fast to My name, and did not deny My faith …. “But I have a few things against you, because you have there those who hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit sexual immorality. “Thus you also have those who hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate. “Repent, or else I will come to you quickly and will fight against them with the sword of My mouth. “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give some of the hidden manna to eat. And I will give him a white stone, and on the stone a new name written which no one knows except him who receives it.” (Revelation 2:12 to 17).
You see, righteous God must judge sin. While Balaam didn’t force the children of Israel to sin, and he technically did not disobey God with his action, he exposed God’s people to their enemy. He arranged for them to be married to the world. There is no record of remorse by Balaam over the 24,000 people who died in the plague sent by the LORD as judgment (Numbers 25:9). There is a record of the children of Israel killing Balaam by the sword in Joshua 13:22.
The error of Balaam seeks money and acclaim by recklessly using gifts, insights and influence in a way that condones or creates an opportunity for the LORD’s family to sin. The people who make this error are given warnings, they know better, and they rationalize away their culpability by continuing to affirm the LORD. These people usually flirt with the world for gain. The LORD will judge this.
Descent Step 3: Perish at the End
Korah’s Rebellion: Korah was self-promoting and did not honour God’s choice for leadership. Korah ignorantly presumed God would not take issue with (or discipline) his rebellion against God’s appointed leaders. In fact, he did not recognize his actions were against God. The history is found in Numbers 16.
While Korah was a leader and a Levite, he was not appointed by God to be a high priest like Aaron (Reference Exodus 28:1, 41). That said, the Levites were ordained by God for other ministry responsibilities. Numbers 1:47 to 53 reveals that God spared the children of Israel from His wrath by commanding the Levites to camp between the tabernacle of the covenant and the reset of the tribes. They were set apart, brought near to the LORD, performed the work of the tabernacle, and served before the congregation (Refer to Numbers 16:9 and 10).
Korah’s ambition was not satisfied with his role so he gathered others together to confront Moses and Aaron, He said to them:
- “You take too much upon yourselves, for all the congregation is holy, every one of them, and the LORD is among them. Why then do you exalt yourselves above the assembly of the LORD?” (Numbers 16:3).
We ought to be content with the mission the LORD sovereignly assigns us. Even more excellently, we should earnestly apply ourselves to be all that He has called us to be.
When we try to be what God has not purposed, we are being prideful. We are actually mimicking the enemy who aspired to be like the Most High (Refer to Isaiah 14:13 and 14). We deny His LORDSHIP over our lives.
Korah’s rebellion defied God’s authority and sovereignty. Whether he knew it or not, his resistance to God’s appointed mediator “spoke evil” against the typology that God was establishing. The type represented the need for a mediator.
- Jesus said... “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. (John 14:6).
- And for this reason He is the Mediator of the new covenant, by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant, that those who are called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance. (Hebrews 9:15).
The LORD resolved the situation by eradicating the insurrectionists through a demonstration of His power. An earthquake immediately swallowed Korah, his household, and all of those who stood with him including the Reubenite chief who complained about the journey. Sometimes pride can cause a person’s position, calling or gifting to compare the adequacy of others the LORD anoints. This is dangerous.
Some might wonder why God dealt so harshly with them since they spoke ignorantly. From the LORD’s perspective, these people witnessed the plagues, the Red Sea crossing, and the destruction of the Egyptian army. They had evidence that the LORD was using Moses and Aaron yet in verses 13 and 14 they grumbled claiming: (1) that they were delivered from a land flowing with milk and honey just to kill them in the wilderness; and, (2) that Moses and Aaron were acting like princes over them. Not only did they forget the awesome power of the LORD, they disrespected His election, and they also treated God’s promise with contempt. They despised the authority of their deliverer. They described their prior place of bondage with the same description that God used for the promised them. Look at Exodus 3:8 when the LORD said:
- “So I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them up from that land to a good and large land, to a land flowing with milk and honey…
Have you noticed the attack on the Word of God and His ways? What about the attack on the need for a Saviour and Mediator? There is also an attack against the message of the cross. Attacking these foundational aspects of the redemption plan opposes God. What about calling “good” evil? Who defines good and evil? All of this is rebellion.
Recently I have heard ministers say that all people are God’s children. According to Jesus, this isn’t true. In John 8:44 to 47, Jesus said:
- “You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. … there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources… “But because I tell the truth, you do not believe Me. …”He who is of God hears God’s words; therefore you do not hear, because you are not of God.”
The truth is that every human being was created in the image of God. All people are to be respected as image-bearers of God because we respect God. Scripture also states:
- But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: (John 1:12).
I am sure leaders who cheapen the gospel to make it palatable do so in ignorance and with a motivation to draw others; however, the LORD holds them accountable for compromising His Holy Word. It is His Word that has the power to save (not our words).
Korah wanted the promise of a free and prosperous life by his determination. He did not believe he had to submit to the authority that God appointed because he knew Moses was human like everyone else. He felt his mediator was unnecessary just as many today feel they do not need Jesus as the way to God nor need to follow all of His teachings. Jesus warned the Laodicean church saying:
- ”These things says the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God: “I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot… because you are lukewarm… I will vomit you out of My mouth. Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing‘.. and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked…I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire… As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent. “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me. “To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne. “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” (Portions of Revelation 3 starting at verse 4).
Korah should have known God had the right to provide a mediator that he needed because of God’s holiness. The Laodicean church needed to see that they could not be self-sufficient. Every believer should invest energy into acquiring the nourishment of God’s Word because we need it. Jesus Christ is the declared Word of God who was made flesh for us; the One who paid the purchase price of our redemption with His blood. We need to meditate on His Word because we can not cleanse ourselves. Jesus told us to “buy gold refined in the fire” from Him.
- “Ho! Everyone who thirsts, Come to the waters; And you who have no money, Come, buy and eat. Yes, come, buy wine and milk Without money and without price. (Isaiah 55:1).
- He will sit as a refiner and a purifier of silver; He will purify the sons of Levi, And purge them as gold and silver, That they may offer to the LORD An offering in righteousness. (Malachi 3:3).
In the case of Cain, Balaam, and Korah: (1) their hearts were bent on making poor decisions; (2) they were given an opportunity to repent; and, (3) they decisively pursued actions against what they knew was right. They willfully rejected the authority of the LORD to rule over their actions.
Each of these people lived and operated among the believers. Cain had direct instruction from the LORD, Korah saw the LORD’s awesome miracles and power, Balaam was gifted. Jude 1:12 to 15 warns us that these types would join our churches but only for their own purposes. On the surface, they appear to have Godly purpose and pursuits, but they are waterless, fruitless, wandering stars. Sadly, like Cain, Korah, and Balaam, they may not even realize the state of their hearts.
How do you recognize them? Scripture informs us they follow their evil desires, boast about themselves, and flatter others to get what they want. They also grumble and find fault with the body of Christ. Their teaching will turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God. The New Living Translation interprets Jude 4 as follows:
- I say this because some ungodly people have wormed their way into your churches, saying that God’s marvelous grace allows us to live immoral lives. The condemnation of such people was recorded long ago, for they have denied our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.
Our question should not be whether there is something wrong with an activity or thing; our question should be what is right about it. If something gives glory to God and operates in love while remaining consistent with Scripture, then it is Godly. If something gets in the way of our relationship with God or it causes someone to stumble, it’s wrong!
- Jesus said: “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. “For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it. “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? “Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? “For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him the Son of Man also will be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.” (Mark 8:34 to 38).
Finishing faithful and fruitful requires unapologetic devotion.
Today there are so many who are joined to the world for the sake of fame, acceptance or money. How many unsuspecting onlookers will be judged by the LORD because of these poor examples? We should not assume God condones someone’s behaviour because they operate in a gift or seem to get away with something for a time. Christ highlighted Balaam as a ‘model of corruption’ and promised to deal with those who cause sin and are unrepentant from their compromise.
We certainly should hope we do not share the same qualities of those who are doomed to darkness. As individuals who love the LORD, we definitely do not want to have the negative qualities of those who are being rebuked in the churches of Sardis, Pergamos, or Laodicea. What about Asa? Have we become comfortable and self-reliant? Do we trust humanity in place of, or more than, God? You see, Asa did not turn from God but he became comfortable with his life and accomplishments. While his successes were achieved through total reliance on the LORD, when times were better, he did not feel he needed the LORD. He became complacent.
After decades of peacefully serving the LORD in righteousness, Asa did not instinctively call out to the LORD for direction and help. When trouble returned, he relied on his intellect and abilities which led him to lean on the arm of flesh.
- Thus says the LORD: “Cursed is the man who trusts in man And makes flesh his strength, Whose heart departs from the LORD. (Jeremiah 17:5).
Scripture informs repeatedly:
- Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; … Do not be wise in your own eyes; Fear the LORD and depart from evil. (Proverbs 3:5 and 7).
- Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you seems to be wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, “He catches the wise in their own craftiness”; and again, “The LORD knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile.” (1st Corinthians 3:18 to 20).
I realize many want unbelievers to see the love of the LORD in us; this is a good thing. Many feel they need to compromise the LORD’s standards for those who live differently; they hope this will help attract others. It’s like incorrectly thinking that saving others is up to us. We become comfortable in our routines and do not seek the LORD in all our ways. Maybe even feel foolish telling someone we have to pray before deciding a matter. The LORD taught us saying:
- “If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. (John 15:19).
- “And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another. “Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. “And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. “But he who endures to the end shall be saved. (Matthew 24:10 to 13).
And in Jude we are reminded:
- … there would be mockers in the last time who would walk according to their own ungodly lusts. These are sensual persons, who cause divisions, not having the Spirit. (Jude 1:17 to 19).
So then, how do we finish both faithfully and fruitfully? How do we show love and not compromise? I believe the book of Jude has great advice. Just as I outlined a high-level 3 step process of descent into peril, we can also role up Jude’s guidance to finishing well into 3 process steps.
Refine Step 1: Walk in the Spirit
Jude 20 admonishes us to build ourselves up in our most holy faith. How does one build their faith? We build ourselves up through exercise (prayer, worship) and nourishment (feasting on the Word). This means we pray in the Spirit and we read the Word with spiritual eyes and ears. Again:
- So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. (Romans 10:17).
Just like any relationship, we are responsible for what we do with that which ‘The Lover of our souls’ ministers to us when reading and praying. Because we love Him, we willingly respond in obedience to what He says. Our connection grows stronger through exercise. His Word will help us manifest the fruit if we dedicate ourselves to the One we adore and walk in agreement with Him.
- ...giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, … knowledge, … self-control,… perseverance, … godliness, … brotherly kindness, and … love. For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins. Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble; (2nd Peter 1:5 to 10).
Refine Step 2: Surrender
Jude 21 tells us to keep ourselves in the love of God. How? Drifting away from the love of God happens when we fail to surrender to the Word of God because we are failing to respect His authority and His presence. When we surrender to His Word, we keep the full counsel of His Spirit with great joy. It is not a burden! It’s fulfilling!
- “If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. (John 15:10).
- And this is His commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, as He gave us commandment. Now he who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. And by this we know that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us. (1st John 3:23 to 24).
Refine Step 3: Witness
Jude 22 and 23 provide the outcome of exercised or built-up faith. As an outpouring of His love in us, we witness to others. We have compassion for those around us who are going to a lost eternity. How: We hate the sin that defiles them and we tell them the truth most lovingly and respectfully using Scripture. We live our lives consistent with Scripture and we do not compromise. We offer to read Scripture with them. We cry with them and we laugh with them; we pray for them. We remember that if they do not accept Christ’s Words, nothing else you say or do will convert their souls. We do not walk the same path with them until they join the narrow path that we walk on.
- Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. (Galatians 6:1)
- Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you. (1st Timothy 4:16).
- I wrote to you in my epistle not to keep company with sexually immoral people. Yet I certainly did not mean with the sexually immoral people of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner.. not even to eat with such a person. (1st Corinthians 5:9 to 11).
You see the two other churches named in the book of Revelation that the LORD rebuked had:
- (1) lost their first love (this was the church at Ephesus); and,
- (2) tolerated those whose teaching misled others into sexual immorality and idolatry (this was the church at Thyatira).
Galatians 5: 6 asserts that faith works through love. If there are professing “Christians” whose actions are erroring, we have 3 accountabilities: We are to show them the Scripture, pray for them, and continue to love them.
If they do not repent, there is Scripture concerning separation and church discipline. That said, most of us will need to continue to pray for them and hand them over to the LORD without fellowshipping with them. Some might think that is harsh, but one can not be married to the LORD and eat with people who wrongfully claim to be His family while abusing Him.
While the LORD holds believers securely in His hands, they are accountable for the fruit they allow Him to produce within them.
When I see compromising Christians, it provokes me to search my heart. To ask the LORD to reveal my hidden sins to me and I thank Him for His faithfulness in keeping me. None of us are perfect, but we do have the One who is within us. We need to turn to Him and His leading. The love of Christ and for Christ must permeate every part of our lives (Refer to Galatians 5:25). If we love the LORD, we are eagerly waiting for His appearing and we do not covet the things of the world. We will long for His fellowship and we respect His discipline and authority.
I close this reflection with a few Scriptures from Psalm 37:
- Do not fret because of evildoers, Nor be envious of the workers of iniquity. … Trust in the LORD, and do good; Dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness. Delight yourself also in the LORD, And He shall give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD, Trust also in Him, And He shall bring it to pass. … The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD, And He delights in his way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down; For the LORD upholds him with His hand. I have been young, and now am old; Yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken, Nor his descendants begging bread. He is ever merciful, and lends; And his descendants are blessed. Depart from evil, and do good; And dwell forevermore. For the LORD loves justice, And does not forsake His saints; They are preserved forever.
If you feel the Holy Spirit encouraging you to believe, you should evaluate the Scripture for yourself. Please visit DESIRINGFRUITFULNESS.CA/CHOICES. There you can find 4 SIMPLE STEPS or concepts to help you ask the LORD to bring you into right standing with Him. The steps are designed to help you know why a prayer of repentance is necessary. It is as simple as acknowledging you are a sinner and believing that Jesus Christ is the risen Son of God. Then you need to obey His Word. There are no “specific words”, but there is a process to coming to faith.
All Scripture used in this blog is from the New King James Version, unless otherwise specified.