In Case of Fire… Part One

I’ve kind of always wanted to do that – you know, break the glass on a fire alarm.  You’ve seen the instructions haven’t you?  But there’s just never been a fire that would justify the breakage.  And I really don’t want a fire either.

Living in Arizona wild-fires are not uncommon.  And they are often huge.  The Rodeo-Chedeski fire, nicknamed “The Monster”, consumed 468,000 acres.  The Wallow fire was even bigger, consuming 538,000 acres.  Those catastrophic events call for massive mobilization of resources to contain the blaze.  Even then, divine help is required – favorable winds, rain, help from above.

While you may not be facing a physical blaze at the moment, dangerous sophistry within the fellowship of Christ flares up from time to time.  And we are called upon to do more than simply play with the remote while everything burns.   Jude calls the faithful to contend and push back on fuzzy sophistication that promotes division and ungodly behavior.  But when so much is up in flames, it can be tough to know what will put the fire out, or at least turn the heat down a little.

So we ask… how?  How do we push back on sophisticated immorality that trades grace for gross?

There are several practical actions we can take.  Though often overwhelmed by the enormity of the problem and the complexity of the thought behind it, Jude encourages you to step forward and intervene before more is burned.

Here’s the first action…

First, look to God.  By that I mean focus on God not on the problem or those causing the problem.  Of all that could be focused on, it is the ageless ability of God to judge with authority and precision that is meant to be front and center.  Three historical examples are there to remind us of the unchanging ability of God to judge – anyone, anywhere:

  • He is able to judge among the community of faith – those who claim to follow God.  You would think that as an emerging nation rises under the active hand of God’s intervention, supporting visible miracles such as the parting of a sea, a moving pillar of fire, and feeding and watering multitudes without food or water, they would all have faith.  But such is not true.  With a pedigree of divine deliverance in their freshly written Exodus history, 83.3% of leadership stumbled.  Only two out of twelve believed God was able to continue His mighty work of nation building as the children of Israel stood on the threshold of a promised land.  So God judged – He allowed democracy to win.  And he allowed the winning to enjoy the fruit of their decision making; which was the opposite of what they had refused to believe.  So they got desert instead of deliverance;  painful plodding instead of promise.  A generation wandered in circles until they died.  And the time finally came when the 16.7% were vindicated and validated for their confidence in God.  This is judgment among God’s own.
  • He is able to judge among the heavenly/cosmic elite – those in the very presence of God.  Though the details are murky, the reference is to heavenly beings overstepping their boundaries in disobedience to God.  Again, you’d think this couldn’t happen.  Wouldn’t those who see God, who live in his visible presence, believe Him and obey Him?  Apparently not always.  At one time God’s messengers seem to have had an ungracious message to send – one of rebellion.  We are told of the power that one angel can wield – it makes a nuclear bomb seem tame.  So an open rebellion in heaven is serious.  But God is not threatened by even celestial beings.  So He acted; restrained and retained those rebellious beings in chains awaiting eternal judgment.  Some coups work – this one didn’t.
  • He is able to judge among the utterly rebellious – those who have no interest in obeying God.  Those in Sodom and Gomorrah’s day might have been the first to flaunt belligerent license plates taunting righteousness.  They knew there was a choice to be made and they simply gave themselves up to sexual immorality.  The low point of that choice occurred when angels visited that town and were greeted by unrestrained, unnatural lust – men wanting to rape other men, refusing even the offer of virgin young ladies.  And when presented with the notion of impending judgment, the one righteous man’s future son-in-laws laughed.  They thought it was a joke.  But God doesn’t joke about these things.  He waits, sometimes much longer than we would, but it’s to offer opportunity not humor.   So the moment came when the fire fell and consumed a region.  No more funny license plates.  No more flaunting what is right.

And remember, God doesn’t consult polls or play the numbers.  In the exodus, the minority of spies believed; the majority were judged.  And in Sodom and Gomorrah, all but a handful were condemned.  Only a few escaped despite God’s longsuffering and patience.

But He will not wait forever.  Count on it.  He will not be mocked.  There is absolutely no doubt in the outcome of good over evil, trust over rebellion.

When the heat’s on, look up.  Have no doubt about the ultimate outcome.

-Anthony