My notes on John Piper’s message on Jude 24–25 (paraphrased)
My message has two parts. In the first part, I will try to draw you into my amazement that I am still a Christian and perhaps you will find yourself amazed that you are still as well. In the second part, I would like to draw you into an analysis of how that came about as we look at the book of Jude, and in particular the last two verses:
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 1:24-25 ESV)
My amazement that I am still a Christian.
I still love the ministry of God’s Word, still love my calling as a husband and a father. I complete this year 60 years of being a Christian, 32 of being in the ministry… And this is a monumentous year for this will be the last year I’m at T4G as a pastor.
When I think about finishing these laps of my race, I’m amazed that I’m still a Christian. There were days when my marriage was under attack, days when my spirit was so dull that I doubted my faith… so I’m amazed!
If the decisiveness of my faith must come from me, it will not come at all because it is not there. I am amazed that I am a Christian, and still love the ministry. And I have this sense of wonder, that may be close to what Jude felt when he personalized it and said, “Now to him who is able to keep ME from stumbling and present ME blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy…” I think he was amazed at that, at the keeping of God.
That’s what it took to keep me. It took glory, and majesty and power and authority, working before the beginning of time, until the end of time and working even now—and that’s what it took to keep me in the ministry.
This is how doxologies work: They ascribe attributes to God that account for the things we’re so excited about. They exude passion. That’s the way they work. The attributes account for the actions that we’re so amazed at.
There are three of them:
- He is able to keep you from stumbling
- He presents us before the glory of God blameless
- He presents us before the glory of God with great joy
Those three things he has done. What accounts for that is a Savior, the glorious God, the Lord Jesus Christ, working on it before time, working on it every minute, working on it til the end of time—that’s what he’s amazed at. That’s what it takes to be keep us a Christian.
Do you have any idea of the degree of the glory to get you alive and keep you alive until the moment you see Jesus? How would you talk about that? How would you explain it? Do we know the degree of glory and power and majesty that it took? No we don’t. We have no terms for measuring such things. How do we quantify the power or the force an eternal Spirit with no physical dimensions at all moving a created spirit into being and keeping it there?
Is it like pounds? Kilowatts?
God creates spiritual life when we are dead. We know that. That which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Once I had no spiritual life. Then God the Spirit acted and my spirit came into being, or spiritual life came into being. I am spirit born of the Spirit. This is not like a demon. This is Holy Spirit, God-sanctified spirit, brought into being by the new birth.
It’s not the kind of life you’d have if the Holy Spirit left. If the Holy Spirit left and you disunited with Christ, you wouldn’t be. There would be no life. Therefore, the life we’re talking about is having the Holy Spirit and being united with Christ (which are interrelated terms) . . . If he’s not there, I have no life.
So he creates that and then for 60 years, having begun before eternity and having been at work every second of my life and pledging to do so until eternity, he is keeping me a Christian. And if he didn’t, I wouldn’t be a Christian.
It is all a work of God. Which is why I said that if the decisive cause were to come from me, it would not come because it is not there. I bring nothing decisive to my creation. No more than the universe created itself, nor is it kept by itself, it is kept by Christ Jesus.
No Jude is clearly amazed by this—and he must sense what it takes. And it must be very great. So, how are you going to measure that, so you can join him in the amazement?
I can only think of two ways for you to measure that:
1. To think about the fact that creating and sustaining spiritual life is something we cannot do, but something God does. The difference between the nothing I bring and his action is infinite. The difference between nothing and something is an infinite difference. It is immeasurably great.
2. If all that just sounded confusing, then just read it in the text. What did it take to keep you a Christian? It takes glory and majesty and power and authority. And I assume Jude chooses those words to tell us that it takes just about all he’s got to keep us. Though we can’t measure the kind of force, this text is saying it takes glory and majesty and power and authority from beginning to end to keep you a Christian. You should be absolutely stunned that you are a Christian.
How does he do it?
Now I want to draw you into an analysis of how that happens. How did God do that? How does God keep me from making shipwreck of my Christian life? How does he keep me when Paul’s strategies in 2 Cor 4-6 seem so far off? How does he keep me when I’m not depressed because there are false converts in my church but I fear I may be one? How does he keep me when he holds out a treasure to me that I want almost as much as anything and says, “You can’t have it”? How does he keep me alive, how does he keep you alive, being, loving, serving, fathering?
Notice that the book in verse one and ends (24-25) with a strong statement that God is decisively capable of keeping you.
Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and brother of James,
To those who are called, beloved in God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ…(Jude 1:1 ESV)
We are called, beloved, kept. Where a person is called, they are kept. He will sustain you to the end, guiltless… when he calls, it means you will be kept.
And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. (Romans 8:30 ESV)
This is the framework of the book—it is a book about being called and kept by Christ.
Now, sandwiched in there is this warning. Though he wanted to write about the glory of the gospel, he was urged to warn against those in the church—professing Christians who are not called and not kept, who crave physical sensation and not Christ. They don’t prize the God of grace, they prostitute the grace of God. He’s warning them about this people, this kind of error.
Then, after all these warnings, Jude tells us what we must do and what we should do not only for ourselves to be kept (v .20-21), but also what we must do for others to be kept (v. 22-23).
But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God… (Jude 1:20-21 ESV)
“Keep yourselves…” Whoa. There goes your message. Or. Not.
“…keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life.”
This message is all over the Bible. Keep yourselves in the love of God because GOD keeps you in the love of God. This is the mystery of not only sanctification but preservation.
Keep yourselves in God’s commitment to keep you!
How do we do this?
There are three verbs: Faith, prayer and waiting. Faith is the main one–trust more, be more reliant on God’s ability to keep you. The next is prayer. The last is that you wait. You’ve prayed and now you wait.
God has committed to keep you. Keep yourself in his commitment to keep you. Trust that he will keep you. Pray that he will keep you and wait for God.
This is so simple. I suppose as I’ve bent over the prayer bench in my prayer nook, I suppose the most common prayer has been “Keep me from temptation . . . help me!” You know what’s happening there? God is keeping me. . . . and I am amazed. How many days there have been where I’ve felt “I can’t do it, I can’t preach the sermon, I don’t know how it’s going to do!” But here I am and I look back and it’s God.
My praying and my trusting doesn’t rob him of any of his power and majesty and authority and glory—because it’s by the Spirit. My praying is a gift, my faith is a gift.
I keep myself by being kept. God keeps my by enabling me to do self-keeping things. And I must do these things—and sometimes they take effort. And in that effort, you say, “It’s of you!”
There’s a way to do effort by faith.
The glory and the majesty I think consist very much in the power and authority of God to keep you that way. What’s glorious and majesterial in God’s keeping you in praying and trusting? And his answer is his power and authority!
You don’t need to get this all sorted out in your head. You need to say, he’s got the power and authority to do it—to keep you.
One more observation: When he acts on you this way to keep you and to stir you up from within so you do the self-keeping work, he is fulfilling 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 ESV)
That’s the keeping of the New Covenant. The terms of the New Covenant are that I have a people, I am going to keep them, put a new heart of flesh in them and keep them so they will not turn away.
We know the New Covenant was bought by the blood of Jesus. We see that in the Last supper. And when he shed his blood for his sheep, he paid for all of them. That’s what he’s achieved. So when you read verse 25, that’s what you should see when you read, “to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever.”
When the glory and the majesty, and the power and authority, are moving in to rescue my wavering heart, it’s coming through the blood of Jesus Christ—and when I am granted to awaken from my stupidity and allowed to see the glory and majesty and dominion and authority of Jesus, it’s through his blood.
Don’t underestimate the power of the gospel to keep you. He will not let your foot be moved. He keeps, he will not slumber. The Lord is your keeper, your shade upon your right hand. The sun will not smite you by day, nor the moon by night.
The Lord will keep your life from this moment and forevermore because it has been bought for you by the blood of Christ.
Therefore, keep yourselves in the love of God.