Let me begin this post by asking you four direct questions about the condition of your soul right now:
- Do you sense that your affections for the Savior have diminished recently?
- Has your appetite for Scripture weakened?
- Does your soul seem dry?
- Does God seem distant from you?
If so, you are not alone. These struggles are common to even the most mature Christians—so common that Scripture anticipates them. But these are serious problems and must be addressed and not ignored. They don’t just go away over time.
So how should we respond?
Tucked away in the short (and often neglected) letter of Jude we find help and hope:
But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. (Jude 1:20–21)
In these verses we find a command and three practical ways to obey the command.
First, the command: "Keep yourselves in the love of God." This is our responsibility and it requires effort on our part. The good news is that Jude doesn’t leave us guessing. One commentator writes, “Jude did not leave his congregation in suspense about how to keep themselves in God’s love.”
No, he does not leave us in suspense or wondering how to do this. In fact Jude wonderfully provides us with three means by which the reader can keep himself in the love of God.
1. Remind yourself of the gospel (“building yourselves up in your most holy faith”).
The “most holy faith” is the gospel. And the first way we keep ourselves in the love of God is to grow in our understanding of the gospel and to remind ourselves of the gospel each day. There is no more effective way to keep yourself in the love of God each day than to remind yourself of the gospel.
As you meditate upon the gospel, as you preach the gospel to yourself, as you receive the gospel into your soul afresh each day, your awareness of the love of God increases and your affection for the Savior grows.
So how much time do you devote each day to the strategic study, thinking, meditation, contemplation, reflection, and proclamation of the gospel to your own soul as a means of keeping yourself in the love of God?
Review the content of the gospel, rehearse the content of this “most holy faith,” and rejoice in the gospel each and every day. What a sweet assignment! And as we do this we are keeping ourselves in the love of God.
2. Pray in the Holy Spirit (“praying in the Holy Spirit”).
An awareness of God’s love cannot be sustained without prayer. Nor can a relationship with God be maintained or cultivated apart from prayer. So Jude commands us to pray. In dependence upon the Spirit, we pray to God the Father, through the Mediator he has provided in Jesus Christ.
We pray to God at the beginning of the day. We pray at structured times in our day. We pray spontaneously throughout the day. Prayer is not only a discipline it is a means of keeping ourselves in the love of God. This perspective will transform our perspective of prayer and our practice of prayer.
3. Await Christ’s return (“waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life”).
Waiting is not my preference. I don’t believe in lines! I try to avoid waiting in lines at the grocery store and I try to avoid traffic on the road. In fact I’d rather be moving in the wrong direction than stuck in traffic going in the right direction.
On the other hand, I don’t mind waiting 45 minutes for a table when I’m at a restaurant on a date with my wife. Why not? For the next 45 minutes I will look into the eyes of the woman I love with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength. There’s a big difference between waiting in line at the grocery store and waiting 45 minutes to be seated when I’m at a restaurant with my wife.
As Christians we wait. But we await the mercy of our Savior that brings eternal life. Think about that! We do not wait for God’s judgment or condemnation. We do no wait for God’s wrath that our sins deserve! No, we are anticipating mercy. We anticipate mercy because Jesus Christ suffered as our substitute, receiving upon himself the wrath we deserve so that we receive mercy—mercy we don’t deserve. That is what we are waiting for.
As we anticipate the future our perspective of present circumstances will be transformed. It will keep us aware of God’s love. On the other hand, "Those who take their eyes off their future hope will find that their love for God is slowly evaporating.”
So are you waiting with eager anticipation? How often do you think about Christ’s return (Titus 2:13)? How often do you think of the new heavens and the new earth (Revelation 21:1–4)? How often do you think of eternal life? And how often do you think about the mercy you will receive in light of the judgment that we so richly deserve?
This eternal perspective will keep us aware of God’s love.
Reminding, praying, waiting—this is how we remain aware of God’s love.
To be honest my grip upon God is sometimes weak. I don’t flawlessly keep myself in the love of God daily. I don’t. My love for Him fluctuates. But while my love for him is uncertain, His love for me is fixed. We keep ourselves in the love of God because God is keeping us in his grasp.
Both at the beginning of this short letter (v. 1) and near the end (v. 24), Jude reminds us that our safety is in the Father’s hold upon us and his preserving grace. As Puritan Richard Sibbes once wrote, “As we say of the mother and the child, both hold, but the safety of the child is at that the mother holds him.”
His grip never weakens.
When I neglect the means that He has given me to keep myself in the love of God, when my grip upon him weakens and my love fluctuates, His grip upon me does not weaken and never changes.
God promises to “keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy” (v. 24). This promise is an enormous assurance for our souls, and especially for those who feel as if their love for God has diminished. Receive this assurance provided from Jude: Our hearts may shift and change but God’s love for you is unchanging. May we keep ourselves aware of God’s unchanging love toward us in the gospel.
If we fail to attend to our hearts, if we fail to attend to our relationship with God, if we fail to obey this gracious command to “keep ourselves in the love of God,” the consequences upon our souls are inevitable. The consequences may not be immediately obvious, but a persisting pattern of neglect will become obvious in time.
So have your affections for the Savior diminished? If so, ask yourself these questions from Jude:
- Am I preaching the gospel to my own soul each day?
- Am I praying with any level of consistency?
- Am I eagerly awaiting Christ’s return and am I longing for heaven?
For more on this topic see C.J.'s recent sermon "Jude: A Call to Contend," at Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, MN (Sept. 12, 2010).
 Tom Schreiner, 1, 2 Peter, Jude (NAC), p. 474.
 Tom Schreiner, 1, 2 Peter, Jude (NAC), p. 484.