Sometimes the grace of God needs defending. Not as much from the world and the devil as from ourselves.
Those of us who love his grace most will take the greatest care, with his help, to guard it from perversion. Because God’s amazing grace has freed us to know ourselves as profoundly sinful, we will take precautions to keep ourselves from distorting the grace of God — our very life and joy — as a loophole for licentiousness or an excuse for minimizing Jesus’s commands or curbing our God-given desire to please him. With both feet in Scripture, not leaning on our parroted formulations, we will want to be able to say with Peter, “This is the true grace of God. Stand firm in it” (1 Peter 5:12).
The tiny missive called Jude, written by Jesus’s half brother, gives us some help here. He writes to warn the church of certain people who have “crept in unnoticed . . . ungodly people who pervert the grace of our God” (Jude 4). He’s helping the church spot false teachers, but we would do well to turn his warnings in on our own hearts too.
Here are seven grace checks inspired by the book of Jude designed to keep us from quietly slipping into perverting God’s grace.
Seven Grace Checks
Do you balk at the thought of Jesus being your “Master and Lord” (verse 4)? Does it make you uncomfortable that Jesus issues commands? Unlike his brother Jude, do you cringe at calling him “Lord,” and yourself “slave” (verse 1), from fear that he might require your obedience in some form?
Do you have a growing desire to “reject authority” (verse 8), and have you become suspicious of any perceived authority that would constrict your autonomy? If even archangels are happily under God’s authority (verse 9), how much more should we be as the redeemed? Are you eager to ascribe not only salvation but also “dominion and authority” to “the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord” (verse 25)?
Do you acknowledge and affirm Jesus’s authority to destroy “those who did not believe” (verse 5) and keep disobedient angels “in eternal chains under gloomy darkness until the judgment of the great day” (verse 6)? Is there a role for your Jesus in the final judgment? Can your Jesus make those indulging in sexual immorality “an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire” (verse 7)? Are you embarrassed by a God who long ago “designated [some] for this condemnation” (verse 4)? Are you inclined to reject a God who created some for whom “the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved forever” (verse 13)?
Do you increasingly rely on your own thinking (verse 10), even dreams (verse 8), rather than God’s special revelation in the Bible? Is there any substantive sense in which you beware your instincts (verse 10), rather than just indulge them?
Have you adopted an increasingly cynical view of Christians in general, which leads you, even subtly, to “blaspheme the glorious ones” (verse 8)? Are you among the “grumblers” and “malcontents” (verse 16)? Are you becoming a scoffer (verse 18)?
Are you actually “devoid of the Spirit” (verse 19)? What difference, if any, does the Holy Spirit make in your life? Do you believe he not only provides your faith, but also empowers your obedience and striving?
Do you resist the thought that Christians should “build yourselves up in your most holy faith” (verse 20)? Are you eager to exert any spiritual effort to this end? Is your so-called grace-centered Christianity really an exercise in spiritual coasting? Do you resist the talk of “keep yourselves in the love of God” (verse 21)?
Hope in More Grace
The letter of Jude is relevant for every sinful heart, intended to correct and train all of us, even those of us who most deeply know the true grace of God in all its justifying, sanctifying, and glorifying power. Jude convicts us all, and that’s a good thing.
But even with his strong warning that we not pervert the grace of God, Jude is eager to end with a dazzling word in verses 24–25 about how our only hope for the road ahead is God’s true grace:
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.