I was reminded a short time ago of a pastor who visited my church. His sermon stuck with me because it was one of the most helpful I have heard in my life. I’d like to share the basic gist of it with you.
Jude, the earthly brother of Christ, warns the Church about apostates and gives a fivefold description of them. These five things are good for identifying and avoiding apostates, but if we flip them on their heads, we suddenly have five things that every Christian should be.
“These are the men who are hidden reefs in your love feasts when they feast with you without fear, caring for themselves; clouds without water, carried along by winds; autumn trees without fruit, doubly dead, uprooted; wild waves of the sea, casting up their own shame like foam; wandering stars, for whom the black darkness has been reserved forever.” Jude 12-13
- You should be a charted reef. A hidden reef was a great danger to ships. A ship could become stuck on an uncharted reef, or have its bottom ripped to shreds. But a charted reef had no surprises. Sailors were familiar with it. You should be the same way with your brothers and sisters in Christ. Are you a genuine person, honest about where you are spiritually? Or are those close to you sometimes taken back because you turn out to not be who they thought you were?
- You should be a raincloud. Nothing was more annoying to an ancient farmer than a cloud that promised life-giving rain but never delivered. It’s easy to pretend that you are full of Christ, but does He ever overflow from your life to someone else? Are you soaking up fellowship with Christ so that you can then bless others?
- You should be a fruit-bearing tree. An apostate will have no end of words about how well his or her walk with the Lord is going, but they will have no outward proof that they are telling the truth. An apple tree will have apples, a peach tree will bear peaches, and a true believer will produce a Christ-like life. When the Holy Spirit indwells someone, it changes him or her. Has your life been changed by the Christ you claim to follow?
- You should be a calm sea. Jude describes apostates as wild waves that toss up filth from the bottom of the sea. They are always stirring up contention in the church, never happy unless there is drama happening. Have you seen this tendency in your own life? Are you a person concerned with the spiritual well-being of others, looking for opportunities to make peace between your brothers and sisters like a peaceful wave on the shore?
- You should be a steady star. Those who don’t follow Christ have no real direction to give others. Anyone that follows them will simply wander around in futile circles. If someone were to follow you, do the things you do, and take the things you say to heart, would they receive valid directions? Are you a reliable picture of what a person who follows Christ should look like?
In the end, these things are the result of following Christ and abiding in His Word. A true Christian will see these things in his or her life, although imperfectly. God is so gracious that He did not just save us from hell and leave us alone. He is working in all His children to shape them into the image of Christ.
Editor's note: This was originally published for Engage Magazine.