To those who have been called, who are loved in God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ.Jude 1:1 NIV
Anxious, frustrated, and appalled. Relieved, hopeful, and excited. I have felt all of these in the past weeks. The pandemic creeps closer into my circle of colleagues. Relationships struggle for lack of face to face connection. Safety vanishes. Leaders disappoint. Yet medical breakthroughs encourage. Change brings hope.
I’d love to choose a Psalm to comfort me, but instead my daily study takes me to Jude, the half-brother of Jesus—another son of Mary of Nazareth. Surprisingly encouragement comes through learning that I am called, loved, and kept. Sounds lovely, but what does it mean?
God initiates. He summons. He issues everyone (2 Peter 3:9) an invitation to join his family, his kingdom.
God is faithful, who has called you into fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.1 Corinthians 1:9 NIV
We accept his invitation by believing that Jesus is our only way to eternal life and true fulfillment. Those who believe become God’s adopted children (Ephesians 1:5–6).
“I tell you the truth, those who listen to my message and believe in God who sent me have eternal life. They will never be condemned for their sins, but they have already passed from death into life.John 5:24 NLT
God loved us first (1 John 4:19). Love motivated God’s calling. His deep, binding, sacrificial, and unconditional love for us caused him to send his son to die in our place. The proposition in (rather than by) seems to imply we aren’t going anywhere. We are fixed, firm, standing in God’s love. Not shaken or stirred. Preserved, immersed in God.
This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.1 John 4:9-10 NIV (also John 15:13, John 3:16–16)
We remain in his love
As with all things, God doesn’t force his love upon us. He lets us choose if we want it. We remain in his love through praying, obeying his commands, and increasing in our faith.
But you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life.Jude 1:20–21 NIV (also John 15:9-10)
God keeps us
Just before his death Jesus asked God to keep his followers in the faith. And he continues to pray (Hebrews 7:25) that we be guarded, protected, preserved, secure, and set apart for Jesus so that one day we will gather with all of God’s family around his throne (Revelation 7:9).
Holy Father, keep them in Your name, the name which You have given Me, so that they may be one just as We are. While I was with them, I was keeping them in Your name, which You have given Me; and I guarded them, and not one of them perished . . . I am not asking You to take them out of the world, but to keep them away from the evil one.John 17:11-12,15 NASB (also John 10:27–28)
We keep ourselves in him
In turn, we must remain, abide, and stay in God. We put ourselves under God’s protection, stay in his presence, and listen to the Holy Spirit.
Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.John 15:4 NIV (also Jude 1:20–21)
God makes all this happen. He first loved. He initiated the rescue mission to bring mankind back into fellowship with him by sending Jesus. He issues the invitation to join his family. And he keeps and protects us so our souls will never die and no one or anything can snatch us away.
What difference does this make?
Telling myself these truths calms my emotions. Knowing that God invited me keeps me grateful and humble. It isn’t about me (once again), or my goodness, or qualities, but rather his great love. Realizing he invited everyone forces me to acknowledge I am not more special than anyone else. All the others who have accepted the invitation are my brothers and sisters—no matter their denomination, ethnicity, economic status, education, political persuasion, or whether or not I like them. Remembering I will spend eternity with them changes how I treat them. I then want to do all I can to extend this invitation to others.
Knowing I am loved unconditionally by God improves my relationships. I no longer need to seek assurance of acceptance from those around me. I can be filled by my heavenly Father when I feel a lack of love. This enables me to listen to the discord around me and respond in love and service.
Remembering I am guarded and protected increases my security. This doesn’t mean I have special powers against disease, but that Jesus prays for me. Some people get discouraged and quit believing. Other philosophies and ideas come along which they like better than the words of Jesus. They have the same invitation to believe. They are certainly loved. But they don’t seem to want to be kept. This nudges me to pray that they be protected from evil.
I accepted God’s invitation to join his family. Have you? If you have, how are you telling others about that invitation?
I know that God loves me. How are you remaining in his love? How are you showing his love to others?
Jesus has kept me these fifty odd years. How has he kept you in the faith? And who might you pray for to be kept?