As a missionary kid in Papua New Guinea, I loved to sit in the creek near our village home and play with the multi-colored rocks. While the rapids swirled around me, their roar drowning out my voice, I sang at the top of my lungs, “This world is not my home, I’m just a-passing through. My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue. The angels beckon me from heaven’s open door and I can’t feel at home in this world anymore.”1
This song kept me grounded when I wasn’t sure where my home was, but I never recognized the importance of keeping heaven in my sights—until I studied Jude’s short letter.
Jude—Jesus’s half-brother and Mary of Nazareth’s other son—has instructed me to contend for the faith by becoming aware of certain unnoticed individuals in the church whom Jesus will judge. Commentator Dr. Thomas L. Constable settles my concerns about how to respond. “It is notable that with all of the blunt descriptions of false teachers, Jude gives us neither a command to confront these troublemakers (only to avoid them) nor a plan of disciplinary action. He simply indicates they are under the condemnation of God.”2
Whew! Since Jesus will take care of them, I don’t have to. Instead of going on the offensive, Jude tells me to look inward and focus on myself.
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
Keep yourselves in God’s Love
Jude’s only direct command is to keep myself in the love of God. He means for me “to persevere or stand firm in”3 God’s love much like Jesus taught:
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 … As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love.John 15:4, 9 NIV
This is impossible to do without first being loved and kept by God (John 17:11–12, 15). Keeping oneself and being kept is a cooperative effort. God does his part and I do my part. I see the same joint action in other areas.
Continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.Philippians 2:12-13 NIV
Jude now gets real practical. I like practical. It’s a feature of my teaching and writing. He gives me three ways to keep myself in God’s love:
Build yourselves up in the faith
To build means to “finish the structure of which the foundation has already been laid.”4 In other words, keep learning the Apostle’s teaching, not those of false teachers.
So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.Colossians 2:6–7 NIV
My favorite way to do this is what I’m doing right here—writing a blog about a section of Scripture. For an effective piece, I study the passage, look up related verses, consult commentaries, ask questions about the text, and explain it in a way that is a clear. The editing and reordering of the words help cement the principles in my mind. Then I always ask what difference this makes to me. There must be application and life change for my study to be meaningful.
As with keeping, I need God’s help in building myself up in the faith. He is, after all, the the one who will complete the good work begun in me (Philippians 1:6).
Pray in the Spirit
Prayer—talking to God—is another practical way to keep myself in God’s love. Since the Holy Spirit dwells in me, I can pray for God’s will as opposed to my own fleshly desires. This too involves cooperation. I make the effort to pray and the Holy Spirit takes my words and translates them to God.
In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.Romans 8:26–27 NIV
My journey with prayer has looked as varied as the seasons of my life. I began writing out my prayers as a teenager so I’d stay focused and actually pray. When my children were small, I found Bible verses and read them daily as prayers for my family and for our ministry. Praying scripture remains my favorite form of prayer. Most recently, I have taken to “holding people up before the Lord.” I believe that if my spirit is in tune with God’s, the silent cries of my heart don’t need to be expressed in long, eloquent requests. Simply saying someone’s name before God is enough. Praying through a list of requests for thirty minutes in the morning and then forgetting to talk to God all day is missing the point. Conversing with him constantly is my aim (1 Thessalonians 5:17).
Wait for eternal life
Lastly, waiting for the mercy of Jesus to bring eternal life keeps me in his love. Jesus graciously offered me eternal life when he gave his life for mine. Because I have accepted his gift, I look forward to the hope of his return and my future eternity in heaven.
They were longing for a better country—a heavenly one.
You are looking forward to the coming of God’s Son from heaven—Jesus, whom God raised from the dead.Hebrews 11:16 NIV, 1 Thessalonians 1:10 NLT
Living with a heavenly perspective prevents my clinging to this life and the amenities I love, the people I like, and the possessions I acquire. Even those who try to live forever welcome the next life when they finally get a glimpse of it. I witnessed this in my own father—an unemotional man who hoped to live to 100—when he raised his arms to heaven as he took his last breath.
I want that glimpse of glory to keep me in God’s love. To that end I will keep singing songs of heaven!
A Final Thought
While I apply Jude’s command to myself, he is actually speaking to a congregation of believers. I think his use of the plural—yourselves—is a perfect reminder that I cannot keep myself in God’s love all alone but am dependent on the community of believers. We need each other—especially during this pandemic—for encouragement when we are weary and celebration when we endure. Furthermore, the wisdom and strength of the group keep us on course and away from possible conspiracies and lies.
Jude tells us to keep ourselves in the love of God. We can do this by building ourselves up in the faith, praying in the Spirit, and waiting for heaven. This inward work will result in our being able to look outward to help those around us. That’ll be our focus next time.
How do you build yourself up in the faith? Here are some suggested actions:
Bible reading/study, small groups, worship, serving with others, listening to worship music, scripture memory, journaling, listening to Bible teachers, reading spiritual books, being still and listening to the Holy Spirit, fasting, attending conferences, writing, keeping a gratitude journal, practicing spiritual disciplines, such as lectio divina, examen, silence, solitude, spiritual direction
How do you pray in the Spirit? Here are some suggested methods:
Pray Scripture, pray while walking, change postures while praying, pray aloud, make lists (of people and requests), use prayer apps, include praise as well as petition, pray for oneself, ask the Spirit first “What should I pray?”
How are you waiting for heaven? Here are some suggested ways:
Simplify your lifestyle, sort through closets and donate extras, give family heirlooms to the next generation now and not later, make a bucket list and begin to do it, prepare your will and finances, repair a broken relationship, ask forgiveness and make amends, spend more time with those you love, study biblical references to heaven, spend time with godly older folk, do the things that you would regret not doing if your life ended today
What one practical change will you make today to keep yourself in the love of God? I’m going to study all the references to heaven in Scripture, to help keep from idolizing this life.
Jesus, thank you for the reminder that I can only change myself. Please guide me by your Spirit to know how to remain in your love. Thank you that I don’t have to do this all alone, but that you also keep me in your love and I have a family of believers. I want to cooperate with you and them to build my faith, to pray, and to keep heaven constantly as my goal.
Next in Series: Be Merciful Over and Over
1 By Jim Reeves, public domain
3 Thayer’s Greek Lexicon (Blue Letter Bible)
4 Thayer’s Greek Lexicon (Blue Letter Bible)
Sacred Pathways: Nine Ways to Connect with God by Gary Thomas
Spiritual Disciplines Handbook: Practices that Transform Us by Adele Ahlberg Calhoun