17But, dear friends, remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ foretold. 18They said to you, “In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires.” 19These are the people who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit. 20But you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, 21keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life. 22Be merciful to those who doubt; 23save others by snatching them from the fire; to others show mercy, mixed with fear–hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.
The word “scoffer” in Greek is empaiktai. It means one who mocks, ridicules, scorns, despises, and insults.
In the biblical sense, however, a scoffer is also one who makes false pretenses. It is one who acts like an impostor, a fake; someone who is not genuine and sincere.
Our scripture reading comes from the New Testament book of Jude. It is written by a man who introduces himself as Jude, brother of James.
Bible scholars believe Jude is actually the Judas mentioned in Matthew 13:55 as one of the brothers of Jesus — children born to Mary and Joseph after the birth of Christ.
The central theme of the book is to warn the believers of a coming time when scoffers will surface and destroy the world with their kind of wrath.
This destruction is not physical or visible. It is an unseen kind of destruction that is more lethal than we can ever imagine, caused by people who parade themselves as followers of the Lord but who are really mockers of the One True God.
About 161 years ago on May 31, 1850, Charles Finney, a prominent figure in protestant reformation, delivered a fiery sermon titled Mocking God. He said, “We mock God when we present ourselves in the house of God as his professed servants, without the true spirit of obedience, love, worship, and faith. We mock God by confessing sin and professing repentance for sin, without making restitution when we have done wrong…”
Lest we begin to think it is all about perfection or sinlessness, it is not. As I mentioned before, it is never about sinlessness. It is about sincerity. It is not about perfection but purity — the purity of our love and submission to God’s authority over our lives despite all or flaws and imperfections.
Jude warns the believers of a coming time when counterfeits will rise — men and women who may look Christian, talk Christian or behave Christian — but who are not the real thing.
Jesus talks about scoffers in the Sermon in the Mount discourse in Matthew 7, “21Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ 23And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’
When we hear sermons like these, it is easy to go around looking far for these “scoffers” only to realize we need only to look near to discover the truth.
We may have heard about a couple who moved into a new neighborhood. Everyday, they would see their neighbor hang their newly-washed laundry. And everyday, the wife would criticize how the clothes have not been washed well enough. The husband never said anything. Then one day, the wife was surprised to see that for the first time, the clothes finally looked so clean and well washed. She said, “Finally, she has learned how to wash correctly. I wonder who taught her?” The husband said, “No one had to teach her. I just got up early this morning to clean our window.”
You see, friends, like that critical and judgmental wife, we easily see the impurity of others only to realize that what is really stained is our own eyes — and our own hearts. I sincerely believe there is a scoffer in each one of us. We all have the tendency to be pretentious and insincere — not necessarily because we are vicious or evil — but rather because it just takes so much to be consistent in our faith.
There is also so much deception and misconception of God’s love, forgiveness, and grace that we end up abusing the Lord. We rationalize our sins and our faults by invoking the “mercy” of God.
It was reported that before the infamous May 21 Judgment Day that was predicted by Ronald Camping, many aetheists and agnostics in the United States, out of sheer sarcasm and mockery, organized Rapture Parties. The Central North Carolina Aetheists & Humanists Association released an official statement saying that these Rapture Parties are ways of “… highlighting some of the most bizarre beliefs often put forth by religious fundamentalists and raise awareness of the need for reason.”
I am not a supporter of Camping. Certainly, he has much to account to God, and I will leave it at that. But those who continue to mock God are missing the point.
Mocking the whole idea of the Lord’s return, and more so, calling God’s reality and existence “bizarre” is crossing the line.
And as Christians, we cannot allow ourselves and our children to take these things sitting down. We do not have to take an arrogant stand or be violently offensive. We simply need to draw the line, and decide for ourselves where we truly stand in the matters of our faith.
I get alarmed when I hear people commenting, “Pastor, that’s just in the Western world. Things are better here in the Philippines.”
I beg to disagree. The modern ways of technology are making the world smaller and smaller. Our youth and our children are getting unlimited exposure to these kinds of humanistic views, and distorted perceptions of God. If we are not careful and committed in proclaiming and upholding the Word of God, our children will end up ravaged by all the scoffers out there.
In the next verses, Jude gives specific admonitions to those who do not consider themselves as scoffers but as God’s friends: Build (v.20) up your faith; persevere in righteousness; walk in obedience to God’s Word; fight the good fight of faith; put to use the truth you have been entrusted with; Beg (v.21) for help from God; seek for mercy and forgiveness; repent with all sincerity humble before the Lord; never think for a moment that you are invincible and that you cannot fall; Brace yourself (v.22); cling tighter to God’s Word; exercise discernment and self-control; keep in step with the Holy Spirit; and remember that it is all by the grace of God from start to finish.
The line has long been drawn. A choice must be made. Are we scoffers or God’s friends?