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Friday, November 27, 2015


Jude's little epistle urges us to "contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints." (Jude 1:3) (Note that "once for all delivered to the saints" requires that we're not getting new stuff for the faith.) The reason for this urging is that there is a really big problem. "Certain people have crept in unnoticed" among the believers and they "pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ." (Jude 1:4) Almost the entire rest of this little 25-verse epistle is in regards to these false teachers. He summarizes his depiction of these people this way.
These are grumblers, malcontents, following their own sinful desires; they are loud-mouthed boasters, showing favoritism to gain advantage. (Jude 1:16)
That word -- "malcontents" -- is an interesting word. It is translated "complainers" (KJV), "repiners" (YLT), and the like. But the Greek behind it is really telling. It is a two-part term that forms μεμψίμοιρος -- mempsimoiros. The two parts are μέμφομαι -- memphomai -- meaning "to blame" and μέρος -- meros -- meaning "allotment". It means most literally "to blame fate". It is to blame what you've been given. (Perhaps you can see how it is "complainers" and "malcontents". You're on your own for "repiners". Even I had to look that one up.) And isn't that the truth? It was, in fact, the very first answer to Man's sin: "It's that woman You gave me!" (Gen 3:12) We aren't satisfied with what we've been given and we complain about it and we seek to gather what we have not been given because apparently God doesn't know what He's doing.

As it turns out, I am convinced that "malcontent" is one of our biggest problems. Sexual sin is the result of seeking sexual satisfaction from what God hasn't provided. Greed is the result of being dissatisfied with what God has provided. James says, "What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel." (James 4:1-2) We want what we do not have and will fight, physically or otherwise, to get it. Solomon warns, "He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves wealth with his income; this also is vanity." (Eccl 5:10)

Conversely, the Bible loves to argue for contentment. Paul tells Timothy,
Godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs. But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. (1 Tim 6:6-11)
There's a command and a warning. Be content with what you have because "those who desire to be rich fall into temptation." "Flee these things," Paul tells him. In his letter to the church at Philippi he says, "Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. (Phil 4:11-13) Contentment with much or with little, with too much or not enough. He does it by the strength of Christ. Paul goes to what appears to be the extreme when he says, "For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong." (2 Cor 12:10) That is, even when God deals me bad things (really bad things), He is content.

On the subject of sex, Solomon says, "Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth, a lovely deer, a graceful doe. Let her breasts satisfy you at all times with delight; be intoxicated always in her love." (Prov 5:18-19) The author of Hebrews says,
Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous. Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for He has said, "I will never leave you nor forsake you." (Heb 13:4-5)
The marriage bed is sufficient and needs to be "undefiled." When you do not find sexual satisfaction there, you fall among the "sexually immoral and adulterous" who face God's judgment. This passage links the two -- satisfaction with your spouse and satisfaction with what you have -- when it also warns that you avoid the "love of money". It is very telling, I think, as to why you should be "content with what you have." It's because what you have is Christ who "will never leave you nor forsake you." That is sufficient.

Biblical Christianity often has a reputation of being a big fuddy-duddy. You know, killjoy, no fun, just be good and be quiet. The biblical command however is not "no fun" or "no joy". It is that we know where to find genuine pleasure and genuine joy. David wrote, "You make known to me the path of life; in Your presence there is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore." (Psa 16:11) We were made for pleasure and built for contentment. Our problem is not that we "can't get no satisfaction." Our problem is that we look for it in places we were never meant to go. "At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore." When we realize (make real to ourselves what is already true) that we have Christ who will never leave us -- that the presence of God is joy and pleasure -- then contentment becomes a given and the insanity of the malcontent -- "I am not satisfied, God, with what You have given me." -- is not ours to carry around.
"For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." (Matt 6:21)
That's the case. If your treasure is the joy and pleasure of the presence of Christ, that's where your heart will be. If your heart is not there, it is in something God did not design you to pursue and will always produce the malcontent, the ones Jude warns about.

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