It’s become my signature at the end of every article I write and letter I send. Some friends have asked why. The passage is from Jude 21, “keep yourself in God’s love.” And this is my explanation.

When I was still under the authority of darkness obtained through my religion, the book of Jude was very difficult to read. After all, I had been condemned by the leaders as an apostate and wondered if the warnings in Jude were about me. Was I evil and to be avoided even though I was seeking God?

I had confessed to my elders that I could no longer serve in the organization under the weight of my depression and confusion. I assured them I would continue to build up my own relationship with God through prayer and personal study but was no longer comfortable evangelizing others.

After 7 years of dedicated service, I was feeling weak and vulnerable, grasping for God, asking for time off, hoping they’d offer to pray for me. Instead, they called me selfish.

They removed me from the congregation and warned others not to associate with me. No matter, I kept “selfishly” reading my Bible trusting it to be alive and able to discern the thoughts and intentions of my heart (Hebrews 4:12). And oddly enough it was a passage in the book of Jude which God used to validate my selfish efforts to pursue a relationship with Him instead of that religion.

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.

I noticed the SELFISH language of that passage. It is all about keeping YOURSELF in God’s love and building YOURSELVES up in YOUR most holy faith. It wasn’t up to any organization to build up my relationship with God, it was up to me, selfish ol’ me.

Seeking Him is a selfish endeavor God honors.

I had grasped the first step in personalizing my faith outside of the constructs of religion. There is grace indeed, it was pouring out all over me, but God put upon me a responsibility for our relationship and continues to remind me of it. And by my signature, I remind others to do this as well. Keep YOURSELF in God’s love. What does it say? Wait for something to magically just happen? Expect your pastor or church to always build you up? No.

WE ourselves must build ourselves up in the faith.

But what about serving others? Isn’t the Christian life about loving our neighbors? Isn’t it about serving others? Yes, but when we “selfishly” keep ourselves in God’s love first, He then fills us up to overflowing and we can not help but spill out somewhere. Filled to be spilled. This is how He enables us to love our neighbors as ourselves. Not by being held to an hourly quota of service set by self appointed overseers. Filled with His love, we love our neighbors as ourselves. And we learn it is HE who prays, writes, ministers, heals and speaks to others through us. We can not love others with HIS LOVE unless we do our part first which is to “keep ourselves in God’s love.”

So the goal of our Christian life is not service and obedience, it is to stay in love with God.

For Jesus said service and obedience would be the natural RESULT of loving Him, not the other way around.

If you love me, you will obey what I command. (John 14:15)

Staying in love is a much more pleasant goal wouldn’t you agree? And though faith is a gift from God and fruit of His Spirit, it is up to us to nurture it.

I no longer chaff at the warnings in Jude as if it’s about my apostacy. To the contrary, I’ve discovered valuable, self-directed language in Jude which serves as a guide to us as Christians on how to value and nurture what we’ve received by faith.

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 men who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit.
20But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray 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; 23snatch others from the fire and save them; to others show mercy, mixed with fear—hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh. 24To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy— 25to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen. (Jude 17-25)

* Continually go back to the foundation of Christ and the apostles (v. 17)

* Pay no attention to scoffers not built upon that foundation (v.18)

* Be on guard against religion of flesh not Spirit, it will divide you (v. 19)

* It is up to us to build ourselves up in faith (v. 20)

* Pray in the Holy Spirit (v. 20)

* Meditate on God’s love (v. 21)

* Wait on the mercy of Jesus (v. 21)

* Meditate on the eternal life (v. 21)

* Show mercy to the wayward (v. 22)

* Actively expose error with their salvation in view (v. 23)

* Hate the sin, not the sinner (v. 23)

* Know that any faith and standing you have is a gift (v. 24)

* Give all glory to the One who is making you stand and enabling you to minister to others (v. 24, 25)

Amen.

Keep yourself in God’s love, Julie