The book of Jude warns of individuals that are harmful to the body of Christ. How do we know whom we should guard against!? Jude provides us with some of the characteristics of these types of individuals.
These are spots in your love feasts, while they feast with you without fear, serving only themselves. They are clouds without water, carried about by the winds; late autumn trees without fruit, twice dead, pulled up by the roots; raging waves of the sea, foaming up their own shame; wandering stars for whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever. Jude 12-13
These are grumblers, complainers, walking according to their own lusts; and they mouth great swelling words, flattering people to gain advantage. But you, beloved, remember the words which were spoken before by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ: how they told you that there would be mockers in the last time who would walk according to their own ungodly lusts. These are sensual persons, who cause divisions, not having the Spirit. Jude 16-19
Jude identifies the characteristics of those whose mission is not building the Kingdom of God but to satisfy their own ambitions. These kinds of individuals will be among us and in our churches, but their focus is serving themselves and satisfying their owns desires, dreams, and wishes.
Lack of Good Fruit
Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them. Matthew 7:15-19
Jude speaks of these people as clouds without water and autumn trees without fruit. Clouds are meant to have moisture and autumn fruit trees are supposed to bear a harvest. Jesus taught His disciples that those who produce no fruit or bad fruit do not belong to Him. He called the false prophets ravenous wolves! These individuals could be good talkers and put on a good show, but at the end of the day, there is not much fruitfulness in the work they do.
Examining people’s fruitfulness might sound like we are expected to be performance-oriented. To the contrary, Jesus was emphasizing that our fruit is a reflection of our nature. If our nature has truly been changed by the power of God and His grace, then there will be evidence by the good fruit we produce. Given enough time and enough seasons, the true nature of people will be exposed. We just need to be patient and not get too excited about people’s abilities, anointing, or passions.
Many are talented and passionate, but that does not make them genuine. For example, false teachers may teach people what is popular and comfortable, and false prophets may prophecy lofty prophesies drawing people to themselves. Some people have leadership qualities but lack character. Others have skewed knowledge of the Bible, thereby creating a picture of God that is not Biblical. There are those who may do a good job leading but are self-willed and are not teachable. Some are very relational, but they can also be very manipulative using their relational skills to influence others for their own benefit. On the surface, all these individuals may look good and be popular. However, when we are patient and refrain from passing quick judgments, the Holy Spirit, in time, will reveal the true character of the person.
Complainers and Grumblers
Jude tells us that another distinguishing characteristic of harmful individuals is that they are grumblers and complainers. The truth is that we can all complain and grumble. As a matter of fact, sometimes we might think if we don’t have anything to complain about, people may not see us as being real and vulnerable. So how do we distinguish these kinds of complainers and grumblers from any average believer!?
The core issue with these particular complainers and grumblers is discontentment. They have ambitions to do more and be more. Therefore, their complaining is not a random complaint, but they criticize and grumble against those who hold them back from reaching their goals. Apostle Jude tells us that these individuals are self-seeking, sensual, and cause division. The Lord sees these types of individuals as dangerous to the body of Christ and its unity. Some of them will be false teachers and false prophets who make their personal preferences a Biblical issue. They manipulate people to take sides, and they don’t care if the sheep go astray. They care about getting their way and ensuring that their goals are moving forward.
We all need to be careful not to allow false voices to pollute the body of Christ. The body does not belong to any man or woman. Our loyalty should be to the Lord and His bride and not to individuals. If sin is present, we need to address it in a discreet manner that cultivates the unity of the body and gives room for repentance and reconciliation. We should be watchful to protect the sheep from confusion and derailment.
Let’s contend for the faith and pray for ourselves and the body of Christ. We need the Lord to give us discernment and to keep us from getting entangled with those whose heart is not for the body of Christ.