Barren Trees and Waterless Clouds: The False Gospel of Dreamers

JUDE 8-15 (ESV)Pardoning Grace

Yet in like manner these people also, relying on their dreams, defile the flesh, reject authority, and blaspheme the glorious ones.(9) But when the archangel Michael, contending with the devil, was disputing about the body of Moses, he did not presume to pronounce a blasphemous judgment, but said, “The Lord rebuke you.” (10) But these people blaspheme all that they do not understand, and they are destroyed by all that they, like unreasoning animals, understand instinctively. (11) Woe to them! For they walked in the way of Cain and abandoned themselves for the sake of gain to Balaam’s error and perished in Korah’s rebellion. (12) These are hidden reefs at your love feasts, as they feast with you without fear, shepherds feeding themselves; waterless clouds, swept along by winds; fruitless trees in late autumn, twice dead, uprooted;(13) wild waves of the sea, casting up the foam of their own shame; wandering stars, for whom the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved forever.(14) It was also about these that Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied, saying, “Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of his holy ones,(15) to execute judgment on all and to convict all the ungodly of all their deeds of ungodliness that they have committed in such an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things that ungodly sinners have spoken against him.”

TRUTH IN FOCUS

Christians are called ‘believers’ precisely because we have been granted faith to believe the true testimony concerning Christ as contained in His precious Word. Those who trust in any other message short of God’s Word stand guilty of second-guessing the authority and providence of God, ensuring their own sure destruction. To follow the mere dreams of men, said by Jude to be “barren trees and waterless clouds,” is to forsake the clear teaching of Scripture.

INTRODUCTION

Sadly, there are many examples found in dead religion to which one could allude to illustrate our Scripture lesson this morning. False religion abounds, it flourishes in the fertile soil that is fallen and sinful humanity. There are so few schemes to which we are naturally immune, given our corrupt nature and penchant for selfish gain. We could discuss the man-centered salvation schemes of the free-will preachers. Just as easily, we could spend time looking into the freakishly “out-there” world of the charismatic mystics and their myriad dreams, visions, manifestations, and so-called “power-encounters” with the Spirit. In much the same vain, we could investigate the program-driven and seeker-sensitive movements and their insistence that people can be won to Christ if only a church congregation utilizes the correct strategies for growth.

All of these religious schemes are just that: schemes devised by sinful men who seek their own glory at the expense of the finished work of Christ. The free-will preacher proclaims a Christ of his own imagination, a powerless character who claims to loves everyone but has power in Himself to save none without their cooperation, without the power and permission of the sinner. The free-will of man is the power broker in their religion, the all-powerful choice of a sinner is the true god of their wicked creed. They follow their own ideas concerning Christ while forsaking the clear teaching of Scripture. They are barren trees and waterless clouds, having a form of godliness but denying the power thereof.

The charismatics perhaps most literally illustrate what Jude intended when he wrote of the false teacher’s “relying on their dreams.” For what is truth to the charismatic but their own private ideas and notions concerning God? While claiming to believe God’s Word, it becomes evident that experiential emotionalism is the only test of truth for the movement. Scripture is given lip-service, or is hen-pecked and often contorted violently to lend support for their ecstatic and bizarre experiences. The rabid pursuit of the next big emotional wave, level, impartation, anointing, or manifestation leads to a short-lived emotional high which soon fades away. The flesh is satiated but for a moment in the lights, music, and raucous prayer circles comprised of the other mystics who are themselves trapped in a most seductive form of dead religion. After all, what a perfect place for dead works-religion to hide than front and center in the midst of such excitement and wonder? All of it, however, takes eyes from Christ and His Word, and proves to be “fruitless trees in late Autumn.”

The program-driven and seeker-sensitive movements seek to use secular methodologies to build God’s house. Utilizing the latest techniques of the world in the context of church life, these groups rely on the power of human innovation at the expense of the Word of God. These groups will often minimize doctrinal preaching in exchange for larger crowds and more influence among other religionists. Following after the applause and approval of men, they too stand guilty of following after the appetites of the flesh rather than the clear Word of God.

No matter the heresy, no matter the false teaching, a shared denial of the sufficiency of God’s word is the common tie which joins them at the hip. Jude warns the ancient believers to contend against those who would follow any other source of truth apart from the Word of God. No matter the label, if God’s Word is relegated or denied outright, dead works-religion is always the result.

We trust the Lord to bless our study of our Scripture lesson today, Amen.

OUTLINE

V. 8 Yet in like manner these people also, relying on their dreams, defile the flesh, reject authority, and blaspheme the glorious ones.

A. “relying on their dreams” – False teachers/professors do not stand on the solid ground of Scripture. Rather than stand firm in the Gospel as preached by the Apostles, rather than accept their teaching as rightly coming from God Himself, the false teachers/professors Jude describes are “relying on their dreams.”

Dreams are illusory, having no substance, a hollow bit of wishful thinking pretending to be reality. Those who rely on dreams at the expense of Gospel truth have chosen to follow their own feelings and emotions over and above the very Word of God.

Jeremiah was forced to deal with false prophets in his day as well. He calls the dreams of the false prophets exactly what they truly are: lies!

Jeremiah 23:25-27 – I have heard what the prophets have said who prophesy lies in my name, saying, ‘I have dreamed, I have dreamed!’ (26) How long shall there be lies in the heart of the prophets who prophesy lies, and who prophesy the deceit of their own heart, (27) who think to make my people forget my name by their dreams that they tell one another, even as their fathers forgot my name for Baal?

To such nonsense as lying dreams, Jeremiah provides this timely admonition:

Jeremiah 23:28 – Let the prophet who has a dream tell the dream, but let him who has my word speak my word faithfully. What has straw in common with wheat? declares the LORD.

Those who trust in their own opinions, their own dreams, emotions, feelings, or flights of fancy, place their trust in concepts and ideas outside of Scripture, the Word of the Lord. Jeremiah draws a stark contrast between the truth of Scripture and the lies of the “dreaming” false prophets.

B. “defile the flesh” – thinking themselves spiritually enlightened, they truly are no better than the worst defiled sinner of Sodom or Gomorrah! Since their trust is placed in the filthy inclinations of their own fallen minds, the false teacher/professor has done nothing but hellishly fortify his own self-righteous stench before the thrice holy God.

A corrupt theology devoid of the Gospel of the finished work of Christ cannot lead to righteousness. It can only lead to more and deeper corruption and self-deception.

C. “reject authority” – This, of course, is the result of assuming one’s emotions or feelings can guide a sinner into truth. By default, to accept as spiritual truth anything in addition to or in place of the Word of God is to reject God’s authority completely. God will not share His glory with another!

D. “blaspheme the glorious ones” – False teachers/professors show little regard for earthly ministers of the true Gospel or for the forces at work in the heavenly places. In general, they are so wrapped up in their personal revelations that nothing outside of themselves even matters! A general conceit robs the false teacher of any sense of respect for the things, people, and heavenly beings comprising the kingdom of God.

(9) But when the archangel Michael, contending with the devil, was disputing about the body of Moses, he did not presume to pronounce a blasphemous judgment, but said, “The Lord rebuke you.”

A. “But when the archangel Michael contending with the devil…” – Jude writes that Michael the Archangel contended for the body of Moses. Little is known about this particular occurrence. However, Jude alludes to this account to illustrate the flippant attitude commonly found amongst those who are construe their own private revelations concerning heavenly things!

B. “The Lord rebuke you” – Notice that even Michael the Archangel did not presume to have authority in himself to curse the devil! Rather, he simply reminded the devil of the Lord’s rebuke. In doing so, Michael demonstrated submission to God’s dominion and reign. But the false professors the likes of which Jude combated thought nothing of flippantly assuming their own spiritual superiority over everyone and everything else.

(10) But these people blaspheme all that they do not understand, and they are destroyed by all that they, like unreasoning animals, understand instinctively.

A. “blaspheme all that they do not understand” – Because they assume their own private dreams and inclinations to be superior to God’s revealed Word, it becomes easy for the false teacher/professor to speak against or dismiss God’s Word out of hand.

B. “they are destroyed by all they understand instinctively” – Making a mockery of God’s revelation while putting trust in their own private revelation, those false teachers/professors who espouse such contempt of the truth of God’s Word will be condemned for the very actions they thought made them righteous.

Their instincts, like every other faculty of humanity, is fallen. It will lead them to destruction.

(11) Woe to them! For they walked in the way of Cain and abandoned themselves for the sake of gain to Balaam’s error and perished in Korah’s rebellion.

A. “the way of Cain” – Cain thought He knew better than God as well. Rather than offer God a sacrifice per the Lord’s command, Cain offered a sacrifice dreamed up in his own imagination. When his sacrifice wasn’t accepted and his brother Abel’s was accepted, Cain did not seek God’s forgiveness. Nor did Cain seek any other means of restoration between himself and God.

Cain’s solution was dreamed up in His own dark and cold heart. He murdered His brother for no other reason than that. His phony theology dreamed up in his own sinful imagination lead to death and destruction.

B. “Balaam’s error” – Balaam’s great error was his willingness to spite God in order to acquire fortune. 2 Peter records the following:

2 Peter 2:15-16 – Forsaking the right way, they have gone astray. They have followed the way of Balaam, the son of Beor, who loved gain from wrongdoing, (16) but was rebuked for his own transgression; a speechless donkey spoke with human voice and restrained the prophet’s madness.

C. “Korah’s rebellion” – Following the desires of his own corrupt heart, Korah attempted to usurp authority over God’s chosen leaders, Moses and Aaron. Numbers chapter 16 records the account wherein Korah approaches Moses with hundreds of the camp’s religious leaders. Korah’s rebellion was swiftly put down, as God opened the ground and swallowed Korah, his family, and the ring leaders!

Those who follow their own inclinations instead of the Word of the Lord follow down the same path as Balaam and Korah. Both thought they knew better than God. Ultimately, either path leads to ruination.

(12) These are hidden reefs at your love feasts, as they feast with you without fear, shepherds feeding themselves; waterless clouds, swept along by winds; fruitless trees in late autumn, twice dead, uprooted;(13) wild waves of the sea, casting up the foam of their own shame; wandering stars, for whom the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved forever.

A. “These are hidden reefs at your love feasts..” – This primitive Christian practice was a way to share food with the less fortunate. The love feasts were a joyous time of prayer, singing, and sharing food liberally with the brethren. The false teachers/professors worked their way right into the midst of the congregation, eating alongside God’s people at the love feast! Jude makes mention of this to illustrate the insidious nature of the false professor/teacher: they will infiltrate the assembly in order to spread their false doctrine.

B. “shepherds feeding themselves” – At the root of false doctrine is self-righteousness. Is it any wonder that false doctrine produces selfishness?

C. “swept along by winds” – with no solid ground underfoot, the false teacher/professor is carried along by every wind of doctrine.

D. “outer darkness reserved forever” – Korah was swallowed up in the ground, never to be seen again. Those who espouse false doctrine have nothing to look to but certain coming destruction.

14) It was also about these that Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied, saying, “Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of his holy ones,(15) to execute judgment on all and to convict all the ungodly of all their deeds of ungodliness that they have committed in such an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things that ungodly sinners have spoken against him.”

A. “Enoch… prophesied” – Jude quotes this from tradition. The Holy Spirit inspired Him to write this down from tradition. Oftentimes, writers quote extra-biblical sources within the Scriptures. Most famously, Luke quotes Greek philosophy when we wrote, “In Him we live, and move, and have our being.”

B. “judgment on all and to convict all” – The judgment of God against the false teacher/professor will be all consuming. No one who espouses a different gospel will escape His wrath and justice.

CONCLUSION

No doubt, it takes arrogance to assume to know better than God. Yet, this is exactly what the false teachers/professors stand guilty of by following their own inclinations rather than the clear teaching of Scripture. No matter what label it wears, dead religion shares nothing but a hollow resemblance to the true and living faith provided by Christ’s finished work of redemption on Calvary.

False religion is likened unto a tree: a dead tree. False religion is likened unto clouds: waterless clouds. False religion is likened unto stars: wandering stars. Ultimately, the only sure thing false religion will earn for its adherents is the sure and final judgment of a Holy God who will not be mocked by fleshly attempts and self-righteousness.

God, help us always to look to Christ alone and His finished work as our only source of righteousness, peace, sanctification, and glorification. May your Holy Spirit lead us to rest deeply in this blessed truth. These things we ask in Christ’s name, Amen.


Jason K. Boothe serves as Pastor of Horizons Baptist Church of Piketon, Ohio. Fore more information concerning the ministries of Horizons Baptist Church, please visit www.horizonsbaptist.org.

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