Many Clouds -- But No Rain!

Jude 12

In the past months, many sections of our country have been devastated by drought.
There have been places in the western part of our nation where the the earth dried up and cracked.
Crops have been lost as they were burned by the scorching sun.
Livestock have died, and all of this is a shocking reminder of the cost of a devastating drought.

The earth has buckled and formed huge cracks in the earth.
Mnay churches across our nation have met to pray for rain.
The smallest clouds gave people hope that they would give the needed rain.
Huge, heavy clouds would roll in, and stand over the land, and then slowly dissipate.
The clouds looked thick and promising at certain times.
It seemed as though they would give the much needed showers upon the earth.

But, week after week and month after month, there was no rain.
The clouds would come again and again and again, promising rain, but containing no rain.

A spiritual drought has settled over America.
The recession or depression hasn't caused people to look to God.
Attendance and interest in church activity and attendance has declined.
The message of the church has been ignored, and God has been forgotten.

Yet, there remains a spiritual thirst which will not be satisfied with the superficial
and will not be quenched with substitutes.

Clouds Without Substance

The "clouds" in Jude 12 are the same people who troubled Jude
throughout his epistle.
They were heretics and immoral teachers and counterfeit Christians.
The characteristic attribute of this promising cloud is their basic emptiness.
There have been a great amount of cloud formations, but no noise or thunder
can fill the void which robs these clouds of their true essence.

Instead of pouring out refreshing rain upon the earth, they are disappointing.
They promise much, but give very little.
The obvious reason for their inability to give is the fact that they do not possess.

They profess to have something to give, but when needy hands reach out for it,
the profession turns to wind and their promise turns to dust.

There is a great variety in the clouds of the atmosphere adding to the confusion
and general misunderstanding about the activity of the cloud formations.
If all the clouds looked and behaved identically much of the speculation would be removed
for the amateur weather prophet.
Likewise, the extensive variety of a pseudo-Christian adds to the difficulty of identification.
Peculiar similarities between some spurious teachers and some rainless clouds
are interesting and revealing.

For instance, the cirrus cloud is a white filmy variety of cloud usually forms at high altitudes
and is composed of ice crystals.
These clouds are so numerous and frequent that they hardly ever attract attention.
They are sometimes transparent, and obviously contain no substance of rain.
Only a child or an extremely naive person would consider those clouds to contain rain.
Occasionally, a person may hope that enough of these clouds will accumulate and give rain,
but regardless of the number, they remain the same kind of unproductive clouds.

These clouds are illustrative of the high formal rituals of a lifeless religion.
Their high altitude reflects the vast distance between many rituals and the reality of life.
The ice crystals are symbolic of the coldness which can so easily develop.
The thinness of the clouds reminds us of the shallowness and folly of depending upon ritual alone.

Only a child or a very naive person considers the rituals to contain salvation within themselves.
Even those who minister and preside at the rituals realize that these are expressions only,
and must have a vital experience with God previously.
Occasionally, some might hope that enough of these rituals will accumulate upon his life's record
to shower God's blessings of salvation on him in the last moment of hope.

But, regardless of the number of rituals or ordinances observed, their character does not change,
and they cannot produce what they do not possess.

The cumulus cloud is a massive cloud with a flat base and rounded outlines that pile up like a mountain.
This ipicturesque scene of our clouds is the delight of artists, photographers,
and children who discover figures and faces in the cloud formations.
The cumulus cloud represents the piling up of lofty philosophical and psychological theories.
and hypotheses about man, his origin, his purpose, and his destiny add to the growing mound of fluff.

The cloud brings excitement, joy, beauty, art, and shade into the world.
But it is only ornamental, and produces no rain to a dry thirsty land and is only taking up space
in the sky were real rain clouds ought to be.

The stratus cloud is a cloud which is characterized by its great horizontal extension and low altitude.
This clouds symbolizes the humanistic approach to Christianity.
All of the formation is horizontal, reaching out only to humanity.
There is no vertical outreach to God.

Christ is accepted as the best of all humans, but His divinity is denied.
The cloud hovers low upon the earth, confining itself to the knowledge of the lower levels
of the atmosphere.
Though many humanists do not refute the existence of God, they say it is of so little importance
and they continue to confine themselves only to the physical world.

Certainly Christianity has a definite horizontal ministry, but the vertical relationship
which is faith in Jesus Christ as the Son of God is that which makes the horizontal ministry
and a love for mankind possible and effective.

The nimbus cloud is the rain cloud which is uniformly gray and extending over the entire sky.
Generally speaking, any cloud from which rain is falling is called a nimbus cloud.

This is descriptive of genuine Christians and faithful shepherds.
The diversity in appearance and size is forgotten when rain, real substance, is produced.
All true nimbus clouds have rain in them.
All true Christians have experienced the assurance of a living faith within them.

1 John 4:1-3 says, "Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits
whether they are of God; because many false prophets are gone out into the world.
Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come
in the flesh is of God: And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come
in the flesh is not of God
."

A cloud of real value to the earth is a cloud of substance, containing refreshing life-giving rain.
Unlike a false fireplace that gives no heat and like cotton candy which melts in the mouth
without nourishment.
So, is the religious fluff (clouds) which hides the sun but gives no rain in the place of sunlight.
These clouds work hard at of obscuring the brightness of the divinity and authority of Christ;
but they give nothing in His place.

Clouds Without Stability

Besides the lack of substance, these interesting clouds which leave pretty patterns in the sky,
are also without stability.
They are "carried about of winds."
There are whirled in every direction by the changing winds and have no position of prominence.
The Christian should never become static.

Every Christian must have the growing character of Christ within him.
This means a change of perspective, a development of depth, a broadening of vision,
and a striving for a deeper spirituality.

There are three types of instability which are indicative of a counterfeit faith.
First, there are those without a genuine faith and commitment to Christ
and they are likely to be unstable in doctrine.

They will be carried about by every intellectual whim, like those who "halt between two opinions," and are not founded in the truths of Christianity.
Many are not grounded and settled because they are not on the true foundation. (Jude 20, Phillips)
Their idea of Christianity is centered either in intellectual license or in hair-splitting doctrines.

They are committed to "truth" and "knowledge," but not to Jesus
who is the very essence of both.
Those more inclined toward the intellectual community will pride themselves that they are not bound
by the customary doctrines of Christianity and are free to discover and even create doctrines
that supersede those of God.

Consequently, they will believe one thing this year and something else next year.
They are blind to the fact that the reason they must constantly change theological horses
in the middle of the stream is because one goes no further than the other.
They are on a merry-go-round.
And there are those who are so careful to do exactly what the Bible teaches that they overlook
the importance of being what the Bible teaches.

They are easily excited by controversial and "contradictory" Scriptures
and are willing to admit they were wrong before they are sure what the new revelation actually says.
They live in constant fear of ending their lives on the wrong side of the theological battle.
They have not yet become personally and conclusively identified with Jesus Christ Himself
as the only ground and foundation of faith.
Of course, they will claim relationship to Christ, calling themselves Christian,
and preaching the words of Christ.

But the thing which excites, disturbs, motivates, and moves them is the discovery of extraneous
evidence concerning a "new" or obscuring facet of dogma or church polity.
To them, the person and power of Jesus cannot compete with the magnetic influences
of orthodox terminology.

The second type of instability is actually a product of the first, because those who are unstable
in doctrine will also be unstable in devotion.

Devotion is that feeling for, or of affinity with, or dedication to an object or idea.
If our feeling, affinity, and dedication are related to Jesus, then we will respond to Him and with Him.
If these are related to systems and programs and theories and doctrines
then we will respond with these as they change.
Our devotion must be to that which is both its foundation and object.

A person may laugh one day and weep the next day maybe thought to be unstable,
but he is not if he lacks and weeps at the time when Jesus would react in such matters.
On the other hand, to be devoted to first one cause and then another,
without particular regard to what Jesus would do, will lead to a dangerous instability.

Then, there is the third dimension of instability.
There are those who are unstable in doctrine and devotion, and they will also be unstable in duty.

What and how one thinks and feels determines how he acts.
His deeds will reflect the same instability of his beliefs and emotions.
Consequently, he will find himself promoting first one crusade, and then another.

His religious world is one of activism.
He deplores meditation, prayer, and "tarrying."
He must be busy, and if a cause is not convenient, he will likely invent one.
He is never satisfied, and never finishes one project before he starts with another.
His intentions are good, and he is not afraid of involvement; but all his motivation is wrong.
He is afraid of being caught on the wrong side of a sociological problem.
In either case the issue is that there must be a right relationship to Jesus Christ in all matters.

For instance, suppose Jesus were to appear in our midst today, and assume a role in our society.
And in doing so, suppose He announces that He is going to join a church other than ours
because that one most nearly conforms to what He had in mind when He founded the church.
Now, what would we do?

There could be at least three possible reactions.

Some of us would remain silent, but stubbornly stay where we are,
carrying on our business as usual, holding our meetings, preaching our sermons,
continuing our traditions and supporting our grand old denomination.
Of course, we would not have Jesus with us, but we would be true
to our "convictions" without Him.

And some might try to "convert" Jesus by showing Him that He could do better
by joining them, and telling Him how much they need Him.
They would simply, but firmly point out that His simplicity of truth is not as easy in our day
as He thinks, and urge Him to reconsider and carefully weigh every decision.

Finally, some of us would follow Jesus wherever He goes, and feel perfectly at home anywhere.
We would be called traitors by some, and fickle by others, but the smile of Jesus
would make up for all that.

The tires on our automobile are made to move and go with the car.
To leave our driveway, or even cross the country does not earn the notoriety of being "unstable" and unsafe.
But, when those tires leave the car and careen across the road at high speed,
they have become detached from their normal position, and cause danger for all who are near.

For the Christian, Christ is the center of existence and purpose.
Because our doctrine, devotion, and duty are centered in Him, there is no danger of instability
and insecurity.
Serious and dedicated Christians continue in the things which they have learned from God's Word
and are not in "tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine."
(Ephesians 4:14)

The ancient mariner cried, "Water, water, everywhere, and not a drop to drink."

In a profusion of religious dogma, ceremony, and social relevance, we must hear the cry
of the thirsty land: "Clouds, clouds, everywhere, and not a one with the refreshing rains of heaven."

But then, there appears the genuine and pure cloud of glory, the eternal gospel of saving grace
through faith in Jesus Christ, and:

"The thirsty earth soaks up the rain, and drinks, and gapes for drink again.
The plants suck in the earth, and are with constant drinking fresh and fair
."
-- Abraham Crowley, from Anaceron, II

"Listen, O heavens, and I will speak; hear, O earth, the words of my mouth.
Let my teaching fall like rain and my words descend like dew, like showers on new grass,
like abundant rain on tender plants.
I will proclaim the name of the Lord.
Oh, praise the greatness of our God!
He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just.
A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he
." (Deuteronomy 32:1-4)

There Shall Be Showers of Blessing

"There shall be showers of blessing:
This is the promise of love;
There shall be seasons refreshing,
Sent from the Savior above.
There shall be showers of blessing—
Precious reviving again;
Over the hills and the valleys,
Sound of abundance of rain.

There shall be showers of blessing;
Send them upon us, O Lord!
Grant to us now a refreshing;
Come, and now honor Thy Word.

There shall be showers of blessing;
O that today they might fall,
Now as to God we're confessing,
Now as on Jesus we call!

There shall be showers of blessing,
If we but trust and obey;
There shall be seasons refreshing,
If we let God have His way.
Chorus:
Showers of blessing,
Showers of blessing we need;
Mercy-drops round us are falling,
But for the showers we plead
."

Sermon adapted from several sources by Dr.Harold L. White