Isaac McCoy was just one man; yet the American Indians will forever be indebted to him. Why? Because if it weren’t for McCoy’s efforts, the Indians would be extinct. Laboring tirelessly, McCoy eventually saw his idea of an Indian nation come to fruition. Countless Indian children received a Christian education, and many of them accepted Christ as their Saviour. McCoy, along with Creek Indian John Davis, established the first Baptist church in what is now present-day Oklahoma. Isaac McCoy made a difference in the lives of the American Indians.
“But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life. And of some have compassion, making a difference: and others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh. Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, to the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen.” — Jude 20-25
Jude has written his general epistle to encourage Christians to live for God amidst an ungodly society. In verses 1-3, there is an earnest exhortation; verses 4-13 speak of an exposing of error; verses 14-19, an eradication of evil; and in verses 20-25, there is an effectual evangelism.
There are millions of people who are in need of an Isaac McCoy in their life: some one who will take the time to make a difference. Making a difference is a call that every Christian must choose to pursue.
In our text, Jude lays out very well how each of us can make a difference, no matter the circumstances or surroundings.
Character Makes a Difference
There were a few infamous individuals in McCoy’s day who were notorious for their spurious and sometimes shameless actions and behavior. However, Isaac McCoy was a man known for his honesty, integrity, and all-around, godly character. This, I believe, was one of the most important attributes in making a difference for the American Indians. The U.S. Government made treaty after treaty with the Indians, only to break each and every one. McCoy, on the other hand, always dealt justly and honestly with the Indians, thus gaining their trust and admiration. Without controversy, Isaac McCoy was a man of character.
Verse twenty says, “But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith…” This may be considered common reasoning, but doesn’t it seem that a “most holy faith” would require a most holy lifestyle? Jude says we are to build ourselves up, not down. If we are ever going to make a difference, we must build godly character. Character starts with the heart.
Solomon has given us a prescription for godly character in Proverbs 4:23-27: “Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life. Put away from thee a froward mouth, and perverse lips put far from thee. Let thine eyes look right on, and let thine eyelids look straight before thee. Ponder the path of thy feet, and let all thy ways be established. Turn not to the right hand nor to the left: remove thy foot from evil.”
If we are going to have godly character in our lives, we must understand that there are certain things we are to do, and there are certain things we are not to do. Galatians chapter five gives a list of ungodly and godly character traits. Verses 19-23 say, “Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.”
In order for us to build up ourselves on our most holy faith, we must follow the pattern that Jude has given us.
Praying in the Holy Ghost. Prayer is absolutely necessary. We will not accomplish much without serious, fervent prayer.
James tells us that “the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” Let us pray with the intensity of our Saviour when He was in the garden. “And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground.” It is hard to imagine, but Luke says that Jesus prayed more earnestly. If our Saviour prayed more earnestly, shouldn’t you and I do the same?
Keep yourselves in the love of God. If we forget that God loves us, we will not serve Him like we should, we will not live for Him like we should, and ultimately, we will not love Him like we should. We must always bear in mind that God loves us beyond our comprehension.
Galatians 2:20 says, “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless, I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.”
John 15:9-10 says, “As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love. If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love.”
First John 3:1 says, “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not.”
Looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ. Living with the expectation of the Lord’s return will cause greater holiness in our lives. Who would want the Lord to return while they were engaged in ungodliness? If the Lord came today, would He be pleased with your actions, thoughts, or lifestyle? I believe there will be many red-faced Christians at the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ.
“Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure.” — 1 John 3:2-3
There is probably no greater motive for holy, separated, godly living than the expectancy of Christ’s return. If we live with this thought in our minds every day, it will grow godly character in our lives, and we will become a greater difference maker.
Someone once said that we cannot make a difference, unless we are different. O how true! But, O how many Christians are lacking in this area! May we cast aside our carnal desires and selfish lusts, and may we strive for holiness that we may truly show the love of Christ to this present, ungodly world.
Compassion Makes a Difference
The American Baptist Board for Foreign Missions seemed as though they cared little for the American Indians. Many of their own missionaries suffered greatly because of their lack of financial support. Many of the missionaries, such as Isaac McCoy and Evan Jones, ran schools for the Indian children at no cost to the parents. The Board were very upset about this setting. In their opinion, the parents should pay to have their children educated, even though there would be few parents who would actually be able to afford it. McCoy, however, believed in helping the helpless. Through McCoy’s effort, many Indian children grew up to become preachers, doctors, and leaders amongst their tribes. While generally everyone viewed the Indians as a perishing race ready to become extinct, Isaac McCoy pressed the Government to organize an Indian nation. Because of McCoy’s compassion, the various American Indians were given over seven million acres of land, and many tribes still survive today.
Verses 22-23 of our text say, “And of some have compassion, making a difference: and others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh.” It has been said that people don’t care how much we know, until they know how much we care. Compassion is not concern. Concern is having pity on someone, but compassion is putting that concern to work. Compassion is concern in action.
One day a little boy was carrying a basket of eggs down the street. Without warning, he tripped on the curbstone and dropped the basket, causing the eggs to become destroyed. As usual, a crowd gathered. Someone said, “What a pity!” Another said, “Poor little chap!” Yet another, “I’m sorry that he’s crying.” Finally, a man stepped out of the crowd and said, “Here, I’ll give half a dollar.” As he turned to the man standing next to him, he asked, “How much do you care?”
Until we actually act upon our concern for others, we will never truly make a difference. The greatest illustration of compassion is in the life of Jesus. All throughout the gospel accounts, we see our Lord showing compassion to people of every walk of life.
Speaking of Jesus, Matthew 9:36 says, “But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd.”
Jesus showed compassion to a couple of blind men along the road to Jerusalem. “So Jesus had compassion on them, and touched their eyes: and immediately their eyes received sight, and they followed him.”
In Luke chapter ten, the Samaritan had compassion; and in chapter fifteen, the prodigal son’s father had compassion on him.
The manner in which Jude conveys this truth in our text brings about the idea that one cannot truly make a difference without having compassion. It would also be accurate to say that if someone truly has compassion, they will make a difference. If you do not have compassion, you will not make a difference, and if you aren’t making a difference, you probably aren’t showing compassion.
Jude illustrates this very nicely by saying, “And others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire…” If you were walking along the street and saw someone’s house on fire, wouldn’t you accomplish all within your power to ensure that everyone inside made it out safely? Think of the spiritual side of this. People are dying without Christ every day, only to spend eternity in an everlasting flame. How often do we take the time to stop and tell them of the Saviour? How much compassion have we shown upon them? This isn’t something that we like to think about, but it is something we all will face at the judgment seat. Take the time to show some compassion today; you just never know who might need it.
Jude continues by saying, “Hating even the garment spotted by the flesh.” If you will notice, verse twelve mentions certain “spots in your feasts of charity…” The word “spotted” means “to stain or soil.” The word “spots” means “a ledge or reef of rock in the sea.” The word “reef” means “a chain of rocks at or near the surface of water.” This seems to indicate that having “spots” and being “spotted” is somewhat of a curse. If we really care about people, we will help them to remove all obstacles in the path of God’s blessing on their lives, even if we receive nothing in return. True compassion knows no limits. As someone once said, “People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.”
Christ Makes a Difference
Throughout the years of McCoy’s missionary service, he always trusted God to meet his needs, and give him the strength to help the Indians. From running a full-time school to establishing the first Baptist church in present-day Oklahoma to organizing the American Indian Missionary Association, Isaac McCoy made a difference through Christ. Without Him, we can do nothing; with Him, we can do anything.
“Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, to the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen.” — Jude 24-25
If we are going to make a real, lasting difference, we must have Christ’s help. Without His strength, we will utterly fail. In and of ourselves, we don’t have what it takes to make a difference. But with Christ working through us, we can be difference makers. By definition, making a difference means to “separate thoroughly.” Who else but Christ can accomplish this?
Him that is able to keep you from falling. Remember verse 21? “Keep yourselves in the love of God,” is our effort to remain dedicated, but when it comes to actually making a difference, only God has the ability to keep us from failing and falling.
Verse twenty-five says, “To the only wise God our Saviour be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen.” Do you see this beautiful picture? When we allow ourselves to be used of God to make a difference in this sin-cursed world, He gets all the glory! He is the One worthy of all glory and majesty, dominion and power, for He created us, redeemed us, gave us eternal life, and one day we will spend all of eternity with Him! You see, it isn’t about us; it’s all about Him. We don’t make a difference for our sake; we make a difference so that He will receive glory and honor. Keeping this understanding in our mind will help us to serve God more fully and completely.
In John chapter fifteen, verses 4-5, Jesus explains in very simple terms that we need Him in order to make a difference. “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.” We must remember that Christ is what truly makes a difference. It’s not our effort, or our abilities, or our strategies; it’s the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the ultimate difference Maker.
Things may become frustrating, difficult, or seemingly unfruitful, but if we remember to serve through Christ, we will make a difference in this life. If we abide in Christ, He will abide in us, and accomplish that which we could not accomplish on our own. Paul said, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” Paul wrote this to the church at Philippi, showing them that we can accomplish great things for God even though we may have very few resources. In other words, when God is in it, it will turn out right.
Making a difference isn’t about reaching thousands of people at one time; it’s about making a difference one person at a time.
An elderly gentleman was walking along the beach one morning when he saw someone in the distance bending down, picking things up, and throwing them into the ocean.
As he drew closer, he called out, “Hello! May I ask what it is you are doing?”
“The tide washed all these starfish onto the beach. I am tossing them back into the water before the sun comes out and kills them,” the young man replied.
The old man said, “Son, there are thousands of starfish out here. You couldn’t possibly make a difference.”
Without saying a word, the young man bent down, grabbed another starfish, and gently tossed it into the sea. As he stood, he said, “I made a difference for that one.”
We may never see thousands saved. We may never see anything like the great revivals of the past. But we can make a difference for one person. Isn’t that worth it all anyway? Isn’t that what we are here for, to help people to know God? We can only do it one at a time.
There is someone out there looking for an Isaac McCoy to come along and invest some time and energy into his life. All it takes is godly character, genuine compassion, and a reliance upon Christ.
Think about this: John Clarke came to America in the early 17th century and established the first Baptist church in America. Obadiah Holmes, under Clarke’s preaching, was convinced of the biblical mode of baptism, and became a Baptist. Valentine Wightman married Holmes’ granddaughter. Wightman won Wait Palmer to Christ. Palmer baptized Shubal Stearns. Stearns, along with his brother-in-law Daniel Marshall, established the Sandy Creek Baptist Church in North Carolina. From this church, there were thousands of Baptist churches started throughout America, either directly or indirectly. What if John Clarke had decided to stay in England? What would America be like today?
Who is waiting on you to make a difference? Could it be a family member, a co-worker, a neighbor? Could there be some lonely person in a far away country, searching for God, wanting to know where he came from, why he is here, and where he is going? Could that person be waiting for you to answer the call to make a difference?
There are many “things” and much “stuff” to sidetrack us from doing what God wants for us to do. There is much ungodliness, evil, and downright wickedness in this world. But we can live for God, we can live a holy life, we can show compassion, and we can make a difference in this lost and dying world.
Jude concludes his epistle by saying, “Amen.” Truth. So let it be.
“And of some have compassion, making a difference.” — Jude 22