“If you keep My commandments, you shall abide in My love; even as I have kept My Father’s commandments, and abide in His love.” John 15:10
Overwhelming! Yes, if I just look at this and I don’t dig into what You are saying and if I don’t dig into You, this is just overwhelming to me. I mean, how can I ever continually keep all of Your commands? Sometimes I can just take one moment and be trying my hardest and fall short. But to keep them all the time? And if I don’t, I don’t love You? Is that the perspective here? I need to understand Your perspective.
There is a condition here. If I meet the condition I will remain, abide in Your love. Just as You and the Father were one, are one, so You and I will be one, are one, if this condition is met. What is the condition? I must keep Your commandments. I’m going to start with “keep” here. Now, Lord, the first place You took me to this morning as I started to meditate on Your words here was to look at the two “keeps” in this verse. To me You say, “If you keep,” but of Yourself You say, “I have kept.” Now, to me, that stood out. I thought that must be important. So, I’ve been investigating into it. Searching it out. “It is the glory of God to conceal a thing: but the honour of kings is to search out a matter.” (Proverbs 25:2) Well, it’s my honour too. This is my favorite kind of treasure hunt.
And in my searching, I found more treasure than I expected. In terms of “keeping” on my part here, it’s in the present tense, actively going on now. Skip Moen (1) puts it this way, “Your assignment, should you chose to accept it, is to keep, guard and attend to the commandments of God today. Not yesterday. Whatever happened with the assignment yesterday is either cause for celebration or repentance. Not tomorrow. God requires nothing of you tomorrow. The entire focus of tereo is right now, in this present time. That’s all that is necessary. Just keep God’s law at this moment and you’ll be fine.” So, what if I just start looking at walking with You and in You moment by moment? What if I care about today and become mindful of right now? Will that help me keep Your commandments? I definitely think that I can share a sigh of relief. Small steps are easier to follow than giant ones.
On the other hand, You have kept the commandments. For You, at this time You were coming to Your earthly end, which for us, or for me, will be when I have completely kept all Your commandments. That’s when the job is done. You can say that. I can’t. I am in the process of keeping, moment by moment. You have completed the keeping. Which brings me to the next important “precept.”
You have finished “keeping.” You’ve been there, done that, and done it to the max. You are the Perfect Keeper. So, that makes You the Perfect Mentor. Because for me, I can’t “keep” all this on my own. Even moment by moment. But I don’t have to.
See, keeping commandments is about following a plan or following rules. It’s all about following a Person and following His Way and walking along with a Partner. You are this Partner. You’ve done what I need to do. You get the idea. So, who else is better equipped to walk me through each moment? “If one travels the road alone, he may fall. But if two travel together, one will hold up the other. I need a partner who has been down this road before, who knows the way, who points out the potholes and the ditches and who can hold me up when I start to fall. I need a partner who has kept the commandments, knows how difficult that is and is still willing to walk alongside me on that old road. Without my partner, I just can’t make it even if grace set me free to travel this road.”(1)
Now, back to what’s happening right now, moment by moment. “[Jesus] speaks about those who are in the process of keeping the commandments… [Jesus] is speaking to those who already keep the commandments. You and I are in the process of keeping the commandments. That’s called trying! We are not people who have already kept the commandments. That would be dying! The only point in my life where I will be able to say, ‘I have kept Your commandments,’ is when my journey is over. Until then, we are in the process of keeping. Some days we progress faster than others. Some days we fall harder than others. But as long as the partner is walking with us, we are in the process of keeping – and we are loved by the Father.” (1) Now, that is something I can rest in. That is something I can place all my confidence in. That is something I can have joy unspeakable, full of glory in!
So, we’ve looked at when I “keep” and how I “keep on keeping” because of Your partnership. But what does it mean to “keep”? The Greek verb is “tereo.” It means “to guard, to observe, to attend to carefully.” It’s a military term, a prison term. When guarding, you could be keeping something from loss or injury. You are keeping your eye on it. Figuratively it meant fulfilling a command. You were fulfilling Your duty in all alertness. You might be withholding something for that purpose. You’re holding fast, serving, watching, as you care for what you are set over. Metaphorically, it was to keep one in the state in which he is.
I like that last definition. What if I am to keep Your words, Your precepts, Your way, just the way it is, just the way it has always been in You? What if I am to guard it so carefully and guard You so carefully that You remain the same as You have always been? What if I am to be moment by moment keeping You and keeping Your way intact, whole, holy? What if I am guarding You and Your way and upholding it? What if I am observing the heart of Your way? How could I ever do this to the letter without walking with the Letter Writer? Thank God that You partner with me so that I can keep Your way! I can fulfill Your commands. I can fulfill my duty in love and in all alertness. I can withhold my own desires to fulfill Your purpose in me and to see Your Way be done. You keep me in You. You keep me keeping Your Way.
But what do I need to “keep.” I need to keep Your “commandments.” Now this is a tough one. A lot of people believe You did away with the commandments and the Torah (the teaching in the Old Testament). But You say You didn’t come to abolish the law but that it might be fulfilled. So I am to obey ALL the commandments. But they look a lot different through Your eyes. You prescribed them by reason of who You are and by reason of Your authority. You understand them. You get them. You know the heart intent. And You can make us to know that too.
So now I’m going to skip up to 2 Timothy 4:7 because it is talking about this keeping and what it looks like when we’ve finished it. “I have fought the good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.” Now, look at what Skip Moen saw when he meditated on these words. “But when we read the text like it is written (‘the faith I have kept’) we realize that Paul is not talking about his personal beliefs. He is taking about the faith, a way of life that exists independently of his thinking, which he has carefully followed…’Keep the faith’ meant ‘Be meticulous in your practice of Torah.’ Guard it. Watch over it. Observe it with great attention. Why? Because this is the way God desires us to live. This is Yeshua’s example. This is what makes us distinctive. This is how God draws others to Himself. Tereo is “to fulfill a duty, a precept or a law.’ It’s pretty hard to imagine that Paul could mean anything other than Torah observance when he used tereo. That was the summary of his entire life.”
Now this might seem wrong to some people. Follow the law? But we are saved by grace. Yes. It’s not about following just Torah or just the law. It’s about understanding the heart of the law which has always been God’s way. You know, Jesus was Torah observant. He knew the intent, the heart of God and He obeyed. There is duty and love in obedience. And it’s all for our good. There are things in Scripture that we ignore because we think it’s only for the Jew, but we miss it’s beauty and benefit because we’ve ignored it. What if obedience isn’t just for our good or our duty? What if obedience is for our relationship, for our understanding of our Partner? What if our obedience is all about our partnership?
One year, we obeyed the Sabbath teachings, as best we could. I learned so much. I didn’t obey because I had to. I obeyed because I wanted to. I thought, maybe I’m missing something. And I was. I wish I could still do it. It was a different, new way of thinking, even though it was an old way of thinking. But I grew in my relationship with You, Lord. Because I took time to enjoy You and Your way and to understand You more. I was keeping a command that most of us throw away. And You were faithful to Your word. It was a way of remaining in Your love, in You, more deeply.
Now, I’m not condemned or lost because I don’t get to obey that command all the time. But, I do miss out on what I do not keep. And I do gain by what I do keep. Oh my Goodness, I think I could go on and on in the beauty of today’s truth. As long as I am “keeping,” there is no condemnation. Keeping Your commandments is such a beautiful privilege!
Every day this is a process. Every day I have choices to make about whether I am going to keep on keepin’ on in You. Will I partner with You and walk with You? Will I hold Your hands as we travel along together? I am still on the journey. And I am not alone. I walk with the One who has completed the journey successfully. In You, I can keep on keeping on.
Lord, I want to keep Your way. I want to guard it and live in it. I want my life to depend upon it. I want to love Your commandments, Your teaching, Your heart. Even when it’s hard to understand, I want to test it out. I want to just do it by faith and walk with You in it and through it. I want to remain walking in Your way, doing what You do, doing what You’ve always done, because that’s where You are. And where You are is where I want to be. I want to love Your commands because I love You. I want to live in You so that I can experience Your love. I need a Partner. I can’t do it on my own. Make me Your faithful partner.
Photo from Tori Avey.