“These things I command you, that you love one another.” John 15:17
I feel like I’ve been here forever, thinking about the same things, listening to them being told to me over and over again, only in different words. And that’s O.K. I need to hear the same thing over and over again, especially since it’s this important, especially since it’s all about my relationship with You and with others.
Google was somewhat helpful just now. I searched for how many times we need to repeat something before we learn it. It seems like we need a lot of repetition, like 17-20 some repetitions. But when looking at forming a habit, it took anywhere from 21 days for easier habits to 86 days. Since the study only lasted that long, they extrapolated that some habits would take 254 days to form. And then I found out that it took 7o some days just to break one bad habit.
So it’s no wonder how much You choose to repeat things and tell me in different words. But then I have to not just listen. What You command me, what You enjoin me to, what You charge me to do, what You tell me to fulfil in You, must turn into action. It must turn into repeated action. It must turn into actual action after actual action after actual action. What You command, I must do.
I didn’t learn how to write all at once. First I learned to hold the crayon or pencil. Then I just got the feel for it. I experienced the fact that when I put it to the paper with some pressure, it made marks. So at first my drawing looked like scribbles. But every time I tried again, my eyes and my hands learned to work together and understand each other better and they learned to understand the function of the crayon. Every time I practiced, I gained better control, until that day I could finally draw a picture or write my name.
“All these things I’ve told you, all these things I’ve commanded you, You need to know them and do them so that You will love one another. Every one of these things is essential to your learning. You must practice these things I’ve been teaching you. It’s not enough to preach about them or talk about them. You must do it, perform it, live it.”
Now, all Your words count. But just for an example I’m going to go back and start in John 14 where this particular conversation appears to have started. And isn’t it something that it starts with this lesson- “If a man loves Me, he will keep My words.” Knowledge enough to obey, and a subsequent choice to obey, means love of the Father. This is recipricol love. And how does the world know that You, Jesus, love the Father? You do what He commands. Keep repeating this for me.
How do I bear fruit? I obey Your promises and commands and let You bear it through me. I practice what You preach. I am only clean through the word You have spoken when I believe it and act upon it. I abide in You when I obey, as I obey. But that’s funny. Because I just searched for uses of obey in Scripture and John never uses the word obey in his writings. Now there are some different words used for “obey” in the New Testament in 24 different scattered verses. It conveys the meaning of listening intentively or conforming to authority. So, what is John trying to get me to understand differently?
John doesn’t use that word “obey.” I think I found what he chose to focus on. “Keep.” “Keep my sayings.” Jesus said of God, “I know Him and keep His sayings.” “Keep my commandments.” “If a man loves me he will keep my words…” “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.” So, I wonder if there was a difference for John between keeping and obeying?
There was one thing I read in the meaning of “obey” that got me to thinking. “Obey” can mean to be persuaded by an authority. And of course, I do need to be persuaded by You because first You must choose me and give me eyes to see and a heart to understand. But true obedience, effectual obedience must go deeper than that, it must go beyond that. True obedience must go beyond being compelled from the outside, and must move to being compelled from our own changed heart.
“Keep”, “tereo” means to keep, guard, obey, observe. It’s like a soldier keeping watch where he has been commanded. He’s guarding, protecting, observing, preserving, storing, and keeping things in the condition in which he was entrusted with them. Now let’s compare this with the Hebrew word for “obey”, “shama.” It implied “to hear intelligently; to consider and consent with contentment; to diligently discern and perceive with the ear; to give ear.”
Now those two definitions seem a little different. But when I stop to think about it, John was Hebrew. He was very familiar with the “Old Testament” idea of shama. I think he really grasped that because I see it in his responses to others and to Jesus. He was not a quick speaker. I can see him resting at Your side, Jesus, just listening and hearing. I can see him considering and consenting to Your words with utter contentment, especially at the moment where he was leaning up against You. I hear in his writings how he diligently discerned and perceived the truth behind and within Your words. He gave ear, he took them to heart, and he lived them out. Yes, John kept Your words, Your commands. And this is what he is teaching me to do, with an attitude like this.
So, when did obeying lose the meaning of “hearing intelligently?” I wanted to make sure I understood that phrase. It means to listen with the ability to understand or reason. It means knowing, understanding, being informed and skilled. I can listen attentively and with understanding to Your commands and Your words because You give me the ability through the understanding of the Holy Spirit who teaches me (over and over again, I might thankfully add!) When in the “New Testament” did it lose the meaning of considering and consenting with contentment? Oh, Lord, I ought to consider and consent to all You say with the greatest of contentment and satisfaction. This King that I believe in and serve is caring for me, protecting me, including me! What a privilege to be kept in Him and responsible for keeping that which He charges me with! When did obedience lose the meaning of diligently discerning and perceiving with the ear? When did listening to the voice of my beloved King, become a chore? I diligently listen and perceive because I love the sound of Your voice, I love the effects of Your voice, I love the presence of Your voice, I love the authority and protection of Your voice. So, when did this idea of obedience change?
Sometimes you just have to go back to where things started. Sometimes you just have to dig for the roots. So, I need to take myself back to the heart of the matter. And You, Lord, are the heart of the matter. Am I keeping You as close and dear as You keep me? It’s only when I know and experience the depth of Your keeping me that I can share that same beautiful keeping with others. There is nothing better than being kept by You and being given the privilege of keeping that which You place in my hands for You. I couldn’t help but look up “keep” in Webster’s dictionary. I like that Godly man. He defines keep as “to hold; to retain in one’s power or possession; not to lose or part with….to have in custody for security or preservation…to preserve; to retain…to preserve from falling or from danger; to protect; to guard or sustain…to hold or restrain from departure; to detain… to tend; to have the care of…to tend, to feed, to pasture…to practice; to do or perform; to obey; to observe in practice; not to neglect or violate…to fulfill; to perform…to use habitually…to copy carefully…to observe or solemnize…to hold in one’s own bosom. And this was just part of his definition!
“These things, not just in the ‘New Testament’, I’ve told you, so that you can put them to practice and love like Me. I’ve shared myself with You in the most intimate way. I’ve shared myself with you so that you know my heart, you know Me. If you love Me, you’ll love my words, my sayings. They’re not heavy, they are freeing. Love my words, you love me. They represent me. And what about you? Do you love Me? Then you ought to represent me through my word. You ought to be the representation of My love, of Me, to others. To love the King is to love all that He stands for. To love the King is to love representing Him. And don’t forget, I love you back even better!”
Lord, I love Your sayings. I want to obey them not because I have to, not because I ought to, but because I love You and I want to please You and be near You. I want to remain where I can keep hearing Your strong voice. I want to remain fighting by Your side. I want to remain in Your strength. I want You to be so close to my bosom, I can’t get You out. I want to find all my contentment in You. I want to love Your sayings whether they are hard or easy because You are the best part of them. When “this is too hard” for me, I want to keep You more tightly and I want You to keep me more tightly. I will not walk away for something easier.
No other King will ever fight for me as strongly as You. No other King would ever love me with His own life. No other King can promise me what You do. No other King cares for my heart, for all of me as You do. No other King can ever satisfy. No other King can ever love me so greatly, protect me so efficiently, equip me so fully, include me so intimately. What hard thing is worth walking away from You for? I’m keeping You, Lord, because You keep me. I am eternally grateful and eternally content in You And I will continually learn and practice loving like You. You so overflow and overwhelm!