From the Preacher’s Pen…
As children, we begin to learn to communicate by words. As any parent or child can tell you, the exact words you use make a great deal of difference. Certain words will cause you to get in trouble and other words will bring you loving hugs.
The same lesson is true of Christians. We learn the language of God and the meaning of the words that God or even mature, adult Christians use are of great importance.
Real Bible study involves the careful consideration and weighing of the words that God uses. Perversion or twisting of God’s words is what Satan does (remember what he told Eve or the temptations of Jesus in Matthew 4?).
To the nation of Israel God gave the basics of His law in 10 words. Most translations use the English word “commandment” but God refers to them (Exodus 34:28) as the “words of the covenant, the 10 words.” In misunderstanding something so seemingly inconsequential we foster the concept of checking off 10 items with God instead of keeping all of His commands.
It is easy for us to object to serious, in-depth study and many will boldly proclaim that God doesn’t what us to actually work hard at learning and doing His will (but remember 2 Timothy 2:15). But no one can actually claim to be a student, a disciple of Christ and skip the real study. Learning God’s precepts (check out the use of that English word in your Bible as it refers to the detailed instructions, procedures, regulations of God) brings joy and understanding (cf. Psalm 19:8).
Solomon (Proverbs 30:5) tells us that every word of God is tested (refined) and Jesus Himself reminded Satan that man lives on every word that comes from God (Matthew 4:4).
Consider for a moment one of those words of God’s language and some of the lessons that He uses it to teach us:
The Greek word tēreō is usually translated as “keep” (or “kept”), “hold fast” (Revelation 3:3, KJV), “watch” or “guard.” It comes from the word for a military guard (tēros, which is not used in the NT).
The word is used some 80 times in the New Testament and often for the concept of carefully guarding or keeping God’s commandments. It is also used in the literal sense as in Acts 12:6 where the guards guard the prison where Peter is held.
However, it is the figurative use that provides us with both encouragement and a challenge!
One of the great proofs of our salvation is recorded by John (1 John 2:3-5): By this we know that we have come to know Him if we keep His commandments. The one who says, “I have come to know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected.
The proof of truly being a child of God is found in our obedience to Him and His word! A careful reading of 1 John will show this same fact stated in several ways. (John in his Gospel and first letter uses this term some 25 times. Obviously, it is important!)
John specifically mentions that keeping (or guarding) God’s commandments is the key to effective, God-answered prayer (1 John 3:22). In Jesus’ great prayer for His disciples (John 17) He repeatedly talks about guarding His own. He calls for us to guard ourselves in God and asks the Father to guard us. Jesus compared the results of our keeping His commandments with His keeping of the Father’s commandments (John 15:10). Putting those thoughts together we see a complete picture of God’s family as their faithfulness to God in obedience to Him results in the real love of God!
Other New Testament uses encourage us to purity of life. Paul tells Timothy (and us all) to keep ourselves pure (1 Timothy 5:22). James echoes that in writing that pure religion involves keeping ourselves unspotted from the world (James 1:27). If we would stay pure in this wicked world we must be ever vigilant of our lives and guard ourselves from what will defile us.
When we come to the end of our lives we need to be able to say with Paul that we have fought the good fight, finished our course and kept (observed attentively and guarded protectively) the faith (2 Timothy 4:7)!
Keeping or guarding the faith means so much more than just checking off a couple of good deeds done. It is our life and who we really are in action. And its importance to us all is found in Jesus’ reminder, “Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps My word he will never see death” (John 8:51). May we learn to keep the things of God!
— Lester P. Bagley