From yesterday's discussion, did you come up with any Bible verses you would guard with your life? What about John 3:16? “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Is that verse valuable enough to die for? It has been for many of those martyrs throughout history who have refused to deny Jesus.
Were you thinking about the 23rd Psalm… the Lord's Prayer… Isaiah 9:6? Or were you hanging out in the “other section of the Bible, the “Thou shalt not…” section—trying to figure out which commandments you could and would “keep”?
But it's all one Word—the parts we like and the parts we don't, the parts we know we can do and the parts we think to be impossible. We are to guard them all—because we want to, because they have value to us.
It is critical to differentiate between keeping His commandments, and keeping religious ceremony. They are entirely different. Starting at the end of the eleventh century, Christians fought Muslims in nine different Crusades spanning almost 200 years. At first thought, it would appear these Christian soldiers must have had a correct view of keeping God's commandments, because all of them risked their lives—many to the point of death. But the Crusades were about politics and religion—not about the Word of God. The primary objective was to retake the Christian holy sites from the Muslims. The soldiers were dying, not because they were “keeping” the Word, but because of a top‐level decision to keep religious practices.
It is also critical to differentiate between keeping His commandments, and keeping watch over one's own emotions. An impressive outpouring of emotion doesn't necessarily demonstrate a keeping of God's commandments. As I heard the Christian singer Carman once say, “It's not how high you jump, but how straight you walk when you land.” I have jumped really high emotionally, but when I landed I continued to walk suspiciously around many of God's commandments as if they were toxic.
Again, it's all one Word, given by one God, for the benefit of one person—you. And how you view the keeping of God's commandments has everything to do with your ability to know Him and love Him. I just can't see how it is possible to know and cherish all of God without knowing and cherishing everything He says.
We must stop living in the past. We no longer have to be imprisoned by an old‐covenant mindset, where our right standing with God is determined by our own good works. The Israelites couldn't keep God's commandments on their own, and neither can we. But we don't have to be on our own. Jesus established a new covenant for us. And the keys to our freedom, if we will just reach for them, are already in our pocket, so‐to‐speak—God's law written on our hearts.
Please go back and study this series before continuing.
The idea of keeping God's commandments will continue to appear unrealistic or even ridiculous as long as we continue to dislike them and/or consider them impossible to accomplish. But loving God is unmistakably connected to keeping His commandments, as illustrated in just a few of many verses:
Know therefore that the LORD thy God, he [is] God, the faithful God, which keepeth covenant and mercy with them that love him and keep his commandments to a thousand generations…. (Deuteronomy 7:9)
But take diligent heed to do the commandment and the law, which Moses the servant of the LORD charged you, to love the LORD your God, and to walk in all his ways, and to keep his commandments, and to cleave unto him, and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul. (Joshua 22:5)
My son, keep my words, And treasure my commands within you. Keep my commands and live, And my law as the apple of your eye. (Proverbs 7:1–2 NKJV)
If you love Me, keep My commandments. (John 14:15 NKJV)
If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father's commandments and abide in His love. (John 15:10 NKJV)
By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous. (1 John 5:2–3)
The word “keep” in both the Hebrew and the Greek has an element of guarding about it, as if you already have what you want to protect. But it's difficult to “keep” what you don't have. If the commandments of God are not written in your heart they are almost impossible to keep, because they are not yet yours. They don't belong to you. They are not yet in your possession. It's like trying to keep watch over something that's out of your sight and out of your control.
Take into your possession the commandments of God you don't like or can't do. Don't avoid them, take them. Don't walk around them as if they are toxic. They are good for you—all of them. I took a healthy dose of psyllium husk powder this morning in a glass of water (affectionately called my “slurry”). There's nothing emotionally appealing about this process, but it's good for my body. I “keep” this process every single day, with very few exceptions, not because I look forward to the process, but because I look forward to the results.
Form a flow chart in your mind with the following three points regarding God's love:
- All love originates with God. God is love (see 1 John 4:8, 16).
- When we love God, we are just giving back to Him what He gave to us in the first place (see 1 John 4:19).
- Any love we have for other people is not self‐generated, but flows through us from God (see 1 John 4:7).
Your ability to know and love God is necessarily proportional to the amount of His commandments written on your heart. The more of His commandments that you are willing to guard with your life, the greater is your ability to know Him and love Him.
Please do not misunderstand me. Keeping His commandments is not about good behavior; good behavior is a by‐product of a changed mind. Instead, just take every Word from God—even if you don't like it… don't understand it… can't do it—and cherish that Word. As you “keep” it, as you hold it up above anything of your own doing, your behavior will begin to respond.
If you are struggling in your love for God—if you feel distant from Him—please realize you have nothing to love Him with unless He gives it to you in the first place. And He can't give you what you won't accept.
If you will only accept “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want (Psalm 23:1)” but won't accept “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations (James 1:2)” then you are limiting what you can receive from Him. To know Him is accept everything… everything coming from Him.
People do not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God. (Matthew 4:4 NLT)
The key here is “every.” You live by accepting what you do like and what you don't like, by accepting what you do understand and what you don't understand. You live by “every” word that comes from the mouth of God. Just as it is with food, you can't live with a diet restricted to what feels good. Maybe you can “exist” but that's not living.
Have a good weekend,