Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Keeping oneself

Preamble: This is the sermon (notes) for my sermon at a Divine Healing Service, for 16 Aug 2014 (It flows like an article, and so, you should have no problem reading it through) [the underscorings are only to assist in my sermon delivery; the gray-shaded portion may NOT be shared in the sermon (due to time-constraint)].

Does the Bible talk about keeping oneself? It does, here are some examples:

1. Jude 1:21 (NIV) – keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life.

2. James 1:27 (NIV) - Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. 

3. 2 Tim 2:21 (NLT) - If you keep yourself pure, you will be a special utensil for honorable use. Your life will be clean, and you will be ready for the Master to use you for every good work.

4.   1 John 5:18 (NKJV) - We know that whoever is born of God does not sin; but he who has been born of God keeps himself, and the wicked one does not touch him. (KJV) - We know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not; but he that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not.

Today, we want to talk about the issue of “who keeps you?”, you or God or you working with God? (We will return to the above scriptures later in the article).

Who keeps you? Overly grace or hyper-grace teachings purport God and God alone keeps you, and it is all God’s part, none your part.

On the other extreme, there is the “you alone need to keep yourself”.

What is the correct perspective? It is this: it is you and I working with God to keep ourselves; and there is the God’s part and there is our part.


The view of “it is all God’s part”, is increasingly popular, because the overly grace or hyper-grace teachings are popular (hyper-grace is popular, but overly skewed; teachings that are overly skewed can tantamount to being wrong!).

Firstly, Scripture or the Word; its primary intent is to be instructive, even when it is also informative; and it is instructive, NOT to instruct God, but to instruct us, men. 

It is funny that increasingly we can find expositions being put forth to interpret scriptures as if God was letting us know what He is telling Himself to do!  God did talk about what He would do, in Scripture, but His key purpose is to prescribe to us the way of life for us, and so, generally speaking, it is what He would want us to do. 

The Bible is correctly likened to be a manual to direct our lives. So, we have to be careful if we do interpret from “God is telling Himself what He has to do”.  Rather, it is we are to be attentive to “What is God telling us what we need to do.”  So, how can the Word be about “it is all God’s part”?!  A rhetoric question, and the answer is “no’.

Let us go back to the scriptures given at the start of this article, to see that indeed, there is the “our part”. The scriptural texts given above, are NOT with “God to keep us”, but “We to keep ourselves”.  Referencing the scriptures above,

1.   It is NOT God instructing Himself to keep us in His love (for Jude 1:21). The love referred to, is His; He can just tell Himself, directly, is it NOT? Why put it as an instruction to us, if God is to tell Himself?!  God is telling us to keep ourselves; we, to keep ourselves …. in His love (I will not dwell into the detailed exposition of this Jude 1 passage, as I will separately put up a series on it, in the future).

2.   For the James 1:27 text, who practises religion?  God or us?  It is talking about us.  Who is to keep himself pure, God or us?  Cannot be God, for God is pure, and He cannot be polluted/be in sin.  Is it God to keep us pure or prevent us from being polluted by the world?
God telling Himself what to do, and that there is no part of us, to keep from being polluted by the world?  We can “push all buck” back to God?!  We can say to God, this: God, I am polluted, don’t blame me; you are supposed to keep me from it; you did NOT do a good job, right?!  No, the text is instructing us.

3.   The Apostle Paul was, in the 2 Tim 2 text, telling Timothy to keep himself pure, to stay away from ignoble, so that he (Timothy) could be used of God for noble purposes. 

Paul was NOT telling us that God was telling Himself to keep Timothy pure so that He could use him for His noble purposes.  It is Timothy was to keep himself pure.

4.   We come to this 1 John 5 text.  This is the common text used in overly grace or hyper-grace teachings to purport God does all the keeping; nothing to do with us doing any part!  (We are going to discussed this in more details; it also gets a little technical).

How come this 1 John 5 could be easily passed off as the support for such extreme saying of “God does all the keeping”?  One reason is the way the verse was translated in many Bible translations. 
The ones I have given above, those of NKJV and KJV, they do NOT point to that conclusion – that God does all the keeping. 
Are there other translations, apart from King James translations that are NOT saying it is God/Christ doing the keeping?  Yes, here are 2 more:
(CEB [Common English Bible]) - We know that everyone born from God does not sin, but the ones born from God guard themselves, and the evil one cannot touch them.

ASV - We know that whosoever is begotten of God sinneth not; but he that was begotten of God keepeth himself, and the evil one toucheth him not.

One translation (there are others) that said it is God who is the one who keeps, is the NIV Bible:

NIV (2011) - We know that anyone born of God does not continue to sin; the One who was born of God keeps them safe, and the evil one cannot harm them. (1984 version did NOT capitalize the "one"!)
Now, although several other translations indicated “God keeps him”, we find that most of them (NOT the NIV though), actually used “but” in the verse.  I give below 2 such translations:

NASB - We know that no one who is born of God sins; but He who was born of God keeps him, and the evil one does not touch him.

ESV - We know that everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning, but he who was born of God protects him, and the evil one does not touch him.

The common use of “but” is such that we are referring to the same object or subject, on both sides of the “but”, the before portion and the after portion.  For example, this apple is sweet, but it is expensive or small.  The “it” before the “but” and the “it” after the “but” refers to the same thing – “this apple”.

So, “the one/everyone who is born of God” before the “but” and the one born of God after the “but”, may well be the same – the believer, and NOT for the before portion, believer, and the after portion, God/the Son of God/Jesus.

I believe the text is along this line: “We know that no one (referring to a person) who is born of God sins, but he, the person who is born of God, keeps himself, and the evil one does not touch him (the person).”

This verse actually is meaning to say that a believer (a person born of God) does NOT habitually sin (NOT that it is impossible for him to sin or that he can never sin); his disposition (if he will yield to it) from his new creation (born again/born of God) is that he is NOT to be sinning habitually or in lifestyle; but rather he, the believer, he keeps himself from sinning or keep himself pure; his disposition is to keep himself from sinning or keep himself pure, and (when he is so) the evil one does NOT touch him/touch him NOT.
This was the case for Jesus; Satan could NOT touch Him (Matt 4 for eg. Jesus’ Temptations), and He, Jesus, concerning His death and resurrection, said He chose to lay His life down, and then to take it up again (NOT that the Devil could touch Him) – John 10:17.

So, this 1 John 5:18 is talking to the believer that he is to keep himself (from sinning), and when he is determined to and does that, the enemy touch him NOT.  Imitate Jesus, in other words. The devil, Scripture said, is like a roaring lion, roaming around to devour whom he CAN devour. 

1 Pet 5:8 (KJV) - Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:

Who is to keep sober and keep vigilant?  Us, Not God.

If the believer determined in his heart to and does keep himself pure, he is devour-able NOT, to the devil, or we say the devil devours him NOT.

It makes a mockery of the Word (egs. James 1:13-15, James 4:7) to suggest that a believer does NOT need to resist temptations or the devil, and can be cavalier with command of the Word NOT to sin, and God MUST still condone him and keep him from falling into sins, with consequences. 

Here is another “keep” – Prov 4:23 – “Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.  Who is being referred to, God or us?  Who is to keep his heart; God or us?  Yes, this Proverb verse is speaking to us – we are to keep our heart with all diligence.  God to keep our heart?  No, it is we are to keep our heart. 

In fact, this is the one of the most fundamental ways God looks at our lives – We are to keep our heart with all diligence, because from the heart, our words and actions come forth, and so, the things we say or do, in our lives.  
You and I have become children of God, but it does NOT mean that now we have no responsibility for our lives anymore, that it has now become God’s sole responsibility.  It is ridiculous how some overly grace teachings implicitly, purport this: “Well, God, you got me into salvation-what; you got to make sure you get my butt to Heaven!”

Please, the author of the Book of Hebrews warned: Heb 10:26-29 -  26 If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left,  27 but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God.  28 Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses.  29 How much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God under foot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace?

I hope the above has convinced you that you cannot just “pass all the buck” to God.
Now, am I therefore, suggesting or teaching that we, as believers, are to be still as before (before our entry into salvation), manage entirely on our own, to keep ourselves, in the hope of living a victorious life now here on earth, and thereafter, to make it to Heaven, being of full felicity?

No, I am NOT saying that; in fact, if we have that posture of “to be doing without working with Him (God)”, like a non-believer could do, we would fail. 

It is imperative that we, as believers, work with God, and be conformed to His ways for us, in how we are to live our lives.  While it is NOT wrong to say, ultimately, it is God who keeps us, because without His help, we cannot make it, it is wrong to say that we have NOT to keep ourselves. 

We have to keep ourselves in the love of God, meaning we have to hold fast to the teachings of God/Word and live in accordance with them; we have to keep ourselves from being polluted by the world; we have to keep ourselves pure so that we could be vessels for God’s use for noble purposes; we have to keep ourselves from sinning; and we have to keep our hearts with all diligence; we have to keep sober and vigilant; and we have to resist the devil and his temptations for us, all with the help of God or His Holy Spirit. 

1 Cor 10:13 gives us a picture of one way God’s help can come through for us: “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.  See, there is the “you are to resist”, as indicated by the phrase, “… you can bear”.  You and I have to resist, have to bear, and when the light breaks in, the night can be over.

One important aspect of the roles of the Holy Spirit that teachers often failed to point out, is that the Holy Spirit is the Helper, the Teacher, etc, but He is NOT primarily the doer; we are the doers! 

It is that simple: we do, He helps; the teacher is NOT the doer, the student/disciple is the doer.  There is the part of us, and there is the part of the Holy Spirit.  While it is right to wait upon the Holy Spirit, but it is foolishness, to be basking in grace, and do nothing, purportedly, waiting for the Holy Spirit to be doing our part/tasks.  Silly us, the Holy Spirit is NOT the doer, we are; He is to help. 

It is also foolishness to be “doing your own things”, and expect the Holy Spirit to be regardless what you do, to be the doer to keep you – to keep you in God’s love, to keep you from being polluted by the world, to keep you pure, to keep you from sinning, and to keep your heart for you, when you are cavalier to keep to the way of life prescribed by God for the believer. 

It is we keep, and we look to God to help us to keep.  A simple metaphor is this:  You, as employee, would NOT be waiting for your big boss to be doing your work, would you?  No, you won’t; you would be the doer, do your work, and you can expect your boss to support you, and help you to accomplish your work. 

Your boss can and will help you, but he should NOT be expected to be doing the work that you are to do; he has the work that he knows he is to do, and he will do them.  You, you are to take care of your part; he, the boss, knows to take care of his part.  Please, don’t treat God more worse than you treat your boss.

Keep yourself, and He will be there, keeping with you.  But if you keep NOT yourself, be careful; He is love, merciful, and faithful, but all of these do NOT equate He MUST (keep you from all undesirables).  Rather, be transformed by the renewal of your mind (soul’s mind) to be in keeping with Him; and direct your volition to be in keeping with Him.  As you keep with Him, you keep yourself, and He keeps with you.

Anthony Chia, high.expressions
PS1: In application, say, for our health, bodily and spiritual, there is a part you and I to play (for eg. To avoid gout, you got to decrease consumption of certain food; do it.  Ex 15:26, commonly quoted for God’s wanting us to be healthy and heal us, when we look carefully, it said we are to keep His commandments – there is a part we play, keep His commandments.)
PS2: Coming a separate series on how one keeps oneself in the love of God; watch out for it.

Comments are welcome here. Alternatively, email them to me @: Or just email me your email address so that I can put you on my blog (new entry) notification list. To go back to blog main page, click here