John 14:23-24, 30-31 - Jesus answered him, "If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word, and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him. Whoever does not love Me does not keep My words. And the word that you hear is not Mine but the Father's who sent Me. ... "I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming. He has no claim on Me. But I do as the Father has commanded Me, so that the world may know that I love the Father."
Do you keep old love letters? How about on your phone—do you save texts and voice mails from people in your family, people you love—even if they've passed away? If so, you are not unusual. We treasure the words of the people we love.
When Jesus was talking to His disciples on the night He was arrested, He said, "If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word." That word "keep" gets a lot of us Christians into trouble; we immediately begin thinking of obedience (which is fine) or earning our way into God's favor (which is impossible). And then we tie ourselves up in legalistic knots trying to "keep" all the Commandments we can think of—or we do the opposite, and run as fast as we can in the opposite direction, giving up on Christian obedience entirely.
But it doesn't have to be this way! The Greek word for "keep" is tereo, which means to keep, to attend to carefully, to treasure. It is what you do with anything you love. You do not ignore it or treat it with disdain; you watch over it, you give your heartfelt attention to it, you preserve it. Mothers keep their children in this way (and sometimes even their artwork); adoring fans of a teacher or celebrity keep their words close to their hearts.
It can be this way for us, too, in our lives as followers of Jesus. We know His love—we saw it in action to save us, when He suffered for our sake. We saw it when He died for us, and when He rose to give us eternal life. Jesus has our hearts. He is our Savior, and we love Him.
This puts a different spin on the idea of keeping His word. He loves us, and we love Him—of course we will cherish His word! Of course we will keep it in mind, think about it, think about Him. And we will try, however weakly and falteringly, to do the things He asks us to do. It is our joy to make Him happy. This has nothing do with "earning salvation"—He has earned that for us already. It has everything to do with saying "I love you" to Him in whatever way we can, through words and actions.
To be sure, we don't always feel the love. That's okay. Feelings come and go, and we can't build a life—or our faith—on feelings. But whether we "feel" love or not, we can always "do" love through our actions—just as we carry out loving actions toward our families and friends regardless of our emotions at the time. We won't keep His word perfectly, any more than a newly walking toddler manages to stay upright all the time. But the Holy Spirit will work in us so that we grow in love for God that shows itself in our lives.
THE PRAYER: Dear Lord, increase my love for You and help it to blossom in actions that please You. Amen.
This Daily Devotion was written by Dr. Kari Vo.
1. Have you ever lost a valuable item from someone you wanted to keep? What was it?
2. Do you think there was difference of opinion among the disciples in what it meant to keep Jesus' words?
3. How does obedience figure into loving God?
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