I remember speaking with a young man back in the early 90’s. He commented about me being religious to which I disagreed. As I tried to explain the difference between being religious and being saved, I ended by asking him this question, “Do you know about God or do you know God personally?” His reply was that he only knew about God. A truthful answer which opened the door for me to present the gospel. It was probably very easy for him to answer because his life was devoid of any religious activity and more than likely filled with sin. But how difficult would it have been had he been very religious. He could have convinced himself that he knew God based on biblical knowledge and the laundry list of do’s and don’ts that he follows. God knew this would happen to man. So he presented a heart condition as the determining factor. This litmus test of the heart would enable man to determine his right standing with God.
And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. (1 John 2:3-4)
What do these verses mean? More than likely we have heard it preached that if you know God you will keep or obey his commandments. Sounds good. So let’s check. He who has always obeyed God’s commandments, please step forward and declare that you know God. Hmmm, no response. But wait a minuted, don’t we all sin. It must mean those who try their best at keeping God’s commandments are the ones that know him. However the scripture states that if we don’t keep his commandments then the truth is not in us. I guess that leaves all of us out. Help!!!
The word keep can have many meanings one of which is “to guard (by keeping the eye upon), hold fast, or watch”. If this definition were put into the passage, it would state that those who know God will guard the commandments or live their lives with the heart’s focus on God’s commandments for the purpose of observing them. I am first to admit that I sin daily, but with the same breath, I also guard the commandments in my heart for intent of observing them. I may sin daily, but the truth is in me.
The former “keep” meaning to obey is impossible for me and every person on the planet, but to “keep” meaning to guard is attainable. Stop trying to attain the sinless perfect life. You will fail miserably in defeat. Live the guarded heart life. If you do, the sins will diminish and your relationship with God will be a heart based relationship instead of a performance based one.
Can you confidently say that you have obeyed God’s commandments? I cannot, but I can with great confidence say that I have guarded the commandments in my heart.