Faithfulness is a concept lost on many people, if not simply misunderstood. Some have swallowed the false doctrine of Predestination and believe that God does everything and man has to do nothing, and consequently live their lives falsely believing God will preserve them in the end, no matter what kind of life they have lived here on Earth. They are told that God has already chosen and predetermined who will be saved, so nothing you can do will ever change that, and so those who accept that as true will not be concerned over keeping commandments or even keeping the faith because, again, God does all the work.

Just as wrong are those who redefine "faithful" to mean whatever it is they are doing, even when it means they do little or nothing at all in their service to the Lord. Some seldom assemble with the brethren, but consider themselves "faithful"; some never crack their Bibles to study, but consider themselves "faithful"; and some never lift a hand for the work of the Lord's kingdom, but consider themselves 'faithful." To some, it appears [by the way they live] that "faithfulness" is merely not fully indulging in worldliness and outright ungodliness. Some see "faithfulness" as a mere mental acknowledgment of God's existence and sovereignty over all, but not by living a life that would reflect that conviction. Sadly, either of these false concepts have been the cause for the Lord's name being blasphemed and ridiculed.

Though many do not believe man has a part in his salvation [i.e., God does everything], the Bible teaches us something quite different; the Bible — God's will revealed to us in written form — tells us man does play a part, and that part is in the keeping. But keeping what?

Keeping the Word. Most everyone has the opportunity to hear God's word at some point in their lives, but hearing is not enough. Jesus once told the Parable of the Sower and, in that story, told of how a sower sowed seed and the seed fell on four different kinds of soil: the wayside, the rocky, the thorny, and the good. In explaining the parable, Jesus said the seed was the word of God (Luke 8:11), and the different kinds of soil were the different kinds of hearts that might hear the word; in explaining the good soil, He said, “But the ones that fell on the good ground are those who, having heard the word with a noble and good heart, keep it and bear fruit with patience” (Luke 8:15).

In the parable, the ones who did this were the only ones who bore any fruit, and the clear implication is that there were the only ones who responded properly to the hearing of the word: They kept the word in their hearts and the keeping was what allowed them to produce a positive result. In this is a lesson for us: Are we keeping the word of God in our hearts when we hear it, or do we let the devil take it away (Luke 8:12), allow the trials and temptations of life to cause us to fall away (Luke 8:13), or the cares and riches of this world to choke it out of us (Luke 8:14)? Jesus tells us it is the keepers of the word who are worthy of praise, and will plainly state it later, “…blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it!” (Luke 11:28).

Keeping Self Pure. When Paul was closing out his first letter to the young evangelist Timothy, he gave several exhortations and commands, among those being the admonition, “keep yourself pure” (1 Tim. 5:22). This admonition echoes what James said was necessary for one to have “pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father”: the need to “keep oneself unspotted from the world” (Jas. 1:27). Though Paul and James used two different Greek words, the meaning is essentially the same thing: We must keep ourselves spiritually pure, or clean; whether that is speaking of being generally clean in a spiritual sense or, as the word Paul used can imply, fleshly purity, this is something we must not ignore or downplay.

Let us first note, too, that keeping ourselves pure means we are pure. As Christians, we have been purified from sin by the precious blood of Jesus Christ (Titus 2:14) and by our obedience to His will (1 Pet. 1:22), but Christians can and do still sin (1 John 1:8, 10), so it is necessary that we continue doing the things that God said will once again make us clean (1 John 1:9).

But, to keep ourselves pure also means we make a conscious effort to avoid those things that will pollute us. Holiness is the way of life we must now live, as God's people, and without it, we certainly won't see God (cf. Heb. 12:14).

Keeping Self In the Love of God. One of Jude's last admonitions was simple: “keep yourselves in the love of God” (Jude 1:21). We could read that as keeping ourselves in God's love for us, but that is not within our control, for nothing can, in fact, separate us from the love of God (Rom. 8:38, 39); that is His part, anyway — not ours. Our part is keeping within ourselves a love for God as it should be. Since we are commanded to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind” (Matt. 22:37), and that command being the greatest, let us not fail in maintaining that love as it should be, for it is the loss of that love that has led entire congregations to be in danger of being separated from Christ (cf. Rev. 2:4, 5).

And let us not fool ourselves, either; we cannot love God and the things of this world (cf. Matt. 6:24), and even trying to do so makes us the enemies of God (1 John 2:15; Jas. 4:4). Let us never forget the things of this world will pass away, but the love of God abides forever. It will have been a colossal waste of one's life if we either never love God, or — worse — cease loving Him.

Keeping the Faith. The apostle Paul came to the end of his earthly life and could honestly write, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Tim. 4:7); with this, he could also then write, “Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing” (2 Tim. 4:8). Paul was not boasting, and he certainly had learned that righteousness did not come by meritorious works; but he also knew that God and Christ didn't "do it all." He knew he had a part in his salvation, and that was never giving up.

Paul knew God had conceived the plan for our salvation and revealed it through the Holy Spirit, but he also knew he had a responsibility to obey it; he knew it was Christ's blood that cleansed him, but he also knew he had to remain pure; he knew it was God's love that moved Him to send His only Son to die for us, that whoever believes might have eternal life (John 3:16), but he also knew he had to act on that conviction and never cease believing; and he knew that God had promised eternal life to those who obeyed the gospel, but he also knew he could never turn back to the ways of the world and expect to still receive that reward (cf. 2 Pet. 2:20, 21).

Let us keep these things, as faithful servants, knowing the Lord is able to keep for us that which we have committed to Him until we meet face-to-face (cf. 2 Tim. 1:13). The Lord has certainly given us much, so let us keep the faith! -— Steven Harper