What Does It Mean to Keep Yourself?

Scripture makes it clear that our salvation and security rests in the Hands of God.  However there are several places in the Scriptures that seem to indicate responsibility on our part.  For instance, in Jude 20-21, Jude says,

“But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life.”

The question is what does it mean to keep yourself?  In order to answer that let’s look at this verse just a little bit.   

First of all, it is important to understand that there is one command in this passage (keep yourselves in the love of God), and then three supporting participial phrases that teach us how to keep ourselves in the love of God (building yourselves up in the holy faith; praying in the Holy Spirit; and waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life). So the key to this passage is Jude’s command to keep ourselves in the love of God. But what does it mean to keep yourself in the love of God? To answer that question we need to start all the way back in verse 1. There Jude referred to Christians as those who are loved and kept by God. So, in verse 21 Jude is commanding us to do the very thing that God is already doing within us. It seems confusing that Jude would give this command, however Jude is simply appealing to our responsibility to respond to God’s work in our life. George Zemek explains this mixture of God’s work and our responsibility to respond to that work in this way:

…What God has done or what He has promised to do becomes the basis and/or the incentive for us to exercise our responsibility… to make progress in holy living.

As God works in our life we have a responsibility to live our lives in a way that is consistent with that work. Let me put it another way using another passage of Scripture as an illustration. In Ephesians 2:8-9 we learn that it is “by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.” Here we see that God has provided a means of salvation through Jesus, and this salvation is a gift. But that is not all that this passage has to say on this issue. Ephesians 2:10 then goes on to tell us what we have been saved unto, or to put it another way, we are being kept for:

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.

On the one hand we have been saved by God’s grace and we are being kept by God. But at the same time God has saved us to do good works, and so we must work hard to do what God has created us to do. Jesus spoke to this responsibility in John 14:15:

If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.

Therefore, when Jude tells us to keep ourselves in the love of God he is essentially telling us to live like real Christians.This makes sense because if we are going to fight for the faith then we can’t be like these fake Christians who have snuck into the church (See Jude 3). Instead, we must demonstrate the work that God has done in our lives by glorifying God with our actions. The problem is that we do not always do this; we do not always live like people who have been transformed by the gracious power of God. The truth is that practically speaking there are many areas of our own lives in which we struggle to follow Jesus. It for this reason that Jude has commanded us to keep ourselves in the love of God, In essence Jude is telling us that we must secure our own position before we can go on the offensive in our fight for the faith.