What does it mean to keep his deeds?

If you were to make a list of big topics discussed by Jesus and the New Testament writers, the subject of deeds or works would have to be on that list. They all spoke about it, and no one more than Jesus.

Jesus rebuked the Pharisees for not doing the works of Abraham (John 8:39-40), and said we would be judged for what we have done (John 5:28-29).

This frightens some people. They think we have to get busy for the Lord and that he will judge us on our performance. “Am I doing enough? Will I make the grade?”

Others are confused. “I thought Jesus wanted to give me rest (Matt. 11:28). Why did he say “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God (Luke 9:62)? What does he want from me – rest or hard work?

All confusion and dead works would end if we only understood the Biblical meaning of work, which is this:

Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you… The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent. (John 6:27, 29)

Everything we do is meant to be grounded on what Christ has done for us. What is a good work? It’s anything that blooms from the seed of Christ’s work.

In the modern church we see hundreds of types of work, but not all of them are good. Some are dead works that reflect unbelief in the finished work of the cross. “I have to save and sanctify myself. I have to prove my salvation through hard work.” These works wear us out and do not result in praise to the Father (see Matt. 5:16).

What about the Revelation letters?

In five of his letters to the Revelation churches, Jesus famously said, “I know your deeds.” But there was one letter where the subject received particular attention. In his letter to Thyatira, Jesus commended the saints for their deeds before briefly discussing the deeds of Jezebel the false prophet and seducer. Her deeds (meaning dead works and sin), will reap destructive consequences, he said. In contrast, their deeds (meaning the faith works of the saints), will be rewarded. Finally, at the close of his letter, Jesus encouraged the saints to keep his deeds to the end.

He who overcomes, and he who keeps my deeds until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations. (Rev. 2:26)

As we have seen elsewhere, an overcomer is someone who believes in Jesus. It is someone who sees themselves as God sees them – dearly loved and empowered with Christ-bought authority.

But what does it mean to keep his deeds?

To keep his deeds is to trust Jesus and keep trusting in his work rather than your own. Keeping his deeds is analogous to keeping his word and holding fast to his name (Rev. 2:13, 25, 3:11). It’s the Revelation equivalent of continuing in the grace of God (Acts 13:43) or continuing in the faith (Col. 1:23). The meaning is the same in each case: To continue in the grace of God is to continue in Jesus. It is refusing to be suckered into sin or seduced into self-trust. It is being grounded and settled in Christ and remaining unmoved from the hope of the gospel.

What if I don’t keep his deeds to the end?

Start striving in the flesh like a Galatian and you’ll lose your liberty. Fall from grace like an Ephesian and you’ll lose sight of your Father’s love. Fool around with sin like a Thyatiran and you could suffer the self-inflicted consequences of sin. But you won’t lose your salvation. There are bad consequences to straying, but you will never cause your Father to unchild you.

But here’s the thing, you won’t be tempted to do any of those things if you keep his deeds.

Do you see? We don’t need a six week series on the difference between good deeds and bad deeds, for the message is simple: Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus and you won’t be seduced by the siren song of Self. Honor his finished work and you will not fall for the counterfeit lure of lesser works.

Three kinds of deeds

In his letter to Thyatira, Jesus mentions his deeds (the finished work of the cross), your deeds (the works of the saints), and her deeds (Jezebel’s wicked ways). Three kinds of deeds. If our deeds are disconnected from his deeds, then her deeds may tempt us. But if our deeds are keeping his deeds, then her deeds will never distract us.

“But Paul, what should I do?”

Well that’s not really the subject of this article – we’re talking about his deeds, not ours, and one should follow the other. But since this question weighed heavily on me when I was a young man, I will share what I have learned. First, find out who you are in God’s eyes. What does your heavenly Father think of you? What dreams has he placed within you? What has he written into your members? Then having established what your Father thinks of you and having made your home in his limitless love, do what comes naturally. What we do always follows who we are. Let God define the latter, and you will figure out the former.

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10 Comments on What does it mean to keep his deeds?

  1. Paul (the apostle) talks about fighting the good fight, running the race — action words. Jesus says we are to abide in Him, to rest. It sounds like a contradiction. But then there’s this: “… work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Phil 2:12-13). So our work is to trust Him and let Him do His work in us and through us.

  2. Defining a couple more words strengthen the point of this post as well.

    Sin – to be without share in

    Share in what? His life.

    Wicked – full of labours, annoyances, hardships

    With this in mind, our focus should be resting in His life.

    Thanks Paul!

    • Starr – As this post pertains to our fright, confusion & comfort re: the Saints that Paul speaks to in his letters to varying Assemblies in the Bride – will “not” be exempt at the Judgement. Jesus said, your “deeds/works will be measured” Jn 5.

      Can you provide a premise for what you many in Christ seem to allude to – that rest is a synonym for “abiding” in Christ & that rest is singularly encompassing the rest day he design for us in the Garden? Would our abiding in God’s promised response of assurance; for our staying in (him) the Light be one in the same Garden rest?

      I can’t find verses that confirm the rest God made for us in the Garden, is the rest we experience from obeying his command to keep on abiding in him – as we respect, follow & obey the command… resting from our 6 days of deeds/works – those deeds/works come from him; as does the rest he commands us to experience on his Sabbath. Not because we are made for it but because we first respect Wisdom.

      God does say, to come to him & take his yoke. Yet, he differentiates between abiding rest & the rest he made for us in the Garden when he declared it holy; clarifying the differences? God commands (he doesn’t suggest or ask our opinion) that the Garden rest day be kept (gratefully accepted) holy by the Saints – to the end of this Age. The Saints have a propensity to “do’ works (not out of their new faith on him; as though it was by something achieved) because he gives us himself first – otherwise, we would not do the works he made for us to do. The the rest we experience by abiding in him comes not from our doings but his assurance that we are in him. In either case, we are responsible & accountable – as Jesus reminds us of the Judgement in Jn 5:28-29.

      • Hello, Steve, II don’t see God as our commander. It would defeat the purpose of giving us a free will to then command what we should do. Rather, He wants us to “choose” life (Deut 30:19). There are promises and blessings that He has commanded for those who choose Him and His life. Rest is something God wanted for us from the beginning. It is a fruit of abiding in Him and His love. He says, “take my yoke…and you will find rest”.

        In Jn 5:29, Jesus is not speaking of good and evil in terms of keeping the law. Good and evil were on the death tree, but we find the tree of life in Him. So “good” in this verse would be choosing Him and experiencing His life. Evil would be the death experienced from choosing the tree of good and evil.

  3. Excellent! Knowing the DNA of his grace placed within me. Thank you Paul for unpacking “deeds” with gentleness and clarity.

  4. Why people on the side of truth ebb & flow from a place (born-again) we say we believe, to a place of being frightened or confused… Being uncomfortable with Jesus teachings, modelling & road-map (bible) he loving provides to bless us – why?

    The Pharisees’ were not on the side of truth when bringing Jesus to the Roman Army Perfect… he said, my law is not at issue here. I have no charges against him; if you do, judge him by your own law. Note: In that very instant… the Pharisees’ bold-faced lied to the Perfect [using the word, “but”] saying, “We have no right to execute anyone…” – yes, they did, if they were true to their laws. Yet, right then, their courage & convictions to the [Oral Written Rules; traditions] man-made laws they made in to law, failed them. Instead of taking Jesus away to be judged & put to death, they reverted to Gods’ command, not to kill or murder – in answering Pilate.

    Why would leaders (Gov’t) rightly placed by God (Rom 13) to govern the people in Judea – not be able to carry out that [capital punishment] which they deemed the penalty at that time – for which they brought Jesus before Pilate – when he said, you judge Jesus & deal him by your law?The answer is in Jesus’ prophecy – when he described the type death he would die, sometime before. Thus: God used the Pharisees to fulfill Jesus prophecy.

    Those on the side of truth will [hear] & listen to Jesus – meaning: they are those who will do the will of the Father. Jn 9:31b.

    You are born-again; Paul Ellis in his comments here says, let God be God… we respect, follow, obey & learn to trust him on our journey with him. Being judged for our deeds & works is not about us. It’s related to what we will experience after the Judgement… your thoughts?

    The above is predicated & supported by the account in Jn 18.

  5. “What we do always follows who we are. Let God define the latter, and you will figure out the former.” Amen! As I remind my students: It’s not “Do be Do be Do” but Be do Be do Be!”

  6. Love it, it is easy to forget that all of the spiritual works you can possibly do are nothing but noise if you don’t have love. Work springs from love for Jesus. If you forget that, it’s easy to read verses about deeds and works from the perspective of “Jesus’ love for me springs from my deeds.” Focusing on the fruit makes you forget about the root and then makes verses about the root just plain bewildering.

    “If you love me, you will keep my commands.” You can read that as a threat or as a promise.

  7. LJP – You didn’t mean to exclude me from replying to your comment.

    My 2cents – your comment to me: I concur, v 29 is “not” about good & evil in terms of our keeping the law. Yet, by Jesus’ words, v 29 is about what we do before our first death & then being present at the Judgement.

    My understanding: God’s commands [separate of our loving God; he states: By loving me you will keep my commands] as per his position & responsibility. The environment he placed us in, coupled with his decision to finish Creating on day 6__ his commands after that are not threats or promises. Our position after being born-again, is to respect God. from that we choose to do anything he designed us to do in him. Those doings/works only come by his presence in us.

    To your thoughts on good & evil; your last para. (I can’t fathom-out what you saying here] – I am not at liberty to say much about good & evil; accept perhaps we can imagine from a 3 dimensional human view – the first Adam wasn’t given the opportunity to experience the Tree of Life before he died right there in the Garden. Adam chose to eat the fruit of the Tree of the knowledge of good & evil – God removed Adams’ spirit to spirit connection with God because of his disobedience. God will now keep Adam from knowing what God (they) knows re; good & evil. Adams’ sin keeps you & me today from knowing good & evil.

    Your first para., later… Steve M.

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