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Kept by Christ

Jesus with hands out

by Dennis Pollock

John Newton, the author of the hymn, Amazing Grace, once had a peculiar dream. He saw himself on board a ship when a man handed him a valuable ring of exceptional beauty and worth. As he placed it on his finger, he was promised that so long as it was in his possession, he would be successful and happy. Should he lose it, then he would be plunged into misery and ruin. Then a second person came and began pouring scorn on his weakness and superstition for believing that a mere ring could bring such good fortune. He was seduced into throwing the ring overboard. In that instant all hell broke loose (or so it seemed in his dream) and he was overcome by deep anguish and torment. Shortly afterwards, the first person re-appeared, questioning Newton as to the whereabouts of the ring. When Newton confessed his folly, this man immediately dove into the water, salvaging the lost ring, and so restoring calm. But instead of returning it to him, Newton was told: ‘If you should be entrusted with this ring again, you would soon bring yourself into the same distress: you are not able to keep it; but I will preserve it for you, and, whenever it is needful, will produce it on your behalf.’

Like John Newton, we are not able to keep ourselves. We need a Savior to save us not just from hell, but from enslavement to sin that we face day by day. The Scriptures declare that Jesus is the Keeper of our souls. The old hymn declares, “Wonderful, wonderful, Jesus is to me. Counselor, Prince of Peace, mighty God is He. Saving me, keeping me, from all sin and shame. Wonderful is my Redeemer, praise His name!”

Throughly Saved

This active, powerful grace of God which shields the soul from the ravages of the world, the flesh, and the devil is found in our Lord Jesus. Let us look at four Biblical terms that describe Christ’s ability to “save to the uttermost.”

1. Christ our Upholder. We don’t use the word “uphold” these days, but it is a good word and a great concept. In the Psalms, David cries:

Uphold my steps in Your paths, that my footsteps may not slip (Psalm 17:5).

In the course of David’s early years, his life was frequently in jeopardy. He needed constant miracles from God just to survive to see the next day. He cried out for God to “uphold” him. To be upheld is to be enabled to stand, to be kept from collapse. The Scriptures tell us that it is Christ who keeps the entire universe from collapse:

Upholding all things by the word of His power (Hebrews 1:3).

Physicist Lambert Dolphin noted that the protons in the atom have no reason for staying together within the nucleus. Mutual electrostatic repulsion between the like-positive protons would drive the nucleus apart if it were not for the strong force which binds the nucleus together. Something is holding every one of the innumerable atoms of our world together, and keeping them from collapse. The Bible tells us that it is Christ Himself.

Personal Upholder

The upholding of the universe is a marvel but there is something even greater – the upholding of a life. Regardless of race, culture, or language, every human is subject to incredible pressures that threaten life, health, family, and morality. From the moment we wake in the morning, temptations swirl about us like fierce whirlpools. The pressure can become intense.

When I was a boy, I had a science teacher who showed us the power of air pressure. He hooked a vacuum pump to a one gallon metal gasoline can (in those ancient days, metal was the only choice available). When he turned the vacuum on, we watched in fascination as the gas can crumpled before our eyes. It seemed as if an unseen hand had grabbed hold of the can, and was slowly crushing it. Of course what we were seeing was the power of air pressure. Once the air pressure had been removed from the inside of the can, the outside air pressure had no resistance, and easily overcame the thin metal with which the can was made.

We are a lot like that gasoline can. From birth onwards, we live with constant spiritual pressure. Collapse is everywhere. Every failed marriage represents a collapse. Every man or woman who breaks God’s sexual commandments is in a state of collapse. When a teen, who has been brought up in the church, turns his back on Christ and decides to follow the crowd into a world of drugs and drinking, he has collapsed. When an older church member faces strong disappointment and begins to back away from church involvement and prayer, spiritual collapse is at work.

We need an Upholder! We need a power and a pressure working from the inside that is every bit as powerful as the evil influences at work in the world. Jesus is that Upholder. He who upholds all things by the word of His power is more than able to uphold you in every trial and temptation.

2. Christ, the Keeper of our Souls. Another term for this amazing ministry of Jesus is Keeper. The 17th chapter of John is one of the most incredible chapters in the New Testament. Here is Jesus’ “High Priestly” prayer for His disciples, and for all who would follow Him down through the ages. In this prayer we see Jesus’ tender concern for those who would make the ultimate sacrifice to follow Him. Jesus is not praying for sinners here; He is praying for “those whom You gave Me.” He prays for their unity and He prays that they may behold His glory. He seems to feel a sense of accomplishment, as He cries out:

Those whom You gave Me, I have kept, and none of them is lost except the son of perdition, that the Scripture might be fulfilled (John 17:12).

The disciples hadn’t always understood their Master. They had been immature and childish at times. But they were still around, save Judas. The ones the Father had given to the Son had been kept. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if Jesus were to undertake to “keep” us? Can anyone doubt that Jesus could, if He chose to, keep His present day disciples just as He kept those early followers? Amazingly, Jesus has promised to do just that for all who will trust in Him. Peter writes that believers are “kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time(1 Peter 1:5).

When our children were smaller we took them on a brief vacation to Galveston Island. It was the first time some of the younger ones had seen the ocean. Our youngest child, Jordan, was just a little guy and couldn’t swim a stroke. He splashed happily around in the water, but wasn’t especially concerned with where he was or how deep the water was. As he began to wander away from the rest of us, I immediately followed him, but at a slight distance so that he would have the impression of being on his own. It wasn’t long before he got into water that was too deep for him. When a large wave rolled over him he went under. That might have been the end of him had I not been around. Of course I quickly came to his rescue and dragged him up out of the water sputtering and shaken.

When we drove home from Galveston afterwards, we left with the exact same number of kids that we brought. Five came with us and five left with us. I had not lost any. They had been kept. That, in a nutshell, is the role that Jesus plays in our spiritual lives. Although we are not always cognizant of His presence, He is always with us, tenderly watching us and keeping us from the waves of sin and destruction.

3. Christ, our Confirmer. “Confirmed” is a good Biblical term that is used ceremonially in some churches, but not thought about so much in practical, day to day experience. We talk about children “going to Confirmation” or being confirmed, but we rarely see our own need to be continually confirmed by Christ.

To confirm something means to take something that is already alive, or present, and to make it stronger and less susceptible to being lost or destroyed. It is to take that which is frail and fragile, and to so establish and strengthen it that it is now strong and not easily shaken.

When I was a boy our family made the major move of buying a house about a block away. It saddened me to leave the old place and I wanted to take something of it with me as a remembrance. I found a tiny wild Maple sapling that was just starting to grow in our yard, and transplanted it to our new back yard.

Shortly after that I was tossing a baseball around with my cousin. When she threw the ball a little above my head, I instinctively backed up to try to make the catch. I forgot about my little Maple tree, and almost wiped it out then and there. The little tree was so fragile the least little disturbance would be enough to destroy it.

Over thirty-five years have come and gone since that day. Unless it has been cut down in the last couple of years, that tree is probably still alive today. But it is no sapling. The tree grew to an enormous height and size (it never got very shapely, but I still took pride in “my tree.”) Today, if a child were to back into it during a game of catch, it wouldn’t be the tree that gave way. That tree has, over the years, been confirmed. It is established.

My favorite verse that deals with God’s confirming grace is found in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians:

…so that you come short in no gift, eagerly waiting for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will also confirm you to the end, that you may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 1:7,8).

What an incredible promise! Paul told the Corinthian believers that Jesus would confirm them to the end, and that He would do such a magnificent job of it that when they stood before Christ they would be considered blameless. Now that’s confirmation of the highest order!

4. Christ, our Preserver. Many years ago our pioneer ancestors used to survive many a bitter cold winter by living on “preserves.” Fruits and vegetables would be cooked, placed in quart jars, and sealed shut with an air tight seal. By using this process, foods that normally would have decayed and been utterly worthless in a matter of weeks were able to last the long months of winter, through the spring, and even to the point at which a new crop could be canned for the next year. They were “preserved” from the natural process of decay which is the enemy of all fresh foods.

If foods need preserving, people do all the more. The world in which we live is in a continual process of moral decay, apart from the grace of God and the work of the Holy Spirit. Morality is never static; it must either make progress or it will inevitably lose ground. We are seeing a quantum leap in the wrong direction all over our world. When you contrast the early television shows, such as I Love Lucy and The Andy Griffith Show with our modern sit-coms, laced with profanity and drenched with sexual immorality and lewd humor, you can see how far we have come. And there is more to come. If the Lord tarries, our children may well be longing for this present time, considering it the "good old days" in another twenty-five years (a scary thought!).

In the midst of rampant corruption God has declared that there is an answer. Paul writes:

May the God of peace sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit, soul, and body, be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it (1 Thessalonians 5:23,24).

Any and all moral failure among believers goes back to one root – a failure to abide in Jesus and trust Him as the Upholder, the Keeper, the Confirmer, and the Preserver of the soul. Victory is ours as we stay near the Author of our salvation. We glory in Jesus Christ.


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