“Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” (Phil. 2:5-8).
These four verses are all one sentence in both the Greek and English texts. The major thought is in the words “Let this mind be in you” (Phil. 2:5). In other words, think like this. Jesus left heaven and became human doing the work of a servant to be obedient even to death on a cross. Such is the epitome of getting out of one’s comfort zone. This challenge is followed up with the words, “Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil. 2:12). Therefore, the point of this section is having Jesus as the example, keep on obeying no matter what.
Continual obedience is tough. It means getting out of one’s comfort zone time and time again. Consider three areas of getting out of one’s comfort zone that some may not think about in the realm of serving like Christ.
Focusing on the Little Things. While there is a tendency for some to want to focus on activities that attract the eyes of men (cf. Matt. 6:1-18), Jesus would concentrate on things people would leave unnoticed. Jesus spoke up about a widow who gives two mites (cf. Mark 12:41-44). Jesus speaks up about people who do basic things for the “least of these my brethren” (Matt. 25:40). Jesus gave attention to little children where others would seek to hinder (cf. Mark 10:13-16). Jesus would wash the disciples’ feet where others would not serve (cf. John 13:4-17). Over and over Jesus pointed out small things as being important. One sheep among a hundred (cf. Luke 15:4), one coin among ten (cf. Luke 15:8), one penitent, prodigal son returning home (cf. Luke 15:12-24) all show that Jesus is concerned with the individual as much as for the whole world.
Friendly to New Faces. Here is an area where every congregation can improve. Anyone who travels knows what it is like to worship with a congregation where one is unknown. While all congregations have the words “everyone welcome,” such can be very hollow if actions do not back up those words. Jesus, while not a participant in sinful behavior (cf. 1 Peter 2:22) was a “friend of publicans and sinners” (Luke 7:34). Jesus befriended a woman from Samaria (cf. John 4:7-9). Jesus, as the greatest friend to all humanity, laid down his life for his friends (cf. John 15:13). Some people are very uncomfortable speaking to strangers, even fellow members of the church. All need to treat each other by the “golden rule” (cf. Matt. 7:12).
Facing Challenges Optimistically. Pessimism was not the mind of Christ. He said himself, “be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). It is the rare person indeed who does not get “caught up” in the negative. One can get comfortable in “murmurings and disputings” (Phil. 2:14) fashioned by the world’s thinking and practice (cf. Phil 2:15). Developing great thinking habits (cf. Phil. 4:8) can create a positive mindset that benefits now and eternally.
“And Salmon begat Booz of Rachab; and Booz begat Obed of Ruth; and Obed begat Jesse” (Matt. 1:5).
The name of Ruth brings special thoughts to those who know the history of this great woman. While some would consider marriage to a Moabite something disagreeable (cf. Ruth 4:5-6), Boaz did not see her in such light. Prejudice can cause people to misinterpret God’s will for mankind. Ruth is an example of how an outsider became one of the great people of the line of Christ. Consider three lessons from her life.
Her Devotion. The name Ruth in Hebrew means friendship. There was not a better friend that Naomi had than Ruth. The first chapter of the book of Ruth finds her in distressing circumstances with the death of his husband (cf. Ruth 1:5). A “fair weather” friend would not have been like Ruth to Naomi when things looked as bleak as they did (cf. Ruth 1:3-13). While one of Naomi’s daughters-in- law, Orpah, returned to Moab (cf. Ruth 1:14), Ruth stayed with her as some might say “Through thick or thin.” Her well-known words, “Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God: Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried: the Lord do so to me, and more also, if ought but death part thee and me” (Ruth 1:16-17) reveal her devotion. Her devotion led her to do what Boaz would later say, “The Lord recompense thy work, and a full reward be given thee of the Lord God of Israel, under whose wings thou art come to trust” (Ruth 2:12).
Her Diligence. When Ruth and Naomi came back to Israel it was the time of the barley harvest (cf. Ruth 1:22). Ruth happened to glean in the field belonging to Boaz (cf. Ruth 2:3). Her work ethic was not one of laziness or half-hearted effort. The text states, “so she came, and hath continued even from the morning until now, that she tarried a little in the house” (Ruth 2:7). The amount gleaned and beat out “was about an ephah or barley” (Ruth 2:17). She gleaned “unto the end of barley harvest and of wheat harvest; and dwelt with her mother in law” (Ruth 2:23). After Naomi found out that Boaz was a near kinsman who might raise up descendants, Ruth was diligent to do what her mother-in-law told her to do (cf. Ruth 3:5-18). She had truly demonstrated to all that she was a “virtuous woman” (Ruth 3:11).
Her Destiny. This friend of the house of Elimelech would ultimately be in the family line of the Messiah. The promise to Abraham that of his seed “shall all the nations of the earth be blessed” (Gen. 22:18) would ultimately have one originally from Moab in the genealogy (cf. Matt. 1:5). Ruth would be a blessing and also be blessed. Women from Israel would say to Naomi, “Blessed be the Lord, which hath not left thee this day without a kinsman, that his name may be famous in Israel. And he shall be unto thee a nourisher of thine old age: for thy daughter in law, which loveth thee, which is better to thee than seven sons, hath born him” (Ruth 4:14-15). Her biography could declare some of the great men of Israel to come through her. Truly, God brought about a greatness that started with one who overcame great obstacles.
“For the wages of sin is death . . .” (Rom. 6:23).
How does one make it clear how detrimental sin is to life? Clearly define the penalty for sin and describe its horrendous consequences. This is exactly what God did as revealed through the Bible. Adam and Eve were told, “But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die” (Gen. 2:17). Paul wrote to the Roman brethren, “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:” (Rom. 5:12). There are other descriptions that are further deterrents to sin when properly seen from the pages of Scripture. Consider three.
Creating Polluted Lives. Peter wrote, “For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning” (2 Peter 2:20). This “pollution” is further described as a dog turning to his own vomit and a sow that was washed turning to the mire (cf. 2 Peter 2:22). Sin does things to the minds of people. Paul wrote, “Unto the pure all things are pure: but unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure; but even their mind and conscience is defiled” (Titus 1:15). The filth of pollution is a detestable thing when viewed in physical situations. Such filth in spiritual areas (cf. James 1:21; Col. 3:8) should produce the same attitudes.
Capturing as Prisoners. Paul wrote to Timothy, “In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will” (2 Tim. 2:25-26). Peter writes of those captivated by sin in the days of Noah, who preached (cf. 2 Peter 2:5) by the same Holy Spirit, “By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison; Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of Noah while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water” (1 Peter 3:19-20). The preaching of the gospel foretold by the prophet Isaiah is described as “to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound” (Isa. 61:1). Those incarcerating due to crimes and even POW’s of past conflicts know the horrors of lost freedom. Sin and Satan are cruel enslavers.
Causing Perilous Losses. Paul prefaces a host of sins listed in 2 Timothy 3 with the words, “This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come” (2 Tim. 3:1). Sin is a high-risk, high-cost way of living. Corruption and loss litter the landscape of a sad history of the world. Nations fall due to sin (cf. Ps. 9:17; Prov. 14:34). Belshazzar, king of the Chaldeans, learned this lesson the hard way (cf. Daniel 5). Homes suffer due to sinful pride. Haman brought punishment down on himself (cf. Esther 7:10) and on his sons (cf. Esther 9:7-10). Achan became synonymous for a troubler in his sinfulness (cf. Joshua 7:24-26). People do not name their newborn children Judas or Jezebel due to their connection with sinfulness and shame. Sodomy is a heinous term due to the sinfulness of its city namesake. When men see sin like God sees it, abhorring evil arises.
“And I beseech you, brethren, suffer the word of exhortation: for I have written a letter unto you in few words” (Heb. 13:22)
This verse clearly declares the major thrust of the book of Hebrews; that is, to exhort or encourage. All of God’s people need strengthening and encouraging. This life for the child of God is filled with struggles (cf. Acts 14:22) and pressures (cf. 1 Thess. 3:4). Nevertheless, the victory is on the side of the Lord (cf. 1 Cor. 15:57). Consider three passages from the book of Hebrews that provides great courage for the Christian.
Hebrews 2:18: Sympathetic toward Needs.“For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted” (Heb. 2:18). These words close out a paragraph and a section that turns the attention of the reader to understand that God’s Son knows what Christians face. Though Jesus is the Son of God (cf. Heb. 1), he is also a partaker of “flesh and blood” (Heb. 2:14). Anyone who struggles with any problem can find strength in a kindred spirit. It is truly important to know that one is not suffering alone when it might appear that no one understands. People who struggle with diseases often look to those who have faced similar circumstances. People who struggle with loss often look up to those who have overcome similar loss. Those who are comforted of God can truly “be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God” (2 Cor. 1:4).
Hebrews 4:16: Supplier of Help.“Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:16). This conclusion is drawn from the facts about the high priesthood of Christ. The context states, “Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feelings of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin” (Heb. 4:14-15). Access to the throne of grace is made possible through Christ, the Christian’s high priest. While helpers may be limited in the resources and knowledge of things in this world, such is not the case with Christ, who is in heaven. Needs are met through Christ. Paul exhorted this same fact to the Philippians, where he wrote, But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:19).
Hebrews 13:5: Steadfastly with the Faithful.“Let your conversation be without covetousness: and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee” (Heb. 13:5). Material riches and the like are futile to bring stability and peace of mind (cf. Eccl. 2). Treasures laid up in heaven are incorruptible (cf. Matt. 6:20) and profitable (cf. 1 Tim. 6:17-19). Whether one has or does not have, being a faithful Christian will always have the abiding care of God. His omnipresence is always there (cf. Ps. 139:7-10). Moses exhorted the Israelites with the same words as found in Hebrews 13:5 (cf. Deut. 31:6). After the death of Moses, the Lord encouraged Joshua with the same words (cf. Joshua 1:5). Both Old and New Testaments affirm that the Lord is faithful to his promises and such is truly strengthening and encouraging.
“This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come” (2 Tim. 3:1).
The Holy Spirit through Paul was warning more than Timothy about troubling times. Timothy was to pass on the truth about the troubles making “full proof of thy ministry” (2 Tim. 4:5). What kind of minister would Timothy be if he was given a warning and did not pass it on to others who would face the same trials? The troubles of those days appear to be alive and well even today. One only has to look and listen briefly to the news of the morning to realize that things are not all right with the world. Peter warned the Christians about the suffering that was coming (cf. 1 Peter 4:12). Consider three areas of trials that are found in such perilous times.
Self-centered Egotism. Paul wrote further, “For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers,” (2 Tim. 3:2). The “me-generation” lived long ago. The philosophy that life is all about “me, myself, and I” is a perilous journey toward a horrible end. While there are opportunities for each person to improve himself, life is not about self-actualization. Man was created to glorify God (cf. 1 Cor. 10:31). Whenever man loses sight of that and seeks to glorify self, he has placed his feet on a path that will abuse and use anything and anyone to get what one thinks is his due. All sin ultimately comes back to what man desires for himself that is contrary to the will of God (cf. James 1:14-15).
Sacrificing of Home and Family Values. Again, Paul wrote, “disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, Without natural affection,” (2 Tim. 3:2-3). A deterioration of the home and its values as founded by God (cf. Ps. 127:1) is a path of self-destruction. Some were brought up in anything but the “nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4) and never explored that there was a proper, successful way to live. They did nothing but repeat the mistakes of their upbringing. Others were trained “in the way he should go” (Prov. 22:6) but in time rejected it as a viable course of life (cf. 2 Chron. 12:14). The turmoil that exists today among the homes and families that do not have God as their focus spills over into society. One lives his life based upon his value system, whether it be righteous or unrighteous.
Sensual Approach of Daily Living. Paul wrote further, “trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those what are good, Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God: Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away” (2 Tim. 3:3-5). It should be no surprise that lying, violence, pleasure seeking and even shallow religious conviction fill the daily living of those who seek life minimizing or totally without God. Terrorism in all forms is found here. Crime and the abuse of mankind’s rights are found here. Life is lived like that of the jungle. It truly is as Isaiah stated, “There is no peace, saith the Lord, unto the wicked” (Isa. 48:22). Solomon wrote clearly, “Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people” (Prov. 14:34). It is written again, “The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God” (Ps. 9:17). Jesus came to bring life and that more abundantly (cf. John 10:10). The peace so sought after by people can only be found in the Prince of peace (cf. Isa. 9:6; John 16:33).