Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Monday, 4 July 2022:
Deuteronomy 30:2 – “Return to the LORD your God, you and your children, and obey his voice in all that I command you today, with all your heart and with all your soul, then the LORD your God will restore your fortunes and have mercy on you, and he will gather you again from all the peoples where the LORD your God has scattered you.”
God’s call is not just for individuals but for families. God wants to restore families and to bring them back together. God does not desire families to be scattered. Family is the building block of society and the primary schoolhouse for discipleship. Today’s culture makes it hard for families to stay united, but God has a heart for family, and His plan has always been generational. “And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers.” (Malachi 4:6)
Deuteronomy 30:5 – “And the LORD your God will bring you into the land that your fathers possessed, that you may possess it. And he will make you more prosperous and numerous than your fathers.”
God’s plan is that parents leave inheritance to godly children who build upon it for generations.
Deuteronomy 30:11-14 — “For this commandment that I command you today is not too hard for you, neither is it far off. It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will ascend to heaven for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will go over the sea for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ But the word is very near you. It is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it.”
Again, you do not need to search for answers to great mysteries, and you don’t need the confirmation of miraculous signs. Simply obey God’s word, and great truths will be revealed to you more and more each day. God has given you the power of the Holy Spirit and His word. He is with you. You need nothing else. Simply obey.
Deuteronomy 30:11 – “For this commandment which I command you today is not too mysterious for you, nor is it far off.”
“The Christian life is not difficult. The same Christ who lived a perfect, obedient, and sinless life stands prepared to live it again through you (Gal. 2:20). God’s will is not hard to discern. He has given us the Scriptures, which reveal His will, and He has placed His Holy Spirit within us to guide us to His perfect will in every situation (John 16:13). Our greatest challenge will be to wholly commit our lives to follow God’s will obediently as He reveals it. Moses gathered the Israelites around Mount Ebal and Mount Gerizim before they were to enter the Promised Land. There, God described what they had to do in order to obey Him. God gave detailed instructions so there was no mistaking what was expected of them. Then God asked them to make a choice. If they chose to disobey His commands, they would face His wrath. If they chose to obey, they would receive His blessing. God’s Word comes to you in the same way. It is not too complex to understand. You don’t have to struggle to discern God’s will about adultery or forgiveness or honesty. God’s word is perfectly clear. The question is, how will you respond? Nowhere in Scripture did God excuse disobedience because His instructions were too vague or complex. Condemnation came because they knew exactly what God wanted them to do, yet they chose not to do it! God, through His Holy Spirit, will always give you sufficient revelation and strength to take the next step with Him. If you are uncertain about what God is asking of you, make sure that you are obeying all that you do know, and through your obedience, God’s next instruction will become clear.” (Henry T. Blackaby)
Philippians 2:1-2 — “So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.”
Those who are truly spiritual will have unity in Christ. A Spirit filled person is comforting, loving, affectionate, sympathetic, joyful, and unifying.
Philippians 2:3-8 — “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.”
Moving from selfishness to selflessness is called spiritual growth. Christ-like character is selfless. Empty yourself of personal ambition and become a complete servant to God and those around you; humble yourself and give everything you have to God and others; be an imitator of Christ.
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or conceit,” and look at everyone else as more important than you. Now there is a challenge for today. Paul goes further in this challenge by stating that to follow Christ’s example (which we are called to do), we must “empty” ourselves and become like “servants” to those around us. Though the word used in our verses today is “servant,” the original Greek word is doulos which is only used to mean slave, not servant (see this explanation — https://www.gty.org/library/sermons-library/GTY129/servant-or-slave). There is a big difference between a servant and slave: servants choose to work for a wage, usually to pay off personal debts; while slaves are owned and serve without compensation. Here the Bible is actually saying, we must empty ourselves and become like slaves to others. Now how many Christians are actually willing to obey God and live that way? Have you ever said to someone “Who do you think I am, your slave?” Well if you are a Christian, you are indeed called to be like a slave to others. We all understand what that looks like, but no one wants to really do it. Why is it so difficult to do? In part, because to become a slave to others, you must first empty yourself. Jesus said it another way, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23) We don’t want to totally give ourselves to others because we haven’t completely given ourselves to Christ. We know we have truly surrendered to Christ when we love others as He loves them, which is His primary command to us:
- John 13:34 — A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.
- John 15:12 — This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.
- 1 John 4:12 — No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.
Only when you have truly surrendered to Christ, and only through the power of His Spirit within you, will you be willing and able to avoid selfish ambition and conceit, empty yourself of all self-centeredness, and become the slave of others to the glory of Jesus Christ – “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” (Romans 12:1)
Philippians 2:5 – “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus….”
“Attitudes do not just happen; we choose them. Paul urged believers to have the same attitude that Jesus had. Jesus is the Son of God. His place is at the right hand of His Father, ruling the universe. No position could be more glorious or honorable than the right hand of the Heavenly Father. Jesus’ relationship with the Father gave Him the right to unsurpassed honor. Jesus chose not to hold on to this right. Nothing, not even His position in heaven, was so precious to Him that He would not give it up if His Father asked Him. His love for His Father compelled Him to make any sacrifice necessary in order to be obedient to Him. When the Father required a spotless sacrifice for the redemption of humanity, Jesus did not cling to His rights, nor did He argue that He should not have to suffer for the sins of rebellious creatures of dust (Isa. 53:7). Rather, He relinquished the glory of His heavenly existence in order to become a condemned man. He was born in a cattle shed; he slept in a feeding trough. His life was spent preparing for the day when He would suffer an excruciating execution. All of this He did willingly. We are tempted to hold tightly to things God has given us. We say, ‘I would be willing to give up anything God asked of me, but I just don’t think He would ask me to give anything up!’ The Father asked His Son to make radical adjustments in His life. Can we not expect that He will ask us to sacrifice privileges and comforts as well? If you find yourself resisting every time God seeks to adjust your life to His will, ask the Spirit to give you the same selfless attitude that Jesus demonstrated. (Comments from Henry T. Blackaby)
Philippians 2:5-8 — “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”
We are to emulate the example of Jesus who, though perfect and righteous in every way, become nothing for complete sinners who persecuted Him. He did this in obedience to God’s will. We too must offer complete grace and mercy to those who wrong us, and we must be willing to suffer persecution in hopes of bringing others to Jesus.
Philippians 2:8 — “And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”
- Today’s readings heavily emphasize the importance of humble obedience in a Christian’s life, not motivated by “selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility and in love. (Philippians 2:2, 3) Paul says that the “mind” of Christ which we are to take on is one of humble obedience. Paul encourages Christians to “work out” their salvation through continuous obedience, “with fear and trembling.” (Philippians 2:12) We are called to obedience “without grumbling or disputing, that [we] may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom [we] shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ [we] may be proud that [we] did not run in vain or labor in vain.” (Philippians 2:14-16) Jesus said, “this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” (John 17:3) So what does it mean to “know” him?
1 John 4:7, 8 says, “Whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments…. Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.” (John 14:15, 21) John adds, “And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says ‘I know him’ but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.” (1 John 2:3-6) “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” (1 John 5:2-5) The mark of genuine love for God is humble obedience without grumbling but rather with thanksgiving and rejoicing.
Philippians 2:12 — “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.”
If you are a Christian, your salvation is eternally secure through the work of Christ alone. However, we are called to “work out” our salvation by dedicating our life to obeying God for His glory on earth, growing up in Christ-like spiritual maturity as an enfant grows over time into adulthood. Knowing Christ more and more in maturity and making Him known to others is the goal — nothing else on earth matters. Growing in Christ is called sanctification. Salvation is a gift. Sanctification is a process that requires our continually yielding to the Holy Spirit. God chose us for salvation, but we must choose to surrender our lives completely to Him. In salvation, we are new creations, but it is possible for us to be unfruitful Christians, to never grow up, to be of little value to the Kingdom. We must choose to abide in Him as true disciples. Abiding is a command we must choose to obey. In our abiding is where we glorify God, experience true fellowship with God, find life fulfillment, and find complete joy. Evidence of abiding is a divine nature within us and genuine, unconditional love for those around us.
- 2 Corinthians 5:17 — Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
- John 15:1-17 — “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. These things I command you, so that you will love one another.
- 2 Peter 1:3-9 — His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins.
Philippians 2:13 — …for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
A key point which jumps out from the readings today is that God does it all, not us; and it is all about Him and not about us. God chose us and empowers us to fulfill His purposes for His glory, and He remains faithful even though we often don’t. Our salvation rests secure in His perfect love for us, rather than our imperfect love for Him, though His will for us is that we grow to love Him wholeheartedly and faithfully as we were created to do, producing the fruit of His Spirit in our lives which is love. There is absolutely nothing we can give to Him that He hasn’t first given to us, and it is He who gives us the ability to believe in Him and to love Him –
- Ephesians 2:8-10 — For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
- 1 John 4:19 — We love because he first loved us.
- 1 Corinthians 15:10 — But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.
- 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 — Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.
Not only does our ability to obey come from Him, but so does our desire to obey. (1 Chronicles 29:18, 19; Philippians 2:13) We ultimately do what we really want to do, and it is God who gives us a heart to want Him over everything else and the desire to obey Him in love. Love is the fruit of the Spirit, not human will. The key is to seek Him, walk with Him, rest in Him, and trust in Him. It is all about our relationship with Him, and communication is essential to any relationship. Pray earnestly for a greater heart for Him, remain in His word, and seek Him throughout the day rather than chasing the things of this world. If what you want today is not Him and His will, ask God to change your wants. Likewise, the Bible says, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” (Philippians 2:3) If you don’t honestly consider others more significant than yourself, pray that God would change your heart, and then step into your relationships with the confidence that “He will surely do it.” Pray that God would give you a heart that truly desires nothing more than “at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:10, 11)
- Psalm 37:4 — Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.
- Mark 9:29 — And he said to them, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer.”
- Matthew 6:9-10 — Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
- John 17:22, 23 — The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.
Philippians 2:14 – “Do all things without grumbling or disputing….”
Complaining is a sign of spiritual immaturity, is ungodly, and ruins your witness.
Philippians 2:15-18 — In the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, hold fast to God’s word. Remain joyfully obedient.
Philippians 2:17 — “Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all.”
Are you willing to sacrifice yourself for the work of another believer—to pour out your life sacrificially for the ministry and faith of others? Or do you say, “I am not willing to be poured out right now, and I don’t want God to tell me how to serve Him. I want to choose the place of my own sacrifice. And I want to have certain people watching me and saying, ‘Well done.’ ” It is one thing to follow God’s way of service if you are regarded as a hero, but quite another thing if the road marked out for you by God requires becoming a “doormat” under other people’s feet. God’s purpose may be to teach you to say, “I know how to be abased…” (Philippians 4:12). Are you ready to be sacrificed like that? Are you ready to be less than a mere drop in the bucket— to be so totally insignificant that no one remembers you even if they think of those you served? Are you willing to give and be poured out until you are used up and exhausted— not seeking to be ministered to, but to minister? Some saints cannot do menial work while maintaining a saintly attitude, because they feel such service is beneath their dignity. (Comments from Oswald Chambers)
Philippians 2:17-18 — “Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. Likewise you also should be glad and rejoice with me.”
Paul rejoiced in suffering for the Gospel and expected others to rejoice with him in the knowledge that they were serving the purpose of Jesus wholeheartedly.
Philippians 2:20, 21 — “For I have no one like him, who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare. For they all seek their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ.”
Timothy stood out within the church as someone to emulate because, while everyone was seeking their own interests, Timothy was solely focused on the welfare of others.
Philippians 2:21 — You cannot seek your own interests and Jesus’ interests at the same time.
Philippians 2:22 — “But you know Timothy’s proven worth, how as a son with a father he has served with me in the gospel.”
Timothy had proven himself by his track record of selfless service. Timothy had earned the right to lead in Christ. How about you?
Philippians 2:25 – “I have thought it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus my brother and fellow worker and fellow soldier, and your messenger and minister to my need….”
Some people know just what to say and do to encourage others who are going through difficult times. Their words give strength to those who are discouraged and comfort to those who are grieving. These people are sensitive to God’s voice. They are not self-centered or unaware of the struggles of those around them. They are the ones we immediately seek when we enter a crisis. They are welcome visitors when we are in distress, for their presence sustains us. Scripture testifies of many whom God enabled to encourage others. When Moses was overwhelmed by his work, Jethro went to him and encouraged him. Jethro gave Moses wise counsel that eased his strain (Exod. 18:1-27). When Paul was imprisoned far from those who loved him, Epaphroditus risked his health and safety in order to go to Paul and minister to him (Phil. 2:25-30). Later, Paul urged Timothy to come and visit him, for Paul found strength and encouragement in Timothy (2 Tim. 4:9; Phil. 2:19-20). Paul asked Timothy to bring Mark also. Mark was the kind of friend Paul needed when he was enduring hardship (2 Tim. 4:11; Philem. 24). Paul also relied on Luke for encouragement. When everyone else was absent or preoccupied, Luke could be found with Paul (2 Tim. 4:11). Paul experienced trials throughout his life, but God sustained him by placing godly friends around him who provided support in practical and sacrificial ways. God wants to develop you into the kind of friend who can strengthen others. The words you share and the things you do can bring comfort and encouragement to your family, your friends, your neighbors, and your coworkers. (Notes from Henry T. Blackaby)
Philippians 2:29, 30 — “So receive him in the Lord with all joy, and honor such men, for he nearly died for the work of Christ, risking his life to complete what was lacking in your service to me.”
Those who have truly surrendered their life for the Lord’s service are those who truly deserve honor.
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 4 July 22: Today, endeavor to truly empty yourself and give your life to serving those around you, particularly those who would persecute you. Do this without hope for any reward but merely to show your love for God and to bring Him glory before others. “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6) Seek the Lord with all your heart, but trust Him to complete the work He had begun in you. Abide in Him today with joy and confidence. Remain in prayer and in His word, and walk with Him today peacefully. Stay focused on the goal of knowing Him and making Him known. “Day by day, dear Lord, of thee three things I pray: to see thee more clearly, love thee more dearly, follow thee more nearly, day by day.” (Richard, Bishop of Chichester, 1253)