Learning the Sacred Secret of Godly Devotion
“Even Christ suffered for you, leaving you a model for you to follow his steps closely.”—1 PETER 2:21.
1. What has been Jehovah’s purpose regarding ‘the sacred secret of godly devotion’?
“THE sacred secret of this godly devotion” is no longer a secret! (1 Timothy 3:16) How different it is from the secrets of false religion, like the mystic Trinity, which remain secrets! No one can understand them. Rather, Jehovah has purposed that the sacred secret revealed in the person of Jesus Christ should be given the widest possible publicity. Jesus himself became the outstanding example of a zealous proclaimer of the Kingdom of God. We can learn much from his message and manner of preaching, as we shall now see.
2. Why is Jesus’ ministering put ahead of the ransom? (Matthew 20:28)
2 Let us give further consideration, then, to Jesus’ being “made manifest in flesh.” (1 Timothy 3:16) At Matthew 20:28 we read that Jesus “came, not to be ministered to, but to minister and to give his soul a ransom in exchange for many.” This even puts his ministering ahead of the ransom. Why so? Well, back in Eden the wily Serpent had disputed Jehovah’s rightful sovereignty over mankind, implying that God’s creation was faulty and that under test no man could keep integrity to the Most High. (Compare Job 1:6-12; 2:1-10.) Jesus’ flawless ministry as a perfect man, “the last Adam,” showed the challenger Satan to be a wicked liar. (1 Corinthians 15:45) Moreover, Jesus fully proved his qualifications to serve as God’s “Chief Agent and Savior” and to “judge the inhabited earth in righteousness,” in vindication of Jehovah’s sovereignty.—Acts 5:31; 17:31.
3. How did Jesus completely refute Satan’s challenge?
3 Jesus completely refuted Satan’s taunting challenge! In all history, no man on this earth served God so devotedly—despite mockings, scourgings, and physical and mental tortures. Christ had to endure blasphemous reproaches as the Son of God. Through it all—even to a cruel and shameful death—he was steadfast, immovable in loyalty to his Father. At Philippians 2:8, 9, Paul writes that because Jesus obeyed ‘as far as death, yes, death on a torture stake, God exalted him and gave him the name that is above every other name.’ Jesus exposed Satan as the venomous liar that he is!
4. Why could Jesus tell Pilate that he had come into the world to bear witness to the truth?
4 Thus, at the conclusion of just a few years of intensive preaching, Jesus could boldly testify to Pontius Pilate: “You yourself are saying that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone that is on the side of the truth listens to my voice.” (John 18:37) Jesus had displayed superlative godly devotion in proclaiming God’s Kingdom truth throughout Palestine. He trained his disciples to be zealous preachers also. How his example stimulates us to follow in his steps today!
Learning From Our Exemplar
5. What can we learn about godly devotion by looking intently at Jesus?
5 By our godly devotion in doing Jehovah’s will, we too may prove the Devil a liar. Whatever trials we suffer, none will ever equal the agonies and indignities experienced by Jesus. Let us, then, learn from our Exemplar. As Hebrews 12:1, 2 urges us, may we run the race with endurance “as we look intently at the Chief Agent and Perfecter of our faith, Jesus.” Unlike Adam, who failed when tested as to godly devotion, Jesus became the one man on earth who met all tests perfectly. To the death, he proved “loyal, guileless, undefiled, separated from the sinners.” (Hebrews 7:26) In flawless integrity, he could say to his enemies: “Who of you convicts me of sin?” Jesus hurled back Satan’s challenge, declaring: “The ruler of the world . . . has no hold on me.” And in concluding his final talk to his disciples before his betrayal and arrest, he told them: “Take courage! I have conquered the world.”—John 8:46; 14:30; 16:33.
6. (a) Why does Jesus know what kind of refreshment is needed by mankind? (b) To what extent did Jesus display godly fear?
6 In the flesh here on earth, Jesus experienced what it means to be human, “a little lower than angels.” (Hebrews 2:7) He became acquainted with human frailties and is therefore well-equipped to serve as mankind’s King and Judge for a thousand years. This Son of God, who said, “Come to me, all you who are toiling and loaded down, and I will refresh you,” knows what kind of refreshment is needed by mankind. (Matthew 11:28) Hebrews 5:7-9 tells us: “In the days of his flesh Christ offered up supplications and also petitions to the One who was able to save him out of death, with strong outcries and tears, and he was favorably heard for his godly fear. Although he was a Son, he learned obedience from the things he suffered; and after he had been made perfect [in obedience] he became responsible for everlasting salvation to all those obeying him.” Jesus did not waver, even though he had to endure to the point of experiencing the sting of human death in receiving a ‘heel wound’ from the hateful Serpent. (Genesis 3:15) Like Jesus, may we always display godly fear, even to death if necessary, confident that Jehovah God will hear our supplications and grant us salvation.
‘Living to Righteousness’
7. According to 1 Peter 2:21-24, what model did Christ leave for us, and how should his course affect us?
7 While manifest in flesh, Jesus loyally unveiled the sacred secret of godly devotion. We read at 1 Peter 2:21-24: “Even Christ suffered for you, leaving you a model for you to follow his steps closely. He committed no sin, nor was deception found in his mouth. When he was being reviled, he did not go reviling in return. When he was suffering, he did not go threatening, but kept on committing himself to the one who judges righteously. He himself bore our sins in his own body upon the stake, in order that we might be done with sins and live to righteousness.” As we meditate on Jesus’ course, how it encourages us to pursue godly devotion, to keep integrity, and to live to righteousness as he did!
8. How can we live to righteousness as Jesus did?
8 Jesus truly lived to righteousness. Psalm 45:7 prophesied of him: “You have loved righteousness and you hate wickedness.” Applying those words to Jesus, the apostle Paul said at Hebrews 1:9: “You loved righteousness, and you hated lawlessness.” In the light of our understanding of the sacred secret of this godly devotion, may we like Jesus always love what is righteous and hate what is bad. In Christian morals, today so fiercely under assault by Satan’s world, and in all our dealings with those inside and outside of God’s organization, let us be resolved to live to righteousness, upholding Jehovah’s right principles. And let us continually feast upon God’s Word in order to have the godly insight so essential for resisting the Devil and his devices!
9. What added to Jesus’ zeal in the ministry, and this involved what regarding false religious shepherds?
9 Something additional motivated Jesus to be zealous in his ministry. What was that? At Matthew 9:36 we read: “On seeing the crowds he felt pity for them, because they were skinned and thrown about like sheep without a shepherd.” So Jesus “started to teach them many things.” (Mark 6:34) Of necessity, this involved exposing the wickedness and lawlessness of the false religious shepherds. According to Matthew 15:7-9, Jesus said to some of these: “You hypocrites, Isaiah aptly prophesied about you, when he said, ‘This people honors me with their lips, yet their heart is far removed from me. It is in vain that they keep worshiping me, because they teach commands of men as doctrines.’”
A Deplorable Mystery
10. Today, “the mystery of this lawlessness” focuses on whom, and of what are they guilty?
10 As Jesus spoke out against false religious leaders, so we today deplore a mystery that stands out in sharp contrast with the sacred secret of godly devotion. At 2 Thessalonians 2:7, Paul called it “the mystery of this lawlessness.” It was a mystery in the first century C.E. because it would not be unveiled until long after the apostles’ death. Today, it focuses on the clergy of Christendom, who are more interested in politics than in declaring the good news of God’s righteous Kingdom. Hypocrisy abounds in their ranks. Television evangelists of Christendom’s Protestant sects are a glaring example: charlatans who fleece their flocks, build up multimillion-dollar empires, consort with prostitutes, weep crocodile tears when they themselves are exposed, and keep begging for money, always more money. Roman Catholicism’s Vatican presents a similar unsavory picture, with its unscrupulous political connections, outward pomp, and corrupt banking practices.
11. What will happen to Christendom’s clergy and all of Babylon the Great?
11 No wonder Christendom’s clergy class can be identified as “the man of lawlessness”! (2 Thessalonians 2:3) This dominant part of harlotlike Babylon the Great will be fully exposed and devastated, along with all the rest of false religion. As we read at Revelation 18:9-17, politicians and merchants (and their bankers) will then lament: “Too bad, too bad, you great city!” Babylon the Great and her mysteries will have been laid bare, in stark contrast with all that illuminates the sacred secret of godly devotion.
12. Jesus’ love of righteousness led him to do what?
12 Jesus’ love of righteousness and hatred of lawlessness led him to exert himself unsparingly in behalf of true worship. On his first visit to Jerusalem as the anointed Son of God, Christ drove the merchants and money brokers out of the temple, declaring: “Take these things away from here! Stop making the house of my Father a house of merchandise!” (John 2:13-17) On a later visit to the temple, Jesus told opposing Jews: “You are from your father the Devil, and you wish to do the desires of your father. That one was a manslayer when he began, and he did not stand fast in the truth, because truth is not in him. When he speaks the lie, he speaks according to his own disposition, because he is a liar and the father of the lie.” (John 8:44) What courage Jesus showed in telling those religionists to their faces that they were liars and sons of the Devil!
13. (a) Where especially is Jesus’ hatred of lawlessness expressed? (b) Why do the lawless clergy merit judgment similar to that pronounced by Jesus upon the scribes and Pharisees?
13 Jesus’ hatred of lawlessness is nowhere better expressed than in his stinging denunciation of the viperous scribes and Pharisees, as recorded in Matthew chapter 23. There he pronounces a sevenfold “woe,” comparing them to ‘whitewashed graves—full of every sort of uncleanness, hypocrisy, and lawlessness.’ How Jesus yearned to deliver the oppressed people from that lawlessness! “Jerusalem, Jerusalem,” he cried out, “how often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks together under her wings! But you people did not want it. Look! Your house is abandoned to you.” (Mt 23 Verses 37, 38) The lawless clergy of our day merit a similar judgment because, in the words of 2 Thessalonians 2:12, ‘they do not believe the truth but take pleasure in unrighteousness.’ Their lawlessness is the very antithesis of the godly devotion that Jesus so loyally displayed while here on earth.
Declaring God’s Judgments
14. Appreciation for the sacred secret of godly devotion should move us to do what?
14 Our appreciation for the sacred secret of godly devotion should lead us always to follow Jesus’ steps closely. Like him, we should be zealous in proclaiming what Isaiah 61:2 describes as “the year of goodwill on the part of Jehovah and the day of vengeance on the part of our God.” And may we zealously do our part “to comfort all the mourning ones.” As when Jesus was on earth, it takes courage today for us to declare Jehovah’s judgments, including the strong messages in outspoken Watchtower articles and in the book Revelation—Its Grand Climax At Hand! We must preach boldly and tactfully, our utterances being “seasoned with salt” so as to be tasteful to those inclined toward righteousness. (Colossians 4:6) Having learned from Jesus’ example of godly devotion, may we be able to report in due time that we have finished the work Jehovah gave us to do.—Matthew 24:14; John 17:4.
15. As to God’s sacred secret, what has happened since 1914?
15 While manifest in flesh, what a splendid Exemplar Jesus was! How clearly the sacred secret of godly devotion was fulfilled in him! How boldly he magnified Jehovah’s name! And how marvelously Jesus’ Father rewarded him for his integrity-keeping course! But there is yet more to God’s sacred secret. Since 1914 we have been living in “the Lord’s day.” (Revelation 1:10) As Revelation 10:7 states, it is the time for ‘the sacred secret of God according to the good news to be brought to a finish.’ Heavenly voices have now proclaimed: “The kingdom of the world did become the kingdom of our Lord [Jehovah] and of his Christ, and he will rule as king forever and ever.” (Revelation 11:15) Jehovah has installed the Messianic King, Jesus Christ, on his glorious throne to be coruler with Him!
16. How did the newly enthroned King, Jesus Christ, quickly show his regard for godliness in heaven?
16 As coruler with God in the newborn Kingdom, Jesus is also called Michael (meaning, “Who Is Like God?”). No rebel may ever succeed in being like God, and the newly enthroned King quickly demonstrated this by hurling the original Serpent, Satan, and his angels down to the earth. (Revelation 12:7-9) Yes, Jesus has regard for godliness in heaven, just as he displayed godly devotion while on earth. The glorified Jesus Christ will not rest until he has exterminated false religion and completely wiped out Satan’s organization, visible and invisible.
17. Since 1914, what has been happening in fulfillment of Matthew 25:31-33?
17 Since 1914 the fulfillment of Jesus’ own prophecy at Matthew 25:31-33 has radiantly illuminated the sacred secret of God. There Jesus declares: “When the Son of man arrives in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit down on his glorious throne. And all the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another, just as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will put the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on his left.” From his vantage point in the heavens, this glorious King, Judge, and Advocate of godly devotion will bring vengeance, first on the man of lawlessness and other factions of Babylon the Great, and then on all remaining elements and goatish supporters of Satan’s wicked earthly organization. Satan will then be abyssed. (Revelation 20:1-3) But sheeplike “righteous ones” will depart into everlasting life. (Matthew 25:46) May your pursuit of godly devotion place you in that upright group!
18. What joyous privilege do we have in connection with the sacred secret of godly devotion?
18 Revelation 19:10 encourages us to “worship God.” And why? The scripture continues: “For the bearing witness to Jesus is what inspires prophesying.” So many of the inspired prophecies of ancient times bore witness to Jesus! And as these prophecies have been fulfilled, the sacred secret of God has become crystal clear. We rejoice, therefore, to know that the sacred secret of this godly devotion came to be personified in Jesus. Marvelously privileged we are to follow in his steps as humble ministers of the Kingdom of God. Yes, we are honored to share in understanding and proclaiming all of the sacred secret of God according to the good news!
How Would You Respond?
◻ What can we learn from Jesus’ example of godly devotion?
◻ How can we live to righteousness as Christ did?
◻ What deplorable mystery stands out in sharp contrast with the sacred secret of godly devotion?
◻ Our appreciation for the sacred secret of godly devotion should move us to do what?
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As an advocate of godly devotion and a zealous Kingdom proclaimer, Jesus could tell Pilate: “For this I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth”
[Picture on page 18]
Jesus’ godly devotion was expressed when he denounced the scribes and the Pharisees