Follow Jesus’ Example of Godly Devotion
“The sacred secret of this godly devotion is admittedly great: ‘He [Jesus] was made manifest in flesh.’”—1 TIMOTHY 3:16.
1. (a) What question went unanswered for more than 4,000 years? (b) When and how was the answer given?
IT WAS a question that went unanswered for more than 4,000 years. Ever since the first man, Adam, failed to keep integrity, the question was: How may godly devotion be manifested among mankind? Finally, in the first century C.E., with the coming of God’s Son to earth, the answer was given. In every thought, word, and deed, Jesus Christ demonstrated his personal attachment to Jehovah. He thus unveiled the ‘sacred secret of godly devotion,’ demonstrating the way for dedicated humans to maintain such devotion.—1 Timothy 3:16.
2. In pursuing godly devotion, why should we consider closely the example of Jesus?
2 In pursuing godly devotion as dedicated, baptized Christians, we do well to “consider closely” the example of Jesus. (Hebrews 12:3) Why? For two reasons. First, Jesus’ example can help us to cultivate godly devotion. Jesus knew his Father better than anyone else. (John 1:18) And so closely did Jesus imitate Jehovah’s ways and qualities that he could say: “He that has seen me has seen the Father also.” (John 14:9) Through the life and ministry of Jesus, then, we can gain a deeper appreciation for Jehovah’s tender qualities, thus strengthening our personal attachment to our loving Creator. Second, Jesus’ example can aid us in manifesting godly devotion. He set the perfect example of conduct manifesting godly devotion. We thus do well to consider how we may ‘put on Christ,’ that is, take him as a pattern, imitate his example.—Romans 13:14.
3. What should our program of personal Bible study include, and why?
3 Not everything that Jesus said and did was preserved in written form. (John 21:25) Therefore, the things that were recorded under divine inspiration should be of particular interest to us. A program of personal Bible study should therefore include regular reading of the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ life. But if such reading is to help us in our pursuit of godly devotion, we must take the time to reflect appreciatively on what we read. We must also be alert to look beyond the obvious.
Like Father, Like Son
4. (a) What shows that Jesus was a person of warmth and deep feeling? (b) What initiative did Jesus take in dealing with others?
4 Consider an example. Jesus was a man of warmth and deep feeling. Notice from Mark 10:1, 10, 13, 17, and Mr 10:35 that people of all ages and backgrounds found him approachable. On more than one occasion, he took children into his arms. (Mark 9:36; 10:16) Why did people, even children, feel so at ease with Jesus? Because of his sincere, genuine interest in them. (Mark 1:40, 41) This was evident in that he often took the initiative to approach others in need of help. Thus, we read that he “caught sight” of the widow of Nain whose dead son was being carried away. He then “approached” and resurrected the boy, and there is no mention that anyone asked him to do so. (Luke 7:13-15) He also, without being asked to do so, took the initiative to heal a crippled woman and a man who had dropsy.—Luke 13:11-13; 14:1-4.
5. What do these accounts of Jesus’ ministry teach us about Jehovah’s qualities and ways?
5 When you read about such incidents, stop and ask yourself: ‘Since Jesus perfectly imitated his Father, what do these accounts tell me about Jehovah’s qualities and ways?’ They should reassure us that Jehovah is a God of warmth and deep feeling. The intensity of his abiding interest in the human family has moved him to take the initiative in dealing with them. He did not have to be coerced into giving his Son “a ransom in exchange for many.” (Matthew 20:28; John 3:16) He looks for opportunities to “get attached” to those who will serve him out of love. (Deuteronomy 10:15) As the Bible says: “[Jehovah’s] eyes are roving about through all the earth to show his strength in behalf of those whose heart is complete toward him.”—2 Chronicles 16:9.
6. What results when we reflect on Jehovah’s warmth and deep feeling as exemplified by his Son?
6 Reflecting in this way on Jehovah’s warmth and deep feeling, as exemplified by his Son, will touch your heart, filling it with greater appreciation for His tender and appealing qualities. This, in turn, will draw you to him. You will be moved to approach him freely in prayer at all times and under all circumstances. (Psalm 65:2) It will strengthen your personal attachment to him.
7. After reflecting on Jehovah’s warmth and deep feeling, what should you ask yourself, and why?
7 Remember, though, that godly devotion involves more than just worshipful feeling. As Bible scholar R. Lenski notes, it “includes our entire reverent, worshipful attitude and the actions emanating from it.” (Italics ours.) So after reflecting on Jehovah’s warmth and deep feeling as exemplified by Jesus, ask yourself: ‘How can I be more like Jehovah in this respect? Do others find me approachable?’ If you are a parent, you must be accessible to your children. And if you are a congregation elder, certainly you should be accessible. What, then, will make you more approachable? Warmth and deep feeling. You must cultivate a sincere, genuine interest in others. When you really care about others and are willing to give of yourself in their behalf, they will sense this and feel drawn to you.
8. (a) What should you keep in mind as you read Bible accounts about Jesus? (b) What do we learn about Jehovah from the accounts cited in the footnote?
8 So as you read Bible accounts about Jesus, keep in mind that you can learn much about Jehovah as a person from the things that Jesus said and did.* And when your appreciation for God’s qualities, as reflected by Jesus, moves you to try to be more like Him, you are giving evidence of your godly devotion.
Practicing Godly Devotion Toward Family Members
9, 10. (a) How were Jesus’ love and concern for his mother, Mary, manifested just moments before he died? (b) Why, evidently, did Jesus entrust the care of Mary to the apostle John and not to one of his own fleshly brothers?
9 The life and ministry of Jesus Christ reveals much about how godly devotion should be manifested. A touching example is recorded at John 19:25-27, where we read: “By the torture stake of Jesus, however, there were standing his mother and the sister of his mother; Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. Therefore Jesus, seeing his mother and the disciple whom he loved [John] standing by, said to his mother: ‘Woman, see! Your son!’ Next he said to the disciple: ‘See! Your mother!’ And from that hour on the disciple took her to his own home.”
10 Imagine that! Just moments before he surrendered his earthly life, Jesus’ love and concern moved him to entrust the care of his mother, Mary, (apparently a widow by now) to the beloved apostle John. But why John and not one of Jesus’ own fleshly brothers? Because Jesus was concerned not just with Mary’s physical, material needs but more especially with her spiritual welfare. And the apostle John (possibly Jesus’ cousin) had proved his faith, whereas there is no indication that Jesus’ fleshly brothers were, as yet, believers.—Matthew 12:46-50; John 7:5.
11. (a) According to Paul, how may a Christian practice godly devotion in his own household? (b) Why does the genuine Christian make provision for elderly parents?
11 Now, how was this a manifestation of godly devotion? The apostle Paul explains: “Honor widows that are actually widows. But if any widow has children or grandchildren, let these learn first to practice godly devotion in their own household and to keep paying a due compensation to their parents and grandparents, for this is acceptable in God’s sight.” (1 Timothy 5:3, 4) Honoring one’s parents by providing material support when that becomes necessary is, as Paul says, an expression of godly devotion. How so? Jehovah, the Originator of the family arrangement, commands children to honor their parents. (Ephesians 3:14, 15; 6:1-3) Hence, the genuine Christian recognizes that caring for such family responsibility not only shows love for one’s parents but also demonstrates reverence for God and obedience to his commands.—Compare Colossians 3:20.
12. How can you practice godly devotion toward elderly parents, and what should be the motive?
12 How, then, can you practice godly devotion toward family members? This would certainly involve arranging to care for the spiritual and material needs of elderly parents, as Jesus did. Failure to do so would reveal a lack of godly devotion. (Compare 2 Timothy 3:2, 3, 5.) The dedicated Christian provides for needy parents not simply out of kindness or duty but because he loves his family, and he recognizes the high regard that Jehovah places on caring for such responsibility. Thus, his looking after elderly parents is an expression of godly devotion.*
13. How may a Christian father practice godly devotion toward his family?
13 Godly devotion may be practiced in the home in other ways. For example, a Christian father has a responsibility to provide for his family materially, emotionally, and spiritually. Therefore, in addition to providing material support, he lovingly arranges for a regular family Bible study. He schedules time to share regularly in the field ministry with his family. He is balanced, recognizing their need for rest and recreation too. And he wisely sets priorities, not allowing congregation activity to cause him to neglect his family. (1 Timothy 3:5, 12) Why does he do all of this? Not merely out of a sense of duty but out of love for his family. He recognizes the importance that Jehovah places on caring for one’s family. By thus fulfilling his responsibility as husband and father, he is practicing godly devotion.
14. How may a Christian wife manifest godly devotion in the home?
14 Christian wives also have a responsibility to practice godly devotion at home. How? The Bible says that a wife should “be in subjection” to her husband and should have “deep respect” for him. (Ephesians 5:22, 33) Even if her husband is not a believer, she is to “be in subjection” to him. (1 Peter 3:1) The Christian woman demonstrates such wifely submission by supporting her husband in the decisions he makes as long as these do not conflict with God’s laws. (Acts 5:29) And why does she accept this role? Not only because she loves her husband but especially because she recognizes that it is “becoming in the Lord”—that is, it is God’s arrangement for the family. (Colossians 3:18) Her willing subjection to her husband is thus an expression of her godly devotion.
“For This Purpose I Have Gone Out”
15. In what outstanding way did Jesus manifest godly devotion?
15 One of the outstanding ways that Jesus manifested godly devotion was by ‘declaring the good news of the kingdom of God.’ (Luke 4:43) Following his baptism in the Jordan in 29 C.E., Jesus spent the next three and a half years intensely occupied with this all-important work. “It is for this purpose I have gone out,” he explained. (Mark 1:38; John 18:37) But how was this a manifestation of his godly devotion?
16, 17. (a) What motivated Jesus to be intensely occupied with preaching and teaching? (b) Why was Jesus’ ministry of preaching and teaching a manifestation of his godly devotion?
16 Recall that godly devotion involves living in a way that pleases God because you love him and deeply appreciate his endearing qualities. What, then, was it that motivated Jesus to spend his final years on earth intensely occupied with preaching and teaching? A mere sense of duty or obligation? There is no question that he had concern for people. (Matthew 9:35, 36) And he fully realized that his anointing with holy spirit appointed and commissioned him to carry out his ministry. (Luke 4:16-21) Yet, his motives went deeper.
17 “I love the Father,” Jesus plainly told his apostles on the last night of his earthly life. (John 14:31) That love is based on a very deep, intimate knowledge of Jehovah’s qualities. (Luke 10:22) Motivated by a heart stirred by deep appreciation, Jesus found delight in doing God’s will. (Psalm 40:8) It was his “food”—so necessary for life, so palatable. (John 4:34) He set the perfect example of “seeking first the kingdom” instead of putting self first. (Matthew 6:33) So it was not just what he did or even how much he did but why he did it that made his ministry of preaching and teaching an expression of his godly devotion.
18. Why is having some share in the ministry not necessarily a manifestation of godly devotion?
18 How can we follow the example of the “model,” Jesus, in this regard? (1 Peter 2:21) All who respond to Jesus’ invitation to “come be my follower” have a divine commission to preach the good news of the Kingdom and to make disciples. (Luke 18:22; Matthew 24:14; 28:19, 20) Does this mean that by having some share in declaring the good news, we are pursuing godly devotion? Not necessarily. If we were to engage in the ministry in a perfunctory or token manner, or in order simply to please family members or others, it would hardly be considered a ‘deed of godly devotion.’—2 Peter 3:11.
19. (a) What must be the primary reason for what we do in the ministry? (b) What results when we are motivated by a deep-rooted love for God?
19 As with Jesus, our motives must go deeper. Jesus said: “You must love Jehovah your God with your whole heart [the emotions, the desires, and the feeling of the inner person] and with your whole soul [your life and entire being] and with your whole mind [your intellectual faculties] and with your whole strength.” To this, a discerning scribe added: “This . . . is worth far more than all the whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” (Mark 12:30, 33, 34) So it is not only what we do that matters but also why we do it. A deep-rooted love for God that involves our every fiber must be the primary reason for what we do in the ministry. When that is the case, we will not be content with a mere token share, but we will be motivated to demonstrate the depth of our godly devotion by doing our utmost. (2 Timothy 2:15) At the same time, when love for God is our motive, we will not be critical, comparing our ministry with that of others.—Galatians 6:4.
20. How may we benefit fully from Jesus’ example in pursuing godly devotion?
20 How thankful we can be that Jehovah has revealed to us the sacred secret of godly devotion! By carefully studying the things Jesus said and did and by endeavoring to imitate him, we will be helped both to cultivate and to manifest godly devotion in fuller measure. Jehovah will richly bless us as we follow Jesus’ example in pursuing godly devotion as dedicated, baptized Christians.—1 Timothy 4:7, 8.
For a full discussion of what is involved in practicing godly devotion toward elderly parents, see The Watchtower, June 1, 1987, pages 13-18.
Do You Recall?
◻ In pursuing godly devotion, why should we consider the example of Jesus?
◻ What do we learn about Jehovah from the warmth and deep feeling exemplified by Jesus?
◻ How may we manifest godly devotion toward family members?
◻ What must be our motive in order for our ministry to be an expression of godly devotion?
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A Christian father is responsible to provide for his family materially, emotionally, and spiritually
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“But if any widow has children or grandchildren, let these . . . keep paying a due compensation to their parents and grandparents.”