HomeBible Speed Art ListStars in the Swamp

Stars in the Swamp

Stanalone Video

May 18, 2024

See the Final Picture   |   Watch on YouTube

When challenged with creating a picture for his two nephews who were hitting graduation milestones, digital artist of Perhaps Today Daniel T. Adams created this Dead Swamp styled picture based on the 2nd chapter of the book of Philippians in the Bible. Want to know what it all means? Watch the video to find out more.

What’s Love Got To Do With It?

As we launch into today’s Bible Speed Art segment, the first thing we’re going to need to understand is the word “love”. Why is that the case, you might ask? Before we answer that question, let’s first look at the section of the Bible that we’ll be exploring today:

Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed – not only in my presence, but now much more in m absence – continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose. Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life – in order that I may boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor for nothing.

Philippians 2:12-16

The first thing we’re going to note here is the audience that Paul is writing to. In the NIV version he uses the term “dear friends”. However, in the Greek, the adjective “agapetos” is used and is derived from the Greek noun “agape”. If you remember back from our study on the Fruit of the Spirit, we talked all about agape love in the Love Bible Speed Art video. We highly recommend you check out that video first if you have not yet done so. However, we’ll sum it up briefly for you here:

In the English language, we have just one word for love. However, in the New Testament Greek there are multiple words for love. However, the word agape is a word that describes the greatest form of love – Godly love. It is a term that describes the sacrificial and unconditional love of God. When the Bible states that “God is love” (1 John 4:8) it is stating that “God is agape”.

With this information, we can see that this section of the Scripture is being addressed to a group of people who are known to be people of God’s love. And if you reference back to the Fruit of the Spirit series again, you will remember that one must start with self-control before making their way to an understanding of love. That should tell us something about the “dear friends” that Paul is writing to. You can even see that when he describes their heart of obedience, not just when Paul was around, but even more so when he was not.

To often in life, we tend to be “obedient” when the eyes of other people are upon us. A child with a parent. A student with a teacher. A church member with a pastor. A worker with a boss. And the list goes on. However, the true mark of a person pursuing the love of God is in fact obedience. As Jesus said in the book of John:

To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

John 8:31-32

Holding to the teaching of the Lord is paramount in the life of a true worshiper, and Paul addresses that with this audience here. As a matter of fact, if we jump backwards a few verses in the 2nd chapter of Philippians we see a brilliant illustration of the true nature of a true worshiper. So, let’s do that now.

The Attitude of Christ

In order to dive deeper into the nature of the “dear friends” audience, we are going to jump back to verse 5 in the 2nd chapter of Philippians. It says:

Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross!”

Philippians 2:5-8

You might be wondering, “Why did we have to go back to the previous verses in order to understand verse 12 and beyond?” And the answer is quite simple. Verse 12 begins with the word “therefore”, and here’s a little tip when studying the Bible: When a verse begins with the word “therefore”, you need to have an understanding of the section before it before continuing beyond the “therefore”. Therefore (plenty of pun intended), let’s take a look at the key points from the verses above and understand how it ties into verse 12:

  1. the attitude of Christ
  2. the nature of God
  3. we are nothing
  4. the life of a servant
  5. humbleness and obedience

First, to be someone who knows and lives within the “agapetos” (love of God) we need to understand that our attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus. It seems like an easy thing to say, but what was/is the attitude of Christ? Luckily God gives us the answers to that question, so let’s look at those points now.

The Nature of God

The question you might have at this point is, “What does the nature of God have to do with me?” Again, this answer is quite simple. A true believer/worshiper receives a knew nature in Christ. The old, sinful nature is dead and buried and the Spirit of God breathes new life into you.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade – kept in heaven for you

1 Peter 1:3-4

When you receive Christ Jesus as Lord and Savior and are filled with the Holy Spirit, the old is gone and the new alive in Christ. Your old nature was of sin and death; your new nature becomes the nature of God which is holiness and the light of the Lord. Therefore, the attitude of Christ is not tied into a life of sin, death, and wrath, but only found in the holiness of the Spirit of God. As Paul also wrote to the church in Corinth:

For who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ.

1 Corinthians 2:16

Nothing vs. Something

The next point to ponder is the phrase, “he made himself nothing”. Too often in life we tend to think of ourselves as “something”. We chase after it. We pursue it with our time, money, and resources. We seek to be something in our careers and climb the corporate ladder. We want to make a name for ourselves with friends and family and on social media. We strive to have our name in the lights, for popularity, for fame and fortune, and on-and-on it goes. Nowadays, the term being pursued is “internet influencer”. Everyone wants to have the get-rich quick YouTube channels and be validated with tons of likes and subscribes. However, the attitude of Christ is found in making oneself “nothing”. To take it one step further, it is to become a servant. A saying that has always stuck with me is this: The higher the position of authority, the greater if a servant one should be.”

Just imagine if our politicians and “people of power” truly applied the heart of a servant to their careers. If professional athletes – who are admired by kids all over the world – actually used their platform to inspire kids to being a servant to others. Jesus, filled with the glory of the Lord – the chosen servant of God (1 Peter 2:4) – has the name that is exalted above all else in this world yet he was the greatest of servants ever to walk the face of the earth. He made himself nothing because he was never concerned about his own wants and desires, but rather was always focused on the will of the Father, and being obedient in his purpose. Wow! What an example that we should be striving for, but how many of us can say we woke up this morning and the first thought on our minds was to serve the Lord wholly and completely?

Now it’s true, being a servant at all times is not easy. You’re going to get dumped on by others. People will take advantage of you and abuse a servant’s heart. They did it to Jesus, so why would we expect anything less? How many people sought out Jesus as the Messiah – the promised, Anointed One of God – and how many were looking for miracles, healings, to be fed, and so-on? Is that when we turn to Jesus? When we’re in times of need, but when things are good we make him a decoration that sits on a shelf and collects dust? It’s time for those of us who claim to be followers of Christ, to actually follow Christ’s example, to make ourselves nothing and learn to be a servant. Everything we do should be done unto the Lord, for as it is written:

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.

Colossians 3:23-24

As you see, the attitude of Christ is to serve unto the Lord, just as Jesus served. However, this is not a chore or a checklist to complete as to earn your way to heaven. This is done simply because a follower of Christ, a true worshiper, loves the Lord their God with everything they are, and therefore serve because there is no choice not to.

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.”

Mark 12:30

Humbleness and Obedience

I know, I know. The two words above are not words that we like to consider very often unless we’re a parent talking to our children. However, if we expect humbleness and obedience from our kids, why would we think God would expect anything less of his kids?

As we see in verse 8, Jesus humbled himself and became obedient to death, and death on a cross at that. Here’s a question: Why didn’t Paul just stop at saying that Jesus became obedient to death. Period. Why did he need to add “even death on a cross!” He even goes as far as ending that sentence with an exclamation mark. Well, according to the third chapter in the book of Galatians (which is actually quoting from the Old Testament book of Deuteronomy) it says:

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.”

Galatians 3:13

So wait a minute! Is that verse telling us that Jesus was cursed by God because, after all, he was hung on a tree (a cross)? Wow! What a crazy thing to think about, right? After all, that curse was meant for you and I. We are the sinners, Jesus was without sin (Hebrews 4:15), yet he took on the curse by hanging on the cross. It was the only way for us to be redeemed from the curse – to be found at peace with God so that we could become his children, no longer under his wrath but instead wrapped in his forgiveness and love. That’s why Jesus is the only way to the Father. It is why he had to lower himself (humble himself) beneath the very curse meant for you and I. He became obedient to death – a death that would cause him to be under God’s curse – a death that would cause his own Father to turn away from him as our sin was heaped upon his shoulders on the cross. That is why, shortly before he breathed his last, Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “My God, my God, why have your forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34).

If that’s not humbleness and obedience, I don’t know what is. Perhaps, if more people who profess a belief in Jesus could strive for even a tenth of that attitude, there would be people actually wanting to know more about Jesus. Instead, our world is more focused on woke agendas, carbon footprints, electric vehicles, and everything else, which bears the question: What is happening in the world of Christianity? Are the people in the high position of authorities truly serving the Lord, or collecting a paycheck? Are the churches concerned about making disciples or making members of a denomination? How many more church building programs and fundraisers are needed when we should be training people to have the attitude of Christ? If you remember back to verse 5, it says, “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus.” Should be. That means its not a suggestion, it’s a command. If you are going to claim to know and live the love of God, you will have the attitude of Christ. Period. End of story. And with that attitude, comes the goal of being obedient – even to death – even to the point where we strive with everything to be trees that bear good fruit for the Lord, regardless of the cost.

Where are you at today with the attitude of Christ? What attitude did you share with the world from the moment you rose to the moment you read this? Whether at work, or school, or just at home with family or friends, did the attitude of Christ shine through your life like the rays of sunlight streaming through an open window? Or were your curtains and blinds closed, blocking the light and showing others a darkened room? And what will you choose from this moment on?

Let’s Work Out!

Now that we’ve looked at the meaning of the attitude of Christ, we should hopefully understand why verse 12 (Philippians 2:12) begins with the word “therefore”. To be considered the “agepetos” (dear friends), one must have the attitude of Christ. That is why the fruit of the Spirit is so vital in the life of a true believer. The fruit of the Spirit, which begins with self-control, is the nature and character of God in you, which will lead you to love him greater than anything else (including and especially yourself) to where you make yourself nothing and Christ everything, and you lower yourself into a submission to seek and be obedient to the will of God the Father so that you can bring all glory, praise and honor to him through the matchless name of Jesus! That is why Paul added in there about the obedience of the audience he was writing to. And their obedience wasn’t just when he was around, but all the time. They didn’t live their lives to just be in the good graces of Paul when he could see them, but rather lived genuinely for the Lord.

Then, what does Paul tell them to do? “Continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling.”

The word work out in the Greek is an awesome word. It is a word that is about producing and accomplishing. It is a word focused on the end result.

Now, before I go any further, I want to make this next point very clearly. This verse is NOT telling us that we can do something to earn our salvation, because that would be a lie and a contradiction of Scripture. Let’s face it, there is nothing that we can do better or greater than what Jesus has already done for salvation. Salvation belongs to the Lord, plain and simple, so please do not read this verse thinking that Paul is telling you to continue to do works to get your salvation.

As a matter of fact, if we stop for a moment and take a look at the actual specification of that particular verb, we will notice that it is a present, middle, imperative verb. I know what you’re thinking, “Not more grammar,” but we would be remiss on the word if we didn’t take a quick look at that.

  • Work out is a present tense verb. That is fairly self-explanatory. If you think about it, it is always the present. There is no past, and the future actually turns into the present with every breath you take, therefore this means we should constantly at all times be following this.
  • The middle voice is the next piece. In English, we do not have a middle voice. We have an active voice (which means that the subject of the sentence is doing the action). We also have a passive voice (which means that the action is being done to the subject). However, with the middle voice, although the subject of the sentence is directly involved with the action, the subject is not doing the action as is the case with the active. Therefore, when it says “continue to work out your salvation”, it is telling us that the action of the working out is not being done by us, even though we are directly involved in that action. (We’ll talk more about this in a moment.)
  • Finally, the imperative mood simply tells us that this is a command. It’s an order. This is not a suggestion. Why? Well, since it is the work of the Holy Spirit within the life of a believer, the believer has no choice to be obedient. A true worshipper will follow the lead of the Spirit.

Okay, so now that the grammar is out of the way, I think we can begin to build the bigger picture. As I mentioned above, the Spirit of God is responsible for the working out action of that verb for you. You are to submit to his lead in obedience. So, if the word “work out” was all about the end result, then the question comes: What is the end result of our salvation? (Please pay very careful attention to this). The end result of a true believer is to bear good fruit. Thus, this is the work of the Holy Spirit, so that you can bear the fruit of the Spirit. And the fruit of the Spirit (which we already said is the character and nature of God in you) will shine light into the darkness and penetrate the heart of other people around you. As Jesus said,

Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.

Matthew 7:15-20

A true believer will ALWAYS bear good fruit. That is where the imperative command comes into play. If someone wants to sit around and say they believe in Jesus, than their true attitude and nature will be known by the fruit that they bear. We can say what we believe all day long, but you will be known by God by the fruit you bear for him.

As you see depicted in this Bible Speed Art picture, the two boys are rowing a boat through a swamp of death and decay. However, just because they are in the swamp doesn’t mean that they are of the swamp. As you can see, the older brother is serving the younger brother by taking on the chore of rowing the boat, all the while smiling through the difficulty of the work. The younger brother is serving the older brother by holding out the Bible as the one true light source so that they can navigate safely through the false prophets and false lights trying to reach out from the water and distract them from their purpose. You can clearly see the bad trees and the lack of fruit in the swamp. However, you can clearly see the good trees (the kids) and the fruit of each other that they bear. The contrast is night and day, which is what our lives should be like from the rest of the world.

Fear and Trembling

So now that we’ve talked about the working out, let’s talk about why a true believer should be submitting to the Lord in this way. The Bible uses a phrase here of “fear and trembling”. Upon initial glimpse, you might be led to believe that this phrase means you are scared of God.

“I’m afraid of the big God who can strike me down and squash me like a bug!”

However, that kind of mindset could not be further from the truth. The phrase “fear and trembling” is a phrase that means you are in awe of God. You revere him. You are in awe of how good, and mighty, and holy and awesome he is! You are in awe of his glory and know without a doubt that there is none like him, and you cannot fathom a next breath of life without him. You cannot imagine doing anything that could ever put a separation between you and him. Unfortunately, as we mentioned earlier, Jesus had to feel the weight of that curse – that separation as the glory of the Lord left him while he bore our sins on the cross. My sin caused that, and now I cannot fathom ever feeling the weight of that separation. It’s bad enough that we start off in this life separate from his goodness and glory – we start off as enemies of God; we begin in the swamp (Romans 5:10) – however by grace through faith God has pulled us out of the swamp and placed us in a boat. So now, what is so important in the swamp of life around you that you would jump out of the boat for and go dwelling back in the marshes again?

If we pull an example from the Israelites when they were delivered from slavery in Egypt by God, through his servant Moses, they were given everything they could want to navigate the wilderness and inherit a land promised by God. However, they grumbled and complained so much that they actually planned to overthrow Moses, kill him, appoint a new leader who would take them back to Egypt and back into slavery. And what was it that they were willing to jump back into the swamp for? Better food to eat? They had meat in Egypt instead of bread from heaven?

Do you live your life in fear and trembling, or are you still holding onto the swamp in your heart? Is it a family member? A spouse? A child? A job? Money? Sex? Popularity? Or just yourself? Without fear and trembling, this world will entice you, just as the dead people in the swamp are trying to do with the two kids in the boat. It is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose (Philippians 2:13). That means only God can lead you to fulfill the reason for why you were created. Ignore the lies of the world that you need something else besides God to find happiness or satisfaction or purpose. With God, you are found blameless and pure. With God, you are his child and an heir of his kingdom. Don’t listen to the lies. Don’t even look at them. Their light is fake. There is only one true light, and that is what we will cover in our final section here today.

Stars in the Swamp

As we’ve already talked about, this world is wicked. It’s described in verse 15 as being “crooked and depraved” which can be translated in the following way:

  • Crooked → corrupt. As a matter of fact, the word in the Greek is skolios, which is where we get our word for scoliosis (a crooked spine).
  • Depraved → to pervert the truth

That’s why we depicted a swamp in this picture today. However, you are called to shine like stars in this corrupt and truth perverted world. But where does that light come from? It comes from the word of life, shown in the picture by Michael holding out the Bible to lead the way with the light of Christ. It is your purpose. And that light, overflowing from within you, is what will penetrate the darkness and reach the people who are seeking truth and salvation. It is how the Spirit of God will be able to work in you continually to bear good fruit that brings glory to the Father. It’s how you will be recognized by the Almighty God. It’s how your sins are forgiven and hidden by the grace of God, through your faith in Christ. The word of life will be everything as you make yourself nothing. It is what you will be obedient to, even to your death. The word of life is the light that will lead you home.

The Wrap-Up

What is stopping you from letting go of the swamp and stepping fully into the boat that God has prepared for you? What is so important that the swamp is offering that you are willing to turn away from an eternity in the presence of God? What allure is calling to you from the murky waters that you cannot bind with the Spirit of God and in truth? Are you ready to shine like a star in the universe? Are you ready to be a star that leads with a servant’s heart instead of a fake light that distracts from the truth?

Today is the day! Cry out to the Lord, step out of death and into the light of new life. It can only be found in Christ, and when you find it, you will quickly learn that Christ is sufficient and love is enough.

If you need prayer, or would like to know more about this, please contact us today and let us know how we can better serve you. God bless.

The Final Image
Stars in the Swamp Bible Speed Art by Daniel T Adams of Perhaps Today

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *