Worshiping the Living God
TRUE worship is upbuilding. It expresses love of God and of neighbor, and it avoids the uncleanness of the world. Jesus’ half brother James describes it this way:
“The form of worship that is clean and undefiled from the standpoint of our God and Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their tribulation, and to keep oneself without spot from the world.” (James 1:27)
It is not a matter of your following just any sect of religion, like taking any of many paths up a mountain. Such paths may be dangerous and lead you astray, for there are now a multitude of conflicting sects, with leaders who are mistaken or who have selfish motives. To the contrary, true worship will guide you according to “the wisdom from above,” which is “first of all chaste, then peaceable, reasonable, ready to obey, full of mercy and good fruits, not making partial distinctions, not hypocritical.”—James 3:17.
2. (a) Why have some of our forefathers changed their religion? (b) So what is it wise for us to do today? (1 Thessalonians 5:20, 21)
2 Some persons justify their belonging to a certain religion, saying, ‘We and our ancestors have worshiped in this way for generations.’ But history shows that many of those ancestors were willing to change, if they thought it to be beneficial. For example, in Japan everyone followed Shinto worship until the ninth century. Then many persons were attracted to Buddhism and accepted that religion. Today most Japanese persons will tell you that they are Buddhist. That is because their ancestors did not take the attitude, ‘My parents’ religion is good enough for me.’ They were willing to listen to someone else. Now, many persons are listening to the Bible.
3. What mistaken view did Jesus correct when speaking of worship? (Isaiah 46:5-7)
3 What kind of worship does the Bible recommend? When Jesus was here on earth, most people thought that ceremony and formalism were important in worship. Some worshiped in a particular mountain, and others at the temple in Jerusalem. Jesus said of them:
“The hour is coming when neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you people worship the Father. You worship what you do not know . . . The hour is coming, and it is now, when the true worshipers will worship the Father with spirit and truth, for, indeed, the Father is looking for suchlike ones to worship him. God is a Spirit, and those worshiping him must worship with spirit and truth.”—John 4:21-24.
4. What is meant by worshiping God “with spirit and truth”? (Luke 10:27)
4 What did Jesus mean by this? He meant that formalistic worship at a shrine or church, by showy rituals, is not what God wants. Jehovah God is “the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3:18) It is our spirited worship, expressed from appreciative hearts, that counts with him anywhere. Just as God loves us, and shows it by all the grand provisions he has made for us, so we can worship him “with spirit” by demonstrating our love for him, as well as for our neighbor. We can worship him ‘with truth’ by learning from his Word the Bible what his purpose is concerning us, and then doing that will of God. Our worshiping ‘with truth’ also requires that we firmly reject all religious falsehoods.
“GET OUT OF HER, MY PEOPLE”
5 In order for our spiritual worship to be acceptable to Jehovah, we must completely abandon all false worship. The Bible makes this very plain in a number of passages:
“My beloved ones, flee from idolatry.” “You cannot be partaking of ‘the table of Jehovah’ and the table of demons.” “Little children, guard yourselves from idols.” (1 Corinthians 10:14, 21; 1 John 5:21)
To this, the Revelation adds the powerful command: “Get out of her, my people.” Get out of whom? Out of “Babylon the Great, the mother of the harlots and of the disgusting things of the earth”—the world empire of false religion, Catholic, Protestant and non-Christian, all of which reject Bible truth! As we noted previously, her spiritual harlotry consists of giving comfort and support to worldly rulers and politicians. She has even organized her own religion-dominated political parties. Along with her “daughter” sectarian religions she has built up a record of supporting dictators and other political rulers in their wars and programs of violence or oppression. She has looked pretty outwardly, in her professing to make politics “clean,” in giving the rulers a veneer of holiness and in blessing their weapons of war. But heaven tells us urgently: ‘Stand clear of her!’ For the political powers—her former “lovers”—are about to destroy her!—Revelation 17:3-5, 16; 18:4.
6. Can you name some common religious practices that stem from ancient Babylon?
6 So, we need to separate from all false religious schemes, teachings and practices. What are some of these practices? The British cardinal Newman describes a number of them in his Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine, published in 1878:
“The use of temples, and these dedicated to particular saints, and ornamented on occasions with branches of trees; incense, lamps, and candles; votive offerings on recovery from illness; holy water; asylums; holydays and seasons, use of [religious] calendars, processions, blessings on the fields; sacerdotal vestments, the tonsure, . . . images at a later date, perhaps the ecclesiastical chant.”
In his essay, the cardinal speaks of the Catholic Church’s ‘sanctifying’ these practices by adopting them from the non-Christian religions, even though, in his words, these are “the very instruments and appendages of demon-worship.”
7. (a) What religious festivals does God not approve? (b) Is Christmas celebrated on Jesus’ birth date? (c) According to the Encyclopedia Americana, where did Christmas customs originate? (d) What view do true worshipers take toward Christmas, and why? (2 Corinthians 6:17) (e) What one event did Christ command his followers to observe? (Luke 22:19, 20)
7 However, such practices are not approved by the God of truth. Nor does he approve of festivals based on Babylonish religion. As an example, there is the annual festival of Christmas that pretends to celebrate the birth of Jesus, though it has origins in ancient Babylon. The Bible indicates that Jesus was actually born about October 1, 2 B.C.E. But the celebration of Christmas, on December 25, started only in the fifth century C.E., when apostate Christendom attached the name “Christ” to the boisterous year-end orgies of the nations. Says the Encyclopedia Americana, 1959 edition, Volume 6, page 622:
“Most of the customs now associated with Christmas were not originally Christmas customs but rather were pre-Christian and non-Christian customs taken up by the Christian church. Saturnalia, a Roman feast celebrated in mid-December, provided the model for many of the merry-making customs of Christmas. From this celebration, for example, were derived the elaborate feasting, the giving of gifts, and the burning of candles.”
In some parts of the earth, non-Christian Buddhists, Jews and others celebrate “Christmas” with as much zest as Catholics and Protestants. It is often tied in with commercialism and greed. It is not Christian. Nowhere does the Bible support the celebration of the birthday of Jesus or of anyone else, but what Jesus did command was that his followers annually observe his death as a “remembrance.” This was because his death was essential for the salvation of the human race.—1 Corinthians 11:23-26.
8. Why is it urgent that we separate from false religion? (Jeremiah 51:6)
8 The living God of truth does not approve the idolatrous practices and political “courtships” of the world empire of false religion. Truly, these identify her as “Babylon the Great,” concerning which Revelation 18:21 tells us:
“And a strong angel lifted up a stone like a great millstone and hurled it into the sea, saying: ‘Thus with a swift pitch will Babylon the great city be hurled down.’”
If we are to avoid ‘sharing with her in her sins,’ and in her destruction, it is urgent that we separate ourselves completely from false religion!—Revelation 18:2-4.
WORSHIP THAT GOD APPROVES
9. Why should true worshipers congregate together? (Ephesians 4:15, 16)
9 The apostle Paul describes what true worshipers of God should be doing today, in these words:
“Let us hold fast the public declaration of our hope without wavering, for he is faithful that promised. And let us consider one another to incite to love and fine works, not forsaking the gathering of ourselves together, as some have the custom, but encouraging one another, and all the more so as you behold the day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:23-25)
So, as the day fast approaches for God to destroy Babylon the Great and all other unrighteous systems, and to restore on this earth a glorious paradise, those who love Him congregate together, in order to learn God’s Word and encourage one another.
10 However, true worship involves much more than assembling with others who love God. In order to be acceptable to God, we must turn away, not only from false religion, but also from the corrupt way of life of the world. The apostle Paul counsels us to put away “the old personality,” with its loose conduct, uncleanness and greediness. Also, he says:
“You should be made new in the force actuating your mind, and should put on the new personality which was created according to God’s will in true righteousness and loyalty.” (Ephesians 4:19-24)
Our way of life should therefore be morally clean and spiritually upbuilding to those around us. In loyalty to God, we should accept him as Sovereign in our lives.
11. What other pattern of true worship did Jesus supply? (Luke 8:1)
11 Jesus himself set the pattern for true worship in another important way. Shortly after he had been tempted by the Devil, he took up the work described at Matthew 4:17:
“From that time on Jesus commenced preaching and saying: ‘Repent, you people, for the kingdom of the heavens has drawn near.’”
Some three years later, at his trial before Pilate, Jesus confirmed that his witnessing to the truth concerning God’s kingdom had been a key part of his worship while on earth. He said:
“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)
Have you listened to his voice? Then you, too, may enjoy the privilege of witnessing to the truth of God’s kingdom as Jesus did.
12 Another important part of true worship is prayer, which should be offered to Jehovah through the name of Jesus, whose atoning sacrifice opened the way for us to approach God. The Bible condemns formalistic, repetitious prayer. Jesus himself said:
“When praying, do not say the same things over and over again, just as the people of the nations do, for they imagine they will get a hearing for their use of many words. So, do not make yourselves like them, for God your Father knows what things you are needing before ever you ask him. You must pray, then, this way.”
Jesus then provided a model prayer, not to be repeated as a ritual with the use of a rosary or image, but to serve as a guideline for us. He said that first we could properly pray for the name of our heavenly Father, Jehovah, to be sanctified, for his kingdom to come and for his will to be done here on earth as in heaven. In the second place, we could pray for God to supply our daily needs, to forgive our sinful shortcomings, and to help us to keep integrity in spite of “the wicked one,” Satan. (Matthew 6:5-13) All prayers, whether uttered privately, in our family or in an assembled congregation, should be expressed, not as a sanctimonious recitation, but sincerely from the heart. Our prayers must be completely free of the superstitious practices of Babylonian religion. ‘But are superstitions harmful?’ you may ask. Let us see.
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Not temples and shrines, but spirited worship is what counts with God
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Christmas is not Christian
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Worshipers of Jehovah assemble to study God’s Word and share good news with their neighbors