Freedom Enjoyed by Worshipers of Jehovah
1, 2. (a) What kind of freedom did God give the first human pair? (b) Mention some of the laws that governed the activity of Adam and Eve.
WHEN Jehovah created the first man and woman, they enjoyed freedom far surpassing any that humans have today. Their home was Paradise, the beautiful Garden of Eden. No illness marred their enjoyment of life, as they had perfect minds and bodies. Death was not waiting for them as it has for everyone since then. Also, they were not robots but had the marvelous gift of free will, the ability to make their own decisions. To continue to enjoy such wonderful freedom, however, they had to respect God’s laws.
2 Consider, for example, the physical laws God has put in place. Of course, these laws may not have been stated in so many words, but Adam and Eve were made in such a way that it was only natural to obey them. Their appetite signaled the need to eat; their thirst, the need to drink; the setting of the sun, the need to sleep. Jehovah also gave them an assignment of work. That assignment was, in effect, a law because it would govern their course of action. They were to bring forth children, exercise dominion over earth’s many forms of life, and extend the borders of Paradise until it covered the entire globe. (Genesis 1:28; 2:15) What a kindly, beneficial law that was! It gave them thoroughly satisfying work, enabling them to use their faculties to the full in wholesome ways. Also, they had ample leeway to make decisions as to how they would carry out their assignment. What more could anyone ask?
3. How could Adam and Eve learn to use wisely their freedom to make decisions?
3 Of course, when Adam and Eve were granted the privilege of making decisions, this did not mean that just any decision they might make would produce good results. Their freedom to make decisions was to be exercised within the boundaries of God’s laws and principles. How could they learn these? By listening to their Maker and by observing his works. God gave Adam and Eve the intelligence needed to apply what they learned. Since they were created perfect, their natural inclination would be to reflect God’s qualities when making decisions. Indeed, they would be careful to do that if they truly appreciated what God had done for them and wanted to please him.—Genesis 1:26, 27; John 8:29.
4. (a) Did the command given to Adam and Eve not to eat of the fruit of one tree deprive them of freedom? (b) Why was this a fitting requirement?
4 Rightly, then, God chose to test their devotion to him as their Life-Giver and their willingness to remain within the area decreed by him. Jehovah gave Adam this command: “From every tree of the garden you may eat to satisfaction. But as for the tree of the knowledge of good and bad you must not eat from it, for in the day you eat from it you will positively die.” (Genesis 2:16, 17) After Eve’s creation, she too was informed of this law. (Genesis 3:2, 3) Did this restriction deprive them of freedom? Certainly not. They had an abundance of delightful food of all kinds to eat without eating the fruit of that one tree. (Genesis 2:8, 9) It was only fitting that they should recognize that the earth belongs to God, since he created it. So he has the right to make laws that suit his purpose and that benefit mankind.—Psalm 24:1, 10.
5. (a) How did Adam and Eve lose the glorious freedom they had? (b) What took the place of the freedom Adam and Eve had enjoyed, and how have we been affected?
5 But what happened? Motivated by selfish ambition, an angel misused his free will and became Satan, which means “Resister.” He deceived Eve by assuring her of something contrary to God’s will. (Genesis 3:4, 5) Adam joined Eve in breaking God’s law. By grasping for what did not belong to them, they lost their glorious freedom. Sin became their master, and as God had warned, death eventually followed. The inheritance they passed on to their offspring was sin—manifest in an inborn tendency toward wrongdoing. Sin also brought weaknesses resulting in disease, aging, and death. The inclination toward wrongdoing, aggravated by Satanic influence, produced a human society with a history of hatreds, crimes, oppression, and wars that have taken many millions of lives. What a contrast to the freedom that God gave mankind at the beginning!—Deuteronomy 32:4, 5; Job 14:1, 2; Romans 5:12; Revelation 12:9.
Where Freedom Can Be Found
6. (a) Where can real freedom be found? (b) What kind of freedom did Jesus speak about?
6 In view of the bad conditions that exist everywhere today, it is no surprise that people long for greater freedom. But where can real freedom be found? Jesus said: “If you remain in my word, you are really my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31, 32) This freedom is not the kind that men hope for when they reject one ruler or one form of government in favor of another. Instead, this freedom gets right to the core of human problems. What Jesus was discussing was freedom from bondage to sin. (John 8:24, 34-36) Thus, if a person becomes a true disciple of Jesus Christ, he experiences a notable change in his life, a liberation!
7. (a) In what sense can we be free from sin now? (b) To have that freedom, what must we do?
7 This does not mean that at present true Christians no longer feel the effects of the inborn tendency toward sinful conduct. Since they have inherited sin, they still have a struggle because of it. (Romans 7:21-25) If a person really lives in harmony with Jesus’ teachings, however, he will no longer be a slave to sin. No longer will sin be to him like a dictator who gives him orders that he must blindly obey. He will not be trapped in a way of life that lacks purpose and that leaves him with a bad conscience. He will enjoy a clean conscience before God because past sins have been forgiven on the basis of his faith in the sacrifice of Christ. Sinful inclinations may try to assert themselves, but when he refuses to act on them because he calls to mind the clean teachings of Christ, he shows that sin is no longer his master.—Romans 6:12-17.
8. (a) What freedoms does true Christianity give us? (b) What should our attitude be toward secular rulers?
8 Consider the freedoms we enjoy as Christians. We have been liberated from the effects of false teachings, from bondage to superstition, and from servitude to sin. The grand truths about the condition of the dead and the resurrection have freed us from unreasoning fear of death. Knowledge that imperfect human governments will soon be replaced by God’s righteous Kingdom frees us from hopelessness. (Daniel 2:44; Matthew 6:10) However, such freedom does not justify disrespect for governmental authorities and their laws.—Titus 3:1, 2; 1 Peter 2:16, 17.
9. (a) How does Jehovah lovingly help us to enjoy the greatest measure of freedom now possible for humans? (b) How can we make wise decisions?
9 Jehovah does not make us figure out by trial and error what is the best way to live. He knows how we are made, what brings us genuine contentment, and what is to our eternal benefit. He is aware of thoughts and conduct that can spoil a person’s relationship with Him and with fellow humans, perhaps even barring that person from the new world. Lovingly, Jehovah informs us of all these things by means of the Bible and his visible organization. (Mark 13:10; Galatians 5:19-23; 1 Timothy 1:12, 13) Then it is up to us to use our God-given free will to decide how we are going to respond. Unlike Adam, if we have taken to heart what the Bible tells us, we will make wise decisions. We will show that a good relationship with Jehovah is our main concern in life.
Wanting Another Kind of Freedom
10. What kind of freedom have some who are Jehovah’s Witnesses reached out for?
10 At times some young people who are Jehovah’s Witnesses—as well as others not so young—may feel that they want another kind of freedom. The world may appear to be glamorous, and the more they think about it, the stronger becomes their desire to do the unchristian things that are popular in the world. Such ones may not plan to abuse drugs, drink too much, or commit fornication. But they begin to associate with some who are not true Christians, wanting to be accepted by these. They may even begin to imitate their speech and conduct.—3 John 11.
11. From where does the enticement to do wrong sometimes come?
11 Sometimes the enticement to indulge in unchristian conduct comes from someone who professes to serve Jehovah. That was true of some early Christians, and the same thing can happen in our day. Such people often want to do things that they feel will bring them pleasure, but these things are against God’s laws. They urge others to have some “fun.” They ‘promise freedom, while they themselves are slaves of corruption.’—2 Peter 2:19.
12. What are the sad results of conduct contrary to God’s laws and principles?
12 The fruitage of such so-called freedom is always bad, since it means disobeying God’s laws. For example, illicit sex can result in emotional turmoil, disease, death, unwanted pregnancy, and possibly the breakup of a marriage. (1 Corinthians 6:18; 1 Thessalonians 4:3-8) Drug abuse can produce irritability, slurred speech, blurred vision, dizziness, impaired ability to breathe, hallucinations, and death. It can result in addiction, which may lead to crime in order to support the habit. Much the same consequences come from alcohol abuse. (Proverbs 23:29-35) Those who get involved in such conduct may think that they are free, but then they find out too late that they have become slaves to sin. And what a cruel master sin is! Reasoning on the matter now can help to safeguard us against such an experience.—Galatians 6:7, 8.
Where Problems Begin
13. (a) How do the desires that lead to problems often get stirred up? (b) To understand what “bad associations” are, whose viewpoint do we need? (c) As you answer the questions listed in paragraph 13, emphasize Jehovah’s viewpoint.
13 Think about where problems often begin. The Bible explains: “Each one is tried by being drawn out and enticed by his own desire. Then the desire, when it has become fertile, gives birth to sin; in turn, sin, when it has been accomplished, brings forth death.” (James 1:14, 15) How does the desire get stirred up? By what goes into the mind. Often this is a result of associating with people who do not apply Bible principles. Of course, we all know that we should avoid “bad associations.” (1 Corinthians 15:33) But which associations are bad? How does Jehovah view the matter? Reasoning on the following questions and looking up the scriptures cited should help us to arrive at proper conclusions.
Does the fact that certain people seem to be honorable mean that they are good associates? (Genesis 34:1, 2, 18, 19)
Could their conversation, perhaps their jokes, indicate whether we belong in close company with them? (Ephesians 5:3, 4)
How does Jehovah feel if we choose intimate association with people who do not love him? (2 Chronicles 19:1, 2)
Although we may work with or go to school with people who do not share our beliefs, why is there a need for us to be cautious? (1 Peter 4:3, 4)
Viewing television and movies, using the Internet, and reading books, magazines, and newspapers are ways of associating with others. Against what type of material from such sources need we be on guard? (Proverbs 3:31; Isaiah 8:19; Ephesians 4:17-19)
What does our choice of associates tell Jehovah as to the kind of people we are? (Psalm 26:1, 4, 5; 97:10)
14. What grand freedom lies ahead for those who faithfully apply the counsel of God’s Word now?
14 Immediately ahead of us lies God’s new world. By means of God’s heavenly Kingdom government, mankind will be freed from the influence of Satan and his entire wicked system of things. Gradually, all the effects of sin will be removed from obedient mankind, resulting in perfection of mind and body, so that we will be able to enjoy everlasting life in Paradise. Freedom that is in full harmony with “the spirit of Jehovah” will eventually be enjoyed by all creation. (2 Corinthians 3:17) Would it make sense to risk losing all of that because of disregarding the counsel of God’s Word now? By exercising our Christian freedom wisely today, may we all show clearly that what we really want is “the glorious freedom of the children of God.”—Romans 8:21.
• What kind of freedom did the first human pair enjoy? How does that compare with what mankind is experiencing now?
• What freedom do true Christians have? How does this contrast with what the world considers freedom?
• Why is it so important to avoid bad associations? Unlike Adam, whose decisions as to what is bad do we accept?
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God’s Word warns: “Do not be misled. Bad associations spoil useful habits”