Walking Blamelessly Through the Last Days
A WORLD does not end every day! Not since the great flood of Noah’s time has a “world” or system of things for governing the affairs of all mankind passed out of existence. But now, by occurrence of every detail of the great sign Jesus gave, we know that we face the imminent end of the present world system. (Matthew 24; Mark 13; Luke 21) We know too that we live now in most privileged times. There is an old worldly saying of some wit that states: “You will never get out of this world alive.” Now, however, this is no longer necessarily true. God’s people, his ministers, witnesses for his supremacy, today have their minds turned toward the new and righteous system of things looming just beyond this transition period. Their minds have been transformed. They find themselves now in the congregation of Jehovah God and they respond in grateful praise to their mighty Benefactor. They love life and want to be found in Jehovah’s great congregation of survivors in the dawning new world as well. They wisely spurn the course of the dying old world, which travels the path of least resistance, boards the vehicles of self-gratification and will abruptly dead-end at the final Armageddon showdown. They engross themselves with God’s commands and with how to keep them in a faultless way.
God’s commands? What are they? “Who knows?” smiles the critic. “Who cares!” jeers the scoffer. But oh yes, God commands and directs his people today as always. All should recognize the special seriousness now with the judgment of an entire world at hand, but only those with minds renewed can grasp this. Only they see that ‘the time that has passed by is sufficient for you to have worked out the will of the nations when you proceeded in deeds of loose conduct, lusts, excesses with wine, revelries, drinking matches, and idolatries that are without legal restraint. Because you do not continue running with them in this course to the same low sink of debauchery, they are puzzled and go on speaking abusively of you. But these people will render an account to the one ready to judge those living and those dead”. (1 Pet. 4:3-5, NW) It is pitiful to think of those continuing willfully to scorn God’s righteous requirements because of their stupor from the wine-cup of drunkenness or dish of gluttony. They are like the proverbial sluggard too lazy to lift his hand again to his mouth.—Prov. 26:15.
Pitiful, yes. But our concern must be for those who show repentance from the old course and who then go so far as to dedicate their lives to Jehovah and his service. And our watching the great visible congregation of God grow in numbers must move us to see that the individual members ever go on growing in spiritual strength and maturity as well. We must show this concern for each one of these sheeplike ones now flocking in, because God does.
OBSERVING “A NEW COMMANDMENT”
How tenderly and closely Jehovah regards his people is shown in his reference to them as “the apple of his eye”. (Zech. 2:8) The place of honor he assigns them is described by Daniel: “They that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever.” (Dan. 12:3) Surely not what they are of themselves calls forth such glowing description, but what Jehovah’s undeserved kindness has bestowed upon them for their faithfulness. What is that? Something more powerful than the atomic weapons with which this world has just so recently become acquainted; something beyond comparison in value with the greatest stores of material wealth ever accumulated on this earth. It is the word of truth Jehovah entrusts to his witnesses by which he makes them his message bearers. The apostle Paul did not underestimate the importance of such a charge, but urged young Timothy, one of God’s first-century messengers: “Ponder over these things, be absorbed in them, that your advancement may be manifest to all persons. Pay constant attention to yourself and to your teaching. Stay by these things, for by doing this you will save both yourself and those who listen to you.”—1 Tim. 4:15, 16, NW.
To no idle work or vain reward are those now called who enter God’s great congregation. It is life they are working for, “the real life.” (1 Tim. 6:19, NW) Are you one already gathered into this congregation and helping others in the way to life? Then are you not moved with the seriousness of keeping the congregation a unit functioning to God’s praise, meeting his requirements, a fit place for the Lord Jesus to direct his “sheep”? Then is it not an individual responsibility to do so, something to which each Christian minister must “pay constant attention”?
Yes. But no more are we motivated as the pre-Messiah Jews once were, by a code of written laws and rules and regulations. Jesus left behind instead a new spirit of authority based on his own unselfish devotion: “I am giving you a new commandment, that you love one another; just as I have loved you, that you also love one another.” And note what this would show: “By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love among yourselves.” (John 13:34, 35, NW) This command cannot be fulfilled lackadaisically in the “easy come, easy go” attitude of many worldlings today. It must not be a groundless, empty affection or infatuation like that often displayed by Christendom’s clergy who foolishly try to love everything in sight, including this wicked world, and fondly embrace it while professing to reform it. How far have they gotten? One dare practice no hypocrisy either in his love, for God and Christ can see what we do not, the heart motive of the individual. Christians are under orders from God through his organization to meet the divine requirements thoroughly and without fault. Said Paul: “I give you orders that you observe the commandment in a spotless and irreprehensible way until the manifestation of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Tim. 6:13, 14, NW) Now with that manifestation in evidence can we who are blessed with living today afford to relax? Certainly not. Judgment is searing this old world, piling up evidence warranting its early destruction. We hope for continued life; so let us make sure the life we live now is worthy of survival into the new world.
THE DISTINGUISHING SIGN
Christian growth is at stake, ours and that of our fellow Christians. Within worldly religious Christendom there is a flowery pretense of Christian love and good works. But this veneer is marred irreparably by hate, spite, idle gossip, slander, cheating, thievery and murder. God decries such practices: “There are six things which Jehovah hateth; yea, seven which are an abomination unto him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood; a heart that deviseth wicked purposes, feet that are swift in running to mischief, a false witness that uttereth lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren.”—Prov. 6:16-19, AS.
It would be folly to dismiss these evil practices with a wave of the hand and a self-assured word that ‘I would never be guilty of that!’ Every time we open our mouths in the heat of anger we chance becoming guilty. So easy is it to sympathize with our own cause, imagine ourselves all right, our brother with whom we quarrel all wrong, appeal to others for sympathy, perhaps embellish the tale a bit as we go along, gradually begin what spreads into a vicious cycle of gossip. Nor must we steal our neighbor’s ox to be guilty of theft or slay him with a carnal weapon to be guilty of murder. “Death and life are in the power of the tongue.” (Prov. 18:21) “Every kind of wild beast as well as bird and creeping thing and sea creature is to be tamed and has been tamed by humankind. But the tongue, not one of mankind can get it tamed. An unruly injurious thing, it is full of death-dealing poison.” (Jas. 3:7, 8, NW) Theft of a good name is also stealing. Destroying a good standing in the eyes of others is likewise “killing”.
Beware that you are not overcome by such practices and even your joys of Kingdom service shrink away, because the two, the bad and the good, cannot coexist indefinitely. James asks: “A fountain does not cause the sweet and the bitter to bubble out of the same opening, does it?” And he answers: “If you have bitter jealousy and contentiousness in your hearts, do not be bragging and lying against the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is the earthly, animal, demonic. For where jealousy and contentiousness are, there disorder and every vile thing are. But the wisdom from above is first of all chaste, then peaceable, reasonable, ready to obey, full of mercy and good fruits, not making partial distinctions, not hypocritical. Moreover, the fruit of righteousness has its seed sown under peaceful conditions for those who are making peace.”—Jas. 3:11, 14-18, NW.
Our trouble might even blossom into complaint or rebellion against God’s organization that had once brought us the truth and mothered and nurtured us, perhaps beginning with faultfinding with one or more “servants” in the local congregation, our fellow slaves appointed to assist us in our praise to God. Jude warns against the fates of any like Cain, Korah, Balaam, Judas and others who fell to become “stars with no set course, for which the blackness of darkness stands reserved forever”. Blacked out, then, all the splendor that had gone with their truth-telling and had formerly won for them a likeness to the brilliant stars of the heavens.—Jude 13, NW.
Viewing the possible fearful consequences of hate and spite, would not greater tolerance and more concessions by us be the wiser course in the very beginning of possible trouble? “Love,” you know, “is long-suffering and obliging. Love is not jealous, it does not brag, does not get puffed up, does not behave indecently, does not look for its own interests, does not become provoked. It does not keep account of the injury. It does not rejoice over unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” Small wonder Jesus named this quality as the distinguishing sign of his disciples. Remember?—1 Cor. 13:4-7, NW.
OVERSEERS OF THE FLOCK
No, not all will continually remember this. So that is where those of us who are stronger and more mature in the faith should joyfully take up the slack caused. That is an important reason for having servants, overseers in the Christian congregation. That is why the overseer’s requirements are so rigid, assuring that he will be fully mature. (1 Tim. 3:1-13) The servant’s job is not an honorary, title-holding ornament like the “honorary degrees” conferred by universities upon world dignitaries. The work of the congregation must be their work. They are spiritual shepherds, so the problems of the flock respecting its Christian activity must be their problems. That the flock is nourished must be a matter of deepest concern to them. Concern? Is that term strong enough? See how the burdens of his apostleship affected Paul: “Out of much tribulation and anguish of heart I write you with many tears, not that you may be saddened, but that you may know the love which I have more especially for you.”—2 Cor. 2:4, NW.
Can we imagine a do-nothing, lackadaisical attitude by the stalwart men who worked prominently in behalf of God’s purposes during Bible history? Can we visualize Noah saying to his household: ‘Let me know when the ark is finished so that I may join you’? Did Moses say to the Israelites in Egypt: ‘I will meet you at the Red sea—get there the best way you can’? Did Joshua say: ‘Call me when the walls of Jericho fall’? Or do you think Jesus ever said: ‘Go ahead and save yourselves the best way you can; form your own religion, you can do as well at it as the sectarian Jewish scribes and Pharisees’?
Think of how many times the Israelites murmured against Moses during the wilderness sojourn. Yet time and again he overlooked this baseless faultfinding and bickering; he continued leading by Jehovah’s direction. On the one occasion when he did let this harping drive away his better judgment, while bringing forth water from a rock at Meribah, he railed back at the congregation and his anger led him to exalt himself in their eyes in the place of God.—Num. 20:10-13.
Now that we stand on the very crest looking into the antitypical promised land of the new world, do not all personal difficulties seem far too insignificant to allow them to crop up and overshadow the great issues of Jehovah’s name and our eternal life? Maturity is what we want, is it not? Maturity that will culminate in fully grown true worshipers enjoying everlasting life and praise to God. Then why not cleanse out anything that will stunt either our own or our brother’s growth to that desired goal?
“The ground that drinks in the rain which often comes upon it and that then brings forth vegetation suitable to those for whom it is also cultivated, receives in return a blessing from God. But if it produces thorns and thistles, it is rejected and is near to being cursed, and it ends up with being burned.” Jehovah’s undeserved kindness toward us all has been as rich and refreshing as new rain. Do not negate personally the effect of your Christian good works by making this all a waste. Instead may we keep walking in tune with God’s organization toward increase, peace and prosperity and receive “a blessing from God”.—Heb. 6:7, 8, NW.