Living Up to the Name
You must not take up the name of Jehovah your God in a worthless way.”—Ex. 20:7.
1. What indicates that a Christian must be progressive in his worship?
TRUE worship is not an idle centuries-old formalism. It is alive, progressive, productive. “The word of God is alive,” says the inspired apostle Paul. (Heb. 4:12) And Proverbs 4:18 declares: “The path of the righteous ones is like the bright light that is getting lighter and lighter until the day is firmly established.” We must go on walking in the advancing light. Being a Christian, therefore, is not merely a matter of learning certain doctrines, acknowledging as good a body of principles that govern life, and then ever after laying claim to the designation Christian. Not at all! A Christian must live his faith, be progressive in study of the truth and in its application in worship, and be productive of right works that bring praise to his God Jehovah.
2. What must be avoided by those who accept the light of truth?
2 Already we have seen the need of a sound Scriptural basis for our beliefs, setting aside the mere traditions and philosophies of men that deprive one of the light of truth. Jesus said: “I am the light of the world. He that follows me will by no means walk in darkness, but will possess the light of life.” (John 8:12) When one is called out of darkness into this marvelous light, he must appreciate its value enough to continue to walk in it, making no excursions back into the darkness that enshrouds the world. (1 Pet. 2:9; Isa. 60:2, AS) There can be no fellowship between light and darkness.—2 Cor. 6:14.
3. Why is it vital for one to identify himself with the New World society?
3 There are many who have come to recognize the gross spiritual darkness that covers the world and blinds the minds of men; they have caught sight of the light of truth proclaimed by those whom Jesus identified as the “light of the world,” yet they do not identify themselves with that New World society of light-bearers. (Matt. 5:14) They endeavor to maintain a supposedly “neutral” position. In doing so they are failing to take into account that in this time of judgment when they are given the opportunity to learn the truth and take their stand for Jehovah God and his righteous kingdom, they make a choice that means life or death. (Deut. 30:15, 16) They may believe the message, but unless they actually follow Christ, identifying themselves with him and his brothers, the collective body of the anointed witnesses of Jehovah, they do not possess the light of life. None in ancient Sodom who failed to take action and actually associate with Lot and his household and move out of that doomed city survived. None who failed to respond to the warning message delivered by Noah and get into the ark with him and his family lived through the cataclysm then. “So the presence of the Son of man will be.” (Matt. 24:39) How urgent it is in the short remaining time for one to identify himself with the New World society within the arklike new system of things! The Scriptures are emphatic, and for that true Christians are grateful, because it leaves in their minds no question as to what is required to meet God’s approval.
4. What viewpoint should be taken toward meeting attendance?
4 Those within the New World society recognize as a provision for their spiritual well-being the requirement stated in Hebrews 10:24, 25: “Let us consider one another to incite to love and right 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.” Jehovah has spread a spiritual feast of fat things for his people to build them up and strengthen them for the faith-testing trials that they now face and that lie ahead in even greater measure as Gog of Magog moves in for his attack in an all-out effort to wipe out the spiritually prosperous New World society. Now is the time to respond to the invitation to partake of these spiritual provisions freely. (Rev. 22:17) New ones and even others may find that other interests tend to crowd out that regular new-world association. Is it secular work, visitors or other activities? Then read carefully the counsel found in Ephesians 5:15-17: “Keep strict watch that how you walk is not as unwise but as wise persons, buying out the opportune time for yourselves, because the days are wicked.” Yes, it is going to cost us something. We may have to give up other activities on those evenings. But if we as Christians have set our heart on the ‘new heavens and new earth where righteousness is to dwell,’ is it not the reasonable thing to do to keep that interest close in mind and to guide our life accordingly? (2 Pet. 3:11-13) “On this account cease becoming unreasonable, but go on perceiving what the will of Jehovah is.” There is no question as to what his will in this matter is; he has expressed it in his Word. The reasonable Christian course is to mold our lives to the pattern that will merit his approval.—Rom. 12:2.
5. What is the natural desire of one who learns the truth?
5 As our minds are filled with the truth, we cannot help but be moved by an overwhelming desire to make known our appreciation to Jehovah God for his innumerable expressions of loving-kindness to his creatures. We count ourselves happy to be numbered among his servants and to give him exclusive devotion. As the psalmist long ago said, so we respond: “Oh give thanks unto Jehovah; for he is good; for his lovingkindness endureth for ever.” If we held back we would feel as Jeremiah, who said that God’s Word is as “a burning fire shut up in my bones, . . . and I cannot contain.” (Ps. 136:1; Jer. 20:9, AS) We can show this desire to serve by dedicating ourselves to God, symbolizing that dedication by water immersion and then living up to it by continuing to do his will.
6. What shows that dedication and baptism are necessary for one who lives up to the name as a Christian?
6 That dedication and baptism are divine requirements is clearly set out in the Bible. Christian dedication is the act of a person in setting himself apart by solemn agreement, unreservedly and unconditionally, to do the will of Jehovah God through Christ Jesus, as that will is set forth in the Bible, being made plain by God’s holy spirit. To demonstrate the correctness of such an act one need merely ask himself, ‘Is it proper for a person to serve God, giving him exclusive devotion, and should expression of this desire be made to God in prayer?’ The answer is obviously Yes! Jesus rejected the Devil’s suggestion to the contrary when he said: “It is Jehovah your God you must worship, and it is to him alone you must render sacred service.” (Luke 4:8) Shortly prior to this he expressed himself in prayer to his Father, as it had long before been recorded in the Psalms: ‘Look! I am come to do your will.’ (Heb. 10:7-9) He made known his desire to render sacred service exclusively to his Father Jehovah God. As a symbol of that dedication vow, he was baptized in the Jordan River by John the Baptizer. (Mark 1:9) He himself explained to the somewhat hesitant John that this was necessary in order to carry out God’s righteous requirements, and Jehovah himself joined in bearing witness to that fact by opening the heavens and saying that he approved his Son and consequently the course he had taken. (Matt. 3:13-17) Jesus pointed out that those who become his disciples would likewise be baptized.—Matt. 28:19, 20.
7. Why do some hold back from dedication and baptism?
7 With such a clear-cut precedent for this Christian course, what is there that could cause one to hold back from dedication and baptism? Lack of mature Christian love. One who loves God obeys his commandments. (1 John 5:3) Of course, this may be affected by various matters. For example, some are so preoccupied with business interests or pursuit of the comforts of the world that they have little time left. If so, now is the time to change the object of their affections with a view to life in the new world. “Do not be loving either the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him; because everything in the world—the desire of the flesh and the desire of the eyes and the showy display of one’s means of life—does not originate with the Father, but originates with the world. Furthermore, the world is passing away and so is its desire, but he that does the will of God remains forever.” (1 John 2:15-17) The Bible refers to those things craved by many as the “deceptive power of wealth,” because having wealth gives one a false sense of security. (Matt. 13:22) True security is found in loving and serving Jehovah.
8. Why will one who loves God not want to avoid making a dedication and symbolizing it by water baptism?
8 There are those who unlovingly hold back from making a dedication to Jehovah because they feel they are in that way avoiding a heavy load of responsibility and will not be accountable for it. They want to live in the new world, but are too lazy to do anything about it. “The lazy one is showing himself desirous, but his soul [has] nothing. However, the very soul of the diligent ones will be made fat.” (Prov. 13:4) They have not avoided accountability, because responsibility came when they were given the opportunity to hear the word of Jehovah. (Ezek. 33:7-9, AS) By making a dedication they demonstrate that they understand the will of God and are eager to do it. In then being baptized they do not further obligate themselves but are merely demonstrating by obedience that they meant what they said when they pledged unreserved obedience to God. They go on record before their fellow Christians, as they have already gone on record before God, that they mean it when they say they want to serve God. It is an act of obedience on their part and, instead of placing a heavier load upon them, it calls forth Jehovah’s blessing, because they are living up to the dedication vow they have already made in their prayer to God.
9. What is really missing when some hold back from dedication fearing that they do not know enough, and what scriptures show this to be so?
9 With others it may be a sense of inadequacy, a feeling that they do not know enough to explain the Bible to others, that causes them to hold back fearfully. But is the lack altogether one of knowledge? The Ethiopian eunuch, mentioned in the eighth chapter of Acts, was ready to symbolize his dedication to Jehovah after a discussion with Philip on a chariot ride. A leper who was cleansed by Jesus was so filled with gratitude that he could not keep it to himself but “started to proclaim it a great deal and to spread the account abroad.” (Mark 1:40-45) Surely he could not answer all the questions of those to whom he spoke, but he knew that this was the best thing he had ever encountered and he could tell others where they could learn more. They may not have had all the answers, but they had hearts overflowing with gratitude for the things they had heard and experienced. They did not hold back in fear. “There is no fear in love, but perfect love throws fear outside, because fear exercises a restraint.” (1 John 4:18) Not alone a head full of answers, but a heart full of love is what moves one to obey God’s commandments. If we would gain life in the new world we must have that kind of love. “‘You must love Jehovah your God with your whole heart and with your whole soul and with your whole strength and with your whole mind,’ and, ‘your neighbor as yourself.’ . . . ‘keep on doing this and you will get life.’”—Luke 10:25-28.
PERFORMING EFFECTIVE SERVICE
10. How is field ministry to be performed if it is to be acceptable to Jehovah?
10 To Christians in this time of the end the instructions for service are given in Matthew 24:14: “This good news of the kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth for the purpose of a witness to all the nations, and then the accomplished end will come.” All who lovingly obey Christ count it a privilege to share in this ministry. By participating in this Kingdom-preaching activity they “offer to God a sacrifice of praise, that is, the fruit of lips which make public declaration to his name.” (Heb. 13:15) These sacrifices may not be presented in a haphazard way, but in a way that is worthy of the God in whose service they are offered. However, the acceptability of one’s service is not determined by comparison with that of his brothers; it is governed by comparison with what he can do. Jesus pointed out that a poor widow who offered at the temple only two coins of very little value had given more than the rich, because she gave “her whole living.” (Mark 12:44) How vital it is that we, too, put everything into it when we present our sacrifice of praise to God!
11. What is one good evidence of a fruitful ministry and why is it so important?
11 Christ Jesus showed what else makes one’s service well pleasing in the sight of God. “My Father is glorified in this, that you keep bearing much fruit and prove yourselves my disciples.” (John 15:8) Merely sowing seed is not the same as bearing fruit. That seed of truth must be watered and cultivated and grow into a productive plant in order to bear fruit. If as a result of our ministry the seed of truth does take root and is cared for until it too grows into a fruit-producing plant, then our ministry glorifies Jehovah because it produces more praisers. Each congregation and each individual who shares in Jehovah’s service would do well to stop and ask, ‘Can I point to a fruitage of praise-producing dedicated ministers as evidence of a ministry productive of praise to Jehovah?’ Paul could, and he said: “You are shown to be a letter of Christ written by us as ministers, inscribed not with ink but with spirit of the living God, not on stone tablets, but on fleshly tablets, on hearts.” (2 Cor. 3:3) If we have no such letter of recommendation, then instead of continuing to perform a ministry that is in this respect unproductive, we would do well to analyze ourselves and our service to see wherein improvement may be made.
12. What quality demonstrated by Jesus and copied by Christians strengthens them to continue preaching in spite of opposition?
12 Jesus pointed out that the second of the two great commandments is to love one’s neighbor as oneself. Not only did he speak about it; he demonstrated it. He felt compassion for the crowds to whom he preached, because, as he said, “they were skinned and knocked about like sheep without a shepherd.” (Matt. 9:36) His heart went out to them, and that love attracted those who were of a righteous disposition. So it is with those who are his disciples. They are recognized as his disciples because they manifest the enduring quality of love. (John 13:35) With godly concern for the Master’s sheep they return to homes time and again, urging the inhabitants to “become reconciled to God.” (2 Cor. 5:20) True, they may have been coldly turned away or had the door slammed in their face the last time they were at a home, but ‘love is long-suffering. It does not look for its own interests, does not become provoked. It does not keep account of the injury.’ (1 Cor. 13:4, 5) And since it is love that moves them to call at the homes, when they make repeated visits they are still just as eager to help the individuals to gain life in the new world as they were on their first visit. It is this quality that keeps them from shying away from territory or homes where they may not have been received hospitably in the past, or favoring certain types of territory over others. It keeps them optimistic when the message they bear is repeatedly rejected. Having done their best to prepare and present it, they know that the sheep know the Master’s voice and respond, and they rejoice as they see before them the clear evidence of the dividing work that is now being performed under the direction of the King Christ Jesus through the preaching being carried on by his anointed brothers and their other sheep companions. (Matt. 25:31-33) When one accepts the truth, how glad they are to have associated with them another one of the Lord’s sheep! And when they have done their part in preparing and, where possible, presenting the message, instead of being discouraged they have their faith made more firm when they behold the prophecy-fulfilling scoffers who reject the good news.—2 Pet. 3:3, 4.
REPEATED COVERAGE OF TERRITORY
13, 14. (a) What situation has arisen in many places due to preachers’ diligence in the ministry? (b) What similar situation existed in the first-century Jerusalem congregation?
13 For about forty years now since the Lord Jehovah with his Messenger of the covenant came to the spiritual temple for judgment, Jehovah’s faithful witnesses have gone through the lands, in fulfillment of the vision of the man clothed in linen and with the writer’s inkhorn by his side. (Ezek. 9:1-11, AS) In some cities and towns they have called back at the homes time and again, perhaps doing so every few weeks. The householders may tell them that they have heard the message, and the religious clergy complain that they have filled the land with their doctrine about Jehovah God and his kingdom. In many places Jehovah’s witnesses meet up with general indifference or even open opposition. In view of these things, should they now feel that the work is done?
14 Faced with this situation, it is advisable to consider the situation of our brothers in the first-century Jerusalem congregation. So keenly had the preaching work been felt there that the brothers were haled before the Supreme Court for a second time with the firm rebuke: “We positively charged you not to keep teaching upon the basis of this name, and yet, look! you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and you are determined to bring the blood of this man upon us.” Some did not appreciate the repeated visits at their homes; but were the apostles free to withdraw from this service? Not if they wanted to be true Christians, ministers of God. Their simple answer to the court was: “We must obey God as ruler rather than men.”—Acts 5:28, 29.
15, 16. (a) How intensively did they cover their territory? (b) What were the results, and why?
15 Consider the circumstances that prevailed in that congregation. On the day of Pentecost when with the outpouring of the holy spirit the great preaching campaign was launched in Jerusalem there was a group of 120 who received the holy spirit from God and thereafter moved out into the work. Jerusalem was logically their assignment. How large was it? It seems that Jerusalem at that time was about 4,000 feet long from north to south and 2,600 feet wide from east to west. It covered less than half a square mile, including the spacious temple area. Of course, with narrow streets and houses of several stories crowded closely together, the population would be considerable. But visualize the situation. With this area that might be comparable to about seventy-two city residential blocks, there was little more than half a block for each minister to serve. Is your territory for witnessing as filled as that with Kingdom ministers?
16 The work did not come to a standstill. For on that eventful day of Pentecost “about three thousand souls were added” to their numbers. With this great influx of believers who were eager to speak the truth, a tremendous witness was given in their assignment. “At the same time Jehovah continued to join to them daily those being saved.” And the congregation expanded so that “the number of the men became about five thousand.” The work still did not stop, but “the word of God went on growing, and the number of the disciples kept multiplying in Jerusalem very much, and a great crowd of priests began to be obedient to the faith.” (Acts 2:41, 47; 4:4; 6:7) Why the tremendous expansion? Simply because they ‘obeyed God as ruler rather than men.’ Their opponents begged them to stop. From a human standpoint it may have seemed that the territory was being covered too much. But the work was being done under the direction of God’s spirit. They followed its direction, diligently planting and watering, and God kept making it grow.
17. (a) How have Jehovah’s witnesses shown great consideration for their neighbors in making such repeated visits? (b) Should they now slow down in territory that has been covered many times?
17 But should not the convenience of the public be considered? Yes, and it is when Jehovah’s witnesses put their interest in their neighbors above their own personal convenience and return in spite of the rebuffs they may receive, in spite of the indifference they may meet, in spite of unfavorable weather or even ban on their work and threat of imprisonment or even death if they continue. They know that only those who willingly receive the mark in the seat of their intelligence because they have heard the message and accepted and acted on it in faith will survive the coming battle of Armageddon. It is because they love their neighbors that they urge them to “become reconciled to God.” God’s command to his servants today, as to Ezekiel of old, is: “Thou shalt speak my words unto them, whether they will hear, or whether they will forbear.” (Ezek. 2:7, AS) Those who will respond to the message and receive the mark from the “man in linen” class are described as “a great crowd, which no man was able to number.” (Rev. 7:9) Well aware of that fact, none of Jehovah’s witnesses take it upon themselves to say that the work is done in their territory, that there are no more sheep. They are glad to continue with their ministry until Jehovah says it is enough by making ‘the cities wasted without inhabitant.’—Isa. 6:11, AS.
18. What is necessary if there is to be growth in the Christian congregation, and so what is the right course to follow?
18 Jehovah’s witnesses are keenly aware of the fact that it is not they but God who keeps making his organization grow. (1 Cor. 3:6) So when they consider how to improve their ministry they do not propose the injection of ideas and schemes of men for gathering together people and building up a huge organization. The organization is God’s, and only those who are drawn to it by him because of being sheeplike persons who love him, his Son and his kingdom and who have listened to his Word in belief have a place in it. Since it is by means of his spirit that Jehovah performs his work, his people are anxious for there to be evidence of the operation of that spirit in their ministry by bringing forth fruit. If such is lacking, they study again the ways and means employed by Christ Jesus and endeavor to copy him more closely. By thus responding to the guidance of the Bible, which was recorded under inspiration of holy spirit, they open the way for God’s spirit to operate more freely in their lives, bringing forth the fruitage in their ministry that honors God.
19. What will assure maximum results in our ministry, and why?
19 Those mature in Christian growth have, through the Scriptures and the evident manifestation of Jehovah’s favor on his faithful and discreet slave, come to appreciate that Jehovah deals with his people as an organization and that his spirit operates in conjunction with that organization. (Matt. 24:45-47) Consequently, when they consider the factors that affect growth in their congregation, they know that a major consideration is their response to the instructions regularly provided through the columns of The Watchtower, Kingdom Ministry and other theocratic publications and through assemblies. Since that spirit of God operates in conjunction with the organization, to the extent that the local overseers, ministerial assistants and individual ministers respond to the counsel provided them through the theocratic organization, to that extent the way is open by this means for the free flow of God’s holy spirit. Any who feel that they are not seeing results to the extent that they might in the expansion of true worship in their assignment would do well to consider these factors, dispel any negative or defeatist attitude and optimistically put into operation all the provisions suggested by the theocratic organization. If we diligently plant and water, following the lead Jehovah gives us through his Word and his channel of communication, he will bless our efforts with growth until all his sheep are safely gathered into his New World society.
20, 21. (a) How may we organize to expand our service? (b) What viewpoint should be taken of service privileges entrusted to our care?
20 Now at this crucial time when the old world under Satan nears the time of its complete destruction at the hand of Jehovah’s Executioner-Son Christ Jesus, it is vital that we live up to the name we bear as Christian witnesses of Jehovah so that we will be found in favor with Jehovah and his Son. As Christian ministers of God we have a purpose in life, and that is to give exclusive devotion to our God Jehovah. Never should we lose sight of it, but always mold our lives to conform to it. Having started in the way of righteousness, let us never turn back.
21 If you have made a dedication to serve God, let it guide your decisions. Instead of taking on further obligations that will detract from your ministry, rather be always on the alert to avail yourself of opportunities to expand your knowledge of the truth and to accept further privileges of service. It may be that you can organize your affairs to spend more time in the ministry as a congregation publisher; if possible, even moving with your family into territory where the need for help is great. If so, you will want to do that. Perhaps you can organize your life to take hold of the glorious treasure of full-time ministry as a pioneer, going through Gilead School and on to missionary service or serving as a member of the Bethel family. Having taken a forward step, make it your determination to hold on to your privileges of service. It is easy to step aside and let someone else take over, but the pattern set out for us in the Bible is that of faithful servants who stuck to their work. There is no record that Jesus turned in a service assignment uncompleted, though he has through faithfulness been rewarded with further and greater privileges of ministry. Abraham accepted a foreign service assignment from Jehovah when he was seventy-five years old, and he stayed on the job for a hundred years, until the time of his death. May it be the determination of everyone associated with the New World society of Jehovah’s witnesses to copy those patterns of faithful perseverance. Having begun the course, let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, following the way blazed by Christ Jesus, the one whom God approves.—Heb. 12:1, 2.