Beware that You Do Not Lose Your Place!
“Let him that thinks he has a firm position beware that he does not fall.”—1 Cor. 10:12.
1. Is there a possible danger of losing one’s place in the New World society?
IT IS one thing to find a pearl of very great value. It is quite a different thing to keep from losing it. It was one thing for Adam and Eve to find themselves in the Edenic garden of perfection; it was another matter whether they proved worthy of remaining in it forever. As pointed out in the previous article, it is important for people to find and take their proper places in the New World society of Jehovah’s witnesses without delay. But once they are in it, it becomes even more urgent upon them to keep that precious place faithfully and loyally. Otherwise stated, it is not so much a matter as to who comes into the truth as it is who remains in the truth, for there is no such thing as “once saved always saved.” The apostle Paul’s case is in point. Almost unthinkable it is that a person like the apostle would ever lose his place, yet he saw the ever-present danger of doing that very thing. To prevent such a calamitous thing from occurring he said: “I browbeat my body and lead it as a slave, that, after I have preached to others, I myself should not become disapproved somehow.” We do well to heed his warning.—1 Cor. 9:27.
2. Point out some of the pitfalls that have caused others to lose out.
2 Certain precautions, if taken, will serve as safeguards against losing one’s privileged place in the New World society. One such protective measure is to observe and avoid the errors and pitfalls into which others have stumbled. “Shrewd is the one that has seen the calamity and proceeds to conceal himself, but the inexperienced have passed along and must suffer the penalty.” (Prov. 22:3) So, to keep your place faithfully, do not follow the wicked course of Satan the Devil. He let iniquity, that is, lawlessness and rebellion against Jehovah’s organization, take root in his heart. Do not openly or secretly challenge Jehovah’s channel of communication, as Korah, Dathan and Abiram did, lest the earth swallow you up and you lose your place among those who will live in the new world. Do not secretly commit the sin of Achan by attempting to gain material loot contrary to Jehovah’s commandments. (1 Tim. 6:9) Achan’s confession when he was caught with the goods came too late to prevent his being disfellowshiped from the congregation of God. Do not lie to Jehovah or to his appointed servants like Ananias and Sapphira did, lest you drop out of place as quickly as they dropped dead in their tracks. Do not play the hypocrite and betray God’s organization to the godless Communists or other agencies of the Devil’s organization, as Judas Iscariot did. That too is suicide. All these foolish individuals lost their places in God’s theocratic organization. (Ezek. 28:13-15; Isa. 14:12-14, AV; Num. 16:1-35; Josh. 7:1-26; Acts 5:1-11; Matt. 27:3-5) Do not so much as even slow down and look back. “Remember the wife of Lot,” for she too lost both her place and her life when she slowed down and looked back. Be on guard, therefore, and walk circumspectly, in order that you do not stumble over some unforeseen obstacle, lose your footing and fall out of God’s favor. “Let him that thinks he has a firm position beware that he does not fall.”—Luke 17:32; 1 Cor. 10:12.
3. What encouraging examples do we have of those who steadfastly kept their places?
3 Instead of following the course of those who lost their places in Jehovah’s arrangement of things, much better it is to copy the virtuous examples of those who remained immovable regardless of what hit them in the way of painful trials and seductive temptations. There is a great cloud of these inspiring examples surrounding us, and the apostle Paul mentions a number of them in the eleventh chapter of Hebrews. Chief of such faithful witnesses was Christ Jesus; and what a perfect example he is of one who steadfastly kept his place! “Look intently at the leader and perfecter of our faith, Jesus. For the joy that was set before him he endured a torture stake, despising shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Indeed, consider closely the one who has endured such contrary talk by sinners against their own interests, that you may not get tired and give out in your souls.”—Heb. 12:2, 3.
4. What scriptures show that Jehovah requires obedience of all of us?
4 Concerning this perfect place-keeper, Jesus, it is written: “Although he was a Son, he learned obedience from the things he suffered.” If it was necessary in Jehovah’s all-wise arrangement of things to prove whether his perfect and only-begotten Son would obediently keep his place under stress, how much more so should we be proved, we who “were once senseless, disobedient, being misled, being slaves to various desires and pleasures.” (Heb. 5:8; Titus 3:3) Obedience to Jehovah is a prime requirement of those keeping their place, and faithful Samuel emphasized this when proud King Saul in disobedience got out of place. “Look! to obey is better than a sacrifice, to pay attention than the fat of rams.” (1 Sam. 15:22) “Obey my voice,” Jehovah himself commands, “and I will be your God, and ye shall be my people: and walk ye in all the ways that I have commanded you, that it may be well unto you.” That is the only way to remain within the organization whose God is Jehovah; and this explains why disobedient Israel as a nation got so far out of line that they were finally cut off completely. The sad historical commentary reads: “But they [the nation of Israel] hearkened not, nor inclined their ear, but walked in the counsels and in the imagination of their evil heart, and went backward, and not forward.”—Jer. 7:23, 24, AV.
5. How may we avoid the disaster that befell ancient Israel?
5 If spiritual Israel, represented today by the remnant, together with their good-will companions are to avoid the disaster that overtook ancient Israel, then they must be obedient to the “superior authorities,” Jehovah God and Christ Jesus. They must also show proper respect toward the central governing body, the traveling representatives of that body, as well as the overseers in the local congregations. “Let the older men who preside in a right way be reckoned worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard in speaking and teaching.” “Remember those who are governing you, who have spoken the word of God to you, and as you contemplate how their conduct turns out imitate their faith. Be obedient to those who are governing you [taking the lead among you] and be submissive, for they are keeping watch over your souls as those who will render an account.” “In like manner, you younger men, be in subjection to the older men.”—1 Tim. 5:17; Heb. 13:7, 17; 1 Pet. 5:5.
6. Is it possible for those in Communist countries to have a place in the New World society?
6 Willingness to be in subjection and obey properly constituted authority is not a hard thing to do for those keeping their proper place in the New World society; but sometimes Jehovah’s witnesses are unwillingly forced to be in subjection to unreasonable authority and to those who are “difficult to please,” as, for example, in Communist slave camps. But if, because of a good “conscience toward God,” they suffer great affliction and bear up under cruel persecution they will certainly continue to hold on to their cherished place in the New World society despite the fact that they are isolated from physical contact and cut off from communication with their brothers and sisters in other parts of the world. Actually, in their suffering for what is upright and true they are only following closely the footsteps of Christ Jesus their perfect Model.—1 Pet. 2:18-21.
7. Overseers must display what quality, and why?
7 Overseers and “those who are governing you,” to whom members of the congregations are in submission, must themselves keep their proper place in the organization. They must be humble in mind and attitude, not bossy or dictatorial in their treatment of others, not presumptuous before God. Rather, they must have the same mental attitude the Leader and Commander of God’s people has always had, for says the apostle: “Keep this mental attitude in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although he was existing in God’s form, gave no consideration to a seizure, namely, that he should be equal to God. No, but he emptied himself and took a slave’s form and came to be in the likeness of men. More than that, when he found himself in fashion as a man, he [further] humbled himself and became obedient as far as death, yes, death on a torture stake.”—Phil. 2:5-8.
KEEP YOUR PLACE BY BEARING FRUIT
8. What striking illustration did Jesus give to show the necessity of keeping one’s assigned place in God’s organization?
8 This magnificent example of faithful obedience and submission, Christ Jesus, gave a very fitting illustration of how those who are grafted into this fruit-bearing society should keep their respective places. “I am the true vine, and my Father is the cultivator,” he said. Now, “every branch in me not bearing fruit he takes away, and every one bearing fruit he cleans, that it may bear more fruit.” Further underscoring the necessity of holding on to one’s place, Jesus continues: “Remain in union with me, and I in union with you. Just as a branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it remains in the vine, in the same way neither can you, unless you remain in union with me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He that remains in union with me, and I in union with him, this one bears much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing at all.” Note, now, the terrible consequences befalling anyone who has his own way of doing things and is not at oneness with the Head and others in the organization. “If anyone does not remain in union with me, he is cast out as a branch and is dried up, and men gather those branches up and pitch them into the fire and they are burned.”—John 15:1-6.
9. (a) How should one respond to correction? (b) What divine judgment awaits those who produce only thorns and thistles instead of Kingdom fruit?
9 This apt illustration shows that if any in the organization become lax or careless in their bearing of Kingdom fruit they are ‘cleaned’ or ‘trimmed’ with the truth in order that they may become more productive. (John 15:2, 3) So when corrected, instead of becoming offended and bucking against the organization it is much wiser to keep one’s place and bear even more fruitage, for disgruntled ones are pitched outside. Describing the fiery destruction awaiting those who fall away from their place in Jehovah’s sacred vinelike organization, it is written: “For it is impossible as regards those who have once for all been enlightened and who have tasted the heavenly free gift and who have become partakers of holy spirit and who have tasted the right word of God and powers of the coming system of things, but who have fallen away, to revive them again to repentance, because they impale the Son of God afresh for themselves and expose him to public shame. For example, the ground that drinks in the rain which often comes upon it and . . . [then] produces thorns and thistles, it is rejected and . . . it ends up with being burned.”—Heb. 6:4-8.
10. (a) How should we clothe the nakedness of our imperfections? (b) Why is “lowliness of mind” such a great virtue?
10 Besides these many examples and illustrations there is also a great deal of direct counsel in the Scriptures, which, if followed, will help each one in the New World society to keep in his place. We being born in sin and shaped in lawlessness, our dispositions, by nature, are rather unsightly. We should therefore cover up the nakedness of our imperfections, and the Scriptures suggest the proper clothing to use. “As God’s chosen ones, holy and loved, clothe yourselves with the tender affections of compassion, kindness, lowliness of mind, mildness, and long-suffering. Continue putting up with one another and forgiving one another freely if anyone has a cause for complaint against another. Even as Jehovah freely forgave you, so do you also.” “Lowliness of mind” or humility is a great virtue. It will keep one from becoming a boaster, proud or exalting oneself because of superior education or a better economic or social standing or because of a presumably higher position in the organization. We should remember that “not many wise in a fleshly way were called, not many powerful, not many noble; but God chose the foolish things of the world, that he might put the wise men to shame, and God chose the weak things of the world, that he might put the strong things to shame; and God chose the ignoble things of the world and the things looked down upon, the things that are not, that he might bring to nothing the things that are.” Why? Paul emphasizes the importance of humility when he answers: “in order that no flesh might boast in the sight of God.”—Ps. 51:5; Col. 3:12, 13; 1 Cor. 1:26-29.
CEMENTED IN PLACE BY THE BOND OF LOVE
11. What special bond holds true Christians together?
11 What beautiful garments—tender affections, kindness, lowliness of mind, mildness and long-suffering! But these are not enough to cover our imperfections. The apostle adds yet another part of dress to this ensemble that must be worn by all who are identified with the society that is new and altogether different from the present system of selfishness and greed. “But, besides all these things, clothe yourselves with love, for it is a perfect bond of union.” Yes, indeed, love first for Jehovah and Christ Jesus, and love too for one another, is a bond or cement that will identify and hold us firmly in God’s organization.—Col. 3:14; John 13:34, 35.
12. In walking orderly, what practices must those of the New World society avoid?
12 With each one adorning himself with these godly qualities there is no envying of one another or coveting the place and position that another is assigned to. There is no competition among those of the New World society. Co-operation, not competition, is one of the high principles of God’s organization. There is also no room for inflated egos or egotistical practices among Jehovah’s witnesses, for if anyone pursued such a course he would be walking out of step, walking disorderly, and thus out of harmony with theocratic instructions. “If we are living by spirit, let us go on walking orderly also by spirit. Let us not become egotistical, stirring up competition with one another, envying one another.” “Make my joy full in that you are of the same mind and have the same love, being joined together in soul, holding the one thought in mind, doing nothing out of contentiousness or out of egotism, but with lowliness of mind considering that the others are superior to you, keeping an eye, not in personal interest upon just your own matters, but also in personal interest upon those of the others.”—Gal. 5:25, 26; Phil. 2:2-4.
13. Is there room in this theocratic organization for slanderers and busybodies?
13 This recommended helpful co-operation between members of the New World society certainly is not counseling individuals or making allowance for individuals to busybody in the business of other persons. Indeed, if any would pry into, meddle with and unscripturally concern themselves with the private matters of others, such ones would be out of place and walking entirely out of order. Does not this same writer take to task those who go “gadding about” as “gossipers and meddlers in other people’s affairs”? “Make it your aim to live quietly and to mind your own business . . . so that you may be walking decently.” “For we hear certain ones are walking disorderly among you, not working at all but meddling with what does not concern them.” (1 Tim. 5:13; 1 Thess. 4:11, 12; 2 Thess. 3:11) The apostle Peter goes so far as to classify those who busybody in other people’s matters with thieves and murderers, and the Scriptures say that the place for murderers and their associates is completely outside the New World system of things.—1 Pet. 4:15; Rev. 22:15.
14. Mutual co-operation results in what healthy benefits?
14 So the helpful co-operation that exists between Jehovah’s witnesses is a healthy, uplifting and strengthening force that mutually aids both the strong and the weak ones. It is very much like the assistance and aid that the individual members of the human body supply one another so that all are able to retain their organic place in the body. “Let us by love grow up in all things into him who is the head, Christ. From him all the body, by being harmoniously joined together and being made to cooperate through every joint which gives what is needed, according to the functioning of each respective member in due measure, makes for the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.”—Eph. 4:15, 16.
15. (a) To what extent must there be unity in matters of doctrine and teaching? (b) What warning example do we find in the case of Miriam?
15 This co-operation on the part of each one in this bodylike organization is not simply in physical matters at congregation meetings or in helping one another to engage in the public preaching activity. It also includes a harmonious unison with the Head of the organization in spiritual matters of doctrine and teaching. “I exhort you, brothers, through the name of our Lord Jesus Christ that you should all speak in agreement, and that there should not be divisions among you, but that you may be fitly united in the same mind and in the same line of thought.” There can be no divisions in belief and teaching of Bible truths. If, therefore, anyone in the organization would set himself up as an expounder of new and strange doctrines not founded upon the revealed Scriptures, and in opposition to what the Lord God has brought to light through his theocratic organization, then that one would be wholly out of place, as out of place as leprous Miriam was when quarantined outside the camp of Israel because she attempted to cause a division in that theocratic society of long ago.—1 Cor. 1:10; Num. 12:1-16.
16. To remain in the harness as “slaves” of Jehovah and Christ, what must we do?
16 Subservient service to the “superior authorities,” Jehovah God and Christ his King, is also demanded of all those keeping their places. “Be slaves to Jehovah,” the Scriptures say. “Whatever you are doing, work at it whole-souled as to Jehovah, and not to men, for you know that it is from Jehovah you will receive the due reward of the inheritance.” Those who are willing slaves to Jehovah are also voluntary “slaves to the Master Christ.” (Rom. 12:11; Col. 3:23, 24) To such this loving Master extends the invitation: “Take my yoke upon you and become my disciples, . . . For my yoke is kindly and my load is light.” Here, then, you members of the New World society, is where your proper place is—under Christ’s easy yoke of service, pulling with him and his organization. There is no place in this theocratic organization for any who hold back and who have to be prodded, or for those who grudgingly and sluggishly drag along halfheartedly, or for those who jump over the traces and stubbornly want to go their own way. The voluntary slaves of Jehovah are and must be hard workers, willing workers, diligent workers, who gladly and joyfully team up with Christ Jesus and one another and apply their minds and bodies and all their talents and physical energies toward advancing the Kingdom interests. That is what Jesus did, and Jehovah’s witnesses today are privileged to be ‘substitutes for Christ.’—Matt. 11:29, 30; 2 Cor. 5:20.
17. What is required of all those that keep their place when it comes to endurance and covenant keeping?
17 “No man that has put his hand to a plow and looks at the things behind is well fitted for the kingdom of God.” Thus Jesus stated an important principle, namely, it is endurance that wins. Endurance is required of all those who will retain their place in the New World society. “He that has endured to the finish is the one that will be saved.” “Prove yourself faithful even with the danger of death, and I will give you the crown of life.” (Luke 9:62; Matt. 24:13; Rev. 2:10) We once accepting the responsibilities that go with a theocratic appointment, faithfully sticking to that assignment is required. Never be a quitter, for quitters are disapproved by Jehovah and are removed from their places of appointment. Demas was such a quitter, one who forsook his theocratic privileges, simply because “he loved the present system of things.” Judas Iscariot was another quitter and he lost all hope of a return to a place of life. It was after this unfaithful one had been dismissed from the last passover meal that Jesus said to the remaining faithful eleven: “You are the ones that have stuck with me in my trials; and I make a covenant with you, just as my Father has made a covenant with me, for a kingdom.” Since covenant breakers and those “false to agreements,” as quitters, “are deserving of death,” covenant keeping becomes an all-important matter.—2 Tim. 4:10; Luke 22:28, 29; Rom. 1:31, 32.
18. So what are the beneficial results of keeping our proper place in the New World society?
18 You, therefore, of the New World society, all of you, with endurance prove faithful to your dedication vows. Continue “keeping a tight grip on the word of life.” Never lose your grip and you will never lose your place. And keeping your place now in the New World society, you will prove worthy of living forever, either associated with Christ Jesus in the heavens, or here upon the earth under Edenic conditions of perfection—all to your everlasting blessing and prosperity and, above all, to the honor and glory and vindication of Jehovah’s most holy Word and name!—Phil. 2:16.