Break Free to Do the “Complete Will of God”
“Quit being fashioned after this system of things, but be transformed by making your mind over, that you may prove to yourselves the good and acceptable and complete will of God.”—Rom. 12:2.
1. What triumphant announcement is now being proclaimed, and where?
JEHOVAH gave the command: “Proclaim liberty in the land to all its inhabitants.” (Lev. 25:10) Even though darkness covers the earth, and the thick gloom of the nuclear age has settled upon the nations, liberty is now being proclaimed to the ends of the earth. How? By the grand, triumphant announcement that “the kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord [Jehovah] and of his Christ, and he will rule as king for ever and ever.” (Rev. 11:15-18) It spells doom to all enemies of God and mankind. It proclaims that soon all earth will “be filled with the knowledge of Jehovah as the waters are covering the very sea,” and that men of good will may now enter upon an eternity of freedom and happiness as one united human family, praising its Creator and Great Benefactor.—Isa. 11:1-9.
2. Where only is this good news to be found?
2 What wonderful good news! It is good news to warm the heart of every honest soul, whatever his race, nation or tribe, and wherever he may live—in Africa or the Americas, in Asia, Europe or the islands of the sea! This joyous news of liberation is to be found only in God’s Book of Freedom, the Bible, concerning which God’s Son, Jesus, said: “Your word is truth.”—John 17:17.
3. (a) In what way is this world a prison house? (b) How did Jesus identify snares of tradition?
3 In proclaiming liberty to captive mankind, the Bible also identifies clearly the death-dealing snares that have turned this present world into a vast prison house. This world a prison house? Yes, a prison house, in which both Christendom and heathendom are held in bondage by entangling religious traditions. More than nineteen centuries ago that great freedom-fighter, Jesus Christ, condemned the prison keepers of the Jewish nation, saying: “Why is it you also overstep the commandment of God because of your tradition? . . . you have made the word of God invalid because of your tradition. You hypocrites.” (Matt. 15:3, 6, 7) Hypocritically they paid outward respect to God, while teaching and living the traditions of a system of worship in bondage to Satan. However, the snares of tradition have not been confined to the Pharisees’ day. Bonds of tradition and custom are now restraining peoples of all nations on earth today.
4. How may one break free to do God’s will?
4 How may one break free from this bondage? One may break free by heeding the words of Jesus the great freedom-fighter. This Jesus was anointed by Jehovah to “tell good news to the meek ones . . . , to call out liberty to those taken captive and the wide opening of the eyes even to the prisoners.” (Isa. 61:1) He it is that opens eyes of understanding by teaching truth, Bible truth. To those who believe his teaching he says: “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) The truth sets free from tradition, so that one can prove and do “the good and acceptable and complete will of God.”—Rom. 12:2.
5. What kind of fight is necessary to break free, and keep free? Is it worth it?
5 Like their Master, Jesus’ disciples spoke of the world-wide bondage and of the determined fight required to break free. One of these, the apostle Paul, declared: “This, therefore, I say and bear witness to in the Lord, that you no longer go on walking just as the nations also walk in the unprofitableness of their minds, while they are in darkness mentally, and alienated from the life that belongs to God.” (Eph. 4:17, 18) However, to stop walking with the nations, men of good will must bring “every thought into captivity to make it obedient to the Christ.” (2 Cor. 10:3-5) They have to fight, and fight hard, to break free from confusing, vain thoughts and customs of a world that does not know God. Then, having broken free, they must fight on to maintain this freedom. It may mean effort and great sacrifice, but the rewards that God bestows are compensation a hundred times over!—Mark 10:28-30.
6, 7. (a) What traditional pattern is to be found worldwide? (b) To what extent has idolatry become a snare?
6 “Be transformed by making your mind over,” says Paul. Transformed from what? From the world’s traditional pattern. This may differ slightly from country to country, but the general pattern is the same. It is based, not on truth or love, but on superstition, falsehoods and selfishness. Solomon took in this big world when he described it all as “the greatest vanity” and a “toiling for the wind.”—Eccl. 12:8; 5:16.
7 The big part of this world-wide pattern is the bond of religious formalism. Both in Christendom and in heathendom there are the sacred processions, the candles, the offerings of incense, the idols and the “saints.” Those familiar with so-called “Christian saints” need express no surprise when, on visiting the Orient, they find Buddhist idols wearing halos and clasping rosary beads. It is all part of this world’s pattern. Paul’s advice is good for truth seekers world-wide: “My beloved ones, flee from idolatry.” (1 Cor. 10:14) Idol worship is a snare, blinding multitudes to the worship of the one true God.—2 Cor. 4:3, 4.
8, 9. (a) Are “Christmas” and like feasts confined to Christendom? (b) What does Peter say about such revelries?
8 However, the many who have broken free from idol worship and other formalistic rites must beware of more subtle forms of idolatry. World-wide, there are ingrained customs of religion, and often national customs, that run counter to God’s Word. One must break free from these, too, if he is to find life in God’s new world. Many of these customs have taken on a kind of universality, being shared by Christendom and heathendom alike. For example, there are the revelries of “Christmas,” which Christendom has borrowed from heathendom.* However, heathendom, so called, is now borrowing “Christmas” back again, as shown by the following news report from Tokyo in Buddhist Japan: “According to a police poll up until the morning of the 25th, Christmas Eve crowds totaled 3,700,000. It was a postwar peak of reveling.”*
9 The “Christmas” pattern is the same world-wide. But is it Christian? Emphatically, No! Are New Year celebrations, spring festivals and feasts of harvest thanksgiving, as observed world-wide, in harmony with Bible teaching? Or are they worldly “escapism”? To those who are ‘making over their minds’ Peter says: “For 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.” (1 Pet. 4:3) Avoid the worldly pattern!
10, 11. (a) How has the universal doctrine of immortality imposed great burdens on the people? (b) How does Bible truth concerning the dead bring comfort?
10 As John said: “The whole world is lying in the power of the wicked one.” (1 John 5:19) It was the “wicked one,” Satan, who told mankind’s ancestors: “You positively will not die.” This was the first lie, from the father of lies, including his later lie about the inherent immortality of the soul. (Gen. 3:4; John 8:44) Contrary to God’s clear statement, “The soul that sinneth, it shall die,” the religions of the world hold fast to Satan’s teachings. (Ezek. 18:4, AS) In line with their belief that the soul is immortal, both professed “Christians” and “heathens” make long prayers on behalf of the spirits of “the departed,” and at certain seasons hold pilgrimages to family shrines or tombs. In Western lands funerals are often lavish, and prayers for the dead are expensive, but these are even more costly in some Oriental countries. The Chinese save throughout their lifetime so that their death may be celebrated with the utmost extravagance. Children, grandchildren, cousins and other relatives are expected to do obeisance to the living and the dead, and to wear various shades of mourning for years afterward.
11 However, those who ‘make their minds over’ to know God’s perfect will may break free from such religious bondage. Moreover, having Bible truth, they can comfort bereaved ones by telling them of the “hope toward God . . . that there is going to be a resurrection of both the righteous and the unrighteous.” (Acts 24:15) Those having “hope toward God” do not pattern their course according to the world’s way of honoring the dead. Instead, they honor Jehovah and make known his loving purpose concerning the dead.—John 5:28.
12. What living force can overcome materialism and restraining feudalistic traditions?
12 This world’s forms of bondage invade every activity of life. In Western lands, “those who are determined to be rich” fall into the miserable slavery of death-dealing materialism. (1 Tim. 6:9, 10) In the Orient others are so bound down to customs and obligations that it is most difficult for them to think clearly or to reason for themselves. They must hold to a servile position in a feudalistic society, at least so they think. The Buddhists of Thailand say a Christian minister might as well play the violin to a water buffalo as try to explain the Bible to them. However, this is not always true, for even Buddhists are breaking free, to become part of “the precious things of all nations,” worshiping Jehovah God. This is truly testimony to the powerful, living force contained in Jehovah’s Word, the Bible.—Hag. 2:7, AS; Heb. 4:12.
13. What warning does Paul give concerning bonds of worldly wisdom?
13 Then there are the shackles of worldly wisdom. So many, in both the West and the East, are in bondage to human philosophies. Confucius emphasized wisdom, head learning. To this day there are the intellectuals, so called, who set learning up on a pedestal, wandering from one kind of learning to another. They call it seeking culture. Concerning such, Paul warns: “Look out: perhaps there may be some man that will carry you off as his prey through the philosophy and empty deception according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary things of the world and not according to Christ.”—Col. 2:8.
THE COMPLETE BREAK FOR FREEDOM
14. (a) What is now urgent? (b) How may true happiness now be gained?
14 For those who are in bondage to any part of the old world, there has now come the glorious opportunity to make the break, the complete break for freedom. It is urgent, now, to make this break, for this world is in its “last days.” (2 Tim. 3:1) How necessary accurate knowledge is in this day! “The fear of Jehovah is the beginning of knowledge.” (Prov. 1:7) Seeing God’s awesome works in nature and the beauteous variety of his creation, surely all men of good will must appreciate that he is! However, the God of the Bible is no nameless abstraction. He is the Supreme Person, “the King of eternity, incorruptible, invisible, the only God.” (1 Tim. 1:17) He is the Source of all life and energy. He is Jehovah, the Great Purposer, whose thoughts and ways are far above mere human wisdom. (Isa. 55:8-11) Happy the person who learns of Jehovah, and who gains true wisdom. (Prov. 3:13-18) Happy, indeed, the person who studies to know and love Jehovah ‘with his whole heart and with his whole soul and with his whole mind.’ (Matt. 22:37) This one will “be filled with the accurate knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual discernment, in order to walk worthily of Jehovah.” (Col. 1:9, 10) He will come to really appreciate the marvelous provision Jehovah has made through His Son, Jesus Christ, for breaking free to do the “complete will of God” and for surviving the world’s end.
15. What worthy examples are cited of those who broke free?
15 The pages of the Bible are brimming with examples of those who have made this break to be free to do the complete will of God. These are integrity keepers who fought on through a lifetime in doing the complete will of God, and that was a lifetime of joy and satisfaction. There were the three faithful Hebrew captives in Babylon who refused to go along with the crowd in their idol worship. It took courage to stand alone, just as it takes courage for a professing Christian or Buddhist today to break away from idolatrous practices handed down to him by his ancestors. There was Jeremiah, who stood apart from national apostasy and proclaimed the Word of Jehovah. It took courage, just as it takes courage for a Hindu or an African to separate from a national or tribal religion, and to witness for Jehovah. There was Moses, who abandoned the materialism of Egypt’s high society for the humble society of God’s people. It took courage, but consider the abundance of spiritual riches he found, surpassing all the materialistic advantages even of this modern world.—Dan. 3:13-18, AS; Jer. 1:4-10; Heb. 11:24-27.
16. What rewards are to be had in breaking free?
16 Throughout Christendom and heathendom today, hundreds of thousands have likewise made the break for real freedom. They are “the people that know their God,” and through faith in God and Christ Jesus they have grown strong as one New World society earth-wide. (Dan. 11:32, AS) Relatives and former friends may scoff, and say, “What do you get out of it?” What do they get out of it? Why, the riches of the knowledge of God’s perfect will, the sure hope of eternal life in a glorious new world, the surpassing love of real friends now and forever in Jehovah’s New World society! The present world will never understand that love. They see it and they marvel at it, but they will not understand it, unless as individuals they become part of this society. (John 13:34, 35) Jehovah’s witnesses get everything that one’s heart could desire out of wholehearted dedication to the Sovereign Ruler of the universe!
17. What positive action is required in breaking free, and how have many failed in this?
17 Dedication? Yes, dedication to Jehovah is the ultimate step in breaking free to do the “complete will of God.” However, positive action is needed in making this freedom-break, and in all the steps leading up to it; positive effort to get thinking differently from the world, positive study to get to think God’s thoughts, the Bible way, and a positive association with God’s own people in the New World society. (Col. 3:23, 24) It must be a positiveness that follows through all the way to dedication to Jehovah. Here is where many have failed. They have never fully made over their minds, or made up their minds. They have never made that unreserved dedication. They think it would be “lovely” to live in a peaceful new world. They may even go in God’s service occasionally. However, they leave it at that, never dedicating. They miss the real joy that absorbs the New World society and that should absorb them, too. It is not sufficient to give Jehovah just a small part of the heart, and keep the rest for selfish purposes. “You must love Jehovah your God with all your heart and all your soul and all your vital force . . . for Jehovah your God in your midst is a God exacting exclusive devotion.” (Deut. 6:5, 15) This means to transform one’s mind completely, to the point of dedication.
18. How was Ruth an outstanding example in her dedication?
18 Whether one lives in Christendom or in heathendom, his breaking free should be in the same spirit as that of Ruth the Moabitess. Her upbringing had been against a background of pagan religion. However, Jehovah’s worshiper, Naomi, taught her concerning the true God, Jehovah. Ruth was willing to abandon her old associations, abandon her own people even, and to set out for a new country, for a new way of worship. She not only started on that way, but she followed right through, throwing everything she had in with God’s people, Israel. When she was given opportunity to return, never a thought of it! To Naomi she declared: “Where you go I shall go and where you spend the night I shall spend the night. Your people will be my people and your God my God.” Her heart went out in dedication to Jehovah God. She declared that nothing but death would separate her from Jehovah and his people. How rich her reward in the land of God’s people, Israel! How rich the reward for her faithfulness will be in the resurrection! Not even death can separate her from that! Nor can death separate the dedicated, faithful servant of Jehovah today from the blessings Jehovah has in store in the resurrection.—Ruth 1:16, 17; 4:13-15.
19. What appreciation of values is had by God’s dedicated servants?
19 How happy the lot of those who make the complete break for freedom! They are the ones who have the true appreciation of values, who appreciate Jehovah and his goodness and who declare: “One thing I have asked from Jehovah—it is what I shall look for, that I may dwell in the house of Jehovah all the days of my life, to behold the pleasantness of Jehovah and to look with appreciation upon his temple.” (Ps. 27:4) “Jehovah, I have loved the dwelling of your house and the place of the residence of your glory.” (Ps. 26:8) Happy, dedicated servants who live up to their dedication, serving day and night in his temple, always rejoicing in associations with His people!—Rev. 7:9-17.
20. (a) Is it a contradiction to say that those who break free become “slaves”? (b) In what respects are they slaves?
20 What glorious freedom, a freedom that can last forever! Yet God’s freemen are also termed “slaves.” A contradiction in terms? Not as viewed by these willing, happy, joyful slaves of Jehovah, as they carry out their dedication vow. The point is that their freedom is a relative freedom, always subject to the will of Jehovah God. As they delight to do that will, He blesses them with wonderful joys and freedoms, but always within the proper boundaries of His theocratic arrangement. Hence they are slaves, slaves of Jehovah. (Rev. 19:4, 5) They are also slaves of Jesus Christ, in that he bought them with his own lifeblood. “For you know that it was not with corruptible things, with silver or gold, as a ransom that you were released from your fruitless form of conduct received by tradition from your forefathers. But it was with precious blood, like that of an unblemished and spotless lamb, even Christ’s.” (1 Pet. 1:18, 19) They have therefore become “Christ’s slaves, doing the will of God whole-souled.”—Eph. 6:6.
21. What is the contrast of old-world slavery with the lot of Jehovah’s slaves?
21 However, those who do not dedicate to Jehovah are also slaves, a different kind of slaves. They are the unhappy slaves of Satan and his world. Every person on this earth today has either to be an abject slave of this miserable world, or he must break free to become the joyful slave of Jehovah. Each one must choose. (Josh. 24:15) As Jesus stated: “No one can be a slave to two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will stick to the one and despise the other. You cannot be slaves to God and to Riches.” (Matt. 6:24) The wise declare: “I rejoiced when they were saying to me: ‘To the house of Jehovah let us go.’” (Ps. 122:1) Eternal pleasures are in store for all who resolutely take the step of dedication and then hold fast to that dedication.
22, 23. What family problems may arise for those dedicating to Jehovah, and what counsel is given for handling such problems?
22 However, the pattern of the old world presents many problems to those dedicating. In many lands the wife is slave to her husband, and in some places the husband is slave to the wife. How does this bear on the question of dedication? 1 Corinthians 7:24 reads: “In whatever condition each one was called, brothers, let him remain in it associated with God.” While remaining with an unbelieving husband, a newly dedicating wife must recognize that now she becomes also a “slave of Christ” and “associated with God.” (1 Cor. 7:22-24) In other words, she cannot give her husband such abject subservience as would hinder her Christian worship. However, this does not mean leaving her husband. While standing firmly in Jehovah’s worship, she is also diligent to do what is required of her in the home. (Prov. 31:27, 30) She has love for her husband and for their children, and she will be a worker in the family interest. Her new way of life in harmony with Christian principles may even make a great impression on her husband.—1 Pet. 3:1-4.
23 At times the expression is heard, “My husband is opposed.” But is he really opposed? There are some who have never discussed the matter of their dedication with their marriage mate. No one should ever think that he or she can get by just doing some service when the unbelieving mate is not around. How much better to explain straightforwardly what this dedication means. The one newly dedicating to Jehovah can let the marriage mate know that in family affairs it can mean getting along better than before, as the Bible says one should. (1 Tim. 5:8; 3:11) However, as regards spiritual matters, there are meetings to attend, and field service that needs to be done, one’s sacred service to God. (Rom. 12:1) These can often be discussed tactfully and pleasantly, always making plain the heartfelt desire to co-operate. Wives should continue to respect the husband’s headship in home affairs. What joy if he responds to the truth! But if he chooses not to listen, the wife’s humble course of action can often do a lot of talking, silently proving she is a better wife.—1 Tim. 2:8-10.
24. What should be the Christian’s attitude toward secular occupations?
24 Many individuals are in slavery to their employer or their business. They feel that their obligations go beyond the hours of work, that they must get involved in social and sports activities arranged for the firm’s employees. Others become so engrossed in their secular job that they work at it day and night, or seven days a week. Whatever the material advantages, or whatever the promotion in view, none of it can begin to compare with the glorious prospects of eternal service in God’s new world. The wise person will keep secular pursuits in their place. “No man serving as a soldier involves himself in the commercial businesses of life, in order that he may meet the approval of the one who enrolled him as a soldier.”—2 Tim. 2:4.
25, 26. (a) How does Paul counsel concerning burdensome traditions? (b) What united, progressive front is presented by God’s ministers?
25 Indeed, the bonds of the old world prison house are many. In view of this, Paul admonishes to “put off every weight and the sin [lack of faith] that easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, as we look intently at the leader and perfecter of our faith, Jesus.” (Heb. 12:1, 2) Away with the heavyweighted slaveries of this evil world!
26 Associate in, and be absorbed in, New World activity! What precious associations these! God’s ministers may come from many different religious backgrounds, from many different walks of life, from many different nationalities. But the truth has made them one. (John 17:20-23) In brotherly love they have tender affection for one another. All are aglow with the spirit. All are willing slaves of Jehovah, rejoicing in the hope ahead, enduring under tribulation, persevering in prayer. No one loiters in this business of New World activity. (Rom. 12:10-12) All who really break free delight to do the “complete will of God.” So doing, the days of their lives become long, joyful days, many days, stretching into all eternity!
Derived from pagan Rome’s Saturnalia. See The Watchtower, December 15, 1956, page 741.
Tokyo Shimbun, December 25, 1956.