Attain Completeness in the New World Society
“You must accordingly be complete, as your heavenly father is complete.”—Matt. 5:48.
1. To what do God’s servants hold fast, and what do they shun?
DARKNESS covers the earth, and the slaves of the present evil system of things continue to dwell in that darkness. However, those who break free to do Jehovah’s will rejoice in the light. They press on to attain Christian ‘completeness.’ Appreciating all that Jehovah has done for them, they hold fast to their blessed position as “sons of light.” (1 Thess. 5:5) They shun the course of this world that wants its own kind of freedom, freedom to do as it pleases without regard to God or fellow man. This self-styled freedom is indeed a slavery of the most miserable sort.
2. How may one hold to the Source of life?
2 The freedom of the man who denies his dependence on God is the freedom of the bird that flies from its cage to die in unaccustomed surroundings. The disobedient cannot find life by fleeing from its Source. Says Paul: “The wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not become partners with them; for you were once darkness, but you are now light in connection with the Lord. Go on walking as children of light, for the fruitage of the light consists of every kind of goodness and righteousness and truth. Keep on making sure of what is acceptable to the Lord.”—Eph. 5:6-10.
3, 4. (a) What reward did disobedience bring to Israel? (b) What reward does it bring to Christendom? (c) Where only are godly qualities of obedience now to be found?
3 The Bible gives warning examples of disobedient men and disobedient nations. Israel, though specially favored of Jehovah, became wickedly disobedient, and brought shame and reproach upon His name. Against her came the stinging lash of Jehovah’s judgment by the mouth of Jeremiah: “But this word I did express in command upon them, saying: ‘Obey my voice, and I will become your God and you yourselves will become my people, and you must walk in all the way that I shall command you in order that it may go well with you.’ But they did not listen, neither did they incline their ear, but they went walking in the counsels in the stubbornness of their bad heart, so that they became backward in direction and not forward, from the day that your forefathers came forth out of the land of Egypt until this day . . . And you must say to them, ‘This is the nation whose people have not obeyed the voice of Jehovah its God, and have not taken discipline. Faithfulness has perished, and it has been cut off from their mouth.’ Shear off your uncut hair and throw it away, and upon the bare hills raise a dirge, for Jehovah has rejected and will desert the generation with which he is furious.”—Jer. 7:23-29.
4 Disobedience brought Israel to ruin. Today it is hurrying Christendom on to destruction at Armageddon. However, though national groups may fail, individual slaves of Jehovah have brought glory to his name by their uncompromising and positive obedience. “We must obey God as ruler rather than men” has been their resolute stand from which nothing, not even torture and death, could shake them. (Acts 5:29) Now in these last days, the same godly qualities are to be found, not in sham Christendom, but in a body of people who have been humble enough to go back to the primitive Christianity of the Bible. These obediently pay back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, but are careful also to pay back to God all that is His.—Matt. 22:21.
5. How must true Christians meet the issues of the day?
5 Since Caesar is, and always has been, a bully, it means unceasing vigilance to prevent him from grabbing what is God’s. Some issues, like those involving Christian neutrality, freely expressing truth, and in some countries the right to preach the good news from house to house and even meet together, test their obedience in a crucible fired by savage hostility. However, in all their trials they have before them the example of “the Chief Agent of their salvation” who was made “perfect through sufferings” and who “learned obedience from the things he suffered.” (Heb. 2:10; 5:8) They, too, are learning.
6. (a) What two important points are made in 1 Corinthians 11:3? (b) How does Jesus exercise headship?
6 One of Jehovah’s principles, explained and illustrated throughout the Scriptures, is that of headship. Headship involves obedience. In the family, “the head of a woman is the man.” Men may like to remind their wives of this point, but are all men as anxious to grasp the point of the preceding phrase, that “the head of every man is the Christ”? Some may feel that the headship of Christ is less tangible than that of man. However, this is not so. Having received authority from Jehovah, Jesus exercises his headship. But at the same time Jesus recognizes that “the head of the Christ is God.” (1 Cor. 11:3) Taking Paul’s illustration of the organization as a human body with its great variety of functions, it can readily be appreciated that the head does not do everything, but it does direct. It employs the members of the body to do its bidding. The whole body under the direction of the head moves and acts as a beautifully co-ordinated unit, perfectly organized. In the same way Christ, the Head, employs the organization that is his body to carry out his assigned work. His orders reach the whole of the organization on earth through the governing body, and on down through the Branches to the congregations.—1 Cor. 12:12-18; Matt. 24:45-47.
7. How does one hold to the headship of Christ?
7 To hold to the headship of Christ, it is therefore necessary to obey the organization that he is personally directing. Doing what the organization says is to do what he says. Resisting the organization is to resist him. Furthermore, the order of things requires that the men take the lead in being obedient to Christ’s instructions through God’s Word and his organization. Otherwise, their talk of headship will sound hollow and meaningless, and they will be inconsistent in requiring recognition of their headship by their wives and sisters in the congregation.
8. (a) What is one obstacle to obedience? (b) Show with examples what false reasoning leads to disobedience.
8 One obstacle to obedience and submission is the tendency in imperfect humans to pass judgment on the fitness or otherwise of the instructions that come down to them. Instead of accepting these as from Christ through the organization, they debate within themselves, or with others, what they shall do. This may be normal procedure in the present evil world, but it has no merit in Jehovah’s eyes. On one occasion King Saul considered it sensible to salvage some of the enemy’s possessions. Worldly reasoning might have agreed with him. However, Jehovah did not agree with him. He had instructed otherwise. Through the mouth of his prophet Samuel he declared: “Does Jehovah have as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of Jehovah? Look! to obey is better than a sacrifice, . . . for rebelliousness is the same as the sin of divination, and pushing ahead presumptuously the same as using uncanny power and idolatry.” (1 Sam. 15:22, 23, margin) Eve, likewise, was attracted by the idea of deciding for herself what was good and what was bad, rather than leave this to Jehovah. (Gen. 3:1-6) God’s people today should avoid the same mistakes.
9. How does Jehovah guide man, and what kind of obedience does he require?
9 To make a horse or mule obey, a bit is put in its mouth, and a bridle is used to guide it. Man, however, has the power of reason and understanding. Jehovah guides man by supplying the needed knowledge through His Word, the power through His spirit and the direction through His organization. It is up to each one to obey. Through David, Jehovah gave admonition: “I shall make you have insight and instruct you in the way you should go. I will give advice with my eye upon you. Do not make yourselves like a horse or mule without understanding, whose spiritedness is to be curbed even by bridle or halter before they will come near to you.” (Ps. 32:8, 9) The Universal Sovereign wants no forced obedience, but rather the obedience that comes from a heart filled with understanding and with love for Jehovah.
BE QUICK TO OBEY
10, 11. What example of obedience is to be seen in (a) Abraham? (b) Rebekah?
10 Jehovah loves those who are quick to obey. Many are the examples in the Scriptures that prove it so. Abraham is one of these. When Jehovah told him to sacrifice his son, there was no quibbling or debate about it. Abraham had faith in Jehovah and he obeyed, even to the point of raising his knife to plunge it into the breast of his son. Through faith and obedience Abraham gained the distinction of being called “Jehovah’s friend,” and his place as a prince in God’s new world is assured.—Jas. 2:23.
11 Another example of obedience and its blessings is that of Rebekah. From the account in Genesis chapter 24 the ready obedience of Rebekah shines out even more beautifully than the ornaments that Eliezer presented to her. When he asked her for a drink of water her response was prompt: “So she quickly lowered her jar from off her and said, ‘Take a drink, and I shall also water your camels.’” Then, as Eliezer explained that Jehovah had led him there, “the young woman went running and telling the household of her mother about these things.” Later, when the question arose whether Rebekah would be willing to go to Isaac and whether she would agree to depart immediately, her answer was, “I am willing to go.” (Gen. 24:46, 28, 58) Rebekah’s readiness to obey gained for her the privilege of bearing Jacob, the father of the tribal heads of the nation of Israel and prominent in the Messianic line.
12, 13. (a) What appreciation did Jesus’ apostles show, and how? (b) What qualities does Jehovah bless?
12 The apostles also showed, from their very first contact with Jesus, that they appreciated the need for prompt obedience. Of Peter and Andrew, the record says at Matthew 4:19-22: “And he said to them: ‘Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.’ At once abandoning the nets, they followed him.” The response of James and John, the sons of Zebedee, was the same: “At once leaving the boat and their father, they followed him.” Time and again the apostle Paul also demonstrated that he had this desirable quality of prompt obedience. The record at Acts 9:20 states that after his conversion “immediately in the synagogues he began to preach Jesus.” Later, when he received in vision the call to “step over into Macedonia and help us,” he and those with him obeyed quickly. “Now as soon as he had seen the vision, we sought to go forth into Macedonia, drawing the conclusion that God had summoned us to declare the good news to them.” Jehovah blessed their quick response with fruitage, Lydia and her household quickly accepting the truth and being baptized.—Acts 16:9-15.
13 In all these examples, observe the readiness to obey, the absence of self-will, of indifference or of mere good intent. These zealous witnesses showed eagerness, zeal, willingness, vigilance, earnestness, promptitude, devotion and diligence. For this, Jehovah loved them.
14. What privileges are to be had by those who obey?
14 Wherever one serves in Jehovah’s organization, he is there by undeserved kindness. He remains only if he obeys. He will be truly happy only if he is quick to obey. Today willing slaves all have the privilege of being publishers of the good news. Indeed, they are under orders to preach it. (1 Cor. 9:16) In addition to this basic honor and privilege there are many places of responsibility for those who obey. There are the various categories of pioneer activity. There are the positions of service in the congregations. There are privileges of going abroad as missionaries, or of traveling as circuit, district or zone servants. Others may serve as members of Bethel families. In all these assigned places, obedience and loyalty are required. The reward is joy!—Heb. 13:17.
15. What appreciation should all of Jehovah’s slaves show and what shortcomings should be remedied?
15 All of Jehovah’s slaves should be filled with appreciation of the glorious treasure of service. (2 Cor. 4:7) However, some do just as little service as is necessary to keep them on the congregation records. Is this not like an insurance premium grudgingly paid to Jehovah to ward off disaster? One who serves grudgingly must quickly correct this. (2 Cor. 9:6, 7) Constantly coming late to meetings, refusing assignments or treating them as unwelcome burdens, being easily discouraged, having no desire to take responsibility, being slow to follow instructions—these are symptoms of a wasting spiritual condition, calling for an immediate remedy. If there is the need, be quick to seek that remedy. Ready obedience will bring the blessing of Jehovah that makes rich.—Prov. 10:22.
16. How should discipline from Jehovah be regarded?
16 Due to human imperfections, even the most earnest desire to be obedient to Jehovah will not prevent the creature’s falling short at times. Hence it is necessary to have the right attitude toward discipline. Discipline corrects careless tendencies and prevents them from hardening into rebellion and defiance. “‘My son, do not belittle the discipline from Jehovah, neither give out when you are corrected by him; for whom Jehovah loves he disciplines, in fact he scourges everyone whom he receives as a son.’ . . . True, no discipline seems for the present to be joyous, but grievous; yet afterward to those who have been trained by it it yields peaceable fruit, namely, righteousness.” (Heb. 12:5-11) When discipline comes through God’s Word or through his organization, accept it humbly, as coming from Jehovah himself. Remember, “the reproofs of discipline are the way of life.”—Prov. 6:23.
17. How does Matthew 5:48 apply today?
17 At Matthew 5:48, Jesus admonishes: “You must accordingly be complete, as your heavenly Father is complete.” How could this apply to imperfect humans at this world’s end? It applies in that every individual coming into the New World society must stretch out for the full growth of a Christian. No negative holding back! Each one must strive to copy the heavenly Father in His completeness. To become complete means to advance from an unbalanced childlike state to Christian maturity.
18. Why is Christian completeness now so important?
18 In the time of the early Christians this matter of maturity received great stress. (Eph. 4:11-16; Heb. 5:12-6:3) But how important it becomes for all of God’s servants in this day, when the Devil has come down to earth, and seeks to devour all who obey Jehovah! (Rev. 12:12, 17) While in many countries of the West and the Orient materialism and superstition have been laid out as subtle snares, Jehovah’s servants behind the Iron Curtain have a different kind of testing, in that they have to withstand fierce persecution. Here, too, Christian completeness is needed. They must resolutely stand fast in their Christian freedom. They must be ever ready to obey, even at risk of life itself. They must keep witnessing “even despite the danger of death.”—Rev. 12:11.
19. What are some of the trials endured by Jehovah’s witnesses behind the Iron Curtain?
19 Look beyond the Iron Curtain and observe, for example, the activity of Jehovah’s witnesses in East Germany. How would you feel about going out in Kingdom service tonight, not knowing whether you would return home afterward or finish up with a four-year sentence in a Communist penitentiary? How would you regard this prospect, knowing that in prison lack of nourishment and shocking sanitary conditions would likely break your health? How would you relish having to travel to a faraway place secretly to get your copy of The Watchtower, and with risk of being imprisoned for several years if it were found on your person? How would you like to have just one day to study The Watchtower, when you could get a copy, and then have to pass it on to other hungry readers? How would you regard being appointed to serve a group of publishers, knowing that two or three times already the servants who preceded you had been taken away and put in prison for four or five years? How would you feel about taking up the ministry again as you return home on a kind of parole, after a five-year prison term imposed for preaching the good news? How would you like to be interrogated over and over again by Communist security police, as they endeavor to arrest you for sharing in organized Kingdom activity? What would your reaction be to constant pressures exerted by neighbors, workmates, party members, or upon your children at school, in order to get you or them lined up with their political and military organizations in some way? How would you feel about being thrown out of work, or having your property taken away, or being driven from your home, simply because you are one of Jehovah’s witnesses?
20, 21. How do Jehovah’s servants show Christian completeness under such trials?
20 These and similar problems are everyday routine for many of Jehovah’s witnesses in Communist countries. In East Germany alone more than three thousand of them have been imprisoned since 1950. Of these, about a thousand were women. Sentences have averaged nearly four years each. However, they keep right on doing the divine will, as shown by the following message some of them sent from prison to the Divine Will International Assembly of Jehovah’s Witnesses in July, 1958: “Walking in integrity sixteen brothers feel closely united with you. Isaiah 12:3, 4.” The scripture reads: “With exultation you people will be certain to draw water out of the springs of salvation. And in that day you will certainly say: ‘Laud Jehovah, you people! Call upon his name. Make known among the peoples his dealings. Make mention that his name is to be put on high.’”
21 Would you be able to exult under such conditions? Would you be mature enough to stand the strain, in and out of prison, for years, and continue to preach with love and kindness? Testifying to such Christian completeness is this report from a brother in East Germany, who wrote about the arrest of his son: “He was arrested by the SSD and after seven weeks of imprisonment on remand sentenced to four years in the penitentiary. He was charged with having brought literature into East Germany from West Berlin. I myself was imprisoned from 1950 to 1956 and another one of my children from 1951 to 1954, because of the truth. Both of us who are back home are determined here in East Germany to continue serving the Lord with our humble power, and may He give us further of His undeserved kindness.”
FACTORS IN ATTAINING CHRISTIAN COMPLETENESS
22. What basic quality is needed in gaining completeness?
22 Like these faithful servants, it is needful for all who please Jehovah to be well rounded out in their Christian completeness. The basis of all their efforts must be love. This is clear from the context of Jesus’ words about Christian completeness: “You heard that it was said: ‘You must love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ However, I say to you: Continue to love your enemies and to pray for those persecuting you; that you may prove yourselves sons of your Father who is in the heavens, since he makes his sun rise upon wicked people and good and makes it rain upon righteous people and unrighteous. For if you love those loving you, what reward do you have? are not also the tax collectors doing the same thing? And if you greet your brothers only, what extraordinary thing are you doing? Are not also the people of the nations doing the same thing? You must accordingly be complete, as your heavenly Father is complete.”—Matt. 5:43-48.
23. What other qualities are necessary for completeness?
23 To become complete, the Christian must develop maturity, with its qualities of integrity. He must honestly observe his weaknesses, and work hard to eliminate them. He must apply Jesus’ counsel daily: “If you want to be complete, go sell your belongings and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven, and come be my follower.” Spiritual values must be placed higher than the material, and completeness attained by obediently following in Jesus’ steps.—Matt. 19:21.
24, 25. (a) What must be said about New World and old-world associations? (b) What is the “fruitage of the spirit,” and how may it be cultivated?
24 Associations must be watched. Often relatives or former worldly friends would like to impose on the time set aside for New World associations. Do not let them do it! Be firm about it! Those hours set aside each week for meeting attendance and for Kingdom service are the most precious hours of the week. They are hours that belong to one’s Christian worship, and no one of the old world has a right to interfere with them. To those who might get involved in such relationships, Jesus says: “Keep following me.” If relatives and old-world friends want to follow along too, they can be given every loving assistance. However, never let them distract from your own growth to maturity and attaining Christian-completeness.—Matt. 8:21, 22.
25 The need for right associations is something that the newly interested person, the long-dedicated person, and everyone in between, should engrave on his heart. Old-world associations will die with the old world. Why run the risk of dying with it? Association with one’s brothers in the New World society brings joy, peace, satisfaction and, in the end, eternal life. These are the associations to cultivate, associations with those who are showing the “fruitage of the spirit.” Through these associations, all come to dwell in the same love, the same joy and peace, the same long-suffering, the same kindness and goodness, the same faith, the same mildness and self-control. There is the place to attain Christian completeness! Right in there in the loving association of the New World society!—Gal. 5:22, 23; Heb. 10:24, 25.
26. How will good study habits help in attaining completeness?
26 Another factor in attaining completeness is diligent and systematic study of Jehovah’s Word. Is not half an hour of personal study daily of more value than a well-earned half hour of rest or sleep? Form the study habit. With the habit of rising each morning combine the habit of considering the morning’s text. With the habit of the noon-hour break combine the habit of some theocratic reading. With the habit of going to bed each night combine the habit of further meditation on God’s Word. Read the Bible daily. Good study habits will help in ‘making over the mind’ for a joyful, zealous share in New World activity as the complete minister of God. How wonderfully worth while, in attaining to Christian maturity!—Josh. 1:6-8.
27. Who are most privileged of all earth’s people today, and what must these do?
27 Who will be content with a minimum of service or of association? Having made the break for freedom, let all hold fast that freedom. (Gal. 5:1) Press on to attain completeness in the New World society. Most privileged of all is the lot of all those who, in complete dedication to Jehovah, continue to ‘present their bodies a sacrifice, living, holy, acceptable to God, a sacred service with their power of reason.’ Let the break from “this present evil world” be complete, lasting, irrevocable! With minds completely made over to New World thinking, and lives completely given over to New World living, let all strive to “be complete, as your heavenly Father is complete.”