Do You Give God Exclusive Devotion?
“I SOMETIMES go into a church on my way back from lunch for a sort of peaceful think. After all, I never go to church on Sunday—there’s too much to do—and a few minutes of quiet do seem to help somehow.” With these words a London, England, office worker commented on the recent boom in weekday lunch-time attendances at London city churches, where choir practice, discussion groups and short services are now being featured. In doing so, he surely outlined the approach of many today who try to sandwich God into their lives—lives in which they find there is too much to do, lives in which so many things vie for first place that God eventually ends up with mere remnants of worship, love and devotion. Is this true of your life? How can you serve God in these days? In what way can you widen and deepen your love and devotion to him? These are not foolish, speculative questions, because your whole future depends upon your giving God exclusive devotion.
THE CALL FOR EXCLUSIVE DEVOTION
The Holy Bible is clear and specific in setting forth the standards and requirements for acceptable worship of God. Consider the words of the second commandment given by Jehovah God himself to Moses. The record at Exodus 20:5 says, according to the Authorized Version: “I the LORD thy God am a jealous God.” Certainly it would be wrong to imagine that the Creator would describe himself as having the worldly jealousy mentioned by Paul as one of the “works of the flesh.” (Gal. 5:20) Exodus 34:14 says: “Jehovah, whose name is Jealous, he is a jealous God.” Interestingly enough, Webster’s dictionary lists as its first definition: “Exacting exclusive devotion,” and the more common thoughts of apprehension regarding motives, fidelity and love, as secondary. Monsignor Knox in translating Exodus 20:5 says that God is ‘jealous in his love.’ Jealous when used in the Bible in connection with God embodies the thought of exacting exclusive devotion, a phrase that is used consistently in the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures. The Creator therefore unequivocally demands exclusive devotion!
What is meant by giving God exclusive devotion? The verb to exclude is drawn from the Latin verb claudere, meaning to shut, with the prefix ex, meaning out; so the complete word means to shut out. This is, of course, the direct opposite of to include which means to shut in. Exclusive devotion to God must therefore be devotion that is unique; it shuts out or excludes every other person or thing from this devotion. Jesus highlighted this thought in his famous summary of the commandments, recorded at Matthew 22:37-39, by saying: “‘You must love Jehovah your God with your whole heart and with your whole soul and with your whole mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. The second, like it, is this, ‘You must love your neighbor as yourself.’” With these few incisive words, Jesus drew a clear line of demarcation between the exclusive love and devotion due God, and the neighbor love that it is also necessary for a Christian to manifest to be fully complete in his service to his Creator.
DIRECTING OUR DEVOTION
Properly a Christian has love for his neighbor. Marriage mates owe love and devotion to each other, and parents rightly express great love for their children. Yet the devotion that God requires is more than what is expressed to any of these, because it involves worship, and that no other creature may claim; it is exclusive. Our duties to God are therefore superior to those we have toward our fellow humans. God’s righteous requirements dominate our lives, dictating how we fulfill obligations that arise from other relationships. Our exclusive devotion to God assures implicit obedience of his laws. Forced to choose even between one’s closest relatives and the worship of Jehovah God, one who gives God exclusive devotion will choose in favor of true worship. When compromise of godly principles is demanded by this wicked world, the Christian properly rejects such attempts at encroachment into the field of devotion that is reserved for God. He thus refuses to worship or give service to the interests of the false god of this system of things. The kind of devotion that he gives to God is not shared with any other object of love.
Despite the clarity of the Scriptures, men from early times have endeavored to undermine and nullify the God-given call for exclusive devotion. How? In many ways. By setting up for adulation worldly leaders and ideologies as professed saviors of mankind; by means of oppressive governments that make exclusive devotion to God a hazard to be maintained in defiance of the state, to mention but two ways. And yet among all these, selfishness, which tends to hold back the giving of anything to God, is surely the most powerful single factor that precludes God from receiving man’s exclusive devotion.
Sinful mankind is inherently selfish, yet Jesus said: “There is more happiness in giving than there is in receiving,” and this is certainly true when it comes to giving God exclusive devotion. (Acts 20:35) Yes, even if material things, such as money and possessions, or even insatiable ambition take precedence in our lives to the point of being all-important, then our devotion to God must suffer in consequence of our service to self. Selfishness and exclusive devotion cannot mix. It is quite impossible to pay God’s things to Caesar, or to withhold them altogether from God, and at the same time maintain a standing with the Creator. Exclusive devotion must be paid to God.—Mark 12:17.
DETERMINING THE WAY
In order to do this, some people feel that it is necessary to isolate themselves from the world in monasteries and nunneries. In this way, being completely free from worldly attractions, they feel they can devote their lives exclusively to God. Some take upon themselves vows of poverty to assist them in this matter, while others specialize in so-called works of mercy and charity. On the face of it, it might seem that this is an ideal way to give God exclusive devotion, but, in actual fact, does it solve the problem?
If it were the answer to the situation, then would not Jesus have become a recluse? Would not his disciples have shut themselves away so as not to become contaminated with the corrupt Jewish system of things that prevailed before Jerusalem’s destruction A.D. 70? Instead, Jesus became a militant evangelizer and sent out his followers as such too. They, in their turn, ‘filled Jerusalem with their teaching.’ The apostle Paul states that Christians cannot stop entirely mixing with unclean people; otherwise, he says, “you would actually have to get out of the world,” which is a clear indication that acceptable exclusive devotion from Christians is given to God in the face of any adverse pressure that the present evil world may bring. In this way, like Jesus, they conquer the world.—Acts 5:28; 1 Cor. 5:10.
To help us in this fight that must be fought, Jehovah has had recorded for us the Holy Bible. What a splendid help this is! What a grand source of encouragement! So many real-life examples of faithful servants of God who have in times past given him exclusive devotion are arrayed before us as we read through its pages; people whose very lives were devoted to God and who stand out as having received the smile of his approval. Noah, who walked with God; Abraham, who was the friend of Jehovah; David, a man agreeable to Jehovah’s heart; Peter and the other apostles who chose to obey God as ruler rather than men, and, of course, Jesus, who came to do the will of the One who sent him. None of these had an easy time in giving to God undivided worship and service, love and devotion.—Gen. 6:9; Jas. 2:23; Acts 13:22; 5:29; John 5:30.
The faithful prophet Jeremiah was thrown into a miry cistern because of his integrity to God in proclaiming the message that was given him. Tradition tells us that Isaiah was “sawn asunder” by King Manasseh for his faithfulness in prophesying. First-century Christians were flogged, despised and abused. Paul, the apostle, was beaten and stoned and was in near-deaths often, yet he knew that it was only by maintaining integrity and by giving Jehovah continued exclusive devotion that there was reserved for him a crown of righteousness. Those faithful servants of God had confidence in the integrity and power of their God to reward them in the coming system of things. Do you?—Jer. 38:6; Heb. 11:37; Acts 5:40; 2 Cor. 11:23-27; 2 Tim. 4:8.
THE ONE COURSE TO LIFE
Is there within your heart a sincere desire to put God first in your life, to give him the exclusive devotion and love that he rightfully demands? Then study the Holy Scriptures, that you may prove to yourself the good and acceptable and complete will of God. To do this is your safeguard, because in this way you can be sure that you strive to meet the requirements set by God and avoid the false standards set by men that could lead you to compromise in your exclusive devotion to God.—Rom. 12:2.
The right course will eventually lead you to dedicate your life to serve God and to symbolize your decision by water baptism, as commanded by Jesus. (Matt. 28:19, 20) It will lead you to associate with like-minded people, those of the New World society of Jehovah’s witnesses, who are determined to put God first in their lives and who will help you in every way possible. To do so now, amidst the present selfish and decadent generation, will bring you peace of mind and happiness and the bright prospect of everlasting life in God’s new world, so near at hand. These are the rewards for those who maintain their integrity and give Jehovah exclusive devotion. Truly, a course of wisdom, a road to life.