Worship That Leads to the Kingdom of God
REGARDLESS of the direction in which you may travel—east, west, north or south—you will find people performing acts of worship to a higher power. Millions of persons living in widely separated places in the earth sincerely believe that their form of worship is good. They are confident that it will win the favor of their deity or deities, and eventually lead to eternal rewards.
So devout are many worshipers of Eastern lands they will interrupt important business sessions when their hour of prayer approaches. At appointed times each day they lay out their rug and prostrate themselves upon it in prayer toward their holy city of Mecca. However, despite their belief that Allah is the one true God, many persons in the same lands are just as devout in pursuing other forms of worship. Some, for example, never retire at night without saying prayers before an image of Buddha, which is prominently displayed in their home.
Worship in many African tribes is somewhat different, although with the similar end in view of obtaining the favor of powers higher than themselves. Religious ceremonies are centered around the witch doctor, who, it is hoped, can appease the invisible spirits, believed by the people to be the dead who have passed beyond.
In the Western lands of Christendom there is a marked similarity in the manner of worship. If you enter the great cathedrals in the larger cities of France, Italy or the United States, or visit the humbler places of worship in almost any part of Christendom, you will find people upon their knees worshiping before images, no, not of Buddha, but of Jesus, Mary, Joseph and innumerable “saints.” These worshipers are likewise interested in pleasing God so as to merit his favor and the blessing of a future reward.
But to what is it that people throughout the world expect their various forms of worship to lead them? This varies a great deal, depending upon the religion practiced, and the locality and education of the people. Hindus and Buddhists hope to attain the goal referred to as nirvana, which, however, people understand differently. To some nirvana means a life of joy and happiness in another world, while others view it as a difficult-to-explain state beyond conscious existence.
Many Africans refer to the “other world” or “up yonder,” where departed souls are believed to go. In their minds this evidently is not far away because they believe that the departed regularly return and exercise great influence over the living. On the other hand, Moslems generally envision “heaven” as a beautiful oasis or garden, with shady trees, running streams and all the facilities for rest, comfort and enjoyment. And many in Christendom entertain slightly different hopes of happiness in what they also refer to as heaven.
THE BOOK OF TRUE WORSHIP
However, regardless of what form of religion you now practice, you will want to know about the Kingdom hope that the Creator of mankind holds out to those that worship him in the way he approves. Yes, this Great Spirit does communicate with man today; no, not by means of a witch doctor or a religious clergyman, but through the pages of the oldest book in existence, a book that even records information about the first man and his creation by God. This is an Oriental book originating in and being written entirely by men from Eastern lands. This famous book, which contains the inspired writings of some forty Orientals, is generally called today the Holy Bible, or simply the Scriptures.
In addition to its great antiquity the Bible from earliest times has realized the greatest distribution of any writings in existence. During the past five hundred years billions of copies have been printed—far more than of any other book. Equally remarkable is the fact that the Bible has been translated into 1,202 different languages, so that it is available to more than 90 percent of earth’s population in their own tongue. Is not such a large distribution and wide circulation what you would expect of the Book that is inspired by Almighty God?
But what particularly stamps this Book as being of Divine authorship are its prophecies that have consistently proved reliable. Humans are not always able to accurately foretell the weather twenty-four hours in advance, yet the Holy Bible foretold ever so many events centuries and even millenniums before they actually occurred. No other book claiming to be of Divine authorship has been able to do this, which is evidence that the Bible is the book that God is using to communicate with men today.
Why, consider for a moment how the Holy Bible recorded in advance the rise and fall of World Powers that have dominated earth’s affairs. Under inspiration of God, the Hebrew prophet Isaiah foretold in the eighth century B.C.E. that Cyrus the Persian would serve as a liberator of the captive Israelites from Babylon. God even gave details of the conquest. Nearly two hundred years later Cyrus marched into Babylon, exactly as foretold. (Isa. 44:26-45:3) The prophet Daniel, writing under inspiration of God, also recorded in advance the rise of the Medo-Persian World Power. More than that, in unmistakable terms, he told about the coming to prominence of the next World Power, Greece, its conquest of Medo-Persia, and, in time, its dissolution into four smaller empires with the death of its conquering king, Alexander the Great.—Dan. 8:1-8, 20-22.
Perhaps even more amazing are the fulfillments of scores of prophecies relating to the promised Messiah, the one appointed by God as deliverer to all mankind. He was to be born of the Israelite tribe of Judah in Bethlehem. (Gen. 49:10; Mic. 5:2; Matt. 1:2-16; 2:1, 5, 6) He was to be despised and counted among transgressors. (Isa. 53:3, 12; Luke 22:63; 23:32, 33) At his death not a bone of his body was to be broken, and his executioners were to cast lots for his garments. (Ps. 34:20; 22:18; John 19:33, 36; Matt. 27:35) Every one of these prophecies and, some have calculated, at least three hundred more were remarkably fulfilled in Jesus Christ. Not only that, the Bible foretold the very things happening in our day. (2 Tim. 3:1-5) Yes, you certainly can trust in the reliability of the Holy Bible!
WORSHIP OF THE TRUE GOD
This Holy Book, the Bible, clearly describes the type of worship that is pleasing to Almighty God. By rendering this worship you will come in line for the everlasting blessings that God provides by means of his kingdom. For a limited number of 144,000, these blessings will be enjoyed in heaven as rulers with Jesus Christ, while for the vast majority of obedient mankind they will be enjoyed as subjects of that heavenly kingdom on an earth restored to paradise conditions.—Rev. 14:1-3; Ps. 37:29, 34.
But in order to be led to this kingdom of God you must first of all recognize who the true God is. His own Book, the Bible, informs us: “You, whose name is Jehovah, you alone are the Most High over all the earth.” “God is a Spirit, and those worshiping him must worship with spirit and truth.” “I am Jehovah. That is my name; and to no one else shall I give my own glory, neither my praise to graven images.”—Ps. 83:18; John 4:24; Isa. 42:8.
Yes, the name of the true God, the Most High One over all the earth, is JEHOVAH. This great God Jehovah is no lifeless image, but is a mighty invisible Spirit Person, and he does not approve of images even as visual aids in our worship. Therefore, to worship him acceptably you must not bow before unintelligent images of wood, stone or metal, but, rather, you must live your life in harmony with the truth set forth in His Word, the Bible.—Ex. 20:4, 5; Lev. 26:1; Isa. 44:14-20; 46:5-7.
If you will stop to reason on the matter, you will see how valueless material images are. Observe that they are powerless to walk about or give instruction. Take a supposedly holy image, throw it into a river or into a blazing fire. Is it able to swim about like a man, or does it leap out of the flames to save itself from being consumed? If this image cannot protect itself, how will it protect you when trouble arises?
Look at those images made by the hands of men. How lifeless they are! Note what the living God, Jehovah, says about them: “A mouth they have, but they cannot speak; eyes they have, but they cannot see; ears they have, but they cannot hear. A nose they have, but they cannot smell. Hands are theirs, but they cannot feel. Feet are theirs, but they cannot walk; they utter no sound with their throat.” Therefore, how possibly could they be the true God? They cannot be, and, for that reason, God says: “Those making them will become just like them, all those who are trusting in them.”—Ps. 115:4-8.
WHAT TRUE WORSHIP INCLUDES
Rather than including adoration to images, worship that leads to the kingdom of God must recognize Jesus the Messiah, the one Jehovah God sent to earth to open the way for us to gain eternal life and the one designated by God as king of his kingdom. The authoritative Bible says: “There is no salvation in anyone else, for there is not another name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must get saved.”—Acts 4:12; Matt. 20:28.
Worship that leads to the kingdom of God not only includes recognizing the true God Jehovah and accepting his Son Jesus Christ, but also involves practicing right works. Just possessing the Word of God is not enough. You must live by what it says. The nation of Israel provides an example. They had the inspired Scriptures, but when the promised Messiah came in the person of Jesus, that nation’s religious leaders persecuted him and finally had him killed. Because of their failing to bring forth the fruits of righteousness, Jesus said to them: “This is why I say to you, The kingdom of God will be taken from you and be given to a nation producing its fruits.”—Matt. 21:42, 43.
Take notice of why the worship of those Jews did not lead to the kingdom of God. It was because they did not produce the righteous fruits qualifying them to live in God’s kingdom. Yes, in order to gain the blessings of that Kingdom rule one must practice right works.
When Jesus Christ was upon the earth he showed that this necessitated bringing forth the fruitage of love. Shortly before his betrayal and death he forcefully impressed this on his followers, saying: “I am giving you a new commandment, that you love one another; just as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love among yourselves.” Indeed, such love has become so rare that it is a distinguishing mark of true worshipers.—John 13:34, 35; 1 John 4:20; 3:15.
The worship that leads to the kingdom of God also has other fruits. As shown by the Bible book of Galatians, it includes “joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faith, mildness, self-control.” To be able to cultivate this fruitage of God’s spirit one must put off the works of the flesh, which “are fornication, uncleanness, loose conduct, idolatry, practice of spiritism, hatreds, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, contentions, divisions, sects, envies, drunken bouts, revelries, and things like these.” The Bible warns “that those who practice such things will not inherit God’s kingdom.”—Gal. 5:19-23.
Another thing that is distinctive about the worship that leads to the kingdom of God is that it focuses attention on that kingdom, rather than urging support of the present system of things with its politics and militarism. Yet today on every hand and in every land we see religious organizations making common cause with the governments of this world and blessing their use of military might. This is as true of Eastern religions as it is of professed Christianity of the Western world, generally known as Christendom.—John 15:19; Isa. 2:2-4.
Jesus Christ, however, while instructing his followers to be law-abiding, said of the heavenly government to which God had anointed him as king: “My kingdom is no part of this world.” For that reason Jesus said that his disciples ‘were no part of the world, just as he was no part of the world.’—John 18:36; 17:16; Matt. 22:21.
Jesus’ first-century followers appreciated this fact. In evidence of this, the disciple James said that pure worship included keeping “oneself without spot from the world.”—Jas. 1:27.
So, rather than accepting man’s view that human government, particularly the world peace organization, the United Nations, is the ‘best hope for peace,’ worshipers of Jehovah accept God’s view of matters and look to Jesus Christ as the Prince of Peace and the kingdom of God as man’s only hope for lasting peace. They are outspoken advocates of that kingdom, preaching about it publicly and from house to house as Jesus himself did when he was on earth. This preaching activity is part of their worship—worship that leads to the kingdom of God.—Isa. 9:6; Matt. 4:17.
With a view to your eternal salvation, it is vital that you, too, regardless of the worship that you may have practiced up until now, listen to what the Creator of man says on this matter of worship. Conform your worship to his requirements. Live your life in harmony with his inspired Word. Put your faith in his kingdom, and make known that Kingdom good news to others. Only in this way will your worship lead to the kingdom of God.