What Holds You Back from True Worship?
DO YOU love God? ‘Of course I do,’ you may say. ‘It is my desire to be pleasing to him.’ That certainly is the proper attitude to have. But anyone can say with his lips that he loves God, yet does that alone prove he really does?
You know that it does not. Even the Son of God, Jesus Christ, said that people would ‘draw near to God with their lips, although their hearts were far removed from him.’ Love for God is not shown by words alone, but by actions in harmony with those words. It is just as one of Jesus’ twelve apostles explained: “This is what the love of God means, that we observe his commandments.”—Matt. 15:8;1 John 5:3.
Thus true worship is the rendering of service to God according to the requirements that he sets down in his written Word, the Bible. This admittedly is not an easy thing to render in this present evil world where the majority of people are more concerned with pleasing themselves than God. In fact, circumstances of one nature or another hold back many persons who know what is right from rendering true worship to God. Are you such a person? If so, it would be wise for you to examine your claim that you love God. Certainly it would be displeasing in his sight if your expressions were mere lip service.
For some time now you may have been receiving this journal The Watchtower, and perhaps visiting ministers of Jehovah’s witnesses have offered to study the Bible with you in your home. You know that they teach God’s Word. But do you hold back from having a regular home Bible study with them because of fear? Are you afraid of what others might think?
In the first century there were those who held back from true worship because of fear of what others would think of them. Some of them believed that Jesus was the promised Messiah. They “actually put faith in him,” the Bible says, “but because of the Pharisees they would not confess him.” Yes, they were afraid of losing the favor of the influential religious Pharisees, “for they loved the glory of men more than even the glory of God.” How unwise it is to be like those men and allow fear to hold you back from true worship!—John 12:42, 43.
When opposition arises, it tests your love. It shows whether you really do love God, or whether you will compromise to avoid ridicule. Jesus illustrated how some are affected by opposition. Bible truth sown upon their hearts, he said, is like seed sown on rocky soil that sprouts quickly, only to be scorched by the hot sun. “They believe for a season,” he explained, “but in a season of testing they fall away.”—Luke 8:13; Matt. 13:5, 6, 20, 21.
This testing can take various forms and come from different directions. Perhaps a clergyman, neighbors or business associates learn that Jehovah’s witnesses are calling to study the Bible with you in your home. How terrible they make that seem! They cannot prove from the Bible that what you are learning is wrong, so they resort to ridicule. But this is not surprising. The Bible itself informs us that when some men reported to the priests that they had never heard a man teach like Jesus, those priests answered: “You have not been misled also, have you? Not one of the rulers or of the Pharisees has put faith in him, has he?” These verbal intimidations were designed to cow the men to prevent them from investigating further. ‘Those people that listen to Jesus do not know the Law. They are accursed, ignorant people,’ the Pharisees claimed. (John 7:45-49) Will similar intimidation prevent you from continuing to examine Bible truths with Jehovah’s witnesses?
It is obvious that Bible truth is not popular. The majority of people prefer to cling to their religious traditions, and are unwilling to examine them in the light of the Scriptures. Therefore, Jesus said that Bible truth would have the effect of a sword on many families, causing “division, with a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a young wife against her mother-in-law.”—Matt. 10:35.
But in circumstances where parents forbid their children to study the Bible, or husbands demand that their wives cease attending Bible study meetings, what should one do? Are not children commanded to be obedient to their parents, and wives to be in subjection to their husbands? That is true, but observe that children are instructed to ‘be obedient to their parents in union with the Lord.’ Therefore, if the requirements of parents are in conflict with what the Lord requires, children are under obligation to obey God rather than their parents in those respects. The situation is similar with wives. The Bible says that one should “obey God as ruler rather than men,” and that is true even if that man happens to be one’s husband.—Eph. 6:1; Acts 5:29.
Jesus indicated that this was the proper course when he said: “He that has greater affection for father or mother than for me is not worthy of me; and he that has greater affection for son or daughter than for me is not worthy of me.” Who means more to you? whom will you obey? are the questions that Jesus raises. Are you holding back from studying the Bible because of fear of displeasing a father, a mother, wife or husband? Do you fear to displease them more than you desire the true worship of God? If so, your love for God is weak, and, for that reason, Jesus said, you are at present unworthy of him.—Matt. 10:37.
If you really feel that you love your family, yet fear of their disapproval holds you back from true worship, you need to be more honest with yourself. If a man was ruining his health because of drink, would it really be loving of his wife to indulge his weakness and even get drunk herself simply because he urged her to “have a good time” with him? Of course not! Then, if you know that the eternal salvation of your family depends on their coming to know and worship Jehovah God, are you showing real love for them by agreeing to abandon true worship yourself? Obviously not; because, while each one in the family must personally decide whether he is going to serve the true God, anyone has a better opportunity to make the right choice if someone living in the home is a faithful servant of God. Real love for the family is shown by being willing to put up with disapproval, or even abuse, so that those unbelieving family members may have the best possible opportunity to learn the truths from God’s Word and come in line for the everlasting blessings that Jehovah God holds out to those who serve him.—1 Pet. 3:1-6.
If you have real love for God, you will not be ashamed to study his Word and speak freely about it. If you love your family, you will not hold back from setting a right example for them out of fear of what they may say. Keep in mind what the apostle John said: “There is no fear in love, but perfect love throws fear outside, because fear exercises a restraint. Indeed, he that is under fear has not been made perfect in love.” And if the going gets hard, remember what the faithful apostles Peter and John said when they were ordered to quit their service to God: “Whether it is righteous in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, judge for yourselves. But as for us, we cannot stop speaking about the things we have seen and heard.”—1 John 4:18; Acts 4:19, 20.
CONQUERING FEAR WITH LOVE
By cultivating a genuine love for God you too can break the shackles of fear that hold so many persons back from true worship. The apostle John emphasized how all-important this love of God is in this strong language: “He that says: ‘I have come to know him,’ and yet is not observing his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in this person. But whoever does observe his word, truthfully in this person the love of God has been made perfect.”—1 John 2:4, 5.
Do you claim to know and love God? If so, how important it is that you observe his commandments! Otherwise the Bible says you are a liar and the truth is not in you. The Scriptures give no extenuating circumstances that nullify this requirement to observe God’s commands. True worship is the obeying of God’s Word, whereas willful failure to obey leads to his disapproval. If you really love God you will endeavor to observe his commandments regardless of the consequences.
A person is not born with this love, neither does it come automatically with physical growth. It must be cultivated through acquaintance with God and the loving things he has done in behalf of mankind. This necessitates studying the Bible diligently. By doing so you will find what the apostle John said to be true, that “the love of God was made manifest in our case, because God sent forth his only-begotten Son into the world that we might gain life through him.” Do you really believe that God sent his dearly beloved Son to earth as a human creature to provide a ransom sacrifice for us? If so, you no doubt have already “come to know and have believed the love that God has in our case.”—1 John 4:7-10, 14-16; John 3:16.
When you grow to appreciate this loving provision that God has made of his Son, opening to obedient mankind the door to everlasting life in a righteous new order, your love for him will become so strong that it will burst any barrier holding you back from true worship. This love can truly throw outside fear of clergymen, parents, husband, wife, friends, neighbors or whoever it may be that is trying to prevent you from taking in knowledge of and serving Jehovah God.
OVERCOMING HUMAN WEAKNESSES
This love for God can also prevent the weakness of your own flesh from holding you back from true worship. It will open your eyes to see the importance and the seriousness of learning about Jehovah’s provisions for life and living in harmony with them. Just think of it! To those who will obey Him, God has opened the way to everlasting life! Does not appreciation for that stir you to show your gratitude by doing what is pleasing in his sight?
Certainly you are not showing appreciation if you treat God’s Word and his instructions indifferently. When your employer or some other person of authority speaks, you listen attentively, getting instructions straight so as to do what he wants. Is that not so? Well, then, how much more should you be interested in pleasing the Supreme Sovereign of the universe, Jehovah God! Do you think that he will be pleased with you if you indifferently put off studying his Word?
Perhaps you used to have a weekly Bible study in your home. What caused you to discontinue it? Are you too tired at night to listen to God’s Word? Is it because watching television or doing something to please yourself is more important to you? Did you decide that serving God demanded too much, that giving up worldly habits and ways condemned by God’s Word was too great a sacrifice?
But, honestly, would you not surmount these obstacles to please someone that you truly loved? Certainly you would! How tired would a young man have to be for that tiredness to prevent him from seeing the woman he loved? You can be sure that he would not even allow overtime work or a favorite television program to interfere with his spending some time with her.
Well, then, if you truly love God and his Son Jesus Christ, you will not allow such things to prevent you from studying the Bible and obeying the instructions therein. “If you love me,” Jesus said, “you will observe my commandments.”—John 14:15.
Observing the commandments of Jesus and his Father Jehovah means that you will assume responsibility as a mature Christian man or woman. You will not only listen to the Word of God, having a regular Bible study in your home, but you will also ‘become a doer of the word.’ (Jas. 1:22-25) The truth that you learn will have a beneficial effect on your life, motivating you to do good works that will be a praise to Almighty God.
Yet some hold back. Why? Because they want to avoid the responsibility. Is this true in your case? Do you study the Bible in your home with Jehovah’s witnesses, but fail to put into practice what you hear? If so, stir yourself to activity. Do not remain babes spiritually who, the apostle Paul said, “need milk, not solid food.” But, rather, ‘through use train your perceptive powers to distinguish both right and wrong.’ Yes, heed the apostolic encouragement to “press on to maturity, not laying a foundation again.”—Heb. 5:12-6:3.
Is it not apparent that the true worship of God requires activity? So it should be evident, then, that a weekly Bible study in your home is not an end in itself. Rather, it is to equip you to serve God, enabling you to worship Him in the way he approves. This worship not only involves living a moral life, but it means taking an active part in sharing with yet other persons the life-giving information you have received. This requires effort, but, chief of all, it requires love. For remember: “This is what the love of God means, that we observe his commandments.”—1 John 5:3.