Building a Firm Foundation in Christ
1. In what ways have some professed Christians failed to follow Jesus?
IT IS not made difficult by the Leader of Christianity for anyone to be a Christian. Jesus Christ said: “My yoke is kindly and my load is light.” Why is it, then, that so many fail? Jesus was not a murderer, a thief or an extortioner. Yet the prisons are full of men and women who profess some form of religion called “Christian.” What happened to their kind of “Christianity”? Neither was Jesus a drunkard, an adulterer nor a backbiter. Yet churches from the most fashionable to the most humble can number many of such persons among their congregation. What do they lack that prevents them from following in Christ’s steps? Jesus devoted his entire effort in adult life to teaching others about God and His kingdom. But, today, among the millions who consider themselves Christ’s followers only a comparatively few thousands can be found who are willing to spend even a few hours a month preaching Christ’s message to those they did not know before. Why?—Matt. 11:30; 1 Pet. 4:15; 1 Cor. 6:9, 10; Acts 10:42.
CHOOSING THE RIGHT FOUNDATION
2. What did Jesus emphasize in the conclusion to his “sermon on the mount”?
2 Jesus himself gave the answer as the conclusion of one of his most famous sermons, his “sermon on the mount.” Few persons who profess Christianity have not heard portions of this sermon many times, but how many remember the lessons Jesus was teaching with these famous words? As a climax to everything he said on that occasion he emphasized their importance by saying: “Therefore everyone that hears these sayings of mine and does them will be likened to a discreet man, who built his house upon the rock-mass. And the rain poured down and the floods came and the winds blew and lashed against that house, but it did not cave in, for it had been founded upon the rock-mass. Furthermore, everyone hearing these sayings of mine and not doing them will be likened to a foolish man, who built his house upon the sand. And the rain poured down and the floods came and the winds blew and struck against that house and it caved in, and its collapse was great.” (Matt. 7:24-27) We must conclude from this illustration that the foundation on which we build should be our first concern. That is obedience to the words and will of God as revealed by his Son.—John 17:3.
3. Why do the majority of those who profess Christianity fail, and how did Paul make this point clear and show its results?
3 If our foundation is to be on the rockmass of Jesus’ words we must be acquainted with those words. And it is here that the majority of those who profess Christianity fail. They do not even make a beginning to know because they do not have a real desire to know God. Paul, an outstanding apostle of Jesus, made this point clear and showed the results, saying: “And just as they did not approve of holding God in accurate knowledge, God gave them up to a disapproved mental state, to do the things not fitting, filled as they were with all unrighteousness, wickedness, covetousness, injuriousness, being full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malicious disposition, being whisperers, backbiters . . . Although these know full well the righteous decree of God, that those practicing such things are deserving of death, they not only keep on doing them but also approve those practicing them.” (Rom. 1:28-32) People today are building on the shifting moral standards of this old world that is certain to perish when God’s wrath is expressed. “But according to your hardness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath and of the revealing of God’s righteous judgment. And he will render to each one according to his works.”—Rom. 2:5, 6.
A HEALTHFUL PATTERN OF TEACHING
4. What should be of concern in addition to choosing the right foundation, and how do we make a beginning in this direction?
4 Not only must we choose the right foundation on which to build, but the building itself should be of vital concern. “According to the undeserved kindness of God that was given to me, as a wise director of works I laid a foundation, but someone else is building on it. But let each one keep watching how he is building on it. For no man can lay any other foundation than what is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on the foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood materials, hay, stubble, each one’s work will become manifest, for the day will show it up, because it will be revealed by means of fire; and the fire itself will prove what sort of work each one’s is.” (1 Cor. 3:10-13) Christ is our foundation and his words are the words of life, but if we are to receive life through them we must make them a pattern of healthful teaching, fashioning our lives accordingly. It is not enough to know that God’s Word is true and associate ourselves with the organization that God has built upon the Rock-mass, Jesus Christ. (Rom. 2:13) We too must build diligently to fashion our thinking and our course of action to conform to the pattern we have received from God. “And 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 perfect will of God.”—Rom. 12:2.
5. What is the immediate concern of Jehovah’s witnesses, and what further responsibility comes as a result?
5 Today thousands of persons from all over the world are beginning to see the need to turn to Jehovah God and his Son, Jesus Christ. They sincerely desire to build on the firm foundation of Christ, but many are at a loss as to where to begin. The immediate concern and the urgent work of Jehovah’s witnesses is finding and feeding these sheeplike ones. The result is a great influx of persons associating with the congregation God has built up for this purpose. It means expanding congregations of Jehovah’s witnesses, with a corresponding demand for trained and qualified servants to direct the activity of these newcomers. The need for bringing these newly associated ones on to maturity is evident, for if they are not helped to build a firm foundation in Christ, in some congregations those newly interested ones who try following the ways of this old system of things as well will soon outnumber those who have trained their thinking abilities in accord with the new system of things and they will eventually degenerate into ways of the old system again. It is obvious, therefore, that a vital phase of the work ahead in maintaining a healthy organization is a healthful program of teaching. Are you taking full advantage of this teaching program?
6. What benefit does the organization receive from a healthful program of teaching, and what individual responsibility does it bring?
6 Such a healthful pattern in the early congregation was set by Paul and urged on young Timothy: “You, therefore, my child, keep on acquiring power in the undeserved kindness that is in connection with Christ Jesus, and the things you heard from me with the support of many witnesses, these things commit to faithful men, who, in turn, will be adequately qualified to teach others.” (2 Tim. 2:1, 2) Not only does this course lay a firm foundation for strong, healthful Christians, but it provides qualified men for the expansion of healthful Christian teaching. This course involves not only our individual study and training but also our application of that training in practical experience. The Watch Tower Society has provided many helps for Jehovah’s witnesses; but if we are to survive as individual Christians and fulfill the commission that comes upon all Christians through dedication, we must individually be equipped to speak from the heart and mind in our use of the Bible. We cannot rely indefinitely on printed books to speak for us when we take up the ministry as footstep followers of Jesus.
BUILDING THROUGH UNDERSTANDING
7. What is the first step in acquiring depth of understanding, and why is it important?
7 Paul emphasized the strength to be derived through a proper understanding of God’s Word when he wrote: “That he may grant you according to the riches of his glory to be made mighty in the man you are inside with power through his spirit, to have the Christ dwell through your faith in your hearts with love; that you may be rooted and established on the foundation, in order that you may be thoroughly able to grasp mentally with all the holy ones what is the breadth and length and height and depth.” (Eph. 3:16-18) Such depth of understanding comes through God’s spirit upon his organization and we individually benefit by it as we equip and fortify ourselves with the same kind of knowledge. God has provided his Word the Bible for us that we might know his will and be prepared for his service. But do you read the Bible regularly? How, otherwise, can we know God’s mind and build on the foundation a Christian life pattern that will withstand the fiery trials that test a Christian’s faith?
8. Why is emphasis placed on accurate knowledge, how do we get it, and in what does it result?
8 God’s Word is the basis of our faith. As we pore over its pages our mind is communing with God’s. Our faith is established and strengthened. We are “always ready to make a defense” by offering “a reason for the hope” that we hold, and we are thereby equipped to teach others the way of life. (1 Pet. 3:15; 2 Tim. 2:2) Why, though, is such emphasis placed on “accurate” knowledge? Why should such care be exercised in our study of the columns of The Watchtower, and of our application of the Scripture texts to the material under consideration? It is through the columns of The Watchtower that Jehovah provides direction and constant Scriptural counsel to his people, and it requires careful study and attention to details in order to apply this information, to get a full understanding of the principles involved, and to assure ourselves of right thinking on these matters. It is in this way that we “are thoroughly able to grasp mentally with all the holy ones” the fullness of our commission and of the preaching responsibility that Jehovah has placed on all Christians as footstep followers of his Son. Any other course would produce independent thinking and cause division. “Now I exhort you, brothers, through the name of our Lord Jesus Christ that you should all speak in agreement, and that there should not be divisions among you, but that you may be fitly united in the same mind and in the same line of thought.” (1 Cor. 1:10) If all who are associated in the Christian organization have the mind of God and of Christ there will be unity and all will be built up in maturity of understanding.
BUILDING THROUGH SERVICE ACTIVITY
9. How does activity in God’s service provide a source of strength?
9 While knowledge of God’s purposes and an accurate understanding of his requirements build us up, activity in God’s service is also necessary to provide a real source of strength. We are fortified by each experience and trained for new and advanced opportunities in God’s service. In pushing forward the true worship of God throughout the ages, Jehovah’s servants have not been hindered by threats of opposition from the enemy, because theirs is not merely a defensive warfare but an offensive one as well. In the days of the return of ancient Israel from Babylonish captivity, opposition of the enemy threatened for a time to halt the reconstruction of Jehovah’s temple of worship. But temple rebuilding was not permitted to remain idle, because God himself, through his prophet, fortified his servants for the work ahead. “‘Be strong, all you people of the land,’ is the utterance of Jehovah, ‘and work. For I am with you people.’”—Hag. 2:4.
10. What has brought changes in the nature of our work?
10 Today Jehovah’s witnesses are a strong organization of workers. Throughout their modern history Jehovah’s servants have been zealous for the works of God, but their training and their efficiency in the field have been developed over the years, and many of them were difficult years indeed. God’s faithful and discreet slave class are now energetically pushing forward in their temple service. They being freed from captivity in 1919, the forward movement of Christian activity has never slackened to date. The harvest ingathering of the anointed footstep followers of Jesus Christ was brought to a completion. Now, with the gathering of the great crowd of “other sheep,” the Kingdom witness has expanded to the farthest corners of the earth, and, since that eventful year 1919, great changes have taken place in the nature of the work.
11. What attitude is taken by those keeping pace with God’s organization? In what has it resulted?
11 Like Jehovah’s faithful witnesses of old (Hebrews 11), those today in God’s service follow closely Jehovah’s leadings and have been greatly blessed. Those keeping pace with God’s organization have gone forward from one new method of service to another, recognizing that each change has been an advancement and each method of work designed to accomplish a particular purpose. The blessing on such faithful efforts is evidence of God’s favor and approval. And those who have been active through this “time of the end” have been receiving the full benefits of that blessing and of the advanced preaching method now enjoyed. What has enabled them to move forward from one feature of activity to another? Seeking to know the mind of God through his Word, they have been led on by God’s holy spirit to see the work God is doing and to recognize God’s purpose in their service. This has enabled them to build surely and squarely on the foundation of Christ Jesus. Now Jehovah’s people are receiving one of the most intensified training programs ever given to God’s servants. As a result, hundreds of thousands of qualified ministers confidently approach the doors of the people. They preach brief, enlightening sermons from God’s Word, efficiently flipping the pages of the Bible from text to text to establish firmly the truth of the message they carry. What a faith-building work it is that has been accomplished! And how faith-building it is to God’s people to see such an expanding army daily carrying the offensive of true worship to the rescue of those bound in slavery to the false standards of this present system of things.
12. What examples do we have showing that God gives proper instructions to his servants?
12 How thankful we can be that at no time have God’s instructions been inadequate for the work at hand. Never have Jehovah’s servants been long in doubt as to what they were to do. (Ps. 25:9; Amos 3:7) Noah was given a pattern of the ark. Moses was given a vision of the tabernacle, and David of the temple. (Gen. 6:14-16; Ex. 25:40; 1 Chron. 28:11, 12) God’s prophets of old were told what to say, and where and when to say it. The only initiative required on their part was to be obedient. Jonah tried to avoid the commission he received from Jehovah, but God’s will was done regardless of his personal preference as a lesson to us.—Jonah 1:1-3, 17; 3:1-3.
13. What provisions are now available for us to know God’s will and his way of doing it?
13 Many provisions are now available for us to know God’s will and his way to do it. The Kingdom Ministry is provided by way of service instructions. Service centers have been established throughout the congregations’ territory, not only for Bible study, but to assist all in the neighborhood to share in active field service. The training program has been instituted to assist new ministers in preparing to carry out their Christian responsibility of preaching to others. Sermons have been prepared for use at the door. Reports of activity are presented in the Yearbook. Regular visits of specially trained servants are arranged to assist those in the congregations in their individual ministry. How grateful we can be to Jehovah through the Society for supplying us so many helpful ways of building a strong Christian faith, founded in our Leader and Commander, Jesus Christ! But are you really building on this foundation? Do you “keep watching” how you are building on it?
BUILDING THROUGH ASSOCIATION AND PRAYER
14. How does right association provide strong building material, and why need not new ones feel left out of following Paul’s counsel at Hebrews 10:24?
14 Evidences continue to mount that by far the majority of those associating with Jehovah’s witnesses take their ministry seriously. This is because they recognize that God is with his people on whom he has put his name and they want to share in God’s purpose for them. (Isa. 2:2, 3) This third source of strong building material, right association, is everyone’s need. But as we need the right kind of association, so we should make ourselves the right kind to be associated with, in order that we may give the fullest benefit to others, especially to new ones. To “consider one another to incite to love and fine works” means that those giving such aid and encouragement must themselves be strong, able and equipped to give of themselves. (Heb. 10:24) New ones need not be discouraged by this admonition of the apostle though, nor should they feel they are thereby eliminated from such counsel. You can and must give of what you have. It may be a little at first, but as you help to fortify others, you too are being fortified and are building on a firm foundation. Your advancement will be “manifest to all persons.” This exchange of encouragement by all in association provides mutual benefit for all.—1 Tim. 4:15; Rom. 1:12.
15. How does prayer build us up?
15 One more thing not to be overlooked as a strengthening factor in our building program of gaining accurate knowledge is prayer. In our pursuit of right association our personal contact with our God is by far the most important. Through prayer we are able to overcome our fear, our doubt and our uncertainty. Through prayer we are able to strengthen our view of God’s Word and be drawn closer to its application in our own lives. Through prayer we are able to make our spiritual wants known and our need for our daily bread, and by such expression, we can see more clearly the hand of God working in our behalf, in fulfilling our needs. What an encouragement it must have been for the Philippians to read Paul’s words: “Do not be anxious over anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication along with thanksgiving let your petitions be made known to God; and the peace of God that excels all thought will guard your hearts and your mental powers by means of Christ Jesus”! (Phil. 4:6, 7) Jesus gave us a fine prayer to follow. Do you follow the Lord’s prayer? Jesus said: “You must pray, then, this way.”—See Matthew 6:9-13.
16. Why should our shortcomings not give us undue concern?
16 Jehovah wants full-grown men and women in his service. As Paul wrote to the Corinthians: “Stay awake, stand firm in the faith, carry on as men, grow mighty.” (1 Cor. 16:13) Our concern should be to follow Jehovah’s organization closely. Do all work honestly, not justifying failures to keep pace. There is generally a reason if we fail, and seldom is it a lack of ability. Jehovah knows our shortcomings and will compensate if we are making full use of our talents, our abilities, our opportunities. If we study, remain active in God’s service, persist in our right associations and always seek Jehovah’s guidance when facing a responsibility, never fear, Jehovah will make up for what we lack. Failure in facing opportunities now means loss of privileges later, and worse, possible failure as a Christian.
17. Why need we have no fear, though in the “time of the end”?
17 Certainly in this “time of the end” there is no cause for fear, uncertainty or lack of strength for future service. “This is what Jehovah of armies has said, ‘Let the hands of you people be strong, you who are hearing in these days these words from the mouth of the prophets . . . For there will be the seed of peace; the vine itself will give its fruitage, and the earth itself will give its yield, and the heavens themselves will give their dew; and I shall certainly cause the remaining ones of this people to inherit all these things. And it must occur that just as you became a malediction among the nations, O house of Judah and house of Israel, so I shall save you, and you must become a blessing. Do not be afraid. May your hands be strong.’”—Zech. 8:9-13.
18, 19. What will make us “open to no accusation in the day of the Lord”?
18 Our hands must be strong to work under all circumstances and in whatever position Jehovah sees fit to place us. “The end of all things has drawn close. Be sound in mind, therefore, and be vigilant with a view to prayers. Above all things, have intense love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins. If anyone speaks, let him speak as it were the sacred pronouncements of God; if anyone ministers, let him minister as dependent upon the strength that God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. The glory and the might are his forever and ever. Amen.”—1 Pet. 4:7, 8, 11.
19 Our future is in the hands of God. Follow his leadings closely. Prepare now for what lies ahead. Lay a firm foundation in Christ Jesus for the grand finale and the many glorious treasures of service still future, and God “will also make you firm to the end, that you may be open to no accusation in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Cor. 1:8) Now is the time to study God’s Word in association with Jehovah’s witnesses, building a firm foundation in Christ, and then, “having this advance knowledge, be on your guard that you may not be led away.”—2 Pet. 3:17.
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