Does Your Zeal Stir Up Your Brothers?
“Your zeal has stirred up the majority of them.”—2 Cor. 9:2.
1, 2. What events prove that people still have the capacity for zeal?
IN RECENT years, especially so since World War II, enthusiasm for Christendom’s religious institutions has diminished perceptibly, particularly so among the youth of the world. Empty church pews go begging, while sports arenas have been bursting at the seams with record crowds on Saturdays and Sundays, days generally set aside in Christendom for the worship of God. Sports fans, many of whom are churchgoers, brave bad weather and all manner of inconveniences, often travel great distances and pay exorbitant prices to be admitted to the games. They then cheer their teams to victory or console them in defeat.
2 Some youthful fans can recite verbatim endless statistics about each player and happily volunteer all you want to know about the sport. So great has been the enthusiasm for competitive sports in recent years that in some lands huge walls have had to be built around the playing field, some even with moats filled with water, to discourage zealous crowds from storming the barriers and to keep them from charging onto the playing field and perhaps doing injury to the players. Obviously, people still have a capacity for overwhelming zeal, but religion is not what is stirring their hearts, is it?
3. In England, what stirs enthusiasm among many young people?
3 In England, the Beatles are declared to be more popular than Jesus Christ among teen-agers. The old religion is reportedly dead. There is a new religion now. It is the religion of the young crowd, with the young sound. John Lennon of the Beatles, recognizing this sweeping change in the world, announced: “Christianity will go. It will vanish and shrink. We’re more popular than Jesus now.” A young girl siding in with him asked: “Do you see a girl screaming over a picture of Christ as they do over a picture of the Beatles?” Quite naturally not. As little Zacchaeus once climbed up a fig-mulberry tree in order to get a better glimpse of Jesus Christ, so now youngsters line the rafters to get a better look at those who stir their souls. At the sight of the Beatles one girl cried out: “O my God! O my God! I can’t stand it. I can’t stand it.” “God” was on her lips, but it was not a minister of God or the message of Christ that was stirring her soul.—Luke 19:2-8.
4. What questions are asked, and why?
4 What has happened to the Christian religion that once stirred the hearts of men to leave their fathers and mothers, their places of employment, climb trees, even disown themselves for the sake of Christ? Where is that revolutionary zeal that once inflamed the world? Where are the people who were once charged with overturning the inhabited earth? (Acts 17:6) Without zealous ministers, there can be no triumph of Christianity, no rewarding deeds of Christian faith. But where today can such zeal be found?
RELIGIOUS FERMENT IN CHRISTENDOM
5, 6. In what condition is Christendom’s religion, as testified by her clergy?
5 Within Christendom, there are evidences, more of religion dying, than of a dynamic Christianity. Evangelist Billy Graham asserted that Christendom’s churches are floundering in tragic confusion. “If we have lost our enthusiasm for Christ,” he said, “it is because our faith has ceased to mean much to us.” Dr. Carl F. H. Henry, evangelist-theologian, said that liberal Protestantism “has lost most of its evangelical drive.” And there seems to be no question about that. On October 31, 1966, while church bells in divided Berlin rang out announcing Reformation Day, many delegates reportedly were beseeching God “to breathe the spirit of Reformation into the Christian church once again.” But the spirit of God apparently has left that body flat.
6 Protestantism is without first-century zeal. A Protestant church leader in America confessed: “The Christian church is dying around the world.” He described professed Christians as “smug, hate-filled [and] bigoted.” “Father” Boyd, nightclub Episcopal priest, said that ‘his church is moribund.’ In England, religion is described as being “on the slippery slope downhill. . . . The people have deserted the church,” said an Episcopal minister. He went on to say: “The same thing will happen here in America and it will doom the church.”
7. Who is responsible for the lifelessness of Christendom’s religions?
7 Who is responsible for this lifeless condition in Christendom’s religion? What has brought it about? A Methodist leader from Nashville, Tennessee, stated that there is “too much dullness” in the church. He charged that “some of it is just plain phonyism and there is too much conformity and mediocrity to be comfortable.” Former Episcopal Bishop Pike said: “We’ve been talking double talk for 2,000 years. No wonder we are confused.” Declared one prominent Presbyterian layman recently: “Most ministers are so misguided, so completely off base and so full of liberal and humanistic thought that they are proving more worthless to their parishioners each day.”
8. What factor has led to a loss of faith and religious zeal?
8 His statement might have been prompted by the recent action of the United Presbyterian Church’s General Assembly, which adopted a new confession of faith for the denomination. The confession rejects the view of the Bible as the “inerrant” word of God. Many clergymen and theology school professors question the reliability of God’s Word the Bible. They urge a “demythologizing” of the Bible. They in substance have set themselves up as judges to determine what teachings of the Bible are “possible.” They cite the virgin birth as a myth. Modern science believes the birth of a child by a virgin is impossible. Therefore, goes their line of reasoning, Mary was not a virgin at all. But once they doubt the virgin birth, what is there to keep them from doubting Christ the Son of God, the resurrection of the dead, or even the existence of God himself? It is the position of those who see much of the Bible as a myth that, although parts of it might be divinely inspired, the rest is simply the unfounded evidence of imperfect men. But if this position is taken and accepted, the Bible, the source of Christian strength, zeal and enthusiasm, is rendered useless. Even man, sin and God become the mere speculations of mortal men.
9. In what way have the clergy diluted the Word of God, and with what effect?
9 But is this not what has happened in Christendom? Dr. Leslie Weatherhead, former president of the Methodist Conference, says that he would like to censor the Bible. A rector of the Anglican Church of southern England, J. C. Wansey of Woodford, said the Bible contains passages of “spiritual junk” and “poison” for the people. An Episcopal bishop says ‘there is no holy spirit, no virgin birth, no resurrection and that he is not even sure about the almightiness of God.’ An Anglican minister, head of the University of British Columbia’s religious studies department, declared: “God is not necessary.” “All sciences—including religious studies—proceed without the hypothesis of God. If knowledge can exist without God, so can life.” Rabbi Joel Goor told students at the University of San Diego College for Women, on October 22, 1966: “We do not believe in original sin. We believe man sins as Adam sinned, not because he sinned,” despite what the Bible says to the contrary. (Rom. 5:12; 1 Cor. 15:22) This dilution of God’s Word with human speculation and nonsense has not produced a dynamic Christianity. For a diluted Christianity is no Christianity. It is false religion, void of all transforming power.
10. What disgraceful moral state has this dilution produced?
10 A diluted religion produced in Christendom a diluted morality, which is no morality. It sanctioned the tolerance of evil, which is an evil in itself. Robert W. Wood, a minister of the United Church of Christ (a body formed in the United States by union of Congregational and Evangelical and Reformed Churches), said: “The moral onus of homosexuality is no greater than that of being left-handed.” “Marriage” between two homosexuals is viewed as moral by this minister and he says that he would perform such a religious ceremony. Heads of religion uphold the legalization of homosexual practices between adult males, approve of sexual intercourse outside of marriage, and pooh-pooh practically every basic moral principle of the Bible, which is the basis for Christian faith and zeal. What sort of membership can be rightfully expected from such indolent, slothful, faithless leadership?
11. How did a Presbyterian lay group explain its concern?
11 A Presbyterian lay group explained its concern like this: “The authoritative message of salvation, which has power to change the hearts of men, is declared by the Holy Scriptures. But men who doubt the full integrity and authority of the Bible soon lose confidence in its message. Time is given to study ‘about’ the Bible while knowledge of the Word itself is neglected. Even our seminaries so minimize Bible teaching that the importance of the Scriptures is often left in doubt. . . . People are hungering and thirsting for an authoritative message of salvation. Those who compromise the authority of the Bible as a mixture of truth and error will fail this generation.” God is not one to be mocked. The divine principle is: ‘We reap what we sow.’ (Gal. 6:7) The moral and spiritual breakdown of this generation must be laid before the pulpits and seminaries, where the authenticity of the Bible as the Word of God is being questioned.
12. What has been the fruitage of empty, ritualistic religion?
12 When race riots raged in Chicago, Illinois, in 1966, the failure of the Roman Catholic Church to teach Bible principles, racial justice and human dignity became terribly evident. Roman Catholics turned on one another. A nun was felled by a rock. “It hurts to think we haven’t taught them better,” she said. A man screamed at a priest walking side by side with a Negro woman: “Hey, father, are you sleeping with her?” A perceptive priest who lived in one of the mob-ridden areas said: “For years, most of our parishes out here have been preaching empty ritual, rules and restrictions. We got what we asked for.” In other words, they reaped in riots and abuse what they have sowed in empty ritual. In Panama, a crowd threatened to lynch nuns and priests alike if they were not allowed to gamble and dance. These people, who came to Portobelo to celebrate the annual Roman Catholic Black Christ festivities, chanted: “We want the blood of a priest.” These people have zeal, but obviously it is not the zeal of first-century Christianity. It resembles more the zeal of those who staked the Son of God at Calvary than that of those who followed him.
ZEALOUS CHRISTIANS IDENTIFIED
13, 14. How have various authors identified the presence of zealous Christianity in the earth, and with what group?
13 Does this mean that there is no zealous representation of Christianity in the earth at this time? No, it does not mean that at all. Christianity is well represented in the earth today, and zealously so. Earth wide, there are over a million Christians responding zealously to the urgency of our times, willingly offering themselves as God’s ministers. They are proclaiming the good news of God’s kingdom as a witness to all nations before the end of this system of things. (Matt. 24:14) Charles S. Braden, in his book These Also Believe, identifies for us who these are. He writes: “It may truly be said that no single religious group in the world displayed more zeal and persistence in the attempt to spread the good news of the Kingdom than the Jehovah’s Witnesses.” Theirs is a ministry of zealous participation, one that says more than simply, “I believe.”
14 Religious news editor Louis Cassels also had this to say of Jehovah’s witnesses: “Their phenomenal growth rate is the result of a zeal for evangelism which puts the established churches to shame. Every Witness is regarded as an ordained minister, and is sent out to ring doorbells, pass out literature on street corners and preach the [Kingdom] message to as many people as possible. . . . Behind this passion for convert-winning is the firm conviction of the Witnesses that the end of human history is imminent. They expect it to come at any hour, and almost certainly within the next 10 years.”
15, 16. How have religious observers spoken about the zeal of Jehovah’s witnesses?
15 Religious observers recognize that there is a zealous group of people on earth who stand for Christian principle and who are upholding Bible principles in their very lives. Even a Roman Catholic publication expressed this wishful thought: “We admire the zeal of the Witnesses, and often wish our own Catholics were imbued with a similar apostolic spirit.” But wishing alone does not make zealous Christians, as Roman Catholic leaders should know.
16 One of the identifying evidences of true Christians is the persecution they undergo because of their zeal in preaching. A Protestant publication, the Alabama Baptist, said editorially: “All over the world we hear of this sect [Jehovah’s witnesses] being persecuted. . . . Certainly the only cause for their attack is because these have a zealous belief in their doctrines of the Bible. At least we could say this much for them, that they are the only group in our country who are so zealous in their beliefs and practices that they are resisting unto persecution.” Bible writers indicate that true Christianity would be marked by zeal, which quality admittedly is evident in the lives of Jehovah’s witnesses.
ZEAL MANIFESTED AND SUSTAINED
17. How can the zeal of Jehovah’s witnesses be identified as genuine Christian zeal?
17 But how can we identify the zeal of Jehovah’s witnesses as being the genuine zeal of Christianity? The Christian apostle Paul said that zeal shows itself in the fruitage of God’s spirit. (Gal. 5:22, 23) It manifests itself in a Christian’s Christlike personality. A zealous Christian is not “fashioned after this system of things.” He has transformed his mind, proving to himself what is “the good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” Genuine Christian zeal ‘abhors what is wicked,’ ‘loves without hypocrisy,’ ‘expresses tender affection for the brothers,’ ‘does not loiter at God’s business,’ is ‘aglow with the spirit,’ ‘slaves for Jehovah,’ ‘rejoices in the hope ahead,’ ‘endures under tribulation,’ ‘perseveres in prayer,’ shows concern for Christian responsibilities and is marked by an unflagging moral earnestness.—Rom. 12:1, 2, 9-12; Gal. 2:20.
18. In what way is Christian zeal sustained?
18 Genuine zeal is never sustained by the natural resources of persistence. This zeal finds its source in an unfading belief in Jehovah God, his Word and his purposes. Love of God and of neighbor is zeal’s inspiration. It finds support by being in contact with God’s holy spirit. Man’s spirit catches fire from God’s spirit and glows with intensity as it draws closer to the Source of all energy, namely, Jehovah. (Isa. 40:26) The writer of the Proverbs expressed this point beautifully, in these words: “The breath [spirit] of earthling man is the lamp of Jehovah.” (Prov. 20:27) That lamp will never be extinguished as long as it remains in touch with Jehovah the true God.
19. (a) What proves Christian zeal to be a contagious force? (b) How is the zeal of Jehovah’s witnesses truly representative of first-century Christianity?
19 Genuine Christian zeal, therefore, is the manifestation of the spirit of God in the lives of Christians. The active force of Jehovah is that which excites us to his service. It is this force that aids us to make over our personalities, to dedicate our lives to God. It is this active force that makes integrity-keepers out of us to God’s glory. It gives us a persevering zeal that finds strength in the service of Jehovah. Zeal is a contagious force that stirs up others to fine works. (Titus 2:11-14) The reported zeal of the Corinthians stirred up to eager giving the majority of brothers in Achaia, the Roman province including all of Greece south of Macedonia. This giving was not only of themselves, that is, of their strength and energy, but of their money to serve others. (2 Cor. 9:2) So we see in the lives of Jehovah’s witnesses today, not only a giving of themselves in the service of God, as reflected in the 183,995,180 hours that they spent in the Christian field ministry in 1967, conducting 867,009 free home Bible studies and making upward of 66,703,000 return visits on persons who showed interest in God and his Word, but also their giving of their money to serve others. During the service year of 1967, $4,551,014.87 was spent in support of 9,528 devoted missionaries, special pioneer and circuit and district servant ministers throughout the earth. In addition to all these full-time workers, they supported 1,717 of their brothers and sisters who work in Bethel homes around the world in 96 branches. This expression of their zeal is truly representative of first-century Christianity. It is such zeal that stirs up the brothers to greater spirituality and activity. How is your zeal? Does it stir up the brothers?
20, 21. What effect has Christian zeal on the old and young? Give proof.
20 Genuine Christian zeal has a refreshing, persuading and stimulating effect upon the old and young. A Gilead missionary worker of Jehovah’s witnesses tells how a twenty-three-year-old girl reacted when she first heard about the good news of God’s kingdom: “The girl came to Geneva, Switzerland, as a French refugee and entered a Catholic home for young girls. While on vacation, a girl friend of hers spoke to her about God and the Bible. She met this friend only twice, but this was enough to create in her a desire to have a Bible study. A Bible study was started with her. She left the Catholic home soon thereafter. She began to come to our meetings at the Kingdom Hall. She is bubbling over with zeal and when she talks about the truth her eyes just sparkle. She is now talking to everyone, even though we have been studying together only four weeks.”
21 Another case of stirring zeal concerns a man of seventy who started to attend school to learn how to read and write so that he could better present the good news at the doors. At the time of his immersion he was in the third grade. It is such zeal that makes one want to do more for Jehovah. It is such zeal that stirs up the brothers.
22. What happens when zeal is lacking?
22 Where genuine zeal is lacking, all religious effort grows ineffective and soon subsides into flabby ineptitude. A tepid Laodiceanism, that is, a lukewarm religion, results. And the fruitage of such religion is what is in evidence in Christendom. There is no faith, no joy, no spirit for the service of God. The need, therefore, is to be whole-souled in our service to Jehovah, aglow with the spirit of God, filled with zeal that stirs up others to want to become praisers of Jehovah God.
HOW YOU CAN BECOME ZEALOUS FOR JEHOVAH
23, 24. (a) How is Christian zeal a sustaining force in the ministry? (b) What need is, therefore, highlighted?
23 Genuine Christian zeal requires much energy. This vital energy or force is replenished by a Christian’s taking in truths from the Word of God, the Bible. For “the word of God is alive and exerts power.” (Heb. 4:12) And power is what is needed to sustain Christian zeal. When Jeremiah the prophet thought of quitting his post as God’s prophet, he said: “In my heart it [the word of God] proved to be like a burning fire shut up in my bones; and I got tired of holding in, and I was unable to endure it.” (Jer. 20:9) When believed, God’s Word exerts a force that cannot be contained. The persuasive witness of the apostle Paul when before King Agrippa moved Agrippa to say: “In a short time you would persuade me to become a Christian.” (Acts 26:28) And in our time when a witness for Jehovah gave a newspaperman a lift to his hotel one bitter winter day, the newspaperman was moved to write about this experience, concluding his article this way: “It isn’t often you meet such a nice, fine, friendly man—and such a good Witness for Jehovah.”
24 The need, therefore, is to study God’s Word daily and meditate on that Word so that it can become “like a burning fire shut up in [our] bones.” The Word of God can inspire, because it is inspired of God. Paul wrote: “All Scripture is inspired of God and beneficial.” (2 Tim. 3:16, 17) Jesus Christ declared: “Man must live, not on bread alone, but on every utterance coming forth through Jehovah’s mouth.” (Matt. 4:4) Since by this Word man must live, it would be well that we know it.
25. What other factor must be kept in mind to sustain zeal, and why?
25 If we would be zealous, there is also the necessity to keep close in mind the presence of the day of Jehovah. Knowledge of this fact moves us to right works and fine conduct. The apostle Peter exhorts: “Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of persons ought you to be in holy acts of conduct and deeds of godly devotion, awaiting and keeping close in mind the presence of the day of Jehovah . . . since you are awaiting these things, do your utmost to be found finally by him spotless and unblemished and in peace.” (2 Pet. 3:11-14) This awareness of Armageddon’s nearness serves as a warning to those of Christian zeal not only to preach Christ but to live lives that bespeak the times in which we are living. Such exemplary lives stir up the brothers.
26, 27. (a) Why does zeal call for spiritual insight? (b) Why must spiritual insight be distinguished from sentimentalism and a preoccupation of religious forms and phrases?
26 Hence zeal calls for spiritual insight—the perception that is able to distinguish between the true and the false, right from wrong. We must be able to see spiritual values as they really are, without confusing them with specious substitutes. (Matt. 16:5-12) We must also recognize what is genuinely important and avoid confusing it with what is plausible but of secondary significance. From a physical viewpoint, a materialistic way of life, that is, eating drinking and marriage, may appear very important indeed, but Jesus Christ cautions not to be overly anxious about these things. Rather, to keep on “seeking first the kingdom [of the heavenly Father] and his righteousness, and all these other things will be added to you.” (Matt. 6:25-33; 24:38, 39) Jehovah cares for the zealous ones.
27 Genuine spiritual insight must also be distinguished both from sentimentalism that lulls to sleep, and from a preoccupation with religious forms and phrases that do not have lasting meaning. When Jesus called on men to ‘be his followers,’ some of their replies showed a lack of spiritual insight and a want of appreciation of the privilege that was extended to them. Many responded quite sentimentally when they were called. One man said: “Permit me first to leave and bury my father.” Another said: “I will follow you, Lord; but first permit me to say good-by to those in my household.” Jesus replied: “No man that has put his hand to a plow and looks at the things behind is well fitted for the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:59-62) The apostle Paul found it necessary to counsel brothers “not to fight about words, a thing of no usefulness at all because it overturns those listening.” (2 Tim. 2:14) Bickering over words and sentimentality drain one of vital energy. Insight is needed to preserve that energy for the zealous service of Jehovah.
28. Why must one’s associations also be watched if one is to become zealous for Jehovah?
28 Associations must be watched if one is to become zealous for Jehovah. Bad association can, not only spoil useful habits, but dampen our zeal and rob it of its fire. (1 Cor. 15:33) Associating with doubters will, not only slow one down, but even destroy a believing mind. How often “fair weather” Christians discourage those with good intentions from going to Christian meetings and from the service of God on cold, hot or wet days! However, a zealous, spirited servant of God not only will persevere at times such as these, but will stir up the doubters to greater faith and the inactive to greater zeal. Does your zeal stir up your brothers in this way? It should.
29. What do we want to be found doing in this most urgent of times?
29 It is mandatory that we be aware that we are living at a very crucial and urgent time in human history. Christendom’s religions, by her own admission, are either dead or dying. This time before the destruction of Babylon the Great and the war of Armageddon calls for zealous participation, on our part, in the finest work that can now be done, namely, to point people of honest heart to the kingdom of God as the only hope for mankind. May the Captain of our salvation find us so engaged at the hour of his inspection.