Keep Free to Follow Our Fine Shepherd
THE Lord Jesus promised his disciples: “If you remain in my word, you are really my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” All true followers of his have been made free by the truth of God’s Word. This freedom, however, is not an unlimited freedom. Only Jehovah God can and does enjoy that. But all of God’s faithful servants can enjoy a relative freedom, a freedom to do what is right and freedom from false religion, from the fear of man and, among other things, freedom from enslavement to sinful practices.—John 8:31, 32.
Christian freedom also needs to be relative because Christians are members of God’s organization. Every organization has certain requirements that must be met by those belonging to it. Otherwise, instead of a common harmonious effort to realize the purpose of the organization, there would be confusion and a frustrating of purposes. Most fittingly, the Bible is an organizational book. Its Hebrew Scriptures were entrusted to an organization, the nation of Israel, and its Christian Greek Scriptures were directly written either to the Christian congregation or to individual Christians.
The Christian congregation itself is an organization, in which certain ones take the lead, such as overseers and ministerial assistants. Concerning these, Christians are counseled: “Remember those who are taking the lead among you . . . and as you contemplate how their conduct turns out imitate their faith. Be obedient to those who are taking the lead among you and be submissive, for they are keeping watch over your souls as those who will render an account.”—Heb. 13:7, 17.
These might be said to be substituting for the “fine shepherd,” Jesus Christ (John 10:11), and were foretold by Jehovah’s prophet: “I will raise up over them shepherds who will actually shepherd them; and they will be afraid no more.”—Jer. 23:4.*
Having gained this freedom, all of Christ’s followers must be diligent to keep free to follow our Fine Shepherd. In particular does this mean to be on guard lest they become ensnared because of the imperfect and selfish and weak inclinations of the flesh. Among these is love of ease, or laziness. Unless Christians put forth a real effort to combat this tendency it can easily become a bondage that will keep them from doing all they could and should in the way of personal study, meeting attendance and field ministry. They must exert themselves vigorously if they would keep zealously free.—Luke 13:24.
And then there is the snare of materialism, the love of money or of the fine things that money can buy. A fine home luxuriously furnished, or a high-priced motorcar, can give one pleasure and pride of possession. But if the acquiring of such fine things interferes with our keeping free to follow our Fine Shepherd, then are they not the fruits of materialism?
The apostle Paul gives good counsel in this regard, which is ever so much more pertinent in our day than it was in his: “Moreover, this I say, brothers, the time left is reduced. Henceforth let those . . . making use of the world [be] as those not using it to the full; for the scene of this world is changing.” (1 Cor. 7:29, 31) Just as a runner must strip off all unnecessary clothing if he would win the race, so Christians today must keep free from the burdens of the materialistic world as far as possible if they would follow the Fine Shepherd into the new order of things.—1 Cor. 9:24-27; 2 Pet. 3:13.
Love for Jehovah, as well as for our neighbor, requires that we “put off every weight” in order to keep free to follow the example set by Jesus Christ. Look how full-time pioneer ministers, missionaries, those having gone to serve where the need for Christian ministers is greater and those serving at Bethel homes often have left behind many fine material things in order to imitate the apostles, who, as Peter said, left all to follow Jesus. And what blessings, what joys are theirs as they thus serve!—Heb. 12:1; Mark 10:28-30.
So let each dedicated Christian ask himself: “Am I keeping myself free to follow the Fine Shepherd?” And, “Can I make myself available for increased privileges of service, such as those of the pioneer ministry or Bethel service?”
For details see The Watchtower, October 1, 1967.