Appreciating Sacred Things
1, 2. (a) Why is prophecy to be appreciated? (b) Why should the ransom be highly regarded?
JEHOVAH’S wonderful works and thoughts toward us and the things he has done for the world of mankind are indeed numerous. As soon as the human family came into difficulty and under condemnation because of Adam’s sin, hope for the future was revealed. Thus today we find among the sacred things of Jehovah his first prophecy recorded in the Bible: “And I shall put enmity between you and the woman and between your seed and her seed. He will bruise you in the head and you will bruise him in the heel.” (Gen. 3:15) In his loving-kindness Jehovah later enlarged upon this subject, providing more than three hundred prophecies concerning the “seed” who was to come so there would be no doubt about who was meant. Down through history Jehovah God directed the course of events to cause an accurate fulfillment in Christ Jesus, by whom deliverance was to come. It was an outstanding thing that Jehovah did, and it is explained this way by the apostle John: “For God loved the world so much that he gave his only-begotten Son, in order that everyone exercising faith in him might not be destroyed but have everlasting life.” “By this 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.”—John 3:16; 1 John 4:9.
2 The provision Jehovah has made through Christ Jesus for everlasting life is not anything ordinary. It is something special, to be highly regarded. As Paul expressed the matter in Hebrews 10:28, 29: “Any man that has disregarded the law of Moses dies without compassion, upon the testimony of two or three. Of how much more severe a punishment, do you think, will the man be counted worthy who has trampled upon the Son of God and who has esteemed as of ordinary value the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and who has outraged the spirit of undeserved kindness with contempt?”
3. What did Jesus do besides providing the ransom?
3 When on earth, God’s only-begotten Son did more than provide a ransom sacrifice for the benefit of the human family. He came as a teacher of God’s sacred truth and set an example for others of the course to follow in harmony with God. Jesus revealed God’s message and said: “What I teach is not mine, but belongs to him that sent me. If anyone desires to do His will, he will know concerning the teaching whether it is from God or I speak of my own originality.” “For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone that is on the side of the truth listens to my voice.”—John 7:16, 17; 18:37.
4. Why should understanding sacred secrets be considered a special privilege?
4 Sacred truth is not appreciated by all; some are not worthy of it. An account about the teaching work of Jesus and his use of illustrations states: “Now when he got to be alone, those around him with the twelve began questioning him on the illustrations. And he proceeded to say to them: ‘To you the sacred secret of the kingdom of God has been given, but to those outside all things occur in illustrations, in order that, though looking, they may look and yet not see, and, though hearing, they may hear and yet not get the sense of it, nor ever turn back and forgiveness be given them.’” (Mark 4:10-12) To understand the sacred secrets of God and the meaning of the Bible teachings is indeed a special privilege granted those who love him. Accurate knowledge about the kingdom of God is a treasure. It comes to those who apply themselves diligently as students of the Scriptures. Do you have such appreciation for sacred teachings that you study them regularly?—John 17:3; 1 Cor. 2:10, 14, 15.
5. What value did Jesus place on the kingdom of heaven?
5 That Jesus highly valued the kingdom of heaven is well proved by his own teaching. “The kingdom of the heavens is like a treasure hidden in the field, which a man found and hid; and for the joy he has he goes and sells what things he has and buys that field. Again the kingdom of the heavens is like a traveling merchant seeking fine pearls. Upon finding one pearl of high value, away he went and promptly sold all the things he had and bought it.” (Matt. 13:44-46) Jesus illustrated how he would give up all, even life itself, in order to gain the Kingdom. Who could show greater appreciation for a sacred thing? How was he able to do it? Not by thinking much about dying, but in faith looking beyond to enjoying the greatly treasured sacred thing, the kingdom of heaven. His attitude is described for us by the apostle Paul: “We look intently at the Chief Agent and Perfecter of our faith, Jesus. For the joy that was set before him he endured a torture stake, despising shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”—Heb. 12:2.
6. Because Jesus practiced what he taught at Matthew 6:19-33, what has resulted to him?
6 So with such appreciation of values Jesus was able to give practical instruction on the subject: “Stop storing up for yourselves treasures upon the earth, . . . Rather, store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Keep on, then, seeking first the kingdom and his righteousness, and all these other things will be added to you.” (Matt. 6:19-21, 33) Jesus fully agreed with what he taught because he indeed sought first the Kingdom, and everything else has been added.
7. What are those who appreciate the Kingdom now found doing?
7 That kingdom is now established. It is sacred. Do you show appreciation for it? If we are of the congregation of true Christians now we are publicly declaring what was foretold at Revelation 11:17: “We thank you, Jehovah God, the Almighty, the one who is and who was, because you have taken your great power and begun ruling as king.” That is active appreciation. Indifference toward sacred things does not bring God’s approval. We do not wish to have the spirit of the Laodiceans. “To the angel of the congregation in Laodicea write: These are the things that the Amen says, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation by God, ‘I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were cold or else hot. So, because you are lukewarm and neither hot nor cold, I am going to vomit you out of my mouth.’” (Rev. 3:14-18) See the importance of being very positive in support of the kingdom of heaven!
8. How did Jesus’ followers show appreciation for him and his teachings?
8 With due appreciation the footstep followers of Jesus repeated his words, recorded them and carried them to others, and they too lived according to what Jesus taught. Among them was the apostle Paul. He was not personally able to hear Jesus give his teaching, but, like us, he was able to read about it, and we note with interest his evaluation of sacred things: “Yet what things were gains to me, these I have considered loss on account of the Christ. Why, for that matter, I do indeed also consider all things to be loss on account of the excelling value of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord. On account of him I have taken the loss of all things and I consider them as a lot of refuse, that I may gain Christ.”—Phil. 3:7, 8.
9. In what way do we benefit by Paul’s expressions of gratitude for the ministry?
9 This man Paul had a sacred commission and he thoroughly appreciated his ministry, the assignment received from Christ Jesus: “I am grateful to Christ Jesus our Lord, who imparted power to me, because he considered me faithful by assigning me to a ministry, although formerly I was a blasphemer and a persecutor and an insolent man. Nevertheless, I was shown mercy, because I was ignorant and acted with a lack of faith. But the undeserved kindness of our Lord abounded exceedingly along with faith and love that is in connection with Christ Jesus. Faithful and deserving of full acceptance is the saying that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. Of these I am foremost. Nevertheless, the reason why I was shown mercy was that by means of me as the foremost case Christ Jesus might demonstrate all his long-suffering for a sample of those who are going to rest their faith on him for everlasting life.” (1 Tim. 1:12-16) The fact that Paul recorded these details shows his humility, and we appreciate having the information, because we too may not all of our lives have known God’s sacred things or what his will was. We see that, regardless of what was done in the past, it is what we do when we learn God’s will, it is how we react to the ministry offered, that counts. Do you have appreciation similar to Paul’s?
10. How do we do our sacred service?
10 The ministry is part of our worship, our sacred service. As the apostle Paul learned the truth and made a solemn offering to Jehovah for the doing of Jehovah’s will, so we are encouraged to do, and according to our appreciation of sacred things we will try to do the will of God. When we reason on the written Word of God, we see that this is the only course to take. Paul appealed to his brothers to keep presenting their sacred service. “Consequently I entreat you by the compassions of God, brothers, to present your bodies a sacrifice living, holy, acceptable to God, a sacred service with your power of reason. 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. 12:1, 2) This sacred service and worship means exclusive devotion to Jehovah. Paul knew this because he was informed about the temptation of Jesus and also about the Hebrew Scriptures. Of this temptation Matthew 4:10 reports: “Then Jesus said to him: ‘Go away, Satan! For it is written, “It is Jehovah your God you must worship, and it is to him alone you must render sacred service.”’”—Matt. 4:10.
11. How did Jesus and Paul show appreciation for the congregation?
11 Along with this the apostle Paul had appreciation for the provision of God in fellow ministers. “I am grateful to God, to whom I am rendering sacred service as my forefathers did and with a clean conscience, that I never leave off remembering you in my supplications.” (2 Tim. 1:3) “I always thank God for you in view of the undeserved kindness of God given to you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Cor. 1:4) Paul appreciated them as part of God’s sacred possession, for he had learned how part of the work of Jesus on earth was to establish a congregation or organization of individuals unitedly carrying on the pure worship of God and doing his will. Members of this congregation receive the anointing of God’s holy spirit, the adoption of sons of God. This class or body of 144,000 anointed Christians, footstep followers of Jesus, are described as a wife of the Lamb, Christ Jesus. (Rev. 19:7) Christ feeds and cherishes the congregation and even laid down his life for it. (Eph. 5:25-29) Therefore, the congregation is a sacred thing, to be looked upon with high appreciation, all members appreciating the whole association of brothers.—Acts 20:28.
12. Considering Jesus and Paul, how can we show appreciation for the congregation now?
12 Members of the Christian congregation are today to be found upon the earth. In association with them there is a great crowd of “other sheep.” The visible organization of Jehovah on earth operates under his spirit’s direction, adheres to his holy Word and must be viewed as God’s possession. It is an honor to have association with any group of dedicated true Christians, especially at this time to be showing love for others in the congregation. When Jesus was upon the earth, he was personally present with members of the dedicated Christian body, and so we may be sure that if he were personally on earth at this time, he would in the same way show his appreciation for the arrangement of God. But even in his heavenly position Jesus is attentive to the needs and interests of the congregated servants, whether in large number or small. (Matt. 18:20) So, looking to the example of the Master, present-day Christians show appreciation of the congregation by being in regular association together, as urged by the apostle Paul: “Let us hold fast the public declaration of our hope without wavering, for he is faithful that promised. And let us consider one another to incite to love and fine works, not forsaking the gathering of ourselves together, as some have the custom, but encouraging one another, and all the more so as you behold the day drawing near.”—Heb. 10:23-25.
13. What are some benefits gained through the congregational arrangement?
13 It is in association with the congregation that the best opportunities are provided to show appreciation for the written Word of God. It is studied in the congregation meetings. It is also used in personal study and in the divinely arranged work of preaching the good news of the Kingdom. Because of appreciation for the Kingdom, the true congregation is found today preaching the good news of that kingdom in all the world for a witness to all the nations before the end comes. It, is God’s arrangement.—Matt. 24:14.
14. Why is appreciation of prayer necessary?
14 Paul was not alone in praying for the congregation. Jesus expressed appreciation for the flock of worshipers of Jehovah through prayer. Jesus’ prayer at John chapter 17 took into consideration the purposes of Jehovah and also the welfare of the congregation. “Also, I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world and I am coming to you. Holy Father, watch over them on account of your own name which you have given me, in order that they may be one just as we are. I have given your word to them, but the world has hated them, because they are no part of the world, just as I am no part of the world. I request you, not to take them out of the world, but to watch over them because of the wicked one. I make request, not concerning these only, but also concerning those putting faith in me through their word.” (John 17:11, 14, 15, 20) This sacred congregation would exist and grow only with the blessing and help of the heavenly Father Jehovah. We do not work independent of Jehovah. That example of Jesus in appreciating the privilege of prayer is outstanding and should be a guide to us in our daily life. Regular prayer is a requirement for success in sacred service. Do you remember to pray each day?—John 16:23, 24; 1 Thess. 5:17.
15. Why are dedication and baptism important?
15 Another special privilege to be greatly appreciated is that of dedication and baptism. It was Jesus who provided the example and caused his followers to take a similar righteous course. “Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, in order to be baptized by him. But the latter tried to prevent him, saying: ‘I am the one needing to be baptized by you, and are you coming to me?’ In reply Jesus said to him: ‘Let it be, this time, for in that way it is suitable for us to carry out all that is righteous.’ Then he quit preventing him. After being baptized Jesus immediately came up from the water; and, look! the heavens were opened up, and he saw descending like a dove God’s spirit coming upon him. Look! Also, there was a voice from the heavens that said: ‘This is my Son, the beloved, whom I have approved.’” (Matt. 3:13-17) Furthermore, Jesus left no doubt that this should be continued after his death, for he instructed at Matthew 28:19, 20: “Go therefore and make disciples of people of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the holy spirit, teaching them to observe all the things I have commanded you.” This sacred arrangement would lead those who showed appreciation for it to obtaining blessings under the Kingdom rule.
16. When should one be baptized?
16 Appreciation of some other sacred things must precede one’s dedication and baptism. He must learn God’s will. But once a person begins to appreciate the sacred truths about baptism he is wise to pursue a course in accord with the example of Jesus and be baptized. Holding back does not demonstrate faith and appreciation for this sacred arrangement making it possible to become part of the congregation. Have you made your dedication?
17. Why do we appreciate holy spirit?
17 As Jesus pointed out, those who would be properly baptized would first have appreciation for the Father, the Son (and the provision for the ransom sacrifice made through him) and for the operation of God’s holy spirit. Holy spirit or God’s active force is a thing to be regarded with care and great respect, because it is sacred. Many powerful works have been done by means of holy spirit. It was used at creation. (Gen. 1:2; Ps. 104:30) Holy spirit caused prophecy to be brought to light. (Acts 28:25; 2 Pet. 1:21) Holy spirit was involved with the miraculous birth of Jesus. Holy spirit can cause men to serve God and preach the good news. (Acts 2:1-4; Mark 13:11) By means of holy spirit Jesus did many wonderful and miraculous works when on earth. As a token of what the Kingdom would accomplish in healing the nations Jesus cured the demon possessed, the blind, the dumb and the diseased, but he was criticized by the Pharisees, who said Jesus acted by power of the Devil. Thus these Pharisees not only showed a lack of appreciation for holy spirit but committed an unforgivable sin, as Jesus said: “On this account I say to you, Every sort of sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the spirit will not be forgiven. For example, whoever speaks a word against the Son of man, it will be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the holy spirit, it will not be forgiven him, no, not in the present system of things nor in that to come.”—Matt. 12:31, 32.
18. Give an example of lack of appreciation for what Jesus did.
18 Not only the Pharisees failed to appreciate the miracle-working of Jesus, but even some of the principals, individuals who personally received healing from Jesus, failed to show appreciation for such a sacred thing. “And as he was entering into a certain village ten leprous men met him, but they stood up afar off. And they raised their voices and said: ‘Jesus, Instructor, have mercy on us!’ And when he got sight of them he said to them: ‘Go and show yourselves to the priests.’ Then as they were going off their cleansing occurred. One of them, when he saw he was healed, turned back, glorifying God with a loud voice. And he fell upon his face at Jesus’ feet, thanking him; furthermore, he was a Samaritan. In reply Jesus said: ‘The ten were cleansed, were they not? Where, then, are the other nine?’” (Luke 17:12-17) Now, is not that amazing? Only one in ten stopped to express appreciation. And so at the end of the thousand-year reign of Christ the King when Satan is let loose out of his prison there may be quite a number who will not show appreciation for the healing of the nations performed under the Kingdom rule.—Rev. 20:7-10.
19. Mention some sacred things God’s servants can appreciate now.
19 How many sacred things that have personally benefited you can you write down? We have mentioned but a few. Among the many benefits experienced by Jehovah’s servants are truth, light and appreciation of Jehovah’s purposes. While the world gropes about in spiritual darkness Jehovah’s servants have guidance from his prophetic Word and know what is ahead. So they are not in fear. “Consequently we have the prophetic word made more sure; and you are doing well in paying attention to it as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until day dawns and a daystar rises, in your hearts. For you know this first, that no prophecy of Scripture springs from any private interpretation. For prophecy was at no time brought by man’s will, but men spoke from God as they were borne along by holy spirit.”—2 Pet. 1:19-21.
20-22. What are some of the wonderful works Jehovah does for men as expressed at Psalm 107?
20 A good example of appreciation for all that Jehovah has done is found at Psalm 107. His sacred works are lauded repeatedly in the same words, in Ps 107 verses 8, 15, 21 and 31, which say: “O let people give thanks to Jehovah for his loving-kindness and for his wonderful works to the sons of men.” Indeed, Jehovah has done much for the benefit of his creatures. He has never been indifferent to their needs or their distress. He is a great Rescuer and Deliverer. “And they kept crying out to Jehovah in their distress; out of the stresses upon them he proceeded to deliver them, and to have them walk in the right way, so as to come to a city of habitation.”—Ps. 107:6, 7.
21 We appreciate Jehovah too for his great mercy and forgiveness and for the way he heals and takes care of creatures who try to serve him. He is a great reconciler when creatures show repentance from their error. “He proceeded to send his word and heal them and to provide them escape out of their pits.”—Ps. 107:20.
22 Jehovah is also the provider of all good spiritual food; when his servants are loyal to him he prospers them spiritually. He looks with favor upon their expression of appreciation for his sacred things. So Jehovah’s servants in these days have entered into a period of spiritual prosperity such as described in prophetic Psalm 107:35-38: “He converts a wilderness into a reedy pool of water, and the land of a waterless region into outflows of water. And there he causes the hungry ones to dwell, so that they firmly establish a city of habitation. And they sow fields and plant vineyards, that they may yield fruitful crops. And he blesses them so that they become very many; and he does not let their cattle become few.”
23. Why appreciate God’s Word and provisions now?
23 People who do not appreciate the sacred Word of Jehovah and do not use it cannot find the spiritual prosperity, faith, joy, hope, liberty and security that Jehovah’s servants find. There are so many advantages in having appreciation of the sacred Word of God. When God’s laws are followed, good health results and care is taken of the body God has given. Also, by obeying what is right, there is a good conscience; there is improvement in family relationships. The importance of being separate from this system of things is made clear. All of this depends upon the use of God’s Word. It is a protection against getting involved in what is wrong. “But solid food belongs to mature people, to those who through use have their perceptive powers trained to distinguish both right and wrong.” (Heb. 5:14) Those who do have appreciation of their spiritual needs gain happiness, as Jesus put it in Matthew 5:3. We appreciate how Jehovah cares for our spiritual needs. We measure values by his Word and we seize the opportunities to learn more. With gratitude we recognize the regular watchcare and protection he gives to his servants. Jehovah’s people stand out in contrast to ungrateful, unappreciative humankind described in 2 Timothy 3:2.
24. How does Esau’s course serve as a warning?
24 Being unthankful in this day and age of great spiritual enlightenment is dangerous. Remember Esau and his lack of appreciation. He was indifferent to the importance of Jehovah’s sacred provision. Many centuries after Esau died the record of what he did was still being called to the attention of Christians to urge them on in their appreciating of sacred things. Paul wrote in Hebrews 12:16, 17: “That there may be no fornicator nor anyone not appreciating sacred things, like Esau, who in exchange for one meal gave away his rights as first-born. For you know that afterward also when he wanted to inherit the blessing he was rejected, for, although he earnestly sought a change of mind with tears, he found no place for it.”
25. What is the wise course to pursue?
25 Hence, the wise course now is to cherish and desire the sacred things. We can avoid the sadness and tears later on if we remember Esau and the other examples in the Scriptures. Hold true values. Cultivate your appreciation for them. “If you keep seeking for it as for silver, and as for hid treasures you keep searching for it, in that case you will understand the fear of Jehovah, and you will find the very knowledge of God.” (Prov. 2:4, 5) This is a positive statement. If we keep seeking, we appreciate the values and we are assured by Jehovah that we will understand, we will find the very knowledge of God. While we are doing this we have a fine opportunity to build in others greater appreciation for sacred things as we ourselves pay attention to Jehovah. “Who is wise? He will both observe these things and show himself attentive toward Jehovah’s acts of loving-kindness. O let people give thanks to Jehovah for his loving-kindness and for his wonderful works to the sons of men.”—Ps. 107:43, 31.