God’s Liberating Word at Work Among Believers
UNLIKE many people living in a more materialistic society, who reject all things spiritual, a lot of humble Latins have respect for God’s Word, the Holy Bible. They believe there is a certain merit or blessing in just having the Book of Books in the house. Nevertheless, there are many who fail to realize that it is to no avail to have the Bible unless they are going to become acquainted with its contents and unless that Word becomes a force for good in their lives. Who is there that buys a newspaper only to put it on the shelf without reading it? Then, why do so with the Bible, which is infinitely more valuable because of the freedom-giving truth it contains?
No, it is not enough just to accept the Bible as a sacred book. It must be put to work in the believer or be applied if it is going to set him free. That is what acceptance of God’s Word meant to those who believed in the first century, of whom the apostle Paul wrote: “When you received God’s word, which you heard from us, you accepted it, not as the word of men, but, just as it truthfully is, as the word of God, which is also at work in you believers.”—1 Thess. 2:13.
Their acceptance of the Word of God meant more than their receiving it into their homes and viewing it as a holy writing. It also meant their receiving its message of truth into minds and hearts receptive to what it taught. That is why it had a liberating effect on them, one that resulted in changed thoughts and actions, yes, in transformed personalities.
Can it be said that the Word of God is being accepted by many Latin Americans in the same manner as it was accepted by those early Christians of whom the apostle Paul wrote commendingly? The record resoundingly answers Yes! Let us consider how they and others are putting God’s liberating Word to work in their lives.
Escaping from Sexual Immorality
Although sexual immorality is condoned in some religious circles Jesus spoke of fornication and adultery as “things defiling a man.” (Matt. 15:19, 20) And the apostle Peter spoke of Christians as “having escaped from the defilements of the world by an accurate knowledge of the Lord.”—2 Pet. 2:20.
In spite of God’s forthright condemnation of all sexual immorality, it is very common in Catholic Latin America for a man and a woman to live together consensually, in fornication or adultery. And prostitution is so commonplace that, according to Occidente, daily newspaper of Cali, Colombia, girls between the ages of eight and fifteen are serving as prostitutes in that city.
As a consequence of such immoral living, unwanted children are born into homes already overcrowded and poverty-stricken, and at a tender age countless thousands find their way onto the streets, where they lead a life of vagrancy and crime. As a method of birth control, many resort to infanticide by abortion.
What happens, though, when God’s Word is put to work in the lives of such people? Well, from Panama comes news of a man who started studying the Bible and subsequently quit his heavy drinking, gambling, smoking and beating of his woman companion, the mother of his four daughters. Wanting to conform to God’s righteous standards, he desired to marry her. She consented; they were married, and that same week he was ordained as a Christian minister.
Or consider the effect the truth had on a devout Catholic woman whose rooming house was used for prostitution in Honduras. Upon receiving Biblical counsel, she immediately cleaned up her house and refused lodging to anyone wanting to use her premises for immoral purposes. Now respectable families frequent her rooming house and she is able to serve Jehovah acceptably as one of his witnesses.
Overcoming the Desire to Gamble
“¡Lotería para hoy!” (“Lottery for today!”) How common is that cry on the streets of Latin American cities! Of course, the man who wants to gamble is not limited to the lotteries. There are the card games, the football games, the horse and dog races, and the cockfights that he can bet on too. Though he may not have enough money to pay the rent or to buy food, clothing or medication for his family, he will still yield to the temptation to gamble.
Since it is said that ‘gambling gets in the blood,’ what could possibly be strong enough to overcome such a powerful passion? Obviously, the answer is not ‘more church influence’ because the church herself promotes gambling.
Once again, that liberating force is the Word of God at work in the individual. The truth is that gambling is extortion, has its roots in greed and laziness, and is demoralizing, often leading to other wrongs. Knowing that all these are things condemned by God, the person wanting His approval has no difficulty in deciding to rid himself of such an undesirable habit.—1 Cor. 6:9, 10; Prov. 21:25.
One such example is of a leper living in the Palo Seco Leper Colony in Panama. He was addicted to lottery buying, but after a period of Bible study he overcame the vice and made it his resolve to do the will of God.
Another example is of a man living in British Honduras who used to gamble and sell lottery tickets. He stopped doing both, besides making vocabulary changes and other conduct adjustments, when he took up studying the Bible and began applying its teachings.
Becoming Honest in All Things
Lying is so commonplace and accepted today that many lie as if it were the proper thing to do. Even marriage counselors advocate it. Thus, in an article entitled “The Lie in Marriage,” appearing in the Colombian magazine Cromos, the author wrote: “The lie . . . is indispensable for the good functioning of marriage.” To add support to his conviction, he quoted some personality who had said: “In human relations, goodness and lies are worth more than a thousand truths.”
Related to lying is stealing, both being forms of dishonesty. Throughout much of the world very little respect is manifest for the property rights of others. People are afraid to leave their homes unattended even in daylight hours for fear someone will force entry, take everything movable, then perhaps add insult to injury by leaving a “For Rent” sign in the window.
Though the hypocritical religious organizations, by teaching and example, have had such a demoralizing effect on the masses, God’s powerful Word is now having the opposite effect on those putting it to work in their lives. They know there can be no compromising the Bible’s straightforward injunctions such as: “Do not be lying to one another,” and, “You must not steal.”—Col. 3:9; Ex. 20:15; Eph. 4:28.
One of Jehovah’s witnesses in California had her honesty put to the test in junior high school. As she was walking down the corridor to her classroom, she saw a girl running, who unknowingly dropped her billfold. The Witness girl picked it up and tried to catch her, but with no success. She turned the billfold in to the school office, though some of the students told her she was a fool for not keeping the money. Her parents soon received a letter from the school principal, which said:
“It is very rarely that I have the opportunity to write a letter as this one. Your daughter, Debra, found a wallet on Vanguard’s school campus and turned it in to the office with five dollars inside. This kind of honesty is a fine example of her home teaching. . . . I must congratulate you on having such a fine, honest daughter . . . and then thank you as parents for teaching her to be such a good person.” As the young girl admitted, “Our family Bible study was mainly responsible for my being fair and honest in all things.”
The liberating truths of God’s Word had a great effect on a man in Zambia who used magical charms to aid him in stealing. After studying the Bible with one of Jehovah’s witnesses, this man said at the end of a study: “I would like to reveal to you, as the one representing Jehovah, the things that I have in my house.” Then he brought out an armlet and a necklace, which came from England, saying: “I use this necklace in the store where I work with you to steal goods without you seeing me. Now I repent and I will give you these things so that you may destroy them for me.” This took place after only a four-month period of study with him together with his wife.
Freedom from Sin and Death
But now to the question posed earlier: Just how far-reaching is the freedom Jesus referred to when he said, “The truth will set you free”? His succeeding words at John 8:33-36 provide us with the answer. Some of those to whom Jesus spoke on that occasion could not understand why he should speak to them about being free. Indignantly, they replied: “Never have we been slaves to anybody.” But Jesus answered them: “Every doer of sin is a slave of sin.”
It becomes apparent, then, that the freedom of which Jesus spoke included freedom from sin. This would also mean freedom from death, “for the wages sin pays is death.”—Rom. 6:23.
There is no denying it, our dying state proves that we are slaves of sin. The fact that the so-called “Liberators” of South America, Bolívar and San Martín, are dead is proof that they, too, were slaves of sin and hence in need of the liberation that comes only by means of the sacrifice of Christ and by means of the truth he spoke.
“Pillar and Support of the Truth”
Jehovah God has lovingly made provision of the truth through His Word, the Bible. But, besides that, he has provided “the congregation of the living God, a pillar and support of the truth,” through which you can receive help to put the Bible truth to work in your life.—1 Tim. 3:15.
All their claims notwithstanding, the facts prove that none of the religions of Christendom constitute “the congregation of the living God,” because, without exception, they are suppressing the truth instead of supporting it. That is why God has determined to cause their destruction and why he says to you: “Get out from among them.”—2 Cor. 6:17; Rom. 1:18, 25; 2 Thess. 2:9-12.
On the other hand, the facts prove that “the congregation of the living God,” the “pillar and support of the truth,” is the Christian organization identified by the name “Jehovah’s witnesses.” Earth wide, the witnesses of Jehovah are helping hundreds of thousands to gain the liberty that only the truth can bring. This they are doing through the medium of free home Bible studies and instructive meetings where the Word of God is taught without charge. You are cordially invited to avail yourself of their services. For the address of the congregation nearest your home, please write to the address of the office of the Watch Tower Society nearest you. You will find the addresses on the inside front cover of this magazine. Thereby, you will be taking a very important step toward experiencing “the glorious freedom of the children of God.”—Rom. 8:21.