Living a Dedicated Life
MANY persons have said that they have made a dedication to God. But is it merely a matter of having made a dedication to God that counts, or should we be even more concerned about living up to that dedication? If you are a Christian, can others who have a knowledge of the Bible wholeheartedly acknowledge that you are truly a dedicated person?
What do we mean when, for example, we speak of a person, say a doctor, as a “dedicated man”? Are we merely referring to his graduation from medical school and his taking up official practice? Do we mean that he has qualified to put up a sign and call himself a doctor? No. We mean that he is wrapped up in his work, consumed by his desire and efforts to relieve mankind’s physical suffering. He does not turn to some other pursuit, nor does he let anything seriously interfere with his calling and work as a doctor.
The apostle Peter speaks of the Christian’s baptism as representing, “not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the request made to God for a good conscience.” (1 Pet. 3:21) So at the time of a person’s baptism he is not approaching God as if able to say, ‘I am going to be your servant.’ No, he comes before God as a suppliant. He has a bad conscience and requests or asks God to accept him and to give a good conscience so that he can be clean, with the hope that God will let him serve. With a sincere heart he has repented of his sins and has turned around. He is then baptized and God accepts him on the basis of Christ’s sacrifice, according to His promise.
Now, having done this, the question is, will he prove that he truly is dedicated to God? Having turned around, will he stay firmly in the course God’s Word outlines without deviating? If so, he will prove himself dedicated to God. He will really be a “dedicated man.”
Accordingly, a person cannot merely point to the time that he turned around from his worldly course and presented himself for baptism and say, ‘I am a dedicated servant of God.’ Rather, he must be taking a wholly devoted course. His entire way of life must manifest that he is serving God every day. His associates must be able to say concerning him, just as Jesus’ disciples were able to say of Jesus, that ‘zeal for Jehovah’s house had eaten him up.’—John 2:17.
Regardless of how you are actually living your life, God, who accepted your sincere request at the time you were baptized, views you as responsible to stand by the declaration of faith you have made. Jesus said: “Just let your word Yes mean Yes, your No, No.”—Matt. 5:37.
CHRISTIAN SLAVES OF GOD AND CHRIST
The apostle Peter told the Jews who were baptized on Pentecost day, 33 C.E.: “Get saved from this crooked generation.” Have you been baptized? Then you showed you were forsaking “this crooked generation” and its bad moral practices as well as its nationalism, which will take this generation into destruction in the great tribulation. (Acts 2:40) You became a slave of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ. What, really, does this mean?—1 Thess. 1:9.
Jesus Christ gave an illustration of the Christian’s position when he said: “Who of you is there that has a slave plowing or minding the flock who will say to him when he gets in from the field, ‘Come here at once and recline at the table’? Rather, will he not say to him, ‘Get something ready for me to have my evening meal, and put on an apron and minister to me until I am through eating and drinking, and afterward you can eat and drink’?”—Luke 17:7, 8.
While a slave has his own will, in going under the master he must subordinate his will to do what the master wants. Circumstances may arise that make it personally inconvenient for him to obey a certain command. He may even have the desire to find a way out, some “loophole” or some easier way than his master directs. But he cannot do so without denying his master.
Therefore, it is not a matter of what the Christian, the slave of God, wants to do. When you are confronted with a choice, or you plan a course of action, do you think of what decision you want to make? Or do you think first of which course has the approval of your Master, whose slave you are?
Are you building your life around your relationship to Jehovah? Or are you building according to a pattern that you are setting for yourself? Are you waiting for issues to arise before facing a decision about them? Or are you making firm decisions now and living in harmony with those decisions, so that you will have strength when the issues strike?
Unfortunately, some persons claiming to be dedicated to God think and act as though their lives belonged to them and as if they were free to proceed according to their own judgment. But the apostle Paul says: “You do not belong to yourselves, for you were bought with a price. By all means, glorify God.”—1 Cor. 6:19, 20.
To those who go ahead with their own plans rather than first consulting what God their Master says, the words of Jesus’ half brother James apply: “You ought to say: ‘If Jehovah wills we shall live and also do this or that.”’—Jas. 4:13-15.
THE DANGER OF COMPROMISE DUE TO HUMAN REASONING
Many times a person does not make plans altogether voluntarily. Often he decides on a course because of being put under pressure. But in making the decision he may follow human reasoning rather than God’s, and by such reasoning seek to justify the course he chooses.
Peter followed such reasoning unwittingly, becoming a “satan,” an adversary of Christ, by trying to get Jesus to take an easier course than his Father had set before him. Jesus rebuked Peter with strong words: “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me, because you think, not God’s thoughts, but those of men.”—Matt. 16:22, 23.
A person may be offered drugs by his associates, even pressured by them: “Just try them.” Does he have the right, if he wishes, to see what they are like, or to please his associates? No, for his Master does not approve, in fact, commands him to ‘cleanse himself of every defilement of flesh and spirit,’ also to ‘keep his senses,’ which drugs seriously pervert.—2 Cor. 7:1; 1 Pet. 5:8.
Or a person may be pressured by nationalism to compromise his allegiance and service to God. In some lands, he may even be offered a way to escape certain penalties by taking a course that walks the border line, one that, with specious argument, he can justify in his own mind. It appears less uncomfortable to take than the outright, straightforward way that God directs.
Such a situation confronted three young Hebrew men in Babylon. When they were commanded by the king to bow to the golden image, they answered: “O Nebuchadnezzar, we are under no necessity in this regard to say back a word to you. If it is to be, our God whom we are serving is able to rescue us. Out of the burning fiery furnace and out of your hand, O king, he will rescue us. But if not, let it become known to you, O king, that your gods are not the ones we are serving, and the image of gold that you have set up we will not worship.”—Dan. 3:16-18.
Notice that these men did not try to rationalize that there was some way they could obey the king’s command and still continue to carry on service to God. They did not argue or maneuver, or hope that the king would give them some other duty in connection with the project that would seem to be less directly connected with the ceremony. These faithful men wanted it clear that they did not support the king’s project in any way.
Neither did these three Hebrews have to hold a consultation or ask someone else so as, possibly, to talk themselves into some kind of compromise. They unhesitatingly showed the completeness and firmness of their dedication when they began their answer to Nebuchadnezzar with the statement “we are under no necessity in this regard to say back a word to you.”
The servant of God knows that love is the basic quality that binds God’s congregation together. (Col. 3:14) Christians who have ‘beaten their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning shears’ do not lift up sword against one another nor learn war anymore. Therefore they refuse to participate in anything that would be contrary to that love, and they maintain their neutrality as to strife and warring factions of the world.—Isa. 2:4.
Note, too, the immediate and direct answers given by the apostles when ordered by the Jewish rulers to stop preaching. They straightforwardly answered: “We cannot stop speaking about the things we have seen and heard,” and, “We must obey God as ruler rather than men.” (Acts 4:19, 20; 5:29) They were not going to give up their freedom of service to God voluntarily, or agree to let these rulers tell them when and where to speak, or restrict them in doing fully what their Master commanded.
GOD WANTS WILLINGNESS FROM THE HEART
One should not think that God will prevent one from taking the course one decides on. God is not going to force anyone to obey him. However, he will provide a way to endure any test for those who trust in him. “God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear, but along with the temptation he will also make the way out in order for you to be able to endure it.” (1 Cor. 10:13) This way out will not be any “easier” way, nor through any compromise. But Jehovah will give strength to those who take a bold and firm stand.
Jehovah’s allowing the individual to take whatever course he chooses is actually part of the test of integrity. The person has his freedom of will. If he takes a course violating his Christian neutrality, he is denying God as his Master, and he is walking out on God and his congregation. He is certainly not leading a dedicated life. The congregation is not the one that publicly disfellowshiped him. He takes himself out, dissociates himself. He was once saved from this “crooked generation,” but now he prefers to go back with it, doing as it does.
Such a person may feel that he can walk out and walk back in as he pleases. Not so, for the congregation cannot welcome with open arms a person who has denied God’s sovereignty over him as His slave. What place would God have for him in the “body” of the congregation? (1 Cor. 12:24, 25) Therefore the congregation, if giving him an approved place among them, would be condoning his disobedience and would be a sharer in his sins.—Compare 2 Corinthians 6:14; 1 Timothy 5:22.
It is not the congregation that must alter its principles. Rather, it is the erring individual who must repent and change completely from his wrong viewpoint and bad actions and associations. Before God’s congregation can accept him in full association he has to give evidence of his repentance and change of heart and action, proving it over a period of time, and return to leading a dedicated life.
BE SINGLE-MINDED IN RELIANCE ON GOD.
When pressures arise some become fearful, not so much of the enemy or of men themselves, but because of the economic situation in the world, such ones fearing that they may lose jobs or property, or perhaps may even have to go to prison, and thus be unable to provide support for their families. But the truly dedicated person will follow the course of dedication to his heavenly Master. He will count on God to care for the interests of his faithful servant.
The apostle Paul followed this course of faith. Before becoming a Christian, he had many worldly advantages. But he left these. He said: “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 and be found in union with him, having, not my own righteousness, which results from law, but that which is through faith in Christ.”—Phil. 3:7-9.
So the Christian is not living a truly dedicated life if he engages in roundabout reasoning, or takes a course that is “halfway” or one that he feels is just inside the border line of obedience to God. If he wants to gain the prize of life, he should do as Paul, who wrote: “Therefore, the way I am running is not uncertainly; the way I am directing my blows is so as not to be striking the air; but I pummel my body and lead it as a slave, that, after I have preached to others, I myself should not become disapproved somehow.”—1 Cor. 9:26, 27.
If a person follows this straightforward, single-minded course, he will be happy. Then his ‘advancement will be manifest to all persons’ and those knowing him will be able to say: “This is a truly dedicated person.”—1 Tim. 4:15.