“Continue Observing His Commandments”
“And by this we have the knowledge that we have come to know him, namely, if we continue observing his commandments.”—1 John 2:3.
1. Why is self-examination in practicing the truth necessary?
EARTH WIDE today there are hundreds of thousands of dedicated and baptized witnesses of Jehovah God who meet together and share in declaring the good news of the Kingdom from house to house and by many other means. These servants of God love him and want to do his will. That is why they have dedicated their lives to carrying out his commandments, observing his laws. However, at times there may be some who fail to appreciate fully what it means to “continue observing his [God’s] commandments.” If one does not keep on with self-examination of one’s way of life and one’s motives, one may find that the powers of darkness in this system blind one to the requirements of Jehovah. We need to continue to carry out the commandments of God. If a person continues to do the same thing, in time it becomes a habit with him, something he does regularly. He does not do it now, and forget it later. We could say that he practices that “something” habitually, whatever it may be. So it becomes a way of life to him, something that he does without thought of discontinuing in the future.
2. How does one truly come to know Jehovah?
2 So it is with those who observe the commandments of God. They continue in this course day in and day out, month in and month out, year in and year out, knowing that this is a requirement of God. The point of all of this is that the only way truly to ‘come to know him,’ that is, Jehovah, is by always observing what he wants us to do. This does not allow for serving him only when we feel like it, when it does not interfere with anything else that we think is of greater importance. This constancy is what is embodied in the expressions “practicing the truth” and ‘continuing to observe his commandments.’
IN “THE CONGREGATED THRONGS”
3. What does Jehovah call upon his people to do as regards meeting together?
3 The psalmist wrote: “Among the congregated throngs I shall bless Jehovah.” (Ps. 26:12) Jehovah, the God of light, has commanded that his people meet together in his name. The Hebrew Scriptures contain the commands of Jehovah laid upon his ancient people Israel to meet together to observe special events during the year. It was obligatory in many cases for the people so to meet. Besides, it was to their blessing and benefit. The obligation to have meetings for worship was passed along to the Christian congregation of God’s people. Basically, Hebrews 10:24, 25 calls upon Christians to meet together and not to forget doing so. It is for the purpose of encouraging one another and building up their faith, inciting to love and right works.
4. (a) In order to practice the truth, what must a person do? (b) How might one argue about meetings of the congregation, but what is it good to bear in mind?
4 The Christian congregation today, in our twentieth century, must be “observing his commandments” about meeting for worship. Individually each one in the group must observe this commandment if there is to be a ‘congregated throng.’ To practice the truth as a group, each one must listen to the commandments of Jehovah. It might be argued that there is no specific command in the Scriptures that we must meet together five hours a week, as is customary among Jehovah’s people on earth. That is true. But should we not be grateful that our God is generous, abundantly supplying us with spiritual good things? We are benefited spiritually by every meeting that we attend. Our faith is strengthened. When we meet with fellow Christians we are aided to observe Jehovah’s commandments, to practice the truth. Is that not what we want to do?
5. How, then, would a dedicated servant of Jehovah view the meetings of the congregation?
5 It stands to reason, then, that a dedicated servant of Jehovah would make every effort to be with his Christian brothers and sisters at the meetings. Rather than finding excuses to stay away, he would seek reasons to be at every meeting possible of the congregation. Naturally, he would use good judgment if he were sick or if some unforeseen circumstance of serious importance arose. But, by and large, his Bible-trained conscience will impel him to practice the truth by following the commandment of Jehovah through his Word not to forsake assembling together.
6. How might “reasons” for missing a meeting become “excuses” for making it a habit to miss them?
6 If a servant of the Lord is not watchful, he could regularly let very minor matters keep him from this blessed association. At times a visit from relatives might keep one from a particular meeting, depending on the circumstances. But would one let every visit from relatives and every occasion of this nature interfere with one’s being with those walking in the truth among the congregated throngs? Why not invite the relatives to go with you? Similarly, there might be an occasional meeting missed on account of bad weather, one’s job, or minor illnesses. However, it is when these “reasons” become “excuses” to leave off from being in association with the Lord’s people regularly that one begins to walk in darkness, rather than in light, to become as one lying rather than as one practicing the truth. Do we think for a moment that at the time of the exodus from Egypt the faithful Israelites let anything interfere with the sprinkling of some of the blood on their doorposts, with their eating the Passover lamb and being ready to leave at a moment’s notice? They knew that to observe Jehovah’s commandments in this instance meant their very lives. Is it any less serious now? Are times any different now? Are we not living in critical days, hard to deal with? So much more so, then, should we show our willing attitude by associating with the congregated throngs regularly as commanded by Jehovah.
PRACTICING THE TRUTH PUBLICLY
7. What outstanding characteristic of early Christianity is next discussed in our lesson?
7 One of the outstanding characteristics of the first-century Christians was their public declaration of the good news. We read of Jesus going throughout the whole of Galilee, teaching in the synagogues and preaching the good news of the Kingdom. (Matt. 4:23) He preached and taught in the mountains, among the people along the seashore, in the homes of interested ones, anywhere and everywhere that there proved to be people with whom to speak. To the twelve that he was specially training he said: “Go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of the heavens has drawn near.’” When the twelve had their instructions, he sent them out to the cities to teach and to preach.—Matt. 10:5-10.
8. How are Jehovah’s Christian witnesses different from the majority of those in Christendom?
8 It is but reasonable, then, that the Christians of the twentieth century would be doing the same. Somewhere along the line it is evident that the vast majority of those in Christendom, instead of being “doers of the word,” have become hearers only, doing nothing themselves to practice the truth by spreading the Word of the truth. But among Jehovah’s Christian witnesses we find “doers of the word.” They realize that to be like Jesus they must share in telling others the good news of the Kingdom. It is their commission just as it was the commission of Jesus and those of the early Christian congregation. The Bible record tells us: “He that says he remains in union with him is under obligation himself also to go on walking just as that one walked.”—Jas. 1:22; 1 John 2:6.
9. Outline some of the problems in practicing the truth by sharing in public preaching.
9 To practice this truth by sharing in the Kingdom-preaching is not always the easiest thing for a Christian. He often has to put up with abuse from opposers. There are very few persons who are, as it were, born for the public preaching activity, that is, possessing the gift of being able to talk freely to people. The faithful Christian, therefore, has to work at it to become proficient and capable. He also has to humble himself to carry out the public preaching work, realizing that it is his love for God and for his neighbor that impels him to share the good news with others. Therefore, there are times when a Christian may find it difficult to share in such work, and he may make excuses for not doing so.
10. (a) Name some of those things that might keep one from sharing in the preaching work at times, and when might “reasons” become “excuses”? (b) What is it good to keep in mind about Satan’s tactics, and where can we turn for help?
10 Occasionally there may be a very good reason not to be able to share in the preaching work at a particular time. There are times when the home in which one lives is in desperate need of certain repairs. The car on which one depends for transportation may be in urgent need of attention. There may be something of a personal nature that one must do that would prevent one from sharing in the preaching and teaching work. But again the question, When does the reason become an excuse? Does one allow such interferences to cause one to stop practicing the truth? Each one knows what is in one’s own heart, and, of course, Jehovah knows. But in the life-and-death issue that is now facing all mankind surely we as faithful Christians want to be careful that we do not allow ourselves to begin walking in darkness. Satan, the god of darkness, works on our weaknesses, not on our strengths. If he can get us to feel sorry for ourselves, to think negatively, then he will do it all the more each time the issue arises. To meet and overcome his designs successfully, we must rely on Jehovah God. We need his help and we should ask for it in prayer. We should ask ourselves, Do we make a practice of putting Kingdom interests first, or do we make a practice of putting other interests first?
11. How can material pursuits prove to be a stumbling block to practicing the truth, and from where does strength to do right come?
11 We must be on guard against letting anything take us away from the love of God. Remember, in the time of the prophet Haggai he told the negligent people what their trouble was. His words were: ‘You are on the run, each one in behalf of his own house, while my house is lying waste.’ (Hag. 1:9) Are we going to take the same course and cut ourselves off from Jehovah’s blessing? If Jehovah shakes the earth, and the mountains totter into the heart of the sea, what will happen to our homes and the new paneling and the improvements we have made? (Ps. 46:2) How vital, then, to continue practicing the truth, sharing fully in our public preaching work. The time nears when this never-to-be-repeated activity will be done. Ahead of us lies the great tribulation. In the strength of the God of light let us do with our might what our hands find to do. Remember Paul’s words: “For all things I have the strength by virtue of him who imparts power to me.” (Phil. 4:13) May those “all things” include our public preaching to the praise of Jehovah’s name.
“WALKING IN THE LIGHT” BY LOVING OUR BROTHER
12. What other form of darkness must we avoid, and why?
12 Turning now to another practice of the truth that is important, we read again from the book of First John: “He that says he is in the light and yet hates his brother is in the darkness up to right now. He that loves his brother remains in the light, and there is no cause for stumbling in his case. But he that hates his brother is in the darkness and is walking in the darkness, and he does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.” (1 John 2:9-11) Observing the commandments of God and practicing the truth are very closely connected with the love of one’s brother. How very foolish it would be to conduct ourselves uprightly in all respects, regularly to share in congregating with God’s people and in the preaching and teaching activity, and at the same time to have little or nothing to do with our Christian brothers at other times, to shun them, to be unconcerned for their welfare.
13. (a) What questions might one logically ask at this point? (b) How do the examples involving our brothers in Malawi and Nicaragua show that God’s servants want to practice truth by showing love for one another?
13 One might ask, ‘How could this be?’ One might say: ‘I love my brothers. I would be glad to do anything for them. But what can I do? What do they need?’ Let us look at it this way: In recent years there have been occasions when the servants of Jehovah have suffered much in various parts of the earth. In the country of Malawi, for example, Jehovah’s people were greatly persecuted, the majority finally having to flee their homes and the country and take up residence in another land because of opposition to their Christian conduct. In the land of Nicaragua a devastating earthquake struck the capital, Managua, and many faithful Christians lost all their belongings—their homes, jobs, meeting places, everything. What was the response of the servants of Jehovah world wide? There was great concern for the welfare of these spiritual brothers of theirs. This was shown by the aid sent in behalf of these Christians. It was a wonderful display of Christian concern, of care for one’s brothers.
14. Who in the congregation might we well have in mind as we practice truth by showing concern for our brothers, and in what ways might we assist?
14 But let us bring it to a more local level. Are we as concerned with practicing the truth among those with whom we meet regularly and whom we know very well in our own congregations? Many, of course, are, but, remember, we are doing some self-examination now. These are times when people are feeling great pressure as a result of the soaring cost of living. That pressure is greatly increased if the family breadwinner is laid off from his job. Many family groups and individuals who live on fixed incomes have a hard time obtaining the necessities of life, and in the months to come that situation will no doubt worsen. (Hab. 3:17) What are we going to do as individuals when we realize that another person or a family group in our midst, because of no fault on their own part, has come into need? As the disciple James wrote: “If a brother or a sister is in a naked state and lacking the food sufficient for the day, yet a certain one of you says to them: ‘Go in peace, keep warm and well fed,’ but you do not give them the necessities for their body, of what benefit is it?” (Jas. 2:15, 16) It is something to think about for those who are practicing the truth.
15. Who else need our consideration, and in what possible ways?
15 How about some of our elderly brothers and sisters in the congregation? How are they faring? Are we showing that we are “walking in the light” by fellow feeling and concern for them? Are we continuing to observe Jehovah’s commandments regarding them? Perhaps at times they need someone to pick them up and help them to get to meetings or in the field service. They also may need help with obtaining the physical necessities of life or to assist with the upkeep of their home. These are ways to practice the truth. Sometimes those who are aged appreciate it if someone drops by to pay them a visit, to talk about the truth of God’s Word, to take an interest in them. We are told this in Scripture: “Grayheadedness is a crown of beauty when it is found in the way of righteousness.” (Prov. 16:31) How pleasing it must be to Jehovah to see his servants who have been faithfully doing his will for many, many years given attention by others who are practicing the truth, and walking in the light!
16. How is respect for elders in the congregation still another way to practice the truth?
16 We need also to bear in mind that practicing the truth includes showing respect for elders who preside in a fine way. The advice of the apostle Paul is: “Now we request you, brothers, to have regard for those who are working hard among you and presiding over you in the Lord and admonishing you; and to give them more than extraordinary consideration in love because of their work. Be peaceable with one another.” (1 Thess. 5:12, 13; Heb. 13:17) Is this how we view the older men in our congregations?
17. How, in turn, can elders show that they are practicing the truth?
17 Of course, it is also evident that those who are presiding must be practicing the truth, having intense interest in the welfare of the “sheep.” They must not lord it over their brothers, as then they would not be reflecting the ways of Jehovah, the God of light. They are under direct command of God to “shepherd the flock of God . . . not under compulsion, but willingly; neither for love of dishonest gain, but eagerly; neither as lording it over those who are God’s inheritance, but becoming examples to the flock.”—1 Pet. 5:2, 3.
18. Outline the wisdom of the authoritative advice of Paul to God’s people.
18 Finally, it should be borne in mind that practicing the truth, walking in the light, observing Jehovah’s commandments, keeping free of the darkness of this wicked system of things, calls upon all of us to follow the authoritative advice of the apostle Paul in his words of wisdom to the Colossian congregation: “Accordingly, as God’s chosen ones, holy and loved, clothe yourselves with the tender affections of compassion, kindness, lowliness of mind, mildness, and long-suffering. Continue putting up with one another and forgiving one another freely if anyone has a cause for complaint against another. Even as Jehovah freely forgave you, so do you also. But, besides all these things, clothe yourselves with love, for it is a perfect bond of union.”—Col. 3:12-14.
19, 20. What occurrence in the days of Moses reminds us of the world we live in today, and how can we personally be blessed as a result of practicing the truth by observing Jehovah’s commandments?
19 Herein, then, we find some of the ways we can practice the truth and observe God’s commandments in these days of total darkness upon the people as a result of the blinding of the minds of the people by Satan, so that the glorious good news about the Christ might not shine through. While the darkness of the world grows more dense, the light of truth from the Word of God grows brighter. It reminds us of the days of Moses when the Israelites were down in Egypt in slavery. The ninth plague, or blow, against the hardhearted Pharaoh of Egypt was that of a thick darkness upon the land. We learn about it in these words: “Moses immediately stretched his hand out toward the heavens, and a gloomy darkness began to occur in all the land of Egypt for three days. They did not see one another, and none of them got up from his own place three days; but for all the sons of Israel there proved to be light in their dwellings.”—Ex. 10:22, 23.
20 We are living in momentous times, and while the world gropes in darkness, not knowing the way out, the light of truth from the God of light and his light of the world, the Lord Jesus, shines brilliantly. How appropriate that we regularly consider what it means to all of us to practice the truth and to continue observing God’s commandments, walking in the light. What that means for the days ahead is stated in these words of the apostle John: “However, if we are walking in the light as he himself is in the light, we do have a sharing with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” (1 John 1:7) Let us be thankful for our union with the God of light, in whom there is no darkness at all.
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At weekly meetings of Jehovah’s Christian witnesses, hundreds of thousands congregate for upbuilding Bible discussions
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By doing things for our elderly and infirm Christian brothers and sisters, we show love and concern