To Whom Do You Belong?
1. (a) How is “New Jerusalem” used as a symbol in the Bible? (b) How do other scriptures confirm this?
THOUGH the settlement of the issue of ownership is centered in Jesus, God’s Word shows that others will be closely associated in sharing with that central figure. In the prophetic vision of a “new heaven and a new earth,” John says: “I saw also the holy city, New Jerusalem, . . . prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.” This heavenly city is made up of the members of the Christian congregation. Collectively, they form “the bride, the Lamb’s wife,” that is, the bride of Christ Jesus. (Rev. 21:1, 2, 9) They belong to him. Paul spoke of this, likening a husband’s headship over his wife to the headship of Christ as “head of the congregation.” He also wrote: “Husbands, continue loving your wives, just as the Christ also loved the congregation and delivered up himself for it.” These scriptures clearly identify the New Jerusalem, and speak of ownership exercised in a loving way.—Eph. 5:22-25; see also 2 Corinthians 11:2.
2. (a) In response to Peter’s declaration as to Jesus’ identity, what comment did Jesus make? (b) How did Peter identify the “rock-mass”?
2 Jesus, when on earth, knowing his heavenly Father’s purpose, spoke of this congregation and of himself as the builder of it. On one occasion, after asking his disciples how others identified him, he then asked: “You, though, who do you say I am?” In response, Peter replied: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” After saying that this had been specially revealed to Peter by God, Jesus added that “on this rock-mass I will build my congregation.” (Matt. 16:13-18) This same Peter, in his first letter, confirmed that it was Christ Jesus who was the rock-mass foundation on which Christians are built as “living stones,” when, quoting from Isaiah, he said that Jesus Christ was “a stone, chosen, a foundation cornerstone, precious.”—1 Pet. 2:5, 6.
3. Who did Peter show ultimately became God’s “special possession”?
3 Continuing, Peter went on to explain that the fleshly house of Israel, God’s special property, under the influence of their leaders, or builders, disowned Jesus Christ as their Messiah. As foretold: “The identical stone that the builders rejected has become the head of the corner.” Because of this, God rejected that fleshly house. Instead, he appointed the Christian congregation as the spiritual house of Israel to be his chosen property, “a people for special possession.” Hence, we are interested in how the members of this spiritual house or congregation are chosen. What are the terms of discipleship, and do these same terms apply to all today who are seeking to be sincere followers of Jesus?—1 Pet. 2:7-10; Gal. 6:16.
TERMS OF DISCIPLESHIP
4. What did Jesus include in the terms of discipleship?
4 It was with the prospective members of this congregation in mind that Jesus mentioned the terms or conditions attached to discipleship. Three things must be observed, as Jesus said: “Let him  disown himself and  pick up his torture stake and  continually follow me.” For our guidance, he then added these comments: “For whoever wants to save his soul will lose it; but whoever loses his soul for my sake will find it.”—Matt. 16:24, 25.
5. To disown yourself has what strong meaning?
5 To disown oneself has a strong meaning. It means more than just a failure to claim ownership of oneself and one’s rights, just taking life as one finds it. It means more than just denying oneself certain things, as when religious bodies advocate a self-denial week, for example. To disown means to reject ownership. In this case it means rejecting ownership of oneself in favor of ownership by Jehovah God.
6. What is implied by picking up one’s torture stake?
6 To pick up your torture stake also has a strong meaning. Though not taken literally when the disciples were following Jesus, nevertheless it plainly told of a course undertaken voluntarily that would entail painful suffering, ignominy, shame and death. We will appreciate this more fully when considering it in relation to the other terms of discipleship.
7, 8. What does it mean to follow Jesus continually, and what pattern did he set for us, prompting what questions?
7 The last condition Jesus mentioned was that of continually following him. A disciple is a taught one, a learner. However, it is evident from Jesus’ words that he required, not only acceptance and belief in what he taught, but that one’s entire life, continually and without letup, should follow the same pattern set by Jesus. As he said in his final commission to his followers: “Go therefore and make disciples . . . teaching them to observe all the things I have commanded you.” (Matt. 28:19, 20) The main emphasis in the pattern set by Jesus was on the preaching and teaching of the good news of the Kingdom. The record shows that his immediate disciples, and indeed the entire early Christian congregation, closely followed that same pattern. It was this, in addition to their being no part of the world, that brought upon them the hatred and opposition of the world, resulting in the carrying of the torture stake.—John 15:19, 20; 17:14-18; Acts 8:4.
8 We will gain a deeper insight of the significance of the foregoing terms of discipleship when we consider how and why Jesus himself set the example in observing the same terms. Did he disown himself and pick up his torture stake and continually carry it? Did he in some way lose his soul?
9. As described at Philippians 2:5-8, how did Jesus completely disown himself?
9 It was as if the apostle Paul had these very questions in mind when he wrote the following to the Christians in Philippi: “Keep this mental attitude in you that was also in Christ Jesus, who, although he was existing in God’s form, gave no consideration to a seizure, namely, that he should be equal to God. No, but he emptied himself and took a slave’s form and came to be in the likeness of men. More than that, when he found himself in fashion as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient as far as death, yes, death on a torture stake.” (Phil. 2:5-8) No one could have disowned himself more completely and to the limit. If you belong to Christ Jesus as one of his followers, you must keep and exhibit this same mental attitude.
10. What further information concerning this is given at Isaiah chapter 53?
10 Other scriptures confirm this and give the reason for the Messiah’s suffering and death in order to become man’s redeemer. For example, the prophet Isaiah wrote concerning him: “He was despised, and we held him as of no account. Truly our sicknesses were what he himself carried; and as for our pains, he bore them. . . . Jehovah himself has caused the error of us all to meet up with that one. He was hard pressed, and he was letting himself be afflicted . . . For he was severed from the land of the living ones. . . . If you [the individual] will set his soul as a guilt offering, he [the Messiah] will see his offspring [or will in this way come to have offspring], he will prolong his days, and in his hand what is the delight of Jehovah will succeed.”—Isa. 53:3-12.
11. As a final outcome, what grand reward was given to Christ Jesus by Jehovah?
11 Our review of the course that Jesus pursued at such great cost to himself would not be complete without taking note of the final outcome. Even before writing the above, Isaiah was inspired to record what God had said concerning the coming Messiah: “Look! My servant will act with insight. He will be in high station and will certainly be elevated and exalted very much.” (Isa. 52:13) Later, to the Christian Philippians, Paul went on to write about that same Messiah: “For this very reason also God exalted him to a superior position and kindly gave him the name that is above every other name, so that in the name of Jesus every knee should bend . . . and every tongue should openly acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.” (Phil. 2:9-11) After stating the terms of discipleship, Jesus confirmed this future glorification, saying that “the Son of man is destined to come in the glory of his Father with his angels, and then he will recompense each one according to his behavior.” (Matt. 16:27) Paul spoke of Jehovah’s “good pleasure which he purposed in himself for an administration at the full limit of the appointed times, namely, to gather all things together again in the Christ.” In the body of Jehovah’s Christian witnesses we see that administration, that way of doing things, still in operation after nineteen centuries.—Eph. 1:9, 10.
STEPS TO BE TAKEN
12. (a) On what basis do many accept Jesus as their Savior? (b) What is our only safe guide in this respect?
12 Do you belong to Jesus and his Father, Jehovah? As a member of the human family, purchased by Christ’s ransom sacrifice, you are their property. (1 Tim. 2:5, 6) You may not acknowledge this, however. Comparatively few do so. Many in Christendom who claim membership in one of her churches say that they accept the Lord Jesus as their redeemer. But, apart from some church attendance and giving of financial support to the church, that is about as far as it goes. They may subject themselves to standards of good conduct, and submit themselves to human authorities and human relationships, but they have not committed themselves to Jehovah and Christ Jesus by entering into a definite relationship with them. Have you done this? God’s Word shows how this can and should be done, step by step.
13. (a) What must you first recognize, and how should this be expressed? (b) What further step must be taken, and how is this made manifest?
13 First, you should recognize that as a member of the human family you are by nature imperfect and sinful. You have inherited sin and death. You cannot save yourself from that condition, and no other human can do so. As already discussed, however, God’s Word shows that He, the only Source of life, has kindly made provision through his Son whereby you can become reconciled to him. By responding to his invitation you can be saved and enter into everlasting life. Appreciating this, prompted by conscience, you should feel moved to take the first two steps. You should feel sincere and genuine regret and sorrow over your previous course in going the way of the world. Though perhaps not guilty of anything that might be called criminal, yet you were satisfied in living your own life, paying little or no regard to God’s requirements and standards. If influenced by religion, maybe you now realize that you were actually misled by false religion. Thus, besides the step of repentance, you also see and acknowledge the need to take the step of conversion. That is, you completely change your course and turn your back on the way of the world. As Peter said to the Jews of his day: “Get saved from this crooked generation.” “Repent, therefore, and turn around so as to get your sins blotted out.”—Acts 2:40; 3:19.
14. On learning God’s view of the world situation, how should you be affected?
14 Surely these two steps are necessary and logical ones to take, especially when you come to see how God views this present system of things, ‘stored up for fire and reserved to the day of judgment and of destruction of the ungodly men.’ (2 Pet. 3:7) There is yet a third step, however, that is also logical and is the natural outcome of the other two. Conscience also plays a vital part in this. When you were in the way of death, a slave to sin with death in view, you did not have a good conscience toward God. But, now, having come to learn and appreciate at what great cost God and his beloved Son have made it possible to become reconciled to them, you now view yourself in a very different light.—Rom. 6:16; 5:6-8; 1 John 4:9.
15. (a) What vital decision should you then reach, prompting what action? (b) What discipleship does this involve, with what assurance of acceptance?
15 Above all things, you now desire, not only God’s blessing, but to enter into and enjoy a close relationship with him with a clean conscience. You decide to give yourself to him in sincere and whole-souled devotion. It is a mental and heartfelt decision. This is the step of dedication. In earnest prayer to God, through Jesus Christ, you tell him of your decision, asking him to accept you on his terms. Because you come to him trusting in the merit of Christ’s sacrifice, you have the assurance that he will accept you. This also means becoming a disciple, a footstep follower of Jesus Christ. He being like his Father, you are assured that he too will accept you gladly. Thinking about this, you realize that something further is involved besides the inward mental decision that you have already reached.—Isa. 55:7; Matt. 11:28-30.
16. (a) How did Jesus symbolize the presentation of himself to do God’s will for him as a human? (b) How is this a model for you, keeping what distinction in mind?
16 Peter wrote: ‘Christ left you a model to follow his steps closely.’ (1 Pet. 2:21) The first and visible step that Jesus took, when he knew it was God’s due time, was that of water baptism at the hands of John the Baptist. This was in symbol of his own presentation of himself to do God’s will as foretold concerning him at Psalm 40:6-8. (See also Hebrews 10:5-10.) Jesus had no sins of which to repent. He had a good conscience toward God. But in your case, the step of baptism is an outward and public symbol of your dedication to do God’s will, and because of your having been a slave of sin, it is also “the request made to God for a good conscience.” Though still imperfect, you “now present your members as slaves to righteousness with holiness in view.”—1 Pet. 3:21–4:3; Rom. 6:19.
17. In view of 2 Corinthians 5:14, 15, how should you regard the foregoing steps?
17 Viewed in the proper light, you should feel constrained to take these steps in a loving and eager response to God’s loving provision and kindly invitation. You are not put under pressure or forced to do so. Rather, you should view it as a grand privilege.—2 Cor. 5:14, 15.
A GREAT PRIVILEGE
18. (a) How did Jesus show that his commandment at John 13:34 was a new one? (b) Why is it a grand privilege to pursue the same course that Jesus took?
18 The second of the two great commandments given to Israel, as summarized by Jesus, was this: “You must love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matt. 22:39) But Jesus said to his disciples: “I am giving you a new commandment, that you love one another; just as I have loved you, that you also love one another.” Later that same evening he added: “No one has love greater than this, that someone should surrender his soul in behalf of his friends.” (John 13:34; 15:13) Jesus did that very thing. He disowned himself. He did not seek to preserve or save his own soul for himself. He invited his followers to do likewise. Why? Because it was God’s foreknown purpose that, while the permission of evil was in full swing, the opportunity would be given to respond to his invitation: “Be wise, my son, and make my heart rejoice, that I may make a reply to him that is taunting me.” (Prov. 27:11) As illustrated in the case of Job, Satan was taunting Jehovah that no one would maintain his integrity toward God unless for a selfish reason, unless it paid him to do so. (Job 1:9-11; 2:3-5) In other words, no one would willingly disown himself out of love for God. Jesus, fully appreciating the situation, willingly and gladly seized the opportunity to take this course. Down to this day, those who willingly become Jesus’ disciples undertake a similar course. What a glorious privilege is ours to have a small but real part in the vindication of Jehovah’s name! Ours is the privilege of contributing to that grand and complete reply that Jehovah can hand back to his adversary and taunter.
19. What privilege and requirement are set before all of us at this time?
19 The privilege of carrying a “torture stake” belongs to all Christian disciples while the permission of evil is having its last fling, whether their hope of life in connection with the Kingdom is heavenly or earthly. After the “great tribulation,” dedication will still be in order, motivated by the same love as now, but under different conditions. There will be the requirement to give whole-souled devotion to Jehovah, but not to carry a “torture stake.”—Isa. 25:8.
20. (a) How will the issue of ownership be settled in fact? (b) As to the worthiness of God’s ownership, what position do all true Christians take?
20 Thus we can appreciate how the settlement of the issue of ownership, already secured, will be worked out. The settlement of the issue in fact will be demonstrated following the “great tribulation” when Satan and his demons are abyssed and it will be eternally settled when they and those who side with them are destroyed forever. But in point of Jehovah’s worthiness of ownership, abundant evidence has been provided by the true Christian disciples, and by Christ Jesus himself, that they gladly acknowledge the supreme authority of Jehovah, and that even if given the opportunity to choose a course of independence from God, they would firmly reject it.
21. What exciting work and glorious prospect are ahead of us?
21 During the thousand-year Kingdom rule, there will be no organized or sustained challenge to Jehovah’s continued worthiness. But the tremendous work to be accomplished during that period, the work of undoing all the mischief and ruin caused on this earth by six thousand years under sin’s rule—that will be an exciting challenge. When completed, what then? As Paul wrote: “Next, the end, when he [Christ] hands over the kingdom to his God and Father, when he has brought to nothing all government and all authority and power. . . . then the Son himself will also subject himself to the One who subjected all things to him, that God may be all things to everyone.” (1 Cor. 15:24-28) The unifying of all mankind having been accomplished, Christ will turn the Kingdom over to his Father, in recognition of the fact that all creation truly belongs to Jehovah. At such a prospect, we are urged to join now in that heavenly song: “You are worthy, Jehovah, even our God, to receive the glory and the honor and the power, because you created all things, and because of your will they existed and were created.”—Rev. 4:11.
22. How can and should the question be answered: To whom do you belong?
22 To whom do you belong? Have you responded to that loving invitation to give yourself in dedication to do God’s will as outlined in his Word? If not, might it be that there is some selfish reasoning or longing that is holding you back? Speaking “as substitutes for Christ we beg: ‘Become reconciled to God.’” Belong to him. Enter into close relationship with him and enjoy the intimacy of friendship with him. Enjoy the sense of mutual ownership, by making him your God, and making yourself one of his devoted people.—2 Cor. 5:20; Mic. 4:5; John 15:15; Rev. 21:3.