True Worship—A Successful Way of Life
“You must keep [this book of the law] in mind day and night so that you may diligently observe all that is written in it. Then you will prosper and be successful in all that you do.”—Josh. 1:8, “New English Bible.”
1. (a) Around what kind of worship is most religion centered? (b) Contrast this with true worship.
MOST religions stress the ceremonial or “sacramental” aspects of worship, while giving little more than lip service to the fact that worship should affect one’s way of life. Thus their religious programs are centered around periodic, ceremonially styled “worship services,” combined with a plea for the money to finance the expensive paraphernalia that goes with this kind of worship. In contrast, true worship does not emphasize ritualistic ceremonies. Though it does involve regular association with other worshipers, it also embraces every other aspect of one’s life. It is a pattern for living, a way of life. That is why the Bible speaks of true Christianity as “The Way” and “the way of the truth.”—Acts 9:2; 19:9; 2 Pet. 2:2.
2. (a) How did Jesus indicate that worship consists of more than ceremony? (b) What does it mean to worship “with spirit”?
2 Jesus also implied that true worship is a way of life when he said to a Samaritan woman: “The true worshipers will worship the Father with spirit and truth . . . those worshiping him must worship with spirit and truth.” (John 4:23, 24) Jesus gave “worship with spirit” emphasis equal to ‘worship with truth,’ indicating another important dimension of worship. What does it mean to “worship with spirit”? In the context of his conversation with the Samaritan woman, Jesus contrasted such worship with the kind that employs visible things as aids, such as a mountain or a city. (Joh 4 Verse 21) Rather than relying on such things, which require sight or touch, a true worshiper exercises faith and, regardless of the place or things around him, maintains a worshipful “spirit,” or worships spiritedly or in the spirit of worship. Thus he worships with spirit, his heart impulses moving him to serve God in harmony with the ever-present truth in his mind that governs all that he does.—2 Cor. 5:7.
3. How did Jehovah desire to be worshiped from the beginning?
3 This agrees with the way God purposed that worship should be from the beginning. He did not prescribe a particular ceremony or ritual by which the first perfect human creatures could approach him in worship. They were to serve or worship their Creator primarily by faithfully doing his will. God revealed this “will” to them so that they could live in harmony with the existing realities, or truth, about life. (Gen. 1:28, 29; 2:16, 17, 19-25; Matt. 19:4, 5) No doubt, as time went on, God would have advised them of additional truths necessary to the proper expansion of their earthly home, their family and their sphere of activity. Their faithful obedience to these instructions would have satisfied the major requirements of true worship. Had the first human pair chosen this course, these truths would have been a way of life for them and their descendants. Their way of life would have been successful; it could not fail, because it was in harmony with truth, the actual state of things, including the fact of Jehovah’s sovereign position and his life-giving power.
SIN BRINGS ADDITIONS TO WORSHIP
4. Why did certain ceremonies become necessary to worship?
4 However, with the advent of sin and disobedience, true worship necessarily took on some new features to accommodate the new realities that faced mankind. These new features of worship, some of which were ceremonial, served a temporary, but necessary, illustrative purpose. A barrier had now come to exist between imperfect fallen mankind and the perfect Creator. Consciousness of this new relationship had to be impressed upon Adam’s descendants, and God’s way of healing the breach had to be made clear. Therefore, sacrifices, a priesthood and a sanctuary were brought in as time went on, to illustrate these “truths,” the actual state of things that now existed between man and his Creator.
5. (a) How does the Bible explain the purpose of the ceremonies under the law? (b) When and how were they ended?
5 However, all these provisions were only “a shadow of the good things to come, but not the very substance of the things,” writes the apostle Paul. (Heb. 10:1) The ritual and sacrifices in themselves, then, were not the whole truth. But they provided a basis for understanding and accepting the truth when the “appointed time” came to make it clear through Christ Jesus. “This very [sanctuary] is an illustration for the appointed time that is now here, and in keeping with it both gifts and sacrifices are offered. However, these are not able to make the man doing sacred service perfect as respects his conscience . . . They were legal requirements pertaining to the flesh and were imposed until the appointed time to set things straight.” (Heb. 9:9, 10) Thus when the purpose of these “legal requirements” was accomplished at the arrival of Jesus, ceremonially styled worship ceased to have merit with God. It had to give way to the realities, “for those things are a shadow of the things to come, but the reality belongs to the Christ.” (Col. 2:16, 17) Jesus himself then became “the way and the truth.”—John 14:6; 1:17.
UNCHANGING TRUTHS ALWAYS REQUIRED
6. What has always been a necessary part of true worship?
6 Though these “legal requirements” on the Israelites became necessary for a time, the primary emphasis in the worship of Jehovah has always been on living according to the truths that never change. Faith, righteousness, justice, freedom from bloodguilt, truthfulness and obedience to God’s expressed will have always been the most important credentials for approach to God. It has always been true that, not the one simply bearing gifts to God, but the one “innocent in his hands and clean in heart” could ascend into the mountain of Jehovah. (Ps. 24:3-6; 15:1-4; Prov. 3:32) These fundamental principles of truth are a way of life that has remained unchanged from the beginning. Micah asks: “With what shall I confront Jehovah? With what shall I bow myself to God on high? Shall I confront him with whole burnt offerings, with calves a year old? . . . He has told you, O earthling man, what is good. And what is Jehovah asking back from you but to exercise justice and to love kindness and to be modest in walking with your God?”—Mic. 6:6-8; Hos. 6:6; 1 Sam. 15:22.
7. (a) What does Jehovah really want of us? (b) Why is one ‘naturally’ attracted to Jehovah’s way?
7 Jehovah is not arbitrary or unreasonable in what he requires of us. He asks of his creatures only what they should be doing toward him and their fellowmen. ‘Walking with our God’ in the way of truth agrees with the ‘law written in our hearts’ by Jehovah when he created our first ancestors. (Rom. 2:14, 15) This conscience or inner sense of right and wrong is naturally attracted by the way of the truth. So the truth sounds, feels, right to any vestiges of inherited conscience remaining in people. Thus Paul could say: “We have renounced the underhanded things of which to be ashamed [untruths, lies], . . . but by making the truth manifest recommending ourselves to every human conscience in the sight of God.”—2 Cor. 4:2; 5:11; 6:4-10.
A SUCCESSFUL WAY OF LIFE
8. What differentiates truth from speculation? Illustrate.
8 Those who choose to walk in the truth as a way of life are rewarded with a valuable benefit. The truth succeeds in practice. When scientists discover what they think is a scientific principle, it must first stand the test of actual practice in order to be recognized as more than a mere theory. It must succeed in practical ways: in the design of equipment, in the cure of disease, and so on. However, in matters of living, the intellectuals, philosophers and religious leaders who do much to shape the thinking and conduct of people today have themselves failed this test. What they say and write often sounds good. It may be couched in persuasive language and backed up with many well-worded arguments. But most of their theories on life fail the test of truth. How so? Such theories do not work! The unfortunate results of their philosophies in practice are all around us.
9. What proves that true worship results in a successful way of life?
9 In contrast, the Bible’s record of the confident, purposeful lives of God’s servants in the past, as well as the lives of those who practice the truth today, proves that true worship is the only really successful way of life. Obedience to God’s commandments has always set true worshipers apart from their contemporaries. As we considered in the previous article, ancient Israel stood out as superior in its time, so long as it stuck faithfully to “the framework of the knowledge and of the truth in the Law” given through Moses. (Rom. 2:20; Josh. 1:8; Neh. 9:13) First-century Christianity also made a deep impression on the way of life of those who accepted it. The noted historian John Lord in his book The Old Roman World observes:
“The true triumphs of Christianity were seen in making good men of those who professed her doctrines . . . We have testimony to their blameless lives, to their irreproachable morals, to their good citizenship, and to their Christian graces.”
“The way of the truth” succeeded for them and it succeeds today among those who truly practice it.—2 Pet. 2:2.
HOW THE TRUTH SUCCEEDS
10, 11. (a) How do many clergymen view the Bible’s moral standards as a way of life? (b) Show why their view does not work.
10 Most modern philosophers and religious leaders try to water down the true standards of the Bible, advocating a “new morality.” God’s law states that fornication and adultery are bad and wrong in every case. (1 Cor. 6:18; 1 Thess. 4:3; Ex. 20:14) But typical of clerical thinking is what the Catholic chaplain of St. Mary’s Chapel at the University of Michigan wrote in his campus advice column. Advising an engaged couple who had delayed marriage for a number of “considerations,” and who “had occasional sexual intercourse,” this priest says: “We could call them fornicators and easily dispose of them in that fashion . . . Perhaps in the strict legal sense they have violated the letter of the law, but have they violated the values which that law enshrines? Are they adulterers? Certainly not! . . . Who among us has not indulged himself or herself in some form of satisfaction that was not quite right in order to quiet the screaming loneliness within our hearts?” No doubt many who are under the guidance of this priest and of other clergymen like him are indulging themselves in forms of satisfaction that are “not quite right.” But is their way of life successful?
11 The way of truth expressed in God’s laws cannot be mocked! Those following the lead of such man-made thinking are reaping a harvest of divorces and broken homes, rampant venereal disease and the host of other problems that come with failure to be faithful to honorable marriage. (Gal. 6:7, 8; Heb. 13:4) Illustrating one aspect of this matter, a physician writing in Medical World News warns that liberation from stricter sexual attitudes “does not necessarily lead to freedom, or, if so, only at the expense of other freedoms,” such as freedom from disease. “Morality often is a matter of health,” he affirmed.
12, 13. Show why the truth as a way of life succeeds when applied to (a) the use of tobacco, (b) blood transfusions.
12 Application of Bible principles on keeping our bodies clean and unpolluted also illustrates how the truth works in a practical way. True worshipers avoid the detrimental effects of the uncleanness that tobacco brings into an addict’s system. (2 Cor. 7:1; Rom. 12:1) Their desire to serve God with their “whole soul” and “whole strength” keeps them from giving up years of their life and strength to the slavelike addiction to tobacco. (Mark 12:29, 30; Rom. 6:19) Dr. Robert Dupont, director of the U.S. National Institute of Drug Abuse, recently branded tobacco as “probably the most deadly drug in our society . . . People who use cigarettes have the same problem as heroin users” because of their hard-to-control addiction. The high risk of lung, mouth and throat cancer as well as coronary disease is well known. Recent studies have definitely linked smoking to peptic ulcers and strokes. Babies of smoking mothers are significantly shorter, lighter in weight and slower mentally. Their chance of congenital heart defects and of dying near the time of birth is greatly increased. Is not “the way of the truth” far more successful?
13 Increasing knowledge about the dangers of blood transfusions and the advantages of bloodless surgery are vindicating the Bible’s command to “abstain from . . . blood.” (Acts 15:20, 28, 29) The success of such surgery is hailed by two surgeons from St. Barnabas Hospital in New York city, who point out the advantages:
“It is gratifying, moreover, not to have to be concerned about such complications of whole-blood transfusions as allergic or hemolytic reactions, renal shutdown, and hepatitis.”—New York State Journal of Medicine.
Truly, the way of the truth succeeds in practice!
14, 15. Contrast the success of true and false worship with regard to military conflicts.
14 Another truth that has stood the test of actual practice is that expressed by Jesus: “All those who take the sword will perish by the sword.” This truth fits in with the related conclusion: “All will know that you are my disciples, if you have love among yourselves.” (Matt. 26:52; John 13:35) But the New Catholic Encyclopedia (1967 edition) says there is another way, claiming that there is not “any [essential] contradiction between a just war and Christ’s command that we love our enemies. A just war expresses hatred of the evil deed rather than of the evildoer. . . . Catholics are certainly free to form their own opinion whether the conditions likely for justification are likely to be fulfilled.” How does this kind of guidance work in practice?
15 Almost to a man, Catholics and Protestants on both sides during two world wars did ‘form their own (opposite) opinions,’ contrary to the way of the truth. Results? It did not work. They slaughtered fellow Catholics and Protestants by the millions, proving beyond any doubt that they were not Christ’s loving disciples, and were not in the truth. Yet, says historian J. S. Conway in The Nazi Persecution of the Churches:
“In contrast to the compliance of the larger churches, the Jehovah’s Witnesses maintained their doctrinal opposition to the point of fanaticism [death]. Such opposition was all too rare. . . . Basing their case on Biblical commandment, they refused to take up arms . . . No other sect displayed anything like the same determination in the face of the full force of Gestapo terrorism.”—Pp. 196, 198, 199.
Who only could say that they had followed the way of the truth after these two most vile conflagrations in history?
16, 17. (a) How is the Bible’s truth about government demonstrated? (b) Why is the Kingdom government of God successful? Illustrate.
16 The Bible’s principles respecting the major issue facing mankind today—world government—are also proving to be the truth. “Man has dominated man to his injury,” and, “It does not belong to man who is walking even to direct his step,” are truths stated long ago. (Eccl. 8:9; Jer. 10:23) The realities of human living demand a government superior to what men can produce. Thousands of years of human history have proved this beyond doubt. Now, as a recent New York Times news analysis laments: “It is obvious that leaders everywhere have lost authority and credibility. . . . governments of all kinds, in all kinds of countries, are in trouble because they do not evoke trust in their ability to solve the problems that are most worrying their people.”—May 15, 1974, p. 2.
17 Yet today there is a government that is succeeding where all others are failing. Why? Because it is not another man-made government. It is God’s Kingdom government, now providing administration for the way of the truth on earth. Two million loyal subjects in over 200 lands voluntarily and enthusiastically support its policies, physically, mentally and materially. Its constitution and body of law (the Bible) are implemented through local citylike congregations far more effectively than is true of any laws of earthly governments. Thus the Christian congregation acts as “a pillar and support of the truth,” aiding toward obedience or removing any who are unwilling to remain in the way of the truth. (1 Tim. 3:15; 1 Cor. 5:6-13) The subjects of that Kingdom government receive an unparalleled education in the truth through textbooks that constitute more than half of the world’s top ten all-time best sellers.a This Kingdom government is successful, and is growing more so every day, because it is founded on the truth.
THE KEY TO SUCCESS
18. What are some advantages of the truth as a way of life?
18 Those who choose to make the truth their way of life face events and circumstances realistically. Understanding of the truth about mankind’s condition aids these Christians to show love for others as humans in need of help. Their families also reflect the benefits of following the Bible’s truthful counsel on family headship and the training of children. (1 Pet. 2:12; Eph. 5:33; 6:1-4) Their knowing the truth about the future from Bible prophecy relieves frustration with the present and gives them a confident, joyful outlook, without dread.—Prov. 3:25, 26.
19, 20. (a) What do others notice about the true Christian’s way of life? (b) Why are those who commend Jehovah’s Witnesses, yet condemn their beliefs, so absurd? (c) What should be our prayer?
19 The success of this way of life is often noticed by others. An observation about these Christians made, in a Washington, D.C., newspaper, during an assembly of Jehovah’s Witnesses, points to the source:
“Their strong regard for decent personal conduct is a refreshing tonic for a city . . . They are not here to ask for anything, they say, but are ‘simply here to champion the Bible and its principles as the only workable solution to solving mankind‘s ills.’”
There is the key to success! God’s Word, the Bible, is “workable.” It succeeds in actual practice.
20 Before noting that “the Witnesses give the impression of living their religion daily,” an article in the Rochester, New York, Democrat and Chronicle stated: “However much people of other faiths may disagree with some of their interpretations of the Bible, the beliefs of the Witnesses are deeply and sincerely held.” Is it not absurd that often the very ones who commend Jehovah’s Witnesses for their conduct at the same time condemn their “interpretations”? What is it that makes the conduct of Jehovah’s Witnesses different? They were not born that way, were they? No! It is because of these very “interpretations” that Jehovah’s Witnesses are what they are. Their beliefs are the truth from the Bible and are a way of life for them. That is why they are enabled to succeed where others fail. Thus Jehovah’s Witnesses have every reason to pray with full confidence as did the psalmist: “Instruct me, O Jehovah, about your way. I shall walk in your truth.” “Make me walk in your truth and teach me.” Of the person who thus walks, the psalmist says: “[Jehovah] will instruct him in the way that he will choose. His own soul will lodge in goodness itself, and his own offspring will take possession of the earth.”—Ps. 86:11; 25:5, 12, 13.
a The Truth That Leads to Eternal Life, “Let God Be True,” From Paradise Lost to Paradise Regained, Did Man Get Here by Evolution or by Creation?, Is the Bible Really the Word of God?, “Things in Which It Is Impossible for God to Lie.”