The Way of Life—Narrow but Free
1. In Matthew 7:14, what is the sense of the word “narrow”?
JESUS CHRIST said: “Narrow is the gate and cramped the road leading off into life.” (Matt. 7:14) The Greek word that Matthew used in reporting Jesus’ words “is used figuratively in Matt. 7:13, 14, of the gate which provides entrance to eternal life, narrow because it runs counter to natural inclinations.”—W. E. Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words.
2. How is the ‘narrowness’ of “The Way” not a restriction of true freedom?
2 The ‘narrowness’ of “The Way” is therefore not a narrow-mindedness, an oversolemn way. It is not a way of isolation, as in a monastery. It is a ‘narrowness’ in the sense of not being loose, purposeless, vacillating. It is “narrow” in that it restricts one as to harmful things. True freedom is not license to do just anything a person desires, because this would infringe on the freedom of others. It would soon become no freedom, for it would lead to strife, hatred, even murder. The laws of world governments, for example, if not obeyed at all, would result in anarchy and such terrible conditions that no one would have any real freedom or happiness.
3. How is the Christian’s course one of ‘exertion’?
3 The Christian, just as everyone else, has many imperfections and faults. When he tries to correct these, the imperfections of the flesh make him feel miserable because of the fight he has to put up against them. (Rom. 7:24) In Luke 13:24, Jesus said: “Exert yourselves vigorously* to get in through the narrow door.” It takes exertion, just as is experienced by the runners in ancient and modern Olympic Games, not because the “way” to life is in itself disagreeable or in any sense objectionable, but because the world and our own imperfect personalities exert pressures against us. The standards of “The Way” are high, but meeting them gives the greatest satisfaction, joy and freedom.
4. Why can the true Christian be trusted, as shown by the scriptures cited?
4 Honesty is one of the requirements of “The Way” that makes it narrow. What real feeling of security and happiness can a person have in a world where he cannot trust his fellowman? Therefore, Christians follow the way of honesty, not in word only, but also in deed. (1 John 3:18) A true Christian will not steal or practice extortion. He will not “cut corners” in business in an underhanded or illegal way, misrepresenting matters, taking payoffs or kickbacks. He will not make deals “under the table” or offer bribes for special favors or privileges. (Ex. 23:8; Ps. 26:9, 10) Even items found are returned to their owners wherever possible, with no reward asked or desired.—Deut. 22:1-3.
5. Can a Christian follow the course of honesty in this world?
5 But can a Christian consistently follow this course in a world system that is operated on dishonest principles, or selfishness? Those who follow true Christianity have experienced some hardships, even losing jobs because of refusal to do something dishonest for their employers. But, generally, they have found that, because they work hard to earn the money that they are paid, their employers respect them and they are often given greater responsibilities. They are recognized as reliable, conscientious and trustworthy and able to get along well with others. It takes courage to stand up for honesty, but the Christian can rely on the Bible’s counsel and God’s promise at Hebrews 13:5, 6: “Let your manner of life be free of the love of money, while you are content with the present things. For he has said: ‘I will by no means leave you nor by any means forsake you.’ So that we may be of good courage and say: ‘Jehovah is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?’”
MORAL UPRIGHTNESS ESSENTIAL TO THE WAY OF LIFE
6. (a) What is the fruitage of the “new morality”? (b) How does the apostle Paul describe the course of immorality and its fruitage?
6 Anyone who reads the Bible knows that moral uprightness and cleanness are indispensable to the way of life of the Christian. However, many people today say that this view is outdated and that the “new morality” of looseness and permissiveness is liberating people for a fuller life. Is this true? Look at today’s situation. What is the fruitage of the “new morality”? Heartaches, broken families, diseases and death. Immorality cannot enter into the way of life of any person without damaging his happiness. The apostle Paul describes the effects of immorality, and we have the situation today as glaring proof of the truthfulness of what he said. He wrote concerning some who followed the way of permissiveness:
“Although they knew God, they did not glorify him as God nor did they thank him, but they became empty-headed in their reasonings and their unintelligent heart became darkened. Although asserting they were wise, they became foolish . . . Therefore God, in keeping with the desires of their hearts, gave them up to uncleanness, that their bodies might be dishonored among them, even those who exchanged the truth of God for the lie and venerated and rendered sacred service to the creation rather than the One who created . . . That is why God gave them up to disgraceful sexual appetites, for both their females changed the natural use of themselves into one contrary to nature; and likewise even the males left the natural use of the female and became violently inflamed in their lust toward one another, males with males, working what is obscene and receiving in themselves the full recompense, which was due for their error. And just as they did not approve of holding God in accurate knowledge, God gave them up to a disapproved mental state, to do the things not fitting.”—Rom. 1:21-28.
7. What change does the apostle show is necessary in the person who becomes a Christian?
7 Then the apostle went on to name the many crimes and degrading practices that we see prevalent all over the world today. (Rom. 1:29-32) In another letter, he said to Christians: “Deaden, therefore, your body members that are upon the earth as respects fornication, uncleanness, sexual appetite, hurtful desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of those things the wrath of God is coming. In those very things you, too, once walked when you used to live in them. But now really put them all away from you, wrath, anger, badness, abusive speech, and obscene talk out of your mouth.” (Col. 3:5-8) Those who have followed this way to the best of their ability, seeking help from God, have found a far happier life by avoiding immorality and these other bad things named by Paul.—1 Tim. 4:8.
DOES SPIRITISM GIVE PROPER GUIDANCE?
8. (a) Why do many persons seek information from occult sources today, and does this give spiritual guidance? (b) How do the Hebrew Scriptures reveal God’s viewpoint as to spiritism?
8 People really need help today. There is much perplexity, and, not knowing which way to turn, they are attracted to many sources that claim to give guidance. One of these is the occult: spiritism, fortune-telling, and the like. Will looking to such sources put a person on the way to life? Do they not give spiritual guidance? No, rather, the Bible classifies spiritism among the “works of the flesh” because it gratifies, not spiritual, but fleshly desires. (Gal. 5:19-21) Jehovah’s Word reveals his attitude toward all forms of spiritism or occult practices, and toward those who seek help therefrom. He said to his ancient people Israel:
“You must not learn to do according to the detestable things of those nations [in Canaan]. There should not be found in you . . . anyone who employs divination, a practicer of magic or anyone who looks for omens or a sorcerer, or one who binds others with a spell or anyone who consults a spirit medium or a professional foreteller of events or anyone who inquires of the dead. For everybody doing these things is something detestable to Jehovah.”—Deut. 18:9-12.
9. To whom is a person actually appealing when he seeks knowledge by spiritistic means?
9 Since spiritism is condemned by God, it becomes obvious that a person appealing to spiritism for knowledge or help is not appealing to God. He is looking to a source opposed to God, and the Bible identifies that source for us. The apostle Paul wrote to Christians: “The things which the nations sacrifice they sacrifice to demons, and not to God; and I do not want you to become sharers with the demons. You cannot be . . . partaking of ‘the table of Jehovah’ and the table of demons. Or ‘are we inciting Jehovah to jealousy’? We are not stronger than he is, are we?”—1 Cor. 10:20-22.
10. What is the great danger into which one will fall who looks to spiritism?
10 So, when anyone bypasses God’s Word and looks to something else besides God to guide him in a problem of life, he is disavowing God and is falling into the hands of the worst enemies of God and men, the wicked demons, angels who rebelled and who operate under the “ruler of the demons,” Satan the Devil.—Luke 11:15; 1 Pet. 3:19, 20; 2 Pet. 2:4; Jude 6; Eph. 6:11, 12; 2 Cor. 4:4.
ASTROLOGY NO RELIABLE GUIDE
11. (a) What created faculty in man does astrology deny? (b) Rather than our consulting the stars, what does the Bible counsel? (c) What did the practice of various forms of spiritism do for ancient Babylon?
11 As for astrology, it, too, denies God and his sovereignty over mankind. Moreover, it denies man’s own free will. According to astrology, man is not a free moral agent; every aspect of his life is governed by the position of the stars and planets, so that, in substance, man is a mere robot. But man was made in God’s image and likeness. He has a will of his own. He can choose what course he wants to take and can thus determine his own destiny. The Bible repeatedly mentions this freedom of choice and counsels choosing the way that God outlines, if one wants everlasting life in happiness. (Deut. 30:19, 20; Matt. 6:33; Acts 17:26, 27; Rev. 22:17) Furthermore, God warns not to be “struck with terror even at the signs of the heavens.” (Jer. 10:2) Ancient Babylon was an enemy of God, and was destroyed because of its various forms of astrology, spiritism and demon worship. God said to Babylon:
“Stand still, now, with your spells and with the abundance of your sorceries, in which you have toiled from your youth; that perhaps you might be able to benefit, that perhaps you might strike people with awe. You have grown weary with the multitude of your counselors. Let them stand up, now, and save you, the worshipers of the heavens, the lookers at the stars, those giving out knowledge at the new moons concerning the things that will come upon you. Look! They have become like stubble. A fire itself will certainly burn them up. They will not deliver their soul from the power of the flame. . . . There will be no one to save you.”—Isa. 47:12-15.
THE OBLIGATION OF THE CHRISTIAN CONGREGATION TOWARD PRACTICERS OF SIN
12. (a) Why must the Christian congregation be maintained free from the practice of wrongdoing, and what is done to ensure this? (b) How does the action taken toward wrongdoers make life pleasurable in association with the Christian congregation?
12 In harmony with God’s viewpoint and the standards that he has set forth in his written Word, in order to maintain God’s favor the congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses must keep themselves free from accusation of wrongdoing. They must be clean in the sight of God. Therefore the congregations require that their members maintain the Christian way or manner of life. Those who insist on violating the Bible principles of truth, morality and honesty, as well as persons involving themselves in spiritistic practices, must be expelled or disfellowshiped from the congregations. (1 Cor. 5:11) Thus, the corruption and deterioration that have ruined the religious denominations of Christendom do not gain a foothold in the truly Christian congregation. It is a real pleasure to associate with spiritually clean people in the clean, pure worship of Jehovah God.
13. What advantage does obedience to the “good news” provide now and in the future?
13 Moreover, obedience to the “good news” of God, seeking first the Kingdom and God’s righteousness, is the satisfying, happy way of life now. Furthermore, God will not give life on earth under his Kingdom rule to those who would disturb its cleanness and tranquillity. In the apostle John’s vision, recorded in the last book of the Bible, he reports:
“I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the former heaven and the former earth had passed away, and the sea is no more. I saw also the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God and prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. With that I heard a loud voice from the throne say: ‘Look! The tent of God is with mankind, and he will reside with them, and they will be his peoples. And God himself will be with them. And he will wipe out every tear from their eyes, and death will be no more, neither will mourning nor outcry nor pain be anymore. The former things have passed away.’”—Rev. 21:1-4.
14. In view of Revelation’s description of the “new earth,” will the practicer of immorality, spiritism, extortion, and so forth, find himself there?
14 Could lying, fornication, adultery, homosexuality, drunkenness, drug abuse, spiritism, astrology, occult practices, gambling, extortion, strife and murder find a place in such a human society? Could an earth infiltrated by these bad things be free from tears and death? By no means. God himself goes on to assure us of this, saying: “But as for the cowards and those without faith and those who are disgusting in their filth and murderers and fornicators and those practicing spiritism and idolaters and all the liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulphur. This means the second death.”—Rev. 21:8.
15. What help does God assure the one who sincerely desires to do what is right?
15 But as for those whose hearts lean toward what is right, and who really desire life in peace with their fellowmen, Jehovah God has not left them without help. He has kindly provided sufficient strength, courage and assistance from fellow Christians to follow the way of life that is pleasing to Him and that gains his smile of approval. The inspired writer says: “Seeing, therefore, that we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold onto our confessing of him. For we have as high priest, not one who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has been tested in all respects like ourselves, but without sin. Let us, therefore, approach with freeness of speech to the throne of undeserved kindness, that we may obtain mercy and find undeserved kindness for help at the right time.”—Heb. 4:14-16; compare 1 Corinthians 10:13.
16. If a person hears the “good news,” starts walking in “The Way” and continues in this course, can he be sure of a successful outcome?
16 What a marvelous arrangement God has made for mankind to approach him, gain his favor and walk in the way of obedience! And while those who choose to obey him are walking in the way of life, he kindly provides help to give the strength beyond what is normal, so that one sincerely following the way of obedience can be sure to walk in “The Way” successfully. (2 Cor. 4:7; Isa. 40:10, 11, 29-31) Furthermore, there is freedom—peace of mind, purposefulness, freedom from morbid fear of economic conditions, wars and death. There is greater latitude in helping other people, because the true Christian has something to give that really brings help and comfort.
“Agonize,” “be struggling”; see Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, under “strive”; Authorized Version, marginal reading; Kingdom Interlinear Translation.
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People everywhere need guidance. Many turn to spiritism. Does this really improve their situation?