Make Your Good Name Now!
“All that your hand finds to do, do with your very power, for there is no work nor devising nor knowledge nor wisdom in Sheol, the place to which you are going.”—Eccl. 9:10.
1. At what time must we make a good name with God?
WHAT if some say, ‘But what if the end does not come in my lifetime? Down through the centuries people have thought that the end was going to come in their lifetime and it did not’? Notwithstanding the fact that their expectations failed to materialize, the lifetime of many of these was still their time for making a good name with God, for exercising faith in the Son of God, that they might be resurrected to everlasting life “at the last day.” (John 6:40; 11:24) Long before these present “last days” the apostle Paul could say: “From this time on there is reserved for me the crown of righteousness.” At whatever time a person lives, that is his time for making a good name, whether the world’s end is near or far off.—2 Tim. 4:8; Heb. 11:4-38.
2. (a) Is there anything, materially or otherwise, that can be taken along when we die? (b) What admonition is therefore appropriate?
2 “Just as one has come forth from his mother’s belly, naked will one go away again, just as one came; and nothing at all can one carry away for his hard work, which he can take along with his hand.” (Eccl. 5:15) Materially speaking, there is nothing the dead man “can take along with his hand.” However, he can take along the only thing of lasting value that this life is good for—a good name with God. While each one of us is living, that is our time to make a good name with God. Make use of that time! Redeem it! Buy it out! “All that your hand finds to do, do with your very power, for there is no work nor devising nor knowledge nor wisdom in Sheol, the place to which you are going.” Especially now, at the end of this system of things, when many of those living may never see death, it is the time for us to do with our might what our hands find to do in Christian activity.—Eccl. 9:10.
3. What accurate knowledge is vital, and what can it accomplish?
3 If we are going to make a good name with God we must concern ourselves with two categories: what is wrong and what is right. We must stop doing what is wrong and start doing what is right. How do we go about it? The mind must become involved. “Quit being fashioned after this system of things,” Paul said,“but be transformed by making your mind over.” (Rom. 12:2) He repeats the formula at Ephesians 4:23: “You should be made new in the force actuating your mind.” And that force is identified at Colossians 3:9, 10: “Strip off the old personality with its practices, and clothe yourselves with the new personality, which through accurate knowledge is being made new according to the image of the One who created it.” The force that actuates your mind, makes your mind over and leads you to God’s favor is the accurate knowledge of his Word the Bible.
4. Why is it not enough to stop wrongdoing, and what else must be done?
4 To grit your teeth and grimly set about stopping the forbidden things does not always work. What if you do succeed in stopping them for a time? You are still not safe. Jesus showed this by an illustration. An unclean spirit left a man, its “house,” and later returned. Finding the house unoccupied, it moved in with seven other spirits, “and the final circumstances of that man become worse than the first.” (Matt. 12:43-45) It was not enough for the house to be emptied of the wicked spirit; it needed to be filled with good so that the wicked spirits could not reenter. It is not enough to stop the doing of what is wrong and leave a vacuum—we must start the doing of what is right. Crowd out the wrongdoing by occupying yourself with the doing of good. “Oppose the Devil,” James said, “and he will flee from you. Draw close to God, and he will draw close to you.” (Jas. 4:7, 8) Idleness is an invitation to Satan; filling the mind with truths is a protection.—Phil. 4:8, 9.
THE NEED FOR GUIDANCE
5. Why is reading the Bible difficult for many, and how was the problem solved for a man 19 centuries ago?
5 Today in the worlds of religion and philosophy there is a maze of conflicting opinions of rights and wrongs. In their search, some try to read the Bible but find it difficult. They are not the first ones to experience this. Nineteen centuries ago an Ethiopian man was riding in his chariot, reading from the book of Isaiah. “Philip [the evangelizer] ran alongside and heard him reading aloud Isaiah the prophet, and he said: ‘Do you actually know what you are reading?’ He said: ‘Really, how could I ever do so, unless someone guided me?’” Philip got into the chariot and rode along and guided him.—Acts 8:26-35; 21:8.
6. Where might we expect to find modern-day ‘Phillips,’ and where not?
6 Where are the ‘Philips’ of today qualified to guide others in determining from the Bible the course that gains a good name with God? Not in the established, respected, orthodox religions of Christendom, as one might expect. Philip was not a distinguished scribe or Pharisee, but was one of the spurned, maligned, persecuted Christians. The lessons of history teach us that the established, accepted religious systems often fall prey to human philosophies and are guilty of adulterating the words of God.
7. (a) In what way did ancient Israel adulterate God’s Word? (b) To what degree do some modern churches and church members in Christendom copy Israel, in violation of what scriptures?
7 The nation of Israel had Jehovah’s law, but they adulterated their worship by adding to it the lewd idolatries of Baal sex worship, practiced in the groves and high places. Second Chronicles 33:17 alludes to this mixture, saying: “The people were still sacrificing upon the high places; only it was to Jehovah their God.” This mixing of the true and the false was what Elijah challenged Israel about: “How long will you be limping upon two different opinions? If Jehovah is the true God, go following him; but if Baal is, go following him.” (1 Ki. 18:21) Many churches and church members today are permissive of pornography, illicit sex movies, premarital sex, adultery and homosexuality—even to the point of condoning and practicing these things prohibited by God.—Rom. 1:26, 27, 32; 1 Cor. 6:9, 10; Rev. 21:8.
8. Upon returning from Babylonish captivity, in what new way did the nations of Judah adulterate and make void God’s Word?
8 For such obscenities Judah went into captivity to Babylon. Upon her return, she again adulterated God’s Word—not by idolatrous sex worship this time, but by adding human traditions and philosophies. Jesus condemned their religious establishment, the scribes and Pharisees, for this, declaring: “Why is it you also overstep the commandment of God because of your tradition? You hypocrites, Isaiah aptly prophesied about you, when he said, ‘This people honors me with their lips, yet their heart is far removed from me. It is in vain that they keep worshiping me, because they teach commands of men as doctrines.’”—Matt. 15:3, 7-9.
9. In what forceful way did Paul compare deceitful wine merchants and unfaithful religionists?
9 Paul was denouncing the contamination of God’s Word with human philosophies when he said: “We have renounced the underhanded things of which to be ashamed, not walking with cunning, neither adulterating the word of God.” Cheating wine merchants in those days would add cheap liquors or even water to their wine to make it go farther and bring in more money. Similarly, some religionists added human traditions and philosophies to God’s Word to make it more palatable to worldly people. But not Paul! “We are not peddlers of the word of God as many men are,” he declared, “but as out of sincerity, yes, as sent from God, under God’s view, in company with Christ, we are speaking.”—2 Cor. 4:2; 2:17.
10. What warning did the apostle Paul give, and how has it proved to be no false alarm?
10 Paul warned that Christianity would become apostate, and in the fourth century C.E. it was flagrantly adulterated through Roman Emperor Constantine. (Acts 20:29, 30) As a result there was a fusion of Christianity with demonistic doctrines that originated in Egypt and Babylon—Trinity, immortal soul, hellfire, purgatory, prayers for the dead, use of rosaries and others. These doctrines are not in the Bible, but they were incorporated into the creeds of so-called Christian churches. They remain there to this day. Moreover, today’s modern churches of Christendom adulterate God’s Word even farther: they have added the higher criticism that tries to undermine the Bible’s authenticity, and the unscientific theory of evolution that denies that God is Creator of heaven and earth and life!
11. What different qualities and convictions mark modern-day ‘Phillips’ as safe guides?
11 Who, then, are the modern-day ‘Philips’ that are safe guides? Those who believe the Bible is the inspired Word of God; who take it as a lamp to their feet and a light to their path; who neither add to it nor take away from it; who let God and his Word be true though they make ‘every man a liar’; and who expend themselves in publicly ‘preaching this good news of the kingdom in all the earth as a witness.’ (2 Tim. 3:16; Ps. 119:105; Deut. 4:2; Rom. 3:4; Matt. 24:14) They use the Bible as their authority, and encourage their hearers to check up on them, not taking their word for it, but taking only God’s Word for it. (Acts 17:11) For you to make a name with God, you should aim to be such a faithful guide, “always ready to make a defense before everyone that demands of you a reason for the hope in you, but doing so together with a mild temper and deep respect.” Or, as Paul said: “Know how you ought to give an answer to each one.”—1 Pet. 3:15; Col. 4:6.
THE PERSONS WE OUGHT TO BE
12. What means more to you than just studying God’s Word and preaching it to others?
12 To make a good name with God it is not enough to study and learn answers. We must apply this knowledge to ourselves first. To benefit personally we must take it personally. Like the man in ancient Israel in the house of mourning, we must ‘lay it to heart.’ (Eccl. 7:2, AV) “Do you, however, the one teaching someone else, not teach yourself? You, the one preaching ‘Do not steal,’ do you steal? You, the one saying ‘Do not commit adultery,’ do you commit adultery?” Even the apostle Paul declared: “I pummel my body and lead it as a slave, that, after I have preached to others, I myself should not become disapproved somehow.” (Rom. 2:21, 22; 1 Cor. 9:27) It is more basic than what we are doing. It is, What are we? What is “the secret person of the heart”? “What sort of persons ought you to be?”—1 Pet. 3:4; 2 Pet. 3:11.
13. How did Jehovah adjust Samuel’s thinking about judging people?
13 What we are is not determined by what we appear to be. The prophet Samuel was sent to Jesse to anoint one of his sons to be king of Israel. Samuel was impressed with the stalwart firstborn son, but Jehovah said to Samuel: “Do not look at his appearance and at the height of his stature, for I have rejected him. For not the way man sees is the way God sees, because mere man sees what appears to the eyes; but as for Jehovah, he sees what the heart is.”—1 Sam. 16:7.
14. What further evidences are given showing that appearances may be deceptive, and what is the vital thing?
14 Appearances are deceptive. Jesus said the scribes and Pharisees appeared righteous outwardly, but were corrupt inwardly. (Matt. 23:3, 27, 28) The Jews in Paul’s day thought the outward sign of circumcision would save them, but Paul said: “He is not a Jew who is one on the outside, nor is circumcision that which is on the outside upon the flesh. But he is a Jew who is one on the inside, and his circumcision is that of the heart.” (Rom. 2:28, 29) And Paul listed great things that he might accomplish, and then added, “But [if I] do not have love, I am not profited at all.” Whatever we do to make a good name with God should be motivated by love from the heart. “I, Jehovah, am searching the heart.”—1 Cor. 13:1-3; Jer. 17:10.
15. What sort of persons ought we to be?
15 What sort of persons, then, ought we to be? The apostle Paul gives this rather formidable listing of things commanded and things forbidden:
“Let your love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is wicked, cling to what is good. In brotherly love have tender affection for one another. In showing honor to one another take the lead. Do not loiter at your business. Be aglow with the spirit. Slave for Jehovah. Rejoice in the hope. Endure under tribulation. Persevere in prayer. Share with the holy ones according to their needs. Follow the course of hospitality. Keep on blessing those who persecute; be blessing and do not be cursing. Rejoice with people who rejoice; weep with people who weep. Be minded the same way toward others as to yourselves; do not be minding lofty things, but be led along with the lowly things. Do not become discreet in your own eyes. Return evil for evil to no one. Provide fine things in the sight of all men. If possible, as far as it depends upon you, be peaceable with all men. Do not avenge yourselves, beloved, but yield place to the wrath; for it is written: ‘Vengeance is mine; I will repay, says Jehovah.’ Do not let yourself be conquered by the evil, but keep conquering the evil with the good.”—Rom. 12:9-19, 21.
16. What should we avoid, and what should we seek?
16 That is the sort of persons we ought to be! It would be frightening if God’s mercy were not available where we in our weakness fall short. Here is a big source of help: associate with persons who have the same goals. “He that is walking with wise persons will become wise, but he that is having dealings with the stupid ones will fare badly.” “Do not be misled. Bad associations spoil useful habits.” Shun the adulterous world empire of false religion that adulterates God’s Word. “Get out of her, my people, if you do not want to share with her in her sins.” Her conscience is seared beyond feeling guilt, though her sins mount up to heaven. As it is with the literal harlot, so it is with her: “Here is the way of an adulterous woman: she has eaten and has wiped her mouth and she has said: ‘I have committed no wrong.’” Hence, it is vital to gain strength by associating with those seeking to make a good name with God, “not forsaking the gathering of ourselves together, as some have the custom.”—Prov. 13:20; 1 Cor. 15:33; Rev. 18:4; Prov. 30:20; Heb. 10:25.
NOW IS YOUR TIME!
17, 18. What should we concentrate on now, and why must this not be postponed?
17 As the end of Satan’s wicked system draws near, let us concentrate on ‘what sort of persons we ought to be,’ on making our minds over, on stripping off the old personality and putting on the new, and on making a good name with God ‘so that the day of our death will be better than the day of our birth.’ (Eccl. 7:1) Or, in the case of those hoping to inherit an earthly paradise, that the day of death may never come at all!
18 But perhaps you think the end should have come by now. Do you think the Lord has delayed his coming? Do you begin to slack your hand from the vital work of proclaiming God’s kingdom, or even drift into misconduct? Regardless of when the end comes, this is the time your hand should do what it finds to do in making a good name. Any one of us may be gone tomorrow. We are like the flower that fades, the mist that vanishes, the shadow that passes. (Job 14:1, 2; Jas. 4:14) Ecclesiastes 9:12 warns: “Man also does not know his time. Just like fishes that are being taken in an evil net, and like birds that are being taken in a trap, so the sons of men themselves are being ensnared at a calamitous time, when it falls upon them suddenly.”
19, 20. (a) In addition to living a morally clean life now, what else is required? (b) Why is it urgent to act now?
19 We must do more than the young man who came to Jesus asking how he could gain everlasting life. Apparently, he was living a morally clean life, but that was not enough. In addition, Jesus said to him: “Come be my follower.” Jesus is the model. (Matt. 19:16-22; 1 Pet. 2:21) He not only practiced God’s precepts of conduct in his personal life; he also proclaimed “the good news of the kingdom” to others. “Repent, you people,” he declared, “for the kingdom of the heavens has drawn near.” He “set out on a tour of all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and preaching the good news of the kingdom.” (Matt. 4:17; 9:35) When crowds wanted him to stay with them longer and tried to detain him, he said: “To other cities I must declare the good news of the kingdom of God, because for this I was sent forth.” When he saw the crowds that had been spiritually “skinned and thrown about,” he was “moved with pity for them, because they were as sheep without a shepherd. And he started to teach them many things.” (Luke 4:43; Matt. 9:36; Mark 6:34) He sent out his apostles to preach, instructing them: “As you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of the heavens has drawn near.’”—Matt. 10:7, 8.
20 We now live in the critical last days of this satanic system. “The time left is reduced.” It is urgent for us to declare the “good news.” (1 Cor. 7:29; 9:16) Now is the time foretold for ‘this good news of the kingdom to be preached in all the inhabited earth for a witness, before the end comes.’ (Matt. 24:14) Whatever may be Jehovah’s time to bring the end to this wicked system, never forget this: NOW while you are living; NOW before unpredictable death may take you; NOW is your time to share in preaching the “good news” and to make a good name with God!
[Picture on page 28]
At whatever time a person lives, that is his time for making a good name