Worship God in His Way
HAVE you observed evidence of this religious paradox:
“The 1980s will see ‘more people won to the Christian faith than in all previous history, and more Christians defecting from organised Christianity than in any previous era.’”—Sydney “Morning Herald,” July 21, 1979.
This Australian report, based on a survey of 50 major religions and 9,000 “Christian” groups, showed that people are abandoning their churches in record numbers. You may know of many who used to be quite religious and attended church, but who have now stopped.
Yet many individuals, sensing an inner need to worship God, are drawn to some religion or other, often to a religion that touches their emotions, perhaps urging them to “get saved.”
You also have a God-instilled need to worship your Creator. But how should you do it? What is his way to be worshiped?
HOW CAN YOU KNOW?
Naturally, it is God, not any man or church, who should determine what is truth and true worship. Jesus told a woman who was part of a first-century religious community: “God is a Spirit, and those worshiping him must worship with spirit and truth.” (John 4:24) That also applies to us today.
Yes, for us to please God we need an inclination toward pure worship, showing that with wholeheartedness and sincerity. We also must be seeking truth and striving to conform to it. That means acting in accord with truth revealed in God’s Word, rather than following mere church traditions or even religious doctrines that conflict with Bible truth.
In analyzing whether a religion—even your own church, or the faith popular around you—conforms to truth, many different areas could be examined. But even an investigation limited to just three areas could help you to worship God in his way. Observe:
A COMMON BELIEF—BUT IS IT TRUTH?
One teaching common to most religions around the globe is that man has within him an invisible soul that survives the death of the body and lives on immortally as a spirit. Do you recognize that teaching? It often is linked with the idea that the soul of a good person goes to heaven at death. And it is behind the widespread concern about the “spirits” of dead relatives or ghosts. The Encyclopædia Britannica points out: “The belief in human immortality in some form is almost universal.” Probably you know that.
But it is quite appropriate that the encyclopedia says “almost universal.” Why? Because the ancient Hebrews and early Christians did not believe that humans have immortal souls.
You may be surprised to hear that, for many persons think that this church doctrine is drawn from the Bible. However, note this:
According to the Scriptures the first lie, told by Satan the Devil, was that human sin would not bring death. (Gen. 3:1-4) When our original human parents did die anyway, and death claimed everyone afterward, what would be more deceptive than to say, ‘They are not really dead—just their body is; their soul lives immortally’? Yes, the doctrine of the immortality of the human soul tends to further Satan’s lie and has led millions to fear the dead.
Simply put, however, the Scriptures teach that your soul is you. We find an indication of that in what the Bible reports about Adam. The Creator formed a body from dust and then provided life and the breath needed to sustain life. The result? Adam “came to be a living soul.” (Gen. 2:7) He was not given a soul. Adam was a soul.—Compare 1 Corinthians 15:45.
Consistent with this, the Bible teaches that a soul (a person) can die. See Ezekiel 18:4. Does that mean that when some person is dead he has no thoughts or feelings? Exactly. In fact, Ecclesiastes 9:5 informs us: “The living are conscious that they will die; but as for the dead, they are conscious of nothing at all.”
Does that mean that there is no more hope for our relatives and friends who have died? No, for the Bible gives examples in which God brought dead persons back to life, resurrected them. For instance, you may already know that God resurrected Jesus Christ as a spirit on the third day after his death. (Acts 10:39, 40; 1 Pet. 3:18) On the basis of this and related Bible promises, we can look forward to the time when God will resurrect those in his memory.—Acts 17:31; 24:15.
When you reflect on matters, then, you can see that the immortal-soul doctrine taught by most religions conflicts directly with what the Bible says. So ask yourself: ‘What does this mean for me? Do I need to make some adjustment so as to worship God in his way, with truth?’
CONDUCT IS ALSO INVOLVED
Jesus Christ gave us added aid in identifying God’s way to worship him. He told his followers: “By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love among yourselves.” (John 13:35) Do most churches today really urge all their followers to show the very kind of love that Jesus did?
For example, the early Christians were put to the test as to true love when they were asked to join or support the Roman army. They wanted to obey governmental laws, but could not do so when it meant breaking God’s laws, such as his law against killing. (Matt. 22:21; Acts 5:29) Moreover, God had said of his people: “They will have to beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning shears. Nation will not lift up sword against nation, neither will they learn war anymore.”—Isa. 2:4.
In harmony with that, early Christians would not fight in behalf of the Roman Empire or any other nation.
Think, though, of the position taken by the churches of our time and by their ministers and priests. After giving some excuse, they have approved of and blessed warfare—warfare in which Catholics kill Catholics and Protestants kill Protestants. That is not God’s way!
GOD’S MORAL STANDARDS
As a third area to examine in determining God’s way of worship, we should see whether a religious group upholds his moral standards rather than simply overlooking wrongdoing.
Jesus worked to help sin-laden persons, including drunkards and the sexually immoral. His disciples were to do the same. (Matt. 9:10-13; 21:31; Luke 7:36-48; 1 Cor. 6:9, 11) And the Bible shows that even after individuals repented and became Christians some of them might slip and commit serious sin. (Gal. 6:1) For example, a man in the Christian congregation in ancient Corinth became a fornicator.—1 Cor. 5:1.
If a Christian did fall into a practice of sin, other Christians were to try to restore him to God’s favor and to spiritual strength. (Jas. 5:13-16) But what if one unrepentantly practiced sin? God’s Word says of that man in Corinth or any like him:
“Quit mixing in company with anyone called a brother that is a fornicator or a greedy person or an idolater or a reviler or a drunkard or an extortioner, not even eating with such a man. . . . ‘Remove the wicked man from among yourselves.’”—1 Cor. 5:11-13.
So if a gross sinner refuses to accept help and repent, he must be expelled or disfellowshiped from the true Christian congregation. Perhaps that will shock him to his senses. Yet, whether that happens or not, this God-directed expulsion from the congregation will protect the sincere Christians.—1 Cor. 5:2-8.
But does such disciplining occur in most of the churches you know of? Or is it not true that most churchgoers who openly practice sin continue to be accepted as part of the group?
The front page of a Nigerian newspaper recently reported:
“Nearly one-third of married Roman Catholic men in the archdiocese of Lusaka have live-in concubines . . . The report, based on a survey by Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo, says that there are concubines in 3,225 out of 10,903 Catholic households.”—Sept. 14, 1980.
By refusing to follow God’s command to disfellowship unrepentant sinners, the churches cause others to think that they can sin too and get away with it. Or they may just turn away from religion.—Eccl. 8:11.
A young lad wrote the following to a newspaper:
“I hate going to church because I see people there who I know are drunkards, gossips, liars and cheats, and they are right there every Sunday saying their prayers and singing the hymns. I don’t have any respect for hypocrites and our church is full of them.”—Palm Beach “Post-Times,” May 27, 1979.
WHAT WILL YOU DO?
We have examined only three areas. But these make it clear that if we want to worship God in his way, we may have to make some basic changes in our beliefs and ways, even as did the apostle Paul and many others who have become true Christians. Separating ourselves from religions that are not promoting God’s way of being worshiped is vital. In fact, God commands us to ‘get out if we do not want to share in their sins and receive part of the plagues coming from God.’—Rev. 18:4, 5; 2 Cor. 6:14-18.
Jehovah’s Witnesses are seriously interested in conforming their lives to God’s Word, thus worshiping the Creator “with spirit and truth.” They will be very much pleased to assist you, too, in your desire to worship God in his way.
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“A careful review of all the information available goes to show that, until the time of Marcus Aurelius [emperor from 161 to 180 C.E.], no Christian became a soldier; and no soldier, after becoming a Christian, remained in military service.”—“The Rise of Christianity.”
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“VALUES AND VIOLENCE IN AUSCHWITZ”
In her book of that title, Polish sociologist Anna Pawelczynska observed that in Nazi Germany “Jehovah’s Witnesses waged passive resistance for their belief, which opposed all war and violence.” With what result? She explains:
“This little group of prisoners was a solid ideological force and they won their battle against Nazism. The German group of this sect had been a tiny island of unflagging resistance existing in the bosom of a terrorized nation, and in that same undismayed spirit they functioned in the camp at Auschwitz. They managed to win the respect of their fellow-prisoners . . . of prisoner-functionaries, and even of the SS officers. Everyone knew that no Jehovah’s Witness would perform a command contrary to his religious belief.”