Remember Christian Principles
WHEN a child starts attending school, among the first things he learns are reading and writing. These vital subjects prepare him for more advanced material, such as social studies, science, and languages. If the child fails to get a thorough grasp of reading and writing, his whole future education is adversely affected.
Learning how to worship God is somewhat similar. When we study the Bible, we find that there are numerous basic truths, or principles, that have to be mastered. Once we have grasped these, we can go on to deeper matters. If, however, we do not thoroughly understand and believe these first principles, our worship will be flawed. We will not be able to make sound decisions, and our faith will be easily shaken.
The basic principles of the Bible are not difficult to understand. (See chart.) However, neither are they mere platitudes or matters of intellectual interest. They are living, vital truths, and wise Christians learn to love them. Jehovah says: “To my words do pay attention. To my sayings incline your ear. May they not get away from your eyes. Keep them in the midst of your heart. For they are life to those finding them and health to all their flesh.”—Proverbs 4:20-22; Ezekiel 18:19, 20, 23.
Nevertheless, in spite of the importance of these principles, Jesus warned that only a few would grasp them and live by them. He said: “Narrow is the gate and cramped the road leading off into life, and few are the ones finding it.” (Matthew 7:14) This is not because the principles are somehow hidden. Jehovah wants men and women to live by them and thus inherit life. (2 Peter 3:9) He has caused wisdom, knowledge, and discernment to be recorded in the Bible, which is widely available to all. And his Witnesses encourage their neighbors to seek for this life-giving information. In this way, literally, “true wisdom itself keeps crying aloud in the very street.” (Proverbs 1:20; 2:1-9) But there are other forces at work.
Satan has blinded the eyes of most of mankind to true principles. (2 Corinthians 4:4) Additionally, man’s spirit of independence makes him prefer to go his own way rather than look to a Higher Power for guidance. In the apostle Paul’s day, even some who had learned the basic principles lost sight of them. Hence, he wrote: “You again need someone to teach you from the beginning the elementary things of the sacred pronouncements of God.”—Hebrews 5:12.
Moreover, Jesus warned: “Many will say to me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and expel demons in your name, and perform many powerful works in your name?’ And yet then I will confess to them: I never knew you! Get away from me, you workers of lawlessness.” (Matthew 7:22, 23) Why do people who think they are serving Jesus find themselves rejected? Because their “powerful works” are not based on Bible principles. It is as if they tried to study history or science without first learning to read. Their works are flawed, not grounded in truth. Hence, they are “workers of lawlessness.”
Is Your Worship Acceptable?
Can we be sure that Jesus will not one day say to us, ‘Get away from me, you worker of lawlessness’? Yes, if our worship is thoroughly grounded in Bible principles. It can be if we closely examine the Bible, particularly the words of Jesus. Jesus did walk on the narrow, cramped road to life—in fact, he was “the way and the truth and the life.” (John 14:6) If we apply his sayings and follow closely in his footsteps, we will be on the same road.—John 6:68; 1 Peter 2:21.
Jesus’ immediate followers also walked that narrow, cramped road to life. Therefore, when Jesus died he committed into their hands the work of teaching others to worship God. He also warned that he would return and expect a reckoning from them as to how they had conducted themselves during his absence.—Matthew 24:46; 25:14-23; 28:19, 20.
Eventually, the number of those claiming to follow Christ climbed into the hundreds of millions. But in most cases, the worship by these vast throngs was not based on Bible principles. Thus, when Jesus was installed as heavenly King in 1914 and then ‘arrived’ to have a reckoning with those who claimed to be his followers, what did he find? Millions of professed Christians were engaged in the most terrible war in mankind’s history up to that point.
Yes, the vast majority of “Christians” were acting completely contrary to basic Bible principles. However, there was a group of real Christians trying hard to follow godly principles and also teaching them to any who would listen in the war-mad world. These were gathered together and in time were joined by a great crowd of like-minded persons. (Matthew 24:31; Revelation 7:4, 9, 10) They are still following life-giving principles, telling others about God’s great purposes, associating together as one flock, and trying hard to conform to the “perfect will of God.”—Romans 12:2.
A Vital Scriptural Principle
This has not been easy. For one thing, these true Christians have had to fight their own imperfect, sinful nature. And they have to live in a world that is completely opposed to the values and principles they try to live by. In fact, the apostle John said: “The whole world is lying in the power of the wicked one.” (1 John 5:19) That is why God’s true worshipers today have to keep close in mind a vitally important principle explained by Jesus: “They [Christians] are no part of the world.”—John 17:16.
Jehovah does not force individuals to serve him, but those who choose to do so need to make some sober decisions. For example, they need to be reconciled to the fact that they can never be popular in this world. (Matthew 24:9) The disciple James warned: “Whoever . . . wants to be a friend of the world is constituting himself an enemy of God.” (James 4:4) And the apostle Paul said: “What fellowship do righteousness and lawlessness have?” and “What portion does a faithful person have with an unbeliever?” Then he quoted Jehovah’s own words: “Get out from among them, and separate yourselves, . . . and quit touching the unclean thing.”—2 Corinthians 6:14-17; Ephesians 5:11.
How can we ‘separate ourselves’? Of course, not by removing ourselves physically from the world. But we can avoid becoming ‘unevenly yoked with unbelievers.’ We can avoid the ‘bad associations, which spoil useful habits.’ (1 Corinthians 15:33) And we can separate ourselves from the spirit of the world, the spirit of self-seeking, dishonesty, materialism, and a frantic quest for pleasure. (2 Timothy 3:1-5) A heartwarming assurance is given to those who thus separate themselves from the desires of this world: “He that does the will of God remains forever.”—1 John 2:15-17.
Those Who Follow Basic Principles
Is it possible today to follow Bible principles and walk the narrow road that leads to life? Yes, even children can do it. For example, two young children in Brazil were so well behaved at school that their teacher requested their mother to come and discuss the reason why. The mother explained that it was because they were following Bible principles with respect to obedience toward parents and others in authority. (Ephesians 6:1-3) At the end of the school term, they were given an opportunity to explain to the entire class the benefits that come from such a godly course.
Jesus stated the principle: “Even when a person has an abundance his life does not result from the things he possesses.” (Luke 12:15) A prospering doctor in Japan learned this and, to the amazement of his colleagues, put it into practice. He left his lucrative position and went out to a small town where he could be of spiritual help to the townspeople. This sacrifice of material benefits did not rob him of his happiness. Rather, both he and his wife are now finding greater joy in bringing the Word of life to others.
The Bible says: “A drunkard and a glutton will come to poverty.” (Proverbs 23:21) This is a clear warning against addiction. We are also warned against the misuse of drugs: “The works of the flesh are . . . idolatry, practice of spiritism [phar·ma·kiʹa, “druggery” in the original Greek].” (Galatians 5:19, 20) Additionally, the apostle Paul urges: “Let us cleanse ourselves of every defilement of flesh and spirit.”—2 Corinthians 7:1.
Smoking tobacco and using other addictive drugs clearly go against these Bible principles and are thus “lawlessness.” (Matthew 7:23) Any servants of God who pollute themselves with such substances will find that their worship is not acceptable to God. Hence, many hundreds of thousands have taken the step of ceasing to use these drugs, and as a result, they have received both spiritual and physical benefits. Of course, it is not always easy to break away from these unclean habits.
A young man in Michigan, U.S.A., learned about God and his principles from some ministers who called at his door. He liked what he heard but realized that his habit of smoking marijuana and tobacco was not consistent with worship of Jehovah. He says: “I didn’t have any trouble putting away drugs, which I had enjoyed. But it took me at least six months to quit smoking cigarettes.” He was helped by fellow Christians and by prayer. Now, living a clean life according to Bible principles, he is enjoying a clean conscience, a relationship with God, and Christian fellowship. In fact, he says that until he became a Christian, he never knew what a friend was.
Following righteous principles is truly the course of wisdom. And wisdom is even more valuable than fine gold. Take this course yourself, and it will bring praise to Jehovah and will work to your own eternal blessing.—Psalm 19:7, 10; Proverbs 16:16.
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Principles are basic truths or fundamental laws from which other truths or laws can be derived. Following are some examples:
□ “You must love Jehovah your God with your whole heart and with your whole soul and with your whole mind.”—Matthew 22:37.
□ “All things, therefore, that you want men to do to you, you also must likewise do to them.”—Matthew 7:12.
□ “Friendship with the world is enmity with God.”—James 4:4.
□ “Whether you are eating or drinking or doing anything else, do all things for God’s glory.”—1 Corinthians 10:31.
□ “We, though, who are strong ought to bear the weaknesses of those not strong, and not to be pleasing ourselves.”—Romans 15:1.
□ “Let us always offer to God a sacrifice of praise, that is, the fruit of lips which make public declaration to his name.”—Hebrews 13:15.
□ “Let us consider one another to incite to love and fine works, not forsaking the gathering of ourselves together.”—Hebrews 10:24, 25.
□ “Man must live, not on bread alone, but on every utterance coming forth through Jehovah’s mouth.”—Matthew 4:4.