Do You Appreciate What God Has Done?
“If anyone wants to come after me, let him disown himself and pick up his torture stake day after day and follow me continually.”—LUKE 9:23.
1. What are some of the wonderful gifts that God has provided?
WE OWE our lives to God. If he had not created humankind, we would never have been born. But God created more than life. He made us so that we could enjoy many things: the flavor of food, the warmth of sunlight, the sound of music, the freshness of a spring day, the tenderness of love. Even more, God gave us a mind and the desire to learn about him. He inspired the Bible, which gives us sound guidance, shows us how to live happier lives, and provides the hope of living forever in his righteous new world. God also provides his holy spirit, the support of a local congregation, and loving older men and women who can help us to remain strong in his service.—Genesis 1:1, 26-28; 2 Timothy 3:15-17; Hebrews 10:24, 25; James 5:14, 15.
2. (a) What is the most outstanding thing that God has done for us? (b) Can we earn salvation through works?
2 In addition to all of that, God sent his own firstborn Son to tell us more about what the Father expects of us and to provide a “release by ransom” for everyone who will accept it. (Ephesians 1:7; Romans 5:18) That son, Jesus Christ, said: “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16, King James Version) The salvation made possible by that ransom is of such superlative value that there is absolutely no way that anyone could do works to earn it, certainly not works formerly done under the Mosaic Law. Thus, Paul wrote: “A man is declared righteous, not due to works of law, but only through faith toward Christ Jesus.”—Galatians 2:16; Romans 3:20-24.
Faith and Works
3. What did James say about faith and works?
3 Salvation comes by faith, but faith and appreciation for all that God has done should move us to action. It should motivate us to do things that show our faith. Jesus’ half brother James wrote: “Faith, if it does not have works, is dead in itself.” He further said: “Show me your faith apart from the works, and I shall show you my faith by my works.” James pointed out that even the demons “believe and shudder,” but obviously demons do not do godly works. Abraham, on the other hand, had both faith and works. “His faith worked along with his works and by his works his faith was perfected.” James repeated: “Faith without works is dead.”—James 2:17-26.
4. What did Jesus say those who want to follow him should do?
4 Jesus also showed the importance of right works, saying: “Let your light shine before men, that they may see your fine works and give glory to your Father who is in the heavens.” “If anyone wants to come after me, let him disown himself and pick up his torture stake day after day and follow me continually.”* If we “disown” ourselves, we give up many of our personal choices. We recognize that we owe everything to God, so we give ourselves to him as his slaves, seeking to learn and to do his will, as Jesus did.—Matthew 5:16; Luke 9:23; John 6:38.
Lives Are Affected
5. (a) What did Peter show should affect our entire way of life? (b) What fine works did he recommend?
5 Peter pointed out that Christ’s “precious blood,” given in our behalf, is of such excelling value that our appreciation for it should be evident in our entire way of life. The apostle listed many things that our appreciation should prompt us to do. He counseled: “Put away all badness.” “Form a longing for the unadulterated milk belonging to the word.” “Declare abroad the excellencies of the one that called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” “Turn away from what is bad and do what is good.” “Make a defense before everyone that demands of you a reason for the hope in you.” “Live the remainder of [your] time in the flesh, no more for the desires of men, but for God’s will.”—1 Peter 1:19; 2:1, 2, 9; 3:11, 15; 4:2.
6. (a) How did first-century Christians demonstrate their faith? (b) What example should this set for us?
6 First-century Christians lived their faith. It changed their outlook and their personalities, motivating them to bring their lives into harmony with God’s will. They suffered exile, stonings, beatings, imprisonment, and even death rather than violate their faith. (Acts 7:58-60; 8:1; 14:19; 16:22; 1 Corinthians 6:9-11; Ephesians 4:22-24; Colossians 4:3; Philemon 9, 10) The noted Roman historian Tacitus, born about 56 C.E., says that the Christians “were doomed to the flames and burnt, to serve as a nightly illumination, when daylight had expired.” Yet they did not waver!—The Annals, Book XV, paragraph 44.
7. In what situation might some people find themselves?
7 In some congregations you may find people who have attended the meetings for years. They love Jehovah’s organization, think his people are the finest people they have ever met, make fine comments about the truth, and defend the truth to outsiders. But something stands in their way, something holds them back. They have never taken the fine step that the 3,000 did on the day of Pentecost, that the believing Ethiopian asked about, or that Ananias urged Saul to take as soon as that former persecutor had realized that Jesus really was the Messiah. (Acts 2:41; 8:36; 22:16) What is lacking in such ones today? Why have they not taken the step that the Bible calls “the request made to God for a good conscience”? (1 Peter 3:21) If you find yourself in this situation—knowing the truth but hesitating to do something about it—view this article as prepared out of special love for you.
Overcoming Obstacles to Baptism
8. If you have never been a good student, what would be the wise course to take now?
8 What could stand in your way? The preceding article showed that some might find personal study to be a problem. God gave us wonderful minds, and he expects us to use them in serving him. Some people who had not even learned to read applied themselves to that task in order to learn more about God and his purposes. What about you? If you already know how to read, do you really study, as the Beroeans did, “carefully examining the Scriptures daily” to see if these things are so? Have you explored “the breadth and length and height and depth” of the truth? Have you dug deeply enough into God’s Word? Have you found out how exciting it really is? Have you developed a real desire to know God’s will? Do you have a genuine hunger for the truth?—Acts 17:10, 11; Ephesians 3:18.
9. What is the right thing to do if you have a problem with someone in the congregation?
9 Sometimes people hold back because of a real or imagined problem that they have had with someone in the congregation. Has someone seriously offended you? Then follow the guideline indicated by Jesus’ words: “Go lay bare his fault between you and him alone.” (Matthew 18:15) You may be surprised to find that the person did not even know that you were offended. But even if he does know, you may still ‘gain your brother,’ as Jesus said. You may also help him avoid stumbling someone else. Moreover, when you think about it, who are you really serving—that person or God? Is your love for God so limited that you would let any imperfect human’s mistake interfere with your love for Him?
10, 11. What should you do if some secret sin has been holding you back?
10 A secret sin may hold a person back from baptism. This could be something that happened in the past, or it might be a continuing wrong pattern. If this is a problem for you, is it not time to correct the matter? (1 Corinthians 7:29-31) Many of Jehovah’s people have had to make changes in their lives. The Bible says: “Repent, therefore, and turn around so as to get your sins blotted out, that seasons of refreshing may come from the person of Jehovah.”—Acts 3:19.
11 No matter what you may have done in the past, you can repent, change, and ask for God’s forgiveness. “Deaden, therefore, your body members that are upon the earth as respects fornication, uncleanness, sexual appetite, hurtful desire . . . 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.” You can bring your life into harmony with his ways, enjoy a clean conscience, and have the hope of everlasting life in his righteous new world. Is that not worth whatever effort it may take?—Colossians 3:5-10; Isaiah 1:16, 18; 1 Corinthians 6:9-11; Hebrews 9:14.
12. What should you do if tobacco, alcohol abuse, or addictive drugs stand between you and a clean conscience?
12 Does tobacco use, alcohol abuse, or addiction to drugs stand between you and a clean conscience? Do not such life-threatening habits show disrespect for God’s marvelous gift of life? If such habits stand in your way, surely it is time to correct them. Are these habits worth your life? Paul said: “Let us cleanse ourselves of every defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in God’s fear.” Do you appreciate God’s clean and righteous ways enough to do that?*—2 Corinthians 7:1.
13, 14. (a) What do the Scriptures say about material goals? (b) Why is it important to put heavenly things first?
13 Today’s world puts success and “the showy display of one’s means of life” ahead of almost everything else. But Jesus likened “the anxieties of this system of things and the deceptive power of riches” to “thorns” that choke out the word of God. He also asked: “What benefit will it be to a man if he gains the whole world but forfeits his soul?”—1 John 2:16; Mark 4:2-8, 18, 19; Matthew 16:26.
14 Jesus pointed out that God arranged for the birds to find food and the lilies to blossom splendidly. Then he asked: “Of how much more worth are you than birds? . . . How much rather will [God] clothe you!” Wisely, Jesus told us to “quit being anxious” about material things. He said: “Seek continually [God’s] kingdom, and these things will be added to you.” He pointed out that we should put heavenly things first because ‘where our treasure is, there our heart would be also.’—Luke 12:22-31; Matthew 6:20, 21.
Godly Service With God’s Help
15. What fine encouragement does the example of first-century Christians give us?
15 Does witnessing to others seem to present a problem for you? Does shyness cause you to hold back? If so, it is important to remember that first-century Christians had the same kind of feelings that we have today. God did not choose many wise and powerful ones, but he chose “the weak things of the world, that he might put the strong things to shame.” (1 Corinthians 1:26-29) Powerful religious leaders opposed these “ordinary” people and ordered them to stop preaching. What did the Christians do? They prayed. They asked God for boldness, and he gave it to them. As a result, their message filled Jerusalem and later shook the whole world!—Acts 4:1-4, 13, 17, 23, 24, 29-31; 5:28, 29; Colossians 1:23.
16. What do we learn from the great “cloud of witnesses” described in Hebrews chapter 11?
16 Thus, fear of men should never stand between us and service to God. Hebrews chapter 11 tells of a great “cloud of witnesses” who feared, not men, but God. We should show similar faith. The apostle wrote: “Because we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also put off every weight and the sin that easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.”—Hebrews 12:1.
17. What encouragement did God give through Isaiah?
17 God can provide his servants tremendous help. The Creator of the universe told Isaiah: “Those who are hoping in Jehovah will regain power. They will mount up with wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not tire out.”—Isaiah 40:31.
18. How might you overcome timidity in order to share in the Kingdom preaching?
18 The courageous and happy Witnesses that you see in the local congregation are only a small portion of more than three and a half million zealous servants earth wide. They rejoice to have a part in the work that Jesus Christ himself foretold in these words: “This good news of the kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations; and then the end will come.” If participating in Kingdom preaching presents a problem for you even though you qualify to do so, why not ask a Witness who does well in the ministry to let you go along with him or her to share in the preaching work? God really does provide “power beyond what is normal,” and you may be surprised to find out what a joy this godly service really is.—Matthew 24:14; 2 Corinthians 4:7; see also Psalm 56:11; Matthew 5:11, 12; Philippians 4:13.
19. What teaching work did Jesus command his followers to do?
19 Jesus expects those who appreciate the Kingdom message to act on it. He said: “Go therefore and make disciples of people of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the holy spirit, teaching them to observe all the things I have commanded you.”—Matthew 28:19, 20.
20. If you are moving ahead spiritually, what question may soon be appropriate?
20 Does your appreciation for God’s blessings, for the “precious blood” of Jesus, and for the marvelous hope of everlasting life move you to action? (1 Peter 1:19) Have you brought your life into harmony with God’s righteous requirements? Do you share regularly in making disciples? Have you disowned yourself and dedicated your life to God? If the answer to all these questions is a definite yes, it may be time to ask one of the elders in the congregation you attend the same question that the believing Ethiopian asked Philip: “What prevents me from getting baptized?”—Acts 8:36.
The Jerusalem Bible renders this “renounce himself.” The version by J. B. Phillips says “give up all right to himself.” The New English Bible says “leave self behind.”
For information on quitting such habits, see The Watchtower, February 1, 1981, pages 3-12; June 1, 1973, pages 336-43; and Awake!, July 8, 1982, pages 3-12; May 22, 1981, pages 3-11. These may be available in the library at the local Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Do You Remember?
□ What special reasons do we have for being thankful to God?
□ What should faith and appreciation motivate us to do?
□ What problems may stand between us and obedience to God, and what could we do about them?
□ What questions may persons who are not yet baptized ask themselves?
[Box on page 18]
‘What kind of “soil” am I?’
Jesus gave an illustration of a man who went out to sow seed. Some seed fell alongside the road and were eaten by birds. Others fell on rocky places without much soil. These sprouted, but when the sun came up, they withered and died. Still other seed fell among thorns and were choked. Jesus said that these three groups represented: first, the person who “hears the word of the kingdom but does not get the sense of it”; second, one who accepts the word but is turned away by the heat of “tribulation or persecution”; and third, the person for whom “the anxiety of this system of things and the deceptive power of riches choke the word.”
It might be well to ask ourselves: ‘What kind of “soil” am I?’
[Box on page 19]
They died for their faith
Do you know anyone who would rather die than violate his faith? Thousands of Jehovah’s Witnesses have done that. In The Nazi State and the New Religions: Five Case Studies in Non-Conformity, Dr. Christine E. King wrote: “One out of every two German Witnesses was imprisoned, one in four lost their lives.”
When the horror of the camps finally ended in 1945, “the Witnesses’ numbers had increased and no compromises had been made.” In The Nazi Persecution of the Churches, J. S. Conway wrote of the Witnesses: “No other sect displayed anything like the same determination in the face of the full force of Gestapo terrorism.”
Jehovah’s Witnesses were not persecuted because of politics or race. Rather, they suffered entirely because of their love of God and their refusal to violate their Bible-trained consciences.