Living Up to Our Dedication “Day After Day”
“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 is one way we can measure our success as Christians?
“WERE we truly men of dedication?” The answer to this question, according to John F. Kennedy, the 35th President of the United States, is a factor in measuring the success of those in public office. The question could serve with deeper significance as a test for our success as Christian ministers.
2. How does a dictionary define the word “dedication”?
2 What, though, is dedication? Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary defines it as “an act or rite of dedicating to a divine being or to a sacred use,” “a devoting or setting aside for a particular purpose,” “self-sacrificing devotion.” John F. Kennedy was apparently using the word to mean “self-sacrificing devotion.” For a Christian, dedication means much more.
3. What is Christian dedication?
3 Jesus Christ told his disciples: “If anyone wants to come after me, let him disown himself and pick up his torture stake and continually follow me.” (Matthew 16:24) Being set apart for divine use does not simply involve performing an act of worship on Sunday or when visiting some place of worship. It involves one’s whole life-style. To be a Christian means to disown oneself or to deny oneself while serving the God whom Jesus Christ served, Jehovah. In addition, a Christian picks up his “torture stake” by bearing up under any suffering that may be incurred for being a follower of Christ.
The Perfect Example
4. For what did Jesus’ baptism stand?
4 While on earth, Jesus demonstrated what dedicating oneself to Jehovah involves. His sentiments were: “Sacrifice and offering you did not want, but you prepared a body for me.” Then he added: “Look! I am come (in the roll of the book it is written about me) to do your will, O God.” (Hebrews 10:5-7) As a member of a dedicated nation, he was dedicated to Jehovah at birth. Still, at the commencement of his earthly ministry, he offered himself for baptism as a symbol of the presentation of himself to do Jehovah’s will, which for him would include offering his life as a ransom sacrifice. He thus set an example for Christians to do whatever it is that Jehovah wills.
5. How did Jesus demonstrate an exemplary view of material things?
5 After his baptism Jesus followed a life course that ultimately led to a sacrificial death. He was not interested in making money or in living a life of ease. Rather, his life revolved around his ministry. He admonished his disciples to “keep on . . . seeking first the kingdom and his righteousness,” and he himself lived up to these words. (Matthew 6:33) Why, once he even said: “Foxes have dens and birds of heaven have roosts, but the Son of man has nowhere to lay down his head.” (Matthew 8:20) He could have tailored his teachings in order to squeeze money from his followers. Being a carpenter he could have taken time off to make a beautiful piece of furniture to sell so that he would have a few extra pieces of silver. But he did not use his skills to seek material prosperity. As dedicated servants of God, are we imitating Jesus in having the right perspective of material things?—Matthew 6:24-34.
6. How can we imitate Jesus in being self-sacrificing, dedicated servants of God?
6 In putting his service to God first, Jesus did not seek his own interests. His life during the three and a half years of his public ministry was one of self-sacrifice. On one occasion after a busy day, without even taking the time to eat a meal, Jesus was willing to teach people who were “skinned and thrown about like sheep without a shepherd.” (Matthew 9:36; Mark 6:31-34) Although “tired out from the journey,” he took the initiative in talking with a Samaritan woman who came to Jacob’s fountain in Sychar. (John 4:6, 7, 13-15) He always put the welfare of others ahead of his own. (John 11:5-15) We can imitate Jesus by generously sacrificing our own interests to serve God and others. (John 6:38) By thinking in terms of how we can truly please God rather than do only the minimum required, we will be living up to our dedication.
7. How can we imitate Jesus in always giving honor to Jehovah?
7 Jesus was in no way trying to attract attention to himself by helping people. He was dedicated to God to do His will. So he always made sure that Jehovah, his Father, received all the glory for whatever was accomplished. When a certain ruler addressed him “Good Teacher,” using the word “good” as a title, Jesus corrected him by saying: “Nobody is good, except one, God.” (Luke 18:18, 19; John 5:19, 30) Are we, like Jesus, quick to direct honor away from ourselves toward Jehovah?
8. (a) As a dedicated man, how did Jesus set himself apart from the world? (b) How should we imitate him?
8 Throughout his dedicated life course on earth, Jesus demonstrated that he had set himself aside for divine service. He kept himself clean so that he could offer himself as “an unblemished and spotless lamb” to be the ransom sacrifice. (1 Peter 1:19; Hebrews 7:26) He observed all the precepts of the Mosaic Law, thus fulfilling that Law. (Matthew 5:17; 2 Corinthians 1:20) He lived up to his own teaching on morals. (Matthew 5:27, 28) No one could rightfully accuse him of bad motives. Indeed, he “hated lawlessness.” (Hebrews 1:9) As slaves of God, let us imitate Jesus in keeping our lives and even our motives clean in Jehovah’s eyes.
9. To what warning example did Paul refer, and why should we consider this example?
9 In contrast with Jesus’ example, we have the warning example of the Israelites. Even after they declared that they would do all that Jehovah told them to do, they failed to do his will. (Daniel 9:11) The apostle Paul encouraged Christians to learn from what befell the Israelites. Let us examine some incidents that Paul referred to in his first letter to the Corinthians and see what pitfalls need to be avoided by dedicated servants of God in our time.—1 Corinthians 10:1-6, 11.
10. (a) How did the Israelites ‘desire injurious things’? (b) Why were the Israelites more accountable the second time they murmured about food, and what can we learn from this warning example?
10 First, Paul warned us not to be “desiring injurious things.” (1 Corinthians 10:6) That may remind you of the occasion when the Israelites complained about having only manna to eat. Jehovah sent quail to them. Something similar had happened about a year earlier in the wilderness of Sin, just before the Israelites declared their dedication to Jehovah. (Exodus 16:1-3, 12, 13) But the situation was not exactly the same. When Jehovah provided quail the first time, he did not call the Israelites to account for their murmuring. This time, however, things were different. “The meat was yet between their teeth, before it could be chewed, when Jehovah’s anger blazed against the people, and Jehovah began striking at the people with a very great slaughter.” (Numbers 11:4-6, 31-34) What had changed? As a dedicated nation, they were now held accountable. Their lack of appreciation for Jehovah’s provisions led them to complain against Jehovah, despite their having promised to do all that Jehovah had spoken! Complaining about Jehovah’s table today is similar. Some fail to appreciate Jehovah’s spiritual provisions through “the faithful and discreet slave.” (Matthew 24:45-47) Remember, though, that our dedication requires us gratefully to keep in mind what Jehovah has done for us and accept the spiritual food that Jehovah supplies.
11. (a) How did the Israelites pollute their worship of Jehovah with idolatry? (b) How could we be affected by a kind of idolatry?
11 Next, Paul warned: “Neither become idolaters, as some of them did.” (1 Corinthians 10:7) Here the apostle was evidently referring to the calf worship that took place right after the Israelites concluded the covenant with Jehovah at Mount Sinai. You may say, ‘As a dedicated servant of Jehovah, I will never get involved in idolatry.’ Note, however, that from the point of view of the Israelites, they did not cease to worship Jehovah; yet, they brought in a practice of calf worship—something disgusting to God. What did this form of worship involve? The people made sacrifices in front of the calf, and then they “sat down to eat and drink. Then they got up to have a good time.” (Exodus 32:4-6) Today, some may claim that they worship Jehovah. But their lives may be centered, not on worship of Jehovah, but on enjoyment of the things of this world, and they try to fit their service to Jehovah around these. True, this is not as extreme as bowing down to a golden calf, but it is not too different in principle. Making a god of one’s own desire is far from living up to one’s dedication to Jehovah.—Philippians 3:19.
12. From the experience of the Israelites with Baal of Peor, what do we learn about disowning ourselves?
12 A kind of entertainment was also involved in the next warning example that Paul mentioned. “Neither let us practice fornication, as some of them committed fornication, only to fall, twenty-three thousand of them in one day.” (1 Corinthians 10:8) The Israelites, enticed by immoral pleasure offered by the daughters of Moab, were led into worshiping the Baal of Peor in Shittim. (Numbers 25:1-3, 9) Disowning ourselves to do Jehovah’s will includes accepting his standards for what is morally clean. (Matthew 5:27-30) In this age of deteriorating standards, we are reminded of the need to keep ourselves clean from all sorts of immoral conduct, submitting to Jehovah’s authority to decide what is good and what is bad.—1 Corinthians 6:9-11.
13. How does Phinehas’ example help us to understand what dedication to Jehovah includes?
13 While many fell into the trap of fornication in Shittim, some lived up to the national dedication to Jehovah. Of them, Phinehas was outstanding in zeal. When he caught sight of an Israelite chieftain bringing a Midianitess into his tent, Phinehas at once took a lance in his hand and pierced them through. Jehovah told Moses: “Phinehas . . . has turned back my wrath from upon the sons of Israel by his tolerating no rivalry at all toward me in the midst of them, so that I have not exterminated the sons of Israel in my insistence on exclusive devotion.” (Numbers 25:11) Tolerating no rivalry at all toward Jehovah—that is what dedication means. We cannot allow anything to take the place that dedication to Jehovah should occupy in our hearts. Our zeal for Jehovah also moves us to keep the congregation clean by reporting gross immorality to the elders, not tolerating it.
14. (a) How did the Israelites put Jehovah to the test? (b) How does a complete dedication to Jehovah help us not to “tire out”?
14 Paul referred to another warning example: “Neither let us put Jehovah to the test, as some of them put him to the test, only to perish by the serpents.” (1 Corinthians 10:9) Paul here was talking about the time when the Israelites complained against God to Moses when they “began tiring out because of the way.” (Numbers 21:4) Do you ever make that mistake? When you dedicated yourself to Jehovah, did you think Armageddon was just around the corner? Has Jehovah’s patience been longer than you expected? Remember, we did not dedicate ourselves to Jehovah just for a certain period of time or merely until Armageddon. Our dedication continues forever. So, then, “let us not give up in doing what is fine, for in due season we shall reap if we do not tire out.”—Galatians 6:9.
15. (a) Against whom did the Israelites murmur? (b) How does our dedication to Jehovah move us to respect theocratic authority?
15 Finally, Paul warned about becoming “murmurers” against the appointed servants of Jehovah. (1 Corinthians 10:10) The Israelites murmured vehemently against Moses and Aaron when 10 of the 12 spies sent out to search the land of Canaan brought back bad reports. They even talked about replacing Moses as their head and going back to Egypt. (Numbers 14:1-4) Today, do we accept the leadership that is given to us through the action of Jehovah’s holy spirit? From seeing the bountiful spiritual table that is provided by the faithful and discreet slave class, it is clear whom Jesus is using to dispense “food at the proper time.” (Matthew 24:45) Whole-souled dedication to Jehovah requires us to show respect for his appointed servants. May we never become like some modern-day murmurers who have turned to a new head, so to speak, to lead them back into the world.
Is It My Utmost?
16. What questions may dedicated servants of God wish to ask themselves?
16 The Israelites would not have fallen into such grievous errors if they had remembered that their dedication to Jehovah was unconditional. Unlike those faithless Israelites, Jesus Christ lived up to his dedication to the finish. As Christ’s followers, we imitate his example of whole-souled devotion, living our lives “no more for the desires of men, but for God’s will.” (1 Peter 4:2; compare 2 Corinthians 5:15.) Jehovah’s will today is that “all sorts of men should be saved and come to an accurate knowledge of truth.” (1 Timothy 2:4) To that end, we are to preach “this good news of the kingdom” before the end comes. (Matthew 24:14) How much effort do we put into this service? We may wish to ask ourselves, ‘Is it my utmost?’ (2 Timothy 2:15) Circumstances differ. Jehovah is pleased to be served “according to what a person has, not according to what a person does not have.” (2 Corinthians 8:12; Luke 21:1-4) No one should judge the depth and sincerity of the dedication of another. Each should personally evaluate the extent of his own devotion to Jehovah. (Galatians 6:4) Our love for Jehovah should move us to ask, ‘How can I make Jehovah happy?’
17. What is the relationship between devotion and appreciation? Illustrate.
17 Our devotion to Jehovah deepens as we grow in our appreciation for him. A 14-year-old boy in Japan dedicated himself to Jehovah and symbolized this dedication by water baptism. Later, he wanted to pursue higher education and become a scientist. He never thought of the full-time ministry, but as a dedicated servant, he did not want to leave Jehovah and his visible organization. To realize his career goal, he attended a university. There he saw graduates of the university being forced to dedicate their entire life to their companies or to their studies. He wondered, ‘What am I doing here? Can I really pursue their way of life and dedicate myself to secular work? Am I not already dedicated to Jehovah?’ With renewed appreciation, he became a regular pioneer. His understanding of his dedication deepened and moved him to determine in his heart to go wherever he was needed. He attended the Ministerial Training School and received an assignment to serve as a missionary overseas.
18. (a) How much is involved in our dedication to Jehovah? (b) What reward can we reap from our dedication to Jehovah?
18 Dedication involves our whole life. We must disown ourselves and “day after day” follow Jesus’ fine example. (Luke 9:23) Having disowned ourselves, we do not ask Jehovah for a leave of absence, a furlough. Our lives conform to the principles Jehovah sets forth for his servants. Even in areas where we can make a personal choice, we do well to see whether we are doing our best to live a life dedicated to Jehovah. As we serve him day after day, doing our utmost to please him, we will succeed as Christians and will be blessed with a smile of approval from Jehovah, the One worthy of our whole-souled devotion.
Can You Explain?
□ What did dedication involve for Jesus Christ?
□ Why should we avoid murmuring against Jehovah?
□ In what way can we avoid letting idolatry subtly infiltrate our lives?
□ Remembering what will help us not to “tire out” in doing God’s will?
[Picture on page 17]
Dedicated Christians do “not give up in doing what is fine”