“Sacred Service With Your Power of Reason”
“Present your bodies a sacrifice living, holy, acceptable to God, a sacred service with your power of reason.”—ROMANS 12:1.
1, 2. How is learning to apply Bible principles like mastering a new language?
HAVE you ever attempted to learn a new language? If so, you will no doubt agree that it is hard work. After all, more is involved than simply learning new words. Proficient use of a language also requires mastering its grammar. You must perceive how words relate to one another and how they combine to form complete thoughts.
2 It is similar with our taking in knowledge of God’s Word. More is involved than simply learning isolated Scripture texts. We must also learn the Bible’s grammar, as it were. We need to grasp how scriptures relate to one another and how they serve as principles that can be applied in daily life. We can thus become “fully competent, completely equipped for every good work.”—2 Timothy 3:17.
3. Regarding service to God, what change took place in 33 C.E.?
3 Under the arrangement of the Mosaic Law code, faithfulness could be demonstrated, to a great extent, by strict adherence to well-defined rules. In 33 C.E., however, Jehovah blotted out the Law, in effect “nailing it to the torture stake” on which his Son had been put to death. (Colossians 2:13, 14) Thereafter, God’s people were not given an extensive list of sacrifices to offer and rules to follow. Rather, they were told: “Present your bodies a sacrifice living, holy, acceptable to God, a sacred service with your power of reason.” (Romans 12:1) Yes, Christians were to give of themselves, with their whole heart, soul, mind, and strength in God’s service. (Mark 12:30; compare Psalm 110:3.) But what does it mean to offer “sacred service with your power of reason”?
4, 5. What is involved in serving Jehovah with our power of reason?
4 The phrase “power of reason” is translated from the Greek word lo·gi·kosʹ, which means “rational” or “intelligent.” Servants of God are called upon to use their Bible-trained conscience. Instead of hinging their decisions on numerous preset rules, Christians are to weigh Bible principles carefully. They need to understand the “grammar” of the Bible, or how its various principles relate to one another. Thus, they can make balanced decisions with their power of reason.
5 Does this mean that Christians are without law? Certainly not. The Christian Greek Scriptures clearly forbid idolatry, sexual immorality, murder, lying, spiritism, the misuse of blood, and various other sins. (Acts 15:28, 29; 1 Corinthians 6:9, 10; Revelation 21:8) Yet, to a far greater degree than was required of the Israelites, we must use our power of reason to learn and apply Bible principles. Much like grasping a new language, this takes time and effort. How can our power of reason be cultivated?
Cultivating Your Power of Reason
6. What does studying the Bible involve?
6 First, we must be ardent students of the Bible. God’s inspired Word is “beneficial for teaching, for reproving, for setting things straight, for disciplining in righteousness.” (2 Timothy 3:16) We should not always expect an answer to a problem to be spelled out in a single Bible verse. Rather, we may have to reason on several scriptures that shed light on a particular situation or problem. We will need to make a diligent search for God’s thinking on the matter. (Proverbs 2:3-5) We also need understanding, for “a man of understanding is the one who acquires skillful direction.” (Proverbs 1:5) An understanding person can separate the individual factors of a matter and then perceive their relationship to one another. As with a puzzle, he puts the pieces together so that he can see the whole picture.
7. How can parents reason on Bible principles regarding discipline?
7 For example, take the matter of parenting. Proverbs 13:24 says that the father who loves his son “does look for him with discipline.” Taken by itself, this scripture could be misapplied to justify harsh, unrelenting punishment. Yet, Colossians 3:21 provides balancing admonition: “You fathers, do not be exasperating your children so that they do not become downhearted.” Parents who use their power of reason and harmonize these principles will not resort to discipline that could be termed “abusive.” They will treat their children with warmth, understanding, and dignity. (Ephesians 6:4) Thus, in parenting or in any other matter involving Bible principles, we can develop our power of reason by weighing all related factors. In this way, we can perceive the “grammar” of Bible principles, what God’s intent was and how to accomplish that.
8. How can we avoid adopting rigid, dogmatic viewpoints when it comes to entertainment?
8 A second way in which we can cultivate our power of reason is to avoid adopting rigid, dogmatic viewpoints. An inflexible outlook hinders the growth of our power of reason. Consider the matter of entertainment. The Bible says: “The whole world is lying in the power of the wicked one.” (1 John 5:19) Does this mean that every book, motion picture, or television program produced by the world is corrupt and satanic? Such a view would hardly be reasonable. Of course, some may choose to keep away from television, movies, or secular literature altogether. That is their right, and they should not be criticized for it. But neither should they try to pressure others to take a similar strict stand. The Society has published articles setting forth Bible principles that should enable us to be wisely selective in our relaxation or entertainment. Going beyond these guidelines and exposing ourselves to the immoral thinking, gross violence, or spiritism that is present in much of this world’s entertainment is highly unwise. Really, a wise choice of entertainment demands that we use our power of reason to apply Bible principles so as to have a clear conscience before God and man.—1 Corinthians 10:31-33.
9. What is meant by “full discernment”?
9 Much of today’s entertainment is clearly unsuitable for Christians.* Therefore, we must train our hearts to “hate what is bad” so that we do not become like some in the first century who were “past all moral sense.” (Psalm 97:10; Ephesians 4:17-19) To reason on such matters, we need “accurate knowledge and full discernment.” (Philippians 1:9) The Greek word translated “discernment” denotes “sensitive moral perception.” The word refers to the literal human senses, such as sight. When it comes to entertainment or any other matter requiring a personal decision, our moral sense should be focused so that we can perceive not only sharply defined, black-and-white issues but also those of gray shades. At the same time, we should avoid applying Bible principles to some unreasonable extreme and insisting that all our brothers do the same.—Philippians 4:5.
10. How can we come to understand Jehovah’s personality as reflected in Psalm 15?
10 A third way to cultivate our power of reason is to capture a sense of Jehovah’s thinking and implant it deeply in our hearts. In his Word, Jehovah reveals his personality and standards. In Psalm 15, for instance, we read about the type of person Jehovah invites to be a guest in his tent. Such a person practices righteousness, speaks the truth in his heart, is faithful to his promises, and does not take selfish advantage of others. In reading this psalm, ask yourself, ‘Do these qualities describe me? Would Jehovah invite me to be a guest in his tent?’ Our perceptive powers are fortified as we become attuned to Jehovah’s ways and thinking.—Proverbs 3:5, 6; Hebrews 5:14.
11. How did the Pharisees “pass by the justice and the love of God”?
11 It is in this very respect that the Pharisees failed miserably. The Pharisees knew the technical framework of the Law but could not perceive its “grammar.” They could recite myriad details of the Law, but they failed to grasp the Personality behind it. Jesus told them: “You give the tenth of the mint and the rue and of every other vegetable, but you pass by the justice and the love of God!” (Luke 11:42) With their rigid minds and hard hearts, the Pharisees failed to use their power of reason. Their inconsistent reasoning became manifest when they criticized Jesus’ disciples for plucking grain and eating the kernels on the Sabbath; yet, later on that same day, they felt not a twinge of conscience when they plotted to murder Jesus!—Matthew 12:1, 2, 14.
12. How can we become more attuned to Jehovah as a Person?
12 We want to be different from the Pharisees. Our knowledge of God’s Word must help us to become more attuned to Jehovah as a Person. How can we do this? After reading a portion of the Bible or of Bible-based literature, some have been helped by pondering questions like these, ‘What does this information teach me about Jehovah and his qualities? How can I manifest Jehovah’s qualities in my dealings with others?’ Meditating on such questions develops our power of reason and enables us to become “imitators of God.”—Ephesians 5:1.
Slaves of God and Christ, Not of Men
13. How did the Pharisees act like moral dictators?
13 Elders have to allow those under their care to use their power of reason. The members of the congregation are not slaves of men. “If I were yet pleasing men,” wrote Paul, “I would not be Christ’s slave.” (Galatians 1:10; Colossians 3:23, 24) In contrast, the Pharisees wanted people to believe that it was more important to gain the approval of men than that of God. (Matthew 23:2-7; John 12:42, 43) The Pharisees took it upon themselves to become moral dictators who formed their own rules and then judged others by how well they measured up. Those who followed the Pharisees were weakened in the use of their Bible-trained conscience, in effect becoming slaves of men.
14, 15. (a) How can elders show themselves to be fellow workers with the flock? (b) How should elders handle matters of conscience?
14 Christian elders today know that the flock is not principally accountable to them. Each Christian must carry his or her own load. (Romans 14:4; 2 Corinthians 1:24; Galatians 6:5) This is as it should be. Indeed, if members of the flock were to be slaves of men, obeying simply because of being monitored, what would they do when those men were not around? Paul had reason for joy over the Philippians: “In the way that you have always obeyed, not during my presence only, but now much more readily during my absence, keep working out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” They were truly slaves of Christ, and not of Paul.—Philippians 2:12.
15 In matters of conscience, therefore, elders do not make decisions for those under their care. They explain the Bible principles involved in a matter and then allow the individuals involved to use their own powers of reason to make a decision. This is a serious responsibility, yet it is one that the individual himself must bear.
16. What system existed in Israel for handling problems?
16 Consider the period when Jehovah used judges to guide Israel. The Bible tells us: “In those days there was no king in Israel. What was right in his own eyes was what each one was accustomed to do.” (Judges 21:25) Yet Jehovah did supply means for his people to obtain guidance. Every city had older men who could provide mature help with questions and problems. Additionally, the Levitical priests acted as a force for good by educating people in God’s laws. When especially difficult matters arose, the high priest could consult God by means of the Urim and Thummim. Insight on the Scriptures comments: “The individual who availed himself of these provisions, who gained knowledge of God’s law and applied it, had a sound guide for his conscience. His doing ‘what was right in his own eyes’ in such case would not result in bad. Jehovah allowed the people to show a willing or unwilling attitude and course.”—Volume 2, pages 162-3.*
17. How can elders show that they counsel according to God’s standards rather than their own?
17 Like the Israelite judges and priests, congregation elders provide mature help with problems and give valuable counsel. At times, they even “reprove, reprimand, exhort, with all long-suffering and art of teaching.” (2 Timothy 4:2) They do so according to God’s standards, not their own. How effective this is when elders set an example and endeavor to reach hearts!
18. Why is it especially effective for elders to appeal to hearts?
18 The heart is the “engine” of our Christian activity. The Bible therefore says: “Out of it are the sources of life.” (Proverbs 4:23) Elders who stir hearts will find that those in the congregation are thereby motivated to do all they can in God’s service. They will be self-starters, not always needing to be prodded by others. Jehovah does not want forced obedience. He is looking for obedience that comes from a heart filled with love. Elders can encourage such heart-motivated service by helping those in the flock to develop their power of reason.
Cultivating “the Mind of Christ”
19, 20. Why is it important for us to cultivate the mind of Christ?
19 As noted, it is not enough simply to know God’s laws. “Make me understand,” implored the psalmist, “that I may observe your law and that I may keep it with the whole heart.” (Psalm 119:34) Jehovah has revealed in his Word “the mind of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 2:16) As one who served Jehovah with his power of reason, Jesus left us a perfect model. He understood God’s laws and principles, and he applied them faultlessly. By studying his example, we will “be thoroughly able to grasp mentally . . . what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of the Christ which surpasses knowledge.” (Ephesians 3:17-19) Yes, what we learn from the Bible about Jesus goes far beyond academic head knowledge; it gives us a clear picture of what Jehovah himself is like.—John 14:9, 10.
20 Thus, as we study God’s Word, we can discern Jehovah’s thinking on matters and reach balanced decisions. This will take effort. We must become ardent students of God’s Word, making ourselves sensitive to Jehovah’s personality and standards. We are learning a new grammar as it were. Yet, those who do so will be following Paul’s admonition to “present [their] bodies a sacrifice living, holy, acceptable to God, a sacred service with [their] power of reason.”—Romans 12:1.
This would rule out entertainment that has demonic, pornographic, or sadistic content, as well as so-called family entertainment that promotes promiscuous or permissive ideas that Christians cannot approve of.
Published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc.
What Did You Learn?
□ What change regarding service to God took place in 33 C.E.?
□ How can we cultivate our power of reason?
□ How can elders help those in the flock to be slaves of God and Christ?
□ Why should we cultivate “the mind of Christ”?
[Picture on page 23]
Elders help others to use their power of reason