What Does God Require of Us?
“This is what the love of God means, that we observe his commandments; and yet his commandments are not burdensome.”—1 JOHN 5:3.
1, 2. Why is it not surprising that God has requirements for those who want to worship him acceptably?
“MY RELIGION is good enough for me!” Is that not what people often say? Actually, though, the question should be, “Is my religion pleasing to God?” Yes, God has requirements for those who want to worship him acceptably. Should that surprise us? Not really. Suppose you owned a beautiful home, one that you recently renovated at great cost. Would you allow just anyone to live there? Of course not! Any potential tenant would have to meet your requirements.
2 Similarly, Jehovah God has provided this earthly home for the human family. Under the rule of his Kingdom, the earth will soon be “renovated”—transformed into a beautiful paradise. Jehovah will accomplish this. At great cost to himself, he gave his only-begotten Son to make it possible. Surely, God must have requirements for those who will live there!—Psalm 115:16; Matthew 6:9, 10; John 3:16.
3. How did Solomon sum up what God expects of us?
3 How can we find out what God’s requirements are? Jehovah inspired wise King Solomon to sum up what He expects of us. After reflecting on all that he had pursued—including wealth, building projects, musical interests, and romantic love—Solomon came to this realization: “The conclusion of the matter, everything having been heard, is: Fear the true God and keep his commandments. For this is the whole obligation of man.”—Ecclesiastes 12:13.
“His Commandments Are Not Burdensome”
4-6. (a) What is the literal meaning of the Greek word translated “burdensome”? (b) Why can we say that God’s commandments are not burdensome?
4 “Keep his commandments.” Basically, that is what God expects of us. Is that too much for him to ask? Not at all. The apostle John tells us something very reassuring about God’s commandments, or requirements. He wrote: “This is what the love of God means, that we observe his commandments; and yet his commandments are not burdensome.”—1 John 5:3.
5 The Greek word translated “burdensome” literally means “heavy.” It can refer to something that is hard to live up to or difficult to fulfill. At Matthew 23:4, it is used to describe the “heavy loads,” the man-made rules and traditions, that the scribes and Pharisees put upon people. Do you get the sense of what the aged apostle John is concluding? God’s commandments are not a heavy burden, nor are they too difficult for us to observe. (Compare Deuteronomy 30:11.) On the contrary, when we love God, meeting his requirements makes us happy. It gives us a precious opportunity to demonstrate our love for Jehovah.
6 To show our love for God, we need to know specifically what he expects of us. Let us now discuss five of God’s requirements. As we do so, keep in mind what John wrote: ‘God’s commandments are not burdensome.’
Take In Knowledge of God
7. Upon what is our salvation dependent?
7 The first requirement is taking in knowledge of God. Consider Jesus’ words recorded in John chapter 17. The setting was the final night of Jesus’ life as a human. Jesus had spent much of the evening preparing his apostles for his departure. He was concerned about their future, their everlasting future. Raising his eyes to heaven, he prayed for them. In verse 3, we read: “This means everlasting life, their taking in knowledge of you, the only true God, and of the one whom you sent forth, Jesus Christ.” Yes, their salvation was dependent upon their “taking in knowledge” of both God and Christ. That applies to us too. To gain salvation, we must take in such knowledge.
8. What does it mean to ‘take in knowledge’ of God?
8 What does it mean to ‘take in knowledge’ of God? The Greek word here translated “taking in knowledge” signifies “to come to know, recognize” or “to understand completely.” Notice, too, that the rendering “taking in knowledge” implies that this is an ongoing process. To take in knowledge of God thus means to come to know him not superficially but intimately, developing an understanding friendship with him. A continuing relationship with God brings ever-increasing knowledge of him. This process can continue forever, for we will never learn all that there is to know about Jehovah.—Romans 11:33.
9. What can we learn about Jehovah from the book of creation?
9 How do we take in knowledge of God? There are two books that can help us. One is the book of creation. The things Jehovah has created—both animate and inanimate—give us some insight into the kind of person he is. (Romans 1:20) Consider some examples. The roaring of a majestic waterfall, the pounding of the surf during a storm, the sight of the starry heavens on a clear night—do not such things teach us that Jehovah is a God “vigorous in power”? (Isaiah 40:26) A child laughing as he watches a puppy chasing its tail or a kitten playing with a ball of wool—does that not suggest that Jehovah, “the happy God,” has a sense of humor? (1 Timothy 1:11) The taste of a delicious meal, the pleasing scent of flowers in a meadow, the vivid colors of a delicate butterfly, the sound of birds singing in the springtime, the warm embrace of a loved one—do we not discern from such things that our Creator is a God of love, who wants us to enjoy life?—1 John 4:8.
10, 11. (a) What things about Jehovah and his purposes can we not learn from the book of creation? (b) The answers to what questions are found only in the Bible?
10 There is, however, a limit to what we can learn about Jehovah from the book of creation. To illustrate: What is God’s name? Why did he create the earth and put mankind on it? Why does God permit wickedness? What does the future hold for us? For answers to such questions, we must go to the other book that imparts knowledge of God—the Bible. In its pages, Jehovah reveals things about himself, including his name, his personality, and his purposes—information that we cannot obtain from any other source.—Exodus 34:6, 7; Psalm 83:18; Amos 3:7.
11 In the Scriptures, Jehovah also imparts vital knowledge concerning other persons we need to know about. For example, who is Jesus Christ, and what role does he play in the outworking of Jehovah’s purposes? (Acts 4:12) Who is Satan the Devil? In what ways does he mislead people? How can we avoid being misled by him? (1 Peter 5:8) The lifesaving answers to these questions are found only in the Bible.
12. How would you explain why it is not a burden to take in knowledge of God and his purposes?
12 Is it a burden to take in such knowledge of God and his purposes? By no means! Can you remember how you felt when you first learned that God’s name is Jehovah, that his Kingdom will restore Paradise to this earth, that he gave his beloved Son as a ransom for our sins, as well as other precious truths? Was it not like removing a veil of ignorance and seeing things clearly for the first time? Taking in knowledge of God is not a burden. It is a delight!—Psalm 1:1-3; 119:97.
Measuring Up to God’s Standards
13, 14. (a) As we take in knowledge of God, what changes do we need to make in our lives? (b) God requires that we refrain from what unclean practices?
13 As we take in knowledge of God, we come to realize that we need to make changes in our lives. This brings us to the second requirement. We must measure up to God’s standards for right conduct and accept his truth. What is truth? Does it really matter to God what we believe and what we do? Many people today evidently do not think so. A report published by the Church of England in 1995 suggested that living together without being married should not be viewed as a sin. “The phrase ‘living in sin’ stigmatizes and isn’t helpful,” stated one church bishop.
14 So, then, is “living in sin” no longer a sin? Jehovah tells us in no uncertain terms how he feels about such conduct. His Word, the Bible, states: “Let marriage be honorable among all, and the marriage bed be without defilement, for God will judge fornicators and adulterers.” (Hebrews 13:4) Sex before marriage may not be a sin in the view of liberal clergymen and churchgoers, but it is a serious sin in God’s eyes! And so are adultery, incest, and homosexuality. (Leviticus 18:6; 1 Corinthians 6:9, 10) God requires that we refrain from such practices, which he views as unclean.
15. How do God’s requirements involve both the way we treat others and what we believe?
15 It is not enough, however, to refrain from practices that God views as sinful. God’s requirements also involve the way we treat others. In the family, he expects the husband and the wife to have love and respect for each other. God requires that parents care for the material, spiritual, and emotional needs of their children. He tells children to be obedient to their parents. (Proverbs 22:6; Colossians 3:18-21) And what about our beliefs? Jehovah God wants us to avoid beliefs and customs that come from false worship or that are contrary to the clear truth taught in the Bible.—Deuteronomy 18:9-13; 2 Corinthians 6:14-17.
16. Explain why it is not a burden to measure up to God’s standards for right conduct and to accept his truth.
16 Is it a burden for us to measure up to God’s standards for right conduct and to accept his truth? Not when we consider the benefits—marriages in which husband and wife love and trust each other instead of marriages that are torn apart because of infidelity; homes where children feel loved and wanted by their parents instead of families in which children feel unloved, neglected, and unwanted; a clean conscience and good health instead of feelings of guilt and a body ravaged by AIDS or some other sexually transmitted disease. Surely, Jehovah’s requirements do not deprive us of anything we need in order to enjoy life!—Deuteronomy 10:12, 13.
Show Respect for Life and Blood
17. How does Jehovah view life and blood?
17 As you bring your life into harmony with God’s standards, you come to appreciate how precious life truly is. Let us now discuss a third requirement of God. We must show respect for life and blood. Life is sacred to Jehovah. It should be, for he is the Source of life. (Psalm 36:9) Why, even the life of an unborn child inside its mother is precious to Jehovah! (Exodus 21:22, 23) Blood represents life. Therefore, blood too is sacred in God’s eyes. (Leviticus 17:14) It should come as no surprise, then, that God expects us to view life and blood as he does.
18. What does Jehovah’s view of life and blood require of us?
18 What does respect for life and blood require of us? As Christians, we do not take unnecessary risks with our lives just for excitement. We are safety conscious and therefore make sure that our cars and homes are safe. (Deuteronomy 22:8) We do not use tobacco, chew betel nut, or take addictive or mind-warping drugs for pleasure. (2 Corinthians 7:1) Because we listen to God when he says to ‘abstain from blood,’ we do not allow blood to be transfused into our bodies. (Acts 15:28, 29) Although we love life, we will not try to save our present life by breaking God’s law and thus jeopardize our prospect of everlasting life!—Matthew 16:25.
19. Explain how we benefit from showing respect for life and blood.
19 Is it a burden for us to treat life and blood as sacred? By no means! Think about it. Is it a burden to be free of lung cancer caused by smoking tobacco? Is it a burden to escape mental and physical addiction to harmful drugs? Is it a burden to keep from contracting AIDS, hepatitis, or some other disease from a blood transfusion? Clearly, our avoiding hurtful habits and practices is in our best interest.—Isaiah 48:17.
20. How did one family benefit from having God’s view of life?
20 Consider this experience. Some years ago, a Witness woman who was about three and a half months pregnant began to hemorrhage one evening and was rushed to the hospital. After a doctor examined her, she overheard him tell one of the nurses that they would have to terminate the pregnancy. Knowing how Jehovah views the life of the unborn, she firmly refused an abortion, telling the doctor: “If it’s alive, leave it there!” She continued to suffer some bleeding at times, but several months later she gave birth prematurely to a healthy boy who is now 17 years old. She explained: “Our son was told all of this, and he said that he was glad he wasn’t thrown into the garbage. He knows that our serving Jehovah is the only reason he is even alive.” Surely, having God’s view of life was no burden to this family!
Serving Along With Jehovah’s Organized People
21, 22. (a) With whom does Jehovah expect us to serve him? (b) How can God’s organized people be identified?
21 We are not alone in making the changes needed to bring our lives into harmony with God’s standards. Jehovah has a people on this earth, and he expects us to serve him along with them. This brings us to the fourth requirement. We must serve Jehovah with his spirit-directed organization.
22 How, though, can God’s organized people be identified? According to the standards set out in the Scriptures, they have real love among themselves, they have deep respect for the Bible, they honor God’s name, they preach about his Kingdom, and they are no part of this wicked world. (Matthew 6:9; 24:14; John 13:34, 35; 17:16, 17) There is only one religious organization on this earth that has all these marks of true Christianity—Jehovah’s Witnesses!
23, 24. How can we illustrate that it is not a burden to serve Jehovah along with his organized people?
23 Is it a burden to serve Jehovah along with his organized people? No, indeed! On the contrary, it is a precious privilege to have the love and support of a worldwide family of Christian brothers and sisters. (1 Peter 2:17) Imagine surviving a shipwreck and finding yourself in the water, struggling to stay afloat. When you feel that you cannot make it any longer, a hand reaches out to you from a lifeboat. Yes, there are other survivors! In the lifeboat, you and the others take turns rowing to shore, picking up other survivors along the way.
24 Are we not in a similar situation? We have been pulled from the dangerous “waters” of this wicked world into the “lifeboat” of Jehovah’s earthly organization. Within it, we serve side by side as we head for the “shores” of a righteous new world. If the pressures of life should cause us to grow weary along the way, how thankful we are for the assistance and comfort of true Christian companions!—Proverbs 17:17.
25. (a) What obligation do we have toward those who are still in the “waters” of this wicked world? (b) What requirement of God will be discussed in the following article?
25 What about others—honesthearted people who are still in the “water”? We have an obligation to help them into Jehovah’s organization, do we not? (1 Timothy 2:3, 4) They need help to learn what God requires. This brings us to the fifth requirement of God. We must be loyal proclaimers of God’s Kingdom. What this involves will be discussed in the following article.
Do You Recall?
◻ Why are God’s commandments not burdensome?
◻ How do we take in knowledge of God?
◻ Why is it not a burden to measure up to God’s standards for right conduct and to accept his truth?
◻ What does God’s view of life and blood require of us?
◻ With whom does God expect us to serve him, and how can they be identified?
[Pictures on page 18]
We learn about Jehovah from the book of creation and from the Bible
Crocodile: By courtesy of Australian International Public Relations; bear: Safari-Zoo of Ramat-Gan, Tel Aviv