Walking With God—The Early Steps
“Draw close to God, and he will draw close to you.”—JAMES 4:8.
1, 2. Why would you say that it is a great privilege to serve Jehovah?
THE man had suffered in prison for years. Then he was summoned to appear before the ruler of the land. Events moved swiftly. Suddenly, the prisoner found himself in the service of the most powerful monarch then on the earth. The former prisoner was placed in a position of great responsibility and extraordinary honor. Joseph—the man whose feet were once bound with fetters—now walked with a king!—Genesis 41:14, 39-43; Psalm 105:17, 18.
2 Today, humans have the opportunity to engage in the service of someone far greater than Pharaoh of Egypt. The Supreme One of the universe invites all of us to serve him. What an awe-inspiring privilege it is to do so and to cultivate a close relationship with Jehovah, the almighty God! In the Scriptures, majestic power and splendor as well as serenity, beauty, and pleasantness are associated with him. (Ezekiel 1:26-28; Revelation 4:1-3) Love permeates all his dealings. (1 John 4:8) Never does he lie. (Numbers 23:19) And never does Jehovah disappoint those loyal to him. (Psalm 18:25) By conforming to his righteous requirements, we can enjoy happy, meaningful lives now, with everlasting life in view. (John 17:3) No human ruler offers anything remotely comparable to such blessings and privileges.
3. In what way did Noah ‘walk with the true God’?
3 Long ago, the patriarch Noah determined to live in harmony with God’s will and purpose. Concerning him, the Bible says: “Noah was a righteous man. He proved himself faultless among his contemporaries. Noah walked with the true God.” (Genesis 6:9) Of course, Noah did not literally walk with Jehovah, since no man has even “seen God at any time.” (John 1:18) Rather, Noah walked with God in that he did what God told him to do. Because Noah devoted his life to the doing of Jehovah’s will, he enjoyed a warm, intimate relationship with Almighty God. Like Noah, millions today are ‘walking with God’ by living in harmony with Jehovah’s counsel and instruction. How does a person begin such a course?
Accurate Knowledge Essential
4. How does Jehovah instruct his people?
4 To walk with Jehovah, we must first come to know him. The prophet Isaiah foretold: “It must occur in the final part of the days that the mountain of the house of Jehovah will become firmly established above the top of the mountains, and it will certainly be lifted up above the hills; and to it all the nations must stream. And many peoples will certainly go and say: ‘Come, you people, and let us go up to the mountain of Jehovah, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will instruct us about his ways, and we will walk in his paths.’ For out of Zion law will go forth, and the word of Jehovah out of Jerusalem.” (Isaiah 2:2, 3) Yes, we can have confidence that Jehovah will instruct all those seeking to walk in his ways. Jehovah has provided his Word, the Bible, and he helps us to understand it. One way he does this is through “the faithful and discreet slave.” (Matthew 24:45-47) Jehovah uses ‘the faithful slave’ to provide spiritual instruction by means of Bible-based publications, Christian meetings, and the free home-Bible-study arrangement. God also helps his people to understand his Word by means of his holy spirit.—1 Corinthians 2:10-16.
5. Why is Scriptural truth so precious?
5 Though we do not pay money for Bible truth, it is precious. As we study God’s Word, we learn about God himself—his name, his personality, his purpose, and the way he deals with humans. We also learn the liberating answers to life’s fundamental questions: Why are we here? Why does God permit suffering? What does the future hold? Why do we grow old and die? Is there life after death? Moreover, we learn what God’s will is for us, that is, how we should walk in order to please him fully. We learn that his requirements are reasonable and are wonderfully beneficial when we live up to them. Without God’s instruction, we could never understand such things.
6. What course does accurate Bible knowledge enable us to pursue?
6 Bible truth is powerful and moves us to make changes in our lives. (Hebrews 4:12) Before taking in knowledge of the Scriptures, we could walk only “according to the system of things of this world.” (Ephesians 2:2) But accurate knowledge of God’s Word maps out a different course for us so that we can “walk worthily of Jehovah to the end of fully pleasing him.” (Colossians 1:10) What a joy it is to take our early steps in walking with Jehovah, the most magnificent Person in the entire universe!—Luke 11:28.
Two Important Steps—Dedication and Baptism
7. As we study God’s Word, what truth about human leadership becomes evident?
7 When we grow in our understanding of the Bible, we begin to examine human affairs and our own lives in the spiritual light of God’s Word. An important truth thus becomes evident. That truth was expressed long ago by the prophet Jeremiah, who wrote: “I well know, O Jehovah, that to earthling man his way does not belong. It does not belong to man who is walking even to direct his step.” (Jeremiah 10:23) Humans—all of us—need God’s direction.
8. (a) What moves people to make a dedication to God? (b) What is Christian dedication?
8 Understanding this vital fact motivates us to seek guidance from Jehovah. And love for God moves us to dedicate our life to him. To make a dedication to God means to approach him in prayer and solemnly promise to use our life to serve him and to walk in his ways faithfully. In doing this, we follow the example of Jesus, who presented himself to Jehovah with firm determination to carry out the divine will.—Hebrews 10:7.
9. Why do individuals dedicate their life to Jehovah?
9 Jehovah God never pressures or coerces anyone to make a dedication to him. (Compare 2 Corinthians 9:7.) Moreover, God does not expect anyone to dedicate his life to Him because of some transient emotion. Before being baptized, a person must already be a disciple, and that requires earnest effort to take in knowledge. (Matthew 28:19, 20) Paul entreated those who were already baptized to ‘present their bodies a sacrifice living, holy, acceptable to God, a sacred service with their power of reason.’ (Romans 12:1) It is by a similar exercise of our power of reason that we make a dedication to Jehovah God. After learning what is involved and reasoning carefully on the matter, we willingly and joyfully dedicate our life to God.—Psalm 110:3.
10. How does dedication relate to baptism?
10 After approaching God privately in prayer to express our determination to walk in his ways, we take the next step. We make our dedication known publicly by our baptism in water. This is a public declaration that we have vowed to do God’s will. At the beginning of his earthly ministry, Jesus was baptized by John, thus setting an example for us. (Matthew 3:13-17) Later, Jesus commissioned his followers to make disciples and baptize them. Therefore, dedication and baptism are essential steps for any who wish to walk with Jehovah.
11, 12. (a) How might baptism be compared to a wedding? (b) What parallel can be drawn between our relationship with Jehovah and that existing between a husband and wife?
11 Becoming a dedicated, baptized disciple of Jesus Christ is somewhat similar to getting married. In many lands, the wedding day is preceded by several steps. A man and a woman meet, get to know each other, and fall in love. Next comes the engagement. The wedding makes public what has been decided upon in private—to enter wedlock and then live together as husband and wife. It is the wedding that publicly marks the beginning of that special relationship. That date marks the beginning of the marriage. Comparably, baptism marks the start of a life devoted to walking in a dedicated relationship with Jehovah.
12 Consider another parallel. After their wedding day, the love between husband and wife should deepen and mature. To draw ever closer to one another, both marriage mates must unselfishly strive to maintain and strengthen their marital relationship. Although we do not enter into a marriage with God, after our baptism we must work to maintain a close relationship with Jehovah. He observes and appreciates our efforts to do his will and draws close to us. “Draw close to God,” wrote the disciple James, “and he will draw close to you.”—James 4:8.
Walking in Jesus’ Footsteps
13. In walking with God, whose example should we follow?
13 To walk with Jehovah, we must conform to the example set by Jesus Christ. The apostle Peter wrote: “To this course you were called, because even Christ suffered for you, leaving you a model for you to follow his steps closely.” (1 Peter 2:21) Since Jesus was perfect and we are imperfect, we cannot flawlessly follow the example he set. Nevertheless, Jehovah expects us to do the best we can. Let us consider five features of Jesus’ life and ministry that dedicated Christians should strive to imitate.
14. What is involved in knowing God’s Word?
14 Jesus had an accurate and thorough knowledge of God’s Word. During his ministry, Jesus frequently quoted from the Hebrew Scriptures. (Luke 4:4, 8) Of course, the wicked religious leaders of those days also quoted from the Scriptures. (Matthew 22:23, 24) The difference was that Jesus understood what the Scriptures meant, and he applied them in his life. He knew not only the letter of the Law but also the spirit of it. As we follow Christ’s example, we too should strive to understand God’s Word, getting the sense, or spirit, of it. By doing so, we may become divinely approved workers who are able to ‘handle the word of the truth aright.’—2 Timothy 2:15.
15. How did Jesus set an example in speaking about God?
15 Christ Jesus spoke to others about his heavenly Father. Jesus did not keep his knowledge of God’s Word to himself. Even his enemies addressed him as “Teacher,” because everywhere he went he talked to others about Jehovah and His purposes. (Matthew 12:38) Jesus preached publicly in the temple area, in synagogues, in cities, and in the countryside. (Mark 1:39; Luke 8:1; John 18:20) He taught with compassion and kindness, showing love for the ones whom he helped. (Matthew 4:23) Those who follow Jesus’ example also find many places and ways to teach others about Jehovah God and his marvelous purposes.
16. How close was Jesus’ relationship with fellow worshipers of Jehovah?
16 Jesus felt a close bond with others who worshiped Jehovah. While Jesus was speaking to the crowds on one occasion, his mother and his unbelieving brothers came to speak with him. The Bible account says: “Someone said to him: ‘Look! Your mother and your brothers are standing outside, seeking to speak to you.’ As an answer he said to the one telling him: ‘Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?’ And extending his hand toward his disciples, he said: ‘Look! My mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father who is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother.’” (Matthew 12:47-50) This does not mean that Jesus rejected his family, for subsequent events prove that he did not do so. (John 19:25-27) Yet, this account emphasizes the love Jesus had for fellow believers. Similarly today, those who walk with God seek the companionship of other servants of Jehovah and grow to love them dearly.—1 Peter 4:8.
17. How did Jesus feel about doing his heavenly Father’s will, and how should that affect us?
17 By doing the divine will, Jesus showed love for his heavenly Father. Jesus obeyed Jehovah in everything. He said: “My food is for me to do the will of him that sent me and to finish his work.” (John 4:34) Christ also said: “I always do the things pleasing to [God].” (John 8:29) Jesus loved his heavenly Father so much that “he humbled himself and became obedient as far as death, yes, death on a torture stake.” (Philippians 2:8) In turn, Jehovah blessed Jesus, exalting him to a position of authority and honor second only to Jehovah himself. (Philippians 2:9-11) Like Jesus, we show our love for God by keeping his commandments and by doing his will.—1 John 5:3.
18. In what way did Jesus set an example in the matter of prayer?
18 Jesus was a man of prayer. He prayed at his baptism. (Luke 3:21) Before choosing his 12 apostles, he devoted the entire night to prayer. (Luke 6:12, 13) Jesus taught his disciples how to pray. (Luke 11:1-4) On the night before his death, he prayed for and with his disciples. (John 17:1-26) Prayer was an important part of Jesus’ life, even as it should be in our lives, since we are his followers. What an honor it is to speak to the Universal Sovereign in prayer! Furthermore, Jehovah answers prayers, for John wrote: “This is the confidence that we have toward him, that, no matter what it is that we ask according to his will, he hears us. Further, if we know he hears us respecting whatever we are asking, we know we are to have the things asked since we have asked them of him.”—1 John 5:14, 15.
19. (a) What qualities of Jesus should we imitate? (b) In what ways do we benefit from studying Jesus’ life and ministry?
19 There is so much to learn from closely examining the earthly life and ministry of Jesus Christ! Reflect on the qualities he manifested: love, compassion, kindness, strength, balance, reasonableness, humility, courage, and unselfishness. The more we learn about Jesus, the greater is our desire to be his faithful followers. Knowledge of Jesus also draws us closer to Jehovah. After all, Jesus was a perfect reflection of his heavenly Father. So intimate was he with Jehovah that he could say: “He that has seen me has seen the Father also.”—John 14:9.
Trust in God to Sustain You
20. How may we gain confidence in walking with Jehovah?
20 When children are just learning to walk, their steps are unsteady. How do they learn to walk with confidence? Only with practice and perseverance. Well, those walking with Jehovah strive to walk with a confident, steady stride. This too requires time and perseverance. Paul pointed out the importance of perseverance in walking with God when he wrote: “Finally, brothers, we request you and exhort you by the Lord Jesus, just as you received the instruction from us on how you ought to walk and please God, just as you are in fact walking, that you would keep on doing it more fully.”—1 Thessalonians 4:1.
21. As we walk with Jehovah, what blessings can we enjoy?
21 If we are wholly devoted to God, he will help us to keep on walking with him. (Isaiah 40:29-31) Nothing this world has to offer can compare with the blessings that he bestows on those walking in his ways. He is ‘the One teaching us to benefit ourselves, the One causing us to tread in the way in which we should walk. And if we actually pay attention to his commandments, our peace will become just like a river, and our righteousness like the waves of the sea.’ (Isaiah 48:17, 18) By accepting the invitation to walk with God and by faithfully doing so, we can enjoy peace with him forever.
How Would You Respond?
□ Why is it an honor to walk with the true God?
□ Why are study, dedication, and baptism early steps in walking with Jehovah?
□ How might we follow in the footsteps of Jesus?
□ How do we know that Jehovah will sustain us as we walk with him?
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Study, dedication, and baptism are early steps in walking with God