How Precious Is the Truth to You?
“You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”—JOHN 8:32.
1. How did Pilate’s use of the word “truth” apparently differ from Jesus’ use of it?
“WHAT is truth?” When Pilate asked this question, his interest, such as it was, appeared to refer to truth in general. Jesus, on the other hand, had just said: “For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth.” (John 18:37, 38) Unlike Pilate, Jesus used the definite article and said “the truth.” He was referring to divine truth.
The World’s Attitude to the Truth
2. What statement of Jesus shows the value of truth?
2 Paul said: “Faith is not a possession of all people.” (2 Thessalonians 3:2) The same can be said of the truth. Even when confronted with truth based on the Bible, many people deliberately ignore it. Yet, how precious it is! Jesus said: “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”—John 8:32.
3. What warning regarding deceptive teachings should we heed?
3 The apostle Paul said that the truth was not to be found in human philosophies and traditions. (Colossians 2:8) Indeed, such teachings are deceptive. Paul warned Ephesian Christians that if they put faith in them, they would be like spiritual babes “tossed about as by waves . . . by every wind of teaching by means of the trickery of men, by means of cunning in contriving error.” (Ephesians 4:14) Today, “trickery of men” is promoted by the propaganda of those who oppose divine truth. “Propaganda” is defined by The New Encyclopædia Britannica as “the systematic effort to manipulate other people’s beliefs, attitudes, or actions.” Such propaganda cunningly twists truth into falsehood and promotes lies as truth. To find the truth in the face of such insidious pressures, we must diligently consult the Scriptures.
Christians and the World
4. To whom is the truth made available, and what is the obligation of those who receive it?
4 Referring to those who had become his disciples, Jesus Christ prayed to Jehovah: “Sanctify them by means of the truth; your word is truth.” (John 17:17) Such ones would be sanctified, or set apart, for the purpose of serving Jehovah and making known his name and Kingdom. (Matthew 6:9, 10; 24:14) Although not the possession of all people, Jehovah’s truth is available as a free gift to all who seek it, whatever their nationality, race, or cultural background. The apostle Peter said: “I perceive that God is not partial, but in every nation the man that fears him and works righteousness is acceptable to him.”—Acts 10:34, 35.
5. Why are Christians often persecuted?
5 Christians share Bible truth with others but are not welcomed everywhere. Jesus warned: “People will deliver you up to tribulation and will kill you, and you will be objects of hatred by all the nations on account of my name.” (Matthew 24:9) Commenting on this verse, Irish cleric John R. Cotter wrote in 1817: “Their [Christians’] endeavours to reform the lives of mankind by their preaching, so far from making the people feel grateful, would, in reality, cause them to hate and persecute the disciples for exposing their vices.” Such persecutors do not “accept the love of the truth that they might be saved.” For this reason, “God lets an operation of error go to them, that they may get to believing the lie, in order that they all may be judged because they did not believe the truth but took pleasure in unrighteousness.”—2 Thessalonians 2:10-12.
6. What desires should a Christian not cultivate?
6 The apostle John admonishes Christians living in this hostile world: “Do not be loving either the world or the things in the world. . . . Everything in the world—the desire of the flesh and the desire of the eyes and the showy display of one’s means of life—does not originate with the Father, but originates with the world.” (1 John 2:15, 16) In saying “everything,” John excludes nothing. For this reason we dare not cultivate a desire for anything this world has to offer that could divert us from the truth. Heeding John’s counsel will exert a powerful influence on our lives. How?
7. How does a knowledge of the truth motivate righthearted ones?
7 During the year 2001, Jehovah’s Witnesses worldwide each month conducted over four and a half million home Bible studies, instructing individuals and groups in the divine requirements for life. As a result, 263,431 persons were baptized. The light of the truth became precious to these new disciples, and they repudiated the bad associations and immoral, God-dishonoring ways that are rampant in this world. Since being baptized, they have continued to live by the standards Jehovah sets for all Christians. (Ephesians 5:5) Is the truth that precious to you?
Jehovah Cares for Us
8. How does Jehovah respond to our dedication, and why is it wise to ‘seek first the kingdom’?
8 Despite our imperfections, Jehovah graciously accepts our dedication, reaching down, as it were, to draw us to him. He thereby teaches us to elevate our goals and desires. (Psalm 113:6-8) At the same time, Jehovah allows us to have a personal relationship with him, and he promises to care for us if we “keep on . . . seeking first the kingdom and his righteousness.” If we do this and safeguard ourselves spiritually, he promises: “All these other things will be added to you.”—Matthew 6:33.
9. Who is “the faithful and discreet slave,” and using this “slave,” how does Jehovah care for us?
9 Jesus Christ selected his 12 apostles and laid the foundation for the congregation of anointed Christians that came to be called “the Israel of God.” (Galatians 6:16; Revelation 21:9, 14) This was later described as “the congregation of the living God, a pillar and support of the truth.” (1 Timothy 3:15) Jesus identified members of that congregation as “the faithful and discreet slave” and as “the faithful steward, the discreet one.” That faithful servant, Jesus said, would be responsible for giving Christians “their measure of food supplies at the proper time.” (Matthew 24:3, 45-47; Luke 12:42) Without food we starve to death. Likewise, without partaking of spiritual food, we weaken and die spiritually. Therefore, the existence of “the faithful and discreet slave” is yet another proof that Jehovah cares for us. May we always appreciate the precious spiritual provisions made for us through that “slave.”—Matthew 5:3.
10. Why is it vital for us to be present at meetings regularly?
10 Taking in spiritual food involves personal study. It also involves associating with other Christians and attending congregation meetings. Do you remember precisely what you ate six months, or even six weeks, ago? Probably not. Still, whatever you ate provided the nourishment you needed to sustain you. And you have likely eaten similar food since. The same is true of spiritual food provided at our Christian meetings. Perhaps we do not recall every detail of what we have heard at the meetings. And similar information has likely been provided more than once. Still, it is spiritual food, vital for our well-being. Our meetings always supply good spiritual sustenance, served at an appropriate time.
11. What obligations do we have when attending Christian meetings?
11 Attending Christian meetings also places a responsibility on us. Christians are admonished to ‘encourage one another,’ inciting fellow members of the congregation to “love and fine works.” Our preparing for, attending, and participating in all Christian meetings is faith-strengthening for us individually and encouraging to others. (Hebrews 10:23-25) Like young children who can be choosy about food, some may need constant encouragement to take in spiritual nourishment. (Ephesians 4:13) It is loving to provide that encouragement when needed so that such ones can develop into mature Christians, of whom the apostle Paul wrote: “Solid food belongs to mature people, to those who through use have their perceptive powers trained to distinguish both right and wrong.”—Hebrews 5:14.
Caring for Ourselves Spiritually
12. Who has the ultimate responsibility for our remaining in the truth? Explain.
12 Our marriage mate or our parents can encourage us in the way of the truth. Likewise, congregation elders can shepherd us as part of the flock under their care. (Acts 20:28) But where does the ultimate responsibility lie if we are to persevere in our way of life based on the truth? Really, the responsibility rests with each one of us. And that is true both under normal circumstances and in difficult times. Consider the following incident.
13, 14. As illustrated by an experience involving a lamb, how can we get the needed spiritual help?
13 In Scotland some young lambs were grazing in a pasture when one of them strayed to the side of a hillock and tumbled onto a ledge below. It was uninjured, but it was frightened and unable to climb back. So it started to bleat plaintively. Its mother heard it, and she too began to bleat until the shepherd came and retrieved the young lamb.
14 Notice the sequence of events. The lamb called for help, the ewe added her voice to its cries, and the alerted shepherd sprang into action to rescue it. If a very young animal and its mother can sense danger and immediately call for help, should we not do the same when we stumble spiritually or face unexpected dangers from Satan’s world? (James 5:14, 15; 1 Peter 5:8) We should, especially if we are lacking in experience either because we are young or because we are relatively new in the truth.
Following Divine Direction Brings Happiness
15. How did one woman feel when she began to associate with the Christian congregation?
15 Consider the value of Bible understanding and the peace of mind that it brings to those who serve the God of truth. A 70-year-old woman who had attended the Church of England all her life agreed to have a personal Bible study with one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. She soon learned that the name of God is Jehovah and joined in saying “Amen” to the heartfelt public prayers offered at the local Kingdom Hall. With great feeling she said: “Rather than portraying God as being so far above us mere mortals, you seem to bring him right into our midst like a dear friend. It is something I have never experienced before.” Likely, that dear interested person will never forget the first impression the truth made on her. May we, likewise, never forget how precious the truth was to us when we first accepted it.
16. (a) What could happen if we make the gaining of money our chief goal? (b) How can we find true happiness?
16 Many believe that if they had more money, they would be happier. However, if we make the gaining of money our chief goal in life, we might suffer “untold agonies of mind.” (1 Timothy 6:10, Phillips) Consider how many buy lottery tickets, spend money in casinos, or speculate recklessly in the stock market, dreaming of making a fortune. Very, very few see the fortune they hope for. And often even those who do see it find that their sudden wealth does not bring happiness. Rather, abiding happiness comes from doing Jehovah’s will, working with the Christian congregation with the guidance of Jehovah’s holy spirit and the help of his angels. (Psalm 1:1-3; 84:4, 5; 89:15) When we do this, unexpected blessings may come our way. Is the truth precious enough to you to bring such blessings into your life?
17. What did Peter’s staying with Simon, a tanner, reveal about the apostle’s attitude?
17 Consider an experience of the apostle Peter. In the year 36 C.E., he made a missionary journey to the Plain of Sharon. He stopped at Lydda, where he cured paralyzed Aeneas and then proceeded to the seaport of Joppa. There he resurrected Dorcas. Acts 9:43 tells us: “For quite a few days he remained in Joppa with a certain Simon, a tanner.” This fleeting reference reveals Peter’s unprejudiced attitude as he ministered to the people in that city. How? Bible scholar Frederic W. Farrar writes: “At the house of a tanner no strict and uncompromising follower of the Oral [Mosaic] Law could have been induced to dwell. The daily contact with the hides and carcases of various animals necessitated by this trade, and the materials which it requires, rendered it impure and disgusting in the eyes of all rigid legalists.” Even if Simon’s “house by the sea” was not adjacent to his tannery, Simon was engaged in ‘a trade that was looked on with disgust and thus tended to lower the self-respect of all who undertook it,’ says Farrar.—Acts 10:6.
18, 19. (a) Why was Peter perplexed at a vision he received? (b) What unexpected blessing came Peter’s way?
18 The unprejudiced Peter accepted Simon’s hospitality, and there Peter received unexpected divine direction. He saw a vision in which he was commanded to eat creatures unclean according to Jewish law. Peter protested that he had never “eaten anything defiled and unclean.” But three times he was told: “Stop calling defiled the things God has cleansed.” Understandably, “Peter was in great perplexity inwardly over what the vision he had seen might mean.”—Acts 10:5-17; 11:7-10.
19 Peter was unaware that the preceding day in Caesarea, 30 miles [50 km] away, a Gentile named Cornelius had also had a vision. Jehovah’s angel had instructed Cornelius to send servants to locate Peter in the house of Simon the tanner. Cornelius sent his servants to Simon’s house, and Peter accompanied them back to Caesarea. There he preached to Cornelius and his relatives and friends. As a result, they became the first uncircumcised Gentile believers to receive the holy spirit as Kingdom heirs. Even though the men were uncircumcised, all those hearing Peter’s word were baptized. This opened up the way for people of the nations, viewed as unclean from a Jewish standpoint, to become members of the Christian congregation. (Acts 10:1-48; 11:18) What an extraordinary privilege for Peter—all because the truth was precious to him and led him to heed direction from Jehovah and act in faith!
20. What divine assistance are we given when we put the truth first in our lives?
20 Paul exhorts: “Speaking the truth, let us by love grow up in all things into him who is the head, Christ.” (Ephesians 4:15) Yes, the truth will bring us unparalleled happiness now if we put it first in our lives and allow Jehovah through his holy spirit to direct our steps. Also keep in mind the support of the holy angels in our evangelizing activity. (Revelation 14:6, 7; 22:6) How privileged we are to have such backing in the work Jehovah has commissioned us to do! Maintaining integrity will lead us to praise Jehovah, the God of truth, for all eternity. Could anything be more precious than that?—John 17:3.
What Have We Learned?
• Why do many not accept the truth?
• How should Christians view the things of Satan’s world?
• What should be our attitude toward meetings, and why?
• What responsibility do we have to care for ourselves spiritually?
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PLAIN OF SHARON
Peter followed divine direction and reaped unexpected blessings
Map: Mountain High Maps® Copyright © 1997 Digital Wisdom, Inc.
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Jesus bore witness to the truth
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Like physical food, spiritual food is vital for our well-being