Prove to Be a Real Follower of Christ
“Every good tree produces fine fruit, but every rotten tree produces worthless fruit.”—MATT. 7:17.
1, 2. How are Christ’s true followers set apart from the false, especially during this time of the end?
JESUS said that those falsely professing to serve him would be distinguished from his true followers by their fruits—their teachings and their conduct. (Matt. 7:15-17, 20) Indeed, people are inevitably influenced by what they take into their mind and heart. (Matt. 15:18, 19) Those who are fed falsehoods produce “worthless fruit,” whereas those who are taught spiritual truth produce “fine fruit.”
2 The two kinds of fruits have become clearly manifest during this time of the end. (Read Daniel 12:3, 10.) False Christians have a distorted view of God and often a hypocritical form of godly devotion, whereas those having spiritual insight worship God “with spirit and truth.” (John 4:24; 2 Tim. 3:1-5) They strive to display Christlike qualities. But what about us personally? As you consider the following five identifying marks of true Christianity, ask yourself: ‘Do my conduct and teachings clearly harmonize with God’s Word? Do I beautify the truth in the eyes of those searching for it?’
Live by God’s Word
3. What pleases Jehovah, and what does this involve for true Christians?
3 “Not everyone saying to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter into the kingdom of the heavens,” said Jesus, “but the one doing the will of my Father who is in the heavens will.” (Matt. 7:21) Yes, it is not the professing of Christianity that pleases Jehovah but the practicing of it. For Christ’s true followers, that involves their whole way of life, including their attitude toward money, secular work, entertainment, worldly customs and celebrations, and marriage and other relationships with fellow humans. False Christians, however, adopt the thinking and ways of the world, which have become increasingly ungodly during these last days.—Ps. 92:7.
4, 5. How can we apply Jehovah’s words found at Malachi 3:18 in our life?
4 Accordingly, the prophet Malachi wrote: “You people will again certainly see the distinction between a righteous one and a wicked one, between one serving God and one who has not served him.” (Mal. 3:18) As you reflect on those words, ask yourself: ‘Do I blend in with the world, or do I stand out as different? Do I always strive to fit in with my secular associates, whether at school or at work, or do I remain firm for Bible principles, even speaking up when appropriate?’ (Read 1 Peter 3:16.) Of course, we do not want to appear self-righteous, but we should stand out as different from those who do not love and serve Jehovah.
5 If you see room for improvement, why not pray about the matter and seek spiritual strength through regular Bible study, prayer, and meeting attendance? The more God’s Word becomes a part of you, the more you will produce “fine fruit,” including “the fruit of lips which make public declaration to [God’s] name.”—Heb. 13:15.
Advocate God’s Kingdom
6, 7. In regard to the Kingdom message, what contrast can be seen between true and false Christians?
6 Jesus said: “To other cities I must declare the good news of the kingdom of God, because for this I was sent forth.” (Luke 4:43) Why did Jesus make God’s Kingdom the main theme of his ministry? He knew that he himself as King of that Kingdom, along with his resurrected spirit-begotten brothers, would deal with the root causes of mankind’s woes—sin and the Devil. (Rom. 5:12; Rev. 20:10) Hence, he commanded his followers to proclaim that Kingdom until the end of the present system of things. (Matt. 24:14) People who merely profess to be followers of Christ do not engage in this work—in fact, they cannot. Why? For at least three reasons: First, they cannot preach what they do not understand. Second, most of them lack the humility and courage needed to face the ridicule and opposition that may result from sharing the Kingdom message with their neighbors. (Matt. 24:9; 1 Pet. 2:23) And third, false Christians do not have God’s spirit.—John 14:16, 17.
7 Christ’s true followers, on the other hand, understand what God’s Kingdom is and what it will accomplish. Moreover, they give the interests of that Kingdom priority in life, proclaiming it worldwide, with the help of Jehovah’s spirit. (Zech. 4:6) Are you having a regular share in this work? Are you trying to improve as a Kingdom proclaimer, perhaps by spending more time in the ministry or by being more effective in it? Some have tried to improve the quality of their ministry by making better use of the Bible. “The word of God is alive and exerts power,” wrote the apostle Paul, who made it his custom to reason from the Scriptures.—Heb. 4:12; Acts 17:2, 3.
8, 9. (a) What experiences highlight the value of using the Bible in our ministry? (b) How can we become more adept at using God’s Word?
8 When in the door-to-door work, a brother read Daniel 2:44 to a Catholic man and explained how God’s Kingdom will bring about true peace and security. The man responded: “I really appreciate your opening the Bible and showing me what the scripture said instead of just telling me.” When a brother read a scripture to a Greek Orthodox woman, she asked a number of good questions. In this case too, the brother, along with his wife, answered from the Bible. Later, the woman said: “Do you know why I was willing to talk with you? You came to my door with the Bible, and you read from it.”
9 Of course, our literature is important and should be offered in the field. The Bible, however, is our primary tool. So if it has not been your custom to use it regularly in your ministry, why not make it your goal to do so? Perhaps you could select a few key texts that explain what God’s Kingdom is and how it will solve specific problems that concern people in your neighborhood. Then be prepared to read them as you preach from door to door.
Proudly Bear God’s Name
10, 11. Regarding the use of God’s name, what contrast is there between Jesus and many who claim to follow him?
10 “‘You are my witnesses,’ is the utterance of Jehovah, ‘and I am God.’” (Isa. 43:12) Jehovah’s preeminent Witness, Jesus Christ, considered it an honor to bear God’s name and to make it known. (Read Exodus 3:15; John 17:6; Hebrews 2:12.) In fact, because Jesus proclaimed his Father’s name, he was called “the Faithful Witness.”—Rev. 1:5; Matt. 6:9.
11 In contrast, many who claim to represent God and his Son have displayed a shameful attitude toward the divine name, even removing it from their versions of the Bible. Reflecting a similar spirit, a recent directive to Catholic bishops said that “the name of God in the form of the tetragrammaton YHWH is neither to be used or pronounced” during worship.a How reprehensible such thinking is!
12. How did Jehovah’s servants become even more closely identified with Jehovah in the year 1931?
12 In imitation of both Christ and the great “cloud of witnesses” who preceded him, true Christians proudly use God’s name. (Heb. 12:1) In fact, in the year 1931, God’s servants became even more closely identified with Jehovah by accepting the name Jehovah’s Witnesses. (Read Isaiah 43:10-12.) Thus, in a very special sense, Christ’s true followers became a “people who are called by [God’s] name.”—Acts 15:14, 17.
13. How can we live up to our God-given name?
13 How can we personally live up to our unique name? For one thing, we must faithfully bear witness to God. “Everyone who calls on the name of Jehovah will be saved,” wrote Paul. “However, how will they call on him in whom they have not put faith? How, in turn, will they put faith in him of whom they have not heard? How, in turn, will they hear without someone to preach? How, in turn, will they preach unless they have been sent forth?” (Rom. 10:13-15) Also, we should tactfully expose religious falsehoods that malign our Creator, such as the doctrine of hellfire, which in reality attributes to the God of love the cruel traits of the Devil.—Jer. 7:31; 1 John 4:8; compare Mark 9:17-27.
14. When learning of God’s personal name, how have some responded?
14 Are you proud to bear the name of your heavenly Father? Do you help others to come to know that holy name? A woman in Paris, France, heard that Jehovah’s Witnesses knew the name of God, so she asked the next Witness she met to show her that name in her Bible. When she read Psalm 83:18, the impact was profound. She began to study the Bible and is now a faithful sister serving in another land. When a Catholic lady living in Australia saw God’s name in the Bible for the first time, she wept for joy. For many years now, she has been a regular pioneer. More recently, when Witnesses in Jamaica showed a woman there God’s name in her own Bible, she too shed tears of joy. So be proud to bear God’s name and, in imitation of Jesus, to make that precious name manifest to all.
“Do Not Be Loving . . . the World”
15, 16. How do true Christians view the world, and what questions should we ask ourselves?
15 “Do not be loving either the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” (1 John 2:15) The world and its fleshly spirit stand in opposition to Jehovah and his holy spirit. Hence, Christ’s true followers do not merely refrain from being a part of the world. They reject it at heart, knowing that as the disciple James wrote, “friendship with the world is enmity with God.”—Jas. 4:4.
16 It can be a challenge to heed James’ words in a world that offers countless temptations. (2 Tim. 4:10) Jesus therefore prayed in behalf of his followers: “I request you, not to take them out of the world, but to watch over them because of the wicked one. They are no part of the world, just as I am no part of the world.” (John 17:15, 16) Ask yourself: ‘Do I strive to be no part of the world? Do others know my stand on unscriptural celebrations and customs as well as on those that may not have a pagan origin but clearly reflect the spirit of the world?’—2 Cor. 6:17; 1 Pet. 4:3, 4.
17. What may move honesthearted ones to take sides with Jehovah?
17 To be sure, our Bible-based stand will not win us the world’s favor, but it may arouse the curiosity of honesthearted ones. Indeed, when such individuals observe that our faith is firmly rooted in the Scriptures and involves our whole way of life, they may respond by, in effect, saying to the anointed: “We will go with you people, for we have heard that God is with you people.”—Zech. 8:23.
Show True Christian Love
18. What is involved in showing love for Jehovah and our neighbor?
18 Jesus said: “You must love Jehovah your God with your whole heart and with your whole soul and with your whole mind” and “you must love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matt. 22:37, 39) That love (a·gaʹpe in Greek) is a moral love that takes into account duty, principle, and propriety, but it often includes strong emotion. It can be warm and intense. (1 Pet. 1:22) It is the very opposite of selfishness, for it is reflected in selfless words and deeds.—Read 1 Corinthians 13:4-7.
19, 20. Relate some experiences that show the power of Christian love.
19 Because love is a product of God’s holy spirit, it enables true Christians to do what others cannot do, such as overcome racial, cultural, and political barriers. (Read John 13:34, 35; Gal. 5:22) Sheeplike ones cannot help but be moved when they see such love. For example, when a young Jewish man in Israel attended his first Christian meeting, he was amazed to see Jewish and Arab brothers worshipping Jehovah side by side. As a result, he began to attend meetings regularly and accepted a Bible study. Do you show such heartfelt love to your brothers? And do you make it a point to extend a warm welcome to newcomers at your Kingdom Hall, regardless of their nationality, skin color, or social standing?
20 As true Christians, we strive to show love toward all. In El Salvador, a young publisher was studying the Bible with an 87-year-old Catholic woman who clung to her church. One day, the woman became gravely ill and was hospitalized. When she returned home, the Witnesses called and made sure that she had food. This went on for about a month. Nobody from the woman’s church visited. The result? She discarded her images, resigned from her church, and resumed her Bible study. Yes, Christian love has power! It can reach hearts in ways that the spoken word may not.
21. How can we make our future secure?
21 Soon, Jesus will say to all who falsely claim to serve him: “I never knew you! Get away from me, you workers of lawlessness.” (Matt. 7:23) Let us, therefore, produce fruitage that honors both the Father and the Son. “Everyone that hears these sayings of mine and does them,” said Jesus, “will be likened to a discreet man, who built his house upon the rock-mass.” (Matt. 7:24) Yes, if we prove to be real followers of Christ, we will receive God’s favor, and our future will be secure, as if founded on rock!
a Some modern Catholic publications in English, including The Jerusalem Bible, render the tetragrammaton “Yahweh.”
Do You Remember?
• How are Christ’s true followers distinguished from the false?
• Name some “fruits” that identify true Christians.
• In producing Christian fruitage, what goals can you set?
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Is it your custom to use the Bible regularly in your ministry?
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Do others know your stand on unscriptural celebrations?