God’s Rest—Have You Entered Into It?
“The word of God is alive and exerts power.”—HEB. 4:12.
1. What is one way we can enter into God’s rest today, but why might that be easier said than done?
IN THE preceding article, we saw that we can enter into God’s rest by obediently working along with his purposes. That might be easier said than done. When we learn that Jehovah disapproves of something that we enjoy, for example, our initial reaction might be to rebel. That indicates that we need to make progress in the realm of being “ready to obey.” (Jas. 3:17) In this article, we will review a few areas in which our willingness to fit in with God’s purpose—to be obedient from the heart—could be put to the test.
2, 3. What efforts must we continue to make in order to remain desirable from Jehovah’s standpoint?
2 How well do you do in the matter of accepting Bible-based counsel? The Scriptures tell us that it is God’s will to gather to himself “the desirable things of all the nations.” (Hag. 2:7) Of course, most of us were far from desirable when we first learned the truth. However, love for God and for his dear Son impelled us to make significant changes in our attitude and habits so as to be fully pleasing to God. Finally, after much prayer and effort on our part, the blessed day arrived when we were able to present ourselves for Christian baptism.—Read Colossians 1:9, 10.
3 The battle against imperfection did not end with our baptism, however. The fight continued and will continue as long as we are imperfect. We are assured, though, that if we keep up the struggle and are determined to become ever more desirable in God’s eyes, Jehovah will bless our efforts.
When Counsel Is Needed
4. In what three ways might we receive Scriptural counsel?
4 Before we can begin to address our imperfections, we have to know what they are. A heart-searching discourse at the Kingdom Hall or a thought-provoking article in one of our publications may expose a serious flaw. On the other hand, if we miss the point when it is presented in a talk or fail to make personal application of the written counsel, Jehovah may use a fellow Christian to draw our shortcoming to our attention.—Read Galatians 6:1.
5. Name some undesirable ways in which we might react when we are given counsel, and explain why Christian shepherds must persist in their efforts to help us.
5 It is not easy to accept counsel from an imperfect human, no matter how tactfully and lovingly the counsel is presented. Yet, as Galatians 6:1 points out, Jehovah commands those with spiritual qualifications to “try” to adjust us, doing so “in a spirit of mildness.” If we respond favorably, we will become even more desirable in God’s sight. Curiously, when we pray, we freely admit that we are imperfect. However, when someone draws a specific failing to our attention, the tendency is to try to justify ourselves, minimize the problem, question the motive of the counselor, or object to the way in which the counsel was delivered. (2 Ki. 5:11) And if the counsel touches a particularly sensitive area—the actions of a family member, our dress and grooming, our personal hygiene, or a form of recreation that we enjoy but that Jehovah hates—we might react quite negatively, to our own surprise and to our counselor’s dismay! But after we calm down, we usually concede that the counsel was appropriate.
6. How does God’s word reveal the “thoughts and intentions of the heart”?
6 The caption text for this article reminds us that the word of God “exerts power.” Yes, God’s word exerts power to change lives. It is just as effective in helping us make needed changes after our baptism as it was prior to our taking that step. In his letter to the Hebrews, Paul also writes that the word of God “pierces even to the dividing of soul and spirit, and of joints and their marrow, and is able to discern thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Heb. 4:12) In other words, when we clearly understand God’s purpose for us, the way we respond to it reveals what we are deep inside. Is there sometimes a difference between what we appear to be (the “soul”) and who we really are (the “spirit”)? (Read Matthew 23:27, 28.) Consider how you would react in the following situations.
Keep Pace With Jehovah’s Organization
7, 8. (a) What might have motivated some Jewish Christians to cling to certain practices of the Mosaic Law? (b) How did their efforts square with Jehovah’s advancing purpose?
7 Many of us can quote Proverbs 4:18 from memory: “The path of the righteous ones is like the bright light that is getting lighter and lighter until the day is firmly established.” That means that our conduct and our understanding of God’s purposes will improve over time.
8 As we discussed in the preceding article, after Jesus’ death it was difficult for many Jewish Christians to break free from the Mosaic Law. (Acts 21:20) Although Paul skillfully argued that Christians were no longer under the Law, some rejected his inspired reasoning. (Col. 2:13-15) Perhaps they felt that if they continued to observe at least portions of the Law, they would avoid persecution. In any case, Paul wrote to the Hebrew Christians and plainly told them that they could not enter into God’s rest as long as they refused to work in harmony with His unfolding purpose.* (Heb. 4:1, 2, 6; read Hebrews 4:11.) To gain Jehovah’s approval, they would have to face the fact that he was leading his people in a different direction.
9. What attitude should we have when adjustments are made in our understanding of Scriptural matters?
9 In modern times, there have been refinements in our understanding of certain Bible teachings. This should not trouble us; it should bolster our confidence in the faithful and discreet slave class. When representative members of the “slave” discern that our viewpoint on some point of truth needs to be clarified or corrected, they do not hold back from making the adjustment. The slave class is more interested in cooperating with God’s unfolding purpose than in shielding itself from criticism over an adjusted understanding. How do you react when an adjustment in our understanding of the Scriptures is presented?—Read Luke 5:39.
10, 11. What lessons can be learned from the reaction of some when new methods of preaching the good news were introduced?
10 Let us consider another example. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, certain Bible Students who were excellent public speakers felt that they could best carry out the commission to preach by delivering well-prepared talks to appreciative audiences. They enjoyed public speaking, and some of them fairly basked in the warm adulation of their listeners. However, it later became evident that Jehovah desires his people to get busy in a variety of forms of preaching, including the house-to-house work. Some accomplished public speakers flatly refused to try anything new. Outwardly, they appeared to be spiritual men, fully devoted to the Lord. However, when faced with clear evidence of God’s purpose regarding the preaching work, their real thoughts, intentions, and motives became manifest. How did Jehovah feel about them? He did not bless them. They left the organization.—Matt. 10:1-6; Acts 5:42; 20:20.
11 That is not to say that it was easy for all who remained loyal to the organization to preach publicly. Many found the work challenging, especially at first. But they were obedient. In time, they overcame their anxiety, and Jehovah richly blessed them. How do you react when you are invited to share in some form of the preaching work that is presently out of your comfort zone? Are you willing to try something new?
When Someone We Love Leaves Jehovah
12, 13. (a) What is Jehovah’s purpose in having unrepentant wrongdoers disfellowshipped? (b) What test do some Christian parents face, and what makes the test so difficult?
12 No doubt we all agree with the principle that we must be physically, morally, and spiritually clean in order to please God. (Read Titus 2:14.) There may be occasions, though, when our loyalty to this aspect of God’s purpose is sorely tested. Suppose, for example, that the only son of an exemplary Christian couple leaves the truth. Preferring “the temporary enjoyment of sin” to a personal relationship with Jehovah and with his godly parents, the young man is disfellowshipped.—Heb. 11:25.
13 The parents are devastated! On the subject of disfellowshipping, they know, of course, that the Bible says “to quit mixing in company with anyone called a brother that is a fornicator or a greedy person or an idolater or a reviler or a drunkard or an extortioner, not even eating with such a man.” (1 Cor. 5:11, 13) They also realize that the word “anyone” in this verse includes family members not living under their roof. But they love their son so much! Strong emotions might cause them to reason: ‘How can we help our boy return to Jehovah if we severely limit our association with him? Would we not accomplish more by maintaining regular contact with him?’*
14, 15. What is the real decision that parents of disfellowshipped children must make?
14 Our hearts go out to those parents. After all, their son had a choice, and he chose to pursue his unchristian lifestyle rather than to continue to enjoy close association with his parents and other fellow believers. The parents, on the other hand, had no say in the matter. No wonder they feel helpless!
15 But what will those dear parents do? Will they obey Jehovah’s clear direction? Or will they rationalize that they can have regular association with their disfellowshipped son and call it “necessary family business”? In making their decision, they must not fail to consider how Jehovah feels about what they are doing. His purpose is to keep the organization clean and, if possible, to incite wrongdoers to come to their senses. How can Christian parents support that purpose?
16, 17. What can we learn by meditating on Aaron’s example?
16 Moses’ brother, Aaron, faced a difficult situation with regard to two of his sons. Think of how he must have felt when his sons Nadab and Abihu offered illegitimate fire to Jehovah and He struck them dead. Of course, that ended any association those men could have had with their parents. But there is more. Jehovah instructed Aaron and his faithful sons: “Do not let your heads go ungroomed, and you must not tear your garments [in mourning], that you may not die and that [Jehovah] may not become indignant against all the assembly.” (Lev. 10:1-6) The message is clear. Our love for Jehovah must be stronger than our love for unfaithful family members.
17 Today, Jehovah does not immediately execute those who violate his laws. He lovingly gives them an opportunity to repent from their unrighteous works. How would Jehovah feel, though, if the parents of an unrepentant wrongdoer kept putting Him to the test by having unnecessary association with their disfellowshipped son or daughter?
18, 19. What blessings can come to family members who work along with Jehovah’s instructions regarding disfellowshipped ones?
18 Many who were once disfellowshipped now freely admit that the firm stand taken by their friends and family members helped them come to their senses. In recommending the reinstatement of one young woman, the elders wrote that she had cleaned up her life “partly because of her fleshly brother’s respect for the disfellowshipping arrangement.” She said that “his faithful adherence to Scriptural guidelines helped her to want to return.”
19 What conclusion should we draw? That we need to fight against the tendency of our imperfect hearts to rebel against Scriptural counsel. We must be absolutely convinced that God’s way of dealing with our problems is always best.
“The Word of God Is Alive”
20. In what two ways can Hebrews 4:12 be applied? (See footnote.)
20 When Paul wrote that “the word of God is alive,” he was not referring specifically to God’s written Word, the Bible.* The context shows that he was referring to God’s word of promise. Paul’s point was that God does not make a promise and then forget about it. Jehovah established this through the prophet Isaiah: “My word . . . will not return to me without results, but it will . . . have certain success in that for which I have sent it.” (Isa. 55:11) Thus, there is no need for us to become impatient when things do not move ahead as quickly as we might wish. Jehovah ‘keeps working’ with a view to bringing his purpose to a successful conclusion.—John 5:17.
21. How can Hebrews 4:12 be an encouragement to faithful older members of the “great crowd”?
21 Faithful older members of the “great crowd” have served Jehovah for decades. (Rev. 7:9) Many never expected to grow old in this system of things. Still, they have not given in to discouragement. (Ps. 92:14) They realize that God’s word of promise is not a dead issue—it is alive, and Jehovah is working toward its fulfillment. Since God’s purpose is dear to his heart, we bring joy to him when we keep it uppermost in our minds. During this seventh day, Jehovah has been resting, secure in the knowledge that his purpose will be fulfilled and that, as a group, his people will support it. What about you? Have you personally entered into God’s rest?
Many leaders among the Jews scrupulously observed the Mosaic Law, but when the Messiah arrived, they failed to recognize him. They did not keep up with God’s advancing purpose.
Today, God speaks to us through his written Word, which has power to affect our lives. Thus, by extension, Paul’s words recorded at Hebrews 4:12 can properly be applied to the Bible.
Do Not Miss the Purpose
• What is needed in order for us to enter into God’s rest today?
• What connection is there between God’s purpose and our willingness to accept Scriptural counsel?
• In what areas might obedience to Scriptural direction become difficult, but why is it essential that we obey?
• In what two ways can Hebrews 4:12 be applied?
[Picture on page 31]
The parents are devastated!