Serve the God of Freedom
“This is what the love of God means, that we observe his commandments; and yet his commandments are not burdensome.”—1 JOHN 5:3.
CAN YOU ANSWER?
How does Satan try to make God’s laws appear burdensome?
Why must we be extremely careful about our associates?
What will help us to remain loyal to the God of freedom?
1. How does Jehovah view freedom, and how did he show that in his dealings with Adam and Eve?
JEHOVAH is the only Person with absolute freedom. Yet, he never misuses it; nor does he monopolize freedom by micromanaging his servants. Instead, he has given them free will, which allows them to use initiative and satisfy all their proper desires. For example, God gave Adam and Eve only one restrictive command—the prohibition against eating from “the tree of the knowledge of good and bad.” (Gen. 2:17) What an amazing degree of freedom they had in carrying out their Creator’s will!
2. Why did our original parents lose their God-given freedom?
2 Why did God grant our original parents so much freedom? He formed them in his image and gave them a conscience, rightly expecting that their love for him as their Creator would guide them in the right way. (Gen. 1:27; Rom. 2:15) Sadly, Adam and Eve failed to appreciate their wonderful Life-Giver and the freedom that he had given them. Instead, they chose the illegitimate freedom offered by Satan, which was moral independence. But instead of finding more freedom, our original parents sold themselves and their future offspring into bondage to sin, with disastrous consequences.—Rom. 5:12.
3, 4. How does Satan try to deceive us with regard to Jehovah’s standards?
3 If Satan could induce two perfect humans—not to mention a number of spirit creatures—to reject God’s sovereignty, he could deceive us too. His strategy remains much the same. He tries to mislead us into thinking that God’s standards are burdensome and rob us of fun and excitement. (1 John 5:3) That thinking can exert a lot of power if we are repeatedly exposed to it. “Bad association greatly influenced me, especially because I was afraid of having a different opinion from my peers,” said a 24-year-old sister who had engaged in sexual immorality. Perhaps you have experienced similar peer pressure.
4 Sadly, on occasion negative peer influence can also come from within the Christian congregation. “I have known some young ones who dated nonbelievers,” said a Witness youth. “Eventually, though, it struck me that the more I hung around with them, the more I was becoming like them. My spirituality began to suffer. I was not enjoying the spiritual food at the meetings, and I barely went out in service. This was my signal to cut off those associates, and I did!” Are you aware of the power that your associates can have on you? Consider a timely Bible example.—Rom. 15:4.
HE STOLE THEIR HEARTS
5, 6. How did Absalom mislead others, and did his scheme succeed?
5 The Bible contains many examples of those who were a bad influence on others. One such example is Absalom, a son of King David. Absalom was an exceptionally good-looking man. In time, however, like Satan, he let greedy ambition fill his heart, for he began to covet his father’s throne, to which he was not entitled.* In a sly attempt to seize the kingship, Absalom feigned deep concern for his fellow Israelites while cleverly insinuating that the king’s court lacked regard for them. Yes, just like the Devil in the garden of Eden, Absalom presented himself as a benefactor, at the same time cruelly maligning his own father.—2 Sam. 15:1-5.
6 Did Absalom’s clever scheme succeed? To some extent, yes, for the Bible account states: “Absalom kept stealing the hearts of the men of Israel.” (2 Sam. 15:6) In the end, though, Absalom’s arrogance led to his own downfall. And tragically, it also led to his death and the death of the thousands who were overreached by him.—2 Sam. 18:7, 14-17.
7. What lessons can we learn from the account about Absalom? (See picture on page 14.)
7 Why were those Israelites so easily deceived? Perhaps they desired the things Absalom promised them. Or maybe they were swayed by his physical appearance. Whatever the case, we can be sure of this: They lacked loyalty to Jehovah and his appointed king. Today, Satan continues to use “Absaloms” in his attempt to steal the hearts of Jehovah’s servants. ‘Jehovah’s standards are too restrictive,’ they may say. ‘And look at all those people who do not serve Jehovah. They have all the fun!’ Will you see through such contemptible lies and remain loyal to God? Will you recognize that only Jehovah’s “perfect law,” the law of the Christ, can lead you to true freedom? (Jas. 1:25) If so, cherish that law, and never be tempted to misuse your Christian freedom.—Read 1 Peter 2:16.
8. What real-life examples illustrate that happiness does not result from disregarding Jehovah’s standards?
8 Young people in particular are a target of Satan. A brother who is now in his 30’s said about his teen years: “I viewed Jehovah’s moral standards as a restriction, not as a protection.” As a result, he committed sexual immorality. But this brought him no happiness. “Deep feelings of guilt and remorse surfaced for many years,” he said. Reflecting on her teen years, a sister wrote: “After committing immorality, you feel cold and empty. Even now after 19 years, bad memories come back.” Another sister stated: “The thought that my conduct crushed the people I love so much had a mentally, spiritually, and emotionally devastating effect on me. It is terrible to live without Jehovah’s favor.” Satan does not want you to think about such consequences of sin.
9. (a) What questions can help us to analyze our view of Jehovah and his laws and principles? (b) Why is it important to know God well?
9 How sad that many young ones in the truth—and even a number of older ones—have had to learn the hard way that sinful pleasures often come at great cost! (Gal. 6:7, 8) So ask yourself: ‘Do I recognize Satan’s schemes for what they really are—cruel deceptions? Do I view Jehovah as my closest Friend, the one who always tells the truth and wants what is best for me? Am I fully convinced that he would never withhold from me something that is truly good and will result in my greatest happiness?’ (Read Isaiah 48:17, 18.) In order to say a heartfelt yes, you need to have more than a superficial knowledge of Jehovah. You need to know him intimately and recognize that Bible laws and principles reflect his love for you, not a desire to hem you in.—Ps. 25:14.
PRAY FOR A WISE AND OBEDIENT HEART
10. Why should we strive to imitate young King Solomon?
10 When he was still a young man, Solomon humbly said in prayer: “I am but a little boy. I do not know how to go out and how to come in.” He then prayed for a wise and obedient heart. (1 Ki. 3:7-9, 12) Jehovah answered that sincere request, and he will do the same for you, whether you are young or old. Of course, Jehovah will not give you miraculous insight and wisdom. But he will make you wise if you earnestly study his Word, pray for holy spirit, and take full advantage of the spiritual provisions made available through the Christian congregation. (Jas. 1:5) Indeed, by these means, Jehovah makes even his young servants wiser than all those who ignore his counsel, even the so-called “wise and intellectual ones” of this world.—Luke 10:21; read Psalm 119:98-100.
11 To illustrate the value of studying the Bible and meditating on what we read so that we can come to know Jehovah intimately, consider the following scriptures. Each one contains an important principle regarding our choice of associates: “I have not sat with men of untruth; and with those who hide what they are I do not come in.” (Ps. 26:4) “He that is walking with wise persons will become wise, but he that is having dealings with the stupid ones will fare badly.” (Prov. 13:20) “Bad associations spoil useful habits.”—1 Cor. 15:33.
12 What valuable lessons can we learn from those texts? (1) Jehovah wants us to be selective about our associates. He wants to protect us morally and spiritually. (2) We are influenced for good or for bad by the people with whom we associate; that is simply a fact of life. The way the verses above are worded shows that Jehovah is appealing to our heart. How so? Notice that none of the verses are set out as rules, such as “you must not . . .” Rather, they are written as plain statements of truth. In effect, Jehovah is saying to us: ‘Here are the facts. How will you respond? What is in your heart?’
13 Finally, because the three verses are set out as basic truths, they are timeless and have a very broad application. To illustrate, ask yourself such questions as: How can I avoid associating with individuals “who hide what they are”? In what situations might I come in contact with such ones? (Prov. 3:32; 6:12) Who are the “wise persons” with whom Jehovah wants me to associate? Who are the “stupid ones” he wants me to avoid? (Ps. 111:10; 112:1; Prov. 1:7) What “useful habits” will I ruin by choosing bad associates? Will I encounter bad associates only in the world? (2 Pet. 2:1-3) How would you answer these questions?
14. How can you enrich your Family Worship evening?
14 Having thus reasoned on the Scriptures, why not examine other Bible texts that reveal God’s thinking on matters that concern you or your family?* Parents, consider discussing such topics during your Family Worship evening. As you do, keep in mind that your goal is to help each family member to appreciate more fully the depth of God’s love for us as revealed in his laws and principles. (Ps. 119:72) Indeed, such study should draw all in the family closer to Jehovah and to one another.
15. How can you discern if you are developing a wise and obedient heart?
15 How can you tell if you are developing a wise and obedient heart? One way is to compare your thinking with that of the faithful ones of old, such as King David, who wrote: “To do your will, O my God, I have delighted, and your law is within my inward parts.” (Ps. 40:8) Likewise, the writer of Psalm 119 said: “How I do love your law! All day long it is my concern.” (Ps. 119:97) Such love does not grow in shallow soil. Rather, it is a result of deep study, prayer, meditation, and experience—seeing in one’s own life the countless blessings that result from adhering to God’s standards.—Ps. 34:8.
FIGHT FOR YOUR CHRISTIAN FREEDOM!
16. What must we realize if we are going to win our fight for true freedom?
16 Throughout history, nations have waged brutal wars in the name of freedom. How much more, then, should you be willing to fight spiritually for your Christian freedom! Realize that your enemies are not just Satan, the world, and its poisonous spirit. You also have to contend with your own imperfections, including a treacherous heart. (Jer. 17:9; Eph. 2:3) Yet, with Jehovah’s help, you can win the fight. What is more, each victory—large or small—will have at least two positive effects. First, you will make Jehovah’s heart rejoice. (Prov. 27:11) Second, as you taste the liberating power of God’s “perfect law that belongs to freedom,” you will become even more determined to remain on the ‘narrow road’ to everlasting life. In time, you will enjoy the more expansive freedom that lies ahead for Jehovah’s loyal ones.—Jas. 1:25; Matt. 7:13, 14.
17. Why should we not get downhearted about our imperfections, and what help does Jehovah provide?
17 At times, of course, we all make mistakes. (Eccl. 7:20) When that occurs, do not feel worthless or overly discouraged. If you stumble, so to speak, get up and move forward—even if that means asking the local elders for help. Their “prayer of faith,” wrote James, “will make the indisposed one well, and Jehovah will raise him up. Also, if he has committed sins, it will be forgiven him.” (Jas. 5:15) Yes, never forget that God is truly merciful and that he drew you into the congregation because he saw your potential. (Read Psalm 103:8, 9.) So as long as you maintain a complete heart toward Jehovah, he will never give up on you.—1 Chron. 28:9.
18. How can we act in harmony with Jesus’ prayer recorded at John 17:15?
18 While praying on his last night with his 11 faithful apostles, Jesus said these unforgettable words in their behalf: “Watch over them because of the wicked one.” (John 17:15) Jesus’ concern was not limited to his apostles, but it extends to all his followers. Hence, we can be sure that Jehovah will answer Jesus’ prayer by watching over us during these critical times. “For those walking in integrity [Jehovah] is a shield . . . He will guard the very way of his loyal ones.” (Prov. 2:7, 8) Yes, the way of integrity is not without its challenges, but it is the only way to everlasting life and true freedom. (Rom. 8:21) Let no one lure you from it!
God’s promise to David of a future “seed” to inherit the throne was given after Absalom’s birth. Therefore, Absalom should have known that Jehovah had not chosen him as David’s successor.—2 Sam. 3:3; 7:12.
[Pictures on page 14]
How can we identify modern-day Absaloms and guard ourselves against them?