“You have come to know God.”—GAL. 4:9.
1. Why does a pilot follow a checklist before takeoff?
PILOTS who fly one of the most successful aircraft ever built have a preflight inspection checklist consisting of more than 30 items. If they do not carefully follow the checklist each time before takeoff, the pilots increase the possibility of a tragic accident. Do you know what type of pilot is especially urged to complete the checklist every time? It is the very experienced pilot! The seasoned pilot could easily become complacent and fail to carry out the preflight inspection in every detail.
2. What checklist is recommended for Christians?
2 Like a safety-minded pilot, you can use a type of checklist to make sure that your faith will not falter when you need it most. Whether you are newly baptized or you have been serving God for many years, regularly checking the depth of your faith and devotion to Jehovah God is essential. Failure to check on this regularly and diligently can lead to spiritual ruin. The Bible warns us: “Let him that thinks he is standing beware that he does not fall.”—1 Cor. 10:12.
3. The Christians in Galatia needed to do what?
3 Christians in Galatia needed to check on the depth of their faith and to appreciate their spiritual freedom. By means of his sacrifice, Jesus had opened the way for those exercising faith in him to come to know God in a most extraordinary way—they could become sons of God! (Gal. 4:9) To remain in that most blessed relationship, the Galatians would have to reject the teachings of Judaizers, who were insisting that they observe the Mosaic Law. Why, uncircumcised Gentiles in the congregations had never even been under the Law! Jews and Gentiles alike needed to make spiritual progress. This involved recognizing that they could not establish their righteousness through the Mosaic Law arrangement.
INITIAL STEPS TO KNOW GOD
4, 5. What counsel did Paul give to the Galatians, and how is this pertinent for us?
4 The apostle Paul’s counsel to the Galatians was recorded for a purpose: to prevent true Christians in any period from turning their backs on the riches of Bible truth and returning to the things behind. Jehovah inspired the apostle to encourage not only those in the congregations in Galatia but all His worshippers to remain steadfast.
5 All of us do well to recall how we were freed from spiritual slavery and became one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. To do this, consider these two questions: Do you recall the steps you took to qualify as a baptismal candidate? Do you remember how you came to know and to be known by God and thus enjoy the feeling of real spiritual freedom?
6. What checklist will we consider?
6 Basically, we all followed nine steps. Those steps, like a spiritual checklist, are set out in the box “Steps That Lead to Baptism and Continued Growth.” Regularly reminding ourselves of these nine steps will strengthen us to resist turning back to the things of the world. Just as the experienced yet cautious pilot continues to fly safely by first reviewing a preflight checklist, so you will be helped to persist in faithful service by reviewing a spiritual checklist.
THOSE KNOWN BY GOD CONTINUE GROWING SPIRITUALLY
7. We need to follow what pattern, and why?
7 A pilot’s checklist reminds him that there is a routine for him to follow carefully before every flight. We too can regularly check, or examine, ourselves and the routine we have been following since our baptism. Paul wrote to Timothy: “Keep holding the pattern of healthful words that you heard from me with the faith and love that are in connection with Christ Jesus.” (2 Tim. 1:13) Those “healthful words” are found in God’s Word. (1 Tim. 6:3) Just as an artist’s sketch provides us with a general picture, ‘the pattern of truth’ provides a broad outline for us to perceive and follow what Jehovah requires of us. So let us look now at steps that led to our baptism to see how closely we are conforming to the pattern of truth.
8, 9. (a) Why should we go on growing in knowledge and faith? (b) Illustrate the value of spiritual growth and why it is a continuing process.
8 First on our checklist is the need to take in knowledge. Then, we can develop faith. But we should continue to grow in both respects. (2 Thess. 1:3) Growth involves a progressive series of changes. “To grow” means to increase, to enlarge. Thus, after baptism, we need to continue to develop our spirituality so that our growth does not become stunted.
9 We can compare our spiritual growth to the physical growth of a tree. A tree may grow to an amazing size, especially when its root system is deep or extensive. For example, some of the majestic cedars of Lebanon can reach the height of a 12-story building and have strong, penetrating roots and a trunk circumference of up to 40 feet (12 m). (Song of Sol. 5:15) After the initial growth spurt of such a tree stops, the tree still grows but not as noticeably. Year after year, the trunk widens and the roots go deeper and spread farther, producing a more stable tree. The same can be said of a Christian’s spiritual growth. During our initial period of Bible study, we may quickly grow spiritually and then get baptized. Those in the congregation happily notice our progress. We may even qualify as a pioneer or receive other privileges. In the following years, our continued spiritual growth may not be as noticeable. Nevertheless, we still need to grow in faith and knowledge “to a full-grown man, to the measure of stature that belongs to the fullness of the Christ.” (Eph. 4:13) Thus, we progress, as it were, from a tiny sprout to a mature Christian, a sturdy and well-developed tree.
10. Why is growth necessary even for mature Christians?
10 But our growth should not stop there. Our knowledge needs to broaden and our faith needs to deepen. Thus we become ever more anchored in the soil of God’s Word. (Prov. 12:3) In the Christian congregation, there are many brothers and sisters who have done that. For instance, one brother who has been an elder for more than three decades noted that he is still growing spiritually. He says: “My appreciation for the Bible has grown immensely. I constantly find new opportunities to apply Bible principles and laws in various ways. My appreciation for the ministry continues to grow too.”
GROW IN FRIENDSHIP WITH GOD
11. How can we come to know Jehovah better over time?
11 Our growth also involves drawing closer to Jehovah as our Friend and Father. He wants us to feel accepted. He wants us to know that we are loved and safe just as a child feels loved and safe when he is in the embrace of a caring parent or as we do when in the company of a true and loyal friend. As you can appreciate, this intimacy with Jehovah does not develop overnight. Time must pass for us to come to know and love him. So in coming to know the Person of Jehovah better, be determined to set aside time to read his Word daily. And read each issue of The Watchtower and Awake! as well as other Bible-based publications.
12. What is necessary for us to be known by Jehovah?
12 God’s friends grow spiritually through their sincere prayers and good association. (Read Malachi 3:16.) Jehovah’s “ears are toward their supplication.” (1 Pet. 3:12) Like a loving parent, Jehovah is attentive to our prayerful cries for help. Hence, we need to “persevere in prayer.” (Rom. 12:12) We cannot remain a full-grown Christian unless we have the help of God. The pressures of this system are too great to resist and overcome by ourselves. If we cease to persist in prayer, we cut ourselves off from the constant fund of strength that God is willing and able to supply. Are you satisfied with the quality of your prayers, or do you see the need to make further progress in that area?—Jer. 16:19.
13. Why is association with fellow Christians vital for spiritual growth?
13 Jehovah is pleased with all those “seeking refuge in him”; hence, even after our coming to know God, we want to continue regularly associating with the congregation of others who know him. (Nah. 1:7) In a world filled with discouragement, we are wise to surround ourselves with our encouraging brothers and sisters. What are the benefits? You will find in the congregation individuals who will incite you “to love and fine works.” (Heb. 10:24, 25) The mutual love Paul wrote about to the Hebrews calls for a brotherhood, a community of like-minded worshippers, a congregation. Displaying this kind of love involves interacting with other Christians. Regularly mark meeting attendance and participation on your checklist.
14. How are repentance and turning around an ongoing process?
14 Our initially becoming a Christian depended on repentance and on turning around, or turning away from our sins. Repentance, however, is an ongoing process. As imperfect humans, we still have sin lurking within us like a coiled snake ready to strike. (Rom. 3:9, 10; 6:12-14) Let us remain sharp-eyed, not ignoring our faults. Happily, Jehovah is patient with us while we earnestly struggle to resist our weaknesses and make needed changes. (Phil. 2:12; 2 Pet. 3:9) A great help is to take control of our use of time and resources, turning away from selfish pursuits. One sister writes: “I was raised in the truth, yet I grew up with a different view of Jehovah than most. He was to be very much feared, and I felt that I surely would never be able to please him.” In time, the sister found herself “spiritually floundering” because of several personal setbacks. “It was not because I didn’t love Jehovah,” she continues, “but because I didn’t truly know him. However, after many intense prayers, I began a turnaround.” She added: “I found that Jehovah led me along like a child, helping me over one obstacle at a time, ever so gently, showing me what I needed to do.”
15. What do Jesus and his Father observe?
15 “Keep on speaking to the people” about the good news. God’s angel spoke these words to Peter and the other apostles after they experienced a miraculous release from prison. (Acts 5:19-21) Yes, our weekly participation in the field ministry is another item on our checklist. Jesus and his Father take note of both our faith and our ministry. (Rev. 2:19) As the elder quoted in an earlier paragraph points out: “The field ministry is what we are about.”
16. Why is it good to reflect on our dedication to Jehovah?
16 Reflect on your dedication. The most precious possession we have is our personal relationship with Jehovah. He knows those who belong to him. (Read Isaiah 44:5.) Prayerfully examine the quality and the depth of your relationship with him. Related to that, remember the important date of your baptism. This too will help remind you that your baptism symbolizes the most significant decision you have ever made.
STAY CLOSE TO JEHOVAH BY ENDURANCE
17. Why is endurance needed for us to stay close to Jehovah?
17 In writing to the Galatians, Paul stressed the need for endurance. (Gal. 6:9) That is vital for a Christian today too. You will face trials, but Jehovah will help you. Keep praying for holy spirit. You will feel relief as he replaces grief with joy, anguish with peace. (Matt. 7:7-11) Think about this: If Jehovah cares for the birds, how much more so does he care for you who love him and have given yourself to him? (Matt. 10:29-31) No matter what pressures confront you, never go back, never give up. What wonderful riches are ours because we are known by Jehovah!
18. Having “come to know God,” what do you want to do now?
18 Therefore, if you have recently come to know God and got baptized, what now? Continue to get to know Jehovah better, growing to spiritual maturity. And if you have been baptized for many years, what now? You too must continue to deepen and broaden your knowledge of Jehovah. May we never become complacent in our relationship with him. Instead, we should all review our spiritual checklist from time to time to ensure that we are continuing to grow in our relationship with our loving Father, Friend, and God—Jehovah.—Read 2 Corinthians 13:5, 6.