Have You Entered Into God’s Rest?
“The word of God is alive and exerts power.”—HEBREWS 4:12.
1. How do we enter into God’s rest today? Why can it be difficult to obey?
WE HAVE already learned that we enter into God’s rest today if we obey Jehovah and work with his organization. Our obedience shows Jehovah that we want his purpose to come true. But sometimes it can be hard to obey. For example, when we learn that Jehovah wants us to stop doing something that we like to do, it may be hard to obey him immediately. If this happens to us, we need to learn to be “ready to obey.” (James 3:17) In this article, we will talk about some situations that give us an opportunity to show if we are really ready to obey all the time.
2, 3. What must we continue to do to please Jehovah?
2 When you learn from the Bible that you need to make a change in your life, are you ready to obey? Think about this: The Bible says that the people whom Jehovah wants to bring into his organization are “the desirable things of all the nations.” (Haggai 2:7) This means that God chooses people who are precious to him because they love what is right. It is true that when we first started studying the Bible, most of us were doing wrong things. But because we loved God and his Son and wanted to please God, we were happy to make important changes in the way we thought and acted. We asked for Jehovah’s help in prayer and then worked hard to make the necessary changes. Finally, we could get baptized and receive Jehovah’s approval.—Read Colossians 1:9, 10.
3 But we are still imperfect. We still need to make changes in our life and to work hard to do what is right. But Jehovah promises to help us if we continue to do our best to please him.
WHEN WE NEED TO MAKE CHANGES IN OUR LIFE
4. What three ways does Jehovah use to show us that we need to make changes?
4 Before we make changes in our life, we have to know what we need to change. Jehovah helps us with this in different ways. He can use a talk at the Kingdom Hall or an article in our magazines to show us that there is something in our thinking or actions that is wrong. Sometimes we do not understand that we need to make changes even after we hear a talk or read a publication, so Jehovah can use a brother or sister in the congregation to correct us with kindness.—Read Galatians 6:1.
5. In what ways do we sometimes act when someone corrects us? Why must Christian elders continue to try to help us?
5 When another imperfect human corrects us, it can be very hard to accept what he says, even if he talks to us in a kind way. But Jehovah commands the elders to “try to readjust” us “in a spirit of mildness,” that is, to correct us in a kind way. (Galatians 6:1) If we accept their help, we will become even more “desirable,” or precious, to Jehovah. Of course, in our prayers, we often tell Jehovah that we are imperfect and make many mistakes. But then when an elder tells us that we made a mistake, we sometimes act in a different way. We try to give reasons for what we did, or we say that our mistake was not so bad. Maybe we say that the person who corrected us does not like us or that he did not talk to us in a kind way. (2 Kings 5:11) Or we may get very angry if the elders tell us something that we especially do not like to hear. For example, they may tell us that a person in our family is doing something wrong or that the way we dress is not proper. Maybe they tell us that we need to keep our bodies cleaner or that Jehovah hates what we do for recreation. Because we are angry, we may say things that we should not say. This can make us feel sad with ourselves and it can make the brother who is trying to help us sad as well. But later, when we are no longer angry, we usually accept that what he said was good for us.
6. How is the word of God “able to discern thoughts and intentions of the heart”?
6 The theme scripture for this article, Hebrews 4:12, tells us that the word of God “exerts power.” This means that God’s word has the power to help people to change their lives. His word helped us to make the changes that we needed to make before we got baptized. And it can help us to make changes in our life after our baptism. In his letter to the Hebrew Christians, Paul also writes that the word of God “pierces even to the dividing of soul and spirit” and that it “is able to discern thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12) The “soul” here means what we are on the outside, what people can see when they look at us. The “spirit” here means what we really are on the inside, what people cannot see when they look at us. So Paul was saying that when we understand what God wants us to do, our actions will show what we are on the inside. Is there sometimes a difference between what other people see and what we really are on the inside? (Read Matthew 23:27, 28.) Think about what you would do in the situations that we will now talk about.
CONTINUE TO PROGRESS WITH JEHOVAH’S ORGANIZATION
7, 8. (a) Why did some Hebrew Christians want to continue to obey some parts of the Law of Moses? (b) Why can we say that they were acting against Jehovah’s purpose?
7 Many of us know these words from Proverbs 4:18 very well: “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 with time, we understand better and better what Jehovah wants from us and we get better at doing what pleases him.
8 We already learned that after Jesus died, many Hebrew Christians still wanted to obey the Law of Moses. (Acts 21:20) Paul explained clearly that Christians no longer had to obey the Law of Moses, but some still did not accept what Jehovah wanted from them. (Colossians 2:13-15) Maybe they thought that if they continued to obey some parts of the Law of Moses, they could avoid persecution by those who followed the Jewish religion. But Paul was very clear when he told those Hebrew Christians that if they continued to act against God’s purpose, they could not enter into God’s rest.* (See footnote.) (Hebrews 4:1, 2, 6; read Hebrews 4:11.) To have Jehovah’s approval, they had to accept that Jehovah now wanted his people to worship him in a different way.
9. How should we feel when the faithful and discreet slave makes changes in the way we understand something in the Bible?
9 Today, the faithful and discreet slave sometimes helps us to understand a teaching in the Bible in a way that is different from what we thought before. We should be happy about these changes. They show us that Jehovah is using the faithful and discreet slave to teach us the truth. Sometimes the Governing Body, who represents the faithful and discreet slave, reviews how we understand certain truths. If these brothers decide that changes are necessary, they are not afraid to correct the way they explained some teachings in the past or to make their explanations clearer. They know that some will say bad things about the faithful and discreet slave because of these changes, but that is not the most important thing to them. The most important thing to them is that they cooperate with God’s purpose. How do you feel when the faithful and discreet slave makes a change in the way we understand something in the Bible?—Read Luke 5:39.
10, 11. What did some Bible students do when they learned that they should try new ways of preaching? What do we learn from this example?
10 Let us talk about another example. About a hundred years ago, some of the Bible Students who gave excellent public talks thought that giving talks was the best way for them to preach. They liked to speak in front of people. Some of them really liked it when people praised them for their talks. But later, Jehovah’s people understood more clearly that Jehovah wanted them to do more than just give public talks. He wanted them to preach from house to house and in other ways. Some of those very good speakers did not want to do that. Their talks made others think that they loved and obeyed Jehovah, but their actions in this situation showed that they did not. We know that Jehovah was not pleased with their actions. They left his organization.—Matthew 10:1-6; Acts 5:42; 20:20.
11 It was also hard for many of the other Bible Students to preach from house to house, especially in the beginning. But they obeyed and were loyal to Jehovah’s organization. After some time, it became easier for them to preach from house to house. Jehovah blessed them very much. What do you do when the faithful and discreet slave tells you to try a way of preaching that you never tried before? Do you obey even if this way of preaching seems very difficult to you?
WHEN SOMEONE WE LOVE LEAVES JEHOVAH
12, 13. (a) Why does Jehovah tell us to “remove the wicked man” from among us? (b) What can be a difficult situation for Christian parents?
12 We certainly agree that to please Jehovah, we must obey the command to be clean in every way. (Read Titus 2:14.) But there are situations that can make it difficult for us to obey this command. For example, think of this situation: A loyal Christian couple have only one son and he leaves the truth. He prefers “the temporary enjoyment of sin” to his friendship with Jehovah and with his parents. Because of his actions, he cannot be part of the congregation anymore. So the congregation removes him, or disfellowships him, from among God’s people.—Hebrews 11:25.
13 The parents suffer so much! They know 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.” It also says: “Remove the wicked man from among yourselves.” (1 Corinthians 5:11, 13) And they understand that the word “anyone” includes members of the family who do not live in the same house. But because of their strong love for their son, they may think: “We need to talk to our son as much as we can. We cannot help him return to Jehovah if we cannot talk to him.”*—See footnote.
14, 15. What must parents remember when deciding if they will talk to their disfellowshipped child?
14 We are sad to see those parents suffer. Their son had the choice to change what he was doing. But he wanted to continue to do what was wrong more than he wanted to be with his parents and the congregation. The parents want to help their son, but they cannot control what he decides to do. We can really understand why they are suffering so much.
15 What will our dear brother and sister do? Will they obey the clear command from Jehovah? It is true that there may be rare occasions when they need to talk to their son because of a necessary family matter. But will they think that they have many reasons to talk to their son? When they make their decision about this, they must remember what Jehovah wants them to do. They must remember that Jehovah wants to keep his people clean. That is why he gives the command to “remove the wicked man” from the congregation. He also wants to help the person who did what is wrong to change his actions and return to the congregation. How can Christian parents show that they want the same as Jehovah?
16, 17. What lesson do we learn from the example of Aaron?
16 Aaron, the brother of Moses, was in a difficult situation because of what two of his sons did. His sons Nadab and Abihu made an offering in a way that Jehovah did not approve. Jehovah sent fire from heaven and killed them. Imagine how much Aaron suffered because of this. Aaron could no longer talk to his sons. They were dead. But there was something else that made that situation even more difficult for Aaron and his family. Moses told Aaron and his other sons that Jehovah did not want them to show that they were sad. Moses said: “Do not let your heads go ungroomed, and you must not tear your garments, that you may not die and that he may not become indignant against all the assembly.” (Leviticus 10:1-6) The lesson is clear. Our love for Jehovah must be stronger than our love for family members who are not loyal to Jehovah.
17 Today, Jehovah does not immediately kill those who disobey his laws. He shows them love and gives them an opportunity to stop their wrong actions. But how does Jehovah feel if parents disobey his command and think that they have many reasons to talk to their disfellowshipped son or daughter?
18, 19. What blessings can family members have if they continue to be loyal to Jehovah?
18 Many say that they returned to the congregation because their friends and family continued to be loyal to Jehovah and did not talk to them. For example, a young woman told the elders that one thing that made her change her way of life was the way her brother acted. He was loyal to Jehovah and obeyed Jehovah’s command while she was disfellowshipped. This made her want to return to the congregation.
19 So what do we need to do? We need to obey Jehovah in all situations in life. Because we are imperfect, this will be difficult for us sometimes. But we must strongly believe that what Jehovah tells us to do is always the best for us.
“THE WORD OF GOD IS ALIVE”
20. In what two ways can we understand Hebrews 4:12? (See footnote.)
20 When Paul wrote at Hebrews 4:12: “The word of God is alive,” he was not speaking about the Bible.* (See footnote.) The other verses in that chapter show that he was speaking about God’s promises. Paul was saying that God’s promises always come true. Jehovah said about his word: “It will not return to me without results.” And he said: “It will have certain success in that for which I have sent it.” (Isaiah 55:11) So we must be patient if God does not fulfill his promises when we want him to. We can be sure that Jehovah is working to complete his purpose.—John 5:17.
21. How can Hebrews 4:12 help older ones to continue serving Jehovah?
21 Many of the “great crowd” have served Jehovah for many years now. (Revelation 7:9) They did not expect to get old in this wicked world. But they are still doing their best in Jehovah’s service. (Psalm 92:14) They know that the word of God is alive and that Jehovah’s promises will come true. (Hebrews 4:12) They know that he is working to fulfill his purpose for the earth and humans. Because God’s purpose is very important to him, it makes him happy when we show that his purpose is also important to us. During this seventh day of rest, nothing will stop Jehovah from completing his purpose. And he knows that his people, as a group, will continue to cooperate with his purpose. What about you? Have you entered into God’s rest?
Many Jewish religious leaders tried to obey every detail of the Law of Moses. But when Jesus came to earth, they did not want to believe that he was the Messiah. They acted against God’s purpose.
Today, God speaks to us through the Bible. The Bible has the power to change our lives. So, what we read at Hebrews 4:12 is also true about the Bible.
SOME WORDS EXPLAINED
▪ Imperfect: Someone who is imperfect makes mistakes, does things wrong
▪ Faithful and discreet slave: Those whom God chooses for heavenly life who are still on earth. They are represented by a small group of brothers who form the Governing Body
▪ Bible Students: Before 1931, Jehovah’s Witnesses were called Bible Students
▪ Disfellowship: To “remove the wicked man” or woman from the congregation
DO YOU REMEMBER?
▪ What do we need to do to enter into God’s rest today?
▪ When we understand from the Bible what God wants us to do, how do we show that we want to please God?
▪ In what situations can it be difficult to do what Jehovah tells us to do? But why is it very important that we obey him?
▪ In what two ways can we understand Hebrews 4:12?
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We need to obey the faithful and discreet slave to have Jehovah’s approval
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Our love for Jehovah must be stronger than our love for family members who are not loyal to Jehovah
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The parents suffer so much!