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  • Fortify Yourselves for Future Activity
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    “Having this advance knowledge, be on your guard that you may not be led away.”— 2 Pet. 3:17 .

    1. What differing views are there as to meeting together for worship?

    MOST persons who will read these words live in a country where meeting together for worship is the accepted thing. So much so that it is often taken for granted and treated lightly as a Christian responsibility. Most persons, though, will readily agree that whatever spirituality they have is due to their association with others of their own faith. But suppose you were suddenly cut off from any congregational association. Suppose that it was forbidden by law for more than two or three persons to meet together without a special police permit and that all assemblies to worship God were proscribed. Suppose you were denied the right to talk about God or to express to someone else your faith in God and his promises to mankind. Then what would you do?

    2. What conditions might cause one to weaken in faith, and what questions should we consider seriously?

    2 Suppose, under such conditions, that it was possible for true Christians to meet together only in secret, by two’s and three’s and that they knew one another only by number, so that if one was arrested by the secret police he could not be trapped or tortured into betraying his brothers. Suppose that from time to time some of those meeting this way were arrested and thrown into prison or concentration camps. Suppose, too, that rumors began to circulate that one of those brothers who had been prominent in the faith had “sold out” to the secret police and was being used as an informer. Suppose, then, that one day you saw this brother walking down the street in company with the secret police, not handcuffed but with the police treating him like one of themselves. What would you do? Would you continue to hold fast to your faith? How long would you continue to speak to others about your hope as opportunities presented themselves? How long would you go out of your way to make opportunities to exalt God’s name and to help your neighbors shake off the spiritual shackles imposed on them by a godless government? What would you do under these different circumstances?

    3. To what have Jehovah’s witnesses been subjected in an effort to break down their faith, and what protection can we receive through God’s spirit?

    3 The conditions named here are not just supposition or imagination. These things have happened and are happening to Jehovah’s witnesses in many lands today. Many faithful servants of God have been subjected to Nazi and Fascist torture in an effort to break their integrity. Now, in

    addition, many of these same Christians are suffering a vicious Communist attack on their minds and faith. Only the spirit of the Devil himself could prompt such deceitful tactics as described above, the circulating of rumors that someone well known in the organization has recanted and turned traitor and the forcing of that one to walk down the street with members of the secret police as though he were really in league with them, thus endeavoring to make some believe that the rumors were true. But even if such were not a ruse of the secret police, even if a former brother became a Judas, why should your faith be shaken? If you were separated from the congregation because of persecution, why should you feel all alone? God’s spirit will never forsake you if you have given it a firm and abiding place in your heart. Neither will Jehovah leave you unattended, since thousands of angels are at his command to watch over his people and uphold and protect them. But your relationship with God must be firmly established for it to continue while you are separated from the congregation. You know that God’s spirit is there when you attend, and you attend in order to be helped to keep God’s spirit. You want to make sure that you are properly fortified even away from the meeting for whatever the future may hold in the way of trials, or service activity.

    DANGERS OF FOLLOWING MEN

    4. What results from creature worship?

    4 Many times failure to receive God’s spirit is caused by relying on men rather than God. Even in the days of the apostles there were some who were inclined to look more to the individual than to God or Christ. This is a form of creature worship and contrary to the principle stated at 2 Corinthians 5:7 : “For we are walking by faith, not by sight.” Looking so closely at an individual obscures the vision of the eyes of faith and one sees only the shadow cast by the imperfect man. The pattern of Christ is lost to faith’s eyes, and works of faith independent of other men become impossible. The creature worshiper is unable to exercise the mind of Christ because his mind is not free and he must lean entirely upon the imperfect object of his worship for all decisions as to his course of action. He is unable to “carry his own load” of responsibility.— Gal. 6:5 .

    5. How does following men pose a threat to the unity of the organization, and what does it indicate on the part of the disciple?

    5 Another danger in following men is its threat to the unity of the organization. Paul recognized this danger in the immaturity of the Corinthian congregation and found it necessary to write them: “And so, brothers, I was not able to speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to fleshly men, as to babes in Christ. I fed you milk, not something to eat, for you were not yet strong enough. In fact, neither are you strong enough now, for you are yet fleshly. For whereas there are jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly and are you not walking as men do? For when one says: ‘I belong to Paul,’ but another says: ‘I to Apollos,’ are you not simply men? What, then, is Apollos? Yes, what is Paul? Ministers through whom you became believers, even as the Lord granted each one.”—

    1 Cor. 3:1-5 .

    6. How did Paul show that he had no desire to build up a following of his own?

    6 Paul had no desire to build up a following of his own. He knew that for him to do so would only give rise to factions in the organization and would be a sure cause for stumbling. He said that neither he nor Apollos were the ones to follow. They were only ministers of that One. Paul’s one desire was to present the Christian congregation “in marriage to one husband . . . as a chaste virgin to the Christ.” As he wrote in his second letter to the Corinthians: “I am jealous over you with a godly jealousy, for I personally promised” this relationship through the good news preached in Corinth. Paul could not therefore draw away followers to himself, nor could he allow anyone else to do so. “But,” he wrote, “I am afraid that somehow, as the serpent seduced Eve by its cunning, your minds might be corrupted away from the sincerity and the chastity that are due the Christ. For, as it is, if someone comes and preaches a Jesus other than the one we preached, or you receive a spirit other than what you received, or good news other than what you accepted, you easily put up with him.”— 2 Cor. 11:2-4 .

    7. (a) What danger did Jesus foretell in this regard, and how might some easily be inclined to fall into it? (b) Why did Paul call such ones immature, and what counsel did John give as a protection?

    7 This possibility of falling away that Paul recognized is a third danger of following men rather than Christ. Because if you follow a man, how can you be a disciple of Christ? Jesus himself foretold this danger when he warned his disciples: “It is unavoidable that causes for stumbling should come.” But he added: “Nevertheless, woe to the one through whom they come!” (Luke 17:1 ) You may be inclined to look to a man for your spiritual guidance, perhaps the one who helped you to come to a knowledge of God’s purposes. But do you recognize the danger of what might result if you continue to rely on that person for all your spiritual strength, to depend upon that one to make all your decisions in regard to your relationship with God? You may feel that this individual is certainly the one to be trusted when important matters weigh upon your mind. Perhaps he is. But have you ever considered the disastrous results to you if he were not? True, his responsibility may be greater, but Jesus said a blind leader and his followers end up in the same pit. (Matt. 15:14 ) That is why Paul spoke of the Corinthians as being immature. They were unable to distinguish right from wrong because they looked to men rather than weighing the words of the man against the true Word of God. As the apostle John put it many years later: “Beloved ones, do not believe every inspired expression, but test the inspired expressions to see whether they originate with God, because many false prophets have gone forth into the world.”— 1 John 4:1 .

    PROTECTION AGAINST WRONGDOERS

    8. Is it wrong to seek counsel from someone taking the lead in spiritual matters, and how can we know when it is not safe?

    8 This does not mean that none who take the lead in spiritual matters can be trusted or sought out for assistance. On the contrary. (1 Tim. 5:17; 1 Pet. 5:2-4 ) But it was foretold that some would fail to maintain their own spiritual insight and, in turning aside, would take others with them. Peter warned the early congregation, and us too: “There also came to be false prophets among the people, as there will also be false teachers among you. These very ones will quietly bring in destructive sects and will disown even the owner that bought them, bringing speedy destruction upon themselves. Furthermore, many will follow their acts of loose conduct.” (2 Pet. 2:1, 2 ) What is your protection then? If you have had good cause to rely on the instruction in God’s Word that you have received through some individual, how can you know when it is no longer safe to heed counsel from that one? If you have studied properly, with a right end in view, you will be equipped, in some measure at least, to “test the inspired expressions to see whether they originate with God.” Thus you will be fortified for your future activity.

    9. (a) What protection against wrongdoers has God given through his organization? (b) Who stand out as examples in the early Christian congregation, and of what was each guilty?

    9 But Jehovah God has given you a further protection in the organization he has built up for his name. Through this organization of faithful servants he has determined to maintain a standard for all those who will represent him. Anyone who fails to maintain this standard or who begins to draw away disciples to himself must be exposed for the benefit of all those who may be inclined to follow him. This precedent was established in God’s congregation of Israel at his own direction. ( Deut. 17:7 ) Among such ones in the Christian congregation whose names are specifically recorded in the Permanent Record are Hymenaeus, Alexander, Hermogenes, Demas and Diotrephes. (1 Tim. 1:20; 2 Tim. 1:15; 2:17, 18; 4:10; 3 John 9, 10 ) These, like those guilty of immoral conduct, were expelled or disfellowshiped from the congregation, Paul even admonishing the congregation to “quit mixing in company” with such ones, “not even eating with such a man.”— 1 Cor. 5:5, 11, 13 .

    10. (a) Why do teachers have a heavier responsibility? (b) Why and how should those being trained learn to depend upon themselves? (c) What did Peter say is our advantage in being forewarned?

    10 If this warning is of value to learners, how much more vital is it to those who would be teachers? ( Jas. 3:1 ) Are you busy in the work of teaching God’s Word to others? Then you have not only a joyful privilege but a serious responsibility. Remember constantly that you are dealing with the lives of people. What they learn may determine between life and death. If they become God’s “sheep” they will be on the way to everlasting life. Are you directing them in this way? You will be if you warn them against leaning upon men. Consciously and untiringly work to prevent them from following you.

    Patiently and kindly teach them, in making their decisions, to rely more and more upon themselves because of their study in God’s Word. This you can do by training them to think on the scriptures read. Their applying a text to the paragraph in the publication you are studying with them can well be a first step toward their

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