Monday, February 21, 2011

True Christianity Is Flourishing

True Christianity Is Flourishing
In this series:
Can the Churches Be Saved?
True Christianity Is Flourishing
Related topics:
"Can I Worship God in My Own Way?"
Should You Belong to a Church?
Jehovah's Witnesses—Who Are They? What Do They Believe?
JESUS CHRIST'S ministry burst onto the world scene in the first century. His message was invigorating, illuminating, and inspiring in a way that astounded people. Many of those who heard him speak were profoundly touched by his words.—Matthew 7:28, 29.

Jesus fearlessly rejected involvement in the oppressive ecclesiastical and political systems of the day but made himself approachable to the common man. (Matthew 11:25-30) He openly acknowledged the pervasive influence of wicked spirits on earth and demonstrated God-given power over them. (Matthew 4:2-11, 24; John 14:30) Jesus skillfully illuminated the fundamental connection between suffering and sin, and he lovingly pointed to God's Kingdom for lasting relief. (Mark 2:1-12; Luke 11:2, 17-23) Once for all time, he lifted the veil of darkness that had so long obscured the true personality of his Father, making God's name manifest to all those interested in having a personal relationship with Him.—John 17:6, 26.

It is not surprising, therefore, that despite intense religious and political persecution, the disciples of Jesus spread his dynamic message rapidly. In just 30 years or so, vibrant Christian congregations were formed in Africa, Asia, and Europe. (Colossians 1:23) The simple truths Jesus had taught enlightened the hearts of humble, righthearted people throughout the Roman Empire.—Ephesians 1:17, 18.

How, though, would all these new disciples from such diverse economic, cultural, linguistic, and religious backgrounds come together in a truly united "one faith," as the apostle Paul called it? (Ephesians 4:5) What would keep them 'speaking in agreement' so as not to drift apart? (1 Corinthians 1:10) In view of the serious disunity among professed Christians today, we do well to examine what Jesus himself taught.

The Basis for Christian Unity

When on trial before Pontius Pilate, Jesus identified the basis for Christian unity. He said: "For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone that is on the side of the truth listens to my voice." (John 18:37) Therefore, acceptance of Jesus' teachings along with the rest of God's inspired Word, the Bible, has a powerful uniting influence on Christ's true disciples.—1 Corinthians 4:6; 2 Timothy 3:16, 17.

Of course, Jesus' disciples would have sincere questions or disagreements among themselves at times. What then? Jesus explained: "When that one arrives, the spirit of the truth, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak of his own impulse, but what things he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things coming." (John 16:12, 13) Thus, God's holy spirit would enable Jesus' true disciples to understand the truth as it was progressively revealed by God. Also, that spirit would produce fruitage, such as love, joy, and peace, which in turn would promote unity among them.—Acts 15:28; Galatians 5:22, 23.

Jesus left no room for dissension or factions among his disciples; nor did he authorize them to reinterpret divine truths to accommodate cultural or religious traditions of those whom they would meet. Rather, on his last night with them, he fervently prayed: "I make request, not concerning these only, but also concerning those putting faith in me through their word; in order that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in union with me and I am in union with you, that they also may be in union with us, in order that the world may believe that you sent me forth." (John 17:20, 21) Genuine unity, then, in spirit and truth was to be a distinguishing mark of Christ's disciples from the start down to our time. (John 4:23, 24) Nevertheless, today's churches are, not united, but divided. Why is that so?

Why Churches Are Divided

The frank explanation for the vast diversity of beliefs and practices among professed Christians today is that they have not adhered to Jesus' teachings. One writer observed: "As in the past, today's new Christians tend to take from the Bible whatever fits their needs—and ignore whatever fails to resonate with their own native religious traditions." This is exactly what Jesus and his apostles predicted would happen.

For instance, under inspiration the apostle Paul wrote to his fellow overseer Timothy: "There will be a period of time when they will not put up with the healthful teaching, but, in accord with their own desires, they will accumulate teachers for themselves to have their ears tickled; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, whereas they will be turned aside to false stories." Would all Christians be misled? No. Paul continued: "You, though, keep your senses in all things, suffer evil, do the work of an evangelizer, fully accomplish your ministry." (2 Timothy 4:3-5; Luke 21:8; Acts 20:29, 30; 2 Peter 2:1-3) Timothy and other faithful Christians lived by that inspired counsel.

True Christians Are Still United

Like Timothy, true Christians today are keeping their senses by rejecting human reasoning and by accepting only Scriptural authority for their doctrinal beliefs. (Colossians 2:8; 1 John 4:1) In imitation of first-century Christians, Jehovah's Witnesses are accomplishing their ministry in over 230 lands, bringing Jesus' original message, the good news of the Kingdom, to people everywhere. Consider four important ways in which they unitedly imitate Jesus and practice true Christianity regardless of where they live.

Their beliefs are based on God's Word. (John 17:17) A parish priest in Belgium wrote about them: "One thing we can learn from them [Jehovah's Witnesses] is their willingness to listen to God's Word and their courage to witness about it."

They look to God's Kingdom for relief from global problems. (Luke 8:1) In Barranquilla, Colombia, a Witness spoke to Antonio, a strong supporter of a political movement. The Witness did not take sides with him, nor did he advocate some other political ideology. Instead, he offered to study the Bible with Antonio and his sisters free of charge. Soon Antonio realized that God's Kingdom really is the only hope for poor people in Colombia and in the rest of the world.

They honor God's name. (Matthew 6:9) When Jehovah's Witnesses first met Maria, a sincere Catholic living in Australia, she allowed the Witnesses to show her God's name in the Bible. How did she respond? "When I first saw God's name in the Bible, I wept. I was so moved by the knowledge that I could actually know and use the personal name of God." Maria continued to study the Bible, and for the first time in her life, she got to know Jehovah as a person and was able to build a lasting relationship with him.

They are united by love. (John 13:34, 35) An editorial in The Ladysmith-Chemainus Chronicle, Canada, commented: "Regardless of your religious persuasion, or lack of, you've got to hand it to the 4,500 Jehovah's Witnesses who worked around the clock during the past week and a half to build a 25,000-square-foot [2,300-square-meter] Assembly Hall in Cassidy . . . To do this cheerfully without arguing, dissension or glory-grabbing is a mark of true Christianity."

So consider the evidence. While Christendom's theologians, missionaries, and churchgoers continue to grapple with the gathering storm of controversy in their churches, true Christianity is flourishing worldwide. Indeed, true Christians are going about their assigned ministry of preaching and teaching God's Word. (Matthew 24:14; 28:19, 20) If you are among those who are "sighing and groaning" over the detestable things now taking place and are troubled by the disunity among the religions of Christendom, we invite you to join Jehovah's Witnesses in united Christian worship of the only true God, Jehovah.—Ezekiel 9:4; Isaiah 2:2-4.

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