Sunday, July 31, 2011
Its amazing that the Bible tells us not to speak of our good deeds. Yet these so called Christians go around and shout out how they saved this one and that one, but you know what ? We dont save anyone GOD DOES!!!!! Only God can save you and in your best interest walk away from those who boast their deeds in front of an audience. Work the will of God and remain silent of your deeds.
Wednesday, July 13, 2011
"Everywhere the New Testament sees a great conflict between the forces of God and of good, on the one hand, and those of evil led by Satan, on the other. This is not the conception of one writer or another, but is common ground. . . . The witness of the New Testament then is clear. Satan is a malignant reality, always hostile to God and to God's people."—"The New Bible Dictionary."
WHY, then, do many who profess Christianity—and who claim to believe the Bible—reject the idea that a real Devil exists? Because, in truth, they do not accept the Bible as God's Word. (Jeremiah 8:9) Bible writers, they say, reflected the philosophies of the nations around them and did not accurately convey the truth from God. Catholic theologian Hans Küng, for example, writes: "Mythological ideas of Satan with legions of devils . . . penetrated from Babylonian mythology into early Judaism and from there into the New Testament."—On Being a Christian.
But the Bible is not simply the word of men; it truly is the inspired Word of God. We are wise, therefore, to take seriously what it says about the Devil.—2 Timothy 3:14-17; 2 Peter 1:20, 21.
What Did Jesus Think?
Jesus knew that
the Devil was a real person
Jesus Christ believed that the Devil was real. Jesus was not tempted by some evil inside himself. He was attacked by a real person whom he later called "the ruler of the world." (John 14:30; Matthew 4:1-11) He also believed that other spirit creatures supported Satan in his wicked schemes. He cured "demon-possessed" people. (Matthew 12:22-28) Even the atheistic publication A Rationalist Encyclopædia notes the significance of this when it says: "It has always been a rock of offence to theologians how the Jesus of the Gospels accepted the belief in devils." When Jesus spoke about the Devil and his demons, he was not simply repeating superstitions carried over from Babylonian mythology. He knew that they really existed.
We learn a lot about the Devil when we consider Jesus' words to religious teachers of his day: "You are from your father the Devil, and you wish to do the desires of your father. That one was a manslayer when he began, and he did not stand fast in the truth, because truth is not in him. When he speaks the lie, he speaks according to his own disposition, because he is a liar and the father of the lie."—John 8:44.
According to this, the Devil, a name meaning "slanderer," was "a liar and the father of the lie." He was the first creature to lie about God, and he did so back in the garden of Eden. Jehovah had said that our original parents would "positively die" if they ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and bad. Through the mouth of a serpent, Satan said that those words were not true. (Genesis 2:17; 3:4) Appropriately, he is called "the original serpent, the one called Devil and Satan."—Revelation 12:9.
The Devil lied about the tree of the knowledge of good and bad. The prohibition on eating from that tree, he argued, was unjustified; it was an abuse of power. Adam and Eve, he said, could "be like God" in determining for themselves what was good and what was bad. Satan implied that as free moral agents, they should have complete self-determination. (Genesis 3:1-5) This attack on the rightness of God's way of ruling raised crucial issues. So Jehovah has allowed time for these issues to be settled. This means that Satan has been allowed to continue living for a while. His limited time is now rapidly running out. (Revelation 12:12) Still, he continues to alienate mankind from God by lies and deceit, using people like the scribes and the Pharisees of Jesus' day to propagate his teachings.—Matthew 23:13, 15.
Jesus also said that the Devil was "a manslayer when he began" and that "he did not stand fast in the truth." This does not mean that Jehovah created the Devil as "a manslayer." He was not created to be some kind of monster in charge of a place of fire and torment for any who opposed God. The "hell" of the Bible is not Satan's abode. It is simply the common grave of mankind.—Acts 2:25-27; Revelation 20:13, 14.
The Devil was originally "in the truth." He was once part of Jehovah's heavenly family as a perfect spirit son of God. But he did not "stand fast in the truth." He preferred his own ways and his own lying principles. "He began," not when he was created as an angelic son of God, but when he willfully rebelled against Jehovah and lied to Adam and Eve. The Devil is like those people who rebelled against Jehovah in the time of Moses. Of them we read: "They have acted ruinously on their own part; they are not his children, the defect is their own." (Deuteronomy 32:5) The same could be said of Satan. He became "a manslayer" when he rebelled and became responsible for the death of Adam and Eve and, in fact, the whole human family.—Romans 5:12.
Other angels joined Satan in his rebellion. (Luke 11:14, 15) These angels "forsook their own proper dwelling place" and materialized human bodies in order to enjoy sexual relationships with "the daughters of men" in Noah's day. (Jude 6; Genesis 6:1-4; 1 Peter 3:19, 20) "A third of the stars of heaven," or a minority of spirit creatures, have taken this course.—Revelation 12:4.
The highly symbolic book of Revelation depicts the Devil as "a great fiery-colored dragon." (Revelation 12:3) Why? Not because he literally has a grotesque, ugly body. We do not know, in fact, what kind of body spirit creatures have, but likely Satan does not differ from other angelic spirit creatures in that respect. However, "a great fiery-colored dragon" is a fitting description of Satan's ravenous, frightful, powerful, and destructive spirit.
Satan and the demons are now severely restricted. They can no longer materialize as they apparently once could. Shortly after the establishment of God's Kingdom in the hands of Christ in 1914, they were cast down to the vicinity of the earth.—Revelation 12:7-9.
The Devil Is a Formidable Foe
Even so, the Devil remains a formidable foe. He "walks about like a roaring lion, seeking to devour someone." (1 Peter 5:8) He is no vague principle of evil residing in our imperfect flesh. True, we do have a daily struggle against our own sinful inclinations. (Romans 7:18-20) But the real struggle is "against the world rulers of this darkness, against the wicked spirit forces in the heavenly places."—Ephesians 6:12.
"The whole world is lying in the power of the wicked one"
How widespread is the Devil's influence? "The whole world is lying in the power of the wicked one," says the apostle John. (1 John 5:19) Of course, we do not want to become obsessed with the Devil or allow superstitious fear of him to paralyze us. We are wise, though, to stay alert to his efforts to blind us to the truth and to break our integrity to God.—Job 2:3-5; 2 Corinthians 4:3, 4.
The Devil does not always use brutal means to attack those who want to do God's will. At times, he makes himself seem like "an angel of light." The apostle Paul warned Christians of this danger when 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."—2 Corinthians 11:3, 14.
We therefore need to 'keep our senses, be watchful, and take our stand against him, solid in the faith.' (1 Peter 5:8, 9; 2 Corinthians 2:11) Avoid playing into Satan's hands by dabbling in anything that is connected with the occult. (Deuteronomy 18:10-12) Be a good student of God's Word, remembering that Jesus Christ repeatedly referred to God's Word when he was tempted by the Devil. (Matthew 4:4, 7, 10) Pray for God's spirit. Its fruitage can help you to avoid the works of the flesh, which Satan promotes so effectively. (Galatians 5:16-24) Also, pray earnestly to Jehovah when you feel under pressure in some way from the Devil and his demons.—Philippians 4:6, 7.
There is no need to be in terror of the Devil. Jehovah promises real protection against anything Satan can do. (Psalm 91:1-4; Proverbs 18:10; James 4:7, 8) "Go on acquiring power in the Lord and in the mightiness of his strength," says the apostle Paul. Then you will "be able to stand firm against the machinations of the Devil."—Ephesians 6:10, 11.
Take your stand against the Devil by studying God's Word and praying regularly
Take Your Stand for True Worship
What does the Bible teach about the use of images?
What view do Christians take of religious holidays?
How can you explain your beliefs to others without offending them?
SUPPOSE you found out that your whole neighborhood has been contaminated. Someone has secretly been dumping poisonous waste in the area, and now the situation is life threatening. What would you do? No doubt, you would move away if you could. But after doing that, you would still face this serious question, ‘Have I been poisoned?’
2 A similar situation arises with regard to false religion. The Bible teaches that such worship is contaminated with unclean teachings and practices. (2 Corinthians 6:17) That is why it is important for you to get out of “Babylon the Great,” the world empire of false religion. (Revelation 18:2, 4) Have you done this? If so, you are to be commended. But more is involved than just separating yourself or resigning from a false religion. Afterward, you must ask yourself, ‘Do any traces of false worship remain in me?’ Consider some examples.
IMAGES AND ANCESTOR WORSHIP
3 Some have had images or shrines in their home for years. Is that true of you? If so, you might feel that it is strange or wrong to pray to God without such a visible aid. You may even feel attached to some of these items. But God is the one who says how he should be worshiped, and the Bible teaches that he does not want us to use images. (Exodus 20:4, 5; Psalm 115:4-8; Isaiah 42:8; 1 John 5:21) So you can take a stand for true worship by destroying any items you own that are connected with false worship. By all means, come to view them as Jehovah does—as something “detestable.”—Deuteronomy 27:15.
4 Ancestor worship also is common in many false religions. Before learning Bible truth, some believed that the dead are conscious in an invisible realm and that they can help or harm the living. Perhaps you used to go to great lengths to appease your dead ancestors. But as you learned in Chapter 6 of this book, the dead have no conscious existence anywhere. Thus, attempts to communicate with them are of no use. Any messages that seem to come from a dead loved one really originate with the demons. Therefore, Jehovah forbade the Israelites to try to talk with the dead or to participate in any other form of spiritism.—Deuteronomy 18:10-12.
5 If the use of images or the practice of ancestor worship was part of your former way of worship, what can you do? Read and ponder over Bible passages that show you how God views these things. Pray to Jehovah daily about your desire to take a stand for true worship, and ask him to help you to think as he does.—Isaiah 55:9.
CHRISTMAS—NOT CELEBRATED BY EARLY CHRISTIANS
6 A person’s worship could be contaminated by false religion as it relates to popular holidays. Consider Christmas, for example. Christmas supposedly commemorates the birth of Jesus Christ, and nearly every religion that claims to be Christian celebrates it. Yet, there is no evidence that the first-century disciples of Jesus observed such a holiday. The book Sacred Origins of Profound Things states: “For two centuries after Christ’s birth, no one knew, and few people cared, exactly when he was born.”
7 Even if Jesus’ disciples had known the exact date of his birth, they would not have celebrated it. Why? Because, as The World Book Encyclopedia says, the early Christians “considered the celebration of anyone’s birth to be a pagan custom.” The only birthday observances mentioned in the Bible are those of two rulers who did not worship Jehovah. (Genesis 40:20; Mark 6:21) Birthday celebrations were also held in honor of pagan deities. For example, on May 24 the Romans celebrated the birthday of the goddess Diana. On the following day, they observed the birthday of their sun-god, Apollo. Hence, birthday celebrations were associated with paganism, not with Christianity.
8 There is another reason why first-century Christians would not have celebrated Jesus’ birthday. His disciples likely knew that birthday celebrations were connected with superstition. For instance, many Greeks and Romans of ancient times believed that a spirit attended the birth of each human and protected that one throughout life. “This spirit had a mystic relation with the god on whose birthday the individual was born,” says the book The Lore of Birthdays. Jehovah certainly would not be pleased with any observance that would link Jesus with superstition. (Isaiah 65:11, 12) So how did Christmas come to be celebrated by many people?
THE ORIGIN OF CHRISTMAS
9 It was not until several hundred years after Jesus lived on the earth that people began to commemorate his birth on December 25. But that was not the date of Jesus’ birth, for it evidently took place in October.* So why was December 25 chosen? Some who later claimed to be Christian likely “wished the date to coincide with the pagan Roman festival marking the ‘birthday of the unconquered sun.’” (The New Encyclopædia Britannica) In winter, when the sun seemed weakest, pagans held ceremonies to get this source of warmth and light to come back from its distant travels. December 25 was thought to be the day that the sun began its return. In an effort to convert pagans, religious leaders adopted this festival and tried to make it seem “Christian.”#
10 The pagan roots of Christmas have long been recognized. Because of its unscriptural origin, Christmas was banned in England and in some of the American colonies during the 17th century. Anyone who even stayed home from work on Christmas day had to pay a penalty. Soon, though, the old customs were back, and some new ones were added. Christmas once again became a big holiday, and that is what it still is in many lands. Because of the connections that Christmas has with false religion, however, those who want to please God do not celebrate it or any other holiday that has its roots in pagan worship.%
DO ORIGINS REALLY MATTER?
Would you eat a piece of candy picked up from the gutter?
11 Some agree that such holidays as Christmas have pagan origins but still feel that it is not wrong to celebrate them. After all, most people are not thinking about false worship when they observe holidays. These occasions also give families opportunities to draw close together. Is this how you feel? If so, likely it is love of family, not love of false religion, that makes taking a stand for true worship seem difficult. Be assured that Jehovah, the one who originated the family, wants you to have a good relationship with your relatives. (Ephesians 3:14, 15) But you can strengthen such bonds in ways that God approves. Regarding the matter that should be our chief concern, the apostle Paul wrote: “Keep on making sure of what is acceptable to the Lord.”—Ephesians 5:10.
12 Maybe you feel that the origins of holidays have little to do with how they are celebrated today. Do origins really matter? Yes! To illustrate: Suppose you saw a piece of candy lying in the gutter. Would you pick up that candy and eat it? Of course not! That candy is unclean. Like that candy, holidays may seem sweet, but they have been picked up from unclean places. To take a stand for true worship, we need to have a viewpoint like that of the prophet Isaiah, who told true worshipers: “Touch nothing unclean.”—Isaiah 52:11.
DISCERNMENT IN DEALING WITH OTHERS
13 Challenges may arise when you choose not to participate in holidays. For example, fellow employees may wonder why you do not engage in certain holiday activities where you work. What if you are offered a Christmas gift? Would it be wrong to accept it? What if your marriage mate does not share your beliefs? How can you make sure that your children do not feel deprived because of not celebrating holidays?
14 Good judgment is needed to discern how to handle each situation. If a holiday greeting is casually extended, you could simply thank the well-wisher. But suppose you are dealing with someone you see or work with regularly. In that case, you might choose to say more. In all cases, be tactful. The Bible advises: “Let your utterance be always with graciousness, seasoned with salt, so as to know how you ought to give an answer to each one.” (Colossians 4:6) Be careful not to show disrespect for others. Instead, tactfully explain your position. Make clear that you are not against gift-giving and gatherings but prefer to participate in these activities at a different time.
15 What if someone wants to give you a gift? Much depends upon the circumstances. The giver might say: “I know that you do not celebrate the holiday. Still, I want you to have this.” You may decide that accepting the gift under those circumstances is not the same as taking part in the holiday. Of course, if the giver is not familiar with your beliefs, you could mention that you do not observe the holiday. This would help to explain why you accept a gift but do not give one on that occasion. On the other hand, it would be wise not to accept a gift if it is given with the clear intention of showing that you do not stick to your beliefs or that you would compromise for the sake of material gain.
WHAT ABOUT FAMILY MEMBERS?
16 What if family members do not share your beliefs? Again, be tactful. There is no need to make an issue of every custom or celebration that your relatives choose to observe. Instead, respect their right to their views, just as you want them to respect your right to yours. (Matthew 7:12) Avoid any actions that would make you a participant in the holiday. Still, be reasonable when it comes to matters that do not amount to actual celebration. Of course, you should always act in a way that will leave you with a good conscience.—1 Timothy 1:18, 19
17 What can you do so that your children do not feel deprived because of not celebrating unscriptural holidays? Much depends on what you do at other times of the year. Some parents set aside times to give presents to their children. One of the best gifts you can give your children is your time and loving attention.
PRACTICE TRUE WORSHIP
Practicing true worship brings real happiness
18 To please God, you must reject false worship and take a stand for true worship. What does this include? The Bible states: “Let us consider one another to incite to love and fine works, not forsaking the gathering of ourselves together, as some have the custom, but encouraging one another, and all the more so as you behold the day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:24, 25) Christian meetings are happy occasions for you to worship God in the way that he approves. (Psalm 22:22; 122:1) At such meetings, there is “an interchange of encouragement” among faithful Christians.—Romans 1:12.
19 Another way that you can take a stand for true worship is to speak to others about the things you have learned from studying the Bible with Jehovah’s Witnesses. Many people truly are “sighing and groaning” over the wickedness that is taking place in the world today. (Ezekiel 9:4) Perhaps you know some people who feel that way. Why not speak to them about your Bible-based hope for the future? As you associate with true Christians and speak to others about the marvelous Bible truths you have learned, you will find that any desire for the customs of false worship that may have remained in your heart will gradually disappear. Be assured that you will be very happy and will receive many blessings if you take your stand for true worship.—Malachi 3:10.
* See the Appendix.
# The Saturnalia also played a part in the choice of December 25. This festival honoring the Roman god of agriculture took place on December 17-24. Feasting, merrymaking, and gift-giving took place during the Saturnalia.
% For a discussion of how true Christians view other popular holidays, see the Appendix.
Sunday, July 3, 2011
The Power of Prayer
The sun is setting over the city of Nahor in the Middle East. A Syrian man named Eliezer arrives with a train of ten camels at a well outside the city. Though no doubt tired and thirsty, Eliezer is more concerned about the needs of others. He has come from a foreign land to find a wife for the son of his master. Moreover, he must find this wife among his master's relatives. How will he accomplish this difficult task?
ELIEZER believes in the power of prayer. With remarkable, childlike faith, he makes this humble request: "Jehovah the God of my master Abraham, cause it to happen, please, before me this day and perform loving-kindness with my master Abraham. Here I am stationed at a fountain of water, and the daughters of the men of the city are coming out to draw water. What must occur is that the young woman to whom I shall say, 'Let your water jar down, please, that I may take a drink,' and who will indeed say, 'Take a drink, and I shall also water your camels,' this is the one you must assign to your servant, to Isaac; and by this let me know that you have performed loyal love with my master."—Genesis 24:12-14.
Eliezer's confidence in the power of prayer is not in vain. Why, the very first woman who comes to the well happens to be the granddaughter of Abraham's brother! Her name is Rebekah, and she is single, morally chaste, and beautiful. Remarkably, she not only gives Eliezer a drink but kindly offers to quench the thirst of all his camels. Later, after a family consultation, Rebekah willingly agrees to go back with Eliezer to a distant land to become the wife of Abraham's son Isaac. What a dramatic and clear answer to Eliezer's prayer back at a time when God occasionally intervened miraculously in events!
We can learn much from Eliezer's prayer. It showed his outstanding faith, humility, and unselfish concern for the needs of others. Eliezer's prayer also showed his submission to Jehovah's way of dealing with mankind. No doubt he was aware of God's special attachment to Abraham as well as His promise that future blessings would come to all mankind through Abraham. (Genesis 12:3) Thus, Eliezer started his prayer with the words: "Jehovah the God of my master Abraham."
Jesus Christ was the descendant of Abraham who would be the means for blessing all obedient mankind. (Genesis 22:18) If we want our prayers to be answered today, we need to show humble recognition of God's way of dealing with mankind through his Son. Jesus Christ said: "If you remain in union with me and my sayings remain in you, ask whatever you wish and it will take place for you."—John 15:7.
A follower of Christ who experienced the truthfulness of these words of Jesus was the apostle Paul. His belief in the power of prayer was certainly not in vain. He encouraged fellow Christians to take all their anxieties to God in prayer and testified: "For all things I have the strength by virtue of him who imparts power to me." (Philippians 4:6, 7, 13) Does this mean that all of Paul's prayerful requests to God were granted? Let us see.
Not All Requests Are Granted
In his unselfish ministry, Paul suffered from what he described as "a thorn in the flesh." (2 Corinthians 12:7) This could have been the mental and emotional distress caused by opposers and "false brothers." (2 Corinthians 11:26; Galatians 2:4) Or it could have been the physical discomfort of a chronic eye affliction. (Galatians 4:15) Whatever the case, this "thorn in the flesh" had a weakening effect on Paul. "I three times entreated the Lord that it might depart from me," he wrote. However, Paul's request was not granted. It was explained to Paul that the spiritual benefits he had already received from God, such as power to endure trials, were sufficient. Furthermore, God said: "My power is being made perfect in weakness."—2 Corinthians 12:8, 9.
What do we learn from the examples of Eliezer and Paul? Jehovah God indeed listens to the prayers of those who humbly seek to serve him. But this does not mean that he always grants their requests because God has a long-range view of matters. He knows better than we do what is in our best interests. More important, he always acts in harmony with his stated purpose as recorded in the Bible.
A Time for Spiritual Healing
God promises to heal mankind of all physical, mental, and emotional maladies during the Thousand Year Reign of his Son over the earth. (Revelation 20:1-3; 21:3-5) Sincere Christians eagerly await this promised future, with full faith in God's power to make it a reality. While not expecting such miraculous healing now, they pray to God for his comfort and strength to cope with trials. (Psalm 55:22) When they fall sick, they may also pray for God's guidance in obtaining the best medical treatment within their economic means.
Some religions encourage the sick to pray to be healed now, pointing to the miraculous cures that Jesus and his apostles performed. But such miracles were done for a special purpose. They served to prove that Jesus Christ was the true Messiah and to show that God's favor had been transferred from the Jewish nation to the young Christian congregation. Back then, miraculous gifts were needed to strengthen the faith of the newly established Christian congregation. When the infant congregation got on its feet, as it were, and became mature, the miraculous gifts were "done away with."—1 Corinthians 13:8, 11.
At this crucial time, Jehovah God is directing his worshipers in the more important work of spiritual healing. While they yet have time, people desperately need to respond to this appeal: "Search for Jehovah, you people, while he may be found. Call to him while he proves to be near. Let the wicked man leave his way, and the harmful man his thoughts; and let him return to Jehovah, who will have mercy upon him, and to our God, for he will forgive in a large way."—Isaiah 55:6, 7.
This spiritual healing of repentant sinners is being accomplished through the preaching of the good news of God's Kingdom. (Matthew 24:14) By empowering his servants to carry out this lifesaving work, Jehovah God is helping millions of people from all nations to repent of their sins and come into a favorable relationship with him before the end of this wicked system. All who sincerely pray for such spiritual healing and all who pray for help to perform this healing work are indeed having their prayers answered.