“Although those things have an appearance of wisdom in a self-imposed form of worship and a false humility, a harsh treatment of the body, they are of no value in combating the satisfying of the flesh.”
Is it wrong to fast?
Paul asked the Christian congregation at Colossae why they continued subjecting themselves to the man-made decrees: “Do not handle, nor taste, nor touch.” (Col. 2:20-22)
Although it is true that Paul himself fasted on occasion while praying, Jehovah expects his servants to serve him cheerfully and enjoy food.
(Eccl. 3:12,13; Acts 13:1-3; Acts 14:23; 1 Tim 1:11)
Furthermore, fasting itself does not help us combat other carnal desires.
And the Bible makes it clear that we cannot make up for our shortcomings through fasting. (Is. 58:3-7)
Whether a Christian chooses to fast or not is an entirely personal, private matter. (Matt. 6:16-18)
“Happy is the man whose sin Jehovah will by no means take into account.”
The verse the Apostle Paul is quoting in this passage is a Psalm which continues: “In whose spirit there is no deceit.” (Ps. 32:2)
In order to benefit from the joy of being granted true forgiveness, we must first turn around from our evil course. (Eze. 33:11; Acts 3:19; Ep. 4:22-24)
This implies being humble enough to recognize the error of our ways and a willingness to put in the effort to change.
Once we have demonstrated our repentance, we are able to feel the joy that comes from being reconciled to God through Jesus. (Rom. 5:11)
The knowledge that God loves us and assumes the best in us when we try to please him can carry us joyfully through difficult times. (Rom. 5:2-6)
“[…] For this son of mine was dead but has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.’ And they started to enjoy themselves.”
In the illustration of the prodigal son, neither the repentant son nor his compassionate father dwell on the bitter past.
They focus on the present and rejoice in each other’s company.
When someone who wronged us, insulted us or even ruined our name and reputation, comes back humbly ready to make amends, are we able to bury the past?
Or what if we are like the prodigal son who squandered everything valuable and lost all sense of self-worth?
Do we trust in Jehovah’s mercy and let him heal us emotionally and spiritually, letting him use us to do his will again? Or do we resist his holy spirit and stubbornly hold on to negativity, even against ourselves?
Jesus’ illustration shows us the wisdom of focusing on the present and moving past sadness and anger. (Lu. 15:11-32)
“Jehovah has removed the judgments against you.
He has turned away your enemy.
The King of Israel, Jehovah, is in your midst.
You will fear calamity no more.”
Even if we have made mistakes in the past which offended God, we can trust that if we sincerely repent, God will not remain angry at us forever. (Ps. 86:5)
Jehovah disciplined his people in ancient times to the point that it was fair and just, and he will do the same to us today if we fall into sinful practices. (2 Tim. 3:16)
So we should never fear that we are inevitably separated from God.
If he has forgiven us, we in turn have to forgive ourselves.
“[…] Although I have fallen, I will rise up; Although I dwell in the darkness, Jehovah will be my light.”
When we sin against God, we can recover spiritually not by our own merits, but by God’s own undeserved mercy.
We should not take a spiritual fall in such a way that we believe it is impossible to recover.
Certainly, if our spiritual standing depended solely on ourselves, then in our imperfection, we might never be faithful. (Ro. 3:23)
But because God reaches out to those repentant in order to draw them back close to him, we can trust that full spiritual recovery is possible. (Mic. 7:18,19)
To benefit from his help, we must show humility and patience. (Mic. 7:9)
“For this is what the Sovereign Lord Jehovah says:’Here I am, and I myself will search for my sheep, and I will care for them.'”
As time proceeds deeper into the “last days,” Jehovah God actively looks for those who have strayed from the flock. (John 10:16; 2 Tim. 3:1-5)
Although Jehovah’s Witnesses’ worldwide preaching work is primarily aimed at witnessing to non-believers, from time to time we run into a stray sheep who for one reason or another has seized associating with the congregation.
Because our work is headed by angels, we are able to find repentant brothers and sisters who recognize the times we are living in and ask for help to return to Jehovah before it is too late. (Zep. 2:2,3; Rev. 14:6,7)
It is an undeserved honor to be allowed to collaborate with our kind heavenly Father in this soul saving work. (1 Cor. 3:9)
“Although I have removed them far away among the nations […], for a little while I will become a sanctuary for them in the lands to which they have gone.”
Even when Jehovah God decides to discipline someone, he does not abandon them.
Jehovah wants those he disciplines to learn to rely on him.
The Jews in Ezekiel’s time were being taken captive to Babylon. (2 Ki. 24:14,15)
Those remaining ended up fleeing to other nations. (2 Ki. 25:26)
Regardless of where they ended up, Jehovah was still reaching out individually to those who wanted to worship him.
Nowadays, for whatever reason, someone might find him or herself separated from the congregation.
Jehovah wants to comfort any of those who call out to him in prayer, as he will never desert those who actively seek him. (Neh. 9:31)
“Let us lift up our hearts along with our hands to God in the heavens […]”
Is God your best friend?
Jehovah God wants us to reach out to him in heartfelt prayer. (Ps. 65:2)
But it might be difficult to open up to someone we cannot see or physically listen to.
Even if we cannot find the right words, if we continuously try to reach out to God in prayer, he understands what we are trying to say. (Rom. 8:26,27)
God is not just looking for routine acts of worship or words.
He wants us to “lift up our hearts along with our hands.”
This indicates sincere motivation coupled with good deeds.
Perhaps in the past we have been guilty of loving God half-heartedly, afraid of giving more than we were already giving to his service. (Re. 3:16)
Or perhaps we have even been guilty of being double-hearted, verbally committing to something while we secretly resolved not to carry it through. (Matt. 15:7,8)
How comforting it is to know that if we repent, reexamine our lives, and seek God again with all our heart, he will forgive us and be our friend. (Jer. 29:12,13)
In the prophet Jeremiah’s day, most became obstinate in their behavior while others just pretended to repent, and this hurt Jehovah. (Jer. 3:10; 8:6)
Let us make sure every day that what we are doing in God’s service is motivated by whole-hearted love for him and we can trust that he will do his part. (Ps. 10:17; Ps. 119:145)
“Perhaps when those of the house of Judah hear of all the calamity that I intend to bring on them, they may turn back from their evil ways, so that I may forgive their error and their sin.”
Jehovah God looks to forgive those who have offended him. (Isa. 55:7)
He sees everyone’s heart and does not give up hope that these people can change. (2 Pet. 3:9)
Likewise, we should not hold on to a grudge or seize the opportunity to get even with someone who has offended us. (Ro. 12:17-19)
Nor should we rejoice when they suffer due to their own imperfections or to unrelated circumstances. (Prov. 24:17,18)
However, God’s pardon is not unconditional.
He forgives those who “turn back from their evil ways.”
Since we cannot see what lies in the heart of our fellow man, it is best to leave the judging to God, remaining hopeful that wrongdoers will become spiritually conscious before it is too late.
“[…] ‘You will search for me with all your heart. And I will let you find me,’ declares Jehovah.”
How do we show God we are sincerely searching for him?
One way is through heartfelt prayer.
“Make me know your ways, O Jehovah; Teach me your paths.” (Ps. 25:4)
Like the psalmist, we need to display humility and recognize we need God’s guidance.
Jehovah invites even those who have strayed from him to come back to him.
“If you search for Jehovah your God from there, you will certainly find him, if you inquire for him with all your heart and with all your soul. When you are in great distress and all these things have happened to you in later times, then you will return to Jehovah your God and listen to his voice. For Jehovah your God is a merciful God. He will not desert you […]” (De. 4:29-31)
But it is not enough to recognize our own sins. (La. 3:41,42)
Seeking Jehovah implies learning about his personality: what God likes and dislikes and then conforming to his standards. (Je. 31:34)
To find God, we must try to imitate his mercy, ridding ourselves of feelings of hatred toward those who have wronged us. (Mt. 6:12)
Then God allows us to find his peace and a solid hope for the future. (Jer. 29:11,12)