“[…] I hold this against you, that you have left the love you had at first.”
If we feel our love for true worship waning, what can we do to revive it?
We can try to remember what drew us to Jehovah in the first place and what convinced us that we had found the truth.
Those reasons are probably still valid. (Ps. 119:151,152; Mal. 3:6; Jas. 1:17)
We can also meditate on what Jehovah has done for us over the years since we dedicated our lives to him.
What trials has he helped us to endure? (1 Cor. 10:13)
What blessings have we personally received as a result of obeying him? (Ps. 34:8)
We may find that the time we have available for spiritual matters has lessened due to changes in personal circumstances.
If that is the case, we can remember the struggle the Ephesians had to keep a balanced life.
Ephesus was a very wealthy city, having a long street paved in marble.
There was a temple for the Greek goddess of fertility and a stadium featuring live violent entertainment.
It was also known for its dark magical arts.
Every year, it hosted hundreds of thousands of visitors. (Ephesus; Ephesians, Letter)
The Christians who lived there towards the end of the first century were enduring despite the pressures, but what Jesus asked of them was wholehearted resolve to grow in zeal. (Rev. 2:3,5)
“The older man to the chosen lady and to her children, whom I truly love, and not only I but also all those who have come to know the truth.”
~2 John vs. 1
Why do some believe that the Apostle John was using the phrase “the chosen lady” as a metaphor to address a specific congregation?
John had spent two years exiled on Patmos for being an active Christian, but was liberated by Emperor Nerva in the year 98 C.E. (Rev. 1:9; Insight)
Emperor Nerva had ruled for less than two years and died shortly thereafter. (Nerva Rises to Power, Legacy)
He was succeeded by his adopted son, Trajan around the time John wrote his epistles.
It is possible that John used the phrase “chosen lady” as a metaphor to protect that congregation from persecutors.
John was in Ephesus at the time and the new Emperor’s stance toward Christians was unknown for the first few years of his reign.
At least thirteen years later, the governor of the nearby Bithynia wrote to the emperor about his execution of Christians who refused to bow before Ceasar and requested more instructions on the matter. (Letters between Pliny and Trajan; ancient map of Turkey).
It can be deduced, then, that even under the reign of Trajan, Christians had to remain anonymous to feel any measure of security.
It is also interesting to note that all of John’s references to love in his letter are in the Greek form “agape,” which is a love based on ethical responsibility, as opposed to the Greek words used for brotherly or romantic affection.
A couple other passages I enjoyed from last week’s reading:
“No greater joy do I have than this: that I should hear that my children go on walking in the truth.”
~3 John vs. 4
“I found it necessary to write you to urge you to put up a hard fight for the faith […].”
~Jude vs. 3
While I personally do not have children, it is an incomparable joy when I see some of my Bible students develop their love for God and benefit from applying Bible principles in their lives. Even though they may make mistakes down the line, it strengthens me to hear they are humble and continue to “put up a hard fight for the faith.”
“If we accept the witness of men, the witness of God is greater. Because this is the witness God gives, the witness that he has given about his Son.”
~1 John 5:9
Living in the information age, we are constantly learning about new discoveries and ideas about how to live better.
We might assume, for the most part, that what we read or hear has at least some factual basis.
Likewise, when we first learned about Bible truths, we probably heard them from a person.
Regardless of what type of information we come upon, we would want to make sure it does not turn us into skeptical Bible students who start to doubt that it is the inspired Word of God.
While human knowledge in its many fields has a lot to offer, it does not compare with the infallible wisdom and hope offered by Jehovah and Jesus. (Num. 23:19)
“Assign [wives] honor […], in order for your prayers not to be hindered.”
~1 Peter 3:7
What does the word honor convey in this passage? How can wives expect to be treated by their Christian husbands?
A similar form of the Greek word “timé” (honor, precious) is used to denote the appreciation we should have towards our faith in Christ. (1 Pet. 2:7)
It is also used to describe the praise Jesus received from his heavenly father. (2 Pet. 1:17)
We can understand, then, that Peter’s advice to husbands is to proactively cherish their wives in private and in public.
God’s Word encourages us to take the lead in showing honor towards others. (Rom. 12:10) Therefore, if a wife has to ask her husband for respect, consideration or praise, the honor has already lost part of its value.
Moreover, depending on upbringing and cultural expectations, she may need courage to make her opinions known to him.
A man who honors his wife values her opinions and consults with her about daily activities and more serious decisions. (Prov. 15:22)
It is an honor that is due to her because of her role as wife, and is not granted as a favor to her.
A man who thus elevates his wife finds favor in Jehovah’s eyes. (Eph. 5:28-33)
“[…] ‘No one exercising faith in it will ever be disappointed.’ It is to you, therefore, that he is precious, because you are believers […].”
~1 Peter 2:6,7
Jesus’ teachings, way of life and role as messiah were rejected by most of his contemporaries. (Luke 20:13-17; 23:18-23)
Today, many Christians endure ridicule or persecution from their families, classmates or coworkers, neighbors or from government agencies for trying to follow in Christ’s footsteps. (1 Pet. 2:21)
If others look down on us or despise our God-centered lifestyle, we can remain joyful if we hold on fast to our hope in God’s appointed king. (1 Pet. 1:6,7,24,25)
May we never disregard the value of our ministry.
“But the one who peers into the perfect law that belongs to freedom and continues in it has become, not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work; and he will be happy in what he does.”
What is the “perfect law that belongs to freedom?”
It is the “Law of Christ,” which “encompasses everything that Jehovah requires of us.” (Gal. 6:2; Watchtower 7-15-2012, p. 8, parr. 4)
It frees us from being slaves to our fleshly desires and habits. (Rom. 8:5,6; 2 Pet. 2:19)
When we learn to act in unison with God’s holy spirit, displaying qualities such as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness and self-control, there is no divine law that limits those qualities. We are free to display them without limits. (2 Cor. 3:17; Gal. 5:18,22,23)
If we observe Christ’s law, under God’s kingdom, we will also be free of sin and death. (Rom. 8:20,21)
We peer into the law when we study God’s way of thinking to try to make it our own. (John 8:31,32; 1 Tim. 4:15; Jas. 2:12)
“[…] God is not ashamed of them, to be called on as their God […].”
This verse leads me to wonder if I sometimes conduct myself in a way that would embarrass God because I carry his name.
Psalm 15 lists some qualities expected of friends of God: showing integrity, being honest, honoring those who deserve it, rejecting gossip, keeping our word, kindly sharing material things, and rejecting corruption.
God’s Word tells us the importance of believing in him to the point that we do not doubt his individual love for us. (Heb. 11:6)
Other qualities include being willing to make an honest living, and to not entertain ourselves with violence or other activities he hates. (Is. 33:15,16)
And while we may feel unworthy of being called God’s friend, we need humility to keep trying to meet his standards. (Ps. 16:7)
“[ …] They will no longer teach each one his fellow citizen and each one his brother, saying: ‘Know Jehovah!’ For they will all know me, from the least to the greatest of them.”
How is Jeremiah’s prophecy being fulfilled under God’s covenant with annointed Christians?
Annointed Christians show they have God’s law written in their hearts through their preaching work and actions. (Jer. 31:33; Heb. 8:10)
When those of us who do not have a heavenly hope learn about Jehovah, obey him and develop faith, we too come to have his law written in our hearts. (John 17:3; Heb. 11:6; 1 John 5:3)
We do not rely on human teachings, but on the truths found in his Word. (2 Tim. 3:16,17)
He answers our prayers through principles we learn in our study of the Scriptures and when we rely on him in our times of need.
As a result, each one of Jehovah’s Witnesses has the privilege of a personal relationship with Jehovah God through his new kingdom covenant. (Rom. 8:19-21)
“Look! I and the young children, whom Jehovah gave me.”
This passage is a quote from the book of Isaiah, in which the prophet and his children were to serve as “signs” to the people of Judah. (Is. 8:18)
But the prophet foreshadowed Christ’s role as a means to salvation from death. (Heb. 2:14,15)
His “children” are the annointed members of the Christian congregation who are to rule in heaven with him. (Gal. 3:29; Heb. 2:16)
They serve as signs to us when they proclaim God’s kingdom message of justice. (Luke 4:18,19)
The tenderness with which Jesus views his brothers and sisters upon calling them “children” inspires one to draw closer to his congregation.
“[The undeserved kindness of God] trains us to reject ungodliness and worldly desires and to live with soundness of mind and righteousness and godly devotion amid this present system of things.”
Paul mentions soundness of mind three times in his letter to Titus, as well as alluding to our use of reason. (Tit. 1:8; 2:5; 3:2)
It seems to be the underlying theme of his letter.
He says that for someone whose mind and conscience are defiled, “nothing is clean,” right before he condemns religious hypocrisy. (Tit. 1:15,16)
We can conclude, then, that in order to have a stronger sound mind, we need to continuously nurture our own moral thoughts so as to have purer motives.
A Christian with a sound mind is one who adopts Christ’s way of thinking over his or her own. (Matt. 6:33,34; Rom. 12:2; Phil. 1:9,10; 4:4-7; 1 Pet. 4:7,8)
If we feel this world is pushing us toward our tipping point, we can meditate on the transcendence of God’s promises. (Tit. 1:2)
“[…] You may have him back forever, no longer as a slave, but as more than a slave, as a brother who is beloved […].
~Philemon 15, 16
In his letter to Philemon, Paul entreats him to welcome back their fellow Christian, Onesimus, as a brother more so than as an escaped slave.
Paul did not use his authority in the congregation to promote personal opinions on civic matters.
Instead, he appealed to his friend’s love for God and others. (Phil. 9)
Even today, in such a hate-filled world in which we feel the effects of generations of injustice, we can trust that divine love is capable of eradicating the root causes of inequality. (1 John 4:21)