Friday, 31 October 2014

Circuit Overseer Talk: REJOICE WITH THE TRUTH

This is re-created from the notes I took during the Circuit Overseer's talk on Tuesday night.  I couldn't get it all down, or read back all my scrawled notes, so while this is not perfect, I hope it is accurate.

Circuit Overseer Talk, Tuesday 28th October 2014

What is truth?  The C.O. reminded us of Pontius Pilate's question, and pointed out that we live in a world that does not value or welcome truth. We are to be non-judgmental.   Yet don't people yearn for the truth?  Scientists, for example, are constantly searching for the answers.

Do we remember how we felt when we first learnt the truth?

Yes, I do vividly.  I felt as if I had had a jumbled up jigsaw in my head and suddenly all the pieces began to click together, faster and faster, and I saw the picture for the first time.  I don't want to forget that.

We then read 1 Corinthians 13:4 and 6:
" Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous. It does not brag, does not get puffed up."
" It does not rejoice over unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth."

In this Inspired definition of love, we can see how love and truth connect.   As we study Jehovah's word and get to know Him, and his perfect laws, it makes us so happy.  We rejoice.

The Circuit Overseer pointed out that the word for "rejoice" has connotations of  jumping for joy.  It is a very strong word.  Both heart and mind is involved.  We need to welcome all the truth, even when it involves letting some cherished beliefs go.

The C.O. then discussed the example of the Apostles in the first century, as they came to understand that circumcision was not a requirement for a Christian.   He read Acts 15:28,29:

" For the holy spirit and we ourselves have favored adding no further burden to you except these necessary things:  to keep abstaining from things sacrificed to idols, from blood, from what is strangled, and from sexual immorality. If you carefully keep yourselves from these things, you will prosper. Good health to you!”"

He pointed out how long circumcision had been practised.  It was a requirement of the Mosaic Law, but it predated that Law, as it was a command given to Abraham.  So the Jews had been practising circumcision for 1900 years!  It was a cherished custom.

The C.O reminded us of the celestial chariot that Ezekiel saw in vision - Jehovah's perfect and fast moving heavenly organisation. So, at that time, the celestial chariot was moving along in a new direction.  No indicators!   Off it went - and would they follow?

How did those first Jewish Christians react?

He then read Acts 15:30,31:  "So when these men were dismissed, they went down to Antioch, and they gathered the whole group together and handed them the letter. After reading it, they rejoiced over the encouragement. "

They rejoiced to see the truth, to see Jehovah's purpose clarified. And the result was to speed up the work being done.

Acts 16:4,5 tells us:  "As they traveled on through the cities, they would deliver to them for observance the decrees that had been decided on by the apostles and the elders who were in Jerusalem. Then, indeed, the congregations continued to be made firm in the faith and to increase in number day by day."

The congregations continued to increase in number day by day. 

The truth itself never changes, but we are being helped to understand it more and more clearly.

The Speaker then reminded us of the early Bible students in the 19th Century.  Once they began to study the Bible they saw clearly that the doctrine of the inherent immortality of the soul is unBiblical.  Our brother Russell said: "Let Scripture interpret Scripture", and so they did.

So they taught that, as the Bible says, the soul can and does die, and that man is mortal.   There was an article in The Watchtower magazine of 1894 pointing that out.  Yet when I was a Catholic Convent schoolgirl in the 1950s we were still being taught that the soul is immortal.   As far as I know Christendom teaches it to this day.

And the very essence of heathen religions is the immortality of the soul.  Yet the Bible has taught us right from the start where that doctrine comes from.

The Speaker then read Genesis 3:1-5:

"Now the serpent was the most cautious of all the wild animals of the field that Jehovah God had made. So it said to the woman: “Did God really say that you must not eat from every tree of the garden?”  At this the woman said to the serpent: “We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden.  But God has said about the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden: ‘You must not eat from it, no, you must not touch it; otherwise you will die.’” At this the serpent said to the woman: “You certainly will not die.  For God knows that in the very day you eat from it, your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and bad.”"

It was Satan who told Eve there was something immortal about her.  "You certainly will not die".    Whereas Jehovah had told them, clearly and plainly, that if they ate of the forbidden fruit, they would die.  And so they did.  When they cut themselves off from their Creator, their Source of life, they found they could not even keep themselves alive, let alone run this beautiful and complex planet.

In 1896, the Bible Students examined every Scripture in the Bible that refers to hell - they were using the King James Bible at that time (and for many decades after). And so they discerned that hell is simply the ground, the grave, the common grave of mankind.

As this truth became clear, the brothers rejoiced.   Even some of those who were not in the congregation rejoiced.  Apparently one clergyman (?) (my notes are not easy to read) congratulated brother Russell, saying: "You have put the hose on hellfire."

Who wouldn't rejoice to hear this?  When I was a Catholic Convent schoolgirl way back when, I couldn't understand how anyone could be happy in heaven (as we were taught that is where we were going if we were good enough) knowing that people were being tormented forever somewhere else.   It put me off the whole idea of God and the Bible for many years - because, of course, I assumed that is what the Bible taught.    

So, yes, the truth makes us rejoice.    Anyway, back to the talk.

In 1912 they began to understand the truth about inheriting the earth - about Paradise being restored.

He read the lovely words at Revelation 21:4,5: 
"And he will wipe out every tear from their eyes, and death will be no more, neither will mourning nor outcry nor pain be anymore. The former things have passed away.”  And the One seated on the throne said: “Look! I am making all things new.” Also he says: “Write, for these words are faithful and true.”"

But who was going to inherit the earth?

And who were "the great crowd" of  Revelation chapter 7?

A Convention in 1935 explained the great crowd/other sheep - which was another cause for rejoicing.  

As far back as 1886, the Bible Students were very clear that the author of the Bible is God - that it is the Inspired word of Jehovah.    The C.O. quoted (didn't get down source of quote) someone who wrote that there is a Scriptural reason behind everything that Jehovah's Witnesses do.

And I can remember noting that difference between them and others (I had been searching for a while) - that everything Jehovah's Witnesses taught was based on the Bible.

The Speaker then asked us to remember how we felt when we first learnt the truth, and asked if we still feel the same way.  We never want to take it for granted.

He talked some more about how the truth became refined. There was the release of the New World translation - to get away from the Creed bound translations.

It took time before there was a clear understanding of the principle of relative subjection.  Romans 13: 1,2 says: 
"Let every person be in subjection to the superior authorities, for there is no authority except by God; the existing authorities stand placed in their relative positions by God.  Therefore, whoever opposes the authority has taken a stand against the arrangement of God; those who have taken a stand against it will bring judgment against themselves."

The truth became clearer as we understood that we must be obedient to all earthly authorities for as long as Jehovah tolerates them, but that it must be a relative obedience, in that, when man's law conflicts with God's law, we must trust in Jehovah with all our heart, and put God's law first.

(I thought, at this point, of our Christian brothers and sisters in Germany during the Nazi era, who, as followers of Christ, would not and could not "Heil" Hitler as their saviour, let alone join his Nazi party, his army, or his Gestapo.  Clearly they understood enough of the truth then to stand firm, but I don't think it was completely clear at that time.)

In 1973, we came to realise that there should not be one elder in charge of each congregation, but a body of elders, as there was in the first century.

The Speaker then read John 17:17,19:
"Sanctify them by means of the truth; your word is truth."   "And I am sanctifying myself in their behalf, so that they also may be sanctified by means of truth."

The truth sets us apart, for a special purpose.

He then spoke about a very timely article in The Watchtower, in 1939, just as WW2 started, but I didn't manage to get the details down, or remember what the article was about!

The Speaker also read 2 Corinthians 7:1:
"Therefore, since we have these promises, beloved ones, let us cleanse ourselves of every defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God."

We came to understand that the use of tobacco is not appropriate for a Christian.  Which is a great protection.   And another reason for being joyful.

The question to ask ourselves:

In spite of all the problems and stresses am I still rejoicing in the truth?

Do I cherish it as a treasure beyond price?

And the Speaker concluded by reading John 8:31,32:

"Then Jesus went on to say to the Jews who had believed him: “If you remain in my word, you are really my disciples,  and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

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