Christians—Be Proud of Who You Are!
“He that boasts, let him boast in Jehovah.”—1 CORINTHIANS 1:31.
1. What trend is evident in the attitude of people toward religion?
“APATHEISM.” A commentator on religious affairs recently used that word to describe the stance many people maintain toward their faith. He explained: “The greatest development in modern religion is not a religion at all—it’s an attitude best described as ‘apatheism.’” Elaborating, he defined apatheism as “a disinclination to care all that much about one’s own religion.” Many people, he observed, “believe in God . . . ; they just don’t care much about him.”
2. (a) Why is it not surprising that people have become spiritually apathetic? (b) What danger does indifference pose to true Christians?
2 This slide toward apathy is not surprising to students of the Bible. (Luke 18:8) And when it comes to religion in general, such disinterest is to be expected. False religion has misled and disappointed mankind for so long. (Revelation 17:15, 16) For genuine Christians, however, the pervasive spirit of halfheartedness and lack of zeal presents a danger. We cannot afford to become nonchalant about our faith and lose our zeal for serving God and for Bible truth. Jesus warned against such lukewarmness when he cautioned first-century Christians living in Laodicea: “You are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were cold or else hot. . . . You are lukewarm.”—Revelation 3:15-18.
Seeing Who We Are
3. In what aspects of their identity can Christians take pride?
3 To fight spiritual apathy, Christians need to have a clear view of who they are, and they must take reasonable pride in their distinct identity. As servants of Jehovah and disciples of Christ, we can find in the Bible descriptions of who we are. We are “witnesses” of Jehovah, “God’s fellow workers,” as we actively share the “good news” with others. (Isaiah 43:10; 1 Corinthians 3:9; Matthew 24:14) We are people who “love one another.” (John 13:34) True Christians are individuals who “through use have their perceptive powers trained to distinguish both right and wrong.” (Hebrews 5:14) We are “illuminators in the world.” (Philippians 2:15) We strive to “maintain [our] conduct fine among the nations.”—1 Peter 2:12; 2 Peter 3:11, 14.
4. How can a worshiper of Jehovah determine what he is not?
4 True worshipers of Jehovah also know what they are not. “They are no part of the world,” just as their Leader, Jesus Christ, was no part of the world. (John 17:16) They remain separate from “the nations,” which “are in darkness mentally, and alienated from the life that belongs to God.” (Ephesians 4:17, 18) As a result, Jesus’ followers “repudiate ungodliness and worldly desires and . . . live with soundness of mind and righteousness and godly devotion amid this present system of things.”—Titus 2:12.
5. What is implied by the admonition to “boast in Jehovah”?
5 Our clear view of our identity and our relationship with the Sovereign Ruler of the universe motivates us to “boast in Jehovah.” (1 Corinthians 1:31) What kind of boasting is that? As true Christians, we are proud to have Jehovah as our God. We follow the admonition: “Let the one bragging about himself brag about himself because of this very thing, the having of insight and the having of knowledge of me, that I am Jehovah, the One exercising loving-kindness, justice and righteousness in the earth.” (Jeremiah 9:24) We “boast” in the privilege of knowing God and of being used by him to assist others.
6. Why do some find it challenging to maintain a clear perception of their identity as Christians?
6 Admittedly, maintaining a sharp perception of our distinct identity as Christians is not always easy. A young man who was raised as a Christian recalled that he for a while had experienced a state of spiritual weakness: “At times, I felt I didn’t know why I was one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. I had been around the truth since infancy. Sometimes I felt that this was just another mainstream, accepted religion.” Others may have let their identity be shaped by the entertainment world, mass media, and the current ungodly outlook on life. (Ephesians 2:2, 3) Some Christians may occasionally go through periods of self-doubt and of a reassessment of their values and goals.
7. (a) What kind of self-examination is fitting for servants of God? (b) Where does danger lurk?
7 Is a degree of careful self-examination entirely inappropriate? No. You may recall that the apostle Paul encouraged Christians to keep examining themselves: “Keep testing whether you are in the faith, keep proving what you yourselves are.” (2 Corinthians 13:5) The apostle was here promoting a wholesome endeavor to spot any spiritual weaknesses that may have developed, with the objective of taking the necessary steps to rectify them. A Christian, in testing whether he is in the faith, must determine whether his words and deeds harmonize with his profession of faith. However, if misdirected, self-examination that prompts us to look for our “identity” or to search for answers outside our relationship with Jehovah or the Christian congregation will prove to be pointless and can be spiritually fatal. * Never would we want to ‘experience shipwreck concerning our faith’!—1 Timothy 1:19.
We Are Not Immune to Challenges
8, 9. (a) How did Moses express his feelings of self-doubt? (b) How did Jehovah respond to Moses’ reservations? (c) How are you affected by Jehovah’s reassurances?
8 Should Christians who occasionally experience self-doubt feel that they have failed? Of course not! Indeed, they can find comfort in knowing that such feelings are not new. Faithful witnesses of God in times past experienced them. Take, for example, Moses, who displayed extraordinary faith, loyalty, and devotion. When assigned a seemingly overwhelming task, Moses diffidently asked: “Who am I?” (Exodus 3:11) Apparently, the answer he had in mind was, ‘I am a nobody!’ or ‘I am incapable!’ Several aspects of Moses’ background might have caused him to feel inadequate: He belonged to a nation of slaves. He had been rejected by the Israelites. He was not a fluent speaker. (Exodus 1:13, 14; 2:11-14; 4:10) He was a shepherd, an occupation abhorred by the Egyptians. (Genesis 46:34) No wonder he felt unfit to become the liberator of God’s enslaved people!
9 Jehovah reassured Moses by giving him two powerful promises: “I shall prove to be with you, and this is the sign for you that it is I who have sent you: After you have brought the people out of Egypt, you people will serve the true God on this mountain.” (Exodus 3:12) God was telling his hesitant servant that He would constantly be with him. In addition, Jehovah was indicating that he would without fail deliver his people. Down through the centuries, God has provided similar promises of support. For instance, through Moses he said to the nation of Israel as they were about to enter the Promised Land: “Be courageous and strong. . . . Jehovah your God is the one marching with you. He will neither desert you nor leave you entirely.” (Deuteronomy 31:6) Jehovah also assured Joshua: “Nobody will take a firm stand before you all the days of your life. . . . I shall prove to be with you. I shall neither desert you nor leave you entirely.” (Joshua 1:5) And he promises Christians: “I will by no means leave you nor by any means forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5) Having such strong support should make us feel proud to be Christians!
10, 11. How was the Levite Asaph helped to maintain the correct attitude toward the value of his service to Jehovah?
10 About five centuries after Moses, a faithful Levite named Asaph wrote candidly regarding his doubts about the value of pursuing an upright course. While he struggled with serving God despite trials and temptations, Asaph saw some who scoffed at God grow more powerful and prosperous. How was Asaph affected? “As for me, my feet had almost turned aside,” he admitted. “My steps had nearly been made to slip. For I became envious of the boasters, when I would see the very peace of wicked people.” He began to doubt the value of being a worshiper of Jehovah. “Surely it is in vain that I have cleansed my heart and that I wash my hands in innocence itself,” Asaph thought. “And I came to be plagued all day long.”—Psalm 73:2, 3, 13, 14.
11 How did Asaph deal with these unsettling emotions? Did he deny them? No. He expressed them in prayer to God, as we see in the 73rd Psalm. The turning point for Asaph was a visit to the temple sanctuary. While there, he came to the realization that devotion to God is still the best course. With his spiritual appreciation renewed, he understood that Jehovah hated badness and that in due time the wicked would be punished. (Psalm 73:17-19) In the process, Asaph strengthened his sense of identity as a privileged servant of Jehovah. He said to God: “I am constantly with you; you have taken hold of my right hand. With your counsel you will lead me, and afterward you will take me even to glory.” (Psalm 73:23, 24) Asaph came to take pride in his God again.—Psalm 34:2.
They Had a Strong Sense of Identity
12, 13. Give examples of Bible characters who took pride in their relationship with God.
12 One way to strengthen our sense of Christian identity is to examine and imitate the faith of loyal worshipers, who despite adversity took real pride in their relationship with God. Consider Joseph, the son of Jacob. At a tender age, he was treacherously sold as a slave and taken to Egypt, hundreds of miles away from his God-fearing father and a world away from the warm, supportive atmosphere of his home. While in Egypt, Joseph had no human to turn to for godly advice, and he had to face challenging situations that tested his morals and reliance on God. However, he clearly made a conscious effort to retain a strong sense of identity as a servant of God, and he remained faithful to what he knew was right. He was proud to be a worshiper of Jehovah even in a hostile environment, and he did not shy away from expressing how he felt.—Genesis 39:7-10.
13 Eight centuries later, a captive Israelite girl who became a slave of the Syrian general Naaman did not forget her identity as a worshiper of Jehovah. When the opportunity arose, she boldly gave a fine witness for Jehovah when she identified Elisha as a prophet of the true God. (2 Kings 5:1-19) Years after that, young King Josiah, despite being in a corrupt environment, enacted long-term religious reforms, repaired God’s temple, and led the nation back to Jehovah. He took pride in his faith and worship. (2 Chronicles, chapters 34, 35) Daniel and his three Hebrew companions in Babylon never forgot their identity as servants of Jehovah, and even under pressure and temptation, they kept their integrity. Clearly, they were proud to be servants of Jehovah.—Daniel 1:8-20.
Be Proud of Who You Are
14, 15. What is involved in boasting in our Christian identity?
14 These servants of God were successful because they nurtured a wholesome sense of pride in their standing before God. What about us today? What is involved in boasting in our Christian identity?
15 Primarily, this includes a deep appreciation for being one of Jehovah’s name people, having his blessing and approval. God has no doubts about who belong to him. The apostle Paul, who lived in an era of considerable religious confusion, wrote: “Jehovah knows those who belong to him.” (2 Timothy 2:19; Numbers 16:5) Jehovah takes pride in those “who belong to him.” He declares: “He that is touching you is touching my eyeball.” (Zechariah 2:8) Clearly, Jehovah loves us. In return, our relationship with him should be based on deep love for him. Paul noted: “If anyone loves God, this one is known by him.”—1 Corinthians 8:3.
16, 17. Why can Christians, young and old, take pride in their spiritual heritage?
16 Young people who have been raised as Jehovah’s Witnesses do well to examine whether their Christian identity is becoming stronger based on a personal relationship with God. They cannot depend merely on the faith of their parents. Regarding each servant of God, Paul wrote: “To his own master he stands or falls.” Thus, Paul continues: “Each of us will render an account for himself to God.” (Romans 14:4, 12) Obviously, a halfhearted continuation of family tradition cannot sustain an intimate, long-term relationship with Jehovah.
17 Throughout history, there has been a succession of witnesses of Jehovah. It extends from the faithful man Abel—about 60 centuries ago—to the “great crowd” of modern Witnesses and on to throngs of worshipers of Jehovah who will enjoy an endless future. (Revelation 7:9; Hebrews 11:4) We are the latest of this long line of faithful worshipers. What a rich spiritual heritage we have!
18. How do our values and standards set us apart from the world?
18 Our Christian identity also includes the set of values, qualities, standards, and characteristics that identify us as Christians. It is “The Way,” the only successful way of life and of pleasing God. (Acts 9:2; Ephesians 4:22-24) Christians “make sure of all things” and “hold fast to what is fine”! (1 Thessalonians 5:21) We have a clear understanding of the vast difference between Christianity and the world that is alienated from God. Jehovah leaves no room for any ambiguity between true worship and false. Through his prophet Malachi, he declared: “You people will again certainly see the distinction between a righteous one and a wicked one, between one serving God and one who has not served him.”—Malachi 3:18.
19. What will true Christians never become?
19 Since boasting in Jehovah is so important in this confused and disoriented world, what can assist us to maintain a wholesome pride in our God and a strong sense of Christian identity? Helpful suggestions are found in the next article. While considering these, you can be certain of this: True Christians will never become victims of “apatheism.”
^ par. 7 Here reference is made solely to our spiritual identity. For a few, mental-health issues may necessitate professional treatment.
Do You Recall?
• How can Christians “boast in Jehovah”?
• What have you learned from the examples of Moses and Asaph?
• What Bible characters took pride in their service to God?
• What is involved in boasting in our Christian identity?
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For a time, Moses had feelings of self-doubt
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Many ancient servants of Jehovah took pride in their distinct identity