1 The scientists who investigate the secrets of the universe marvel at the enormous amount of energy in the cosmos. Our sun, a star of average size, produces every second an amount of energy equivalent to that released by the explosion of 100,000 hydrogen bombs of one megaton power. These things remind us that the power of the Creator, who designed and controls all heavenly bodies, is unlimited.
Paul says that the power and personality of God are noticeable through the things created, but his appearance is unimaginable. Mankind has always tended to make images to represent their gods, however, Isaiah wrote: the Most Holy says: With who will you compare me and with whom shall I be leveled? Lift up your eyes on high and behold! Who has created all these things? Their multitude was organized by their Maker and he calls all of them by name; through the magnitude of his power and the potency of his strength, none of them has been forgotten. (Isaiah 40:25-26)
Through the Hubble space telescope, scientist have discovered that the galaxies of our universe are numerous as the sands of the seas and the deserts together, and if God remembers and cares for the milliards of galaxies in the universe, how much more for mankind to whom he gave free will, moral faculties, logic and spiritual abilities. But which is the path set by the Creator to care for men and show them the way to follow?
2 God guides men by making them aware of his high principles. The prophet Micah records these words from God: You have been told, man, what rightfulness is, and what does Yahuh requires of you, but to act honestly, to love mercy and to be modest when dealing with your God? (Micah 6:8)
Mans modesty before God is necessary and appropriate, he is extremely pleased when the sons created to reflect his image, freely choose to obey him. He did not predetermine mankind for blind obedience, but gave men freedom to choose according to their wishes and tastes, and, as a good father does, he provided them with the archetypes or models that would enable them to act with knowledge and take beneficial and rightful decisions. Jesus, who reflects the image of his Father, told his disciples: If you do what I say you are my friends, so I will not call you servants; the servant does not know what his master does, but I call you friends because I have made known to you everything I heard from my Father. (John 15:14-15)
People under service have no other choice than to obey what their master commands them; however, friendship comes from qualities that encourage love, trust and reciprocal feelings. In his words Jesus links the friendship with God and with him to obedience, as he does when he says: Whoever loves me will keep my word and my Father will love him, then we will come to him and make with him our dwelling. He who does not love me does not obey my word, but the word that you heard is not mine but of the Father who sent me. (John 14:23-24) A sincere obedience to the commands of Yahuh allows us to express our love for him and grants us his love and the love of Christ.
Yet, which is the prevailing attitude in the world?
3 Kungshi, kungshi fa tsai! May luck and wealth favors you! Say the greetings on the first day of the Chinese New Year. In our world, the material prosperity is of utmost importance and when the objective is to reach the ability of making money, even the academic credits may become a cult object. For this reason, in some of the Eastern countries the main concern of many parents is to enroll their children in the best schools and in the most prestigious universities, but also in Western countries there are many young people which believe that the best thing in life is to have lots of money, and their main priority is to obtain a high level of income, with all the advantages that this may provide them.
4 This way of thinking reflects a widespread attitude, so we might reflect on whether there is an agreement between the desperate search for money or material welfare and the obedience to biblical principles. The answer lies in the warning given by Jesus to his disciples when he said: No one can serve two masters, either he will hate one of them and love the other, or he will stick to one of them, despising all others. You cannot serve God and wealth. (Matthew 6:24)
King Solomon, one of the wisest and richest men in the ancient world, recorded an observation that reflects the truth: Whoever loves money will never become satiated of money or he who loves wealth, of profit. (Ecclesiastes 5:9)
5 The husband and wife, who work tirelessly to enjoy a high standard of living, are often so busy that do not have time to enjoy their life together and all the things they get, if it is not bragging about them to others. In contrast with this attitude, Paul writes to Timothy: the practice of the faith and the contentment with what one has is a great wealth, because we brought nothing into the world and we certainly cannot carry anything out of it, so we must be content if we have food and clothing... Without doubt, the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil and thus, some who have cultivated it have been led astray from the faith and have sought out many sorrows. And he advised him: You, as a friend of God, flee these things and seek justice, fidelity, faith, love, perseverance and humility. (1Timothy 6:6-11)
The divine principles
6 Which is the meaning of divine principles? The dictionary says of the word principle: standard that governs the thinking or the behavior, and also: Originating idea, standard from which a system of ideas derives or on which reasoning is based.
Now, the study of the Bible reveals that our heavenly Father provided us with principles, with guidelines or basic essential ideas for our approach to any aspect of life. His spirit spoke these words through King Solomon: Listen my son and hold on my sayings, then the years of your life will be many. I led you towards the way of wisdom; I directed you toward the paths of righteousness. (Proverbs 4:10-11) The fact of thinking and acting in harmony with the basic principles provided by God through the Scriptures, not only makes us wiser in our spiritual life and in our decisions, but also in our daily life dealings.
7 Speaking of the principles that condition the relation of the people with their God, Jesus said, You shall love your God Yahuh with all your heart and with all your soul, with your entire mind and with all your might. (Mark 12:30) And said of the relationship people should have with each other: Whatever you wish that people do to you, you must also do to them. (Matthew 7:12) These two general principles involve a multitude of things to be done and not to be done.
Paul wrote to the disciples: You must do all things for the glory of God whether you eat or drink or whether you do anything else, and you should not be a stumbling block for the Jews or for Greeks or for the congregation of God. So behave as I do, striving to please others in everything and not seeking my own advantage but that of others, so that everyone can reach salvation. (1 Corinthians 10:31-33) And recommends them: Let us consider each other to encourage love and good deeds, and let us not be absent from the meetings as some usually do. Rather, let us exhort one another while we see how the Day approaches. (Hebrews 10:24-25)
The advice Paul gives in his letters cannot be regarded as strict rules, it is based on the principle of love and intended for the common benefit. God is love (1 John 4:8) and love is the basis for the happiness of all his sons. So he writes them: Why as if you were still living in the world, you allow the imposition of dogmas or precepts such as: Do not take, do not try, and do not touch? These are all human precepts and teachings intended to be abolished, that may perhaps have an appearance of wisdom, of false humility and of personal austerity within a kind of self-imposed religion, but which are not of any value to fight the desire of the senses. (Colossians 2:21-23)
Our actions and our thoughts must be based on principles
8 Even if the commandments in
Commenting the words of Jesus Paul writes: Do not owe anything to anyone but the love you owe to each other, for he who loves others has fulfilled the Law. The commandments: you shall not commit adultery, you shall not murder, you shall not steal, you shall not covet and all the others can be summarized in these words: You must love your neighbor as yourself, and since love does not hurt your fellow, love is the fulfilling of the law. (Romans 13:8-10)
9 The deep understanding of the principles provided by God will help us to apply them appropriately in all situations and circumstances, proving that we have reached spiritual maturity. However, if we do not try hard to practice them in our conduct and decisions, the new personality we must strive to dress will never be able to grow in the right direction and our faith will surely weaken. As Paul says, we would remain like children, agitated by any new idea and pushed from one side to another by the wind, and fall into the error of the people who proceed with falsehood and cunning. Thus, let us grow in harmony with Christ, the head to whom the whole body is harmoniously connected to receive the strength that allows it to grow and get edified in love, by the help of each joint and the energy from each one of its members. (Ephesians 4:14-16)
10 The fact of resorting faithfully to the biblical principles is not in our everyday life, as simple as the obedience to precise and explicit rules. Human beings are defective and therefore tend to avoid the effort required to consider the proper application of the principles in all circumstances, preferring the comfort of following some established standards accepted by all. So when the Bible does not say anything concrete about a problem, it may seem appropriate for an elder of the congregation lay down a rule that permits people avoiding the consideration of the question. This is what a man did, when coming out of the crowd that followed Jesus, told him: Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me, but Jesus said to him: Man! Who appointed me judge or divider over you? And he said: Watch and beware of all covetousness, for one's life is not in the abundance of goods. (Luke 12:13-15) With this, instead of publicly rebuking the greedy brother or provide any relevant rules for a personal situation, he gave all his listeners a broad general principle, a model to follow that was useful then and is useful today.
11 Many people tend to obey laws and regulations carefully, for the fear of fines and punishments, but respect for principles does not stimulate this attitude, because their very nature motivate the hearts of those who follow them. In fact, disobedience to God's principles does not involve an immediate punishment for those who ignore them; this fact permits to demonstrate the selfless obedience of those who follow them.
As our knowledge and appreciation for Yahuh and his provisions increases, our conscience or moral sense, will help us to implement God's principles in all circumstances, even in intimate and personal issues; then we will no longer look for gaps in the rules or imitate those who try to ascertain what limit can be reached without violating a specific rule.
Concerning these things, Paul wrote: I do not attempt to establish a justification from my own point of view and based upon the Law, but based on the faith in Christ, I seek the justification that comes from God and originates from faith. (Philippians 3:9)
12 Indeed, if we want to be guided by Gods principles, the desire to know and to unite our thinking to that of Yahuh is essential. In the Psalms we read: All of you, who love Yahuh, must hate evil! (Psalm 97:10) But what is evil? Evil is anything Yahuh hates, so we must love what Yahuh loves and hate what he hates. The desire to imitate our God will make easier the fact of living in harmony with his principles, which will become standard practice and will protect us from falling into the trap of an empty and formal worship. The fact of guiding ourselves by his principles, which are in our hearts, is not like having to obey submissively and without thinking, to some rules and dogmas. In keeping with this, Jesus told the people: I say to you that unless your justice is more abundant than that of the scribes and Pharisees, no way will you enter the kingdom of heaven. You heard that the ancestors were told: «You shall not commit homicide and anyone who commits homicide shall be guilty of conviction», but I tell you that anyone who is irate with his brother shall be guilty of conviction. You heard that it was said: «You shall not commit adultery», but I tell you that whoever looks at a woman with a lustful intention, has already committed adultery with her in his heart. (Matthew 5:21-28)
13 The scribes and Pharisees had moved away the people from God by adding many regulations and precepts to each of the commandments given to Moses. This fact misrepresented and concealed the meaning and the spirit of the Law, creating a tradition that was for them, higher than the principles of Yahuh, and any disobedience of their rules, even in its smallest details, was interpreted as a violation of the Law.
They did not instruct people about the deep moral and spiritual significance of the principles underlying the mandates of God. To have a chance to accuse Jesus, they asked him whether it was lawful to heal a man on Saturday, then he reminded them one of the principles underlying the Law, and said: What man among you, when one of his sheep falls into a pit in Sabbath, does not help to pull her out? And a man is much more than a sheep! So, on the Sabbath it is lawful to do well. (Matthew 12:9-12) Then he healed the man and none of them dared to say anything against him.
Jesus reproached the religious leaders of
For example, when Jesus said whoever looks at a woman with a lustful intention, has already committed adultery with her in his heart, he taught his people that they must never lose sight of the principle which gives rise to the command or provision of the Law, because God's favor cannot be sought through conventional morality. He told the Pharisees, who reproached his disciples the fact that while walking through a wheat field on the Sabbath, picked up wheat grains to eat: Had you understood what «I want mercy and not sacrifice» means, you would not condemn those who have no guilt. (Matthew 12:7, where Jesus quotes Hosea 6:6)
If we guide ourselves by the principles in the Scriptures, we shall become free and responsible; our conduct will not mean a blind obedience to a set of rules, neither will we require them to others, we shall then understand the words of Jesus and approach God through love and fidelity, without worrying about conventional outward expressions of spirituality.
The happy result of being guided by principles
15 We must always remember that all commandments God gave to man through his angels and prophets are based on fundamental principles. For example, Luke writes in the Acts of the Apostles that Jacob (James), together with all the elders of the congregation in Jerusalem, gave this command to the people of the nations that turned to Christ: It seemed good to the holy spirit and to us, not to lay upon you any other burden than these necessary things: To abstain from the things sacrificed to idols, that is: from the blood and from the fornication; if you take care of these things you will do well. (Acts 15:28-29)
Which is the principle behind these necessary things? The principle is love and an exclusive loyalty to God and his purpose. The people from the nations that turned to Christ, could not because of their love and respect for God and his mandates, participate in spiritually and morally degrading social behavior.
The fact of understanding that the biblical injunctions are based on fundamental principles will make obedience much easier. It is important to understand that they are not dogmatic impositions but divine instructions that work on our behalf. By obeying them, the Disciples of Christ do not only get spiritual blessings; they also receive material benefits, because whoever does not smoke or drink too much, does not use drugs, and has a morally pure life, favors family life and may enjoy within his circumstances, of a good health, safe from many diseases that could also affect his offspring.
However, the Disciples of Christ obey Gods principles because they love him. They confidently wait for his justice and his kingdom, and as the powerful spirits in heaven do, they glorify the Father and Creator of life from their hearts, saying: You, Yahuh, are worthy of the glory and of the power, for you created all things, and these exist and came into being by your will. (Revelation 4:11)
16 God, the father of all existence, has provided from the beginning, care and fatherly guidance to humankind. He warned man that the fact of deciding subjectively what is morally right and what is morally wrong would not benefit him; and when man despised his guide, he continued to love humanity and led it to survival through the flood. Later he chose a people to observe his guidance and his mandates, and advised Joshua: You will not put away from your mouth (the words of) this book of the Law and you will meditate on it day and night, being vigilant to act in accordance with everything written in it, then you will prosper in your way. (Joshua 1:8)
Yahuh took care of the Israelites sending them judges and prophets, until the time to send to the world the redeemer of the life for humanity; and he made through his spirit, that the good news of redemption and of his kingdom, be extended to all nations.
To accept the guidance of his principles, directs our lives in the right direction, making them profitable now and in an eternal future. But we also may collaborate in his purpose through our example, attracting other people towards him and participating in the designs of the God that desires all men to be saved. (1Timothy 2:4) It is thus important to consider the fact of honoring God in our way of life. If our decisions are in harmony with his principles, Yahuh will bring us closer to him and of his blessings, and we may be confident that neither death nor life, neither angels nor governments, nor things present or future, nor powers, nor height or depth and no other creation, will be able to take us apart from the love of God and of Jesus Christ, our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39)