Resist “the Spirit of the World”

“We received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is from God.”—1 COR. 2:12.

IN THE year 1911, British authorities passed a law designed to save the lives of coal miners. Each mine was required to keep two canaries. For what purpose? If a fire erupted in a mine, rescuers would carry the canaries underground with them. The tiny birds are sensitive to poisonous gases, such as carbon monoxide. If the air became contaminated, the birds would show signs of distress, even falling off their perch. This early warning was vital. Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless gas that kills by stopping red blood cells from delivering oxygen in the body. Unless alerted to the danger, the rescuers could faint and then die without ever realizing that they were being poisoned.

2 In a spiritual sense, Christians face a situation similar to the mine workers. How? When Jesus gave his disciples the assignment to preach the good news worldwide, he knew that he was sending them into a hazardous environment, one dominated by Satan and the spirit of the world. (Matt. 10:16; 1 John 5:19) So concerned was Jesus about his disciples that on the night before he died, he prayed to his Father: “I request you, not to take them out of the world, but to watch over them because of the wicked one.”—John 17:15.

3 Jesus warned his followers about the danger of what could amount to a death-dealing spiritual sleep. His words have special meaning for us, living as we do during the conclusion of the system of things. He urged his disciples: “Keep awake . . . that you may succeed in escaping all these things that are destined to occur, and in standing before the Son of man.” (Luke 21:34-36) Happily, though, Jesus also promised that his Father would provide holy spirit to refresh their memories and to help them stay awake and be strong.—John 14:26.

4 What about us today? Is that same holy spirit available to help us? If so, what must we do to receive it? What is the spirit of the world, and how does it operate? And how can we successfully resist this world’s spirit?—Read 1 Corinthians 2:12.

Holy Spirit or the World’s Spirit?

5 The provision of holy spirit was not limited to the first century. It is readily available today, and God’s spirit can give us the strength to do what is right as well as energize us in his service. (Rom. 12:11; Phil. 4:13) It can also produce in us tender qualities, such as love, kindness, and goodness, which are aspects of “the fruitage of the spirit.” (Gal. 5:22, 23) However, Jehovah God does not force his holy spirit upon unwilling recipients.

6 It would be reasonable, then, for us to ask, ‘What can I do to receive holy spirit?’ Well, the Bible shows that there are a number of things we can do. An important step is quite straightforward—ask God for it. (Read Luke 11:13.) Another useful step is to study and apply the counsel in God’s spirit-inspired Word. (2 Tim. 3:16) Of course, not everyone who simply reads the Bible receives God’s spirit. But when a sincere Christian studies God’s Word, he can absorb the sentiments and outlook reflected in the inspired Word. It is also vital that we accept that Jehovah has appointed Jesus as His representative and the one through whom God has provided his spirit. (Col. 2:6) Accordingly, we want to model our lives on Jesus’ example and teachings. (1 Pet. 2:21) The more we strive to be like Christ, the more we will receive holy spirit.

7 In contrast, the world’s spirit influences people to reflect Satan’s personality. (Read Ephesians 2:1-3.) The spirit of the world operates in a number of ways. As is evidenced all around us today, it encourages rebellion against God’s standards. It promotes “the desire of the flesh and the desire of the eyes and the showy display of one’s means of life.” (1 John 2:16) It produces fleshly works, such as fornication, idolatry, spiritism, jealousy, fits of anger, and drunkenness. (Gal. 5:19-21) And it fosters apostate speech that violates what is holy. (2 Tim. 2:14-18) Inevitably, the more a person allows himself to be influenced by the spirit of the world, the more like Satan he becomes.

8 We cannot live in a spiritual vacuum. Each individual must choose what he will allow to govern his life—holy spirit or the world’s spirit. Those who are now dominated by the spirit of the world can break free from its influence and allow holy spirit to guide their lives. However, the opposite is also possible. Those who for a time were led by holy spirit can become ensnared by the spirit of the world. (Phil. 3:18, 19) Let us consider how we can resist the world’s spirit.

Recognize Early Warning Signs

9 The British coal miners mentioned earlier used canaries to provide an early warning of the presence of poisonous gas. If a miner saw a bird fall from its perch, he knew he needed to act fast to survive. In a spiritual sense, what are some early warning signs signaling that we are being influenced by the spirit of the world?

10 When we first learned the truths contained in God’s Word and then dedicated our lives to Jehovah, we probably read the Bible eagerly. We likely prayed fervently and often. And we delighted to attend congregation meetings, viewing each one as a source of spiritual refreshment, like an oasis for a thirsty man. That course helped us to break free of and keep free of the world’s spirit.

11 Do we still try to read the Bible each day? (Ps. 1:2) Are our prayers frequent and heartfelt? Do we love congregation meetings, attending all of them each week? (Ps. 84:10) Or have we lost some of these good habits? Of course, we may have many demands upon our time and energy, and it can be challenging to maintain a healthy spiritual routine. But if some of our good habits have suffered over time, could it be that we are succumbing to the spirit of the world? Will we now make a strong effort to revive the good habits we once had?

“Never Become Weighed Down”

12 What else can we do to resist the spirit of the world? When Jesus admonished his disciples to “keep awake,” he had just warned them of some specific dangers. “Pay attention to yourselves,” he said, “that your hearts never become weighed down with overeating and heavy drinking and anxieties of life, and suddenly that day be instantly upon you as a snare.”—Luke 21:34, 35.

13 Think about that warning. Did Jesus condemn the enjoyment of food and drink? No! He was aware of Solomon’s words: “I have come to know that there is nothing better for [the sons of mankind] than to rejoice and to do good during one’s life; and also that every man should eat and indeed drink and see good for all his hard work. It is the gift of God.” (Eccl. 3:12, 13) Yet, Jesus knew that the spirit of the world promotes a lack of self-control in those areas.

14 How can we be sure that the world’s spirit has not poisoned our senses as to the dangers of overeating or heavy drinking? We might ask ourselves: ‘How do I react upon reading counsel in the Bible or in our publications about gluttony? Am I inclined to dismiss this admonition as irrelevant or extreme, perhaps offering excuses or justification for my ways?* What is my view of the advice about alcohol, using it—if at all—in moderation and definitely avoiding “drunken bouts”? Do I minimize such advice, feeling that it for some reason does not apply to me? If others express concern about my drinking, do I become defensive or angry? Do I encourage others to downplay such Bible counsel?’ Yes, a person’s attitude is a gauge as to whether he is succumbing to the world’s spirit.—Compare Romans 13:11-14.

Avoid Being Choked by Anxiety

15 Another vital step in resisting the spirit of the world involves managing anxiety. Jesus knew that as imperfect creatures, we have a tendency to become anxious about mundane matters. He lovingly said to his disciples: “Stop being anxious.” (Matt. 6:25) It is understandable that we are concerned about important issues, such as pleasing God, caring for Christian responsibilities, and providing the necessities of life for our family. (1 Cor. 7:32-34) What, then, can we learn from Jesus’ warning?

16 The world’s spirit, with its emphasis on the showy display of one’s means of life, infects many individuals with an unhealthy anxiety. They would have us believe that money equals security and that a person’s worth is measured, not by his spiritual qualities, but by the quantity and quality of his possessions. Those duped by this propaganda will slave to gain riches and are constantly anxious about acquiring the newest, the biggest, the most advanced products. (Prov. 18:11) Such a distorted view of material things breeds anxieties that choke an individual’s spiritual development.—Read Matthew 13:18, 22.

17 We can avoid being choked by anxiety if we obey Jesus’ command: “Keep on, then, seeking first the kingdom and [God’s] righteousness.” Jesus assures us that if we do this, the things we really need will be added to us. (Matt. 6:33) How can we show that we believe this promise? One way is to seek first God’s righteousness—abiding by God’s standard of what is right as regards financial matters. For instance, we refuse to falsify our tax returns or to tell even “little” lies in our business dealings. We do all within our power to honor our financial commitments, letting our “Yes mean Yes” when it comes to paying off debts. (Matt. 5:37; Ps. 37:21) Such honesty may not make a person rich, but it brings God’s approval, produces a clean conscience, and greatly reduces anxiety.

18 Seeking first the Kingdom involves having our priorities in order. Consider Jesus’ example. At times, he wore a good-quality garment. (John 19:23) He enjoyed food and wine in the company of good friends. (Matt. 11:18, 19) But possessions and entertainment were like seasoning or condiments in his life, not the meat of it. Jesus’ food was to do Jehovah’s will. (John 4:34-36) Life is so rewarding when we copy Jesus’ example! We have the joy of helping downtrodden people receive comfort from the Scriptures. We gain the love and support of the congregation. And we make Jehovah’s heart rejoice. When our priorities are in order, possessions and pleasure are not our masters. Rather, they are servants, or tools, that help us worship Jehovah. And the more active we are in work that supports God’s Kingdom, the less likely we are to be overcome by the spirit of the world.

Keep On ‘Minding the Spirit’

19 Thoughts precede actions. What many refer to as thoughtless actions are often actions prompted by fleshly thinking. Thus, the apostle Paul reminds us of the need to guard our thinking. He wrote: “Those who are in accord with the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those in accord with the spirit on the things of the spirit.”—Rom. 8:5.

20 How can we avoid having our thinking—and thus our actions—dominated by the spirit of the world? We must put a filter on our mind, striving to block out the world’s propaganda to the extent possible. For example, when choosing entertainment, we refuse to let our minds be sullied by programs that glorify immorality or violence. We realize that God’s holy, or clean, spirit will not reside in a dirty mind. (Ps. 11:5; 2 Cor. 6:15-18) In addition, we invite God’s spirit into our minds through regular Bible reading, prayer, meditation, and meeting attendance. And we work along with that spirit as we regularly share in the Christian preaching work.

21 Certainly, we must resist the spirit of the world and the fleshly desires it fosters. But doing so is worth our earnest effort because, as Paul states, “the minding of the flesh means death, but the minding of the spirit means life and peace.”—Rom. 8:6.

[Footnote]

Gluttony is a mental attitude, one marked by greedy or excessive indulgence. Thus, it is determined, not by someone’s size, but by his attitude toward food. A person may be of normal size, or even be thin, and yet be a glutton. On the other hand, in some cases being overweight is the result of an ailment, or hereditary factors may contribute to obesity. A key issue is whether a person, whatever his or her weight, is excessively greedy as regards eating.—See “Questions From Readers” in the November 1, 2004, issue of The Watchtower.

Do You Recall?

• To receive holy spirit, what should we do?

• What are some ways that the world’s spirit might affect us?

• How can we resist the spirit of the world?

[Study Questions]

1, 2. (a) In the past, why were canaries put in British mines? (b) What danger do Christians face?

3, 4. What warning did Jesus give his disciples, and why should that interest us?

5, 6. What can holy spirit do for us, but what must we do to receive it?

 7. How does the spirit of the world influence individuals?

 8. All of us face what choice?

9-11. What are some warning signs that we might be succumbing to the spirit of the world?

12. Jesus told his disciples to “pay attention” to whom, and why?

13, 14. It would be fitting to ask ourselves what sort of questions about eating and drinking?

15. Jesus warned against what human tendency?

16. What effect does the world’s spirit have on many people?

17. How can we avoid being choked by anxiety?

18. Jesus set what fine example for us, and how do we benefit by imitating him?

19-21. How can we keep ‘minding the spirit,’ and why should we do so?

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Before going to work or school, pray for holy spirit

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We must keep our minds clean, maintain good business practices, and be moderate in habits