“The Word of God Is Alive”
In the previous chapter, we saw that Bible counsel can help us to solve problems and avoid mistakes. The timeless wisdom of the Bible’s counsel is strong evidence of inspiration. The Bible itself says: “All Scripture is inspired of God and beneficial for teaching, for reproving, for setting things straight, for disciplining in righteousness.” (2 Timothy 3:16) But the Bible does more than give us wise counsel. As the Word of God, it actually changes people.
1-3. (a) How does the Bible emphasize the need for personality changes? (b) What experience shows the power of the Bible to change personalities?
CAN the Bible really change people? Yes, it can even alter their personality. Consider this counsel recorded in the Bible: “You should put away the old personality which conforms to your former course of conduct and which is being corrupted according to his deceptive desires; but . . . you should be made new in the force actuating your mind, and should put on the new personality which was created according to God’s will in true righteousness and loyalty.”—Ephesians 4:22-24.
2 Is it truly possible to put on a new personality? Yes, it is! In fact, becoming a Christian sometimes involves quite dramatic personality adjustments. (1 Corinthians 6:9-11) For example, a boy in South America was orphaned at the age of nine. Growing up without parental guidance, he developed severe personality problems. He relates: “By the time I was 18, I was completely addicted to drugs and had already spent time in prison for stealing to support the habit.” His aunt, though, was one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, and eventually she was able to help him.
3 He explains: “My aunt began to study the Bible with me, and after seven months I was able to break the drug habit.” He also broke with his previous companions and made new friends among Jehovah’s Witnesses. He goes on: “These new companions, along with my regular study of the Bible, enabled me to make progress and finally to dedicate my life to serve God.” Yes, this former drug addict and thief became an active Christian, and this radical change was accomplished through the power of the Bible. Indeed, as the apostle Paul says, “The word of God is alive and exerts power.”—Hebrews 4:12.
Changed Through Knowledge
4, 5. According to Colossians 3:8-10, what is needed in order to cultivate the new personality?
4 How does the Bible change people? The answer is seen in this Bible passage: “Put them all away from you, wrath, anger, badness, abusive speech, and obscene talk out of your mouth. Do not be lying to one another. Strip off the old personality with its practices, and clothe yourselves with the new personality, which through accurate knowledge is being made new according to the image of the One who created it.”—Colossians 3:8-10.
5 Notice the important part played by accurate knowledge of the Bible. The Bible explains which characteristics we need to get rid of and which we should cultivate. Such knowledge can in itself have a powerful effect, as a young man in southern Europe found. He had a real problem: a violent temper. While growing up, he was constantly in fights, and as an outlet for his violence, he took up boxing; but he still could not control his violent nature. When in the army, he got into trouble for beating a fellow soldier. After leaving the army, he got married but then beat his wife. In one family argument, he even beat his own father, knocking him to the ground. Truly an angry, violent young man!
6, 7. How did accurate knowledge of the Bible help a young man in southern Europe to change his personality?
6 Eventually, though, he studied the Bible with Jehovah’s Witnesses and heard counsel such as the following: “Return evil for evil to no one. . . . If possible, as far as it depends upon you, be peaceable with all men. Do not avenge yourselves, beloved, but yield place to the wrath.” (Romans 12:17-19) This helped him to realize how bad a weakness his violent temperament was. He gave up boxing, which he realized was not compatible with the peaceful Christian personality. But he still had a real struggle with his violent nature.
7 He was helped, however, by his increasing knowledge of Bible principles. This refined his conscience, which in turn acted to counteract his quick temper. Once, after he had made some progress in his Bible studies, a stranger got angry and shouted insults at him. The young man felt the familiar rage welling up inside. Then, he felt another force: a sense of shame; and this prevented him from giving in to his anger. Rather than “return evil for evil,” he controlled his spirit. Now, he is a changed person, with a new personality, thanks to accurate knowledge from the Bible.
Getting to Know God
8. (a) In whose image is the new personality made? (b) The accurate knowledge that molds the new personality must include knowledge of whom?
8 True, many people know the right thing to do, but they give in to fleshly weaknesses. Clearly, simply having an accurate knowledge of right and wrong is not all that is needed. Something else helped the two individuals described above to change. What was it? The passage referred to earlier said: “Clothe yourselves with the new personality, which through accurate knowledge is being made new according to the image of the One who created it.” (Colossians 3:10) Notice that, just as Adam was originally made in God’s image, so the new personality is made in the image of God. (Genesis 1:26) Therefore, the accurate knowledge that helped these two young men had to include a knowledge of God. This reminds us of Jesus’ words: “This means everlasting life, their taking in knowledge of you, the only true God, and of the one whom you sent forth, Jesus Christ.”—John 17:3.
9. How does a knowledge of God help us to change our personality?
9 How does a knowledge of God help us to change our personality? It gives us a motive to do so. When we come to know God through our study of the Bible, we learn of his divine qualities and see the love he has shown for us. This leads us to love him in return. (1 John 4:19) Then, we can obey what Jesus said was the first and greatest commandment: “You must love Jehovah your God with your whole heart and with your whole soul and with your whole mind.” (Matthew 22:37) Loving God makes us want to put on the new personality that pleases him. It makes us want to be more like him, however hard we may have to struggle to do so.
Deeply Ingrained Weaknesses
10, 11. How did accurate knowledge help a young North American woman to start to change her personality?
10 In some cases, it really is a struggle. A young woman in North America had to fight very hard to change. A victim of childhood sexual abuse, she grew up in a violent family and eventually turned to drugs. Drugs were expensive, though, so she sold herself as a prostitute to pay for the habit. She also harassed and robbed tourists and ended up spending more time in prisons and poolrooms than she did at home.
11 When Jehovah’s Witnesses met her, she had—after several abortions—become the mother of an illegitimate child. Nevertheless, she liked what she heard from the Bible and began to study it. Soon she was building a relationship with God and making adjustments in her life.
12, 13. Describe how accurate knowledge, once implanted, acts as a force for change.
12 A hard fight lay ahead, however, because the old personality was deeply ingrained. On one occasion, she took offense at some well-meant counsel, quit studying the Bible, and went back to her unclean ways. But she could not forget the Bible truth that had been implanted in her, and she admits: “Every now and then I had feelings of guilt, and the words of 2 Peter 2:22 raced through my mind: ‘The dog returns to its own vomit and the washed sow to the mire.’”
13 Eventually, this knowledge motivated her to make another determined effort. She says: “I began opening the door to Jehovah and praying often for help.” This time, the new personality became more firmly implanted, although she still had to struggle hard. Once, in a moment of weakness, she relapsed into drunkenness and immorality. This time, though, her reaction showed that she was truly changing. She was disgusted with herself and says: “I did a lot of praying and studying.” Eventually, God’s Word exerted power in her life to such an extent that she became an active Christian, living a clean, honorable life. For several years now, she has been a totally different person from the abused, drug-addicted, wild-living individual that she used to be.
A People Changed by God’s Word
14, 15. (a) What force from God works through the Bible? (b) What are some characteristics of true Christians today?
14 The power that the Bible has wielded in the lives of humble individuals shows that it is more than merely a human work. As the inspired Word of God, it is a channel for the operation of God’s spirit. The same spirit that made possible the miracles Jesus performed helps us today to conquer bad qualities and develop a Christian personality. Indeed, the basic qualities that Christians need to cultivate—love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faith, mildness, and self-control—are called in the Bible “the fruitage of the spirit.”—Galatians 5:22, 23.
15 Today, this spirit is working not on just a few individuals but upon millions who have been “taught by Jehovah” and enjoy ‘abundant peace’ from Him. (Isaiah 54:13) Who are these ones? Jesus gave one way of identifying them, saying: “By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love among yourselves.” (John 13:35) Christian love is a fruit of the spirit and a key part of the Christian new personality. Is there any group of people showing love in the way that Jesus said?
16, 17. Quote some newspaper comments that help to identify those who are “taught by Jehovah” and who enjoy ‘abundant peace.’
16 Well, listen to this extract from a letter written to the New Haven Register, a North American newspaper: “Whether you have been aggravated or ired [angered], as I have, by their proselytizing, you have to admire their dedication, their wholesomeness, their outstanding example of human behavior and healthful living.” The German newspaper Münchner Merkur was speaking of the same group when it said: “They are the most honest and the most punctual tax payers in the [German] Federal Republic. Their obedience to the laws can be seen in the way they drive as well as in crime statistics.”
17 About whom were these two newspapers talking? The same group that was discussed in the Herald of Buenos Aires, Argentina. This newspaper said: “Jehovah’s Witnesses have proven throughout the years to be hard-working, sober, thrifty and God-fearing citizens of the kind the nation manifestly needs.” A sociological study from Zambia published in the American Ethnologist refers to the same group. It says: “Jehovah’s Witnesses experience greater success than members of other denominations in maintaining stable marital unions.”
18, 19. How have Jehovah’s Witnesses in Italy and in South Africa been described?
18 The newspaper La Stampa in Italy was also speaking of Jehovah’s Witnesses when it said: “They are the most loyal citizens anyone could wish for: they do not dodge taxes or seek to evade inconvenient laws for their own profit. The moral ideals of love for neighbor, refusal of power, non-violence and personal honesty (which for most Christians are ‘Sunday rules’ only good for being preached from the pulpit) enter into their ‘daily’ way of life.”
19 A South African university professor who experienced discrimination under that country’s racial laws calls Jehovah’s Witnesses a “people educated by the lofty standards of the Bible to be truly ‘color-blind.’” Explaining this, he added: “Here are people who see what others are inside, not just the color of their skin. Jehovah’s Witnesses today form the only true brotherhood of mankind.”
20. Why do Jehovah’s Witnesses stand out as different?
20 These comments show that there is a body of people who have opened their hearts to the Bible and upon whom God’s spirit has been active. It is worthy of note that these are the same people whom we identified earlier as obeying Jesus’ command to preach the good news of the Kingdom around the world. (Matthew 24:14) Why do Jehovah’s Witnesses stand out in these ways? In many respects they are no different from other people. They have the same fleshly weaknesses, the same economic problems, and the same basic needs. But as a group, they love God, take the Bible seriously, and let it exert power in their lives.
21. What is proved by the fact that a people such as Jehovah’s Witnesses can exist in today’s hate-filled world?
21 Millions of Jehovah’s Witnesses are found in more than 200 lands. They include people of every race, language, and social standing imaginable. Yet they are a united, peaceful, international brotherhood. They are good citizens of whatever country they happen to live in, but first and foremost, they are subjects of God’s Kingdom, and they are all very active in telling others the good news of that Kingdom. It is truly remarkable that in this divided, hate-filled world, a group such as Jehovah’s Witnesses can even exist. The fact that they do is powerful evidence that God’s spirit is still active among mankind. And it is proof that the Bible is indeed “alive and exerts power.”
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The Bible actually changes people
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A knowledge of God makes a person want to be like him