‘Keeping Strict Watch on How We Walk’
JEHOVAH God, the Most High, is righteous, pure and holy. He is the Father of celestial lights and all his work is perfect. (Lev. 19:2; Deut. 32:4; Jas. 1:17, NW) His Son, Christ Jesus, so imitated his Father that he could say: “He that has seen me has seen the Father.” (John 14:9, NW) And for this globe Jehovah has purposed a new heavens and a new earth of righteousness.—2 Pet. 3:13, NW.
Can we for a moment imagine that in that new world persons will be getting drunk? will practice immorality? will seek divorces on many pretexts? will have wild parties? will see how far they can go from the right way without actually falling? will see how near they can approach to fornication or adultery and still draw back? Of course not! People then will live clean, decent and upright lives.
There are some persons, however, who imagine that because of inborn sin such works of the flesh may now be passed over, lightly or heavily, but passed over nevertheless. In the new world, they reason, they will be different. But will Armageddon, which will mark the end of this old world, make such a change in such persons that they will no longer want to do then what they want to do now? Will that mighty act of Jehovah instantly and miraculously eradicate their selfish inclinations and automatically make everyone chaste?
Let us not deceive ourselves. Armageddon will destroy this wicked world just as surely as the flood destroyed the evil world in Noah’s day, but it will not wipe out the fallen tendencies in our mortal bodies. It is the ransom, not Armageddon, that cleanses us from sin. To get the benefit of the ransom we must co-operate with God’s holy spirit by opposing sin.—Matt. 24:37-39; Eph. 4:30; 1 John 1:7, NW.
Yes, in the new world we will still have to fight these fallen tendencies although it will doubtless be easier then than it is now. Progress in right doing will be rewarded with improvement in mental and physical well-being, making for still more improvement. Then there will be no Satan and his demons to tempt us; neither will there be a filthy, drunken, gluttonous, greedy and sex-mad old world to tempt God’s servants. All that will perish at Armageddon.—1 John 2:16, 17; Rev. 20:3; 21:4, NW.
But let no one think that such a change in surroundings will entirely solve the problem, for even then some will be cut off in death at the end of 100 years because of selfishness. And it seems that at the end of the 1,000 years a considerable number will show themselves to be selfish and will be destroyed with Satan and his demons.—Isa. 65:20; Rev. 20:7-10.
If we wait until the new world to clean up because circumstances will be more favorable then, most likely we will never enter it, for God will not spare any who are in sympathy with this present wicked system of things and its practices. If we would enjoy the blessings of the new world we must live according to its pure and righteous principles to the best of our ability now. We may not postpone the struggle. We must war against sin in our bodies now if we would have God’s mercy; for his mercy is not for careless, willful and continual sinning, but only for single acts due to Adamic weakness.—Psalm 51.
Note how the apostle John contrasts the two kinds of sin. On the one hand he states: “My little children, I am writing you these things that you may not commit a sin. And yet, if anyone does commit a sin, we have a helper with the Father, Jesus Christ, a righteous one. And he is a propitiatory sacrifice for our sins, yet not for ours only but also for the whole world’s.” Here we see that there is a forgiveness for the committing of a sin. But on the other hand John states: “Everyone who practices sin is also practicing lawlessness, and so sin is lawlessness. Everyone remaining in union with him does not practice sin; no one that practices sin has either seen him or come to know him. Little children, let no one mislead you; . . . He who practices sin originates with the Devil, because the Devil has been sinning from when he began.” Here we clearly see that there is no forgiveness for those who make a practice of sin.—1 John 2:1, 2; 3:4, 6-8, NW.
Some, seeking to find justification for their careless conduct, point to the mistakes that faithful men of old made, such as Noah, David and others. But these overlook the fact there is nothing to indicate that those servants of God repeatedly erred in these respects. Rather, they committed a sin, sincerely repented, accepted the Lord’s chastisement, and were restored to God’s favor. And these deflections were written down so that those coming after them who erred in like manner might take comfort and hope in God’s mercy, but not to excuse sinning or to justify laxity.—Rom. 15:4.
Therefore let every Christian who hopes to gain life in the new world now heed the apostle’s admonition: “So keep strict watch that how you walk is not as unwise but as wise persons, buying out the opportune time for yourselves, because the days are wicked.” (Eph. 5:15, 16, NW) Yes, and let anyone “that thinks he has a firm position beware that he does not fall”. Ours is a wily and vicious foe, the adversary the Devil, who “walks about like a roaring lion, seeking to devour someone”. We must therefore take our “stand against him, solid in the faith”, confident that if we ‘oppose the Devil then he will flee from us’. If we grow careless and let him trip us up we cannot blame the Devil. That excuse did not help Eve, neither will it help us.—1 Cor. 10:12; 1 Pet. 5:8, 9; Jas. 4:7, NW.
We must also steer clear of the world, for “what fellowship does light have with darkness”? The world follows the line of least resistance. “For the time that has passed by is sufficient for you to have worked out the will of the nations when you proceeded in deeds of loose conduct, . . . Because you do not continue running with them in this course to the same low sink of debauchery, they are puzzled and go on speaking abusively of you.”—2 Cor. 6:14-18; 1 Pet. 4:3, 4, NW.
Both the Devil and his world appeal to our natural desires and our depraved tendencies, and if we are not alert these desires and tendencies will govern us instead of our governing them, and thus we become slaves of sin. (Romans chapter 6; 1 John 2:16, 17) Better is he that rules his spirit than he that takes a city. (Prov. 16:32) We have a warfare going on within us, so that what we wish to do we do not, and what we would not, that we practice. That is why we must continually exert our will power and browbeat our body; keep it down where it belongs, as an abject slave, otherwise it will make itself a willful and capricious master. (Rom. 7:15-23; 1 Cor. 9:27, NW) To help us to avoid injurious things God’s Word gives many examples of what happened to those who walked carelessly.—1 Cor. 10:5-11, NW.
If we would keep strict watch over our actions we must begin with the mind, the heart. That is where the trouble starts, as Jesus well pointed out, and that is why the wise man counsels us to guard, above all else, our minds or hearts. (Prov. 4:23, Mo; Matt. 15:19) The best way to keep out the wrong things is to keep the mind filled with the right thoughts: “Finally, brothers, whatever things are true, whatever things are of serious concern, whatever things are righteous, whatever things are chaste, whatever things are lovable, whatever things are well spoken of, whatever virtue there is and whatever praiseworthy thing there is, continue considering these things.”—Phil. 4:8, NW.
We profess to love God, do we not? If we do love him we will keep his commandments. (1 John 5:3) Carelessness will bring reproach upon his name. That is what Israel of old and certain ones in Paul’s day were guilty of. (Ezek. 36:20-32; Rom. 2:24, NW) Being zealous for his name Jehovah has no alternative but to withhold his blessings from those that bring reproach upon it by a selfish course of action. When Achan and the sons of Eli grievously transgressed, the entire nation suffered defeats. (Josh. 7; 1 Sam. 2:22-25; 3:11-14) God’s principles do not change. Wanting to have Jehovah’s blessings will make us careful.
Loving our neighbor as ourselves will also make us careful regarding our conduct. How can we interest others, who are sighing and crying because of all the abominations they see in the land, in God’s kingdom, if they also see such wickedness in us? (Ezek. 9:4) How can we conscientiously instruct others and we ourselves not be making a sincere effort to live up to God’s requirements? “Do you, however, the one teaching someone else, not teach yourself? You, the one preaching ‘Do not steal’, do you steal?” (Rom. 2:21-23, NW) Let the apostate clergy take that course, but not the genuine ministers of Jehovah God.—Ps. 50:16, 17, AS; Matt. 23:1-5, NW.
Love for our neighbor will also dictate that we do not encourage him in his wrongdoing. Evildoers may think they are smart, but as opportunity affords we should give them to understand that we do not think that they are. “Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thy heart: thou shalt surely rebuke thy neighbor, and not bear sin because of him.” “He that rebuketh a man shall afterward find more favor than he that flattereth with the tongue.” (Lev. 19:17; Prov. 28:23, AS) That is far better than gossiping about your neighbor’s mistakes. Gossip helps neither the gossiper nor the one gossiped about nor the ones hearing the gossip; in fact, it hurts all three classes. So why indulge in it?
However, in keeping strict watch that how we walk is wise, let us not go to fanatical extremes. Let us not be like the old-fashioned religionists who frowned on all dancing, drinking, laughing, and who even considered it a sin to kiss one’s mate or children on Sunday. There will be no “killjoys” in the new world; the new world will be a joyous world, but the joy will be in the right kind of things. They will be pure, wholesome joys, joys that will last. The joys that the Devil and his world now offer us are as bitter ashes. They leave one disappointed, discontented. Why lose peace of mind, suffer shame and perhaps miss out on eternal life for the sake of momentary thrills and transitory pleasures?
Godly devotion with self-sufficiency is a means of great gain. (1 Tim. 6:6, NW) God knows what is best, and when he counsels against certain actions let us not fly in the face of divine wisdom and spurn divine love by ignoring that counsel. Yes, for the sake of the honor of Jehovah’s name, for the benefit of our fellow man and for our own welfare, let us ‘keep strict watch that how we walk is as wise persons’.