Strip Off the Old Personality if You Want to Live Forever
“Strip off the old personality with its practices, and clothe yourselves with the new personality.”—Col. 3:9, 10.
1, 2. What interesting points can be drawn from the illustration of productive and nonproductive trees?
A TRAVELER along a country road came upon what appeared to be an abandoned farm. Its owner was a lazy good-for-nothing God-dishonoring fellow. The fields were overrun with weeds and the orchards bore only diseased fruit unfit to eat or even pick. “What a sad and sickening sight!” groaned the stranger. However, upon rounding the bend in the road his depressed spirits were suddenly lifted as he came upon a very prosperous farm with fertile fields and lush orchards. Observing that every tree was loaded down with the finest fruit, the astonished traveler exclaimed: “Look! Here is lovely, living beauty, resembling that of Paradise!”
2 In time the energetic farmer purchased his neighbor’s neglected orchard and began a reclamation program. He worked hard cutting out the deadwood, stripping off all the sucker branches, fertilizing the root systems and watching over and protecting the trees against disease and pestilence. In addition this God-fearing farmer gave thanks to his Grand Creator when the trees began to produce good fruit. People everywhere were struck with utter amazement as the fame of this spectacular transformation spread far and wide throughout the countryside. A wild orchard had been tamed through the hard work and watchful care of an industrious farmer whose efforts had been blessed by Jehovah!—1 Cor. 3:6, 7.
3. What change has occurred that is far more wonderful than the taming of an orchard?
3 Now, you may never have the opportunity of seeing such a radical change in a literal fruit-bearing orchard. But whoever you are, wherever you live or whatever language you speak, you only have to look around you to observe something far more wonderful taking place. For in reality this story of an orchard is only a small illustration of what is now occurring on a global scale in more than 190 countries and islands of the sea, among people speaking more than 160 different languages. Hundreds of thousands of these people are actually changing both their way of thinking and their conduct. They are transforming or making over the characteristics of their very personalities so they can live forever!
4. In what respects do Jehovah’s witnesses surprise many people?
4 These made-over personalities are known as Jehovah’s witnesses. Undoubtedly, in visiting with them when they call at your door, you have recognized that they are altogether different from other people in many respects, for example, their outlook on life, the way they talk and the things they say, the way they conduct themselves, and so forth. However, the really surprising thing is that at one time, maybe very recently, these individuals talked and acted just like other persons in your community. Then, upon becoming Jehovah’s witnesses, they developed entirely new personalities. Most amazing indeed!
5, 6. After looking at today’s world conditions, to what conclusions do you come?
5 How great this change in personality has been can be better appreciated by making a comparison. Look at your own community as a whole. What do you see? What kind of persons are the majority of those among whom you have to live and work? Is the kind of fruitage these personalities produce good or bad? If you are one who lives in a quiet little churchy town or village, where your neighbors are not an open threat to your life and property, you probably observe that individuals are often clannish and intolerant and very hypocritical in their way of living, especially toward outsiders and strangers. They often slander and backbite and are revengeful toward others. They are not immune to social and sexual immorality and loose conduct. Profanity, cursing and obscene talk are a part of their daily speech.
6 Or, perhaps you live in one of the large population centers where you come in closer contact with the rotten fruitage produced by the present degenerate society of mankind. Fear of your fellowman compels you to lock your doors securely at night. Parents often worry over the danger that their children may be kidnapped. There are not many people you dare to trust, especially in the commercial world. Agreements involving any degree of risk are usually set out in legal contracts, couched in special phraseology to make them binding, simply because the word of people cannot be trusted. The newspaper, radio and television headlines and commentaries, the statistics on crime and delinquency, and the general outcries of an aroused public all testify to the bad and poisonous fruitage produced by the present generation. On every social and governmental level of society people of this present system of things are very selfish and greedy. They quarrel and often fight like wild animals. Ever so many are liars, extortionists, thieves and “kickback” artists. Some are desperate underworld criminals and fugitives from justice. Many are sadistic killers and sex perverts who lie in wait for innocent and defenseless victims. More and more people by choice are fornicators, adulterers, masturbaters and sodomites. Some have reached great notoriety in high social circles as professional prostitutes, paramours, “playboys” and pimps. Many, many thousands are dope addicts and habitual drunkards. It is not an exaggeration to say that, for the most part, the whole world, morally speaking, seems to be a tangled jungle of confusion infested by beastlike characters who prey upon their fellow creatures.
WHY SUCH WICKED CONDITIONS?
7. How has heredity been a major influence on personality characteristics?
7 A thoughtful person inquires beyond the prima-facie evidence, which appears on the surface, and seeks to learn the cause for these atrocious conditions, as well as a remedy, if there is one. Such an inquiry discloses that bad personality characteristics such as described above are acquired, in part, through both heredity and environment. Parents have passed on to their children the imprint of nearly 6,000 years of sin and death. “Through one man [Adam] sin entered into the world and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men because they had all sinned.” “Through the disobedience of the one man many were constituted sinners.” (Rom. 5:12, 19) Hence David confessed, though he was ‘a man agreeable to Jehovah’s heart,’ “In sin my mother conceived me.” (Acts 13:22; Ps. 51:5) Of sinner Adam’s offspring “there is not a righteous man, not even one.” “Who can produce someone clean out of someone unclean?” asked Job.—Rom. 3:10; Job 14:4.
8. What effect has environment had on personalities?
8 The climate and environment in which seedlings are compelled to grow have much to do with their development and fruitfulness. No less is this true with the offspring of mankind. From infancy children are surrounded by the depraved environment of this corrupt world. The atmosphere created in the home by the parents may be quite good, which, of course, is the rare exception nowadays, yet the association outside the parental nest is, for the most part, ruthless and cruel. The child that comes from a good home plays and associates so often with less fortunate children. The public schooling of the youth, whether inside or outside of Christendom, is under the influence of a wicked system of things ruled by Satan the Devil and his demons.—John 12:31; 2 Cor. 4:4; Eph. 2:2.
9. Why have conditions worsened, particularly since 1914?
9 Do not forget that, since 1914 and the beginning of World War I, we are living in a time of great calamity and woe. The Bible foretold what would take place after that year, saying: “So down the great dragon was hurled [from heaven], the original serpent, the one called Devil and Satan, who is misleading the entire inhabited earth; he was hurled down to the earth, and his angels were hurled down with him. [Hence] . . . woe for the earth and for the sea, because the Devil has come down to you, having great anger, knowing he has a short period of time.”—Rev. 12:9, 12.
10. How accurately did Paul describe the personalities of people living today?
10 We are now living in this “short period of time,” the “last days” of this Devil-ruled system of things, concerning which the apostle Paul under divine inspiration warned: “But know this, that in the last days critical times hard to deal with will be here.” In telling how critical and how hard to deal with this time would be, Paul next describes the foul-smelling personalities that would walk the earth in these last days. His description is so accurate and faithful to the facts we might imagine we are reading a commentary in our daily newspaper instead of Paul’s nineteen-hundred-year-old letter to Timothy. “For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, self-assuming, haughty, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, disloyal, having no natural affection, not open to any agreement, slanderers, without self-control, fierce, without love of goodness, betrayers, headstrong, puffed up with pride, lovers of pleasures rather than lovers of God, having a form of godly devotion but proving false to its power.”—2 Tim. 3:1-5.
SOLID BASIS FOR HOPE
11, 12. In spite of world conditions, why is our situation not a hopeless one?
11 Notwithstanding this bad start every one of us has had through heredity, as well as the degrading influence we have suffered by our environmental association with a world under the control of enraged demons, yet the situation is not altogether hopeless. Reassuring hope is based on the trustworthy testimony Jesus gave to the Jewish ruler, Nicodemus, when he declared: “God loved the world so much that he gave his only-begotten Son, in order that everyone exercising faith in him might not be destroyed but have everlasting life.”—John 3:16.
12 What world did God love? Why, the world of fallen sinful mankind, offspring of the rebel sinner Adam. “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners,” not sinless ones, wrote the apostle Paul to Timothy. To the same effect he also wrote the Romans, saying: “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” So the grand privilege of entering Jehovah’s glorious new order of perfection and righteousness, and having everlasting life under that wonderful arrangement of things, is extended, not to a sinless race of people, but only toward human creatures who are born in sin and schooled under a system of demonic wickedness.—1 Tim. 1:15; Rom. 5:8.
13. Does this mean that God’s new order will be populated with bad personalities?
13 Does this mean that Jehovah will allow the restored Paradise to be populated with the hateful personalities that now infest the earth? Certainly not! Some changes, indeed, some very drastic changes, in the personalities of those qualifying for life in God’s sinless kingdom of uprightness are absolutely necessary.
14, 15. (a) What association did Jesus have with sinners, and with what results? (b) What do we learn from this?
14 At Capernaum during Jesus’ great Galilean ministry all doubt on this point was removed. Jesus, the historical account says, “beheld a tax collector named Levi [also called Matthew] sitting at the tax office.” Now tax collectors even at that early time had a bad reputation as extortioners. Nevertheless, “[Jesus] said to him: ‘Be my follower.’ And leaving everything behind he rose up and went following him. Also, Levi spread a big reception feast for him in his house; and there was a great crowd of tax collectors and others who were with them reclining at the meal. At this the Pharisees and their scribes began murmuring to his disciples, saying: ‘Why is it you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?’ In reply Jesus said to them: ‘Those who are healthy do not need a physician, but those who are ailing do. I have come to call, not righteous persons, but sinners to repentance.’” On another occasion, this time in the city of Jerusalem just a few days before he was put to death, Jesus again emphasized this truth when confronted by the hypocritical holier-than-thou religious leaders of his day. “Truly I say to you that the [despised and sinful] tax collectors and the harlots are going ahead of you into the kingdom of God.”—Luke 5:27-32; Matt. 21:31.
15 We learn several important things from this conversation. Sinners were called to be footstep followers of Jesus, and in the instance of Matthew he was also called to be one of the twelve apostles. Such sinners, however, are not called to continue in their past course of lawlessness and sin, but, rather, are called to repentance. Extortioners and harlots will live forever in God’s new order, not simply because they are humble enough to admit their guilt as sinners, but, more important, because they are eager and happy to change their past way of thinking and their past way of living, yes, to change their whole personalities of the past.
16. What, then, is required of all who hope to live forever?
16 The making over of our personalities, therefore, is a divine requirement upon all who will live forever in God’s new order. However, this does not mean that it is a requirement that will be enforced for the first time after Jehovah destroys Satan and his wicked influence upon human society. Rather, it is a requirement that all those who hope to survive Armageddon must meet now, this side of the Battle, now, “before there comes upon you people the burning anger of Jehovah.”—Zeph. 2:2.
NOT A RECENT REQUIREMENT
17. Is the stripping off of the old personality a rather recent requirement? How do you know?
17 This new-order requirement, the acquiring of a completely new personality, is not something that is demanded only of twentieth-century Christians who are faced with the imminence of Armageddon. First-century followers of Christ had to work just as diligently to make over and change their way of living. Note what the apostle Paul wrote in 55 C.E. to those in the congregation at Corinth. “What! Do you not know that unrighteous persons will not inherit God’s kingdom? Do not be misled. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men kept for unnatural purposes, nor men who lie with men, nor thieves, nor greedy persons, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit God’s kingdom. And yet that is what some of you were.”—1 Cor. 6:9-11.
18. In this regard what did Paul also write to the Colossians?
18 To another congregation, “to the holy ones and faithful brothers in union with Christ at Colossae,” the apostle Paul wrote in 60-61 C.E.: “Deaden, therefore, your body members that are upon the earth as respects fornication, uncleanness, sexual appetite, hurtful desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of those things the wrath of God is coming. In those very things you, too, once walked when you used to live in them. But now really put them all away from you, wrath, anger, injuriousness, abusive speech, and obscene talk out of your mouth. Do not be lying to one another.”—Col. 1:2; 3:5-9.
19. Did Paul consider himself exempt from meeting this divine requirement?
19 Paul the apostle of the Lord Christ Jesus was no exception, for he included himself with the rest of the early Christians when he wrote: “For even we were once senseless, disobedient, being misled, being slaves to various desires and pleasures, carrying on in maliciousness and envy, hateful, hating one another.” In another letter this apostle of Christ again included himself, saying: “It is you God made alive though you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you at one time walked according to the system of things of this world, according to the ruler of the authority of the air, the spirit that now operates in the sons of disobedience. Yes, among them we all at one time conducted ourselves in harmony with the desires of our flesh, doing the things willed by the flesh and the thoughts, and we were naturally children of wrath even as the rest.”—Titus 3:3; Eph. 2:1-3.
20. What did Peter write in this regard?
20 The apostle Peter also told how true Christians of the first century transformed or made over their personalities, saying: “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, lusts, excesses with wine, revelries, drinking matches, and illegal idolatries. 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.”—1 Pet. 4:3, 4.
21. Is the stripping off of the old personality with its practices an optional matter for true Christians today?
21 If first-century Christians to whom these words were originally addressed had to make such drastic changes in their personalities in order to entertain the hope of everlasting life, then with a greater force of argument must we do likewise, who are living in this violent and corrupt twentieth century at the very portals of the long-awaited new order. Jehovah’s law is just as demanding upon us as upon the Ephesians and Colossians who were told: “Put away the old personality which conforms to your former course of conduct and . . . put on the new personality.” “Strip off the old personality with its practices, and clothe yourselves with the new personality.”—Eph. 4:22-24; Col. 3:9, 10.
STRIP OFF THAT BABYLONISH PERSONALITY NOW
22. What evidence proves it is possible for individuals to strip off their old personalities?
22 The great majority of people today who publicly display the rotten fruitage of their bad personalities seem quite content to continue doing the works of their lord and owner the Devil. (John 8:44) Jehovah’s Christian witnesses, therefore, stand out in stark contrast to these, for they gladly put themselves under the ownership and cultivation of Jehovah and Christ Jesus. The ever-increasing number of these Witnesses already totals more than a million and is growing at a phenomenal rate throughout the earth. During the fiscal year of 1963 more than 62,000 were baptized in symbol of their dedication to do the will of their owner Jehovah.
23. (a) From where do the ever-increasing number of Jehovah’s witnesses come? (b) What were their former personalities like?
23 And from where do these Witnesses come? Principally from this world’s organized religious systems, otherwise collectively identified in the Scriptures as “Babylon the Great, the mother of the harlots and of the disgusting things of the earth.” These people who become Jehovah’s witnesses quickly respond to the divine call, “Get out of her, my people,” and in doing so they shed their old personalities that conformed to their former course of conduct while they were under the tutelage of that wicked system. If all the former Babylonish thoughts, sayings and deeds of these individuals were written in an open book for all to read, it would certainly tell a shocking story. It would reveal that formerly some had been slanderers, envious, quarrelers, greedy persons and hateful gossipers. More shocking, it would disclose that formerly some had had the personalities of liars, thieves, killers, sodomites, fornicators, prostitutes, dope addicts and drunkards. Wild undisciplined trees these were, whose fruitage was a disgrace to God and to man!—Rev. 17:5; 18:4.
24. Having stripped off their Babylonish personalities, what image do Jehovah’s witnesses now present to the world of mankind?
24 But now look at the reputation that these same individuals have made since becoming associated with Jehovah’s witnesses. Everywhere in Christendom, in Heathendom and in communistic lands Jehovah’s witnesses are recognized as an upright, clean and honest people, a people of truth and integrity, holy men and women and children of faith, fidelity and courage. Certainly those producing delicious and noble fruit like this are as oases in the barren wilderness of human society. Of a truth, only “big trees of righteousness, the planting of Jehovah,” could bear such precious life-giving fruitage as this!—Isa. 61:3.
25. What invitation is here urgently extended to all?
25 Whoever you are, if you sigh and cry because of the disgusting things you see done in the earth, if you want to live forever, you too can get out of Babylon the Great and make the break for freedom and life in Jehovah’s new order! You too can strip off the old Babylonish personality together with its death-dealing practices. But hurry! There is little time left before God’s judgment destroys this monstrous “mother of harlots” together with all who remain in her.—Rev. 17:1, 2, 15, 16.
26. What questions are raised, and where will satisfactory answers to them be found?
26 But how, you may ask, can such colossal changes in the whole personality of an individual be made? How can the change be made at this crucial time when the pressure is so great to compel everyone to conform to the world’s way of thinking and acting? How has this been accomplished in the case of the hundreds of thousands of Jehovah’s witnesses of all nationalities? All who want to live forever will find the Scriptural answers to these important questions presented in the following article.