Go On Walking as Children of Light
“You were once darkness, but you are now light in connection with the Lord. Go on walking as children of light.”—Eph. 5:8.
1, 2. (a) In the illustration, why is it vital that the man walk against the wind? (b) Why must a Christian struggle to avoid walking as the nations?
THE man battled against the fierce wind. Straining with each step, he unfalteringly walked forward. Why all the effort? Why did he not merely turn around and walk with the wind? Because a short distance behind him loomed a deep dark chasm. He had no choice if he wanted to live. No wonder he struggled to walk against the wind.
2 Today, like a vicious wind, the “spirit of the world,” under the direction of Satan, is attempting to sweep all mankind in a course that will inescapably lead to a “chasm” of destruction, at the expression of God’s wrath. (1 Cor. 2:12; Eph. 5:6) To avoid such wrath requires that a Christian, as it were, ‘walk against the wind.’ He must struggle if he is to walk as a ‘child of light,’ and not as the ‘nations walk’ or conduct themselves.—Eph. 4:17; 5:8.
INNER STRENGTH NEEDED
3. (a) Where, according to Ephesians 3:16, must our efforts be directed in order successfully to avoid walking as the nations? (b) How do we strengthen our ‘inner selves’?
3 Where must our efforts be directed for us to be victorious in this struggle? Paul answers by urging us “to be made mighty in the man [we] are inside with power through [God’s] spirit.” Here is the area that we must work on, namely, the ‘inner man,’ what we are inside, in the “secret person of the heart.” This must be strengthened. How? The key is in the following Eph 3 verse 17: “To have the Christ dwell through your faith in your hearts with love.”—Eph. 3:16, 17; 1 Pet. 3:4.
4. (a) What is involved in letting ‘Christ dwell in our hearts’? (b) What revealing questions should we individually consider?
4 To have ‘Christ dwell in our hearts’ would first mean that the spirit of the world must be driven out. How could Christ’s spirit saturate the ‘inner man’ if Satan, the “spirit that now operates in the sons of disobedience,” still operated within us or started to creep back into our lives? (Eph. 2:2) So ask yourself: “In my heart do I still enjoy the Satanic spirit of this system? Am I entertained by things that reflect its complete lack of moral sense?” We can easily present one appearance to others, when, in reality, inside, we are quite a different person. Christ dwells in our hearts by letting his example and teachings affect our feelings and actions. For instance, Jesus said that his followers should not look at someone of the opposite sex with a passion for that one. In our thoughts do we obey these words? Do we earnestly avoid things that could arouse such feelings? Consider: Would Jesus be caught up in the spirit of the form of amusement that we are pursuing? Do we have his spirit of not only ‘loving righteousness but hating lawlessness’? If so, we are letting the spirit of Christ fill our inner selves, we have the “same mental disposition” as the Christ.—Matt. 5:27, 28; Heb. 1:9; 1 Pet. 4:1.
5, 6. (a) Why are personal study and meditation vital to strengthen the ‘inner man’? (b) Is intellectual knowledge the complete answer; if not, what else is needed?
5 Vital, then, are personal study of and meditation on the Bible if we are to be “rooted and established on the foundation, in order that [we] may be thoroughly able to grasp mentally with all the holy ones what is the breadth and length and height and depth” of the truth of God’s Word, and particularly as it relates to the example of love provided by the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. What is deeply rooted cannot easily be pulled up; what is established on a solid foundation cannot easily be moved away. So we must keep our spiritual ‘root and foundation’ strong by letting the knowledge of Christ flow deep into the “man [we] are inside.”—Eph. 3:17, 18.
6 However, never feel that having Christ dwell in your heart merely means studiously accumulating a number of Biblical facts. The apostle Paul knew very well the danger of a faith based solely on intellectual knowledge, so he continues: “And to know the love of the Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may in everything be filled with all the fullness that God gives.” More than ‘head learning’ is needed. It is true that the more you fellowship with a person, the more you understand that one’s thinking. Yet it is not until you begin to imitate that person in his way of dealing with others or imitate his life course that you can genuinely appreciate his feelings. So, too, one cannot merely through the reading of books comprehend the love of Christ, but when one becomes like Christ, then, by sympathetic experience, one can know that which “surpasses knowledge.”—Eph. 3:19.
7. True or false?−Because Christ was perfect, it is too much to expect us to be like him. What is the Scriptural reason for your answer?
7 What an exalted goal! What a high example for which to reach! True, it may sound like an enormous project, but with God’s help it can be done, despite our imperfect abilities, for Paul says that God is able to “do more than superabundantly beyond all the things we ask or conceive.” The question is, Are we doing our part?—Eph. 3:20; see also 1 Peter 2:21 and; 1 Corinthians 11:1.
‘STRIP OFF THE OLD PERSONALITY WITH ITS DECEPTIVE DESIRES’
8. (a) According too Paul, what kind of desires can linger with the “old personality”? (b) How have some justified their choice of degrading forms of entertainment, and is such reasoning Scripturally sound?
8 So urged the apostle Paul at Ephesians 4:22. No, do not patch up the old personality, but ‘strip it off,’ get rid of it. (Col. 3:9) Why? Because its “deceptive desires,” which linger in our “treacherous” heart, can ‘corrupt’ or make the old personality go from bad to worse. (Jer. 17:9) To justify their patronage of obviously degrading entertainment, some Christians have reasoned: ‘It does not bother my conscience, so what is wrong?’ Could it be that their conscience is wrong and the desires of their hearts are deceiving them? The mere fact that our conscience does not bother us is in itself no assurance that our course is fine. Even the apostle Paul admitted: “For I am not conscious of anything against myself. Yet by this I am not proved righteous, but he that examines me is Jehovah.” (1 Cor. 4:4) The consciences of many in the early Corinthian congregation had become so desensitized that they tolerated immorality in their midst, even boasting about it. What misguided consciences!—1 Cor. 5:1, 2, 6; Titus 1:15; 1 Tim. 4:2.
9. What disturbing report shows how consciences can be gradually altered?
9 It is easy to let our consciences gradually become defiled by “deceptive desires.” From the branch office of Jehovah’s Witnesses in a European land comes the following disturbing report:
“It is certain that about 10 years ago our brothers would not have looked at the majority of films now being played, because their sense of decency has been altered. There is no doubt that the tendencies of this world have in a certain measure influenced some of our brothers.”
10. (a) How was acceptance of the gladiatorial games maneuvered in the first century? (b) What can be learned from this?
10 Ever so gradually Satan endeavors to have his depraved standards accepted. When the gladiatorial games were introduced in Palestine, they were initially received with “terror” by persons “unused to such sights,” according to first-century historian Livy, who adds:
“Then by frequent repetitions, by sometimes allowing the fighters to go only as far as wounding one another . . . he made the sight familiar and even pleasing, and he roused in many of the young men a joy in arms.”
Step by step their horror was softened. In time they no longer were shocked but became joyful participants. Satan’s methods rarely change; so be alert that your Christian “sense of decency” is not slowly altered. Stop and think: How far has your conscience allowed you to go? Is it too far? In the field of entertainment, is your course little different from that of persons “beyond all moral sense”?
MAKE SURE WHAT IS ACCEPTABLE TO THE LORD
11, 12. (a) Why is the counsel at Ephesians 5:10 and 17 so vital now, and how can it be applied? (b) Does the fact that corrupt entertainment may have some beneficial features make it acceptable for a Christian?
11 Much that is morally rotten is paraded before us as if it were perfectly sound. That is why we must “keep on making sure of what is acceptable to the Lord.” “On this account [because the days are wicked] cease becoming unreasonable, but go on perceiving what the will of Jehovah is.”—Eph. 5:10, 17.
12 So when it comes to entertainment provided by the world, selectivity is the key. Illustrating this, one person said: “The greater part of the movie is pretty good, but many always have the sex scenes, so if you want to see the rest of the movie, you have to watch the sex.” But is viewing most of the “pretty good” movie worth the possible moral damage from the film’s “sex scenes”? Such scenes depicting what is done in secret are now flashed before the viewers. If Paul said, “the things that take place in secret by [the nations] it is shameful even to relate,” what should be our attitude toward watching any part of such as entertainment? (Eph. 5:12) Rather than consulting the Jews’ Talmudic list of rules, a Christian must use his own “perceptive powers” and “cease becoming unreasonable [Greek: “senseless, lacking moral intelligence”].” (Heb. 5:14) It may mean our avoiding completely certain movies or TV presentations that could otherwise have some very entertaining features. One of the professed Christian writers of the second century made an excellent point in his essay The Shows:
“Grant that you have there [at the shows] things that are pleasant, things both agreeable and innocent in themselves; even some things that are excellent. Nobody dilutes poison with gall [a bitter substance] . . . the accursed thing is put into condiments well seasoned and of sweetest taste.”—Tertullian.
13. How can one help a person who, with “empty words,” plays down the counsel of the Bible?
13 How good it is when individually we can encourage one another to pursue a course that is “acceptable to the Lord”! Commendable indeed is the expression of one youngster: “I think there is a tremendous effort among the spiritually mature teen-agers to try to stay away from immoral movies and also to encourage others to stay away from them.” However, Paul warned the congregation that certain ones would play down the straightforward counsel of the Scriptures when he said: “Let no man deceive you with empty words, for because of the aforesaid things [fornication, uncleanness, obscene talk, and so forth] the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience.” (Eph. 5:6) ‘Empty talkers’ could be a bad influence on others. With regard to persons who persist in walking disorderly, the apostle Paul recommends:
“But if anyone is not obedient to our word . . . , keep this one marked, stop associating with him, that he may become ashamed. And yet do not be considering him as an enemy, but continue admonishing him as a brother.”—2 Thess. 3:14, 15.
True, do not treat him as an “enemy,” but stop associating with him socially on his terms. Perhaps he may get the point that he needs to readjust his thinking.
ALTERNATIVES FOR CHILDREN OF LIGHT
14, 15. (a) In the first century, what did many of the people of the nations do to provide some excitement in their lives? (b) What alternatives are mentioned for Christians at Ephesians 5:18, 19, and how would such be viewed by those of the nations?
14 All persons, young and old, crave some stimulus, some refreshment, a change of pace, to lift their spirits above the day-by-day routine. The common thing for worldly people in the first century was to find excitement or “refreshment” by getting drunk. Their social gatherings often became mere “drinking matches.” How different it was to be with Christians! They had a fine source of refreshment. What was it? The apostle Paul tells us: “Also, do not be getting drunk with wine, in which there is debauchery, but keep getting filled with spirit.” The influence of God’s spirit would produce the greatest delight for Christians. Hence, their social get-togethers would not reflect the “debauchery” or “wild living” (Beck’s translation) of the unbelievers. Since God’s holy spirit filled their hearts, what came out of their mouths would differ greatly from the mouthings of persons “filled” with wine. Rather than indulge in obscene songs, often accompanied by lewd dancing, for which the nations were renowned, Christians would follow Paul’s healthful advice: “Keep . . . speaking to yourselves with psalms and praises to God and spiritual songs, singing and accompanying yourselves with music in your hearts to Jehovah.” These would be refreshed inside.—Eph. 5:18, 19; 1 Pet. 4:3.
15 How boring this all looked to those of the nations! But those early “children of light” were glad, because they really had a different spirit. They acted as one warm family, “the household of God,” with each one using his “gift” for the building up of the congregational family.—Eph. 2:19; 4:7.
16. (a) What effect will a warm “family” spirit have on a congregation, and why should the counsel at James 1:27 be remembered? (b) What is one possible danger that should be avoided at certain social get-togethers? (c) What should mark recreational activities that are engaged in at Christian social get-togethers?
16 So today where such a warm “family” spirit exists in a congregation, there will be a natural desire to get together for meetings, as well as socially, for mutual upbuilding. Genuine love will prompt a spontaneous concern for all, young and old, and especially those who are “widows and orphans.” (Jas. 1:27) However, social gatherings should not be allowed to deteriorate, as happened in the following instance:
“It had been a delightful wedding ceremony, with fine Scriptural counsel from the minister who gave the wedding talk. Then, the couple, with several hundred guests, went to a nearby hall for a reception. But how different the atmosphere! A professional band held the floor, playing wild, sensual music so loudly that several of the guests had to be excused. Intoxicating liquor flowed too freely. The dancing reflected a spirit of wild abandon. Many of the guests asked, Why spoil a happy theocratic wedding by bringing in the world to wrap it up?”
What can be done on occasions when Christians relax or engage in recreation? Many upbuilding things! Some things that others have found genuinely refreshing in the field of entertainment are noted in the following article. The point is that what is done should reflect that we are “children of light,” and are under the influence of God’s spirit, not the “spirit of the world.”—1 Cor. 2:12.
ALL USE INFLUENCE FOR GOOD
17. How can elders and others with “spiritual qualifications” aid those who may be taking ‘false steps’ in the field of entertainment?
17 With the pressure of the world increasing, vigilance is necessary to thwart its spirit in the congregation. The influence of the elders should promote the flow of God’s spirit. At times this may require ‘readjusting’ the thinking of some who become unbalanced. Concerned about the infiltration of worldliness into the congregation, one elder wrote: “As elders we must share the blame because some of us are proving weak when it comes to giving counsel when needed and not standing up for what is right.” However, not merely the elders, but all “who have spiritual qualifications [“spiritual ones,” Kingdom Interlinear Translation]” should be willing to “readjust such a man [one who takes a “false step”] in a spirit of mildness.” Such ‘mild’ counsel could perhaps prevent one “false step” from becoming a continued wayward course, leading to disaster.—Eph. 4:11-14; Gal. 6:1.
18. Why is balance needed?
18 All should realize that tastes vary in the choice of entertainment. Rather than being extremely critical, perhaps bordering on ‘over-righteousness,’ encourage what is desirable. Use the standards set in the Bible. Let the force of God’s Word touch the hearts of those taking ‘false steps.’—Eccl. 7:16.
19. How can parents use their influence for the good of their children?
19 Parents especially are in a fine position to help their children. The apostle commands fathers: “Do not be irritating your children, but go on bringing them up in the discipline and mental-regulating of Jehovah.” The Greek word translated “bringing up” contains the thought of warmth for the child, for the root word can be applied to a “nursing mother [who] cherishes” her children.—Eph. 6:4; 1 Thess. 2:7.
20. (a) Why is there a need for discipline? (b) From the remarks of one young person, what should parents do, and will this later be appreciated by their children?
20 Such concern would prevent parents from being indifferent to their child’s choice of entertainment. Deep love for the child would cause the parent to be firm at times, ‘bringing the child up with discipline.’ Especially because of peer pressure a child may object to some of the parent’s restrictions, perhaps in the field of entertainment. One 21-year-old full-time preacher who was reared by godly parents reflected over her teen-age years, saying:
“Only years later did I realize the training I’ve got is to my advantage, although I thought at the time that I was the loser. In the case of parents, they may think they’re losing their child by being firm. They’re not losing him. They’ve got to look at things in the long term. You know it must be frightening for parents when their child says, ‘Oh, mom, Susan can do it and she’s still in the Truth, so what makes you think that I’m going out of the Truth?’ It must be very difficult for parents to say, ‘No.’ But it’s only after you’re older, many years later, and you look back, that you can say, ‘Thank you, Jehovah, that my parents had the courage to put their foot down.’”
21. What cherished relationship should the parents help the child to build? Why?
21 But external force or discipline is not the complete answer. The apostle Paul spoke of the “mental-regulating of Jehovah.” Literally, the original words mean putting the mind of Jehovah inside as a controlling or regulating influence. Work to aid your child to build a relationship with God so that he will come to reject degrading forms of entertainment as well as all wrong conduct. As one youngster who developed such a relationship said: “It’s not so much between me and my parents but between me and Jehovah.”
22. By continuing to walk as children of light, what hope may we entertain?
22 With all of us, it is between us and Jehovah. So let none of Jehovah’s people forget who they are, namely, “children of light.” Continue to walk as illuminators now, enjoying a happy and satisfying life, and entertain the prospect of an eternity of happiness in a soon-to-be-realized new system of stimulating moral brilliance.
[Picture on page 11]
To have ‘Christ dwell in our hearts’ would mean that first the spirit of the world must be driven out.