Detest Utterly the World’s Disgraceful Course
“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 PETER 4:4.
1. How does the Bible describe the former worldly course in which many Christians of the first century were running?
A “LOW sink of debauchery.” That is how the apostle Peter describes the disgraceful situation in which many in the first century were before they became Christians. Other translations speak of it as the “swamp of profligacy” (The New American Bible); the “cesspool of dissipation” (The New Testament, by Kleist and Lilly). What was in this low sink of debauchery? The apostle mentions specifically loose conduct, lusts, excesses with wine, revelries, drinking matches, and illegal idolatries.—1 Peter 4:3, 4.
2. Why are Christians today to be commended?
2 What a difference there is between this world and the true Christian congregation! Peter warmly commended the Christians to whom he wrote for not continuing to run with their former worldly companions through this swamp, this cesspool, of badness. It pleases us very much to give similar commendation to Christians today, when conditions are even worse than they were in the first century. Jehovah’s Witnesses are putting forth diligent effort to practice the clean and undefiled worship approved by our God and Father, which includes ‘keeping oneself without spot from the world.’ (James 1:27) Their high moral standard brings great honor to Jehovah’s name.
3. What was a cause for sadness to Paul, as it also is to us today?
3 To maintain their high standard as a clean organization, however, God’s people sometimes have to reprove or even disfellowship the relatively few who allow themselves to be enticed into the debauched practices of this world. This is a cause for sadness, and we feel as the apostle Paul did when he saw a similar situation in the first century. He wrote: “For there are many, I used to mention them often but now I mention them also with weeping, who are walking as the enemies of the torture stake of the Christ, and their finish is destruction, and their god is their belly, and their glory consists in their shame, and they have their minds upon things on the earth.” (Philippians 3:18, 19) How can we, as individuals, avoid such a thing’s happening to us? By learning to imitate Jesus in loving Jehovah’s high standards of righteousness and by hating the uncleanness of this world.—Hebrews 1:9.
Do Not Look Back
4. (a) Why is there a possibility of our being enticed to turn to the degraded practices of this world? (b) What will help us to avoid building up wrong desire?
4 Never underestimate the power of sin. The attractions of this world are strong and many; the Devil is sly and vicious; the human heart is treacherous. (1 John 2:15-17; 1 Peter 5:8; Jeremiah 17:9) When the heart becomes set in its desire for something, it often does not listen to reason. That is why we receive so many reminders in God’s Word to help us keep our hearts devoted to Jehovah and the doing of his will. It is very important not to let wrong desire even start to build up in the heart. (James 1:14, 15; Matthew 5:27-30) We must keep fortifying our hearts with reasons why we should love what is right and utterly detest and reject this world’s filthy ways. The apostle Paul summed it up this way: “Let your love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is wicked, cling to what is good.”—Romans 12:9.
5. Why is it wise to make a careful examination of our motives and desires?
5 In view of the danger of turning aside from the Christian course, it is wise for each of us continually to examine our motives, our desires, our goals. Are you personally like those Christians whom Peter was able to commend for not returning to this same “low sink of debauchery”? Or do you at times manifest the attitude of Lot’s wife, who looked back longingly at the things from which she had been delivered?—Genesis 19:26; Luke 17:31-33.
Wickedness Abounds in “the Last Days”
6, 7. (a) What attitude toward pleasure does the Bible say would mark “the last days”? (b) How do people of the world flaunt their unclean thinking and actions?
6 Think for a moment about the world in which we find ourselves at the close of this 20th century. What an abundance of wickedness! As the apostle Paul foretold, men and women are “lovers of pleasures rather than lovers of God.” Indeed, ‘wicked men and impostors advance from bad to worse, misleading and being misled.’—2 Timothy 3:1, 4, 13.
7 Adultery, fornication, homosexuality, lesbianism, and abortion—these and other words have become household expressions. Such things are freely and approvingly spoken about on radio and television and in religious and educational circles. Pornography is big business and readily available to all. Some of the most popular movies, stage plays, and television soap operas involve stories connected with immorality of some kind. How grateful we are to be no part of this! And how hard we need to fight to be sure that such insidious propaganda does not affect our hearts!
8. As to the immoral practices of this world, what does the Bible say we should do and should not do?
8 Wise Christians heed Paul’s warning: “Let fornication and uncleanness of every sort or greediness not even be mentioned among you, just as it befits holy people . . . Keep on making sure of what is acceptable to the Lord . . . So keep strict watch that how you walk is not as unwise but as wise persons.” Rather, Paul said, we should think about things that are true, righteous, chaste, lovable, and virtuous.—Ephesians 5:3-16; Philippians 4:8.
9. What can easily happen if we choose questionable entertainment?
9 Do you carefully keep this sound advice in mind when selecting entertainment? Remember, the more we listen to degraded things, the more the world’s life-style seems acceptable, not so bad after all. We may even begin secretly to admire or imitate prominent ones in sports or entertainment who are practicing such things. Be alert to any such tendency.
Do Not Be Entrapped by This World’s Reasoning
10. What was the philosophy of life practiced by the Epicureans of the first century?
10 In Paul’s day many subscribed to the philosophy of the Epicureans, who lived for pleasure, to satisfy the senses. When death overtakes you, they said, everything is over as far as you are concerned. So why not get all the pleasure possible out of life while you are still alive, for tomorrow you might die.
11. How do many people of the world today imitate the Epicureans in their thinking and actions?
11 Many today have the same attitude. They unashamedly indulge themselves in pleasures of every sort, with little thought as to how their conduct affects others. To them, God does not exist, or if he does, he gives no evidence of caring about human affairs. Since man is a product of evolution—as they claim—they really do not have to answer to anyone except themselves and the society in which they live. There is even an excuse for acting like the animals. If immoral practices that the Bible condemns bring pleasure to the senses, surely they are not to be condemned. Why live a life of self-denial and frustration, such persons reason, when all of us wind up in the same place—the grave?
12, 13. (a) What is the danger if Christians are exposed to worldly reasoning? (b) What was the root of the problem in Corinth? (c) What should be done to prevent us from being affected by a selfish view of life?
12 It is noteworthy that some Christians in Corinth seem to have been affected by this kind of reasoning. In writing to the congregation there, Paul acknowledged that “if the dead are not to be raised up,” then there would be some logic to the common expression of the day: “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we are to die.” But he quickly exposes this fallacious reasoning: “Do not be misled. Bad associations spoil useful habits. Wake up to soberness in a righteous way and do not practice sin, for some are without knowledge of God. I am speaking to move you to shame.”—1 Corinthians 15:32-34.
13 Note how Paul gets right to the root of the problem of those Corinthian Christians. Their wrong thinking came from bad association. We can learn from this. If we are not careful, we can begin to think that we should taste some forbidden pleasures before we get too old to enjoy them or before we die. If we have some tendency to reason this way, we need quickly to change our way of thinking. How? Remember that this selfish view ignores God’s righteous standards. It shows a lack of faith in God’s sure promises, including the resurrection hope. Even from a practical standpoint, those who live a debauched life bring upon themselves many heartaches and troubles. To get the right perspective, they need to “wake up to soberness in a righteous way.” They cannot reason correctly and soberly if they “are without knowledge of God.”
14. Who will not inherit the blessings of God’s Kingdom, yet what did Paul acknowledge about the past life of some?
14 Earlier in his letter to the Corinthians, the apostle Paul made it clear that fornicators, adulterers, idolaters, homosexuals, thieves, greedy persons, drunkards, revilers, and extortioners, all of whom abounded in Corinth, would not be a part of God’s Kingdom. He added: “And yet that is what some of you were. But you have been washed clean, but you have been sanctified.” Their being cleansed in this way showed the power of God’s Word and the ransom sacrifice. (1 Corinthians 6:9-11) Surely, to return to the uncleanness of the old world would be the height of foolishness!
15. What graphic language did Peter use to describe the position of those who return to the filthy practices of this world?
15 Peter said: “Certainly if, after having escaped from the defilements of the world by an accurate knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they get involved again with these very things and are overcome, the final conditions have become worse for them than the first. The saying of the true proverb has happened to them: ‘The dog has returned to its own vomit, and the sow that was bathed to rolling in the mire.’” (2 Peter 2:20, 22) Strong language! Yet, forceful words are necessary at times to impress upon us the seriousness of the counsel given. This warning given to Christians in the first century is even more appropriate for us today.
We Reap What We Sow
16. In what ways does a person ‘reap what he sows’ when living a life of debauchery?
16 Christians see proof all around them that the immoral, debauched living of this world is harmful, deadly. (Romans 1:18-32) Just in the area of sexuality alone, think of the heartache and suffering that result when there is no respect for God’s law on morality: broken homes, illegitimate pregnancies, abortions, rape, child molestation, and sexually transmitted diseases, just to list a few things. Then there are the health problems that come when the body is abused by excessive eating and drinking, and the taking of drugs for the thrill of it. Giving way to greed often results in stealing and fraud. There is hardly any violation of God’s law that does not result in some physical or emotional harm to the transgressor. It is as the apostle Paul reminded Christians: “Do not be misled: God is not one to be mocked. For whatever a man is sowing, this he will also reap; because he who is sowing with a view to his flesh will reap corruption from his flesh, but he who is sowing with a view to the spirit will reap everlasting life from the spirit.”—Galatians 6:7, 8.
17. Why should a Christian be motivated to live by God’s righteous standards?
17 On the other hand, what powerful reasons the Scriptures give for keeping to God’s standards. How true what God’s Word says: “A man of faithful acts will get many blessings”! (Proverbs 28:20) Those who detest this world’s disgraceful course avoid the terrible consequences of a debauched life. They enjoy a clean relationship with their brothers and sisters, and with their God, Jehovah. Moreover, they have the grand hope of receiving the prize of everlasting life in God’s new world. Now that we are well along into the end of this system of things, those of the “other sheep” even have the special hope of living through “the great tribulation” and not dying at all. They have implicit faith that, if death comes before then, God promises to resurrect all those in the memorial tombs. (John 5:28, 29; 10:16; Revelation 7:14) In view of all of this, why would anyone give even a passing thought to getting involved in the detestable practices of this world?—Romans 6:19-23; 1 Peter 4:1-3.
18. (a) How will Jehovah express his judgment against “ungodly men” at “the great tribulation”? (b) As to judgment, how does Jehovah express himself in his last recorded words in the Bible?
18 The Bible shows clearly that we are living in the final part of what it terms “the conclusion of the system of things.” (Matthew 24:3) Peter said “the heavens and the earth that are now are stored up for fire and are being reserved to the day of judgment and of destruction of the ungodly men.” (2 Peter 3:7) When this long-awaited day of reckoning occurs, the claim that man can act independently of God and that his immoral, violent behavior is just a product of evolution will go up in smoke. (Colossians 3:5, 6) Listen to how God himself describes, in his last recorded words in the Bible, the outcome for those who serve him and for those who do not: “Look! I am coming quickly, and the reward I give is with me, to render to each one as his work is. . . . Happy are those who wash their robes, that the authority to go to the trees of life may be theirs and that they may gain entrance into the city by its gates. Outside are the dogs and those who practice spiritism and the fornicators and the murderers and the idolaters and everyone liking and carrying on a lie.”—Revelation 22:12-15.
19. What should be our resolve as we face the future?
19 As this world’s moral condition worsens, be firmly resolved to please Jehovah by doing what is clean, honorable, and right. Keep reaching out for the prize of life. Refuse to be sucked into this world’s “low sink of debauchery,” which is a hole of death. You can win in the battle against debauched thinking if you detest utterly this world’s disgraceful course!
How Would You Answer?
□ Why is there a danger of getting involved in the disgraceful practices of this world?
□ Why do we need to be very careful in selecting entertainment?
□ What fatal reasoning can easily influence us if we associate with modern-day Epicureans?
□ What is Jehovah’s judgment against those who unrepentantly turn to this world’s disgraceful course?
□ What blessings are ahead for those who keep free from the detestable conduct of this world?
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Detesting utterly this world’s disgraceful course will help servants of God gain entry into the new world of righteousness
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The world’s disgraceful entertainment can ensnare an unwary Christian