“The Word of God Is Alive and Exerts Power”
1, 2. (a) What causes changes in the lives of those who become Christians? (b) How deeply can the Bible influence a person?
IN THE middle of the first century C.E., the apostle Paul wrote a letter to the Christian congregation in Rome. In it he highlighted the requirement that true Christians had to make changes. He said: “Quit being fashioned after this system of things, but be transformed by making your mind over, that you may prove to yourselves the good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” (Romans 12:2) What is it that transforms Jesus’ followers, altering their very way of thinking? Basically, it is the power of God’s Word, the Bible.
2 Paul showed how deeply the Bible can influence us when he wrote: “The word of God is alive and exerts power and is sharper than any two-edged sword and pierces even to the dividing of soul and spirit, and of joints and their marrow, and is able to discern thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12) Indeed, the extraordinary power of the Bible to work such changes in people is a persuasive proof that it is more than merely the word of man.
3, 4. To what extent are the personalities of Christians changed?
3 The Greek word translated “be transformed” at Romans 12:2 comes from me·ta·mor·phoʹo. It indicates a complete change, like the metamorphosis of a caterpillar into a butterfly. It is so complete that the Bible speaks of it as a change of personality. In another Bible verse, we read: “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 3:9, 10.
4 Writing to the congregation at Corinth, Paul showed the extent of the personality changes that took place in the first century. He said: “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. But you have been washed clean.” (1 Corinthians 6:9-11) Yes, immoral and quarrelsome persons, thieves and drunkards, had been transformed into exemplary Christians.
Personality Changes Today
5, 6. How was the personality of one young man completely changed by the power of the Bible?
5 Similar personality changes are seen today. For example, a young boy in South America was orphaned at the age of nine. He grew up without parental guidance and 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.
6 The young man 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 found 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 is now an active, clean-living Christian. How was such a radical personality change effected? Through the power of the Bible.
7, 8. Describe how a difficult personality problem was solved with the help of the Bible.
7 Another example comes from southern Europe. There, a young man grew up with a difficult personality problem: a violent temper. He was constantly in fights. During one family argument, he even beat his father, knocking him to the ground! Eventually, though, he studied the Bible with Jehovah’s Witnesses and took note of God’s command in the book of Romans: “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.
8 Those words helped him to realize how bad his weakness was. A growing knowledge of the Bible refined his conscience, which helped him to subdue his quick temper. Once, after he had made some progress in his studies, a stranger shouted insults at him. The young man felt the familiar rage welling up inside. Then he felt something else: a sense of shame; and this stopped him from giving way to his anger. He had developed self-control, an important fruit of the spirit. (Galatians 5:22, 23) His personality was now different, thanks to the power of God’s Word.
9. According to Paul, through what agency is our personality changed?
9 How, though, does the Bible produce such a powerful effect? Paul, at Colossians 3:10, said that our personalities are changed through accurate knowledge, which knowledge is found in the Bible. But how does knowledge change people?
The Role of Accurate Knowledge
10, 11. (a) When we study the Bible, what do we learn about desirable and undesirable personality characteristics? (b) What is needed in addition to knowledge to effect a change in our personality?
10 First, the Bible identifies undesirable personality characteristics that have to be shed. These include such things as “lofty eyes, a false tongue, and hands that are shedding innocent blood, a heart fabricating hurtful schemes, feet that are in a hurry to run to badness, a false witness that launches forth lies, and anyone sending forth contentions among brothers.” (Proverbs 6:16-19) Second, the Bible describes desirable traits that we should cultivate, including “love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faith, mildness, self-control.”—Galatians 5:22, 23.
11 Such accurate knowledge helps a sincere person to examine himself and see which personality traits he needs to cultivate and which he must work to eliminate. (James 1:25) Nevertheless, that is only a beginning. In addition to knowledge, motivation is needed, something to move him so that he wants to change. Here again, he needs accurate knowledge from the Bible.
Motivated to Be Good
12. How does knowledge of God’s personality help us to change?
12 Paul said that the desirable new personality is molded “according to the image of the One who created it.” (Colossians 3:10) So the Christian personality must resemble God’s own personality. (Ephesians 5:1) Through the Bible, God’s personality is revealed to us. We see his dealings with mankind and observe his fine qualities, such as his love, kindness, goodness, mercy, and righteousness. Such knowledge moves a righthearted person to love God and to want to be the kind of person that God approves. (Matthew 22:37) As loving children, we want to please our heavenly Father, so we try to imitate his personality as much as we can in our weak, imperfect state.—Ephesians 5:1.
13. What knowledge teaches us to ‘love righteousness and hate lawlessness’?
13 Our motivation is strengthened by the knowledge the Bible gives as to where both good personality traits and bad ones lead. (Psalm 14:1-5; 15:1-5; 18:20, 24) We learn that David was blessed for his godly devotion and love of righteousness but that he suffered when he lost self-control. We see the sad outcome when Solomon’s fine qualities were corrupted in his old age. The blessings that resulted from the uprightness of Josiah and Hezekiah are contrasted with the calamitous effects of Ahab’s weakness and Manasseh’s stubborn apostasy. (Galatians 6:7) Thus we learn to ‘love righteousness and hate lawlessness.’—Hebrews 1:9; Psalm 45:7; 97:10.
14. What are Jehovah’s purposes for the world and for individuals in it?
14 This motivation is strengthened still more by an accurate knowledge of God’s purposes. Such knowledge helps to change the very ‘force actuating our minds,’ the spirit that motivates our thoughts and actions. (Ephesians 4:23, 24) When we study the Bible, we learn that Jehovah will not forever tolerate wickedness. Soon, he will destroy this unrighteous world and bring about ‘new heavens and a new earth wherein righteousness is to dwell.’ (2 Peter 3:8-10, 13) Who will live in this new world? “The upright are the ones that will reside in the earth, and the blameless are the ones that will be left over in it. As regards the wicked, they will be cut off from the very earth; and as for the treacherous, they will be torn away from it.”—Proverbs 2:21, 22.
15. If we truly believe what the Bible says about Jehovah’s purposes, how will this affect us as persons?
15 If we truly believe this promise, our whole way of thinking will be affected. The apostle Peter, after prophesying the destruction of wickedness, says: “Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of persons ought you to be in holy acts of conduct and deeds of godly devotion, awaiting and keeping close in mind the presence of the day of Jehovah.” (2 Peter 3:11, 12) Our personalities should be molded by our strong desire to be among the upright who will be left over when the wicked are destroyed.
16. What kind of personalities will have no place in the new world, and how should this knowledge affect us?
16 The book of Revelation promises upright ones that, after the end of this world, “[God] will wipe out every tear from their eyes, and death will be no more, neither will mourning nor outcry nor pain be anymore. The former things have passed away.” But then it warns that “the cowards and those without faith and those who are disgusting in their filth and murderers and fornicators and those practicing spiritism and idolaters and all the liars” will be rejected. (Revelation 21:4, 8) How wise to avoid the undesirable qualities that God will refuse to allow in the new world!
Help From Outside
17. What kind of help does the Bible counsel us to seek?
17 Nevertheless, humans are weak, and usually they need something in addition to information and motivation if they are to make changes. They need personal help, and the Bible shows us where we can find this help. For example, it says: “He that is walking with wise persons will become wise, but he that is having dealings with the stupid ones will fare badly.” (Proverbs 13:20) Similarly, if we associate with those who manifest the qualities we want to cultivate, we will be greatly helped to become more like them.—Genesis 6:9; Proverbs 2:20; 1 Corinthians 15:33.
18, 19. What do we need to do to expose our minds and hearts to God’s spirit?
18 In addition, Jehovah himself provides help in the form of holy spirit—the same spirit that he used to work miracles in earlier times. Indeed, the highly desirable qualities of “love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faith, mildness, self-control” are called “the fruitage of the spirit.” (Galatians 5:22, 23) How do we gain the help of holy spirit? Since the Bible was inspired by holy spirit, when we read it or talk to others about it, we are exposing our mind and heart to the persuasive power of that spirit. (2 Timothy 3:16) Indeed, Jesus promised that when we speak to others about our hope, we may experience the direct action of that spirit.—Matthew 10:18-20.
19 In addition, the Bible commands: “Persevere in prayer.” (Romans 12:12) By prayer we address Jehovah, praise him, thank him, and ask for his help. If we ask for help to overcome undesirable personality traits, such as a bad temper, stubbornness, impatience, or pride, God’s spirit will back up any efforts we make in harmony with that prayer.—John 14:13, 14; James 1:5; 1 John 5:14.
20. Why do Christians have to keep working at putting on the new personality?
20 When Paul wrote: “Be transformed by making your mind over,” he was writing to a congregation of baptized, anointed Christians. (Romans 1:7; 12:2) And in the original Greek, he used a form of the verb that implies continuing action. This suggests that the transformation worked on us by accurate knowledge from the Bible is progressive. We today—like Christians in Paul’s day—are surrounded by a world full of corrupting influences. And we—like them—are imperfect, prone to do wrong. (Genesis 8:21) Hence, we have to keep working at overcoming the old, selfish personality and putting on the new one, just as they did. The early Christians succeeded to such an extent that they stood out as totally different from the world around them. Christians today do the same.
A People “Taught by Jehovah”
21. What are some of the prophecies that are fulfilled on God’s people in these last days?
21 Indeed, God’s spirit today works not only on individuals but on a whole organization of Christians, who number into the millions. On this organization are fulfilled Isaiah’s prophetic words: “And many peoples will certainly go and say: ‘Come, you people, and let us go up to the mountain of Jehovah, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will instruct us about his ways, and we will walk in his paths.’” (Isaiah 2:3) Isaiah’s further prophecy has also been fulfilled in their case: “All your sons will be persons taught by Jehovah, and the peace of your sons will be abundant.” (Isaiah 54:13) Who are these ones who enjoy peace because of being taught by Jehovah?
22. (a) Who today are being taught by Jehovah? (b) Give examples to show that outsiders recognize that Jehovah’s Witnesses are different.
22 Well, note 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.” Whom was the writer talking about? The same group that was discussed by the Herald of Buenos Aires, Argentina, when it said: “Jehovah’s Witnesses have proven throughout the years to be hard-working, sober, thrifty and God-fearing citizens.” Similarly, the Italian newspaper La Stampa said: “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, nonviolence and personal honesty . . . enter into their ‘daily’ way of life.”
23. Why do Jehovah’s Witnesses as an organization stand out as different?
23 Why do Jehovah’s Witnesses as a group—like the early Christians—stand out as different? In many respects, they are the same as everyone else. They are born with similar human imperfections, and they have the same economic problems and basic needs. However, as a worldwide congregation, they allow God’s Word to exert power in their lives. The resulting international brotherhood of genuine Christians is powerful evidence that the Bible is the inspired Word of God.—Psalm 133:1.
The Bible Is Inspired
24. What is our prayer in behalf of many more people?
24 In these two articles, we have discussed just two lines of evidence to demonstrate that the Bible is God’s Word, not man’s. Whether they consider the unparalleled wisdom of the Bible or its power to change people—or the many other things that mark it as unique—sincere people can hardly fail to realize that it must be inspired by God. As Christians, we pray that many more will come to recognize this truth. Then they too will echo the psalmist’s joyful words: “O see that I have loved your own orders. O Jehovah, according to your loving-kindness preserve me alive. The substance of your word is truth, and every righteous judicial decision of yours is to time indefinite.”—Psalm 119:159, 160.
Do You Remember?
□ What effect does the Bible have on true Christians?
□ How does accurate knowledge help to transform us?
□ How does the Bible help motivate us to cultivate good qualities and overcome bad ones?
□ What help is available in developing godly qualities?
□ What evidence that the Bible is inspired is seen among Jehovah’s people?
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The sad result of Solomon’s unfaithfulness in his old age should motivate us to love righteousness and hate lawlessness
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If we ask Jehovah for help, his spirit will reinforce any efforts we make to overcome bad traits