Are You Resisting the Spirit of the World?
“We received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is from God.”—1 CORINTHIANS 2:12.
1, 2. What tragedy involving poisonous gas occurred in Bhopal, India, but what more lethal “gas” is being breathed around the world?
ON A cool December night in 1984, something shocking happened in Bhopal, India. In that city, there is a chemical plant, and on that December night, a valve malfunctioned in one of the gas storage tanks. Suddenly, tons of methyl isocyanate began pouring into the air. Carried by the wind, this deadly gas swirled into houses and over sleeping families. Those who died numbered into the thousands, and many more were maimed. It was the worst industrial accident up to that time.
2 People grieved when they heard of Bhopal. But lethal as it was, the gas released there killed far fewer people than are killed spiritually by a “gas” that people all around the world breathe in every day. The Bible calls it “the spirit of the world.” It is that deadly atmosphere the apostle Paul contrasted with the spirit from God when he said: “Now we received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is from God, that we might know the things that have been kindly given us by God.”—1 Corinthians 2:12.
3. What is “the spirit of the world”?
3 What exactly is “the spirit of the world”? According to The New Thayer’s Greek English Lexicon of the New Testament, a general meaning of the word “spirit” (Greek, pneuʹma) is “the disposition or influence which fills and governs the soul of any one.” A person can have a good or a bad spirit, or disposition. (Psalm 51:10; 2 Timothy 4:22) A group of people too can have a spirit, or dominant disposition. The apostle Paul wrote to his friend Philemon: “The undeserved kindness of the Lord Jesus Christ be with the spirit you people show.” (Philemon 25) Similarly—but on a much larger scale—the world in general has a predominant disposition, and this is “the spirit of the world” referred to by Paul. According to Vincent’s Word Studies in the New Testament, “the phrase means the principle of evil which animates the unregenerate world.” It is the sinful tendency that permeates this world’s thinking and powerfully influences the way people act.
4. Who is the source of the spirit of the world, and what effect does this spirit have on humans?
4 This spirit is poisonous. Why? Because it proceeds from “the ruler of this world,” Satan. Indeed, he is called “the ruler of the authority of the air, the spirit that now operates in the sons of disobedience.” (John 12:31; Ephesians 2:2) It is hard to escape this “air,” or “spirit that now operates in the sons of disobedience.” It is everywhere in human society. If we breathe it in, we begin to adopt its attitudes, its aims. The spirit of the world encourages ‘living in accord with the flesh,’ that is, in accord with our sinful imperfection. It is death dealing, “for if you live in accord with the flesh you are sure to die.”—Romans 8:13.
Avoiding This World’s Spirit
5. How did one Witness act wisely during the disaster in Bhopal?
5 During the disaster in Bhopal, one Witness of Jehovah was wakened by sirens and by the acrid smell of the poisonous gas. Without delay he roused his family and rushed them out into the street. Pausing for just a moment to sense the wind direction, he battled his way through milling crowds and led his family to the top of a hill outside the city. There they were able to fill their lungs with fresh, clean air that blew from a nearby lake.
6. Where can we go to escape the spirit of the world?
6 Is there an elevated spot where we can go for refuge from the poisonous “air” of this world? The Bible says there is. Looking forward to our day, the prophet Isaiah wrote: “It must occur in the final part of the days that the mountain of the house of Jehovah will become firmly established above the top of the mountains, and it will certainly be lifted up above the hills; and to it all the nations must stream. 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.’ For out of Zion law will go forth, and the word of Jehovah out of Jerusalem.” (Isaiah 2:2, 3) The elevated place of pure worship, the lifted-up “mountain of the house of Jehovah,” is the only location on this planet free from the suffocating, poisonous spirit of this world. It is there that the spirit of Jehovah freely flows among faithful Christians.
7. How have many been saved from the spirit of the world?
7 Many who previously breathed the spirit of this world have enjoyed a relief similar to that experienced by that Witness in Bhopal. After speaking of “the sons of disobedience” who breathe the air, or spirit, of this world, the apostle Paul says: “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. But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love with which he loved us, made us alive together with the Christ.” (Ephesians 2:3-5) Those who breathe nothing but the poisoned air of this system of things are dead in a spiritual sense. However, thanks to Jehovah, millions today are fleeing to the spiritual high ground and are escaping that fatal condition.
Manifestations of “the Spirit of the World”
8, 9. (a) What shows that we must be on constant guard against the spirit of the world? (b) How might Satan’s spirit corrupt us?
8 The death-dealing air of Satan still swirls around us. We must be on guard and never drift downhill, back into the world, perhaps to be choked spiritually. This takes constant vigilance. (Luke 21:36; 1 Corinthians 16:13) Consider, for example, this fact. All Christians are familiar with Jehovah’s standards of morality and would never agree that such unclean practices as adultery, fornication, and homosexuality are acceptable. Yet, each year about 40,000 individuals are disfellowshipped from Jehovah’s organization. Why? In many cases because of these selfsame unclean practices. How can that happen?
9 Because all of us are imperfect. The flesh is weak, and we constantly have to fight against wrong inclinations that surface in our heart. (Ecclesiastes 7:20; Jeremiah 17:9) However, those wrong inclinations are egged on by the spirit of the world. Many in this world see nothing wrong with immorality, and the idea that anything goes is part of the mental inclination of Satan’s system of things. If we expose ourselves to such thinking, why, there is a strong likelihood that we will begin to think like the world. Before long, such unclean thoughts may produce wrong desires that will end up in serious sin. (James 1:14, 15) We will have wandered off the mountain of Jehovah’s pure worship down into the contaminated lowlands of Satan’s world. No one who willingly remains there will inherit everlasting life.—Ephesians 5:3-5, 7.
10. What is one manifestation of Satan’s air, and why should Christians avoid this?
10 The spirit of the world is in evidence all around us. For example, there is the flippant, sarcastic attitude with which many approach life. Disillusioned by corrupt or inept politicians and by immoral, greedy religious leaders, they speak irreverently about even serious things. Christians resist this tendency. While we may have a healthy sense of humor, we avoid bringing into the congregation a sarcastic spirit of disrespect. A Christian’s speech reflects fear of Jehovah and purity of heart. (James 3:10, 11; compare Proverbs 6:14.) Whether we are young or old, our speech should be “always with graciousness, seasoned with salt, so as to know how [we] ought to give an answer to each one.”—Colossians 4:6.
11. (a) What is a second aspect of the spirit of the world? (b) Why are Christians different from those who reflect this aspect?
11 Another common inclination reflecting the spirit of this world is hatred. The world is riven by hatreds and feuds based on racial, ethnic, national, and even personal differences. How much better things are where God’s spirit is active! The apostle Paul wrote: “Return evil for evil to no one. Provide fine things in the sight of all men. 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; for it is written: ‘Vengeance is mine; I will repay, says Jehovah.’ But, ‘if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by doing this you will heap fiery coals upon his head.’ Do not let yourself be conquered by the evil, but keep conquering the evil with the good.”—Romans 12:17-21.
12. Why do Christians avoid materialism?
12 The spirit of this world also stimulates materialism. Encouraged by the commercial world, many are obsessed with the latest gadget, the latest fashion, the latest model car. They are enslaved by “the desire of the eyes.” (1 John 2:16) Most measure their success in life by the size of their house or their bank account. Christians, breathing clean spiritual air on the elevated mountain of Jehovah’s pure worship, resist this inclination. They know that a determined pursuit of material things can be ruinous. (1 Timothy 6:9, 10) Jesus reminded his disciples: “Even when a person has an abundance his life does not result from the things he possesses.”—Luke 12:15.
13. What are some additional manifestations of the spirit of this world?
13 There are other manifestations of the unhealthy “air” of this world. One is the spirit of rebellion. (2 Timothy 3:1-3) Have you noticed that many people no longer cooperate with authority? Have you observed in your secular work the widespread practice of not working unless somebody is actually watching? How many people do you know who have broken laws—perhaps cheated on their taxes or stolen from the workplace? If you still attend school, have you ever been discouraged from doing your best because your classmates look down on those who succeed academically? All of these are manifestations of the spirit of the world that Christians must resist.
How to Resist This World’s Spirit
14. In what ways are Christians different from non-Christians?
14 How, though, can we resist the spirit of the world when we actually live in the world? We have to remember that no matter where we happen to be physically, spiritually we are no part of the world. (John 17:15, 16) Our goals are not this world’s goals. Our view of things is different. We are spiritual people, speaking and thinking “not with words taught by human wisdom, but with those taught by the spirit, as we combine spiritual matters with spiritual words.”—1 Corinthians 2:13.
15. How can we resist the spirit of the world?
15 What could a person do if he found himself in an area polluted with poisonous gas? He could either put on a gas mask attached to a clean air supply, or he could physically remove himself from the area. The way to avoid Satan’s air combines these methods. As far as possible, we try to remove ourselves physically from anything that would enable the spirit of the world to affect our thinking. Thus, we avoid wrong association, and we do not expose ourselves to any kind of entertainment that promotes violence, immorality, spiritism, rebellion, or any other work of the flesh. (Galatians 5:19-21) However, since we live in the world, we cannot entirely avoid exposure to these things. So we are acting wisely if we hook up to a spiritual fresh-air supply. We fill our spiritual lungs, as it were, by regular meeting attendance, personal study, Christian activity and association, and prayer. In this way, if any of Satan’s air leaks into our spiritual lungs, God’s spirit strengthens us to reject it.—Psalm 17:1-3; Proverbs 9:9; 13:20; 19:20; 22:17.
16. How do we give evidence of having God’s spirit?
16 The spirit of God makes a Christian into a person who stands out as different from those who are part of this world. (Romans 12:1, 2) Paul said: “The fruitage of the spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faith, mildness, self-control. Against such things there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22, 23) God’s spirit also gives a Christian a deeper understanding of things. Paul said: “No one has come to know the things of God, except the spirit of God.” (1 Corinthians 2:11) In a general sense, “the things of God” include such truths as the ransom sacrifice, God’s Kingdom under Jesus Christ, the hope of everlasting life, and the imminent removal of this wicked world. With the help of God’s spirit, Christians know and accept these things as truth, and this makes their view of life different from that of people of the world. They are content to find their joy in serving Jehovah now, with the prospect of serving him for an eternity to come.
17. Who set a superlative example in resisting the spirit of the world, and how?
17 Jesus was a superlative role model for those who resist the spirit of this world. Soon after Jesus’ baptism, Satan tried to steer him away from serving Jehovah by presenting three temptations. (Matthew 4:1-11) The final one involved the possibility that Jesus could gain rulership of the whole world for the price of just one act of worship to Satan. Jesus could have reasoned: ‘Well, I will do the act of worship, and then after I get the rulership of the world, I will repent and return to worshiping Jehovah. As world ruler, I will be in a much better position to benefit mankind than I am now as a carpenter from Nazareth.’ Jesus did not reason that way. He was willing to wait until Jehovah gave him world rulership. (Psalm 2:8) On that occasion, and on all other occasions in his life, he resisted the poisonous influence of Satan’s air. Thus, he conquered this spiritually polluted world.—John 16:33.
18. How does our resisting the spirit of the world bring praise to God?
18 The apostle Peter said that we should follow Jesus’ footsteps closely. (1 Peter 2:21) What better model could we have? In these last days, influenced by the spirit of the world, humans are sinking deeper and deeper into depravity. What a wonderful thing that in the midst of such a world, the elevated place of Jehovah’s worship is standing forth pure and clean! (Micah 4:1, 2) Surely, the power of God’s spirit is observed in that millions are streaming up to God’s place of worship, resisting the all-pervading spirit of this world and bringing honor and praise to Jehovah! (1 Peter 2:11, 12) May all of us be determined to remain in that elevated place until Jehovah’s anointed King removes this wicked world and abysses Satan the Devil and his demons. (Revelation 19:19–20:3) Then, the spirit of this world will no longer exist. What a blessed time that will be!
Can You Explain?
□ What is the spirit of the world?
□ What effect does the spirit of this world have on individuals?
□ What are some manifestations of the spirit of the world, and how can we avoid it?
□ How do we show that we have God’s spirit?
□ What blessings come to those who resist the spirit of the world?
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The spirit of the world is from Satan
To avoid the spirit of the world, flee to Jehovah’s elevated place of worship