You Can Remain Morally Clean
“This is what the love of God means, that we observe his commandments.”—1 JOHN 5:3.
1. What contrast in conduct is seen in people today?
LONG ago, the prophet Malachi was inspired to foretell a time when the conduct of God’s people would stand in dramatic contrast with that of people who do not serve God. The prophet wrote: “You people will again certainly see the distinction between a righteous one and a wicked one, between one serving God and one who has not served him.” (Malachi 3:18) That prophecy is being fulfilled today. The keeping of God’s commandments, including those requiring moral cleanness, is the wise and proper course in life. Yet, it is not always an easy course. For good reason, Jesus said that Christians must exert themselves vigorously to gain salvation.—Luke 13:23, 24.
2. What external pressures make it difficult for some to remain morally chaste?
2 Why is it difficult to remain morally chaste? One reason is that there are external pressures. The entertainment industry portrays illicit sex as glamorous, pleasurable, and adult, while virtually ignoring its negative consequences. (Ephesians 4:17-19) Most of the intimate relations portrayed are between couples not married to each other. Often movies and television shows depict sexual relations in a context of casual, noncommitted relationships. Typically, warmth and mutual respect are lacking. Many have been exposed to such messages from childhood. Moreover, there is strong peer pressure to conform to today’s liberal moral climate, and those who do not are sometimes mocked or even reviled.—1 Peter 4:4.
3. What are some reasons why many in the world get involved in immorality?
3 Internal pressure also makes it difficult to remain morally chaste. Jehovah created humans with sexual desires, and those desires can be strong. Desire has a lot to do with what we think, and immorality is linked to thinking that does not harmonize with Jehovah’s thoughts. (James 1:14, 15) For example, according to a recent survey published in the British Medical Journal, many who engaged in sexual intercourse for the first time were merely curious to find out what sex was like. Others believed that most people their age were sexually active, so they too wanted to lose their virginity. Still others said that they got carried away by their feelings or were “a bit drunk at the time.” If we want to be pleasing to God, we must reason differently. What sort of thinking will help us to maintain moral cleanness?
Build Strong Convictions
4. To remain morally chaste, what must we do?
4 To remain morally chaste, we must recognize that following such a life-style is worthwhile. This is in harmony with what the apostle Paul wrote to Christians in Rome: “Prove to yourselves the good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” (Romans 12:2) Recognizing that moral chasteness is worthwhile involves more than simply knowing that immorality is condemned in God’s Word. It involves understanding the reasons why immorality is condemned and how we benefit by shunning it. Some of these reasons were considered in the preceding article.
5. Primarily, why should Christians want to remain morally chaste?
5 Really, though, for Christians the most powerful reasons for avoiding sexual immorality are derived from our relationship with God. We have learned that he knows what is best for us. Our love for him will help us to hate what is bad. (Psalm 97:10) God is the Giver of “every good gift and every perfect present.” (James 1:17) He loves us. By our obedience to him, we show that we love him and appreciate all that he has done for us. (1 John 5:3) Never do we want to cause Jehovah disappointment and pain by breaking his righteous commands. (Psalm 78:41) We do not desire to act in a manner that will cause his holy and righteous way of worship to be spoken of abusively. (Titus 2:5; 2 Peter 2:2) By remaining morally chaste, we make the Supreme One rejoice.—Proverbs 27:11.
6. How does it help to make known our moral standards to others?
6 Once we have resolved to remain morally chaste, a further protection is to make that conviction known to others. Let people know that you are a servant of Jehovah God and that you are determined to maintain his high standards. It is your life, your body, your choice. What is at stake? Your precious relationship with your heavenly Father. So make it clear that your moral integrity is not negotiable. Be proud to represent God by upholding his principles. (Psalm 64:10) Never be ashamed to discuss your moral convictions with others. Speaking out can fortify you, protect you, and encourage others to follow your example.—1 Timothy 4:12.
7. How may we maintain our determination to remain morally chaste?
7 Next, having determined to maintain a high moral standard and having made our position known, we must take measures to stick to our determination. One way to do this is to be careful when choosing friends. “He that is walking with wise persons will become wise,” states the Bible. Associate with those who share your moral values; they will strengthen you. This scripture also says: “But he that is having dealings with the stupid ones will fare badly.” (Proverbs 13:20) To the extent possible, avoid people who may weaken your resolve.—1 Corinthians 15:33.
8. (a) Why should we feed our minds on wholesome things? (b) What should we avoid?
8 Further, we need to feed our minds on things that are true, serious, righteous, chaste, lovable, well spoken of, virtuous, and praiseworthy. (Philippians 4:8) We do this by being selective in what we watch and read and in the music we listen to. To say that immoral literature does not exercise a corrupting influence is similar to saying that moral literature has no positive influence. Remember, imperfect humans can easily fall into immorality. So books, magazines, films, and music that encourage sexual feelings will lead to wrong desires, and these may eventually lead to sin. To maintain moral cleanness, we must fill our minds with godly wisdom.—James 3:17.
Steps That Lead to Immorality
9-11. As recounted by Solomon, what steps progressively led a certain young man into immorality?
9 Often, there are identifiable steps that lead to immorality. Each step taken makes it increasingly difficult to turn back. Notice how this is described at Proverbs 7:6-23. Solomon observes “a young man in want of heart,” or lacking good motive. The young man is “passing along on the street near her [a prostitute’s] corner, and in the way to her house he marches, in the twilight, in the evening of the day.” There is his first mistake. In the twilight hours, his “heart” has directed him, not to just any street, but to one where he knows a prostitute can usually be found.
10 Next we read: “Look! there was a woman to meet him, with the garment of a prostitute and cunning of heart.” Now he sees her! He could turn around and go home, but this is more difficult than before, especially since he is morally weak. She grabs hold of him and gives him a kiss. Having accepted a kiss, he now listens to her seductive persuasion: “Communion sacrifices were incumbent upon me,” she says. “Today I have paid my vows.” Communion sacrifices included meat, flour, oil, and wine. (Leviticus 19:5, 6; 22:21; Numbers 15:8-10) By mentioning them, she may have been hinting that she did not lack spirituality and, at the same time, may have been letting him know that there were plenty of good things to eat and drink at her house. “Do come,” she implores him, “let us drink our fill of love until the morning; do let us enjoy each other with love expressions.”
11 The outcome is not hard to predict. “By the smoothness of her lips she seduces him.” He follows her home “like a bull that comes even to the slaughter” and “just as a bird hastens into the trap.” Solomon concludes with the sobering words: “He has not known that it involves his very soul.” His soul, or life, is involved because “God will judge fornicators and adulterers.” (Hebrews 13:4) What a powerful lesson for both men and women! We should avoid taking even the initial steps along a path that will lead to God’s disfavor.
12. (a) What is meant by the expression “in want of heart”? (b) How can we build moral strength?
12 Note that the young man in the account was “in want of heart.” This expression tells us that his thoughts, desires, affections, emotions, and goals in life were not in harmony with what God approves. His moral weakness led to tragic consequences. In these critical “last days,” it takes effort to build moral strength. (2 Timothy 3:1) God makes provision to help us. He provides meetings of the Christian congregation to encourage us along the right path and to bring us into contact with others who have the same goal that we do. (Hebrews 10:24, 25) There are congregation elders who shepherd us and teach us the ways of righteousness. (Ephesians 4:11, 12) We have God’s Word, the Bible, to direct and guide us. (2 Timothy 3:16) And at all times, we have the opportunity to pray for God’s spirit to help us.—Matthew 26:41.
Learning From the Sins of David
13, 14. How did King David become involved in gross sin?
13 Sadly, though, even outstanding servants of God have become involved in sexual immorality. One such person was King David, who for decades had served Jehovah faithfully. There is no doubt that he loved God intensely. Yet, he plunged into a course of sin. As with the young man whom Solomon described, there were steps that led to David’s sin and then compounded it.
14 David was then middle-aged, possibly in his early 50’s. From his rooftop, he saw beautiful Bath-sheba bathing herself. He inquired about her and learned who she was. He discovered that her husband, Uriah, was engaged in the siege of Rabbah, an Ammonite city. David had her brought to his palace and had relations with her. Later, things became complicated—she found that she was pregnant by David. Hoping that Uriah would spend the night with his wife, David summoned him back from the war. That way, Uriah would have appeared to be the father of Bath-sheba’s child. But Uriah did not go to his home. Desperate to cover his sin, David then sent Uriah back to Rabbah with a letter to the chief of the army saying that Uriah should be put in a position where he would be killed. Uriah thus lost his life, and David married the widow before it became public knowledge that she was pregnant.—2 Samuel 11:1-27.
15. (a) How was David’s sin exposed? (b) How did David react to Nathan’s skillful reproof?
15 Seemingly, David’s scheme to cover up his sin had worked. Months passed. The child—a son—was born. If David had this incident in mind when he composed Psalm 32, then clearly his conscience tormented him. (Psalm 32:3-5) However, the sin was not hidden from God. The Bible says: “The thing that David had done appeared bad in the eyes of Jehovah.” (2 Samuel 11:27) Jehovah sent the prophet Nathan, who skillfully confronted David with what he had done. David immediately confessed and begged Jehovah’s forgiveness. His genuine repentance brought reconciliation with God. (2 Samuel 12:1-13) David did not resent the reproof. Rather, he showed the attitude described at Psalm 141:5: “Should the righteous one strike me, it would be a loving-kindness; and should he reprove me, it would be oil upon the head, which my head would not want to refuse.”
16. What warning and counsel did Solomon give concerning transgressions?
16 Solomon, who was the second son of David and Bath-sheba, may have reflected on this dark episode in his father’s life. He later wrote: “He that is covering over his transgressions will not succeed, but he that is confessing and leaving them will be shown mercy.” (Proverbs 28:13) If we fall into serious sin, we should heed this inspired counsel, which is both a warning and a word of advice. We should confess to Jehovah and approach the congregation elders for help. An important responsibility of the elders is to help readjust those who have fallen into wrongdoing.—James 5:14, 15.
Enduring the Consequences of Sin
17. Though Jehovah forgives sins, from what does he not shield us?
17 Jehovah forgave David. Why? Because David was a man of integrity, because he was merciful to others, and because his repentance was genuine. Nevertheless, David was not shielded from the disastrous consequences that followed. (2 Samuel 12:9-14) The same is true today. Although Jehovah does not bring evil upon repentant ones, he does not spare them from the natural consequences of their wrong actions. (Galatians 6:7) Among the results of sexual immorality may be divorce, unwanted pregnancy, sexually transmitted disease, and the loss of trust and respect.
18. (a) How did Paul tell the Corinthian congregation to deal with a case of gross sexual misconduct? (b) How does Jehovah show love and mercy toward sinners?
18 If we personally have erred seriously, it is easy to feel disheartened while suffering the consequences of the mistakes we have made. Nevertheless, we should let nothing hold us back from repenting and becoming reconciled to God. During the first century, Paul wrote to the Corinthians that they should remove from the congregation a man who was practicing incestuous fornication. (1 Corinthians 5:1, 13) After the man genuinely repented, Paul instructed the congregation: “Kindly forgive and comfort him [and] confirm your love for him.” (2 Corinthians 2:5-8) In this inspired counsel, we see Jehovah’s love and mercy toward repentant sinners. Angels in heaven rejoice when a sinner repents.—Luke 15:10.
19. Being properly saddened by a wrong course may lead to what benefits?
19 Though saddened by a wrong course, the regret we feel can help us to ‘be on our guard that we do not turn again to what is hurtful.’ (Job 36:21) Indeed, the bitter consequences of sin should deter us from repeating a wrong. Moreover, David used the sad experience gained from his sinful conduct to counsel others. He said: “I will teach transgressors your ways, that sinners themselves may turn right back to you.”—Psalm 51:13.
Happiness Comes From Serving Jehovah
20. What benefits result from obeying God’s righteous requirements?
20 “Happy are those hearing the word of God and keeping it!” said Jesus. (Luke 11:28) Obedience to God’s righteous requirements brings happiness now and into the endless future. If we have remained morally clean, may we continue in that course by taking advantage of all the provisions that Jehovah has made to assist us. If we have fallen into immorality, let us take heart from the knowledge that Jehovah is ready to forgive those who truly repent, and let us be determined never to repeat the sin.—Isaiah 55:7.
21. Applying what admonition from the apostle Peter can help us to remain morally clean?
21 Soon this unrighteous world will pass away, along with all its immoral attitudes and practices. By maintaining moral chasteness, we will be benefited now and forever. The apostle Peter wrote: “Beloved ones, since you are awaiting these things, do your utmost to be found finally by him spotless and unblemished and in peace. . . . Having this advance knowledge, be on your guard that you may not be led away with them by the error of the law-defying people and fall from your own steadfastness.”—2 Peter 3:14, 17.
Can You Explain?
• Why can it be difficult to remain morally clean?
• What are some ways to support our determination to follow high moral standards?
• What lessons can we learn from the sins of the young man mentioned by Solomon?
• What does David’s example teach us about repentance?
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It is a protection to let others know where you stand on matters of morality
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Because David sincerely repented, Jehovah forgave him