Keep Practicing the Things You Have Learned
“The things that you learned as well as accepted and heard and saw in connection with me, practice these; and the God of peace will be with you.”—PHILIPPIANS 4:9.
1, 2. In general, is the Bible exerting an influence in the lives of people who consider themselves to be religious? Explain.
“RELIGION Is Gaining Ground, but Morality Is Losing Ground.” This headline in the newsletter Emerging Trends summarized the results of a nationwide poll in the United States. Evidently, that country has seen an increase in the number of people who attend church and say that religion holds an important place in their life. However, the report says: “Despite these impressive figures, many Americans clearly question the impact religious faith is having on individual lives and society as a whole.”
2 This situation is not unique to just one country. Throughout the world, many people who say that they accept the Bible and are religious are not letting the Scriptures exert any real influence in their life. (2 Timothy 3:5) “We still hold the Bible in high regard,” stated the head of one research group, “but in terms of actually spending time reading it, studying it and applying it—that is a thing of the past.”
3. (a) How does the Bible affect those who become genuine Christians? (b) How do Jesus’ followers apply Paul’s counsel recorded at Philippians 4:9?
3 With genuine Christians, however, the situation is different. The application of counsel from God’s Word has brought about changes in their thinking and conduct. And the new personality that they display is readily noted by others. (Colossians 3:5-10) For followers of Jesus, the Bible is not an unused book that gathers dust on a shelf. On the contrary, the apostle Paul told Christians in Philippi: “The things that you learned as well as accepted and heard and saw in connection with me, practice these; and the God of peace will be with you.” (Philippians 4:9) Christians do more than accept the truth of God’s Word. They act on what they learn, continually applying the Bible’s counsel—in the family, on the job, in the congregation, and in all other areas of life.
4. Why is it a challenge to put God’s laws into practice?
4 Putting God’s laws and principles into practice is not easy. We live in a world that is under the power of Satan the Devil, whom the Bible calls “the god of this system of things.” (2 Corinthians 4:4; 1 John 5:19) Therefore, it is essential to be on guard against anything that would hinder us from pursuing a course of integrity to Jehovah God. How can we be integrity keepers?
Hold to “the Pattern of Healthful Words”
5. What is implied by Jesus’ statement: “Continually follow me”?
5 One aspect of practicing what we have learned entails loyally upholding true worship, despite opposition from unbelievers. Endurance calls for effort. “If anyone wants to come after me,” said Jesus, “let him disown himself and pick up his torture stake and continually follow me.” (Matthew 16:24) Jesus did not say that we should follow him for only a week, a month, or a year. Rather, he said: “Continually follow me.” His words indicate that our discipleship cannot be a mere phase of our life or a passing devotion that is here today and gone tomorrow. Loyally upholding true worship means that we faithfully endure in the course we have chosen, come what may. How can we do that?
6. What is the pattern of healthful words that first-century Christians learned from Paul?
6 Paul urged his coworker Timothy: “Keep holding the pattern of healthful words that you heard from me with the faith and love that are in connection with Christ Jesus.” (2 Timothy 1:13) What did Paul mean? The Greek word here rendered “pattern” literally refers to an artist’s sketch. Although not overly detailed, such a representation has well-defined boundaries so that a discerning viewer can perceive the overall picture. Similarly, the pattern of truth that Paul taught Timothy and others was not designed to give a specific answer to every conceivable question. Yet, this body of teaching provides sufficient guidance—an outline, as it were—so that honesthearted ones can perceive what Jehovah requires of them. To please God, of course, they would need to keep holding to that pattern of truth by practicing what they have learned.
7. How can Christians stick to the pattern of healthful words?
7 In the first century, such individuals as Hymenaeus, Alexander, and Philetus were advocating ideas that did not fit “the pattern of healthful words.” (1 Timothy 1:18-20; 2 Timothy 2:16, 17) How could the early Christians avoid being led astray by apostates? By carefully studying the inspired writings and applying them in life. Those walking in accord with the example they had in Paul and other faithful ones were able to recognize and reject anything that did not conform to the pattern of truth they had been taught. (Philippians 3:17; Hebrews 5:14) Instead of being “mentally diseased over questionings and debates about words,” they continued moving ahead in their positive course of godly devotion. (1 Timothy 6:3-6) We do the same thing when we keep on putting into practice the truths we have learned. How faith-strengthening it is to see that the millions serving Jehovah throughout the earth are maintaining a firm hold on the pattern of Bible truth they have been taught.—1 Thessalonians 1:2-5.
Reject “False Stories”
8. (a) How does Satan seek to destroy our faith today? (b) What warning by Paul is found at 2 Timothy 4:3, 4?
8 Satan tries to break our integrity through the sowing of doubts about what we have been taught. Today, as in the first century, apostates and others seek to destroy the faith of guileless ones. (Galatians 2:4; 5:7, 8) Sometimes they use the media to spread distorted information or even outright lies about the methods and motives of Jehovah’s people. Paul warned that some would be turned away from the truth. “There will be a period of time,” he wrote, “when they will not put up with the healthful teaching, but, in accord with their own desires, they will accumulate teachers for themselves to have their ears tickled; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, whereas they will be turned aside to false stories.”—2 Timothy 4:3, 4.
9. What may Paul have had in mind when he referred to “false stories”?
9 Instead of holding to the pattern of healthful words, some were intrigued by “false stories.” What were these false stories? Perhaps Paul had in mind fanciful legends, such as those found in the apocryphal book of Tobit.* False stories may also have included sensational and speculative rumors. Then, too, some—“in accord with their own desires”—may have been intellectually seduced by those who endorsed a permissive view of God’s standards or who were critical of those taking the lead in the congregation. (3 John 9, 10; Jude 4) Whatever stumbling blocks were involved, some evidently preferred falsehoods over the truths of God’s Word. Soon they stopped practicing the things they had learned, and this was to their own spiritual detriment.—2 Peter 3:15, 16.
10. What are some present-day false stories, and how did John highlight a need for caution?
10 We can avoid turning aside to false stories today if we scrutinize and are selective about what we listen to and what we read. For example, the media often promote immorality. Many people encourage agnosticism or outright atheism. Higher critics ridicule the Bible’s claim to divine inspiration. And modern-day apostates keep on trying to sow seeds of doubt in order to subvert the faith of Christians. Regarding a comparable danger posed by false prophets in the first century, the apostle John warned: “Beloved ones, do not believe every inspired expression, but test the inspired expressions to see whether they originate with God, because many false prophets have gone forth into the world.” (1 John 4:1) So we need to be careful.
11. What is one way to test and see if we are in the faith?
11 In this regard, Paul wrote: “Keep testing whether you are in the faith.” (2 Corinthians 13:5) The apostle urged us to keep testing ourselves to determine whether we are adhering to the body of Christian beliefs. If our ears are inclined toward disgruntled ones, we need to analyze ourselves prayerfully. (Psalm 139:23, 24) Are we inclined to find fault with Jehovah’s people? If so, why? Have we been hurt by the words or actions of someone? If so, are we keeping things in proper perspective? Any tribulation we face in this system of things is temporary. (2 Corinthians 4:17) Even if we experience some trial in the congregation, why should we quit serving God? If we are upset over something, is it not far better to do what we can to resolve the matter and then leave it in Jehovah’s hands?—Psalm 4:4; Proverbs 3:5, 6; Ephesians 4:26.
12. How did the Beroeans set a fine example for us?
12 Rather than being critical, let us maintain a spiritually healthy view of the information received through personal study and congregation meetings. (1 Corinthians 2:14, 15) And instead of questioning God’s Word, how much wiser it is to have the attitude of the first-century Beroeans who examined the Scriptures closely! (Acts 17:10, 11) Then, let us act on what we learn, turning down false stories and clinging to the truth.
13. How might we unwittingly be spreading false stories?
13 There is another type of false story that we need to be on guard against. A great many sensational tales circulate, often by means of E-mail. It is wise to be cautious about such tales, especially if we do not know the original source of the information. Even if an experience or story was sent by a reputable Christian, that individual may not have firsthand knowledge of the facts. That is why it is important to be cautious about repeating or forwarding unverified accounts. We surely would not want to repeat “godless myths,” or “false stories which violate what is holy.” (1 Timothy 4:7; New International Version) Since we also have an obligation to speak truthfully to one another, we are acting wisely by avoiding anything that would cause us even unwittingly to spread untruths.—Ephesians 4:25.
Positive Results of Practicing the Truth
14. What benefits result from practicing the things we have learned from God’s Word?
14 Practicing what we learn through personal Bible study and Christian meetings will bring many benefits. For example, we might find that our relationships with those related to us in the faith improve. (Galatians 6:10) Our own disposition will change for the better when we apply Bible principles. (Psalm 19:8) Moreover, by practicing what we learn, we ‘adorn the teaching of God’ and are likely to attract others to true worship.—Titus 2:6-10.
15. (a) How did one young person muster up courage to witness at school? (b) What did you learn from this experience?
15 Among Jehovah’s Witnesses are many young people who practice what they have learned through personal study of the Bible and Christian publications as well as by regular presence at congregation meetings. Their fine conduct is a powerful witness to teachers and fellow students at school. (1 Peter 2:12) Consider Leslie, a 13-year-old girl in the United States. She admits that she used to find it hard to speak to schoolmates about her faith, but one day that changed. “The class talked about how people try to sell you things. One girl raised her hand and mentioned Jehovah’s Witnesses.” As a Witness, how did Leslie react? “I defended my faith,” she says, “which I’m sure surprised everyone, since I’m usually so quiet in school.” The result of Leslie’s boldness? “I was able to place a brochure and a tract with the student, since she had other questions,” Leslie says. How Jehovah must rejoice when young ones who practice what they have learned muster up courage to witness at school!—Proverbs 27:11; Hebrews 6:10.
16. How has the Theocratic Ministry School benefited one young Witness?
16 Another example is that of Elizabeth. Beginning at age seven and throughout her years in elementary school, this young girl invited her teachers to the Kingdom Hall whenever she had an assignment in the Theocratic Ministry School. If a teacher could not attend, Elizabeth stayed after school and presented the talk to the teacher. In her last year of high school, Elizabeth wrote a ten-page report on the benefits of the Theocratic Ministry School and made a presentation before a panel of four teachers. She was also invited to give a model Theocratic Ministry School talk, for which she chose the subject “Why Does God Permit Wickedness?” Elizabeth has benefited from the educational program carried on by Jehovah’s Witnesses in the Theocratic Ministry School. She is just one of many young Christians who bring praise to Jehovah by practicing the things they have learned from his Word.
17, 18. (a) The Bible offers what counsel regarding honesty? (b) How was one man affected by the honest conduct of one of Jehovah’s Witnesses?
17 The Bible admonishes Christians to conduct themselves honestly in all things. (Hebrews 13:18) Dishonesty can ruin our relationship with others and, more important, with Jehovah himself. (Proverbs 12:22) Our trustworthy conduct gives evidence that we are practicing the things we have learned, and it has caused many to have greater respect for Jehovah’s Witnesses.
18 Consider the experience of a military man named Phillip. He misplaced a blank, signed check and did not realize this until it was returned to him in the mail. The check was found by one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, and a note attached to it said that the finder’s religious beliefs had motivated the return. Phillip was stunned. “They could have cleaned me out for $9,000!” he said. He had been disappointed on another occasion when his hat was stolen in church. Apparently, an acquaintance had taken his hat, whereas a stranger had returned a check worth thousands of dollars! Truly, honest Christians bring honor to Jehovah God!
Continue Practicing What You Have Learned
19, 20. How will we benefit from acting in accord with the Scriptural things that we learn?
19 Those who practice what they have learned from God’s Word reap numerous benefits. The disciple James wrote: “He who peers into the perfect law that belongs to freedom and who persists in it, this man, because he has become, not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, will be happy in his doing it.” (James 1:25) Yes, if we act in accord with the Scriptural things that we learn, we will have genuine happiness and will be better able to cope with life’s pressures. Most of all, we will have Jehovah’s blessing and the prospect of everlasting life!—Proverbs 10:22; 1 Timothy 6:6.
20 By all means, then, continue to apply yourself to the study of God’s Word. Regularly assemble with worshipers of Jehovah, and pay attention to the material presented at Christian meetings. Apply what you learn, keep practicing it, and “the God of peace will be with you.”—Philippians 4:9.
Tobit, possibly written in the third century B.C.E., includes the superstition-filled tale of a Jew named Tobias. He was said to have the ability to obtain curative and demon-exorcising powers by the use of the heart, the gall, and the liver of a monstrous fish.
Do You Remember?
• What is “the pattern of healthful words,” and how can we keep holding it?
• What “false stories” do we need to reject?
• What benefits come to those who practice the things they learn from God’s Word?
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How could the early Christians avoid being led astray by apostates?
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Seeds of doubt can be sown by the media, through the Internet, and by modern-day apostates
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It is unwise to circulate unverified reports
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At work, at school, and elsewhere, Jehovah’s Witnesses apply what they read in God’s Word