Resist the Spirit of a Changing World
“We received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is from God.”—1 CORINTHIANS 2:12.
1. In what ways was Eve deceived?
“THE serpent—it deceived me.” (Genesis 3:13) With those few words, the first woman, Eve, endeavored to explain why she had embarked on a course of rebellion against Jehovah God. What she said was true, although it did not excuse her wrongdoing. The apostle Paul was later inspired to write: “[Eve] was thoroughly deceived.” (1 Timothy 2:14) She was deceived into believing that an act of disobedience—eating the forbidden fruit—would benefit her, making her like God. She was also deceived about the identity of the one who deluded her. Little did she know that the serpent was merely a mouthpiece for Satan the Devil.—Genesis 3:1-6.
2. (a) How does Satan mislead people today? (b) What is “the spirit of the world,” and what questions will we now consider?
2 Since the time of Adam and Eve, Satan has continued to deceive people. He is, in fact, “misleading the entire inhabited earth.” (Revelation 12:9) His tactics have not changed. Though he no longer employs a literal serpent, he continues to conceal his identity. Through parts of the entertainment industry, the media, and other means, Satan misleads people into believing that they neither need nor benefit from God’s loving direction. The Devil’s campaign of deception has produced in people everywhere a spirit of rebellion against Bible laws and principles. The Bible calls this “the spirit of the world.” (1 Corinthians 2:12) This spirit powerfully influences the beliefs, attitudes, and behavior of those who do not know God. How is that spirit manifested, and how can we resist its corrupting influence? Let us see.
Moral Values in Decline
3. Why is “the spirit of the world” increasingly manifest in modern times?
3 In modern times, “the spirit of the world” has become increasingly manifest. (2 Timothy 3:1-5) You have likely noticed that moral values are in decline. The Scriptures explain why this is so. Following the establishment of God’s Kingdom in the year 1914, war broke out in heaven. Satan and his demon angels were defeated and cast down to the vicinity of the earth. Enraged, Satan has intensified his campaign of global deception. (Revelation 12:1-9, 12, 17) In every way he can, he endeavors “to mislead, if possible, even the chosen ones.” (Matthew 24:24) As God’s people, we are his prime target. He strives to destroy our spirituality so that we will lose Jehovah’s favor and the prospect of everlasting life.
4. How do Jehovah’s servants view the Bible, and how does the world view it?
4 Satan tries to discredit the Bible, the precious book that teaches us about our loving Creator. Jehovah’s servants love and treasure the Bible. We know that it is the inspired Word of God, not the word of men. (1 Thessalonians 2:13; 2 Timothy 3:16) Satan’s world, however, would have us think differently. For example, the preface of a book that attacks the Bible states: “There is nothing ‘holy’ about the Bible, nor is it ‘the word of God.’ It was not written by God-inspired saints, but by power-seeking priests.” Those who are led to believe such claims may easily fall prey to the misguided notion that they are free to worship God in any way that they please—or not to worship him at all.—Proverbs 14:12.
5. (a) What did one author claim regarding religions associated with the Bible? (b) How do some common worldly ideas compare with what the Bible says? (Include box on the next page.)
5 Direct and indirect attacks on the Bible, along with the religious hypocrisy of those who claim to support it, have resulted in a growing disapproval of religion, including religion that is associated with the Bible. In the news media and academic circles, religion is under attack. One author observes: “The view of Judaism and Christianity that pervades popular culture is negative. At best they are seen as quaint; at worst, as archaic perspectives that hinder intellectual maturity and obstruct scientific progress. In recent years disdain has grown to ridicule and open hostility.” This hostility often originates with those who deny God’s existence and who have become “empty-headed in their reasonings.”—Romans 1:20-22.
6. What view does the world have of sexual practices that are condemned by God?
6 It comes as no surprise, therefore, that people are straying ever further from God’s standards of behavior. For example, the Bible describes homosexual relations as “obscene.” (Romans 1:26, 27) It also states that those practicing fornication and adultery will not inherit God’s Kingdom. (1 Corinthians 6:9) Yet, in many lands not only are those sexual practices considered acceptable but they are glamorized in books, magazines, songs, movies, and TV shows. Those who speak out against such practices are viewed as intolerant, judgmental, and out of touch with enlightened thinking. Rather than seeing God’s standards as expressions of loving concern, the world views them as roadblocks to personal freedom and fulfillment.—Proverbs 17:15; Jude 4.
7. What questions should we ask ourselves?
7 Amid a world that is becoming increasingly entrenched in its opposition to God, it would be wise for us to look at our own attitude and values. Periodically, we should prayerfully and honestly examine ourselves to make sure that we are not gradually drifting away from Jehovah’s thinking and standards. We might, for example, ask ourselves: ‘Do I entertain myself with subject matter that I would have shunned some years ago? Have I become more tolerant of practices that God condemns? Am I inclined to regard spiritual matters less seriously than I did in the past? Does the way I live show that I put Kingdom interests first in my life?’ (Matthew 6:33) Such reflections will help us to resist the spirit of the world.
“Never Drift Away”
8. How might one drift away from Jehovah?
8 To fellow Christians, the apostle Paul wrote: “It is necessary for us to pay more than the usual attention to the things heard by us, that we may never drift away.” (Hebrews 2:1) A ship adrift does not reach its destination. If a captain is inattentive to wind and current, his ship might easily drift past a safe harbor and run aground on a rocky shore. Similarly, if we are inattentive to the precious truths of God’s Word, we might easily drift away from Jehovah and suffer spiritual shipwreck. To suffer such loss, we would not necessarily have to reject the truth outright. In fact, not many reject Jehovah suddenly and deliberately. More often, they gradually get involved in something that distracts them from paying attention to God’s Word. Almost imperceptibly, they drift into sin. Like a captain who is asleep, such individuals do not wake up until it is too late.
9. In what ways did Jehovah bless Solomon?
9 Consider the life course of Solomon. Jehovah entrusted him with the kingship over Israel. God allowed Solomon to build the temple and directed him to write parts of the Bible. Jehovah spoke with him on two occasions and granted him wealth, fame, and a peaceful reign. Above all, Jehovah blessed Solomon with great wisdom. The Bible states: “God continued giving Solomon wisdom and understanding in very great measure and a broadness of heart, like the sand that is upon the seashore. And Solomon’s wisdom was vaster than the wisdom of all the Orientals and than all the wisdom of Egypt.” (1 Kings 4:21, 29, 30; 11:9) Surely, one might think, if anyone was likely to remain faithful to God, it was Solomon. Yet, Solomon drifted into apostasy. How did that happen?
10. What direction did Solomon fail to obey, and what was the outcome?
10 Solomon thoroughly knew and understood God’s Law. He would doubtless have taken special interest in the instructions that were set out for those who became kings in Israel. Among those instructions was one that stated: “[The king] should also not multiply wives for himself, that his heart may not turn aside.” (Deuteronomy 17:14, 17) Despite that clear direction, Solomon acquired seven hundred wives and three hundred concubines. Many of these women worshiped foreign gods. We do not know why Solomon took so many wives, nor do we know how he justified doing so. What we do know is that he failed to obey God’s clear direction. The outcome was precisely what Jehovah had warned it would be. We read: “[Solomon’s] wives gradually . . . inclined his heart to follow other gods.” (1 Kings 11:3, 4) “Gradually”—but surely—his godly wisdom faded. He drifted. In time, Solomon’s desire to please his pagan wives displaced his desire to obey and please God. How tragic, for Solomon was the one who earlier wrote the words: “Be wise, my son, and make my heart rejoice, that I may make a reply to him that is taunting me”!—Proverbs 27:11.
The Spirit of the World Is Powerful
11. How does what we take into our mind affect our thinking?
11 Solomon’s example teaches us that it is dangerous to reason that because we know the truth, worldly influences will have little impact on our thinking. Just as physical food affects our body, mental food affects our mind. What we feed our mind shapes our thinking and attitude. Recognizing this, corporations spend billions of dollars each year to advertise their products. Successful ads employ clever words and pictures to appeal to the longings and fancies of the consumer. Advertisers also know that seeing an advertisement once or twice will usually not persuade people to rush out and buy the product. Repeated exposure over time, however, often causes consumers to view a product favorably. Advertising works—otherwise, no one would invest in it. It exerts a powerful influence on the thinking and attitudes of the public.
12. (a) How does Satan influence people’s thinking? (b) What shows that Christians can be influenced?
12 Like an advertiser, Satan promotes his ideas by putting them in attractive settings, knowing that with time he can win people over to his way of thinking. Through the entertainment field and other avenues, Satan deceives people into believing that good is bad and bad is good. (Isaiah 5:20) Even true Christians have fallen prey to Satan’s campaign of misinformation. The Bible warns: “The inspired utterance says definitely that in later periods of time some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to misleading inspired utterances and teachings of demons, by the hypocrisy of men who speak lies, marked in their conscience as with a branding iron.”—1 Timothy 4:1, 2; Jeremiah 6:15.
13. What are bad associations, and how do our associations affect us?
13 None of us are immune to the spirit of the world. The winds and currents of Satan’s system are powerful. The Bible wisely admonishes us: “Do not be misled. Bad associations spoil useful habits.” (1 Corinthians 15:33) Bad associations can involve anything or anyone—even within the congregation—reflecting the spirit of the world. If we were to reason that bad associations cannot hurt us, would we not have to conclude that good associations cannot help us? How wrong that would be! The Bible puts the matter clearly when 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.
14. In what ways can we counter the spirit of the world?
14 To counter the spirit of the world, we must associate with wise people—those who serve Jehovah. We must fill our mind with things that build up our faith. The apostle Paul wrote: “Whatever things are true, whatever things are of serious concern, whatever things are righteous, whatever things are chaste, whatever things are lovable, whatever things are well spoken of, whatever virtue there is and whatever praiseworthy thing there is, continue considering these things.” (Philippians 4:8) As free moral agents, we can choose the things that we consider. May we always choose to consider things that will draw us closer to Jehovah.
God’s Spirit Is More Powerful
15. How did Christians in ancient Corinth differ from other residents of that city?
15 Unlike those who are misled by the spirit of the world, true Christians are guided by God’s holy spirit. It was to the congregation in Corinth that Paul wrote: “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) Ancient Corinth was a city enveloped by the spirit of the world. So licentious were most of its inhabitants that the expression “to Corinthianize” came to mean “to practice immorality.” Satan had blinded the minds of the people. Consequently, they understood little or nothing about the true God. (2 Corinthians 4:4) Yet, by means of his holy spirit, Jehovah opened the eyes of some of the Corinthians, enabling them to gain a knowledge of truth. His spirit moved and guided them to make major changes in their lives so that they could receive his approval and blessing. (1 Corinthians 6:9-11) Though the spirit of the world was strong, Jehovah’s spirit was stronger.
16. How can we receive and keep God’s spirit?
16 The same is true today. Jehovah’s holy spirit is the most powerful force in the universe, and he gives it freely and liberally to all who ask for it in faith. (Luke 11:13) To have God’s spirit, however, we must do more than resist the spirit of the world. We must also regularly study and apply God’s Word in our life so that our spirit—our mental disposition—is attuned to his thinking. If we do that, Jehovah will fortify us to withstand any tactic Satan may use to destroy our spirituality.
17. In what ways can the experience of Lot be of comfort to us?
17 Though Christians are no part of the world, they are in the world. (John 17:11, 16) None of us can totally avoid the spirit of the world, for we may work or even live with those who have no love for God or his ways. Do we feel as did Lot, who was “greatly distressed,” even tormented, by the lawless deeds of the people of Sodom, among whom he lived? (2 Peter 2:7, 8) If so, we can take comfort. Jehovah safeguarded and delivered Lot, and he can do the same for us. Our loving Father sees and knows our circumstances, and he can give us the help and the strength we need in order to maintain our spirituality. (Psalm 33:18, 19) If we rely on him, trust in him, and call upon him, he will help us to resist the spirit of the world, no matter how difficult our situation may be.—Isaiah 41:10.
18. Why should we treasure our relationship with Jehovah?
18 In a world that is alienated from God and deceived by Satan, we as Jehovah’s people are blessed with knowledge of the truth. We thus experience a joy and peace that the world does not have. (Isaiah 57:20, 21; Galatians 5:22) We cherish the marvelous hope of everlasting life in Paradise, where the spirit of this dying world will be no more. May we therefore treasure our precious relationship with God and be vigilant to correct any tendency to drift spiritually. Let us draw ever closer to Jehovah, and he will help us to resist the spirit of the world.—James 4:7, 8.
Can You Explain?
• In what ways has Satan deceived and misled people?
• How can we avoid drifting away from Jehovah?
• What shows that the spirit of the world is powerful?
• How can we receive and retain the spirit that is from God?
[Chart on page 11]
WORLDLY WISDOM VERSUS GODLY WISDOM
Truth is relative—people make their own truth.
“[God’s] word is truth.”—John 17:17.
To determine right from wrong, trust your feelings.
“The heart is more treacherous than anything else and is desperate.”—Jeremiah 17:9.
Do your own thing.
“It does not belong to man who is walking even to direct his step.”—Jeremiah 10:23.
Wealth is the key to happiness.
“The love of money is a root of all sorts of injurious things.”—1 Timothy 6:10.
[Picture on page 10]
Solomon drifted away from true worship and turned to false gods
[Picture on page 12]
Like an advertiser, Satan promotes the spirit of the world. Do you resist it?