Will You Heed Jehovah’s Clear Warnings?
“This is the way. Walk in it, you people.”—ISA. 30:21.
1, 2. What is Satan bent on doing, and how does God’s Word help us?
A ROAD sign that is pointing in the wrong direction is not just misleading; it is potentially dangerous. Imagine that a friend warned you that an evil man had deliberately changed a sign in order to cause harm to unwary travelers. Would you not heed the warning?
2 To be sure, Satan is an evil foe who is bent on misdirecting us. (Rev. 12:9) All the bad influences discussed in the preceding article originate with him and are aimed at causing us to veer off the road that leads to eternal life. (Matt. 7:13, 14) Thankfully, our benevolent God warns us not to follow Satan’s misleading ‘road signs.’ Let us now discuss three more of Satan’s negative influences. As we consider how God’s Word helps us to avoid being misled, we might imagine that Jehovah is walking behind us and is pointing us in the right direction, saying: “This is the way. Walk in it, you people.” (Isa. 30:21) Reflecting on Jehovah’s clear warnings will strengthen our resolve to heed them.
Do Not Follow “False Teachers”
3, 4. (a) How are false teachers like dried-up wells? (b) From where do false teachers often come, and what do they want?
3 Picture yourself on a journey in an arid land. You spot a well in the distance and head for it, hoping to get some water to quench your thirst. Upon arriving, however, you see that the well is dry. How disappointed you are! False teachers are like dried-up wells. Anyone coming to them for waters of truth will be bitterly disappointed. Jehovah through the apostles Paul and Peter warns us about false teachers. (Read Acts 20:29, 30; 2 Peter 2:1-3.) Who are such teachers? The inspired words of these two apostles help us to identify where false teachers come from and how they operate.
4 To elders of the Ephesus congregation, Paul said: “From among you yourselves men will rise and speak twisted things.” Addressing fellow Christians, Peter wrote: “There will also be false teachers among you.” So from where do false teachers come? They may arise from within the congregation. Such ones are apostates.a What do they want? They are not content just to leave the organization that they perhaps once loved. Their aim, Paul explained, is “to draw away the disciples after themselves.” Note the definite article in the expression “the disciples.” Rather than going out and making their own disciples, apostates seek to take Christ’s disciples with them. Like “ravenous wolves,” false teachers are out to devour trusting members of the congregation, destroying their faith and leading them away from the truth.—Matt. 7:15; 2 Tim. 2:18.
5. What methods do false teachers use?
5 How do false teachers operate? Their methods reveal a cunning spirit. Apostates “quietly bring in” corruptive ideas. Like smugglers, they operate in a clandestine manner, subtly introducing apostate views. And just as a clever forger tries to pass phony documents, so apostates use “counterfeit words,” or false arguments, trying to pass their fabricated views as if they were true. They spread “deceptive teachings,” “twisting . . . the Scriptures” to fit their own ideas. (2 Pet. 2:1, 3, 13; 3:16) Clearly, apostates do not have our best interests at heart. Following them would only divert us from the road that leads to eternal life.
6. The Bible gives us what clear counsel regarding false teachers?
6 How can we protect ourselves against false teachers? The Bible’s counsel regarding how to deal with them is clear. (Read Romans 16:17; 2 John 9-11.) “Avoid them,” says God’s Word. Other translations render that phrase “turn away from them,” “keep away from them,” and “stay away from them!” There is nothing ambiguous about that inspired counsel. Suppose that a doctor told you to avoid contact with someone who is infected with a contagious, deadly disease. You would know what the doctor means, and you would strictly heed his warning. Well, apostates are “mentally diseased,” and they seek to infect others with their disloyal teachings. (1 Tim. 6:3, 4) Jehovah, the Great Physician, tells us to avoid contact with them. We know what he means, but are we determined to heed his warning in all respects?
7, 8. (a) What is involved in avoiding false teachers? (b) Why are you determined to take a firm stand against false teachers?
7 What is involved in avoiding false teachers? We do not receive them into our homes or greet them. We also refuse to read their literature, watch TV programs that feature them, examine their Web sites, or add our comments to their blogs. Why do we take such a firm stand? Because of love. We love “the God of truth,” so we are not interested in twisted teachings that contradict his Word of truth. (Ps. 31:5; John 17:17) We also love Jehovah’s organization, through which we have been taught thrilling truths—including Jehovah’s name and its meaning, God’s purpose for the earth, the condition of the dead, and the hope of the resurrection. Can you recall how you felt when you first learned these and other precious truths? Why, then, allow yourself to be soured by anyone who would denigrate the organization through which you learned these truths?—John 6:66-69.
8 No matter what false teachers may say, we will not follow them! Why go to such dried-up wells only to be deceived and disappointed? Instead, let us be determined to remain loyal to Jehovah and to the organization that has a long record of quenching our thirst with the pure and refreshing waters of truth from God’s inspired Word.—Isa. 55:1-3; Matt. 24:45-47.
Do Not Follow “False Stories”
9, 10. What warning did Paul give Timothy regarding “false stories,” and what may Paul have had in mind? (See also footnote.)
9 At times, it may be easy to discern that a road sign has been tampered with and is pointing the wrong way. At other times, it may be difficult to detect the deception. It is similar with Satan’s negative influences; some are more obvious than others. The apostle Paul warns us about one of Satan’s insidious strategies—“false stories.” (Read 1 Timothy 1:3, 4.) Lest we become sidetracked from the road leading to life, we need to know, What are false stories, and how can we avoid paying attention to them?
10 Paul’s warning about false stories is part of his first letter to Timothy, a Christian overseer who was charged with preserving the purity of the congregation and helping fellow believers to remain faithful. (1 Tim. 1:18, 19) Paul uses a Greek word that can refer to fiction, myth, or falsehood. According to The International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia, this word refers to “a (religious) story that has no connection with reality.” Perhaps Paul had in mind religious lies promoted by sensational tales or fanciful legends.b Such stories only “furnish questions for research”—that is, raise frivolous questions that lead to pointless research. False stories are a ploy of the archdeceiver, Satan, who uses religious lies and godless myths to sidetrack unsuspecting ones. Paul’s counsel is clear: Do not pay attention to false stories!
11. How has Satan made clever use of false religion in misleading people, and heeding what warning will help us to avoid being misled?
11 What are some false stories that could lead astray the unwary? In principle, the expression “false stories” can apply to any religious lie or myth that could turn us “away from the truth.” (2 Tim. 4:3, 4) Satan, who pretends to be “an angel of light,” has made clever use of false religion in misleading people. (2 Cor. 11:14) Under the guise of Christianity, Christendom teaches doctrines—including the Trinity, hellfire, and immortality of the soul—that are awash in myths and falsehoods. Christendom also promotes holidays, such as Christmas and Easter, whose seemingly innocent customs are actually rooted in mythology and paganism. By heeding God’s warning to separate ourselves and “quit touching the unclean thing,” we will not be misled by false stories.—2 Cor. 6:14-17.
12, 13. (a) What lies has Satan promoted, and what is the truth regarding each of those lies? (b) How can we avoid being misled by Satan’s false stories?
12 Satan has promoted other lies that could mislead us if we are not careful. Consider some examples. Anything goes—right or wrong. It is determined by how you feel. This idea is promoted in the media and in entertainment. Such a distorted view of God’s standards exerts pressure on us to cast aside all moral restraint. The truth is that we have a desperate need for moral guidance that only God can fill. (Jer. 10:23) God will not intervene in earth’s affairs. Being influenced by such a live-for-today spirit could cause us to become “inactive or unfruitful.” (2 Pet. 1:8) The truth is that Jehovah’s day is fast approaching, and we must keep in expectation of it. (Matt. 24:44) God does not care about you as an individual. Believing this satanic lie could cause us to give up, feeling that we could never be worthy of God’s love. The truth is that Jehovah loves and values his worshippers as individuals.—Matt. 10:29-31.
13 We must keep up our guard, for the thinking and attitudes of Satan’s world may seem plausible on the surface. Remember, though, that Satan is a master of deception. Only by heeding the counsel and reminders of God’s Word can we avoid being misled by Satan’s “artfully contrived false stories [“cleverly concocted myths,” The New American Bible].”—2 Pet. 1:16.
Do Not “Follow Satan”
14. What warning did Paul give to certain younger widows, and why do all of us need to take to heart his words?
14 Imagine a road sign that says “This Way to Follow Satan.” Who of us would heed such a sign? Yet, Paul warns us about several ways in which dedicated Christians might be “turned aside to follow Satan.” (Read 1 Timothy 5:11-15.) Paul’s words are directed to certain “younger widows,” but the principles he mentions apply to all of us. Those first-century Christian women may not have thought that they were following Satan, but their actions amounted to just that. How can we guard against even unwittingly following Satan? Let us examine Paul’s warning regarding harmful gossip.
15. What is Satan’s aim, and how does Paul identify Satan’s tactics?
15 Satan’s aim is to silence the voice of our faith—to get us to stop preaching the good news. (Rev. 12:17) To that end, he tries to get us to pursue activities that waste time or that cause division among us. Notice how Paul identifies Satan’s tactics. “Unoccupied, gadding about.” In this age of technology, it is easy to waste our time and that of others by, for example, forwarding nonessential or even fallacious e-mails. “Gossipers.” Harmful gossip may lead to slander, which often causes contention. (Prov. 26:20) Whether they realize it or not, malicious slanderers imitate Satan the Devil.c “Meddlers in other people’s affairs.” It is not our right to tell others how to run their personal affairs. All such idle and troublesome behavior can distract us from the God-assigned work of Kingdom preaching. If we stop actively supporting Jehovah’s work, then we start following Satan. There is no middle ground.—Matt. 12:30.
16. Heeding what advice can help us to avoid being “turned aside to follow Satan”?
16 Heeding the Bible’s advice can help us to avoid being “turned aside to follow Satan.” Consider some of Paul’s wise counsel. Have “plenty to do in the work of the Lord.” (1 Cor. 15:58) Keeping busy in Kingdom activities will protect us from the dangers of idleness and time-wasting pursuits. (Matt. 6:33) Speak what is “good for building up.” (Eph. 4:29) Be determined not to listen to harmful gossip and not to spread it.d Cultivate trust in and respect for fellow believers. We will thus be inclined to speak words that build up rather than tear down. “Make it your aim . . . to mind your own business.” (1 Thess. 4:11) Show personal interest in others, but do so in ways that respect their privacy and that do not take away their dignity. Remember, too, that we should not impose our own views on others regarding matters that they need to decide for themselves.—Gal. 6:5.
17. (a) Why does Jehovah warn us about what not to follow? (b) What is your determination regarding the path that Jehovah wants us to take?
17 How grateful we are that Jehovah clearly tells us what not to follow! Never forget, though, that Jehovah’s warnings discussed in this and the preceding article are motivated by his great love for us. He wants to spare us the misery and pain that result from following Satan’s misleading ‘road signs.’ The path that Jehovah wants us to take may be cramped, but it leads to the best possible destination—everlasting life. (Matt. 7:14) May we never waver in our determination to heed Jehovah’s admonition: “This is the way. Walk in it.”—Isa. 30:21.
a “Apostasy” is a standing away from true worship, a falling away, defection, rebellion, abandonment.
b For example, the apocryphal book of Tobit (Tobias), written about the third century B.C.E. and thus extant in Paul’s day, is full of superstition and absurd tales of magic and sorcery presented as truth.—See Insight on the Scriptures, Volume 1, page 122.
What Is Your Answer?
How can you make personal application of the warnings contained in the following scriptures?
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Scattering Feathers in the Wind
An old Jewish tale well illustrates the consequences of spreading hurtful gossip. Told in various forms, the gist of the story is as follows.
A man went about town slandering the town’s wise man. Later, the malicious gossiper realized his wrong and went to the wise man to ask for forgiveness, offering to do whatever was necessary to make amends. The wise man had one request: The gossiper was told to go and take a feather pillow and cut it open, scattering the feathers to the wind. Though puzzled by the request, the gossiper did as he was instructed and then returned to the wise man.
“Am I now forgiven?” he asked.
“First, go and gather all the feathers,” the wise man responded.
“But how can I? The wind has already scattered them.”
“It is as difficult to repair the damage done by your words as it is to recover the feathers.”
The lesson is clear. Once spoken, words cannot be retrieved, and it may be impossible to undo the hurt they cause. Before spreading a bit of gossip, we are wise to remember that we are, in effect, about to scatter feathers in the wind.
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How may some invite apostates into their homes?