“Abhor what is wicked, cling to what is good.”—ROM. 12:9.
1, 2. (a) How did you make your decision to serve God? (b) What questions can we ask about our spiritual inheritance?
MILLIONS of us have made the wise choice to serve Jehovah God and closely follow the steps of Jesus Christ. (Matt. 16:24; 1 Pet. 2:21) We do not take lightly this life of dedication to God. Our choice was based, not on a superficial knowledge of a few scriptures, but on a thorough study of God’s Word. As a result, we learned many faith-strengthening details about the inheritance that Jehovah has placed before those who ‘take in knowledge of him and of the one whom he sent forth, Jesus Christ.’—John 17:3; Rom. 12:2.
2 To maintain our standing as Christians, we must make choices that please our heavenly Father. This article will therefore consider these important questions: What is our inheritance? How should we view it? How can we make sure that we obtain our inheritance? What will help us to make wise choices?
OUR INHERITANCE—WHAT IS IT?
3. What inheritance is awaiting (a) the anointed and (b) the “other sheep”?
3 A relatively small number of Christians look forward to receiving “an incorruptible and undefiled and unfading inheritance”—the priceless privilege of ruling with Christ in heaven. (1 Pet. 1:3, 4) To receive that inheritance, these individuals must be “born again.” (John 3:1-3) What is the inheritance of the millions of Jesus’ “other sheep,” who are associated with his anointed followers in preaching the good news of God’s Kingdom? (John 10:16) The other sheep will receive the inheritance that sinful Adam and Eve never received—everlasting life on a paradise earth with no more suffering, death, or mourning. (Rev. 21:1-4) Jesus could therefore promise an evildoer who died with him: “Truly I tell you today, You will be with me in Paradise.”—Luke 23:43.
4. What blessings do we already enjoy?
4 Even now, we enjoy certain aspects of our inheritance. Because we exercise faith in “the ransom paid by Christ Jesus,” we have inner peace and a close relationship with God. (Rom. 3:23-25) We have a clear understanding of the precious promises contained in God’s Word. Moreover, being part of a loving international brotherhood is a source of tremendous joy. And what a blessed privilege it is to be one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. No wonder we cherish our inheritance!
5. What has Satan tried to do to God’s people, and what can help us to stand firm against his machinations?
5 To hold fast to our wonderful inheritance, though, we must remain alert to Satan’s ploys. Satan has always tried to influence God’s people to make choices that could cost them their inheritance. (Num. 25:1-3, 9) Aware that his end is near, Satan has stepped up his efforts to mislead us. (Read Revelation 12:12, 17.) If we are to keep on ‘standing firm against the machinations of the Devil,’ we must continue to value our inheritance highly. (Eph. 6:11) In this regard, the warning example of the patriarch Isaac’s son Esau provides lessons we do well to take to heart.
DO NOT BE LIKE ESAU
6, 7. Who was Esau, and what inheritance awaited him?
6 Nearly 4,000 years ago, Esau and his twin brother, Jacob, were born to Isaac and Rebekah. As the twins grew up, they differed in temperament and in their choice of activities. “Esau became a man knowing how to hunt, a man of the field,” whereas “Jacob [was] a blameless man, dwelling in tents.” (Gen. 25:27) The Hebrew word rendered “blameless,” notes Bible translator Robert Alter, “suggests integrity or even innocence.”
7 When Esau and Jacob were 15 years old, their grandfather Abraham died, but Jehovah’s promise to Abraham did not die. Later, Jehovah repeated it to Isaac, pointing out that all nations of the earth would bless themselves by means of Abraham’s seed. (Read Genesis 26:3-5.) That promise revealed that the Messiah—the faithful “seed” of Genesis 3:15—would come through Abraham’s offspring. As Isaac’s firstborn son, Esau had the legal right to that promise. What a wonderful inheritance awaited Esau! Did he appreciate it?
8, 9. (a) What choice did Esau make concerning his inheritance? (b) Years later, what did Esau realize about his choice, and how did he react?
8 One day when Esau came in from the field, he saw Jacob “boiling up some stew.” “Quick, please,” said Esau, “give me a swallow of the red—the red there, for I am tired!” In reply, Jacob told Esau: “Sell me, first of all, your right as firstborn!” What choice did Esau make? Incredibly, he said: “Of what benefit to me is a birthright?” Yes, Esau chose a bowl of stew over his right as firstborn! To make the birthright transaction legal, Jacob insisted: “Swear to me first of all!” Without hesitation, Esau gave up his birthright. After that, “Jacob gave Esau bread and lentil stew, and he went to eating and drinking. Then he got up and went his way. So Esau despised the birthright.”—Gen. 25:29-34.
9 Years later, when Isaac thought that he was about to die, Rebekah made arrangements to make sure that Jacob would indeed receive Esau’s forfeited birthright. When Esau belatedly realized what a foolish choice he had made, he begged Isaac: “Bless me, even me too, my father! . . . Have you not reserved a blessing for me?” When Isaac stated that he could not change the blessing he had already given to Jacob, “Esau raised his voice and burst into tears.”—Gen. 27:30-38.
10. How did Jehovah view Esau and Jacob, and why?
10 What aspects of Esau’s disposition stand out in the Scriptures? He showed that satisfying his fleshly desires was more important to him than gaining the future blessings that would have flowed from his inheritance. Esau did not cherish his birthright and evidently did not really love God. Furthermore, Esau ignored the effect his action would have on his offspring. In contrast, Jacob deeply appreciated his inheritance. For instance, Jacob acted in harmony with parental instruction in choosing a wife. (Gen. 27:46–28:3) Because Jacob made this choice that required patience and sacrifice, he became a forefather of the Messiah. How did God view Esau and Jacob? By means of the prophet Malachi, Jehovah said: “I loved Jacob, and Esau I have hated.”—Mal. 1:2, 3.
11. (a) Why is Esau’s example relevant to us as Christians? (b) Why did Paul refer to fornication in connection with the action of Esau?
11 Is what the Bible says about Esau relevant to Christians today? Indeed it is. The apostle Paul cautioned fellow believers to be careful that “there may be no fornicator nor anyone not appreciating sacred things, like Esau, who in exchange for one meal gave away his rights as firstborn.” (Heb. 12:16) That warning still applies to Christians. We must maintain our appreciation for sacred things so that we will not be overpowered by fleshly desires and lose our spiritual inheritance. Why, though, did Paul refer to fornication in connection with Esau’s action? Because having a fleshly disposition like that of Esau makes it more likely that a person will give up sacred things for illicit pleasures, such as fornication.
PREPARE YOUR HEART NOW
12. (a) How does Satan place temptations in our path? (b) Give Scriptural examples that can help us when we have to make difficult choices.
12 As servants of Jehovah, we certainly do not search for tempting situations that could lead to immoral sexual behavior. Instead, we pray that Jehovah God will not permit us to succumb when someone tempts us to disobey Him. (Matt. 6:13) But Satan constantly tries to undermine our spirituality as we strive to maintain our integrity in this depraved world. (Eph. 6:12) As the god of this wicked system of things, the Devil knows how to exploit our imperfect desires by putting in our path temptations common to imperfect humans. (1 Cor. 10:8, 13) For instance, imagine being in a situation that offered an opportunity to satisfy a particular desire in an immoral way. What choice would you make? Would you be like Esau and say: ‘Quick! Give it to me!’ Or would you resist the temptation and flee from it, as did Jacob’s son Joseph, who was tempted by Potiphar’s wife?—Read Genesis 39:10-12.
13. (a) Today, how have many acted like Joseph, but how have some acted like Esau? (b) Examples of those who act like Esau make us aware of what crucial need?
13 Many of our brothers and sisters have been in situations in which they had to choose between acting either like Esau or like Joseph. Most have acted wisely and made Jehovah’s heart rejoice. (Prov. 27:11) When faced with temptation, however, some of our fellow believers have chosen to act like Esau, putting their spiritual inheritance at risk. In fact, a considerable number of judicial actions and disfellowshippings that take place each year are the result of sexual misconduct. How crucial it is to prepare our heart now—well before we find ourselves in situations that test our integrity! (Ps. 78:8) We can take at least two steps that will serve as a bulwark against temptation and will help us to make wise choices later.
REFLECT AND REINFORCE
14. Reflecting on what questions can help us to “abhor what is wicked” and “cling to what is good”?
14 The first step involves reflecting on the consequences of our actions. The depth of our appreciation for our spiritual inheritance depends greatly on the depth of our love for Jehovah, the Giver of that inheritance. After all, if we love someone, we do not want to hurt that person. Instead, we strive to merit his approval. Since that is the case, we do well to take some time to reflect on what the consequences would be for us and others were we to give in to unclean fleshly desires. We should ask ourselves: ‘How would my selfish action affect my relationship with Jehovah? What effect would the wrong action have on my family? How would it affect my brothers and sisters in the congregation? Could I stumble others?’ (Phil. 1:10) We could also ask: ‘Are a few moments of illicit pleasure worth the heartache that my choice would cause? Do I really want to end up like Esau, weeping bitterly when I realize what I have done?’ (Heb. 12:17) Reflecting on such questions will help us to “abhor what is wicked” and “cling to what is good.” (Rom. 12:9) Especially will love for Jehovah move us to cling to our inheritance.—Ps. 73:28.
15. What will strengthen our defenses against forces that endanger our spirituality?
15 The second step entails reinforcing our defenses. Jehovah has made many provisions for us to reinforce our defenses against factors in the world that endanger our spirituality. His provisions include Bible study, Christian meetings, the field ministry, and prayer. (1 Cor. 15:58) Each time we pour out our heart in prayer to Jehovah and every time we have a meaningful share in the Christian ministry, we are, as it were, strengthening our bulwark against temptations. (Read 1 Timothy 6:12, 19.) To a considerable extent, the strength of our defenses depends on our own efforts. (Gal. 6:7) This is highlighted in the second chapter of Proverbs.
“KEEP SEEKING FOR IT”
16, 17. How can we succeed in acquiring the ability to make wise choices?
16 Proverbs chapter 2 encourages us to acquire wisdom and thinking ability. These gifts enable us to choose between right and wrong, between self-discipline and self-indulgence. But whether we will succeed depends on our willingness to put forth effort. Underscoring that fundamental truth, the Bible states: “My son, if you will receive my sayings and treasure up my own commandments with yourself, so as to pay attention to wisdom with your ear, that you may incline your heart to discernment; if, moreover, you call out for understanding itself and you give forth your voice for discernment itself, if you keep seeking for it as for silver, and as for hid treasures you keep searching for it, in that case you will understand the fear of Jehovah, and you will find the very knowledge of God. For Jehovah himself gives wisdom; out of his mouth there are knowledge and discernment.”—Prov. 2:1-6.
17 Clearly, then, our success in acquiring the ability needed to make wise choices depends on whether we meet the conditions mentioned in Proverbs. We can succeed in standing firm against temptations if we let Jehovah’s sayings mold our inner person, if we pray persistently for God’s direction, and if we keep searching for God’s knowledge as if looking for hidden gems.
18. What are you determined to keep on doing, and why?
18 Jehovah gives knowledge, understanding, discernment, and wisdom to those who put forth effort to seek these gifts. The more we look for them and use them, the closer we will be drawn to the Giver, Jehovah. In turn, our intimate relationship with Jehovah God will serve as a protection when we find ourselves confronted with a temptation. Drawing close to Jehovah and having a reverential fear of him will protect us from engaging in wrongdoing. (Ps. 25:14; Jas. 4:8) May the enjoyment of friendship with Jehovah and the application of godly wisdom move all of us to keep on making the kind of choices that will gladden Jehovah’s heart and safeguard our inheritance.