Who Molds Your Thinking?
“Stop being molded by this system of things.”—ROM. 12:2.
1, 2. (a) What was Jesus’ response to Peter’s advice to be kind to himself? (See opening picture.) (b) Why did Jesus respond in that way?
JESUS’ disciples could not believe what they were hearing. Jesus, the one they expected to restore Israel’s kingdom, said that he would soon suffer and die. It was the apostle Peter who spoke up. “Be kind to yourself, Lord,” he said. “You will not have this happen to you at all.” Jesus countered: “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me, because you think, not God’s thoughts, but those of men.”—Matt. 16:21-23; Acts 1:6.
2 With those words, Jesus made a distinction between thoughts that originate with God and thoughts that originate with this world under Satan’s control. (1 John 5:19) Peter echoed the self-sparing attitude of the world. But Jesus knew that his Father’s thinking was different. He knew that God wanted him to brace himself for the suffering and death that awaited him. In his reply to Peter, Jesus clearly rejected the world’s thinking in favor of Jehovah’s.
3. Why is it challenging to reject the world’s thinking in favor of Jehovah’s?
3 What about us? Do we think God’s thoughts or those of this world? Granted, we have likely conformed our conduct to God’s requirements. But what about our thinking? Are we bringing our thoughts and viewpoints into alignment with Jehovah’s? Doing so requires a deliberate effort. On the other hand, little or no effort is needed to absorb the world’s thinking. That is because the spirit of the world is all around us. (Eph. 2:2) Furthermore, because it often appeals to self-interest, the world’s way of thinking can be enticing. Yes, it is challenging to think like Jehovah but all too easy to think like the world.
4. (a) What will happen if we let the world mold our thinking? (b) How will this article help us?
4 However, if we allow the world to mold our thinking, we will be inclined toward selfishness and a desire for moral independence. (Mark 7:21, 22) It is therefore vital that we cultivate “God’s thoughts,” not “those of men.” This article will help us. It considers reasons why aligning our thoughts with Jehovah’s is not overly restrictive but beneficial. It also shows us how we can resist being molded by the thinking of the world. The next article examines how we can get Jehovah’s thinking on various matters and make his thoughts our own.
JEHOVAH’S THINKING IS BENEFICIAL AND DESIRABLE
5. Why do some resist the idea of being molded by anyone?
5 Some people resist the idea of having anyone mold or influence their thoughts. “I think for myself,” they say. They probably mean that they make their own decisions and that it is proper to do so. They do not wish to be controlled, nor do they want to surrender their individuality.a
6. (a) What freedom does Jehovah allow us? (b) Is this freedom absolute?
6 We can be assured, however, that bringing our thinking into harmony with Jehovah’s does not mean giving up all individual thought or expression. As stated at 2 Corinthians 3:17, “where the spirit of Jehovah is, there is freedom.” We are free to develop our own distinct personalities. We can have our personal preferences and choose our fields of interest. Indeed, Jehovah designed us to do so. However, we cannot use our freedom without restraint. (Read 1 Peter 2:16.) When it comes to issues of right and wrong, Jehovah wants us to be guided by his thinking as revealed in his Word. Is this overly restrictive, or is it beneficial?
7, 8. Why will cultivating Jehovah’s view of matters not be overly restrictive? Illustrate.
7 Consider an illustration. Parents endeavor to instill in their children good values. They may teach them to be honest, industrious, and considerate of others. This is not overly restrictive. Rather, the parents are preparing them for a successful life as independent adults. When the children grow up and leave home, they will be free to make their own choices. If they choose to live within the values that they learned from their parents, they will be more likely to make decisions that they will not later regret. As a result, they will be free from many self-induced troubles and anxieties.
8 Like a good parent, Jehovah wants his children to have the most fulfilling life possible. (Isa. 48:17, 18) He therefore provides basic principles for moral conduct and for behavior toward others. In such matters he invites us to cultivate his very way of thinking and to share his values. Far from constraining us, this enhances, elevates, and expands our thinking ability. (Ps. 92:5; Prov. 2:1-5; Isa. 55:9) It helps us make choices that lead to happiness while still allowing us to blossom as individuals. (Ps. 1:2, 3) Yes, thinking like Jehovah is beneficial and desirable!
JEHOVAH’S THINKING IS SUPERIOR
9, 10. How has Jehovah’s thinking proved superior to that of the world?
9 Another reason why Jehovah’s worshippers desire to align their thinking with God’s is that his thinking is far superior to that of this world. Segments of the world have offered advice on moral conduct, family relationships, job satisfaction, and other aspects of life. Much of it is out of harmony with Jehovah’s thinking. For example, self-promotion is often encouraged. So is tolerance of sexual immorality. Separation and divorce for frivolous reasons are sometimes advised as a means of achieving greater happiness. Such advice is in conflict with the Scriptures. Still, might some of it be more suited to our times?
10 “Wisdom is proved righteous by its works,” said Jesus. (Matt. 11:19) The world has made considerable advancement in technology; however, it has been unable to solve the major problems that stand in the way of happiness, such as war, racism, and crime. And what of its lenient view of morality? Many people acknowledge that this is, not solving, but contributing to family breakdown, illness, and other troubles. On the other hand, Christians who adopt God’s viewpoint are enjoying improved family relationships, the healthful benefits of moral cleanness, and peace among fellow believers on a worldwide scale. (Isa. 2:4; Acts 10:34, 35; 1 Cor. 6:9-11) Does this not show that Jehovah’s thinking is superior to that of the world?
11. Whose thinking guided Moses, and what was the outcome?
11 True worshippers of Bible record recognized the superiority of Jehovah’s thoughts. Even though Moses, for example, was educated “in all the wisdom of the Egyptians,” he looked to God for “a heart of wisdom.” (Acts 7:22; Ps. 90:12) He also petitioned Jehovah: “Make me know your ways.” (Ex. 33:13) Being guided by Jehovah’s thoughts, he had a meaningful share in the outworking of His purpose and is honorably mentioned in the Scriptures as a man of outstanding faith.—Heb. 11:24-27.
12. On what did the apostle Paul base his reasoning?
12 The apostle Paul was an intelligent and learned man, knowing at least two languages. (Acts 5:34; 21:37, 39; 22:2, 3) Yet, when it came to matters of principle, he rejected worldly wisdom. Instead, he based his reasoning on the Scriptures. (Read Acts 17:2; 1 Corinthians 2:6, 7, 13.) As a result, Paul enjoyed a successful ministry and anticipated an eternal reward.—2 Tim. 4:8.
13. Who has the responsibility to bring our thinking into alignment with Jehovah’s?
13 Certainly, God’s thinking is superior to that of today’s world. Living by his thoughts will bring us the greatest happiness and success. But Jehovah will not force his thinking on us. “The faithful and discreet slave” does not exercise control over the thoughts of individuals, and neither do the elders. (Matt. 24:45; 2 Cor. 1:24) Rather, each Christian has the personal responsibility to bring his or her thinking into harmony with God’s. How can we do that?
AVOID BEING MOLDED BY THIS SYSTEM
14, 15. (a) In order to think like Jehovah, on what must we meditate? (b) In the light of Romans 12:2, why must we avoid taking in the world’s ideas? Illustrate.
14 At Romans 12:2, we are counseled: “Stop being molded by this system of things, but be transformed by making your mind over, so that you may prove to yourselves the good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” Those inspired words show that whatever molded our thinking before we learned the truth, it is possible to bring our thoughts into closer harmony with God’s. True, our thinking has to some extent been influenced by hereditary factors and past experiences. But the mind is flexible and can keep changing. To a large extent, any such changes will be determined by what we allow into our mind and what we choose to dwell on. By dwelling or meditating on Jehovah’s way of thinking, we can prove to ourselves that his viewpoints are right. It will then be our natural desire to bring our thoughts into alignment with his.
15 Note, however, that in order to make our mind over to Jehovah’s way of thinking, we need to “stop being molded by this system.” We must stop taking into our minds ideas or viewpoints that are in opposition to God’s. The importance of this preliminary step can be illustrated with food. A person might seek to improve his health by eating food that is nutritious. But of what value would that be if he is also ingesting regular doses of contaminated food? Similarly, feeding on Jehovah’s thoughts will be of limited value if we are corrupting our mind with worldly ideas.
16. From what do we need to protect ourselves?
16 Can we avoid all contact with the world’s thinking? No, we cannot literally get out of the world. Some exposure to its ideas is inescapable. (1 Cor. 5:9, 10) The preaching work itself will bring us in contact with erroneous beliefs. However, where contact with ungodly views is unavoidable, we certainly need not entertain them or accept them. Like Jesus, we should be quick to reject thoughts that serve Satan’s purpose. Furthermore, we can protect ourselves from unnecessary exposure to the world’s thinking.—Read Proverbs 4:23.
17. What are some ways we can avoid unnecessary exposure to the world’s thinking?
17 For example, we should exercise caution when choosing our close friends. The Bible warns that if we keep close company with people who do not worship Jehovah, their thinking will rub off on us. (Prov. 13:20; 1 Cor. 15:12, 32, 33) We can also be selective when choosing entertainment. By rejecting entertainment that promotes the theory of evolution, violence, or immorality, we avoid poisoning our thinking with ideas that are “against the knowledge of God.”—2 Cor. 10:5.
18, 19. (a) Why must we be on guard against worldly viewpoints promoted in subtle ways? (b) What questions should we ask ourselves, and why?
18 We also do well to recognize and reject worldly thinking when it is presented in less obvious ways. For example, a news report might be angled in such a way so as to favor certain political opinions. A human interest story might advance the world’s view of human goals and achievements. Some movies and books promote the “me first” and “family first” philosophies, making them seem reasonable, appealing, even right. Such viewpoints overlook the Scriptural view that our families and self-worth thrive when we love Jehovah above all. (Matt. 22:36-39) Also, some children’s stories, though otherwise unobjectionable, may subtly lay the groundwork for accepting immoral behavior.
19 This does not mean that it is wrong to enjoy wholesome entertainment. Still, we do well to ask ourselves these questions: ‘Do we recognize the world’s teachings even when they are promoted indirectly? Do we limit our children’s exposure—and even our own—to certain programs or reading material? Do we counteract worldly ideas heard or seen by our children with Jehovah’s view of matters?’ By recognizing the difference between God’s thinking and that of the world, we can avoid “being molded by this system of things.”
WHO IS MOLDING YOU NOW?
20. What will determine whether we are influenced by God’s thinking or that of the world?
20 Remember, there are basically two sources of information—Jehovah and the world under Satan’s control. By which source are we being molded? The answer is, the source from which we obtain information. If we take in the world’s ideas, these will mold our thinking, inclining us toward fleshly points of view and behavior. That is why it is vital that we guard what we allow our minds to dwell on.
21. What vital aspect will be discussed in the next article?
21 As mentioned earlier, to think like Jehovah, we must do more than keep our minds free from corrupting influences. We must also feed on God’s thoughts with a view to making them our own. The following article will further consider how we can do that.
a In reality, even the most independent of thinkers cannot avoid being influenced. Whether contemplating something so profound as the origin of life or simply deciding what to wear, people are to some degree affected by others. We can, however, choose whom we will allow to influence us.