“Strip off the old personality with its practices.”—COL. 3:9.
SONG 29 Living Up to Our Name
1. What was your life like before you began studying the Bible?
WHAT was your life like before you began studying the Bible with Jehovah’s Witnesses? Many of us would be frightened to think about it. Our outlook and personality were likely shaped by the values of this system of things—by the world’s standards of right and wrong. If so, we “had no hope and were without God in the world.” (Eph. 2:12) A Bible study changed all of that!
2. What did you discover as you studied the Bible?
2 As you studied the Bible, you discovered that you have a heavenly Father who loves you very much. You realized that if you wanted to please Jehovah and become part of his family of worshippers, you would have to make significant changes in your lifestyle, outlook, and thinking. You would have to learn to live by his high standards.—Eph. 5:3-5.
3. According to Colossians 3:9, 10, what does Jehovah want us to do, and what will we discuss in this article?
3 Our Creator and heavenly Father, Jehovah, has the right to determine how members of his family should behave. And he requires that before we get baptized, we put forth effort to “strip off the old personality with its practices.”* (Read Colossians 3:9, 10.) This article will help those who want to get baptized to answer three questions: (1) What is “the old personality”? (2) Why does Jehovah urge us to strip it off? (3) How can we do so? For those of us who are already baptized, this study will help us to prevent characteristics of the old personality from reappearing.
WHAT IS “THE OLD PERSONALITY”?
4. How does a person act when he is controlled by “the old personality”?
4 A person who is controlled by “the old personality” generally thinks and acts in a fleshly way. He may be selfish, prone to anger, unthankful, and proud. He may enjoy viewing pornographic material and watching immoral or violent movies. No doubt he has some good qualities, and he may feel guilty about the bad things he says or does. But he lacks the motivation to change his thinking and conduct.—Gal. 5:19-21; 2 Tim. 3:2-5.
5. What reasonable view should we have when it comes to stripping off the old personality? (Acts 3:19)
5 We are imperfect, so none of us can completely remove all bad thoughts and desires from our heart and mind. At times, we will do or say something that we will regret. (Jer. 17:9; Jas. 3:2) But when we strip off the old personality, fleshly attitudes and practices no longer control us. They no longer identify who we are as a person.—Isa. 55:7; read Acts 3:19.
6. Why does Jehovah urge us to strip off the wrong thinking and bad habits of the old personality?
6 Jehovah urges us to get rid of wrong thinking and bad habits because he loves us very much and wants us to enjoy life. (Isa. 48:17, 18) He knows that those who give in to wrong desires hurt themselves and those around them. It pains him to see us hurt ourselves and others.
7. According to Romans 12:1, 2, what choices do we have?
7 Some of our friends and family may at first ridicule us for trying to make changes to our personality. (1 Pet. 4:3, 4) They may say that we have the right to do whatever we want and that we should not allow others to tell us what to do. But those who reject Jehovah’s standards are not actually being independent. In reality, they are allowing the world dominated by Satan to mold them. (Read Romans 12:1, 2.) We all face a choice: Either we keep our old personality, which is shaped by sin and Satan’s world, or we allow Jehovah to transform us into the best person we can be at present.—Isa. 64:8.
HOW CAN YOU “STRIP OFF” THE OLD PERSONALITY?
8. What help can we count on to avoid wrong thinking and bad habits?
8 Jehovah knows that it will take time and effort for us to avoid wrong thinking and bad habits. (Ps. 103:13, 14) However, through his Word, his spirit, and his organization, Jehovah gives us the wisdom, strength, and support that we need to change who we are. No doubt he has already helped you. Let us now consider some of the practical steps you can take that will allow you to make further progress in stripping off the old personality and qualifying for baptism.
9. What can God’s Word help you to do?
9 Use the Bible to examine yourself closely. God’s Word acts like a mirror; it can help you to analyze the way that you think, speak, and act. (Jas. 1:22-25) Your Bible teacher and other mature Christians can offer you guidance. For instance, they can use the Scriptures to help you identify your strengths and your weaknesses. They can teach you how to find Bible-based information that offers practical advice on how to overcome bad habits. And Jehovah is always ready to come to your aid. He knows best how to help you; he knows what is in your heart. (Prov. 14:10; 15:11) So get into the habit of praying to him and studying his Word each day.
10. What did you learn from Elie’s experience?
10 Be convinced that Jehovah’s standards are best. We can benefit from everything that Jehovah asks us to do. Those who live by his standards gain self-respect, a purpose in life, and genuine happiness. (Ps. 19:7-11) In contrast, those who ignore Jehovah’s standards suffer the consequences that come from practicing the works of the flesh. Note what a man named Elie says about rejecting God’s standards. He was raised by parents who love Jehovah. But while in his teens, Elie chose bad associates. He was drawn into a lifestyle that included drug abuse, immorality, and theft. Elie says that he found himself becoming increasingly angry and violent. “Basically, I did everything that I had been taught not to do as a Christian,” he admits. However, Elie did not forget what he had learned in his youth. Eventually, he began studying the Bible again. He worked hard to get rid of his bad habits and got baptized in 2000. How has living by Jehovah’s standards benefited him? Elie says: “I now have peace of mind and a clean conscience.”* As this experience shows, those who reject Jehovah’s standards hurt themselves. Even then, Jehovah is willing to help them to change.
11. What things does Jehovah hate?
11 Learn to hate what Jehovah hates. (Ps. 97:10) The Bible reveals that Jehovah hates “haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood.” (Prov. 6:16, 17) He also “detests violent and deceptive people.” (Ps. 5:6) Jehovah hates these attitudes and actions so much that he wiped out all the wicked in Noah’s day because they had filled the earth with violence. (Gen. 6:13) Consider another example. Through the prophet Malachi, Jehovah said that He hates those who treacherously scheme to divorce their innocent marriage partner. God rejects their worship and will call them to account for their conduct.—Mal. 2:13-16; Heb. 13:4.
12. What does it mean to “abhor what is wicked”?
12 Jehovah wants us to “abhor what is wicked.” (Rom. 12:9) The word “abhor” describes a strong emotional response; it means to hate something intensely, to be disgusted by it. Imagine the strong response you would have if you were asked to eat a plate of rotten food. The very thought might make you feel sick. In a similar way, even the thought of doing something that Jehovah says is bad should be repulsive to us.
13. Why must we safeguard our thinking?
13 Safeguard your thinking. Our thoughts influence our actions. That is why Jesus taught us to reject thoughts that can lead us to commit a serious sin. (Matt. 5:21, 22, 28, 29) We want to be pleasing to our heavenly Father, do we not? How important it is, then, that we immediately reject any bad thoughts that come to our mind!
14. What does our speech reveal, and what questions should we answer?
14 Control your speech. Jesus said: “Whatever comes out of the mouth comes from the heart.” (Matt. 15:18) Yes, our speech reveals a lot about who we are on the inside. So ask yourself these questions: ‘Do I refuse to lie, even if telling the truth will cause me trouble? As a married person, am I careful not to flirt with those of the opposite sex? Do I avoid immoral speech like the plague? Do I reply in a calm manner when someone upsets me?’ You will find it helpful to reflect on those questions. Your speech might be likened to seams in a garment. If you try your best to remove abusive, lying, and immoral speech from your conversation, you will find it easier to strip off the old personality.
15. What does it mean to nail our old personality “to the stake”?
15 Be willing to take decisive action. The apostle Paul used a powerful word picture to teach us just how serious we must be about changing our lifestyle. He wrote that we must nail our old personality “to the stake.” (Rom. 6:6) In other words, we want to follow Christ’s example. We need to kill off attitudes and practices that Jehovah hates. Only if we take these steps will we gain a clean conscience and have the prospect of enjoying everlasting life. (John 17:3; 1 Pet. 3:21) Remember that Jehovah will not change his standards to suit us. Instead, we need to change who we are and conform to his standards.—Isa. 1:16-18; 55:9.
16. Why must you be determined to continue fighting fleshly weaknesses?
16 Continue to fight fleshly weaknesses. Even after you get baptized, you will need to continue to fight fleshly desires. Note the experience of a man named Maurício. While young, he started living a homosexual lifestyle. Eventually, he met Jehovah’s people and began studying the Bible. After making changes in his life, he got baptized in 2002. Even though he has now served Jehovah for many years, Maurício says: “I must admit that I have had to fight improper desires at times.” He does not let this discourage him. Instead, he says: “I take courage in knowing that by choosing not to act on those desires, I can be pleasing to Jehovah.”*
17. What did you find encouraging about Nabiha’s experience?
17 Pray for Jehovah’s help, and rely on his spirit, not on your own strength. (Gal. 5:22; Phil. 4:6) We must be determined if we are to strip off the old personality and keep it off. Consider the experience of a woman named Nabiha. Her father abandoned her when she was just six years old. “It caused me tremendous emotional pain,” she says. As she grew up, Nabiha became increasingly angry and aggressive. She got involved in drug trafficking, was arrested, and spent some years in prison. Witnesses who visited the prison began studying the Bible with her. Nabiha started to make serious changes. “Some of my vices were easy for me to give up,” she says. “But quitting smoking was another story.” Nabiha struggled for more than a year and was eventually able to break the addiction. How did she do it? “Above all,” she says, “it was incessant prayer to Jehovah that enabled me to quit.” She now tells others: “I’m confident that if I could make changes in order to please Jehovah, anyone can!”*
YOU CAN QUALIFY FOR BAPTISM!
18. According to 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, what have many of God’s servants been able to do?
18 In the first century, some of the men and women whom Jehovah chose to be corulers with Christ had once been dominated by bad practices. For example, they had been adulterers, homosexuals, and thieves. With the help of God’s holy spirit, however, they were able to change their personalities. (Read 1 Corinthians 6:9-11.) Similarly today, the Bible has helped millions of people to make changes in their lives.* They have overcome deeply entrenched bad habits. Their example proves that you too can make changes in your personality and overcome bad habits so that you can qualify for baptism.
19. What will the next article discuss?
19 In addition to working to strip off the old personality, those who want to get baptized must make an effort to put on the new personality. The next article will discuss how we can do that and how others can help us.
SONG 41 Please Hear My Prayer
To qualify for baptism, we must be willing to make changes in our personality. This article will help us to see what traits make up the old personality, why we need to strip off those traits, and how we can do it. The next article will examine how we can continue putting on the new personality even after we get baptized.
EXPRESSION EXPLAINED: To “strip off the old personality” means to get rid of attitudes and tendencies that displease Jehovah. That should begin before baptism.—Eph. 4:22.
For more details, see the article “The Bible Changes Lives—‘I Needed to Return to Jehovah,’” published in the April 1, 2012, issue of The Watchtower.
For more details, see the article “The Bible Changes Lives—‘They Were Very Kind to Me,’” published in the May 1, 2012, issue of The Watchtower.
For more details, see the article “The Bible Changes Lives—‘I Became an Angry, Aggressive Young Woman,’” published in the October 1, 2012, issue of The Watchtower.
See the box “The Bible Changes Lives.”
PICTURE DESCRIPTION: Removing undesirable attitudes and practices is like stripping off an old garment.