“Be transformed by making your mind over, so that you may prove to yourselves the good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”—ROM. 12:2.
SONG 88 Make Me Know Your Ways
1-2. What must we continue to do after baptism? Explain.
HOW often do you clean your home? Perhaps before you first moved in, you scoured it thoroughly. But what if you neglected it afterward? As you know, dust and dirt can accumulate quickly. To keep your home presentable, you need to clean it regularly.
2 A similar ongoing effort is required when it comes to our thinking and our personality. Of course, before getting baptized we worked hard to make necessary changes in our life in order to “cleanse ourselves of every defilement of flesh and spirit.” (2 Cor. 7:1) Now, though, we need to follow the apostle Paul’s counsel to “continue to be made new.” (Eph. 4:23) Why is continual effort needed? Because the dust and dirt of this world can quickly accumulate in us. To avoid that outcome and to remain presentable to Jehovah, we must regularly examine our thinking, our personality, and our desires.
KEEP “MAKING YOUR MIND OVER”
3. What does “making your mind over” mean? (Romans 12:2)
3 What do we need to do to make our mind over, that is, to change our way of thinking? (Read Romans 12:2.) The Greek expression translated “making your mind over” can be rendered “renovation of your mind.” Therefore, we cannot simply decorate our life with a few good works. Rather, we must examine the person we are deep inside and make any needed changes so that we can bring our life as close as possible to Jehovah’s standards. We should do this, not once, but continually.
4. How can we avoid having our thinking molded by this system of things?
4 When we reach perfection, we will always be able to please Jehovah in everything we do. In the meantime, we need to keep working hard toward that goal. Notice the connection Paul made between making our mind over and discerning God’s will, as recorded at Romans 12:2. Instead of passively allowing ourselves to be molded by this system of things, we must first examine ourselves to determine how much we are letting God’s thinking—not the world’s—influence our goals and decisions.
5. How can we examine our thinking about the nearness of the day of Jehovah? (See picture.)
5 Consider an example. Jehovah wants us to “keep close in mind the presence of the day of Jehovah.” (2 Pet. 3:12) Ask yourself: ‘Does my way of life show that I understand how close we are to the end of this system of things? Do my decisions regarding education and employment show that serving Jehovah is the most important thing in my life? Do I have faith that Jehovah will provide for me and my family, or do I constantly worry about material things?’ Think how pleased Jehovah is when he sees us bringing our life into harmony with his will.—Matt. 6:25-27, 33; Phil. 4:12, 13.
6. What do we need to continue to do?
6 We need to examine our thinking regularly and follow through by making any necessary adjustments. Paul told the Corinthians: “Keep testing whether you are in the faith; keep proving what you yourselves are.” (2 Cor. 13:5) Being “in the faith” includes more than attending Christian meetings and engaging in the ministry from time to time. It also involves our thinking, our inclinations, and our motives. So we need to keep making our mind over by reading God’s Word, learning to think as he thinks, and then doing whatever is necessary to bring ourselves in line with Jehovah’s will.—1 Cor. 2:14-16.
“PUT ON THE NEW PERSONALITY”
7. According to Ephesians 4:31, 32, what else do we need to do, and why might this be challenging?
7 Read Ephesians 4:31, 32. Besides making changes in our thinking, we need to “put on the new personality.” (Eph. 4:24) That involves action on our part. Among other things, we must work hard to overcome such personality traits as malicious bitterness, anger, and wrath. Why might that be challenging? Because some negative personality traits are deep-rooted. For example, the Bible says that some people are “prone to anger” and “disposed to rage.” (Prov. 29:22) Controlling ingrained traits will likely require continual effort even after baptism, as the following experience shows.
8-9. How does Stephen’s experience show the need to keep putting away the old personality?
8 A brother named Stephen had a problem with controlling his anger. “Even after I was baptized,” he says, “I had to keep working on my temper. For example, on one occasion while going from house to house in the Christian ministry, I chased after a thief who had just stolen the radio from my car. As I got closer to him, he dropped the radio and ran away. When I related to the others with me how I got my radio back, an elder in the group asked me, ‘Stephen, what would you have done if you had caught up with him?’ That question made me think and motivated me to keep working at being peaceable.”b
9 As Stephen’s experience illustrates, a negative personality trait can come to the surface unexpectedly, even after we thought we had it under control. If that happens to you, do not be discouraged and do not conclude that you have failed as a Christian. Even the apostle Paul admitted: “When I wish to do what is right, what is bad is present with me.” (Rom. 7:21-23) All imperfect Christians have to deal with negative traits that keep coming back like dust and dirt that accumulate in our home. We need to keep working at remaining clean. How can we do that?
10. How can we fight undesirable traits? (1 John 5:14, 15)
10 Pray to Jehovah about the trait that you are struggling with, confident that he will hear you and help you. (Read 1 John 5:14, 15.) While Jehovah will not miraculously eliminate the trait, he can strengthen you so that you do not give in to it. (1 Pet. 5:10) Meanwhile, work in harmony with your prayers by not feeding inclinations of the old personality. For example, be cautious about watching movies, watching television programs, or reading stories that glorify personality traits that you are trying to eliminate. And do not let your mind dwell on improper desires.—Phil. 4:8; Col. 3:2.
11. What steps can we take to keep putting on the new personality?
11 Although you have put away the old personality, it is important to cultivate the new one. How can you do that? Make it a goal to imitate Jehovah as you learn about his qualities. (Eph. 5:1, 2) For example, when you read a Bible account that highlights Jehovah’s forgiveness, ask yourself, ‘Do I forgive others?’ When you read about Jehovah’s compassion for those who have fallen on hard times, ask yourself, ‘Do I have similar concern for fellow believers who are in need, and do I show it by my actions?’ Keep making your mind over by putting on the new personality, and be patient with yourself as you do so.
12. How did Stephen experience the transforming power of the Bible?
12 Stephen, mentioned earlier, found that he was gradually able to put on the new personality. He says: “Since baptism, I have faced a number of potentially explosive situations. I’ve learned either to walk away from people who are trying to provoke me or to defuse the situation in other ways. Many people, including my wife, have commended me on how I have handled these situations. I’ve even surprised myself! I do not take credit for these changes in my personality. Rather, I believe that they are testimony to the transforming power of the Bible.”
KEEP BATTLING IMPROPER DESIRES
13. What will help us to cultivate proper desires? (Galatians 5:16)
13 Read Galatians 5:16. To help us win the fight to do what is right, Jehovah generously provides his holy spirit. When we study God’s Word, we are placing ourselves under the influence of that spirit. We also receive holy spirit when we attend our meetings. At those Christian gatherings, we can spend time with brothers and sisters who, like us, are trying hard to do what is right, and that is encouraging. (Heb. 10:24, 25; 13:7) And when we approach Jehovah in earnest prayer and beg him for help with some weakness, he will give us his holy spirit to strengthen us to keep fighting. While these activities will probably not make wrong desires disappear, they will help us resist the urge to act on those desires. As Galatians 5:16 says, those who walk by spirit “will carry out no fleshly desire.”
14. Why is it important to keep cultivating proper desires?
14 Once we have established a wholesome routine of spiritual activities, it is essential that we maintain that routine and keep cultivating proper desires. Why? Because one of our enemies never sleeps. That enemy is the temptation to do what is wrong. Even after baptism we might find ourselves attracted to the very things that we should avoid, including gambling, alcohol abuse, or pornography. (Eph. 5:3, 4) A young Christian brother admits: “One of the most difficult things I have struggled with is my attraction to the same sex. I thought that it was just a phase, but those feelings still plague me.” What can help you if an improper desire is especially strong?
15. Why is it encouraging to know that improper desires are “common to men”? (See picture.)
15 As you contend with an improper desire that is proving to be a crafty opponent, remember that you are not alone. The Bible says: “No temptation has come upon you except what is common to men.” (1 Cor. 10:13a) Another translation renders the passage this way: “No temptation has overtaken you that is unusual for human beings.” That statement was directed to male and female Christians living in Corinth. Some had formerly been adulterers, homosexuals, and drunkards. (1 Cor. 6:9-11) Do you think that after their baptism they never had any improper desires to contend with? That could not be the case. They were all anointed Christians, true, but they were still imperfect humans. No doubt they had to struggle with improper desires from time to time. That should be encouraging to us. Why? Because it shows that whatever improper desire you are battling, someone else has resisted it. Indeed, you can remain “firm in the faith, knowing that the same kind of sufferings are being experienced by the entire association of your brothers.”—1 Pet. 5:9.
16. What pitfall should we avoid, and why?
16 Avoid the pitfall of thinking that no one else can understand the particular challenge that you are facing. Thinking that way could lead you to conclude that your situation is hopeless and that you are powerless to resist improper desires. The Bible says otherwise. It states: “God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear, but along with the temptation he will also make the way out so that you may be able to endure it.” (1 Cor. 10:13b) Therefore, even when an improper desire is strong, we can successfully endure it. With Jehovah’s help, we can keep from acting on it.
17. Although we may not be able to keep improper desires from surfacing, what can we control?
17 Always remember this: As an imperfect human, you may not be able to keep improper desires from surfacing. But when they do, you can reject them decisively, as Joseph did when he quickly ran away from Potiphar’s wife. (Gen. 39:12) You do not need to act on improper desires!
AN ONGOING EFFORT
18-19. What questions can we ask ourselves as we strive to make our mind over?
18 Making our mind over involves an ongoing effort to bring our thinking and actions in line with Jehovah’s will. To that end, examine yourself regularly and ask: ‘Do I act in a way that shows that I recognize the urgency of the times in which we live? Am I making progress in putting on the new personality? Am I allowing Jehovah’s spirit to direct my life so that I can resist the urge to act on fleshly desires?’
19 As you examine yourself, look for progress, not perfection. If you see room for improvement, do not be discouraged. Instead, follow the admonition of Philippians 3:16: “To the extent we have made progress, let us go on walking orderly in this same course.” When you do, be assured that Jehovah will bless your efforts to keep making your mind over.
SONG 36 We Guard Our Hearts
a The apostle Paul urged fellow believers not to allow themselves to be molded by this system of things. That is certainly good advice for us today. We need to make sure that this world’s corrupting influence is not affecting us in some way. To that end, we must keep correcting our way of thinking whenever we realize that it is not in harmony with God’s will. In this article, we will consider how this can be done.
c PICTURE DESCRIPTION: A young brother is contemplating whether to pursue higher education or the full-time ministry.