“Bad associations spoil useful habits.”—1 CORINTHIANS 15:33.
1. What time period are we living in?
WE ARE living in “critical times hard to deal with.” Since 1914, when “the last days” began, conditions in the world have become worse than ever before. (2 Timothy 3:1-5) And we can be sure that the world will continue to get worse, because Bible prophecy says that “wicked men and impostors will advance from bad to worse.”—2 Timothy 3:13.
2. What kind of entertainment do many people enjoy? (See opening picture.)
2 For entertainment, many people today watch or do things that are violent or immoral or that involve magic and demonism. For example, the Internet, television programs, movies, books, and magazines often make violence and immorality seem acceptable. And behavior that used to shock people has become so acceptable that it is now legal in some places. But that does not mean that Jehovah approves of such behavior.—Read Romans 1:28-32.
3. What do many people think of those who live by God’s standards?
3 In the first century, people also watched things that were violent and immoral for entertainment. But not Jesus’ followers, because they lived by God’s standards. This “puzzled” the people around them. What was the result? People made fun of the Christians and persecuted them. (1 Peter 4:4) Today, too, many people think that those who live by God’s standards are strange. In fact, the Bible warns us that those who follow the example of Christ Jesus “will also be persecuted.”—2 Timothy 3:12.
“BAD ASSOCIATIONS SPOIL USEFUL HABITS”
4. Why should we not love this world?
4 If we want to do God’s will, we cannot love “either the world or the things in the world.” (Read 1 John 2:15, 16.) Satan, “the god of this system of things,” controls the world. He uses religions, governments, commercial organizations, and the media to mislead people. (2 Corinthians 4:4; 1 John 5:19) We do not want to be influenced by the world, so we must avoid bad associations. The Bible clearly warns us: “Do not be misled. Bad associations spoil useful habits.”—1 Corinthians 15:33.
5, 6. Whom should we not associate with, and why?
5 To keep our good relationship with Jehovah, we do not choose to associate with anyone who practices bad things. This includes people who say that they worship Jehovah but choose to disobey him. If such ones commit a serious sin and do not repent, we stop associating with them.—Romans 16:17, 18.
6 People usually want to please their friends and be accepted by them. So if we associate with those who do not obey God, we might be tempted to do what they do. For example, if we closely associate with people who are sexually immoral, we might become like them. That has happened to some of our brothers and sisters. And those who did not repent were disfellowshipped. (1 Corinthians 5:11-13) Unless they repent, their situation can become like that described by Peter.—Read 2 Peter 2:20-22.
7. Whom should we choose to be our close friends?
7 Although we want to be kind to everyone, we should not become close friends with those who do not obey God. It would be wrong for one of Jehovah’s Witnesses to date someone who is not a faithful baptized servant of Jehovah. It is much more important to have God’s approval than to be accepted by people who do not love him. We should be close friends with only those who do God’s will. Jesus said: “Whoever does the will of God, this one is my brother and sister and mother.”—Mark 3:35.
It is much more important to have Jehovah’s approval than to be accepted by people who do not love him
8. How did bad associations affect the people of ancient Israel?
8 Bad associations result in disaster. Take, for example, what happened to the Israelites. Before they arrived in the Promised Land, Jehovah warned them about the people who already lived there. He said: “You must not bow down to their gods or be persuaded to serve them, and you must not imitate their practices. Instead, you must demolish them and smash their sacred pillars. You must serve Jehovah your God.” (Exodus 23:24, 25) But most of the Israelites did not obey God’s instructions and became unfaithful to him. (Psalm 106:35-39) What was the result? Jehovah later rejected the nation of Israel and instead chose the Christian congregation as his people.—Matthew 23:38; Acts 2:1-4.
BE CAREFUL ABOUT WHAT YOU READ AND WATCH
9. Why can this world’s media be dangerous?
9 Much of this world’s media, such as television programs, websites, and books, can harm our relationship with Jehovah. This kind of material is not designed to help Christians have faith in Jehovah and his promises. Instead, it encourages people to trust in Satan’s evil world. So we need to be very careful that we do not choose to watch, read, or listen to anything that could cause us to have “worldly desires.”—Titus 2:12.
10. What will happen to this world’s media?
10 Soon, Satan’s world and its harmful media will be destroyed. The Bible says: “The world is passing away and so is its desire, but the one who does the will of God remains forever.” (1 John 2:17) Similarly, the psalmist sang: “Evil men will be done away with.” Then he added: “But the meek will possess the earth, and they will find exquisite delight in the abundance of peace.” For how long? “The righteous will possess the earth, and they will live forever on it.”—Psalm 37:9, 11, 29.
11. How does God help us to remain faithful to him?
11 Unlike Satan’s world, Jehovah’s organization helps us to live in a way that leads to everlasting life. Jesus prayed to Jehovah: “This means everlasting life, their coming to know you, the only true God, and the one whom you sent, Jesus Christ.” (John 17:3) Jehovah uses his organization to provide us with everything we need to come to know him. For example, we have many magazines, brochures, books, videos, and Web pages that help us to keep serving God. His organization also arranges for regular meetings in more than 110,000 congregations all over the world. What we learn from the Bible at those meetings and at larger assemblies strengthens our faith in Jehovah and his promises.—Hebrews 10:24, 25.
MARRY “ONLY IN THE LORD”
12. Explain the Bible’s command to marry “only in the Lord.”
12 Christians who want to get married need to be very careful about whom they choose to associate with. God’s Word warns us: “Do not become unevenly yoked with unbelievers. For what fellowship do righteousness and lawlessness have? Or what sharing does light have with darkness?” (2 Corinthians 6:14) The Bible tells God’s servants to marry “only in the Lord,” that is, to marry only someone who is dedicated and baptized and who lives by Jehovah’s standards. (1 Corinthians 7:39) When you marry such a person, someone who loves Jehovah, you will have a partner who will help you to remain faithful to God.
When you marry someone who loves Jehovah, you will have a partner who will help you to remain faithful to God
13. What command about marriage did God give the Israelites?
13 Jehovah knows what is best for us, and his command to marry “only in the Lord” is not something new. For example, consider what Jehovah told the Israelites about people who did not serve him. Through Moses, he commanded: “You must not form any marriage alliances with them. Do not give your daughters to their sons or take their daughters for your sons. For they will turn your sons away from following me to serve other gods; then Jehovah’s anger will blaze against you, and he will swiftly annihilate you.”—Deuteronomy 7:3, 4.
14, 15. What happened to Solomon because he ignored Jehovah’s command?
14 Soon after Solomon became king of Israel, he prayed for wisdom, and Jehovah answered his prayer. So Solomon became famous as the wise ruler of a successful nation. Actually, the queen of Sheba was so impressed with Solomon’s wisdom that she said to him: “You have far surpassed in wisdom and prosperity the report that I heard.” (1 Kings 10:7) But Solomon’s example also teaches us what can happen when a person ignores God’s command and marries someone who does not serve Jehovah.—Ecclesiastes 4:13.
15 Even though Jehovah had blessed him, Solomon disobeyed God’s clear command. Solomon “loved many foreign women” who did not serve Jehovah, and he eventually had 700 wives and 300 concubines. What was the result? When Solomon was older, his wives “inclined his heart to follow other gods, . . . and Solomon did what was bad in the eyes of Jehovah.” (1 Kings 11:1-6) Bad associations affected him, and he did not remain faithful to Jehovah. If this could happen to Solomon, it could happen to anyone. That is why we do not even think about marrying someone who does not love Jehovah!
16. What advice does the Bible give to someone who is married to an unbeliever?
16 What if someone becomes a worshipper of Jehovah while married to an unbeliever? The Bible says: “You wives, be in subjection to your husbands, so that if any are not obedient to the word, they may be won without a word through the conduct of their wives.” (1 Peter 3:1) Of course, this also applies to a husband if his wife does not worship Jehovah. God’s Word is clear: Be a good husband or wife, and apply God’s standards for marriage. Then, when your mate notices that you have changed for the better, he or she may also want to serve Jehovah. This has been the experience of many couples.
ASSOCIATE WITH THOSE WHO LOVE JEHOVAH
17, 18. What helped Noah to survive the Flood, and what helped Christians in the first century to survive the destruction of Jerusalem?
17 Bad associations can influence you to disobey Jehovah, but good associations can help you to be faithful to him. Noah is a good example for us. He lived during a time when “man’s wickedness was great on the earth” and “every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only bad all the time.” (Genesis 6:5) People were so bad that Jehovah decided to destroy that wicked world. But Noah was different. The Bible calls him “a righteous man” who “walked with the true God.”—Genesis 6:7-9.
18 Noah did not associate with people who did not love Jehovah. He and his family kept busy building the ark, and he was also “a preacher of righteousness.” (2 Peter 2:5) Noah, Noah’s wife, his three sons, and their wives had good association with one another. They kept busy doing things that pleased God, and as a result, they survived the Flood. All of us today are their descendants, so we should be grateful that Noah and his family were obedient to Jehovah and avoided bad associations. In a similar way, Christians in the first century did not associate with people who did not love Jehovah. They obeyed him and survived when Jerusalem was destroyed in 70 C.E.—Luke 21:20-22.
19. What will help us to stay faithful to Jehovah?
19 Like Noah and his family and Christians in the first century, we do not associate with anyone who does not love Jehovah. We have millions of faithful brothers and sisters whom we could choose as our friends. They will help us to “stand firm in the faith” during these very difficult times. (1 Corinthians 16:13; Proverbs 13:20) Just think how wonderful it will be to survive the end of this wicked world and live in Jehovah’s new world! How important it is to avoid bad associations now!