How We Strip Off and Keep Off the Old Personality
“Strip off the old personality with its practices.”—COLOSSIANS 3:9.
1, 2. What do people notice about Jehovah’s Witnesses?
MANY people notice that Jehovah’s Witnesses are unique. For example, a writer named Anton Gill praised the qualities of Witnesses in Nazi Germany. He wrote: “Jehovah’s Witnesses attracted the especial enmity of the Nazis. . . . By 1939 there were 6,000 of them in the [concentration camps].” He added that even though the Witnesses experienced terrible suffering, they were known for being trustworthy, calm under pressure, loyal to their God, and united.
2 More recently, people in South Africa also noticed something unique about Jehovah’s Witnesses. At one time, Witnesses of different skin color in that country were not allowed to meet together. However, on Sunday, December 18, 2011, more than 78,000 Witnesses of different races from South Africa and nearby countries gathered for a special program at the largest stadium in Johannesburg. One of the stadium managers said: “This is the best-behaved crowd I have ever seen in this stadium. All are neatly dressed. And you people have cleaned the stadium so nicely. But most of all, you are truly multiracial.”
3. What makes our brotherhood unique?
3 So even people who are not Witnesses can see clearly that our international brotherhood is unique. (1 Peter 5:9, footnote.) Why are we so different from any other organization? Because with the help of the Bible and God’s holy spirit, we work hard to change in ourselves whatever does not please Jehovah. We “strip off the old personality,” and we put on “the new personality.”—Colossians 3:9, 10.
It is possible to make big changes in our life
4. What will we discuss in this article? Why?
4 After we strip off the old personality, we need to keep it off. In this article, we will first learn how we can strip off the old personality and why this is so important. We will see that it is possible for someone to make big changes in his life no matter how involved he was in doing wrong things. We will then discuss what those who have been in the truth for many years can do to keep off the old personality. Why do we need to discuss this? Well, sadly, some who once served Jehovah have not continued to be careful. They have started to think and act as they did before they knew Jehovah. Each of us needs to remember this warning: “Let the one who thinks he is standing beware that he does not fall.”—1 Corinthians 10:12.
GET RID OF ANY IMMORAL SEXUAL DESIRES
5. (a) Give an illustration that shows why it is urgent to strip off the old personality. (See opening picture.) (b) What practices that are part of the old personality are mentioned at Colossians 3:5-9?
5 What would you do if you realized that your clothes were dirty and smelly? You would take them off as soon as you could. In a similar way, if we realize that we are doing things that Jehovah hates, it is urgent that we change. Speaking of such wrong practices, Paul said: “You must put them all away from you.” Let us consider two of these: sexual immorality and uncleanness.—Read Colossians 3:5-9.
6, 7. (a) How do Paul’s words show that it takes effort to strip off the old personality? (b) What was Sakura’s way of life? What gave her the strength to change?
6 Sexual immorality. In the Bible, “sexual immorality” includes sexual relations between any persons other than a legally married husband and wife. Paul said that Christians must “deaden” their “body members” when it comes to sexual immorality. This means that we need to try very hard to get rid of wrong desires. Doing so can be difficult, but we can succeed!
7 We can see this from the example of a sister from Japan named Sakura.a (See footnote.) When Sakura was growing up, she often felt lonely and sad. To try to get rid of her loneliness, she began having sex when she was 15 years old. Sakura had sex with various people and eventually had three abortions. She said: “At first, I got a sense of security when having immoral relations, thinking that I was needed and loved. But the more I had sexual relations, the more insecure I felt.” This way of life continued until Sakura was 23 years old. Then she began to study the Bible with Jehovah’s Witnesses, and she loved what she learned. Jehovah helped her to stop living an immoral life and to overcome her deep feelings of guilt and shame. Today, Sakura serves as a regular pioneer, and she does not feel lonely anymore. She says: “I am really happy to be basking in Jehovah’s love day in and day out.”
HOW TO STOP UNCLEAN PRACTICES
8. What are some practices that can make God view us as unclean?
8 Uncleanness. In the Bible, “uncleanness” includes much more than sexual immorality. It can refer to things like smoking or telling dirty jokes. (2 Corinthians 7:1; Ephesians 5:3, 4) It can also refer to bad things people might do in private, such as reading books that excite them sexually or viewing pornography. These things may lead to the unclean practice of masturbation. (Colossians 3:5)b—See footnote.
9. What can happen if someone develops “uncontrolled sexual passion”?
9 People who regularly view pornography develop “uncontrolled sexual passion” and may become addicted to sex. Researchers have noted that addiction to pornography is similar to addiction to alcohol or drugs. So it is no surprise that the habit of viewing pornography has harmful results. These can include deep feelings of shame, being less productive at work, unhappy families, divorce, and even suicide. After one man had been free of his addiction to pornography for a year, he said that he could finally respect himself again.
10. How did Ribeiro break his addiction to pornography?
10 For many people, it is a real struggle to stay free from pornography. But this struggle can be won. Consider the example of Ribeiro from Brazil. When he was a teenager, he left home and went to work at a factory that recycled paper. There he saw pornographic magazines. Ribeiro said: “Slowly, I became addicted. It got so bad that I could not wait for the woman I was living with to leave the house so that I could watch pornographic videos.” Then one day at work, Ribeiro looked at a pile of books that were to be recycled and noticed a book called The Secret of Family Happiness. He picked it up and read it. What he learned led him to study the Bible with Jehovah’s Witnesses. But it still took Ribeiro a long time to break his addiction to pornography. What helped him? He explained: “Through prayer, Bible study, and meditation on what I learned, my appreciation of God’s qualities increased until my love for Jehovah became stronger than my desire for pornography.” With the help of the Bible and God’s holy spirit, Ribeiro changed his ways, got baptized, and now serves as a congregation elder.
We must love Jehovah deeply and hate what is bad
11. What will help a person to stay free from pornography?
11 Notice that to stay free from pornography, Ribeiro had to do more than just study the Bible. He had to think deeply about what he read in the Bible and let it reach his heart. He had to pray to Jehovah, begging him for help. These things helped Ribeiro’s love for God become stronger, so that it overpowered his desire for pornography. To stay free from pornography, we too must love Jehovah deeply and hate what is bad.—Read Psalm 97:10.
PUT AWAY ANGER, ABUSIVE SPEECH, AND LYING
12. What helped Stephen to put away anger and abusive speech?
12 Some people get angry very quickly and say cruel and insulting things to others. When this happens, their whole family suffers. A father from Australia named Stephen used to swear a lot and would get very angry over small things. He says: “My wife and I were separated three times and were in the process of getting divorced.” Then, they began to study the Bible with the Witnesses, and Stephen tried to apply what he was learning. He says that before he knew Jehovah, he would get so angry whenever something annoyed him that he felt like a bomb that could explode. But after Stephen began to follow the Bible’s advice, things got better. He says: “Our family life improved dramatically. With Jehovah’s help, I now have an overriding sense of peace and calm.” Today, Stephen serves as a ministerial servant, and his wife has been a regular pioneer for several years. The elders in Stephen’s congregation said: “Stephen is a quiet, hardworking brother, and he has a humble attitude.” They also said that they have never seen him get angry. Stephen does not take any credit for this change in his personality. He says: “None of these beautiful blessings would be part of my life if I hadn’t accepted Jehovah’s help to give my personality a complete makeover.”
13. Why is anger dangerous? What does the Bible warn us about?
13 The Bible warns us to avoid getting angry, speaking cruelly to others, and screaming. (Ephesians 4:31) These things often lead to violent acts. Today, many in the world think that angry, violent behavior is normal. But behaving this way actually dishonors our Creator. Many of our brothers had to change their behavior and put on the new personality.—Read Psalm 37:8-11.
14. Is it possible for a violent person to become meek?
14 A brother named Hans serves as an elder in a congregation in Austria. The coordinator of the body of elders in Hans’ congregation said: “He is one of the meekest brothers you could ever wish to meet.” But Hans was not always meek. When he was a teenager, he started to drink too much alcohol and became violent. One time when he was drunk, he became so angry that he killed his girlfriend. Hans was sent to prison for 20 years, but life in prison did not change his personality. Then his mother asked an elder to visit him, and Hans began to study the Bible. He said: “It was a struggle for me to strip off my old personality. Bible texts that encouraged me were Isaiah 55:7, which says: ‘Let the wicked man leave his way,’ and 1 Corinthians 6:11, which says about those who had abandoned sinful ways: ‘And yet that is what some of you were.’ For many years, Jehovah patiently helped me by means of his holy spirit to put on the new personality.” Hans got baptized while he was still in prison, and he was released after being in prison for 17 and a half years. He said: “I am grateful for Jehovah’s overwhelming mercy and forgiveness.”
15. What is another part of the old personality? What does the Bible say about it?
15 Lying is another part of the old personality. For example, many people lie in order to avoid paying taxes or to avoid taking responsibility for their mistakes. But Jehovah is “the God of truth.” (Psalm 31:5) So he requires that all of his worshippers “speak truth” and “not lie.” (Ephesians 4:25; Colossians 3:9) Clearly, we must tell the truth even if it is embarrassing or difficult.—Proverbs 6:16-19.
HOW THEY GAINED THE VICTORY
16. What will help us to strip off the old personality?
16 It is not possible to strip off the old personality in our own strength. Sakura, Ribeiro, Stephen, and Hans all had to fight hard to change their old way of life. What helped them was the power of God’s Word and his holy spirit. (Luke 11:13; Hebrews 4:12) To benefit from that power, we must read the Bible every day, meditate on it, and constantly pray for wisdom and strength to apply what we learn. (Joshua 1:8; Psalm 119:97; 1 Thessalonians 5:17) We also benefit from God’s Word and his holy spirit when we prepare for and attend congregation meetings. (Hebrews 10:24, 25) And we want to use the many other provisions Jehovah’s organization has given us, such as our magazines, JW Broadcasting, JW Library, and jw.org.—Luke 12:42.
17. What will we discuss in the next article?
17 We have discussed several bad practices that Christians must strip off and keep off in order to please Jehovah. But there is more that we need to do. We need to put on the new personality and make it a permanent part of our life. In the next article, we will discuss how we can do this.
a Some of the names in this article have been changed.