“[The undeserved kindness of God] trains us to reject ungodliness and worldly desires and to live with soundness of mind and righteousness and godly devotion amid this present system of things.”
Paul mentions soundness of mind three times in his letter to Titus, as well as alluding to our use of reason. (Tit. 1:8; 2:5; 3:2)
It seems to be the underlying theme of his letter.
He says that for someone whose mind and conscience are defiled, “nothing is clean,” right before he condemns religious hypocrisy. (Tit. 1:15,16)
We can conclude, then, that in order to have a stronger sound mind, we need to continuously nurture our own moral thoughts so as to have purer motives.
A Christian with a sound mind is one who adopts Christ’s way of thinking over his or her own. (Matt. 6:33,34; Rom. 12:2; Phil. 1:9,10; 4:4-7; 1 Pet. 4:7,8)
If we feel this world is pushing us toward our tipping point, we can meditate on the transcendence of God’s promises. (Tit. 1:2)
“[…] You may have him back forever, no longer as a slave, but as more than a slave, as a brother who is beloved […].
~Philemon 15, 16
In his letter to Philemon, Paul entreats him to welcome back their fellow Christian, Onesimus, as a brother more so than as an escaped slave.
Paul did not use his authority in the congregation to promote personal opinions on civic matters.
Instead, he appealed to his friend’s love for God and others. (Phil. 9)
Even today, in such a hate-filled world in which we feel the effects of generations of injustice, we can trust that divine love is capable of eradicating the root causes of inequality. (1 John 4:21)
“[…] The Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen you and protect you from the wicked one.”
~2 Thessalonians 3:3
It would be a mistake on my part to think I could be strong enough to make good choices without God’s guidance.
While everyone benefits from an innate conscience, gone unchecked that very conscience could end up justifying immoral or selfish behavior. (Rom. 2:14,15; Tit. 1:15)
And while I could live a fairly decent life solely based on the values my parents taught me, parents are imperfect and that approach would most certainly doom me to repeat their mistakes. (Pr. 22:6; Rom. 3:23; Eph. 6:4)
On top of this, God’s word explains that one’s personal struggle against Satanic influences is very real. (Eph. 2:2; 6:11,12; 1 John 5:19)
Knowing all this, modesty ought to move me to seek out God’s guidance through prayer and through reading the Scriptures, as well as by staying close to the congregation. (2 Thes. 3:5; Heb. 4:12)
Only then can I truly benefit from ‘protection from the wicked one.’ (Ps. 37:28)
“[…] Just as you are in fact walking, we request you and appeal to you by the Lord Jesus to keep doing it more fully.”
1 Thessalonians 4:1
The members of the Christian congregation in Thessalonica were not perfect.
They had moral standards and love, but could improve on both counts. (1 Thess. 4:3,4,9,10)
That is why Paul commended them while tactfully encouraging them to “pursue what is good toward one another.” (1 Thess. 5:15)
Regardless of how long it has been since we became Christians, ‘making sure of all things’ and ‘holding fast to what is fine’ is something we have to remember to do every day. (1 Thess. 5:4,6,8,21)
We cannot afford to take our faith for granted, and as long as we are imperfect, there will be things we can improve on.
“Although those things have an appearance of wisdom in a self-imposed form of worship and a false humility, a harsh treatment of the body, they are of no value in combating the satisfying of the flesh.”
Is it wrong to fast?
Paul asked the Christian congregation at Colossae why they continued subjecting themselves to the man-made decrees: “Do not handle, nor taste, nor touch.” (Col. 2:20-22)
Although it is true that Paul himself fasted on occasion while praying, Jehovah expects his servants to serve him cheerfully and enjoy food.
(Eccl. 3:12,13; Acts 13:1-3; Acts 14:23; 1 Tim 1:11)
Furthermore, fasting itself does not help us combat other carnal desires.
And the Bible makes it clear that we cannot make up for our shortcomings through fasting. (Is. 58:3-7)
Whether a Christian chooses to fast or not is an entirely personal, private matter. (Matt. 6:16-18)
“Do not be anxious over anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication along with thanksgiving, let your petitions be made known to God; and the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and your mental powers by means of Christ Jesus.”
If this is one of the verses I’ve cited most from the Bible, it is because I often need to remind myself of this.
Jehovah does not expect us to never be anxious, but he does expect us to rely on him through our trials. (1 Pet. 5:7)
He promises to be there for us, either by providing strength to endure or by showing us the solution. (1 Cor. 10:13; 2 Cor. 4:7-9; 2 Pet. 2:9)
Jehovah often answers our prayers in ways which we could never have even imagined. (Eph. 3:20)
If we look to him for comfort, his training will make us stronger and ‘firmly ground us’ in the faith. (1 Pet. 5:10)
“[…] Speaking the truth, let us by love grow up in all things into him who is the head, Christ.”
How can I “grow up” by love, becoming a more spiritually mature Christian?
Mature Christians look for ways to promote unity in the congregation. (John 17:21,22; Eph. 4:2-4,13,16)
Instead of holding grudges, mature Christians consistently overlook the flaws of their brothers and sisters.
They view others with mercy and compassion. (Eph. 4:25,26; 31,32)
In the above passage, the Greek phrase “alitheiontes” literally means to maintain the truth.
This implies upholding Bible principles even when no one is watching. (Eph. 6:6)
But to be a mature Christian, it is not enough to obey systematically.
I have to be motivated by love.
“Now to the one who can, according to his power that is operating in us, do more than superabundantly beyond all the things we ask or conceive, to him be the glory by means of the congregation and by means of Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever.”
Many people who consider themselves to be Christians seem to have an unclear understanding of Christ’s role in the divine arrangement.
The Bible clearly states that Jehovah and Jesus are two distinct beings. (Deut. 6:4; John 14:28; Acts 7:55,56; Rev. 1:1)
Jesus’ purpose is to do his father’s will. (John 4:34)
They are “one” only in the sense that they are a team. (Matt. 26:39; John 8:17,18; John 17:1-3)
But literally they are two individuals.
All the glory belongs to Jehovah by means of Christ. (Prov. 8:22-31; 1 Cor. 15:27,28; Col. 1:13-20)
If something belongs to someone by means of someone else, they cannot possibly be the same person.
By recognizing Jesus’ role of mediator, we are valuing his self-sacrifice in devoting himself to doing his father’s will and addressing all glory to Jehovah. (1 Tim. 2:5,6)