Taking the Epistle

A biblical journey through the epistles

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All along the watchtower – a morning with Jehovah’s Witnesses

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All along the watchtower – a morning with Jehovah’s Witnesses.

1 Peter 3:14 (ESV) But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, 15 but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, 16 having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.

This Saturday morning just past, we had a visit from some local members of the Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses. This was pretty much arranged from last week when the LORD gave me an opportunity to redeem myself for the first time I met these people.

Rubbish first impression

The week before I was not prepared to receive visitors, my wife was ill, lying on the couch and I saw them as an unwelcome distraction on my front porch. Really I was trying to get rid of them so I could attend to my wife. They (It was two ladies the first time) were persistent and I agreed to meet them again Saturday just passed. (3rd January)

I mention this as I wish to give a balanced account of what happened. I am not wishing to record that I did a wonderful or super theological thing and also wish to show that I didn’t do it well the first time. If this was a test from God, I most certainly flunked it the first time.

God is good all the time and he allowed me a do over and I am truly grateful. When the lady I saw the first time came back, she brought an older gentlemen who within a few minutes of discussing with him advised us that he had been a JW since 1978.

Doing what I was created for

I love it when people come to my door and ask me to talk about Jesus. (It doesn’t happen all that often so this is an opportunity made of 24 karat gold) When people from the JW’s or the LDS church come to your door and try to teach you another gospel that is contrary to the word of the LORD, take it as a tremendous opportunity to give witness to the gospel that you believe in.

Hence the feature verse. Several years ago I came across an apologetic evangelist called Charlie Campbell and his ministry called “Always Be Ready”. He spoke at the local Calvary Chapel in Visalia about the dangers of the Emergent church; I was that impressed that I checked out many of his other apologetic talks. Unsurprisingly he has one also on the Jehovah’s Witness organization.

So between the first time (the previous Saturday) they came to my door and the second I read up in what they believed, possible topics I could engage them in and we were ready.

Discussion topics

They came by and their opening line was about relevance of world topics such as the Paris attacks. They then focused in on how similar our beliefs were and tried to sound out if we read the bible. We also confirmed that we would be using a copy of their bible (New World Translation) we confirmed that we did read the bible and when they were discussing their beliefs they touched on a few areas that they have unique beliefs. (Compared to Christians)

1) A non-belief in a literal hell
2) A belief that everyone will be with Jesus regardless if you have chosen to believe or not.
3) A denial that Jesus was God or the trinity as a whole
4) A belief in “soul sleep”
5) A two tier heaven

Where do I start? Well my wife was keen to use their translation of the scriptures to avoid “translation difficulties” and this allowed us to focus on the topics that mattered.

1) A non-belief in a literal hell, 2) A belief that everyone will be with Jesus regardless if you have chosen to believe or not & 4) A belief in “soul sleep”

These three beliefs tied in together in the discussion that we had, they pushed the belief that regardless of the actions that you took in this life, you would not be separated from God, that there would not be an actual hell that you would go to.

This begs the question “why did Christ die?” if it was not for the substitution of our sins, my wife was the driver in the conversation and allowed them to state their case clearly and concisely in order to get where they were coming from.

We didn’t get to this scripture due to time constraints, however I was trying to get to John 14:6 where Jesus advises that “I am the way, the truth and the life, no-one comes to the father but by me”.

This doctrine ladies and gentlemen is a lie from the pit of hell. The bible advises the existence of a literal separation from God, that those who choose to separate themselves from their creator will get their wish. Once you enter a posthumous state, time is up and the choice then has been made, there is no cooling off period (or soul sleep)

3) A denial that Jesus was God or the trinity as a whole

We had the most fun with this one, the gentleman hypothesized “well who can really tell when Jesus came about?” So I took him to John 1:1, albeit in the New World Translation they have changed the wording from “God” to “a god” trying to remove Jesus as the Son of God.

It is important to see where they are coming from before you enter into that discussion, I then took them to Genesis 1:1 to show that the plurality of the word used for God shows more than one entity involved in creation, the fact that the Holy Spirit is mentioned by name and the fact that God (Father) says phrases such as “let us make man in OUR image”.

The last scripture I took them to, to show this was in the later part of the book of John (John 20) where Thomas, who originally doubted fell to his knees and stated “My LORD and my God!”

The interesting thing that they did do is they brought up Isaiah 9:6 and really tried to labor the point that he was only a “mighty God” and that “many people who were renowned in those days were known as gods” Of course my wife and I (mainly my wife at that point) were defending the position that we have a much higher view of Jesus being both God and man.

Because of their beliefs they also do not belief in a resurrection for Jesus. They believe that Jesus was a created angel as opposed to the propitiation for our sins. They do preach Jesus but not the Jesus of the bible. They attempt to remove the deity of Christ, ranking him as similar to an angel.

5) A two tier heaven

They kept referring to a “ruling class” and “everyone else” in heaven, so they do believe that there will be different zones in heaven dependent of what you believed at the time. I am assuming (this wasn’t explored due to time constraints) that the JW’s will be in the ruling class and that everyone else will be in the lower tier of the glory of God.

Perhaps I am misquoting them when I say heaven, they spoke about living on a paradise earth as opposed to a literal heaven.

So if everyone is in the presence of God at the end of the road, what is the point in what they are doing?

Well I had to look into that further as I did not explore that further at the time of the conversation. The JW’s believe that you have to be a baptized participating member of their organization in order to get a type of works based salvation. (Paul refutes this in Ephesians 2:8)

We did not get into their belief in the 144,000 also, I was hoping to but again we only had 40 minutes and we packed a lot into that time.

Treat them in LOVE

Most people try to get rid of JW’s as quickly as possible (like I did the first time) but I have learned from my error. These guys, whilst I believe that they are in error and are putting their faith in something that will not achieve what they hope it will, are still people and still require the love of Christ.

1 Corinthians 13:1 (ESV) If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Here is the deal, I can be as convincing as I can be by stating things that make sense to the mind but I do not have the power to save someone. I can be used by God to witness to these witnesses (see what I did there?) however it is only through belief in Jesus Christ and the individual accepting his free gift of grace can he be saved.

Ephesians 2:8 (ESV) For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

Follow up?

Is really up to them, they have an open invite to my door anytime, however the chap who had been in the faith since 1978 was getting a little frustrated when we stated our beliefs. My hope and prayer is that they do come back; I love situations like this as I enjoy having an open invite to state my belief in Christ Jesus and my wife really is tremendous and was literally glowing when stating her faith. She truly is a blessing and really led the line at the beginning.

They stated that they would come back and left a “Watchtower” magazine that they would discuss with us upon their return. One hopes they do, if they have to do door to door time as part of their works based theology, I would much rather that they did it with us that would give them questions to stretch their faith than someone who may become a convert.

I have a great deal of love for them and prayed a lot for them over the weekend.

I pray this article was a blessing and please share, comment or like below as the LORD leads.
TGBTG
TTE

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No other gospel

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No other Gospel

Galatians 1:6 (ESV) I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel–7 not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. 9 As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed. 10 For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.

Oh Foolish Galatians!

When people think of the Galatian church the first thing that people think of is the verse “Oh foolish Galatians” it is easy to think that as this letter to this church is very heavy on teaching and also very loving. Paul exhorts the church; he corrects and gives great instruction that is still applicable some 2000 years later.

The reason this is so prevalent today is that Paul marvels/is astonished (depends on the version of the Bible you read) that the Galatians have fallen into theology that is not correct. This is not a minor theological contention such as whether we sprinkle or fully immerse in baptism, whether we have one cup or many cups at communion or whether we wear suits or come as you are to church. They are turning away from the basic beliefs and tenets on the Christian faith, the building blocks of what makes them Christian.

They were embracing heresy based on confusion. Like so many of todays cults, they were trying to do “Jesus plus” what I mean was that Jesus was not enough, they had to do Jesus plus the law, Jesus plus something else, like the blood on the cross was not enough to atone for the sins of the world.

Works are good

Don’t get me wrong, as a guy who is very point by point, line by line, precept upon precept in my Bible studies, I find it beneficial to have certain works listed as good to do, but they should not be kept in the same line or same vein as what is required to be saved. Many of the things that we contend with each other these days are not Salvation issues, many are not even heretical, many are based on theological stances that attempt to help, but sometimes cause frustration.

Traditionally, (and my wife Chelsea would be the first to confirm this) I have been “works orientated” where I try to “tick the boxes” and try to (in Gods will and his power) live in a way that would befitting the title Christian. This is good, if you are a flaky person and need structure in your life then this is a good way to get some structure and have some way to grow as a Christian.

You have to be careful though, we have a tendency as humans to elevate the structure that we have as high as the reason we are doing this in the first place. Please do not allow the ritual to become the main thing and also by the same token do not worship the ritual, this leads to resentment of your mind on when you think of all the other stuff you could be doing with your time and then it leads to you dragging your feet and “going through the motions” with minimum effort.

God knows this, God knows your heart, he knows who has their heart in it and who does not.

If I don’t feel like it should I not worship God?

In the words of the Apostle Paul, God forbid. I read a really cool graphic on Facebook yesterday that read “There are two times to worship God, 1) When you feel like it 2) When you don’t.

I think this is an awesome reminder that worshipping God should be as natural as eating or drinking water, we were created to do so and if we allow our emotions to drive how we feel about God, it stands to reason that when things go badly, we will not be in a mood to worship God.

Paradoxically, when some people are in their deepest hole and when they have exhausted all other alternatives, that is when they find God. Those of whom are literally at the bottom of their “pit of despair”.

What if the hosts of heaven appear to me?

Paul states quite clearly, “if he or even an angel preaches any other gospel” and the instructions to go with that. This even happens today; I am sure you will remember about 6 years ago we had a guy called Todd Bentley who had his “Lakeland revival” in Florida. Part of this guy’s testimony was he was visited by an Angel called “Emma” who gave “new revelation” and advised that he was to do a spiritual outpouring and declare revival in the Florida area and beyond.

I am all for revival, however this testimony sounds like it is in contradiction to what is stated in Galatians. It is similar to the testimony by the founder of the LDS (Mormon) Church called Joseph Smith Junior, he was visited by an angel called “Moroni” and given golden tablets (that disappeared as soon as he translated them) in an ancient and forgotten language that he was given supernatural powers to translate into what is now called the “Book of Mormon”.

So what is the problem?

We are told that if they give a gospel contrary to the one of Jesus Christ, what Paul calls “no gospel at all” he will be “eternally condemned” If you want a picture of what that looks like, have a quick read of Revelation 20:7-10, doesn’t look like fun huh?

Trying to please men

Paul finishes by stating that what he states will not be popular among men and that if he had desired to be popular with men he would have stayed as Saul, the Jewish zealot who was a career persecutor and very popular hatchet man of the Jewish faith. Instead he had a zealous heart for what God wanted in his life, so when he was face to face with Christ (not angels as you notice) he followed what God wanted with scant regard for his own life!

LORD MAKE ME LIKE THAT PLEASE!

I hope and pray this was a blessing and please share this article and leave any comments as the LORD leads
TGBTG
TTE