[From ws5/16 p. 18 for July 18-25]
“Be transformed by making your mind over.”—Ro 12:2
This week’s article uses the case history of a brother (alias: Kevin) who had to make his mind over before and after baptism. It is important that we all make our minds over, allowing the Bible and the holy spirit to effect changes in our personality so that we can become the image of Christ, as he is of his Father, so that in due time we might become his image in ways we cannot fully comprehend at present.
“Now we know that God makes all his works cooperate together for the good of those who love God, those who are the ones called according to his purpose; 29 because those whom he gave his first recognition he also foreordained to be patterned after the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.” (Ro 8:28, 29)
This can be difficult. “For instance, we may have noted in ourselves a critical spirit, a fear of man, a tendency toward harmful gossip, or some other weakness.” – Par. 3.
How does this apply to us as we awaken to the reality of the Organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses?
A Critical Spirit
We must fight to avoid becoming overly critical. It is one thing to criticize false doctrine. Jesus and his disciples exposed the false and hypocritical practices of the Pharisees and Jewish leaders of their day. However, we want to avoid becoming insulting to or demeaning of the persons themselves. Jesus will judge the individual, as he will judge each one of us.
This can, at times, be very difficult, because the sense of betrayal one feels creates deep emotional wounds. There are many web sites where witnesses and ex-witnesses can go to vent, disparage, condemn and nit-pick. Often, these descend into demeaning character assassination of Governing Body members and others. We must remember the example of the Archangel Michael who, though apparently having just cause, declined to speak abusively to Satan, leaving the judgment in the hands of Jesus.
“But when the archangel Michael, contending with the devil, was disputing about the body of Moses, he did not presume to pronounce a blasphemous judgment, but said, “The Lord rebuke you.”” – Jude 1:9 ESV
A Fear of Man
Speaking the truth is hard when people don’t want to hear it. Do we allow fear of man to keep us from speaking to friends and family when the opportunity presents itself? In a recent Facebook post, one brother published the link to the Official UN Web Site where the letter is found proving the Organization was a UN member for 10 years. No criticism was posted. The brother let the link speak for itself.
Within short order, he was accused of being an apostate, simply for posting information that could not be denied.
When people cannot defend their position from a valid accusation, they often resort to name-calling, hoping that by discrediting the messenger, they can draw attention away from the unpleasant truth.
As Witnesses, we are accustomed to this, because we’ve all seen it in our personal lives when we first attempted to share our JW beliefs with our non-JW friends and family. We also faced fear of man when we’d go door-to-door. At times people would shout at us and speak abusively of us. That fear of man was difficult to overcome, but we did have a worldwide brotherhood backing us up, and a local congregation of supporters to encourage us. We may have lost one family and one set of friends, but we quickly picked up another.
Now that we’ve come to realize that our new family—like our old one—believes and teaches things that are not in accord with the Bible, we are again in a situation where we must face down fear of man. However, this time we are mostly on our own. This time we are much closer to the situation our Lord faced when, at the end, all abandoned him. This time everyone we care about may very well treat us as the most shameful of individuals, an apostate deserving death. That is how Jesus was viewed.
Yet he despised such shame.
“as we look intently at the Chief Agent and Perfecter of our faith, Jesus. For the joy that was set before him he endured a torture stake, despising shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Heb 12:2)
To despise something goes beyond not caring about it, or being indifferent to it. Isn’t it true that we will have nothing whatsoever to do with things we despise? Was Jesus worried about what men would say or think about him? Absolutely not! He despised even the notion.
This isn’t to say that we should proclaim our newfound truths willy-nilly without regard for others and their sensibilities. (Mt 10:16) Our words must be seasoned with salt. We must act prudently, always seeking the best interests of our brothers and sisters, family and friends. (Pr 25:11; Col 4:6) There is a time to speak up and a time to remain silent. (Eccl 3:7)
Yet, how will we know which is which? One way we can know is to examine our own motivation. Are we remaining silent out of fear at a time when speaking up might do some real good?
Each one must make that determination for himself or herself, of course. (Luke 9:23-27)
A Tendency toward Harmful Gossip
If there is one trait which my JW brethren need to work on, it is this one. Pioneers riding around in car-groups hours on end often descend into hurtful gossip. Brothers and sisters, used to believing the teachings of men over the word of God, will readily digest any morsel of gossip as authoritative truth. I can testify to the veracity of this both from personal experience and based on the accounts that have been relayed to me by many others.
While an elder, I enjoyed the esteem that went with the office. However, as soon as I was no longer one, the gossip began to fly. (Others tell me of similar experiences.) Wild stories circulated, often growing more and more bizarre with each retelling.
This is also something we must face, but not fear, should we withdraw from the Organization.
Rejecting Solid Food
Much of what is fed to the flock in The Watchtower is the milk of the word. Solid food belongs to mature people.
“But solid food belongs to mature people, to those who through use have their perceptive powers trained to distinguish both right and wrong.” (Heb 5:14)
Sometimes, it isn’t even milk, because milk is still nutritious. Sometimes the milk has turned sour.
This is not an empty statement. For proof, consider paragraphs 6 and 7 of this week’s study with their attendant questions.
6, 7. (a) What makes it possible for us to be Jehovah’s friends even though we are imperfect? (b) Why should we not hold back from asking Jehovah for forgiveness?
6 Our inherited imperfection does not need to prevent us from enjoying Jehovah’s friendship or continuing to serve him. Consider this: When Jehovah drew us into a relationship with him, he knew that we would err at times. (John 6:44) Since God knows our traits and what is in our heart, he surely was aware of what sort of imperfect tendencies would be particularly troublesome for us. And he knew that we would occasionally transgress. Yet, this did not prevent Jehovah from wanting us as his friends.
7 Love moved God to offer us a precious gift—the ransom sacrifice of his beloved Son. (John 3:16) If on the basis of this priceless provision we repentantly seek Jehovah’s forgiveness when we err, we can have the confidence that our friendship with him is still intact. (Rom. 7:24, 25; 1 John 2:1, 2) Should we hesitate to avail ourselves of the benefits of the ransom because we feel unclean or sinful? Of course not! That would be like refusing to use water to wash our hands when they are dirty. After all, the ransom is provided for repentant sinners. Thanks to the ransom, then, we can enjoy a friendship with Jehovah even though we are in an imperfect state.—Read 1 Timothy 1:15.
Can there be any doubt that the message here is that the JW flock are friends of God? This idea of being God’s friend (in lieu of His son) seems to be much more common now than before.
Now milk is easy to swallow. It just slides down the throat. Babies drink milk because they have no teeth. Solid food doesn’t just slide down. It has to be chewed. When reading these paragraphs most witnesses will likely not read the Scriptures cited. Those who do, will likely not meditate on them. They will simply accept what is said at face value, not processing the food by chewing on it, but just drinking it down.
Why can we say that? Simply because if they read them and pondered their meaning, it is hard to see how they so easily swallow this message.
“No man can come to me unless the Father, who sent me, draws him, and I will resurrect him on the last day.” (Joh 6:44)
Whom does the Father draw? Those he chooses, which is why they are called “Chosen Ones”. And when are the Chosen Ones resurrected? On the last day.
“And he will send forth his angels with a great trumpet sound, and they will gather his chosen ones together from the four winds, from one extremity of the heavens to their other extremity.” (Mt 24:31)
“He that feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has everlasting life, and I shall resurrect him at the last day;” (Joh 6:54)
This Scripture is talking about those who inherit the kingdom of the heavens; not God’s so-called friends, but his children.
Next, paragraph 7 quotes Romans 7:24, 25, applying this to “God’s friends,” but read the context. Read forward from there and you will see that Paul is talking about only two outcomes: one is the flesh, leading to death, and the other is the spirit, leading to life. The second one results in being adopted as God’s children. There is no mention of friendship as the ultimate goal. (Ro 8:16)
Paragraph 7 also quotes 1 John 2:1, 2 as proof. But there John refers to God as Father not Friend.
“My little children, I am writing you these things so that you may not commit a sin. And yet, if anyone does commit a sin, we have a helper with the Father, Jesus Christ, a righteous one. 2 And he is a propitiatory sacrifice for our sins, yet not for ours only but also for the whole world’s.” (1Jo 2:1, 2)
John opens the next chapter with this marvelous truth.
“See what sort of love the Father has given us, so that we should be called children of God…” (1Jo 3:1)
So the WT proof texts actually teach that we are God’s children not his friends. Yet no one notices!
Beating the Sovereignty Drum
Paragraph 12 returns to a topic which Jehovah’s Witnesses claim is the central theme of the Bible: The vindication of Jehovah’s sovereignty. This is a theme unique to JWs and is used to distinguish their teaching from that of all the other Christian denominations, and to give them a reason to brag that they alone are fulfilling this requirement. However, the theme does not appear in the Bible, and even the word “sovereignty” is missing from the sacred text.
For an in-depth consideration of this topic, see “Vindicating Jehovah’s Sovereignty“.