Last night some Jehovah Witnesses stopped by my door. Many people can't stand them. Some slam the door in their faces, others talk about how they don't answer the door. Those who do talk to them often have stories of how they stumped them with a particular verse or that after talking to them they never come back. All in all most people view them as lesser people than themselves. Unfortunately most of these stories I have heard from people who also profess to be Christians.
Jehovah Witnesses should be admired for their dedication to their beliefs. It has to be difficult to know that people think of you in those terms and yet still come and knock on their door. I am sure some come out of fear of not earning God's favor and others out of concern for others. If only we as Christians were as dedicated as they are to our own beliefs, but who is to say they are not Christians? Over the years, as I have talked to Jehovah Witnesses and Mormons, I have noticed a trend that they both have started to call themselves Christians and simply consider themselves a different sect.
This trend is as interesting as it is alarming. As I sat down with these people and started to question them about what differentiated their beliefs from mine, I could not get a clear answer. Yes, I know that they don't believe that Jesus Christ is divine, but how did that affect their theology? I wanted to know what aspects of God they did not agree on with me. Most people who claim to be Christians do not have a good understanding of the deity of Christ, so I did not want to argue over mere words, if their understanding was correct. It could be possible that the Christian church has sufficiently influenced Jehovah Witnesses that they now in practice admit that Jesus is God. Anyway, time and again I pressed them for the difference and each time I was given an answer that seemed to be meant to obfuscated. The alarming part of this exchange is that it dawned on me that it is possible that we have watered down the Christian message so much that it is no longer distinct from other religions, or that have divided so much that we no longer have an effective witness to the truth. Who is going to stand up and proclaim true Christianity? And if someone does stand up will it not seem like one sect against another? Who is going to listen? "If even lifeless instruments, such as the flute or the harp, do not give distinct notes, how will anyone know what is played? And if the bugle gives and indistinct sound, who will get ready for battle (1 Cor. 14:7-8)?"
My conversation with these concerned Jehovah Witnesses focused on the Holy Spirit and Him living inside of us. They said that they did not believe that Holy Spirit lived inside of us, but was a power at work in the world. In John 14:16-17 it says, "And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you." I could not find these verses at the time that they came, but I wish I had. I was trying to convey to them that they could not be perfected themselves on their own power. It seems that they believe that if they were in a perfect environment they themselves would also be perfect through hard work. But perfection is not achieved through being in a situation where there is no opportunity to sin. A killer might never kill somebody if he is stuck on the moon, but that does not mean that his heart has been changed. Similarly, we might not sin if we are in an ideal situation, but that does not make us less a sinner. We cannot know God if we have sin, because He is Holy, separate from sin. Actions do not change hearts, but actions display what is in the heart. We will be no closer to knowing God if the temptations are taken away, it is our hearts that need to be changed.
The reason the matter of the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit came up was because I was asking them how their "Heaven on Earth" could be actualized. If you have the same people on earth, with sin in their hearts, as you do in "heaven" then all you get is what we have right now. Heaven has to be without sin or it is not Heaven! Adam and Eve where in a perfect environment, but they still sinned, we are no different. How do hearts set on ourselves turn to being set on God? Will any amount of work in a sinless environment get us there? Experience and the Bible tell us it is not possible and that is why we need Jesus Christ our Savior.
Here is in point form the argument that I was trying to use to demonstrate the gospel.
- The ultimate purpose for believe in Jesus Christ is knowing God. (John 17:3)
- God is Holy and without sin. (1 Peter 1:15-16)
- Knowing God requires that we also be separate from sin. (1 Peter 1:15-16)
- To be separate from sin we need a new heart.
- It is not the something external that causes us to sin (James 1:13-15)
- On our own we cannot change our heart, it only the indwelling work of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 8:9-11)
Consequences of the gospel that they present:
- If there is no change of heart there will be no change in people and therefore no heaven on earth.
- If there is still intrinsic sin we will never get to know God.