Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Justify yourself?

I had a long conversation with another "Jehovah's Witness" last week - this time it was me calling at their door rather than them calling at mine!  I just want to give you a run down of the conversation.

When I found out that the lady (Gillian) was a Jehovah's Witness I told her that I'd had quite a bit of contact with her colleagues recently, and what I had noticed was a commitment to Watchtower theology that superseded commitment to Scripture.  Naturally she disputed this and said that Jehovah's Witnesses believe and study the Bible.  I told her that I know they say that, but the reality is that Jehovah's Witnesses believe anything and everything that the Watchtower Society teaches, and I have never met one who has any disagreement with any Watchtower teaching.  This was amply evidenced by recent email correspondence with a couple of JWs on John 2 v 18-22.  Having repeatedly asked my JW correspondents to explain the passage in light of the Watchtower Society doctrine I am absolutely satisfied that the Bible and the Watchtower are hopelessly irreconcilable at this point, but JWs choose to put their faith in the Society rather than the Bible.  I'm reminded of the words of Psalm 118 v 8 - "It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man."  I'll maybe fill you in on some of the details of this correspondence in a later post.

I tried to show Gillian that the Watchtower Society really didn't deserve such trust because it has changed its views on so many things so many times, and has been guilty of many false prophecies.

There was another question I was anxious to put to her, which was this, "Why is it that Scripture says it's possible to possess eternal life now, and know it, yet the Watchtower Society says you can't have such assurance?"

She began to tell me about how we have to work and try, so I asked her how much we had to work and how hard we had to try.  Of course she didn't know and she told me that it really was up to God - He's the Judge!  I agreed that He was the Judge and I asked her if He was a righteous Judge.  She could do nothing but agree that He was, but I tried to point out then that the standard of a perfect God must be perfection, and He can't accept us on the basis of our own performance if we are not perfect.  God has told us what we have to do if we want to earn His acceptance - it is 100% perfection (see Romans 10 v 5; Galatians 3 v 10-12).

She said that God knows we're not perfect but if we do our best, follow His teachings and don't deliberately disobey Him then that should be enough.  I asked her had she met that standard - had she always done her best?  Had she always followed His teachings?  Had she never deliberately disobeyed God?  She admitted that she failed her own criteria.

This led to Gillian asking me the question I was hoping she would ask - "What about you?"  I told her I had full assurance of eternal life because I was depending on the fact that the Lord Jesus bore my sins at Calvary (1 Peter 2 v 24).

I was glad to be able to show her the flow of Paul's argument in the book of Romans telling us how we can be cleared of every charge of guilt and brought into a right standing before God (justified) now.  He tells us repeatedly it is by faith in Christ and not by works.  Over and over again Paul declares the assurance he had (and we can have) through faith in Christ, apart from works (e.g. 3 v 28; 4 v 4-8; 5 v 1, 9, 11; 8 v 30).

I asked Gillian was she justified, was she cleared of all guilt and assured of future glory.  She frankly replied that she wasn't because she could still do something horrendous.  I asked her how horrendous that something would have to be?  I suggested that her god is not righteous enough, because as far as the God of Scripture is concerned, all sin is horrendous, and if righteousness depends on us then one sin disqualifies us.  I reminded her that Paul says that everyone that is justified is already in the mind and purpose of God glorified - it's as good as done (Romans 8 v 30).

She then said, "So you can go out and live whatever way you like then because you're justified?"  I said I was delighted she asked that question, because it's the very question Paul anticipated people would ask when he explained the doctrine of justification by faith (Romans 6 v 1)!  I told her this was a good indication that my understanding of Paul's teaching was correct!

Paul tells his readers that the believer won't continue in sin, not because he's scared of losing his salvation, but because faith in Christ not only frees a person from the penalty of sin but it frees him from the power of sin!  They are no longer under its domination, and thus they can, and want to, live a life that brings pleasure to God.  I let her know that I do do what I want!  Living for God is my greatest pleasure and purpose!

Gillian told me that she did have faith in Jesus.  The point I tried to make to her was that it was clearly not the faith Paul was talking about, because in her system it is "Christ + me", it is "faith + works".  But in Paul's teaching in Romans it is faith alone in Christ alone.

You may not be in a cult like the Jehovah's Witnesses, but the conversation I had with Gillian is relevant to so many people, because so many nominal Christians who are members of "Christian" denominations have a works-based salvation.  I don't know whether Gillian is going to abandon hope in her religion and in her works, and trust Christ to save her, I hope she will, and I hope you will too.