My wife and I live in Patterson NY, which is home to the largest or second largest headquarters for the Jehovah’s Witnesses (the other big one is in Brooklyn NY). I often come in contact with them when they need to get their cars inspected, because I work in a repair shop.
Nonetheless, for some time now my wife and I have been taking part in a “study” with a man name Lou. He is quite friendly and I am impressed by, how in the words of James White, “They will do more for a lie than we will do for the truth.” For example, many of them are bilingual so that they can preach to more people groups.
I usually am cordial and agreeable during our “studies.” However, I will look for opportunities to pull out “difficult” verses and ask for an explanation in light of their theology. Usually, they like to stick to the prepared readings and questions in their proselytizing book “What Does The Bible Really Say.” When a question goes outside of the scope they are willing to talk about they promise to “do some research” and get back to you. Lou has been 50/50 on this, but this is better than the norm I hear as most will never get back to you (or will just not talk to you ever again, because they view you as someone that cannot be made a convert.)
Apparently, there is a certain amount of hours of evangelism they need to do in a month, depending upon their position and role in the church. For all I know, Lou just likes coming over to my place because my wife and I are very kind and hospitable, and he can scratch an hour or two of his quota.
As a side note, Jehovah’s Witnesses presume that the rest of us live very immoral lives and really do not seek to submit ourselves to the Scripture. The more they see that you take living by the Scripture as seriously as the doctrines found therein, the more they will respect you. This is because JWs adhere to narrow interpretations of Biblical practices such as shunning, not smoking, traditional courting for marriage, and etcetera. If they observe that you yourself are pretty conservative with these things, they are less likely to view your doctrinal differences as vain excuses made in one’s own mind to justify sinful behavior.
Nonetheless, our contact with Lou opened up an interesting opportunity last night to preach the Gospel. Lou wanted us to meet some “friends” back at where he lived at “Bethel,” the local Jehovah’s Witnesses headquarters where they train their missionaries. We went to a lobby to their dining facility, made some small talk, and three missionaries and a young man I believe training to be one sat down and introduced themselves.
We made some more small talk. It helped I was wearing a “Korova Milk Bar” shirt, because one of the missionaries spoke Russian. Apparently “korova” means “cow.” We also spoke a lot about New Guinea, because two other missionaries have spent significant time there.
Eventually, after impressing them with the information that I actually knew where New Guinea was, I asked, “If you are preaching the Gospel to someone there and they ask you, ‘What must I do to be saved?,’ what do you answer them?”
The answer they gave was the same as one I had heard before: “You must get to know Jehovah and what He is really like.” What they mean is view God the way they view Him. I said, “Paul was asked this question by the Philippian jailer in the Scripture and his answer was, “‘Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household'” (Acts 16:31). I said doing anything else or knowing anything else was not necessary.
The response I was given was that this was essentially “too easy.” They pointed to various false professions of faith and went as far as to say that someone cannot be saved “right away.”
I pointed to the example of Abraham and the thief on the cross. They were credited righteousness the moment they believed. I explained how the thief on the cross did not even have an opportunity to live out his faith for more than a few hours.
After a brief disagreement on some of their eschatology (they believe the thief will be resurrected and will have to prove his righteousness in the Millenial kingdom and if he screws up he won’t be saved), I spoke to them about the nature of good works. Good works are important, they are the evidence of our salvation, and most importantly God had prepared good works for us to do since before the foundations of the world were set. However, the basis of our salvation is grace and the means is faith. The works come as a result of God’s grace empowering one to be faithful (Phil 2:13).
This idea was very offensive to them. “Do you believe in predestination?,” they asked. “I am only saying what the Scripture explicitly says,” I replied. I explained that Eph 2:3 says we are all born “children of wrath.” The default is for all unbelievers that every inclination of their heart is continually towards evil, all the time (Gen 6:5). God does not need to do anything special to harden Pharaoh’s heart or anything else, the default for man is wickedness and the natural man cannot discern spiritual things. We stood stuck on this topic for a while.
I asked one of the missionaries to then pretend I was God and that he was dead. I asked, “Why should I let you into heaven?” His reply was, “I have lived faithfully and done my best to do so.”
I then said the following: “I don’t know if this is just me or if I sound like a horrible person, but let me confess this to you. Even when I am at my most righteous, in the middle of prayer or doing something good–When I am as righteous as I can be, I can feel a self-righteousness within myself. I detect my own pride. So, even at my most righteous, I can sense the wickedness of my own flesh.”
I saw some approving nods, so I realized I struck a chord. Apparently, this is a common experience for outwardly-righteous people. So, I continued: “So, even at my most righteous, my own righteousness is like filthy rags [Is 64:6] as God puts it. How can I ever stand before God, when I know if I broke one law I am guilty of breaking all of it [James 2:10]?
“And I know these sins are not a very big deal. I did not kill anyone or something. But, that’s not the point. It is not the nature of the sin, but who I sinned against. We do not appreciate it because we are not holy, God alone is holy. And we sin, no matter how minor in our own eyes, against an infinitely holy God. If we stand on own merits, we will always deserve His condemnation.
“This is how I stand before God: All my sin, including my self-righteousness, it is nailed to the cross with Christ. I stand before God credited the righteousness of His Son by my faith in Him.”
They were honestly flabbergasted. I was asked, “Well, can you tell me then what the ‘Good News of the Kingdom’ is?” Everyone was ready to go, so I said we would be up all night, we will have to get to the bottom of this the other time.
I just give thanks to God, that some guy that works in an auto repair shop like me and my wife (who recently worked at Dunkin Donuts), could by God’s grace stand up and speak the Gospel when surrounded by so many people who preach a false one as a vocation. I was surprised by how much I was able to speak and how much they listened.
I appreciate any prayers that whatever God’s will is in this situation, that it may be accomplished and that they may be accountable for having heard the Gospel. May He change their hearts.