Tag Archives: Holy Spirit

A Christian in a Jehovah’s Witness Bible Study: Part 7

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Lesson 7 in the Jehovah’s Witness study book Enjoy Life Forever! is titled “What is Jehovah Like?” I approached my meeting with “Craig,” my JW friend, with some nervousness. I knew we would run into some disagreements with this topic. If found myself trying to straddle a great gulf between speaking my views and risking Craig breaking things off, or compromising and having no influence on him. The governing bully (oops, I mean governing body) of Jehovah’s Witnesses leave little room (or none) for any sailing in between those two docks. The rhetoric is strong for JW’s to have no dealings, and thus no conversations, with those who disagree with their views. Unless a candidate shows signs of teachability (that is, complete acceptance of everything they teach), they are admonished to cut off the relationship. My nervousness was compounded when I saw that again Craig had invited another of his elders to join us.

So how would I walk the tightrope? (And can I mix in any more metaphors?) Well, I decided to express my views in the form of questions. It’s a good practice with JW’s. Rather than coming across as “No, you’re wrong,” it says, “Can you help me understand your view?”

The first section asks “Why are we unable to see God?” They are right to teach that God is a spirit, without a physical body. I used that as an opportunity to ask a question, saying, “I was talking with an old-school JW, and he still believes that God has a body, but he called it a ‘spirit-body.’ Has the view on that changed? Does God have a spirit-body, and how is that different from a physical body?” That question stumped both of my JW friends. They hemmed and hawed, sometimes sounding like their answer was yes, and sometimes no. There was no consistency. They both said that more research would be needed to adequately answer that question. “Yeah, get back to me on that,” I responded, giving them an out for now.

Sections 2 and 3 had no content that I strongly disagreed with, so we just went through it without any drama.

Section 4 was “Holy spirit–God’s active force.” Oh my Lord, help! How do I express my STRONG disagreement with this, without alienating them? Craig read to me the question, “So do you think holy spirit is a person, or is it God’s active force? Why do you say that?” and he waited for my response. I paused, thinking and praying, trying not to panic. I began with “Well, I don’t think you’ll agree with my response.” In the silence that followed, the tension was real. “Because,” I added, “As I read Paul’s letters, the Holy Spirit can be grieved, and as I read the book of Acts, the Holy Spirit speaks to the believers, guiding and directing them. I believe the Holy Spirit is the presence of God himself.”

“Interesting,” said the elder. I give him credit for not undergoing the expected Jekyll and Hyde transformation. I think what saved the conversation was that I did not claim that the Holy Spirit is the third member of the triune God (aka trinity), which is what I do believe, but did not want to go there, at least not yet. I merely described the Holy Spirit as the presence of God. I’m thankful that they didn’t press me to see if my inner trinitarian would come out. Thankfully, Craig went on to the next paragraph, which talked about how Jehovah used the Holy Spirit to accomplish two amazing things: Creation and inspiration of scripture. I picked up inspiration and ran with it, mentioning that it wasn’t talking about biblical interpretation (which some groups claim), but that the Holy Spirit inspired the original writing of scripture. Scripture didn’t come about from the writers’ own understanding or ideas, but were directed to write what Jehovah wanted them to, even though their own style and personality comes through. Craig and Elder seemed content with my understanding and enthusiasm about the material.

We went through the rest of the study in a friendly and pleasant manner. When we got to the end and Craig again asked me the question “What is the Holy Spirit,” I simply reiterated what I had said before, but with understated simplicity: “The presence of God.” Period. Nothing more. Sometimes short answers are best–it can avoid confrontation, while giving the JW’s something to remember and think about.

Next week will be about becoming Jehovah’s friend. Just wait until you hear what I did with that. (Unashamed teaser!)

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An Elder Asks a Tough Question

It just so happened that I found myself hitching a ride with a JW elder and his wife to attend a recent Circuit Assembly. (I’ll call them Ken and Sadie.) As we got under way, Ken asked me “What is it that you like about attending the assemblies?”

Yikes.

I pride myself on coming up with questions that bump JW’s out of their thinking rut. Now I found myself bumped. The usual question they ask is “Are you enjoying the assembly (or meeting, or convention)?” To which I answer “I’m really glad I came.” A safe, non-committal answer. Now I had to come up with something more specific, and I got the feeling that Ken the elder was probing me for my motivations, trying to see if he had a legitimate seeker or an opposer on his hands. I had to think fast.

My response was: “I enjoy learning about what the Watchtower teaches, and I also enjoy meeting new people, and the conversations that I have with them.” An honest answer, however leaving out the part where I try to plant seeds of discontent with the Watchtower and seeds of attraction to Jesus. I think the answer satisfied Ken, even though I didn’t get to hear his response, because just then Sadie changed the subject, telling me about what had been covered in the assembly the day before. (Yes, they were attending two identical assemblies back-to-back. They had a good reason for doing so, which I can’t go into here.) Sadie’s comments led us into a another conversation (whew!), which was itself another good opportunity to plant a seed.

Ken shared that one of the assembly talks was about the murder of Abel by his brother Cain. The speaker put forth the theory that perhaps Eve had shared with her sons God’s promise of her “seed” who would crush the serpent’s head. And perhaps Eve had mentioned that Abel, being the oldest son, could be the promised seed. Cain’s motive would then have been jealousy of his brother. The theory, though entirely speculative, is not a bad one, and to his credit the speaker did not present it as absolute truth. However, I shared with Ken and Sadie my observation that it did not take generations for the first murder to take place, but that the crime occurred right away, within the first generation, indicating the depths of depravity within humanity that came as a direct result of the fall. “No wonder we need a ransom,” I added.

Ken and Sadie both responded with “Oh!” And their tone seemed to indicate that they had not thought of that insight, and that they were somewhat impressed. More and more I’m thinking that the JW view of both human depravity (sinfulness) and the need for a savior is weak, and eclipsed by their other doctrines. I also think that they don’t know what to do with this non-JW who has more scriptural insight than the typical “pagan” they encounter.

Thank you, Lord, for helping me understand the truth of your word, by your Holy Spirit. And thank you for giving me split-second insight to answer elder Ken. And thank you, for having Sadie conveniently change the subject. I see you at work!

 

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How to Attend a JW Convention

If you’re an outsider considering attending a Jehovah’s Witness convention or assembly, consider the following.

1. Know that you will be welcome. As long as you aren’t disruptive, they’re glad to have you there. During the breaks they will be asking you what you think about the teaching, or whether you’re enjoying it. When they do, that’s when I say, “I’m glad I came, but I have a question.” I then ask one of my talking-point questions (see my previous posts).

2. They will know that you are an outsider visiting. Trust me, they will know. They can pick you out of the crowd. Don’t try to look like them, because something will give you away, and then they will see you as a deceptive, antagonistic spy. It’s better if they see you as a non-threatening, interested student of the Bible.

3. If they ask who you’re studying with, it means they’re trying to determine how much, if any, “accurate knowledge,” (indoctrination) you have been receiving. I have found the best answer to be “I have studied the Bible a little bit with my friend Mark,” or “I have been studying the Bible a lot on my own, and I have been reading a lot at jw.org.”

4. Don’t have as your purpose to “stump the JW.” You’re not there to win arguments. If you’re argumentative, before too long they will all avoid you and not even acknowledge your presence. I see this in many youtube videos of people arguing with JW’s at conventions. You’re there to share the truth of God’s word (especially things they have never noticed before), your testimony of Jehovah’s work in your life, and things that make them think rather than react.

5. You will be bored with the teaching sessions. Bored perhaps more than you have ever been bored with anything before. Seriously. Bored. Because they’re boring, to the point of making you think, “Really?” I can usually put up with only one day of a convention. But you must endure through at least a day, because it will give you some good talking points to use between sessions and during lunch. Example: “I have a question about something the last speaker said . . .”

6. Traveling with JW’s to and from the convention is a good practice. Try to ride along with someone, or offer to drive a group of them. Car time provides for great discussions. I once had a group of 5 guys discussing with me about the great crowd and the covenants for an hour and a half on the way home. It’s the only time you will actually hope for bad traffic.

7. Have fun! Chat, joke, and laugh with them. Be a friend. Share your cookies at lunchtime. Relax and let God lead you with His Holy Spirit. If you get stumped, just go back to your testimony, or something like “I just love Jesus, and I’m so excited about what he has done for me. Jehovah has adopted me as his son!”

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Being Led By Holy Spirit

Romans 8:14: “For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God.”

There have been times when sharing with Jehovah’s Witnesses that I have experienced being led by Holy Spirit. Sometimes He tells me to share something specific, or reminds me of a scripture to use. More often, though, He STOPS me from talking about something.

For example, I’ll be talking with my friend Mark, and I remember that I wanted to bring up with him a brilliant argument about the deity of Christ. So I begin to say, “Mark, what do you think about . . . ” And then I pause, because something in my mind says, “Don’t bring that up now.” Then the following argument takes place in my mind, within about a second:

“But Lord, it’s such a good argument.”

“Yes, but now’s not the time for it.”

“But Lord, It’s an important, vital subject.”

“Yes, but now is not the time, so don’t bring it up.”

“But Lord,”

“Shut up about it!”

Yes, it’s true. Holy Spirit has to get brusque with me.

So my sentence with Mark ends up being: “So Mark, what do you think about . . . the culture we live in? It just seems to get worse and worse, doesn’t it?” Mark is unaware that I just changed my topic mid-sentence. And now we’re talking about something we agree on. What’s up with that? Well, perhaps we had talked long enough that day about things we disagree on, and it was time to affirm what we do share in common. After all, that’s what friends do. And that’s what Holy Spirit wanted me to do in the moment. Convincing arguments: Important. Maintaining the friendship: Priceless. Thank you, Holy Spirit.

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When You Get No Response

I approached two Jehovah’s Witnesses stationed outside the commuter train station. I offered to share with them one of my favorite verses, I John 5:13: “These things are written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.” I told them that I have come to know for certain that I have eternal life. They quickly pointed out the other phrase in the verse, “to you who believe,” stating that it requires action on our part. I quickly pointed out that “faith” or “belief” is actually just the opposite of action, and according to the original language (Greek) is placing one’s trust in someone or something else, namely in this case, what Jesus has done for us. I mentioned that He is our ransom sacrifice (using terminology that is familiar to JW’s). Then there was no response from them. Just a blank look, then a change of subject. No response. No results. Seemingly no effect.
I asked the Lord whether it was worth sharing with people like that, who have no openness whatsoever. The impression I got, which I believe came from the Holy Spirit, was “share it anyway.” Share God’s Word anyway. We never know what the effect acutually is. It could be that they will remember the verse later, before they go to sleep that night. I pray and ask that God’s Spirit would not let them get away from the truth of the verse that I shared. No one can come to Jesus unless the Father draws them, and God’s Word will accomplish what He sends it to do. So share it anyway. The results have nothing to do with us. It’s all about God’s Word and His Spirit. Share it anyway.

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