Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints. For certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ. (Jude 3-4)
I recently received a letter from a person who considers it a sin if we don’t keep the Sabbath on Saturday. We have exchanged letters through the years because she had questions about their neighbor who is one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. She had told me they attend church on Saturday and asked what I understood about that.
In past correspondence we’ve discussed the Sabbath but more recently she became offended when I wrote that Jesus fulfilled the law and therefore, dietary laws or holy days kept by the Jews no longer apply. I explained that once a heart is circumcised by God’s Spirit, the law is written on their hearts and guides them from there. She seemed to think I was advocating that grace gave everyone a license to sin and that I must not even believe in the law of gravity then! I explained the law in question was the Mosaic law, not the natural laws put in place by God. Even so, she wanted to hold me accountable to judgment because I said Jesus fulfilled the Mosaic law. In view of encouraging those of you who’ve dealt with someone challenging your faith in Jesus’ finished work, I’d like to share a portion of my response to this writer below:
I have heard your words that I will be held accountable to God for not keeping His law, and I grant you the freedom to your belief, but I am not condemned by them. They are only your words, and I do not accept the judgment of men. You see, I’ve been set free from that because there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1). What if I were to tell you that I discovered that hard as I tried, I was found weak and inconsistent in being able to uphold the requirements? I suppose you would have every right to call me a sinner. And I would agree. I would feel so condemned knowing judgment awaited me. I’d get up again and try harder, that’s what I’d do. And then exhaust myself. Again, I’d get up and try. If I could only attain perfection and do it right next time, maybe then I could be like God. Hmm.. where have we heard that before?
You see, the law is good. It is not lacking, it is I who am weak. The law could not reconcile me to God, not because the law was weak, but because I am! If you are able to keep it, have at it. But I trust that God sent His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh as an offering for my sin and my inability to attain perfection through the law. I believe God condemned my sin already so that the requirement of the law might be fulfilled in me. I no longer walk by the flesh, but according the Spirit. I now follow the law of the Spirit as did the apostle Paul who wrote those words in Romans 8:3-4. I encourage you to reference that to see who it is you take issue with. It’s not just me you’re concerned about, it is the apostle Paul as well.
Paul was a man filled with the Holy Spirit who believed Jesus fulfilled the law for him too. Yet Paul recognized the sin in him and the sin around him. And you think I don’t? Just because I maintain that Jesus fulfilled the law, you equate me with being blind to the world of sin around and within me? And then you condemn me with your words “at that point what you will be judged on is sin or a breaking of the law of God.” I assume you mean well and are simply acting upon the passion you have from your own religion, and honestly I can relate for I did the same thing as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. And like you, neither could I receive the testimony of a born again Christian who defended their faith when I condemned them for not following my religion with it’s precepts. But once bitten, twice shy, and I might add 10 times as sensitive to legalism.
Do you remember how I shared Colossians 2:14 with you in which it says by Jesus’ death the certificate of debt was cancelled? The next verse says He triumphed over the rulers by taking it away. And as we keep reading that new testament epistle, we see how to react to anyone who seeks to rule us through legalism
16 Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day— 17 things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ. (Colossians 2:16-17)
You may be sincere in your concern for me and others who do not keep the Sabbath, but I am given full right as as child of God to rebuke your judgment against me. It is not welcome here. Christ is my king, my ruler. You knocked on my door to teach me and I do not receive it. What you endeavor to bring me back to is the shadow, but I have encountered the Light which cast it. The law was a tutor to lead us to Christ. Now I am IN CHRIST and belong to Him. To go back to the law, having been rescued from it’s domain, would be a slap in the face to Jesus, my redeemer.
When I woke up the next morning, a thought crossed my mind as to whether I was too harsh with my words, “I am given full right as as child of God to rebuke your judgment against me. It is not welcome here. “ As I thought about it, that word ‘rebuke’ sounded so harsh.
I took a phone call that morning then watched a video a friend had sent the night before. It was her excited testimony of overcoming more of her Watchtower lies. It was obvious she was growing in grace. That set me in a good mood. Then, I read a letter from another former Jehovah’s Witness who realizes they need to understand grace.
This person’s letter opened with mention of how surprised they were that they had thoughts of going back to the kingdom hall.
By the time I finished my response to her, I realized how “protective” we’re all to be about grace and why. I was at peace with my inward questioning about whether my words had been too harsh with the first person in the above mentioned letter. I learned that I’d done EXACTLY what we’re called to do as Christians which is to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints (Jude 3).
“I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction.” (2 Timothy 4:1-2)
DON’T TAKE GRACE LIGHTLY. Yes, do rebuke those who slyly try to introduce “another Jesus” through their “different gospel” because the word of God instructs us to rebuke those who pervert it.
6 I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; 7 which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed! (Galatians 1:6-9)
The first letter I shared was in response to someone who was perverting grace, but this next response is to the dear soul who is seeking grace and surprised at their thoughts of wanting to return to the Kingdom Hall.
Good to hear from you again. Ya know, I tried to stay away from the meetings when I first began questioning it. That’s when I recognized the “addictive” quality of it. I went back and remained a JW for years with that understanding. Then, when I began to fade the second time, I was more committed and stayed home fighting that urge. Really, it was like an alcoholic needing a drink! But even after I was disfellowshipped and knew there was no way I ever wanted to go back, I didn’t really know where I was going. As the saying goes “I knew I had come out of something, but I didn’t know what I had come into.” So I understand those thoughts of going back. Yes, kind of surprising, aren’t they? It’s the familiarity of it, but I also believe something more.
Romans 8:15 mentions “a spirit of slavery causing fear.” I believe we receive that when we come into agreement with the Watchtower’s teachings. I was under it. Even after I’d left, I knew they had spoken false prophecies, etc. and Deuteronomy 18 addresses not to fear those who do and to “kill the false prophet.” Obviously I wasn’t going to kill anyone, but I prayed to “kill” the false prophet in my head because the “spirit of slavery” was still ruling my thoughts even though I was away from the meetings for a few years. It wasn’t until I received a different spirit that it left.
In Galatians 1:6, Paul said they were paying attention to a “different gospel.” Do you suppose that if a person receives a “different Christ” and a “different gospel” They could receive a “different spirit?” (2 Corinthians 11:4)
When I was taught a different Jesus and a different gospel, I believe I received that “spirit of slavery” mentioned in Romans 8:15. But, in that same passage of Romans 8:15, it mentions another spirit. That is the “spirit of adoption.” This is referring to being born of God’s Spirit, or “born again.” Notice in that passage how it says when we receive it, we cry out “Abba Father!” Yes, we know that we know that we know He’s our Father and that we belong to Him now and not any religious organization or men. And when that happened for me, that “spirit of slavery causing fear” was removed because I knew who my Father was.
You mentioned a need to understand Grace. Yes, it certainly begins there! His grace toward us “adopts” us into His family to know we belong to Him and to be taught by Him. The book of Galatians is so important to me because it’s where I understood grace for the first time. In the New World Translation, they have taken the word “grace” out and replaced it with “undeserved kindness,” but even so I was familiar with the term “a fall from grace.” I thought it meant when a Christian sinned. Like if maybe they had an affair or something, then you’d say they “fell from grace.” But when I read the phrase in Galatians 5:4 which in the NASB says “You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace,” the light bulb went on! You see, Paul wrote that letter to Christians in Galatia. It doesn’t say they were having affairs or robbing temples or murdering anyone. Why did Paul counsel them and tell them they were “severed from Christ” and “fallen from grace?” If you read the book, you’ll see they were paying attention to falsehoods brought in by Jews who claimed they had to also be circumcised. They were teaching a different Jesus and a different gospel by saying they needed to get circumcised to be in favor with God. But they were already accepted by God through faith in Jesus’ sacrifice for their sins! The Gentile Christians in Galatia were not circumcised. But did they need to be? The Judaizers thought so! But Paul defends that they were saved by GRACE, not by keeping circumcision as part of the law requirements. And yet, these Galatians who were saved by GRACE were being persuaded to do this WORK now and it was severing them from Jesus Christ. I related to this as an Ex-JW. Circumcision was a religious ritual, I didn’t think of it as a “sin” like having an affair. I didn’t realize that I was actually sinning by thinking my works were saving me. I was, after all, a very good JW. I kept all the rules and had an impressive service record. I was still clinging to thoughts about how good I was and didn’t deserve to be disfellowshipped. I was also mad at God for not seeing all my good works and giving me His approval. Why didn’t I feel this love others spoke about? He should approve me, I’m good!!!! I felt severed from Christ. But Galatians 5:4 is where God led me to repent of my religious attitude. You see, I was going to the cross to say “look at me, don’t you see what I do for you God?!” But He turned it around that day to tell me “Julie, look at ME, don’t you see what I have done for you?!!” Pretty humbling to admit that even I had fallen from grace.
He set me free! I am saved by grace now!
It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery. 2 Behold I, Paul, say to you that if you receive circumcision, Christ will be of no benefit to you. 3 And I testify again to every man who receives circumcision, that he is under obligation to keep the whole Law. 4 You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace. 5 For we through the Spirit, by faith, are waiting for the hope of righteousness. 6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but faith working through love.
The “spirit of adoption” won over the “spirit of slavery” that had me bound to the Watchtower. But there will always be “Judaizers” who try to persuade me to turn back to their laws or introduce new ones to me. What is the appropriate response? I have the right as a child of God to REBUKE them! I encourage you to do so also.
Keep yourself in God’s love,