Posts Tagged ‘Cults’
Here is a link to an excellent, long series on Oneness Pentecostals by a British brother. I highly recommend it. I have listened to them while working and was greatly blessed. Not only does he quote directly from Oneness Pentecostal theologians but he dives into the Word of God for answers.
You can find these teachings here.
I grew up in the Assemblies of God, a Trinitarian Pentecostal group. I was aware even as a child of the “other” Pentecostals out there who were called “Jesus Only” Pentecostals. My dad explained them to me once saying that they only believed in Jesus and not in the Father or the Holy Spirit. That was not entirely true but it was the best he understood. Over the years I have had very few encounters with Oneness folks. I visited a Oneness church only twice in my life and both for observation.
The Oneness movement is much older than Oneness Pentecostals like to believe. They like to believe that God restored the Oneness doctrine of God in 1913-14 with the split from Trinitarian Pentecostals. The Assemblies of God called the new teaching “the new issue” and rejected the Oneness teachings in 1916. Many AG pastors left the Assemblies of God over the issue. The largest Oneness Pentecostal group is the United Pentecostal Church International based out of Hazelwood, Missouri. The UPC is rejects the historic doctrine of the Trinity and holds to the Oneness doctrine.
The teaching is essentially the old heresy of Sabellianism from the 2nd century. The teaching is also called Modalism. Modalism teaches that there is only one God who reveals Himself in different “modes” such as the Father, the Son, and Holy Spirit. These three modes are not three persons but rather manifestations of the one true God. The Oneness Pentecostals teach that Jesus is the mighty God (Isaiah 9:6) and that Jesus is the Father and Jesus is the Son and Jesus is the Holy Ghost. Jesus is all three! Jesus only is God. There is no Father who is God nor a Son who is God nor the Spirit who is God but rather there is only one Person in the Godhead and His name is Jesus. Oneness Pentecostals go to Matthew 28:19 and they see baptize in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and they point out that the Name of God is revealed to us in Acts 2:38 when Peter used the keys given to him by Jesus to preach the truth of the Godhead, that the Name of God is Jesus. It is this Name (Acts 4:12) that saves us and only those who are baptized in the name of Jesus are truly saved (Romans 6:1-4).
In reality, the Oneness Pentecostals teach that the Father who is named Jesus is truly the eternal God. They would agree with the Arians, that the Son has a beginning in the incarnation (Luke 1:35) and the Son will have an ending (1 Corinthians 15:24-28). They love to use the word “begotten” in John 3:16 to prove that Jesus the Son was begotten by the Father. While this is a poor usage of the Greek term here (see the NIV for example here), Oneness Pentecostals have argued effectively to poorly taught Trinitarians about the nature the Son. They also love to point out that the words “Trinity” nor “God the Son” nor “the Eternal Son” are found in the New Testament and to them, this proves that Jesus as the Son was not eternally the Son of the Father but rather He had a beginning in Bethlehem.
So what do Oneness Pentecostals do with the Lord Jesus in the Gospels where He over and over again refers to “My Father” or “the Father?” Or what about where Jesus prays to the Father such has in John 17? Or what about Jesus’ baptism where all three persons (or manifestations in the Oneness mind) appear in Matthew 3:13-17? They believe that the key to understanding the life of Jesus is to understand that at times He was speaking as the Son and sometimes as God who is the Father. The Son, they teach, always refers to Jesus’ humanity and not to His divinity. When the Son is praying or eating or sleeping, He is doing so as the Man Christ Jesus (1 Timothy 2:5). They believe that the Father (who is Jesus as the mighty God) wrapped Himself in flesh (John 1:14, 18) but the Son was not God only He was a man, the Son of God. So when Jesus was praying, He was praying from His human side to His divine side. And when Jesus was baptized, God, being God, chose to reveal all three manifestations at the same time which He can do if He wants. When we read of Jesus now in the presence of God at His right hand such as in Acts 2:34-36 or Hebrews 1:3, this is speaking of Jesus in His human manifestation before the eternal Father who is Jesus the divine side. To me it is very confusing and doesn’t allow the texts to read freely but nonetheless Oneness Pentecostals believe this is the key to reading and studying and understanding the Bible. It is their own unique hermeneutic if you will.
Oneness Pentecostals use three major texts to prove that Jesus is God the Father. First, they read Isaiah 9:6 and believe that the words “eternal Father” are referring to the Father. Secondly, they point to John 10:30 and point out that Jesus Himself here says that He and the Father are one. Third, they point to John 14:9 where Jesus answers Philip and says that if they had seen Him, they had seen the Father.
Time doesn’t permit me to answer the entire charges here and to be fair, Oneness Pentecostal have other texts they turn to prove their doctrine. In short, Isaiah 9:6 is not speaking of necessarily titles of the Lord Jesus. Nowhere in the New Testament are these titles worked out though they are true of Him. The concept of God as our Father is not fully developed in the Old Testament though spoken of a few times. Yet here the understanding could be “Father of eternity” in that the One to be born (Isaiah 7:14) is from ancient times (Micah 5:2). Jesus is eternal and thus He is the Father of eternity but this doesn’t mean that He is the Father. Secondly, the Greek text of John 10:30 is clear that Jesus is not speaking of unipersonal but essence when He says that He and the Father are one. The Greek says, “One we are.” There are very specific Greek words John could have used to show us that Jesus is the Father but instead He uses a Greek phrase that simply makes Jesus of the same kind as the Father. Third, even Oneness Pentecostals don’t believe that when Jesus the Man was saying to Philip that if he’d seen Him, he’d seen the Father that they were seeing at that very moment the Father. Oneness Pentecostals hold that the Father is a spirit and invisible to us (Colossians 1:15) but instead Jesus is saying that when the Apostles saw Jesus, they were seeing God the Father in that the Son is co-equal and co-eternal with the Father. Not once in the New Testament does Jesus ever say that He is the Father though He refers to His Father or the Father or My Father hundreds of times.
Finally, a word about the Oneness view of salvation. This is the key for me. Oneness Pentecostals teach that a person must believe in Jesus, repent of their sins, be baptized in water by immersion “in the name of Jesus” for the forgiveness of sins, and then must receive the infilling of the Holy Ghost by the initial, physical evidence of speaking in tongues. A person is not justified by faith alone in the Oneness mind. A person must do all the above to be saved. Now sometimes in the Oneness church, a person will get the Holy Ghost and speak in tongues before being baptized in Jesus’ name but they point to Acts 10:43-48 as proof that this is okay.
Also it’s not enough to just believe in Jesus, be baptized in Jesus’ name and receive the Holy Ghost with evidence of tongues, one must also live a holy life till the end lest they “lose their salvation.” Holiness includes the holiness codes set up by many Oneness churches including women wearing dresses, not cutting their hair, no makeup or jewelry, and men must be clean-shaven, short hair, avoid alcohol and tobacco and live a holy life. It is amounts to works-righteousness though Oneness folks will argue that they do it with joy.
In closing, Oneness Pentecostals are nice folks but being nice is not the standard of truth. The Word of God is the final authority and they would agree. I have been meeting a Oneness pastor from time to time to talk theology and he is a bright, loving man. He wants me to accept him merely because he loves Jesus. That, he says, should unite us. But I disagree. I am not mean to him but the Jesus he says that he worships and loves is the not the Jesus of the Bible. I know that hurts but its true. The Jesus he says that he worships is not the same as the Jesus I worship. He believes that since Oneness Pentecostals speak in tongues the same as Trinitarian Pentecostals speak in tongues, this must prove that God accepts them both despite someone being wrong about the Godhead. He also believes that since Oneness Pentecostals teach and preach that Jesus is God, what is the big deal?
There are obviously many errors. For just one. Consider the atonement. In Oneness theology the saving work of Christ is not God dying in my place, standing condemned for my sins. Instead, we have the Father wrapped in flesh but not really a man. Instead Jesus only appears as a man but the true Jesus is still the eternal Father. In other words, the divine payment for our sins is not payed by the Lord God but instead by a mere man albeit a perfect one because the Father was inside of the man. The payment is not God redeeming us through the divine Son but instead it is the human Jesus paying the penalty for our sins to the Father Jesus. How weird. In Trinitarian theology, the second person of the holy Trinity, the Lord Jesus, bears our sins on the cross and redeems us from the holy wrath of God. God is truly in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself (2 Corinthians 5:18-21) because the Son is offering His life for our sins to the glory of the Father who sent Him into the world (John 3:16).
Over even consider Jesus is our high priest who offers Himself before the Father to pray for us sinners (Hebrews 4:14-15). Hebrews 7:22-28 speaks of Jesus being our high priest before the Father. Jesus, as our faithful high priest, offered Himself to God (Hebrews 9:24-28) and He now sits at the Father’s right hand to ever live to pray for us. In Oneness theology, Jesus as the Father hears Jesus the flesh (the Son) when we pray to Him. In Trinitarian theology, the text is allowed to speak for itself: Jesus the Son prays for us sinner before the holy Father. Jesus is truly our high priest in every since of the word. A time will come when this will end at the consummation of the ages but this doesn’t mean that Jesus will cease to be the Son of God nor will He cease to reign as our Savior (1 Corinthians 15:24-28).
And I could write much more. I have gone too long. I close by simply pointing out that Oneness Pentecostals fall short of the truth of Scripture. While I admire them for their zeal and for holding to monotheism and to the authority of the Bible, I find much of their theology lacking. I pray that God will help us, as biblical Trinitarians, to know what we believe about God and why the Trinity is not an optional doctrine. The Trinity is vital.
There are those who want to deny that Jesus is God. They teach that only the Father is God and that He alone is one true and living God but Jesus is just a man, albeit an anointed man used by God and even the Messiah but certainly not divine. These groups will often claim that they hold that Jesus is the true Messiah and that He was born of the virgin Mary by the power of God but they deny that He was God or even claimed to be God. Some of them believe Jesus was the Son of God but not eternally existent with the Father and distinct from the Father in any way. The Oneness Pentecostals, for example, deny that the Son of God is eternal but rather that He came to exist in Bethlehem (Luke 1:35; Galatians 4:4).
You’ll find many of the Hebrews Roots Movement teachers denying that Jesus is God. They hold to modalism but only that Yahweh is God but not Yeshua. They teach that Jesus is the Messiah but He was not God nor did He claim to be God. They view Jesus as anointed by Yahweh and the servant of Yahweh but He is not Yahweh and He is not divine. Jesus is our example, a mighty prophet of God, the Messiah sent by Yahweh, but Jesus is not divine in their teachings. They believe this protects the monotheism of Judaism and does not elevate a man above Yahweh.
Others teach, like the Oneness Pentecostals but in different terms, that the Father alone is God. They point out the word of Jesus in such passages as Mark 12:29-30 or John 20:17. It seems that Jesus is giving honor to the Father and alone to the Father thus He is not claiming equality with God nor is claiming to receive worship but He is pointing others to the Father who alone is God.
Let us briefly examine these claims.
Jesus Is Assigned Old Testament Designations of Yahweh.
When we compare the Old Testament texts with their New Testament fulfillment in Christ, we see that Jesus is indeed Yahweh. Consider Matthew 1:23 from Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 3:3 with Isaiah 40:3; John 3:31 with Psalm 97:9; John 12:38-41 with Isaiah 6:10 and 53:1; Acts 3:14 with 1 Samuel 2:2; 1 Corinthians 1:30 with Isaiah 43:24 and Jeremiah 23:5-6; 1 Corinthians 2:8 with Psalm 24:7-10; 2 Corinthians 5:10 with Ecclesiastes 12:14; Ephesians 4:7-8 with Psalm 68:18; Philippians 2:9-11 with Isaiah 45:23; 2 Thessalonians 1:6-10 with Isaiah 2:10-19; Titus 2:13 with Hosea 1:7; Hebrews 1:8-9 with Psalm 45:6-7; Hebrews 13:20 with Isaiah 40:10-11; 1 Peter 3:15 with Isaiah 8:13; Revelation 1:17 with Isaiah 44:6.
Jesus Is Superior to Men and Angels.
Jesus is above men and angels. He is not part of them. The Jehovah’s Witnesses teach that Jesus is Michael from the Old Testament. The Oneness Pentecostals teach that Jesus the Son is but a man and not the eternal God. The Hebrews Roots Movement teaches that Jesus is a great prophet and even the Messiah of God but He is not God but is part of God’s creation. Consider these texts: John 1:17; Ephesians 1:19-23; Philippians 2:9-11; Colossians 1:17-18; Colossians 2:10; Hebrews 1:4-6, 13; Hebrews 2:5-8; Hebrews 3:3; 1 Peter 3:21-22; Revelation 1:5.
Jesus Receives Prayer, Praise, and Worship.
How can Jesus receive prayer, praise, and worship if He is not God? This would violate the clear teachings of the Old Testament that forbids the people of God from praying to anyone but Yahweh (see Deuteronomy 4:39; 5:7-9; 13:1-5; Isaiah 43:11; 44:6-8; 45:22; etc.). The Bible is clear that there is only one God (Deuteronomy 6:4) and there are no other gods. So if Jesus received prayer, praise, and worship and He is not God, then men are praying, praising, and worshiping a man (even an exalted man by Yahweh but Yahweh alone is to receive worship). This would be utter blasphemy (as Muslims point out) if Jesus is just a prophet, just a created being, even just the Messiah. If Jesus is not God, why pray to Him or praise Him or worship Him? This would be sinful. Yet Scripture is clear that people did pray, praise, and worshipped Him:
Acts 3:16; 7:59-60; 22:16; Romans 1:7; 10:9-12; 1 Corinthians 11:24-25; 2 Corinthians 12:8-9; Galatians 1:3-5; 6:18; Ephesians 5:21; Philippians 2:10-11; 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17; 1 Timothy 1:2, 12; 2 Timothy 4:18, 23; Hebrews 1:6; 13:20-21; 1 Peter 3:15; 2 Peter 3:18; Revelation 5:14; 7:9-10; 15:3-4.
Consider the strong words of Matthew 28:17, “And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted.” The Apostles worshiped Jesus? These faithful Jewish men worshiped the Jewish Jesus.
Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
– Hebrews 12:2 (NASB)
One of the characteristics of cults is that they do not focus on Jesus Christ. They may mention Him and use His name but often the focus is not on Jesus but upon either a man or a group such as a church. Salvation is generally tied to Jesus (sometimes) but always somethings is added such as Jesus plus a church or Jesus plus a prophet or Jesus plus baptism into that church. The focus is not on Jesus alone.
The message of cults is not on Jesus either. It is usually on good works or keeping the commandments of the group (or church). That list can be short or long depending on the group. Most cults spend most of their time looking at themselves and what they do with just a casual glance at Jesus and what He has done.
Salvation, however, in the New Testament is focused on Jesus Christ and what He has done. Hebrews 12:2 is clear that the disciple is not to be focused on the group, the church, their works, their repentance, their lack of sinning, their discipler but upon the Lord Jesus. Jesus is the author and perfecter of our faith. Jesus is the One who sits at the right hand of God praying for the saints of God (Hebrews 7:25). Jesus is the One who died for our sins and brought us peace with God (Ephesians 2:14-15). Jesus is the only One who bore our sins on the cross (Galatians 1:4; 1 Peter 2:24). Jesus has sat down at God’s right hand until His enemies be made His footstool (Psalm 110:1; Hebrews 1:3, 13).
Adam Clarke writes about Hebrews 12:2 and Jesus as our example:
Looking off and on, or from and to; looking off or from the world and all secular concerns to Jesus and all the spiritual and heavenly things connected with him. This is still an allusion to the Grecian games: those who ran were to keep their eyes fixed on the mark of the prize; they must keep the goal in view. The exhortation implies, 1. That they should place all their hope and confidence in Christ, as their sole helper in this race of faith. 2. That they should consider him their leader in this contest and imitate his example.
Jesus is our focus for the redeemed. Our focus is not on us. Our focus is not on our church. Our focus is not on our prayer life. Our focus is not on our evangelism. Our focus is not on what we have done but upon the Lord Jesus and what He has done. Jesus is the author and perfecter of our faith. He has finished this work (John 19:30). We cannot add to His work nor take away from His work. Salvation is accomplished through Jesus alone (John 14:6; Acts 4:12). Good works do not save (Ephesians 2:8-9). A church or group does not save. Jesus alone saves by His grace and for His glory.
If your salvation is dependent upon what you do or what a group does for you, repent! Repent of your dead works (Hebrews 9:14). Repent of seeking to save yourself when you cannot (Isaiah 64:6). The only hope we have is Jesus. He alone is the One who is able to deliver us from our sins (Matthew 1:21) and He alone is the One who is able to give us peace with a holy God (Romans 5:1). Our faith must be in Him alone and not in us or our group.
If you are your group spends their time focusing on anything or anyone but Jesus Christ and His cross, I urge you repent or leave. Flee idolatry (1 John 5:21). Flee works salvation. Flee from focusing on anything or anyone but the only One who can save us from us and the wrath of an Almighty God (1 Thessalonians 1:10).
I had the honor to go with another brother to preach to the Jehovah’s Witnesses who are in town for their convention at our local arena. This is attended by several thousand JW’s. We set up right in front of the arena on the public sidewalk to preach to the people as they went inside. We preached on salvation by grace through faith, justification, repentance toward God, repentance from dead works and works righteousness which can never obtain salvation, and we preached that Jesus is God. I preached from the JW’s own New World Translation on how Isaiah 9:6 calls Jesus “the mighty God” and then in Isaiah 10:20-21 it says that the Jews will return to Jehovah who is the “mighty God.” So the Jews would be returning to Jesus Himself who is the mighty God!
Overall I thought our open air preaching went well. Ironically none of the JW’s would ever stop to talk to us. Here we were on their turf yet they wanted to just run from us to get to the convention. They will go door-to-door but when two lost souls appear at their own convention, they ignore us. If they had the true gospel you figure they would want to correct us and show us our faults and errors and convince us that we need to be in Jehovah’s organization so we are not doomed in the battle of Armageddon. But they didn’t. Not one JW even tried to talk to us. In fact, the JW leadership sent two men out to make sure that no one did stop to talk to us. They stood nearby and said to the JW’s coming in, “Just keep moving. Don’t stop. Keep moving.”
I cried out, “Think for yourselves JW’s! Can you do that? Can you think for yourselves or do you have to depend on the Watchtower to think for you? Read your Bible, not the Watchtower or Awake magazines! Think for yourselves and flee this wicked organization.” I pointed out that the Watchtower was wrong about Christ coming in 1914. They were wrong about Him coming in 1925. They were wrong about Him coming in 1975. How can anyone trust such an organization that has lied and misled so many people?
We preached to several hundred JW’s. I pray that the Lord saves them by His grace. 2 Corinthians 4:4 was true of the JW’s. They are self-righteous and believe that their faith in Jehovah plus what they do (they call it exercising faith) is what will allow them to escape Armageddon. They spend hours going door-to-door but they are not preaching the gospel (though they claim they alone are the only ones fulfilling Matthew 24:14). But their gospel is not the gospel at all. Their “good news” is that we can inherit paradise on planet earth as part of the great crowd of Revelation 7:9 if we are part of Jehovah’s “faithful and discreet slave” in the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society. This is not the gospel (1 Corinthians 15:1-4). In fact, it is a false gospel (Galatians 1:6-9) that preaches salvation by works and preaches that Jesus is not in fact the Lord God but is Michael, an angel, a created being of Jehovah.
Our only conversation we had was with one God-hater who stopped to question why we were out preaching to the JW’s. He was a college student and proceeded to try to question our faith in God whereas he had faith in science. I spoke with Jason for a few minutes but saw that he was merely there to argue with me and wanted no dialogue whatsoever. I told him that he knew there was a God but he simply loved his sin and refused to repent (Romans 1:18-19). I warned him of the wrath to come and that he has no hope if he is not found in Christ. I then moved on.
I pray that 2 Corinthians 4:5 was true of us. I pray that the Lord will take the Word preached and open the JW’s heart to His grace. They have no peace with God. They know they deserve His wrath. They know that they are still living in sin and have denied the gospel. They know that Jesus is not an angel but He is much more and is the coming judge of all (Hebrews 9:28). They know that they will not survive Armageddon for they can’t do enough to please Jehovah. Pray for God to save these lost souls (Luke 19:10).
The Jehovah’s Witnesses are a cult. I want to begin there. I don’t want there to be any confusion as to whether or not I believe that JW’s need the gospel. I do. I believe JW’s are caught in a works-righteousness system where they never earn God’s forgiveness nor His approval. Their entire hope is based on their desire to live forever on planet earth. Ironically, the JW’s, who say that Christ returned invisible in 1914 to Brooklyn, New York at the Watchtower Bible & Tract Society headquarters, believe that only 144,000 will be in heaven with Jehovah. The rest of the faithful JW’s will be on earth which will be transformed into paradise. Since 1935, all JW’s now believe that their hope is to be on earth after Jehovah destroys all unbelievers at the battle of Armageddon and establishes His eternal kingdom on earth. Their hope is in their works and in being a member of God’s organization and not in Christ. Christ is added on to this.
The Bible is clear that Jesus alone is our salvation (John 14:6; Acts 4:12). Christ alone is our Mediator before God (1 Timothy 2:5-6; Hebrews 7:25; 1 John 2:1-2). The Bible makes it clear that our forgiveness comes through the blood of Jesus Christ (Matthew 26:28; Ephesians 1:7; Hebrews 9:22, 27-28; 1 John 1:7). Forgiveness of our sins is not found in our works but in Christ alone through faith alone (Ephesians 2:8-9). Our justification is based not upon being in the Lord’s organization or in a church but in Christ (Romans 4:4-5, 24-5:1).
So I believe that JW’s are lost. They need the gospel. They are not saved and if they don’t repent, they will not be in heaven nor on earth. They will be cast into hell (Matthew 7:21-23). My prayer for them is Romans 10:1-4.
But I do admire the JW’s in a couple of ways. First, JW’s are known for helping their own. I wish the Church of Jesus Christ would do a better job of this. I was reading just today from Galatians 6:11 and I pondered that verse. We need to do good to all people but especially to those who believe the gospel. The Church often leaves some of her people hurting and alone. This should not be. We need each other. We need a hug. We need a hand to hold. We need love. We need compassion. We need discipline. We need rebuking. We need a godly word. We need each other (Hebrews 3:12-13).
Secondly, I admire the JW’s zeal to take their message out. I believe they are not going out because they earnestly love Jehovah but they are going out because they hope to put in more hours for their organization and for the approval of Jehovah. I don’t want to share my faith that way. The fact is that I am loved by God because of Christ (Romans 5:8-9) and not because of my works. Isaiah 64:6 establishes what my works look like before a holy God. The fact is that I cannot earn God’s approval apart from faith in Christ. I am under God’s just wrath because of my sins (Ephesians 5:6). Romans 1:18-32 establishes why God’s wrath is coming and it is because of our own sins. This includes JW’s as well of course. Apart from being in Christ, we are all under the just wrath of God. Christ alone is able to turn aside the wrath of God (1 Thessalonians 1:10). Christ alone is able to satisfy the just wrath of God and He alone (Hebrews 9:14).
Yet JW’s spend hours upon hours knocking on doors trying to get people to read their magazines. They spend hours in training to “witness” for Jehovah. The true and living Church should learn from this (in a way) and help our people learn to share their faith. Obviously our motivation would not be legalism or works-righteousness but would be the glory of God. Our passion should be the glory of the King. Not ours. It is not about our church or getting people to approve us but our passion for evangelism should be based on the finished work of Christ and His glory. All should be done to the glory of God (Colossians 3:17) especially evangelism. We want people to worship Christ and bless His name. I am not interested in creating Arminians or Baptists or Pentecostals. I am hungry to see people worshipping Jesus Christ and blessing His holy name (John 4:23-24). I do admire that the JW’s go out in groups and share their faith albeit a corrupt faith. I pray that the Church would learn from the Lord Jesus who sent His disciples out two by two (Luke 10:1). Group evangelism or even two by two is a great way to share your faith. It gives you confidence and the other saint is able to help you to pray, to witness, to defend, and even to rescue you from people if necessary (and by rescue I mean not so much violence but people who trap you in conversations).
In closing, I do not admire JW’s for their works-righteousness. They have an eye on self and on pleasing their god. I believe this is not the true saint of God’s motivation at all. I share my faith, read my Bible, pray, worship, and adore Jesus because of what He has done in already saving me. I am not saved by my works at all (Titus 3:5-7) but because of His grace, I am motivated to serve Him (Titus 2:11-14). Sound theology should lead to obedience to Christ as Lord. The JW’s are a false system. Their motivation is based on serving the Watchtower and earning God’s approval enough to escape His wrath. In the end, they will not unless they repent. Repentance brings forgiveness of our sins (Acts 2:38; 3:19-20; 17:30-31; 26:20). When we see the cross of Christ, we true saints are motivated toward His forgiveness (Romans 2:4). I pray that the true saints of God would be so in love with Jesus that we would burn with a zeal to honor Him as Lord but we would not get caught up in pleasing Him out of the flesh. Unlike the JW’s, we know the God loves us in Christ (John 3:16) and that we are forgiven in Christ.
May God save the Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
– Hebrews 4:16-18
Hebrews 4:16-18 is one of my favorite passages of Scripture when it comes to prayer. I often quote this verse when I begin to pray because this verse helps me quickly to realize that the sole reason that I can approach the throne of God in prayer is because of the work of Christ. I am not able to come into the holy presence of God Almighty because of anything I have done. My works, says Isaiah 64:6, are like a polluted garment in His holy presence. I have no righteousness but that which He has given to me in Christ Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:21). Jesus is the sole reason I can pray!
Further, prayer does not involve me working up my emotions though chants or through saying words over and over again. Jesus rebuked such methods in Matthew 6:7. Elijah, in 1 Kings 18:25-29, pointed out the utter foolishness that the false prophets of the false god Baal in attempting to call out to their god in prayer. Baal could not hear them because he was not there. But Yahweh heard Elijah’s prayer (1 Kings 18:36-37) and Yahweh answered by fire (1 Kings 18:38). The people saw this and worshiped the one true and living God (1 Kings 18:39).
Millions of false religions pray. Muslims pray five times toward Mecca out of blind obedience to their false god. Buddhists meditate hoping to find their inner self and seek a false god of their own making. Cults such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses spends hours spreading their false gospel and seeking their false god. Yet do you and I seek the living and true God? The only God who exists? We have the right through Christ to approach the true God. We don’t come through our confessions or through our creeds or through our Arminianism but through Christ alone. Jesus is the One who has shed His own blood to redeem us from sin and reconcile us to God (1 Peter 3:18). Through Christ and His blood, we are able to approach our holy God.
Prayer should not then be viewed as a work we have to do (such as in Islam) but prayer is what we get to do through Christ. Paul said in 1 Thessalonians 5:17 that we can pray without ceasing. Our Father always hears our cries (Psalm 65:2; Matthew 6:8). Because of Jesus Christ, the disciple is able to ask anything in His name (John 14:13-14). The delight of the disciple is to please the Lord and to exalt Him in all that we say or do (Colossians 3:17). Thus our prayers are not focused on us getting stuff from God but instead our aim in prayer is to delight in the Lord our God and know Him (Philippians 3:10). Our passion is to exalt the Lord Jesus and to see His kingdom come (Matthew 6:10) and to see His glory fill the earth (Philippians 1:20-21). Our passion in prayer is not to name this or that or to pray for this or that but to exalt the Lord Jesus and bless Him for all that He has done in saving us by His own power (Revelation 5:8-14). Prayer is not about “positive confessing” things and prayer is not focused on asking God for stuff but rather prayer involves seeking God for who He is and what He has already done in saving us by His grace. This is why “the Lord’s prayer” begins in Matthew 6:9 with a focus on God and not on us. In fact, our needs do not even appear in the Lord’s prayer until after our focus has been on God (Matthew 6:11). Certainly we have the honor of being able to ask God for our daily bread but this should not be the focus for the true disciple. Our passion is to exalt Christ Jesus in all that we do (1 Peter 1:15-16).