TRANSITIONING TO THE KINGDOM OF THE HEAVENS
THE OTHER SIDE OF FAITH
August 12, 2013
Lately, the majority of the emails we receive concern the same subject. They are from our brothers and sisters among Jehovah’s Witnesses who are undergoing a crisis in their faith. They have come to appreciate the plain and open teachings of Jesus and find themselves at a crossroad. Most of the emails are very personal, but the overriding questions are: What do we do now? And where are we to go?
These questions arise because our brothers are engaged in a battle for their allegiance. It is a battle between truth and falsehood, between righteousness and error, between spirit and flesh, between God and man. These brothers are not confused. They know what to do. They have faith in Jesus’ plain and open teachings, but the question is, Do they have the courage to act on their faith.
Courage is the other side of faith. Without the courage to act, our faith is dead:
“Of what benefit is it, my brothers, if a certain one says he has faith but he does not have works? That faith cannot save him, can it? If a brother or a sister is in a naked state and lacking the food sufficient for the day, yet a certain one of you says to them: ‘Go in peace, keep warm and well fed,’ but you do not give them the necessities for [their] body, of what benefit is it? Thus, too, faith, if it does not have works, is dead in itself.”
– James 2:14-17
When we fail to complete or to perfect our faith through courage, we remain enslaved to falsehood, to error, to the flesh, and to man. It is sin for us:
“[If] one knows how to do what is right and yet does not do it, it is a sin for him.”
– James 4:17
Our brothers need to recognize the significant error of a lack of courage to act in their own spiritual best interests. At the same time, they need to be ‘as cautious as serpents yet as innocent as doves.’ (Matthew 10:16) This means they must be aware of their circumstances and the implications of their actions, yet respond in a way that honors the Christ and shows love for others. It takes true discernment to know how to courageously respond to the inner struggle of sonship.
The Awakening to Sonship
What makes the struggle of sonship so intense for Jehovah’s Witnesses is that most have a rich and enjoyable history with the Watchtower Bible & Tract Society. Though they are currently experiencing problems, their association has not always been this difficult. There are many things they can look back on with joy and fondness. So can we.
Like us, they made many friends and attended many joyful gatherings, both formally and informally. We all learned so much on how to conduct ourselves in a moral and honest manner. We are especially appreciative of the Theocratic Ministry School that trained us to be qualified speakers and teachers. We appreciate the studious nature of the Witness lifestyle which helped us develop the skill to search and research, and truly delve deep into spiritual matters for enhanced understanding. And we enjoyed the door-to-door ministry and Bible study work, though we are saddened that we did not have with us the plain and open teachings of Jesus.
As Witnesses, we are counseled to read the Bible daily. Thorough research, and diligent and earnest study reveal new meanings and values in scriptures that we have become familiar with. And ironically, it is that admonition that leads to the awakening of spirit that is occurring within our organization and leading our brothers into direct conflict with the teachings of the Governing Body.
Strangely, while personal study is encouraged, group study is not. The days of the brothers getting together to have deep spiritual conversations and research matters as a group are long gone and strongly discouraged. There used to be a time when we could write to the Society and get real answers. Now the brothers are told to ask their local Elders, and if they cannot answer the questions, just ‘wait on Jehovah’ and not discuss the matters with others. This is in direct conflict with Jesus’ admonition:
“Keep on asking, and it will be given you; keep on seeking, and you will find; keep on knocking, and it will be opened to you. For everyone asking receives, and everyone seeking finds, and to everyone knocking it will be opened.”
– Matthew 7:7-8
The counsel from the Governing Body is, in essence, if you discover new understandings, you cannot talk about them! As an example, in 2007, a question was posed to the Governing Body:
“Does “the faithful and discreet slave” endorse independent groups of Witnesses who meet together to engage in Scriptural research or debate?
“No, it does not. . . . ‘[T]he faithful and discreet slave’ does not endorse any literature, meetings, or Web sites that are not produced or organizedunder its oversight.” [The full text of the answer can be found in the Kingdom Ministry, September 2007, Question Box.]
This answer has had a chilling effect on the brotherhood. It has stifled their ability to encourage one another, or to think for themselves. As a result, there is so much suspicion of one another to the point that those who find the plain and open teachings of Jesus and accept sonship are pressured into silence. They are fearful of being charged with apostasy!
Those who have not accepted the offer of sonship with God are experiencing so much sadness, so much anxiety, so much discontent. They are losing faith in the earthly paradise that has continued to loiter ‘just around the corner’ for the past 80 years! Many are slowly awakening to the realization that they are wandering in the desert. Many are losing faith altogether.
But the free sons of the kingdom should not fall victim to these disappointments and restrictions. They must understand what is happening to them and around them. It is like Paul explained to the brothers in Galatia:
“Now I say that as long as the heir is a babe he does not differ at all from a slave, lord of all things though he is, but he is under men in charge and under stewards until the day his father appointed beforehand. Likewise we also, when we were babes, continued enslaved by the elementary things belonging to the world. But when the full limit of the time arrived, God sent forth his Son, who came to be out of a woman and who came to be under law, that he might release by purchase those under law, that we, in turn, might receive the adoption as sons. Now because you are sons, God has sent forth the spirit of his Son into our hearts and it cries out: ‘Abba, Father!’ So, then, you are no longer a slave but a son; and if a son, also an heir through God.”
– Galatians 4:1-7
The spirit of the sons is crying out “Abba Father!” They are no longer mere friends of God nor slaves to elementary doctrines of men, and they cannot accept man’s stewardship. They are free sons of the Living God and heirs to the Kingdom of the Heavens. And as long as men cramp them in and hold them back from full expression of their faith, these brothers will be distressed. The only way to control a son is to break his spirit and turn him back into a slave. Never may that happen! (Hebrews 6:4-6)
For this reason, we have repeatedly published articles on this website designed to empower and encourage the sons of God. We know firsthand how difficult it is to stand firm in your faith when all around you are personalities of resisters. On the night of his betrayal, Jesus prepared his followers for this reaction. He said:
“I have spoken these things to you that you may not be stumbled. Men will expel you from the synagogue. In fact, the hour is coming when everyone that kills you will imagine he has rendered a sacred service to God. But they will do these things because they have not come to know either the Father or me. Nevertheless, I have spoken these things to you that, when the hour for them arrives, you may remember I told them to you.”
– John 16:2-4
Those who resist the sons have not come to know the Father. They know of God as a ruler and a judge, but they have not come to know themselves as sons of God, thus they have not come to know the “Father.” Neither have they come to know the authentic Jesus or his plain and open teachings. For if they did, they would rejoice in your hope. As it is, they hold to the elementary doctrines of men and, like the Jews of the Jesus’ day, they view your claim of sonship as blasphemy:
“[D]o you say to me whom the Father sanctified and dispatched into the world, ‘You blaspheme,’ because I said, I am God’s Son?”
– John 10:36
This spirit of resisting the sons has permeated our organization and is causing a reenactment of the situation in the first century when it was no longer safe to remain in the synagogue. It appears that sons of the kingdom are approaching that reality again. They are asking, ‘What do we do now?’ ‘Where do we go?’ And they are wondering, ‘Do I have the courage to follow the Christ no matter the consequences?’
Laying a Foundation for Courage
We knew from the beginning that when our brothers awaken to the true good news, they will be perplexed with these questions. We also knew that if they were to leave the organization too soon, while they are spiritually weak, they might fall victim to the machinations of other self-professed saviors, they might get puffed up or become persecutors of their brothers, or they might lose faith altogether. We recently wrote about this phenomena in an article entitled Converting Pauls into Sauls. We knew our brothers would need time to heal their wounds and build their faith and courage before going out of the ‘City.’
While some walk away with little damage, that is not the norm as is evident from the abundance of ex-JW websites, anti-Watchtower websites, and religious rescue websites directed at Jehovah’s Witnesses. We saw firsthand the devastation that comes to people who have not been allowed to exercise their God-given free will and reasoning abilities and who are not prepared to stand alone. They quickly spring out of control when they are faced with life’s realities, like ‘the seeds that fell upon the rocky places.’ (Matthew 13:5; 7:24-27) Few find their way to the Father. Most languish in a lack of closure, full of regret and disappointment.
But it does not have to be that way. We know that our brothers can be built up right where they are if only they had the courage to stand in their faith while in the congregations. If only they understood that they have been “set free from enslavement to corruption and have the glorious freedom of the children of God.” (Romans 8:21)
To help our brothers in this regard, including the Governing Body who are also struggling with their sonship, in January 2012, we began publishing articles designed to build up our brothers’ faith and renew their spirit so they can become comfortable in the ‘robes, rings and sandals’ of sonship. (Luke 15:22) Some articles established that we are all sons of God with the heavenly hope (Galatians 3:26), and that ‘as many as did receive Jesus’ were given authority to become sons of God’ (John 1:12-13), articles such as:
We published articles designed to build up our faith in the heavenly hope, such as:
We published articles to help us take a stand with Christ for our hope, such as:
Comfort for Those Spiritually Grieving
And we published a series of articles to help us make a public declaration of our hope:
Our most recent report, as of August 2013, reveals that this ministry which focuses on the plain and open teachings of Jesus has positively and profoundly affected over 5.2 million people in 140 countries, both Jehovah’s Witnesses and non-Witnesses. We hoped that if we ‘fed’ the Governing Body, who are clearly starving spiritually, they would acknowledge their error, stand up as spiritual men, and began dispensing real food. But to this date, they have not.
As time passes, it becomes more and more probable that the Governing Body will not release its grip on the faith of our brothers. Instead of preparing fresh nourishing wholesome food (the plain and open teachings of Jesus), they continue to dispense leftovers (the matters under the old Jewish system), and reheated fast food (the commands of men). We have led them to the life-giving waters of truth, but they will not drink!
Sadly, the problem with the association of Jehovah’s Witnesses is not with the 8 million, it is with the 8 – the Governing Body. They are proving to be the obstacle that continues to stumble the ‘least’ of Christ’s brothers. It is the Governing Body that is shutting up the kingdom of the heavens, for we know that if the Governing Body were to publish that the door to the heavens is open to all and re-examine their need to interpret prophecy, practically all of our brothers would readily make the adjustment in their thinking and pursue the heavenly hope. Thus, it is with regret that the patience of the Most High will run out for the Governing Body as individuals, as it did in times past with the religious leaders of Jerusalem. They will be removed from their positions of oversight if they continue to resist the Son. God is not one to be mocked. But this does not excuse the local brothers from making a stand with the Father and Christ Jesus.
How much easier it would be for our brothers if the Governing Body would self-correct. Instead of fighting against a wall of opposition, they would be riding the wave of brotherly love and support as is demonstrated by the few congregations where the body of elders recognize their sonship. In those congregations, we hear that love is abounding. The brothers enjoy close association with one another and share meals together often. The number of judicial matters is practically non-existent as the brothers in those congregations stand tall in their faith and “behave in a manner worthy of the good news.” (Philippians 1:27) Their ministry is also highly effective. They are producing not slaves, but sons of the kingdom. They are truly reconciling man to God (2 Corinthians 5:18-20) and their personal joy is increasing exponentially! By their courage, they demonstrate that if enough brothers courageously stand up, there is no need to leave the congregation at this time. (We ask those brothers, if they could, to please send us an email that paints a picture of how the acceptance of sonship in their congregations have changed the spirit. And please word it in such a way that it can be published for all our brothers to see. We thank them in advance.)
Sadly, most congregations are not blessed with so many spiritually mature sons of the God. They are greatly outnumbered by the ‘children for slavery’ who continue to persecute the ‘children of the free woman.’ (Galatians 4:21-31) Depending on the congregation, the time may come when the free sons will either have to change congregations or take Paul’s counsel:
“Do not become unevenly yoked with unbelievers. For what fellowship do righteousness and lawlessness have? Or what sharing does light have with darkness? Further, what harmony is there between Christ and Belial? Or what portion does a faithful person have with an unbeliever? And what agreement does God’s temple have with idols? For we are a temple of a living God; just as God said: ‘I shall reside among them and walk among [them], and I shall be their God, and they will be my people.’ ‘Therefore get out from among them, and separate yourselves,’ says Jehovah, ‘and quit touching the unclean thing’; ‘and I will take you in.’ ‘And I shall be a father to you, and you will be sons and daughters to me,’ says Jehovah the Almighty.”
– 2 Corinthians 6:14-18
But before taking that step, there are things we can do to develop the courage to stand where we are and as we are until that day arrives.
We can enumerate four building blocks for courage: (1) putting on the mind of Christ (2 Corinthians 2:16); (2) putting on the complete suit of armor (Ephesians 6:13-18); (3) relying on the Spirit of Truth for guidance (John 16:13); and (4) manifesting the fruits of the spirit in our dealing with one another (Galatians 5:22-23). We do a disservice to ourselves when we fail to take advantage of these opportunities to build courage.
Putting on the mind of Christ has to do with how we see matters, how we value and discern our reality. We discussed this in detail in the article Living The Truth, and we gave practical suggestions on how to do it. When we put on the mind of Christ, we are able to manifest the courage Jesus manifested when he faced situations that were designed to silence and discourage him.
The ‘complete suit of armor’ referred to by Paul is defensive in nature, not offensive.
“On this account take up the complete suit of armor from God, that you may be able to resist in the wicked day and, after you have done all things thoroughly, to stand firm.”
– Ephesians 6:13
We should never use our Christian ‘armor’ to attack our brothers. The only armor that could be used offensively is the ‘sword of the spirit, that is, God’s word.’ (Ephesians 6:17) Unfortunately we see many who leave the organization use the ‘sword of the spirit’ in that fashion. However, such tactics will only hurt the brother who has chosen that use of the sword. Those attacks are rarely successful in any meaningful way and only end up leading such a brother into discouragement and even faithlessness.
Instead of using ‘God’s word’ to attack, we should use it to build one another up. We should be relying on the Spirit of Truth to guide us in this manner. Our role is simply to preach the good news, tell the glad tidings. When we see brothers heading down a wrong path, we are admonished to warn or correct them ‘with a mild temper and deep respect.’ (1 Peter 3:15; 2 Corinthians 10:1-3; Colossians 3:12-14; 1 Timothy 6:11-12; Titus 3:1-2; James 1:19-21, 3:13-16) The Father will do any judging that is necessary.
Not only when correcting our brothers, but when having any dealing with them, we should be manifesting the fruits of the spirit:
“On the other hand, the fruitage of the spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faith, mildness, self-control. Against such things there is no law.”
– Galatians 5:22-23
It takes faith in the power of God and courage to relinquish our way of dealing and chose the way of the Christ. But in this way, we ‘may prove ourselves sons of our Father who is in the heavens.’ (Matthew 5:45; 1 Peter 3:4; Ephesians 4:1-6) And by our mature behavior, we will lead many to join us in giving glory to our Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:14-16)
When we understand and accept the plain and open teachings of Jesus, we take a stand on those teachings. We take counsel as counsel, parable as parable, prophecy as prophecy. We take Jesus’ teachings as is with no extras, no additions, and certainly not ‘by extension.’ Our Governing Body has demonstrated how convoluted our teachings can become when we violate this simple adage.
We know that acting with courage will put us at odds with the children of slavery. Their minds are veiled to the true good news. They sincerely believe that they are doing a service to God when they persecute you. (John 16:2) Nevertheless, we have a continuing obligation to try to illuminate their minds to the glorious good news.
“That is why, since we have this ministry according to the mercy that was shown us, we do not give up; but we have renounced the underhanded things of which to be ashamed, not walking with cunning, neither adulterating the word of God, but by making the truth manifest recommending ourselves to every human conscience in the sight of God. If, now, the good news we declare is in fact veiled, it is veiled among those who are perishing, among whom the god of this system of things has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, that the illumination of the glorious good news about the Christ, who is the image of God, might not shine through. For we are preaching, not ourselves, but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus’ sake. For God is he who said: “Let the light shine out of darkness,” and he has shone on our hearts to illuminate [them] with the glorious knowledge of God by the face of Christ.”
– 2 Corinthians 4:1-6
It is a sad realization that those within our congregations are the ones whose minds have been blinded, but that is exactly what has happened. Many of us will be called upon to make a stand before our congregations as Jesus warned below. And when they demand ‘a reason for the hope in us’ (1 Peter 3:15), if we are allowing the Spirit of Truth to work with us, the things we need to say will be given to us:
“Look! I am sending you forth as sheep amidst wolves; therefore prove yourselves cautious as serpents and yet innocent as doves. Be on your guard against men; for they will deliver you up to local courts, and they will scourge you in their synagogues. Why, you will be haled before governors and kings for my sake, for a witness to them and the nations. However, when they deliver you up, do not become anxious about how or what you are to speak; for what you are to speak will be given you in that hour; for the ones speaking are not just you, but it is the spirit of your Father that speaks by you.”
– Matthew 10:16-20
Really brothers, we should see this as a time and opportunity to glorify the Father through our courageous stand for truth. Though difficult, many of our brothers are in a position to be a part of a real ministry. They have an opportunity to demonstrate who they really are. This is a blessing, not a curse. Perhaps if we recognize what is at stake, not just our own salvation, but that of our entire association, we may view this as a struggle worth fighting. But if we are unable to, we have the Father’s promise that He will take us in. (2 Corinthians 6:14-18)
The Father Will Take Us In
The Father’s promise to take us in if we should separate from unclean worship is trustworthy, as we can personally testify to. The challenge we all face is whether we have faith in the promise and whether we have the courage to rely on it. Some of our brothers are losing faith in that promise. They separated themselves for righteousness sake, but now they feel practically abandoned. They expected to join a new fellowship of true sons of the kingdom wherein they can have an interchange of encouragement face to face. They hoped that there was some group somewhere in their community that the Father would direct them to who would take them in. But that was not the Father’s promise.
The Father’s promise was that HE would take us in and care for us as a father would care for his children. He did not promise that he would send us to another ‘mountain’ for worship:
“The woman said to him: ‘Sir, I perceive you are a prophet. Our forefathers worshiped in this mountain; but you people say that in Jerusalem is the place where persons ought to worship.’ Jesus said to her: ‘Believe me, woman, The hour is coming when neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you people worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, because salvation originates with the Jews. Nevertheless, the hour is coming, and it is now, when the true worshipers will worship the Father with spirit and truth, for, indeed, the Father is looking for suchlike ones to worship him. God is a Spirit, and those worshiping him must worship with spirit and truth.”
– John 4:19-24
This means that wherever we are and wherever we choose to be, the Father can take us in. We do not even need to physically leave the congregation, although that may be necessary as was in our case in order to fully accomplish this ministry. The brothers we mentioned earlier who have congregations filled with spirit-led brothers are an example of the Father taking them in right within the congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
But all who choose to leave will simply be following the example of the first century Christians who had to separate from the synagogues in order to serve faithfully. They can surely join another fellowship, but they should not look to those fellowships as tantamount to the Father taking them in. Fellowships serve the purpose of allowing brothers to sharpen one another. They can be base points for a ministry. In its highest ideal, the congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses would be bases from which they conduct their ministry, and the Governing Body would be overseers of an organization of preachers, not masters over the faith of the preachers. (See Why Does God Have an Organization? Question 4 - What is the purpose of organizing ourselves into a religious group?)
When we look to the Father to take us in, we are not looking outside ourselves, we are looking inward. We are looking for spiritual guidance and acceptance, not the guidance and acceptance of men. Through prayer, we open ourselves to the operation of the Spirit of Truth and the loving assistance of our entire celestial family. When we truly become courageous faith sons, our celestial family becomes more real to us than human helpers we are able to see. They are with us for an eternity; whereas men come and go. What a bold statement! But oh so true!
To all of our brothers who are undergoing the struggle of sonship, we encourage you to first do what you can build up your faith in the reality of your sonship with God. The Christian Bible writings are replete with such assurances, and we have written many articles expounding on those writings as noted above. Next, confess your sonship by entering into ‘the new covenant.’ (Luke 22:19-20) You need not wait for the next formal commemoration of the Memorial Supper. Have a private supper with your close friends and family who share your hope. If there are none, enter into the covenant in the presence of Christ and your celestial family. (Matthew 18:20) The Memorial Articleswe published may be of assistance to you in this regard. Next, conduct yourself as a son of God, and be about the Father’s business in widening the spiritual brotherhood and reconciling man to God. (2 Corinthians 5:18-20)
If, as you go about your ministry, you are called upon to give a ‘reason for the hope in you,’ have the courage to do so with mildness and respect. We have noticed that those who are disfellowshiped or disciplined for their stand with Christ make their stand with a tone and temperament that is inconsistent with Jesus’ teachings and in direct opposition to the fruits of the spirit. (Galatians 5:22-23)
But even if your mild and respectful defense does not cause the brothers to leave you in peace, go your way knowing that the Father will take you in. Let no man cause you to cower in fear or hide away like a leper. You are citizens of the universe (Philippians 3:20), not simply members of a certain congregation. There are so many more adventures yet for sons of God to experience in this temporal life, some of which cannot be fathomed at this time. (1 Corinthians 2:9)
For our part, we will be here for all of our brothers to encourage and empower them with the plain and open teachings of Jesus. But not only us, there is a growing brotherhood of the sons of the Father who will and do offer their encouragement and support as well. And, never forget the Spirit of Truth and your celestial family. They are your greatest helpers and cheerleaders in your exciting and eternal journey to the Father.
As we all build our faith in the promises of God, let us not forget the other side of faith – courage – without which our faith is dead. We need both faith and courage in abundance so that we can be found ‘spotless and unblemished and in peace’ (2 Peter 3:14) as we pursue the mandate to ‘be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect.’ (Matthew 5:48)
As always, we welcome your comments along with any suggestions you may have for our brothers undergoing the struggle of sonship. We will share all helpful suggestions.