Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Ready to Answer

First Peter 3:15 says, “But honor the Messiah as Lord in your hearts. Always be ready to give a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.” It is imperative that we as Christians live out this verse in our daily lives. There is no time to mope about our position/situation in life, because that centers our eyes directly on ourselves. There is no time to waste in sins, as appealing as they might be in the moment, because indulging in them brings guilt that throws our confidence and assurance out the window. There is no time to let our attitudes grow heated toward anyone, because we don’t know who’s watching.
I’ll be totally honest. I moped around too much yesterday. I didn’t want to see anyone. I didn’t want to talk to anyone. I didn’t want to do anything. It was not a good place to be, and I had to be on extra guard against lashing out at people or wandering into other old, familiar sin patterns. Other than the selfish moping, and a close call as far as lashing out goes, I stood strong. However, yesterday isn’t my point. It’s simply supposed to be a contrast with today.
I woke up this morning and spent time on my knees, asking the Lord, “Help me to honor You today in my thoughts, attitudes, and actions. Help me to think about You always. Don’t let Satan fill my head with nonsense; don’t let me listen to his nonsense. I need You. I need truth.” And with that I moved on with my day, which was great. At one point, the doorbell rang, my dad answered it, and he asked the Jehovah’s Witnesses standing there to leave; my internal response was, “I want the opportunity to talk to one about true salvation.” This afternoon I went to Starbucks (my escape for excessive coffee intake and less-distracted focus on writing projects) to get some writing done. After I got my coffee and had my computer open, I prayed for the opportunity to speak to someone about Jesus and the salvation He offers. I was there for a little under an hour, trying to make some progress on a brand new short story, when an older gentleman walked in carrying a very large Bible under his arm, seemingly showing it off to the world; my thought was, “Wow, this guy is really proud and wants people to see what he’s carrying (I prefer to conceal carry my sword).” I hoped that it was a real Bible, and not one of those New World (Jehovah’s Witness) Translations.
When he finally sat down with his drink, he noticed that I had a Bible on my table. He asked me what I was working on, and I tried to explain that it was nothing directly involving the Word. He proceeded to tell me about a website that could answer my questions about family, marriage, etc. Why those specific topics, I don’t know, but that’s what he said. Being the curious guy that I am, I wanted to ask for him to repeat the website for me, hoping against hope that it wasn’t jw.org (the only part of it I’d caught was the .org portion), so I walked over to his table.
When I reached his table, the words printed above “Bible” confirmed my fears: “New World Translation.” He asked me my name, so I gave it, and he gave me his as well: Chester (name changed to protect identity, but God knows who you’re talking about if you pray for him). I decided to ask anyways about the website, knowing the answer I’d get. But then it began. My almost two hour conversation with a Jehovah’s Witness.
I’ve read some about them, but initially I couldn’t remember much. My heart was thumping hard as the conversation began. I prayed silently that God would calm my nerves and give me the words to say, and He answered my request. Chester had the floor at first, and I pretended I was simply a seeker, wanting answers to what was in the Bible. We compared a lot of passages, and he began by “convincing” me that God the Father is Jehovah. I was fine with that, though I prefer to refer to the Father as Yahweh (it’s a better transliteration of the  Hebrew). Then he moved on to discuss Jesus, and this was where the red flags started flying, because I remembered that the Jehovah’s Witnesses hate the doctrine of the Trinity. They believe that Jesus is a separate God created by God the Father. This conversation went back and forth; I tried pointing out proof of the trinity; he tried pointing out proof that Jesus is subordinate to the Father; I tried telling him I agreed with him, and that I think there’s diversity between them though they are still the same being (the Trinity is hard; probably why they deny it). He tried to explain that Jesus was the first creation of God (Colossians 1:15 misunderstood), and that got us talking about how I believe that Jesus and Yahweh are actually the same and that both were really present at creation (see similarities between Genesis 1:1 and John 1:1), and he ignored John 1:1 (thank You, Jesus) and stuck with Genesis 1:2, about the Spirit being present. I was really happy about this move, because technically he checkmated himself. If Jesus is the first created thing, how come the Spirit is hovering before anything is created? That would mean Jesus is at least the second created thing. But when I posed that question, he quickly changed the subject.
After a while, I got tired of the back and forth—no one agreeing—so I asked Chester how to get saved, which made him really happy to talk about. I listened closely, trying to figure out his understanding so I didn’t misrepresent him in my response. It ultimately boiled down to praying, reading the Bible, and knowing that God is ultimately in charge of peoples’ destinies (interestingly, he put a higher premium on reading than praying, but God’s infallible will was the ultimate clincher). I told him I needed concrete proof to know that I can be saved in the end, because I’ve done a lot of bad things in my life, and I could die before I got home tonight (I had ridden my bike in dark clothing to Starbucks, and it was dark by this point in our conversation), so I needed to know that I was fine before I left that building. He said something along the lines of: “Don’t doubt that Jehovah knows best and will place you where you need to go.” I told him I needed assurance, but he had none for me.
At this point I came clean about my beliefs, and told him that only in Jesus is there forgiveness of sins. It was His sacrifice that made me right with God and His resurrection that gives me hope and life eternal after I am resurrected from the dead. I asked him to believe in Jesus as God and as his only hope.
He wanted to recap with me, so he asked me who the creator and ruler and greatest being in the universe was. I said, “Jesus Christ.” He winced. He asked me again. I repeated it again. He winced again. I told him bluntly that Jesus Christ is God, the God, the Creator, and in Him alone is forgiveness of sins. I asked Him to believe, and right before I left I took him back to a verse he had pointed out earlier in regards to praying: Isaiah 64:8. His prayer is that God would mold him into the vessel God wants him to be; I told him to keep praying that and to humbly ask God (Jehovah or Yahweh or Lord or κύριος or יהוה‎ or whatever you call Him in your language) if maybe the vessel he needs to be molded into is one that believes Christ is God and the only hope for salvation.
We shook hands, thanked each other for the others’ time, and parted ways.
My point in all this is: are you living a life that’s ready to give an answer to someone else? Yesterday I wasn’t. Today I was. Because of today, tomorrow I will strive to be ready again. The world will only come to know the Lord as His people speak the gospel: we are sin-full, God is love; Jesus lived, Jesus died, Jesus rose; the Holy Spirit empowers and He does God’s work through us, but never for us to pat ourselves on the back. The best way for us to do this is to live in His Word, develop a vibrant prayer life, and study other belief systems out there. My plan is to read the chapter on Jehovah’s Witnesses in Josh McDowell’s Handbook of Today’s Religions in the next 24 hours.
I don’t know if Chester was even listening to my points, but I know he was trying to ignore them and brush them aside, and brainwash me into his position. My prayer is that the Holy Spirit would open his eyes so that he would come to know the Lord. Please pray for the same with me. Also pray that if I run into him again (possibly a week from today) that I would be empowered to speak the truth again.
Soli Deo Gloria.

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