.:DON’T LEAVE JEHOVAH BY LETTING SOME MAN-MADE ORGANIZATION COME BETWEEN YOU AND THE INVISIBLE GOD.
“Please don’t turn your back on Jehovah, son! I raised you in the Truth. How can your turn your back on us and on Jehovah by leaving His organization?”
“Dad, I love Jehovah! That’s why I’m leaving the organization—because it isn’t His. It’s just a group of men claiming to represent God.”
“I happen to know that it is God’s organization, son. I proved it to myself when I left the Catholic Church before you were born. The Truth is so precious to me, Johnny. Please don’t turn your back on Jehovah God!”
“But, Dad, didn’t you tell me Grandpa said the same thing to you when you left that church: that you were ‘leaving God’?”
“Don’t Leave Jehovah!”
The Watchtower argument is simple: “We are God’s organization. Leaving us means leaving God.”
Simple but convincing to millions of Jehovah’s Witnesses. And who wouldn’t be convinced? After all, hasn’t God always dealt with mankind through an organization?
And, even if the Watchtower Society has made some mistakes over the years, aren’t the churches worse? Don’t many people leave the organization to pursue a materialistic and immoral life? Haven’t even religious ex-Witnesses shown that they have left Jehovah by no longer using the Divine Name?
For the sake of those who sincerely ask such questions, a discussion will follow:
From Adam until the Exodus God dealt with individuals and with families.
The Watchtower Society argues its claim to be “God’s Visible Organization” by saying, “The Bible shows that Jehovah has always guided his servants in an organized way.” (You Can Live Forever in Paradise on Earth, 1982, p. 192) Has God always had a visible organization representing Him on earth?
From Adam’s creation until the Exodus from Egypt, God dealt with men as individuals and as families. Enoch, Noah, Abraham, and others had a close, personal walk with God, but the only patriarch with organizational authority was Joseph—as Prime Minister in the pagan Egyptian government.
Later, during their trek through the wilderness, the Israelites were indeed organized. “And Moses chose able men out of all Israel, and made them heads over the people, rulers of thousands, rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens.” (Ex. 18:25 KJV) Once Israel settled in the Promised Land, however, there is no evidence of any such tight-knit organization remaining.
The Judges organized Israel only for battle.
The Judges do not appear to have ruled through any formal structure; rather, it seems that they organized the people only when forming armies in time of war. “In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes.” (Judges 21:25 KJV)
When the people eventually demanded that Samuel the prophet “appoint for us a king to govern us like all the nations”, God said that “they have rejected me from being king over them.” (l Sam. 8:5,7 RSV) But He allowed them to have their wish, and the Jews once again found themselves organized with “commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties”. (1 Sam. 8:12 RSV)
Saul, the first king, proved unfaithful; and, of the subsequent rulers in the line of David, only a few like Josiah “did what is pleasing to Yahweh”. (2 Kings 22:2 JB) Most were like Jehoiakim who “did what is displeasing to Yahweh, just as his ancestors had done.” (2 Kings 23:37)
The organized priesthood functioned throughout this period but often corrupted itself as under high priest Eli whose priestly sons “were scoundrels; they cared nothing for Yahweh…they treated the offering made to Yahweh with contempt.” (l Sam. 2:12,17 JB)
Faithful prophets were often outcasts.
God’s prophets—faithful individuals—often found themselves outcasts, reproved and disfellowshipped by the governmental and priestly organizations.
Jeremiah, for example, was accused of disloyalty when he urged fellow Jews to leave the ‘organization’ of his day, telling them “that everyone remaining in Jerusalem would die…but anyone surrendering to the Babylonians would live”. (Jer. 38:2 LB)
Those loyal to the organization viewed Jeremiah as an apostate rebel and turned a deaf ear to his advice. Rather than join with the Babylonians as God commanded, they felt safer staying within Jerusalem, the headquarters of Jehovah’s organization where His king and His high priest were. But the prophet told them, “Do not put trust in lying phrases, ‘Jehovah’s temple, Jehovah’s temple, Jehovah’s temple they are.’” (Jer. 7:4 Byington)
The fulfillment of Jeremiah’s words proved that there are times when men must chose between loyalty to an organization and loyalty to God Himself. That unfaithful organization was dissolved when the Jews were carried captive to Babylon. Hundreds of years later, when Jesus Christ came to earth, worshipers of Jehovah were found to have re-assembled an organization centering on the rebuilt temple in Jerusalem. But Jesus applied to them Isaiah’s words, “These people honour me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.” (Matthew 15:8-9 NIV)
The leaders of God’s organized people “decided that anyone who acknowledged that Jesus was the Christ would be put out of the synagogue”—i.e., disfellowshipped. (John 9:22 NIV)
As soon as the followers of Messiah had formed their own congregations, there appeared “weeds among the wheat” – a condition Jesus said would continue until “the end”. (Matt. 13:25,40 NIV) Already in John’s day some congregations were in the hands of men like Diotrephes: “he refuses to welcome the brothers. He also stops those who want to do so and puts them out of the church.” (3 John 10 NIV)
So, while God has always had faithful individuals on earth, the organizations claiming to represent Him have often failed to live up to their names. In fact, such self-serving power structures have often become the persecutors of individuals faithful to God.
“Aren’t the churches worse than the Watchtower?”
This is a question that often troubles Jehovah’s Witnesses who think of leaving the organization. And it remains an obstacle to many exJWs—so much so that they remain totally isolated or seek fellowship only with other former Witnesses. There are several contributing factors:
- Witnesses spend years reading and listening to the Watchtower Society’s repeated attacks on other churches.
- The secular news media often present religion in a negative light.
- Most who leave the JW organization still hold to at least some of the doctrinal viewpoints that they learned as Witnesses, and so what is taught in other churches may appear wrong to them.
- There really are many problems in Christian churches.
- Some churches are actually cultic groups as bad as, or worse than, the Watchtower.
The Society loves to contrast itself with “the churches”. It paints them with a broad brush, so that all church members are held guilty along with the cleric who shook hands with Hitler, the fanatic who bombed an abortion clinic, and the clergyman who seduced a child. Witnesses who have been trained to look at everything outside the organization as “the world” easily make the mental connection, and lump together all non-Witnesses who claim the name Christian.
“Us against Them”:
This is a tactic typical of exclusivist religious groups. The “us against them” argument helps promote unity among Mormons, among ‘Moonies’, and within the ranks of many other cult groups. They all point to the problems in other groups as confirmation that theirs is the one chosen by God.
So, when certain unscrupulous TV evangelists resort to questionable money-raising schemes, or fall victim to the lure of wealth, power, drugs, and sex, the Watchtower Society has a heyday, and its followers are further cemented in their belief that all other religious organizations are of the devil.
If the choice were simply between the Watchtower and “the churches,” it is understandable why some sincere people might choose the Watchtower. But that is not the real choice. Becoming a Christian is not a matter of joining a church. It is a matter of entering into a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ.
Those who claim to be in this relationship form congregations or churches. But Jesus warned that there would be “tares” or “weeds” (imitation Christians) growing among the “wheat”—until “the end of this world”. (Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43 Phillips) And, in fulfillment of the Lord’s prophecy we see congregations bearing his name today overgrown with such weeds.
The Apostle Paul’s letters reveal that, as early as the First Century, imitation Christians were found in the churches, as well as immature new Christians who were easily misled. Among the perils of his journeys from church to church, Paul listed “danger from false brothers.” (2 Cor. 11:26 NIV) And Jesus’ messages through John to the seven churches in Asia Minor show that whole churches were in line for rebuke. (Rev. 1:4 through 3:22) Yet, these were congregations Christ recognized as belonging to Him.
We should not be surprised, then, to find that there are churches today that need to hear the same message Jesus sent to the church in Ephesus: “I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first.” (Rev. 2:4 RSV) Likewise, there are churches today that ought to be scolded with words as strong as those Paul wrote to the church in Galatia: “O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth… ?” (Gal. 3:1 New King James)
And there are modern churches that teach Bible doctrine but that tolerate sexual immorality and therefore need to hear the counsel written to the church in Thyatira: “I have a few things against you, because you allow that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, to teach and beguile My servants to commit sexual immorality…” (Rev. 2:20 NKJ)
Moreover, there are many modern churches in the same condition as the congregation in Laodicea: “ …because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew you out of My mouth…‘He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches,’” (Rev. 3:16,22 NKJ)
Were these troubled churches part of ”Babylon the Great”?
Does this mean that such churches today are “of the devil” and part of “Babylon the Great”? Well, were the churches in Ephesus, Galatia, Thyatira, and Laodicea “of the devil”? Were they part of “Babylon the Great”? No! Those churches in Asia Minor belonged to Christ—in spite of their serious problems. So, their modern counterparts may also be genuine Christian churches, although in a similarly sad state.
Many individuals in such churches, including many in positions of leadership, may be “weeds” sown amongst the “wheat” by the “enemy” Satan. Why hasn’t Christ uprooted and removed them, if the churches belong to Him? In the parable He answered, “Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned, then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.” (Matt. 13:30 NIV)
Some churches today contain mostly “weeds”, some have a high percentage of “wheat”, and others are a mixed bag. But none can truly state, as the Watchtower has claimed, that the end-time separation has resulted in their organization being the sole gathering-place for “wheat.”
Where can salvation be found?
So, persons leaving the Watchtower should not expect to be saved by joining “the right church” or finding “God’s real earthly organization”. Sharing Christian fellowship and worshiping together are important, but this saying is also true: “Being found in a church does not mean you are a Christian, any more than being found in a barn means you are a cow.”
What will make you a Christian? Scripture answers: “ …you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His…For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, ‘Abba, Father.’ The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God”. (Romans 8:9-16 NKJ)
It is just as Jesus described: “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again,’” (John 3:5-7 KJV)
This happens in your life when you personally receive Christ as your Savior and your Lord: “However, as many as did receive him, to them he gave authority to become God’s children, because they were exercising faith in his name; and they were born, not from blood or from a fleshly will or from man’s will, but from God.” (John 1:12,13 New World)
Jesus says, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.” (Rev. 3:20 NKJ) Will you open the door of your heart to Jesus? If you do, you will be re-born and will find that “because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, ‘Abba, Father!’” (Gal. 4:6 NKJ)
Joining the one true Church:
Once in this spiritual relationship with God, you are automatically a member of the one true Church, “the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven”. (Heb. 12:23 NIV)
Choosing a group of fellow believers to fellowship with—whether inside or outside of a “church” building—is a matter of secondary importance. As your new Father by adoption, God will lead you into a fellowship where you can learn from others by observing both their good conduct and their errors—and where you can offer encouragement to others through your expressions of faith.
The main difference that an ex-Witness will find is this: JWs depend on the organization as their “channel of communication” with God (The Watchtower, 12/1/81, p. 27), while Christians place their personal relationship with God ahead of any organizational involvement.
“This, then is how you should pray: Our Father…” –Mathew 6:9 NIV
Looking up Jehovah in the JW Bible dictionary Insight on the Scriptures, a reader must go through 8½ pages about the name before reaching a discussion of “The Person Identified by the Name.”
This exemplifies the Watchtower-indoctrinated mentality of placing greater importance on knowing God’s name than on knowing God Himself.
The Watchtower Society has trained its followers to use the divine name “Jehovah” repeatedly in every prayer, in every sermon, in every song. This use of the sacred name is listed as one of the marks “identifying the true religion”. (You Can Live Forever in Paradise on Earth, p.184)
So, when a Witness has dealings with Christians or with exJWs who have been out of the organization long enough to drop this habit, it may be puzzling or even disturbing to him. He may assume that the person who fails to make frequent use of the name Jehovah must therefore worship another god.
However, such could not be farther from the truth. In actuality, it was their determination to obey Jehovah rather than men that caused many ex-JWs to break with the Society in the first place. Their personal relationship with Jehovah meant more to them than the approval of the organization-men who had authority to expel them.
Likewise, in the case of sincere Christians who never were Witnesses: there is no question that they worship the God of the Bible. While not every song in their hymnals features the name Jehovah as is the case with Kingdom Hall songbooks, most churches do sing a number of songs of praise to God using that name among the many other names He is called in Scripture—not to mention their frequent use of the expression Alleluia! or Hallelujah! (“Praise Jah!”).
For example, flipping through a typical Christian hymnbook (Pilgrim Hymnal, 1935), we find these expressions set to music:
“Yea, surely is that people bless’d By whom Jehovah is confessed To be their God alone.”—O Happy Land, Whose Sons in Youth
“The God of Abraham praise, Who reigns enthron’d above, Ancient of everlasting days, And God of love, Jehovah! Great I AM! By earth and heav’n confess’d; I bow and bless thy sacred name, For ever blest.”—The God of Abraham Praise
“See, from all lands, from the isles of the ocean, Praise to Jehovah ascending on high.”—Hail to the Brightness
“My soul is longing, fainting, Jehovah’s courts to see; My heart and flesh are crying, O living God to thee.”—Lord God of Hosts, How Lovely
“Lord, wilt thou in this temple reign, Whom heav’n and earth cannot contain? O Lord Jehovah, come thou nigh And hearken to thy servant’s cry.”—Lord, Wilt Thou in This Temple Reign
Nor does the Watchtower have a monopoly on Bibles that translate the Hebrew tetragrammaton YHWH as a name rather than “LORD”. For example, The Jerusalem Bible uses the (perhaps more correct) form “Yahweh” throughout the Old Testament, and certain editions of The Living Bible use the form “Jehovah”, as does the American Standard Version – all translations produced and promoted by non-JWs.
(But, of course, none of these translations violates the sanctity of the Word of God by adding the Name in places where surviving Greek manuscripts of the New Testament say “kyrios” [“lord”] in the originals. Only the Watchtower’s translation inserts the Name in 237 extra places, using a tortuous line of ‘reasoning’ instead of translating what is there in the Greek.)
So, Christians do know and use the name Jehovah—only not to the superstitious extent that Jehovah’s Witnesses do, who seem to fear that they may invoke a false god if they fail to use the true God’s name.
But, perhaps more significant, is what Christians do call God in their personal prayers and in their worship. As a Witness in good standing for thirteen years—and an elder for eight years—I was fully entrenched in the habitual use of the name Jehovah. I began every prayer by calling upon that sacred Name, lest my prayers be directed to some other god. But, after leaving the organization, I saw the need to deepen my relationship with Jehovah God by accepting His provision for true worshipers to be “born again”, without which Jesus Christ said that “no man can see the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3-8) That experience of being born again made me change how I called upon God after that.
This is how it happened: When I believed Jesus’ words at John 3:7 that I must be born again, I prayed to Jehovah God telling Him that I recognized myself as a sinner who could be saved, not by my own works, but by the blood of His Son Jesus; that I repented of my sins and accepted Jesus as my Lord, rather than continue to follow men or my own inclinations. Having received Christ as Savior and Lord, I was now “born from God” according to the promise of John 1:12, 13 and 1 John 5:1. Then, a few minutes later, I opened my mouth to pray again, and that is when I noticed the change.
Instead of starting out by saying “Jehovah”, as had been my custom, the word “Father” came forth from my mouth—automatically, without my having thought about it and without my having decided to start my prayer that way. I just called God “Father” as naturally as I would speak to my earthly father and call him “Dad” rather than use his name “Herbert”.
Although I had spoken it myself, the expression “Father” took me by surprise. But, right away, I realized that this was a personal fulfillment of the promise found at Galatians 4:6—“Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, ‘Abba, Father.’” (NIV) Yes, having been “born of God” as a “child” of God (John 1:12,13) I now knew Him as my Father! When I realized what had happened, my eyes filled with tears, and I poured out my heart to my newly adopted Father in prayers of thanksgiving.
So, I learned in a very personal way the main factor that makes Christians refer to God as “Our Father” (Matt. 6:9) rather than always use the sacred name “Jehovah”: they “did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’ The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.” (Romans 8:15,16 NIV)
JWs are taught to stress the expression “let your name be sanctified” or “hallowed be your name” in Jesus’ model prayer at Matthew 6:9 as a basis for always using the name Jehovah in their prayers. But that could not be what Jesus intended, since he set a very different example by addressing all of his own prayers to his Father and telling us to address our prayers to our Father.
For more information see:
January – March 1998 Comments from the Friends – www.cftf.com
©1998 David A. Reed. Reprinted and posted on our website by permission.
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