What Jesus Would Say to a Wiccan?

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What Jesus Would Say to a Wiccan Rev 2:6

*** Before 16-year-old Rebecca lights candles on the small altar in her bedroom each night, she says her prayers: “Hail, fair Moon, ruler of the night, guard me and mine until the light. Hail fair Sun, ruler of the day, make the morn to light my way.” On her altar are four porcelain chalices representing the elements — air, water, fire and earth. Each contains rose petals, semi-precious stones, melted candle wax and dried leaves. They rest on the corners of a five-pointed star. A frog symbolizing “spirit” and “life” sits on point five of the pentagram. Here, in front of her altar, Rebecca performs rituals and casts spells.

Rebecca is one of the growing number of teenage girls who practice Wicca. For the past half-century, this religion has been growing by leaps and bounds in Europe and North America. Drive to the mall and you’ll see cars with bumper stickers declaring, “The goddess is alive. Magic is afoot!” Flip on the tube or go to the movies and you’ll find witches portrayed as young, powerful and glamorous. From “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” to The Craft, something is definitely “afoot” in American culture.
1. Last week we tackled Islam because it’s almost always in the news and on our national and international radar. Our topic today, “What God Would Say to a Wiccan” has some national significance as well. Do you remember when a U.S. Senate candidate admitted that she had dabbled in witchcraft as a teenager? Have you heard that thanks to the Pagan Pride Project, pagan symbols are now allowed on tombstones of our U.S. soldiers who are Wiccan? Wiccans in Cleveland who put a hex on LeBron James as he got ready to play his first game with the Miami Heat. This is what they chanted live on a radio station: “Tie a knot against the king. May he die without a ring.”
2. But my choice of this topic is closer to home because of the inroads of Wicca in our county, our community, in our schools and in our homes. I came across a book title written by a former youth pastor that shows how this belief has gone main stream among teens today. One could make the case that this generation is the first to grow up with witchcraft as an accepted part of the culture. His book is called: Generation Hex.
*** In 2006, researcher George Barna came out with the top 12 most significant or surprising faith findings for that year. Coming in second was this report: “Three out of every four teenagers have engaged in at least one type of psychic or witchcraft-related activity. Among the most common of those endeavors are using a Ouija board, reading books about witchcraft or Wicca, playing games involving sorcery or witchcraft…Conversely, during the past year fewer than three out of every ten churched teenagers had received any teaching from their church about elements of the supernatural” (www.barna.org).
*** By some estimates, Wicca “appears to be the fastest growing religion in America.” But what exactly is “Wicca” anyway? One scholar writes, “The modern religion of Wicca, otherwise known as Old Religion, Magick, Witchcraft, the Craft, and the Mysteries, is part of the neo-pagan movement.”

*** I repeat what I said last week. Parents and grandparents, this series is really important because our children and grandchildren are growing up in a totally tolerant and accepting postmodern atmosphere, with no regard for what is true or what is false. In fact, we could say that our culture is tolerant of everything except for the exclusive truth claims of Christianity. Our children must hear biblical truth from our church and from the church that meets in our homes.
1. And this topic is especially relevant for parents of older adolescents because the demographic group that is most attracted to Wicca is teenage girls. Influenced by “Sabrina the Teenage Witch,” “Wizards of Waverly Place,” and “Charmed,” along with an openness to Wicca spun by the Harry Potter franchise, many teens are experimenting with the occult.

***There’s even a “Secret Spells Barbie.” When I looked into it, this is what I found on the web: “Hey girls! There’s a new Barbie in town! Wiccan Barbie! Now you and Barbie can hold rituals and cast spells just like a real Witch! Instructions are included for all the major Sabbats, casting a circle, love spells and more. Form your own coven with your friends.” An episode of the Simpson’s even dealt with this topic as Lisa considered joining a coven.
***Danny Aguirre, who runs a Christian hot line at the Spiritual Counterfeits Project, has noticed something, “In the last six months, I have received more inquiries about Wicca than any other religion in the 10 years I have worked here.” The demographics of the callers? “All teenage girls,” says Aguirre.

I. Preliminary Points

1. I want to make three points right at the beginning.

A. Its OK to write in your Bible.

1. Last week I made the argument that in witnessing to Muslims, we should be careful to not use a Bible that we’ve written in. While that’s good advice when talking to a follower of Islam, it’s important to underline, jot down notes in the margin and anything else you can do to get the Word in your head, your heart and out into your hands as you live it out on a daily basis.

2. Friends, we need to know the truth of the Bible if we’re ever going to spot error. I’m told that when bank tellers are trained to recognize counterfeit money, they simply are given genuine money and told to familiarize themselves with it. That way, when a counterfeit bill shows up, they are quick to spot it.

B. I have no desire to create an unhealthy interest in the occult.

1. My goal is to show the supremacy of Christ in such a way that you will be motivated to commit your life in a much greater degree to the glory of God as you live out your purpose in this world.

*** The words of C.S. Lewis in “Screwtape Letters” should be kept in mind: “There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors and hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight.”

C. I will not be going on a witch hunt in the sermon, and I don’t want you to either.

1. We should be embarrassed by how Christians in the past burned witches at the stake, including many young mothers and children. Referred to as the “burning times,” we must be quick to apologize for this because as Christ followers we are called to be kind, polite and respectful. When you meet a Wiccan your first responsibility is to love them as Jesus does and then do all in your strength to point them to the Savior.
2. I’ve read parts of three different books by Wiccan authors; and I’ve listened to a number of pagan podcasts and messages by Wiccans. I’ve also listened to a number of sermons by pastors much brighter than me. In addition, I’ve done a study of what Scripture teaches about witchcraft and Wicca.

II. What’s a Wiccan?

1. Since 2001, the number of Wiccans has doubled every year. While many studies say that Wicca is the fastest growing religion in our country right now, one Wiccan author says that, “Trying to find us, though, can sometimes be rather tricky. And honestly, that’s part of the fun.” 2. In that sense, it’s hard to know which witch is which. Sorry. Slightly more than half of Americans say that have never heard of Wicca, so if you don’t have a clue, you will when we’re through.
3. The word “Wicca” can mean wisdom, or “to bend or shape energy” and is a generic term for modern and contemporary witchcraft with its roots in paganism and the fertility religions of Western Europe. Often referred to as Witchcraft or the Craft, their worship centers around a male and female deity and rituals are practiced that revolve around the cycles of nature. This modern revival of goddess worship can best be understood by defining some key terms. I should say that most Wiccans wouldn’t use these terms but I find them to be helpful because it helps us see how Wicca contrasts with the Way of Jesus.
* Reincarnation. Many Wiccans believe that at death, the soul passes into “Summerland,” until the soul is re-birthed again into the physical world. By the way, a Pew Research Poll found that 22% of Christians believe in Reincarnation.
* Monism. This means that all is one and one is all; a mystical oneness connects us to nature.
* Animism. This is the belief that inanimate objects possess a vital life force.
* Pantheism. Similar to animism; it’s the idea that everything is deity.
*Panentheism. Deity is within everything and everyone has the deity within them.
* Polytheism. Belief that there is more than one god and/or goddess.
* Postmodernism. This is the predominate worldview today in which one’s beliefs are determined by personal preference or feelings rather than whether it’s true or not. All views are equally valid because truth is discovered by experience, not knowledge. In this view, there are no absolutes and everything is relative.
4. Although some Wiccans are devoted exclusively to the Goddess, most worship both the Goddess and the God. Raven Grimassi, a Wiccan scholar, has written, “The Source of All Things, also known as the Great Spirit, is generally personified in Wiccan belief as a Goddess and a God.”

5. It’s important to point out that the Goddess and God are merely personifications of this ultimate source of all things. The Source itself is both “unknowable” and “incomprehensible.” It is perhaps for this reason that some “Neo-Wiccans” have simply abandoned such personifications altogether, choosing rather to view the gods as simply “detached metaphysical concepts.” But for those who embrace such personifications, the Goddess has often been associated with the moon (and has thus sometimes been called the Queen of Heaven). She is also known in three aspects, corresponding to the three stages of a woman’s life: Maiden, Mother, and Crone. She was alleged to have reigned “with a male consort called The Horned One who was a nature god and was also associated with the sun.” Interestingly, this god was not only viewed as the consort of the Goddess, he was also her son as well. Each year he was born of the Goddess, became her lover, and died-only to be reborn once more the following year from his own seed! This was known as the Year God cycle and was associated with the fertility of the land and the annual cycles of seedtime and harvest.

6. Interestingly, modern Wicca shares many similarities with the ancient fertility religions of Canaan, religions specifically condemned by God in the Bible.} For instance, the Wiccan Goddess is revered by some as the Queen of Heaven, by others as Astarte. But in the Bible, the worship of Ishtar, the queen of heaven, and Astarte, or Ashtoreth, is repeatedly condemned, as is the worship of her consort, known sometimes as Baal, sometimes as Tammuz. Judges 2:11-13 we read: “Then the sons of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord . . . they provoked the Lord to anger . . . they forsook the Lord and served Baal and the Ashtoreth.” But if the only true God rejected the ancient Canaanite religions and their practices, would His reaction to modern Wicca likely be any different?

III. What Does a Wiccan Believe?

1. The Wiccan ethic, or as they call it, the Wiccan “Rede” is this, “An’ if it harm none, do what ye will.” I think we could agree with the first half of this statement for it sounds a bit like the commandment to love our neighbor as ourselves. Basically, when you put the two parts together, as long as you don’t hurt anyone, you can do whatever you want. Who wouldn’t want a religion like that? That’s actually one reason why it’s becoming so popular.
2. While denying the existence of sin, Wiccans do believe in what they call the “Rule of Three,” which states that whatever you do, it will come back to you with triple force, whether you are giving off “positive energy” or “negative energy.” This would be similar to Karma.
3. It’s difficult to really determine the worldview of a Wiccan because it is so individualistic and there is no one spokesman for the faith or one authoritative book to consult.

*** Scott Cunningham, a Wiccan author writes: “There is not, and can never be, one ‘pure’ or ‘true’ or ‘genuine’ form of Wicca…it is a merging with the goddesses and gods, the universal energies that created all in existence.”

4. Adherents are encouraged to experiment with beliefs and behavior and to do whatever works for them.

*** Here’s a typical statement from a leading proponent when it comes to trying to pin down their beliefs: “It is not necessary that your ‘truth’ conform to anyone else’s. Conversely, you cannot expect the world to conform to your truths, either.” We could say that they absolutely believe in no absolutes. Their belief system is non-dogmatic and those who follow it are, for the most part, non-judgmental toward others who believe differently.
5. While some Wiccans are part of a coven, or a congregation, many today are solitary practitioners. Actually Wiccan’s say that there are two other ways to practice:
* In a duality. When I asked what this meant, she quoted the words of Jesus (I’m sure that’s not what He meant): “Where two are more are gathered.”
* In a grove. This is where solitaries come together for specific reasons.
6. Wiccans often cast spells during ritual practices, many times inside a sacred circle that represents the elements of air, fire, water and earth, and the spirit which unites them all. They also use what they call “sacramental tools,” which can include swords, chalices, wands, canes, amulets, stones and shields.
*** When you ask Wiccan’s for some reading recommendations, one of the books they suggest is “To Ride a Silver Broomstick” by Silver RavenWolf, perhaps the most widely published Wiccan author today. In this book, she reprints the “13 Principles of Belief” that were adopted by the Council of American Witches in 1974. Interestingly, because of disagreement and other infighting, this council disbanded later that same year. These principles of belief still serve as an accepted standard, with some exceptions. I’m not going to list all of them for the sake of time, but I’ll mention a few to give you the flavor.
#1. They practice rites to attune themselves with the natural rhythm of life forces marked by the phases of the moon and eight “sabats” that are celebrated with the changing of the seasons.
#2. Wiccans are very committed to the protection of the environment and seek to live in harmony with nature, referring to our planet as “mother earth.” As Christ-followers we should embrace creation care while avoiding the worship of the world. We must preserve our planet but never worship that which is created but instead worship God the Creator.
#3. Wiccans believe in a depth of power that is not apparent to the average person. This power is lying within everyone and in everything.
#4. Wiccans are into goddess worship, along with the worship of a god. This understanding of the divine as feminine and masculine is at the heart of their belief. One author says that the real initiation involves the “bond with the lord and the lady.”
#7. The Wiccan Way believes in magick as a means of living within the world. One popular proponent of Wicca says this: “…Every act can be a ritual, and that every moment we are alive is another chance to honor the divine within and around us.”
#10. Here’s how this one is stated: “Our only animosity toward Christianity, or toward any other religion or philosophy-of-life, is to the extent that its institutions have claimed to be ‘the only way’ and have sought to deny freedom to others and to suppress other ways of religious practice and belief.”

*** Wiccan author Scott Cunningham adds, “It’s the highest form of human vanity to assume that your religion is the only way to Deity.”
#12. Wiccans do not accept the concept of absolute evil, nor do they worship any entity known as Satan. They do not seek power through the suffering of others.
7. Wiccans worship “the mother goddess” and her companion “the horned god.” They say both of these deities manifest themselves in nature. For instance, Rebecca’s prayer acknowledged the sun as the female goddess and the moon as the god. You may also have heard the goddess referred to as Mother Nature. Wiccans believe that the goddess is in everything — in rocks and in trees, the earth and the sky.

8. Sometimes, the goddess is represented by specific female deities such as the ancient Greek goddesses Artemis (the goddess of the wilderness) or Gaia (the goddess of the Earth), who was celebrated in the film Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within. Some Wiccans even claim that the goddess is Mary, the mother of Jesus. The horned god is often represented by the lusty Greek god Pan or the Egyptian god of the dead, Osiris.

9. Most Wiccans celebrate eight holidays or “sabbats” centered on the solar cycles and “esbats” centered on the lunar cycles. These celebrations are supposedly times of heightened interaction between the natural and supernatural worlds.

10. Magic and spell-casting are an integral part of Wicca. Wiccans say that spells are symbolic acts performed in an altered state of consciousness in order to cause a desired change. There are spells to overcome loneliness, to attract money, to bring inner power and to bind an enemy, among others. Witches acknowledge that spells can be used to do good or harm.

11. Wicca has no central book (like the Bible) that spells out its beliefs, so witches practice their religion in different ways. Some witches meet in groups called covens or circles, while others practice alone.

12. When you ask a Wiccan about their faith, I identified an merger of beliefs from many different traditions. I heard Jewish terms, strains of Buddhism, New Age, Hinduism, Native American spiritual practices, Greek and Roman mythology, Egyptian religion, with a smattering of Christian symbols and rituals thrown in for good measure. They even use the word “sacrament” to refer to a ritual called, “Cakes and Ale,” which seems to have been borrowed from the Christian understanding of communion.
13 They utilize the pentacle, which is the pentagram with a circle around it, the crescent moon, sticks, broom handles, herbs, candles, circles, and altars. Sexual license is held in high regard, with no consequences or judgment for whatever behavior is chosen. My two friends also talked about a “Pagan Pride Convention” that they go to each year up in Chicago. Last year 700 people attended.
14. I’ve been asked what the purpose or point of Wicca is. Here’s what Dianne Sylvan says: “The point of Wicca, the real mystery behind it all, is to remember the Divinity within ourselves and all things; to manifest our God and Goddess all the time, every day, every moment…to understand that we are the embodiment of the Divine love and nurture, and to express that love in the world; to walk as god and goddess…We don’t believe in our gods, we know them. We are them.”

IV. The Bible Way.

1. Now that we’ve learned a bit about the “Wiccan Way,” it’s important for us to understand the Bible way. Most people that are attracted to the occult are ill-informed about what the Bible teaches.
2. I’ve been helped in my understanding of this by a pamphlet published by Focus on the Family called, The Hidden Traps of Wicca. Here’s part of what it says: “One thing Wiccans have right is that there is a supernatural world that interacts constantly with the world we see, touch and smell. Unfortunately, they believe its okay for humans to interact with spirits and spiritual forces any way we choose…Many Wiccans say that Wicca is harmless and nature-loving — that it has nothing to do with evil, Satanism and dark forces. But that is exactly what Satan wants them to believe!” Check out 2 Cor 11:14-15: “Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve.”
3. In a world of “Wicca for Dummies” (yes, that’s the title of a real book), we have sanitized the occult and have taken something that should horrify us and made it harmless. Friends, it’s imperative that we go back to the Word of God so that we say what God says about Wicca and witchcraft. Jesus knew the Bible and quoted it all the time, especially when He was being tempted by Satan (Luke 4:1-13). I believe Jesus would use the Word of God and would say something like the following to a Wicca. Last week we focused primarily on what Jesus declared about Himself in the Gospel of John. Today I want us to literally walk through the Word, beginning in Genesis and ending in Revelation.
4. Wiccans are fond of saying their paganism predates Christianity. In a very real sense that’s true. I think it can be traced back to the Garden of Eden and was first voiced by Satan himself in his questioning of Eve in Gen 3:4-5: “‘You will not surely die,’ the serpent said to the woman. ‘For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.’” Wicca appeals to the desire to be God, not submit to Him. Again I quote from Scott Cunningham, “We don’t bow down to the deities; we work with them to create a better world.”
Lev 19:26, 31: “…Do not practice divination or sorcery…Do not turn to mediums or seek out spiritists, for you will be defiled by them. I am the Lord your God.”
Deut. 18:10-12: “Let no one be found among you who…practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead. Anyone who does these things is detestable to the Lord…”
In 1 Sam 28, King Saul does the forbidden and consults a witch, or medium, in order to speak with someone who is dead.
1 Kings 18 describes the showdown on Mount Carmel between the prophet Elijah and the prophets who believed in all sorts of pagan gods. Elijah challenged the people to choose sides in vs 21 and stop straddling the fence: “How long will you waver between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow Him; but if Baal is God, follow him.” This is a great example of the exclusivity of the God of the Bible. After God showed up when the pagan god of fire couldn’t get a spark going, verse 39 says, “The Lord—He is God! The Lord—He is God!”
2 Kings 9:22: “‘How can there be peace,’ Jehu replied, ‘as long as all the idolatry and witchcraft of your mother Jezebel abound?’” By the way, as you read the Old Testament, you’ll come across something called “Asherah Poles.” These were used in goddess worship, and much like Wicca rituals, this pole or tree stump was set up under the shade of a green tree. This type of goddess worship was a constant stumbling block to God’s people in the Old Testament.
2 Chron 33:6, we see that King Manasseh was involved in some practices that made God upset when he, “practiced sorcery, divination and witchcraft, and consulted mediums and spiritists. He did much evil in the eyes of the Lord, provoking him to anger.”
Micah 5:12-13 God says: “I will destroy your witchcraft and you will no longer cast spells. I will destroy your carved images and your sacred stones from among you; you will no longer bow down to the work of your hands.”
Matt 7:13-14, Jesus made it clear that the way to heaven is extremely restrictive: “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”
***A new study released by the Pew Forum finds most Americans don’t believe that there’s only way to heaven. This quote really troubled me: “57 percent of evangelical church attendees said they believe many religions can lead to eternal life…”

1. As believers in Jesus we must teach what Jesus himself taught. He is the only way to heaven and His claims are very exclusive in the sense that there is no other way except through Him. The exclusivity of Immanuel is emphatic.
2. How does this mesh in a pluralistic society like ours that values variety and excludes exclusive truth claims? It’s helpful to remember that the world of the biblical authors was filled with paganism and pluralism as well. In the midst of all this doctrinal diversity, the Bible makes some rather startling claims that run counter-cultural to the mantra of religious tolerance.
3. While some have tried to say that it’s possible to be a Wiccan and a Christian, Jesus said this in Matt 12:30: “He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters.” The Bible makes it clear that every individual is either in the kingdom of the Son or in the kingdom of Satan, in the realm of darkness or in the light, forgiven or unforgiven, saved or lost, twice-born or once-born, on the road to heaven or on the highway to hell. That means that even though Wiccans would say that they are not worshipping Satan, their whole belief system is authored by Satan and god and goddess worship is in reality an offering to the devil himself.
5. Let’s revisit what Jesus declared about Himself in John 14:6: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Let me come back to #10 in the Wicca Principles of Belief. Wiccans are very open to all avenues of religion except for the exclusivity of Jesus: “Our only animosity toward Christianity, or toward any other religion or philosophy-of-life, is to the extent that its institutions have claimed to be the ‘only way’…”
6. These passages are extremely exclusive and overwhelmingly clear: Jesus is the only way to heaven. His statements of divine authority are incompatible with the homogenizing views of religious pluralists.

***The claims of Christ are outrageous but they happen to be what G.K. Chesterton called “the wild truth.” Flannery O’Connor has said: “The truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it.”
7. Peter boldly states in Acts 4:12: “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”
8. In Acts 13:6-12, we’re introduced to a magician named Elymas who opposed Barnabas and Saul as they were preaching and he also tried to turn people from the faith. Check out what the Apostle Paul said in vss 10-11: “You are a child of the devil and an enemy of everything that is right! You are full of all kinds of deceit and trickery. Will you never stop perverting the right ways of the Lord? Now the hand of the Lord is against you. You are going to be blind, and for a time you will be unable to see the light of the sun.”
Acts 19:19-20 we read of those in Ephesus, a center for witchraft, who practiced the occult and then became Christ followers. “A number who had practiced sorcery brought their scrolls together and burned them publicly. When they calculated the value of the scrolls, the total came to fifty thousand drachmas. In this way the word of the Lord spread widely and grew in power.”
Gal 5:19-20: “The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft…”
1 Tim 4:1 reminds us that we shouldn’t be surprised that many are being drawn away to the occult: “The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons.”
9. When Jesus spoke to the seven churches in the Book of Revelation, He called out one church for harboring a group called the Nicolaitans while he complimented the church at Ephesus for hating their practices. The Nicolaitans had worked out a compromise with pagan beliefs and believed that they should have spiritual liberty to practice idolatry and immorality. The early church father Iranaeus said that they, “Lead lives of unrestrained indulgence.” Rev 2:6: “But you have this in your favor: You hate the practices of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.” Notice that they hated their practices, not the people themselves. Rev 2:15 shows that the church at Pergamum put up with their practices, even in the church: “Likewise you also have those who hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans.”
Rev 22:15 speaks of those who are in heaven as those on the “inside” while unbelievers are left out: “Outside are the dogs [that means our dog Charlie’s not going to make it], those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.”

V. What Can We Do?

Why is that some believe that the church and Christians are not providing what people are looking for? What can we do about that? Here are nine ways to live out the way.
1. Grow and let your kids see God changing you. If we believe the truth of Rom 1:16, we should exhibit it on a regular basis: “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes…”
2. Pray with your kids and expect answers.
3. Show the purpose of living a Christ-centered life.
4. Reach out to the lonely. One study I read said that 30% of those attracted to Wicca were lonely.
5. Care for the environment.
6. Take advantage of Christian community and encourage your kids to do the same. Join a small group and encourage your students to do the same.

7. Pay attention to the message of media and entertainment’s value system. In other words, watch what you watch and what video games you play. Check out http://www.pluggedinonline.com for a Christian perspective on movies, music, video games and other entertainment options.
8. Be the church.
9. Stay away from Wicca. You may think that your pastor is paranoid but this is not harmless stuff or a fairy tale. Yes, I am warning you about Wicca. There is a real live battle for souls going on today.
10. I’m really challenged by what 1 Pet. 2:12 says: “Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.”

*** Here are some suggestions for witnessing to a Wiccan:
1. Don’t become accusatory, judgmental or argumentative.
2. Don’t misrepresent their beliefs.
3. Show genuine love.
4. Put on your spiritual armor.
5. Focus on a relationship with Jesus, not religion or rituals.
*** The Bible says that all people without Christ are pagans. Check out 1 Cor 12:2: “You know that when you were pagans, somehow or other you were influenced and led astray to mute idols.” The Bible also says that we are made for another place, that the desire to connect with God is how we’ve been designed. We do have a God-created sense of the spiritual realm because God has made us that way. Ecc 3:11: “He has also set eternity in the hearts of men.”
*** Halloween is a high holiday for Wiccans where they believe that the “veil” between the natural world and the spirit world is at its “thinnest.” It’s where the veil lifts and spirits come to visit. I am so glad that Jesus Christ, God’s one and only Son, tore the veil forever between us and God. The Bible says that when He died, the temple curtain that kept people from the Holy of Holies was split in two, from top to bottom (Matt 27:51). We now have full access to Him and can approach Him at any time, on any day, through the shed blood of Jesus.
*** What would Jesus say to a Wiccan? I think He would say something like this. “I love you and there’s nothing you can do to ever change that. I am the way and the truth and the life and I invite you to follow Me alone. I died in your place, paying the full price for your sins. Confess your sins. Repent of the way you’ve been living and receive me into your life.”
You can do that right now. You can move from blindness to sight, from death to life, from being lost to being found. All you need to do is give your life to the Lord Jesus Christ.
*** In Over My Head: A Former Wiccan Tells Her Story

Kathy was raised in the church but rejected its teaching in her teens. She lived in Salem, Mass., a place with a history of witchcraft and many practicing Wiccans. “I was always kind of artsy, different and non-conformist,” she says, “Wicca attracted my interest because it appealed to those facets of my personality. It was certainly non-conformist, and I liked the mystery surrounding it.” So Kathy found a Wiccan high priestess who took her under her wing and taught her how to be a witch. “She told me it was all white magic, and that’s all I was interested in.”

But after a few years, things turned sour. “The more I learned, the more things started to spiral downward, deeper and deeper into darkness and black magic. I became very good at what I was being taught. My teacher never acknowledged Satan but did say there was something called ‘the abyss’ that we should avoid.”

For Kathy, however, that proved to be difficult. “One hot summer night I was lying awake in my bedroom when all of a sudden the room became very cold. I started to shiver and broke out into a cold sweat, although it was the height of summer. A cold wind blew in through my windows, startling me. Now I was terrified. I hugged my knees to my chest and gasped as a legion of what can only be described as black demons encircled my head, all laughing at me. I started screaming out my Wiccan spells to rebuke them, hoping they would disappear. That only made things worse. The laughter escalated with each spell I tried.

“Then all of a sudden I remembered my days in Sunday school as a child and the teachings of Jesus. I hadn’t thought about that in a long time. In a loud voice I called upon Jesus Christ to rid the room of this dark presence. Instantly they were gone, and my bedroom was once again calm and warm. My life was never the same after that.”

The next day on the way to school Kathy told herself, You have some serious personal inventory to do. She walked into a church that afternoon and has never looked back. Kathy is a Christian now and warns women who think Wicca is harmless. “A lot of women think that by practicing Wicca, worshiping this so-called goddess, that they are celebrating their womanhood. I am here to tell them there is a lot more to it than that. Lots of them haven’t had the experiences I have. But they can and will if they stick with it. It’s like the warning on a pack of cigarettes: ‘Wicca is dangerous and could be hazardous to your health.’

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What Jesus Would Say to an Atheist?

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What Jesus Would Say to an Atheist

Psalm 14:1

*** Ravi Zacharias tells the story about one-time heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali: “Ali was flying to one of his engagements and during the flight the aircraft ran into foul weather.

1. The passengers were instructed to fasten their seatbelts immediately, and all complied but Ali. So the flight attendant approached him and requested that he buckle up, only to hear him audaciously respond, ‘Superman don’t need no seatbelt.’ The flight attendant, however, did not miss a beat and quickly replied, “Superman don’t need no airplane either!’”

1. Unfortunately some people today have assumed that they don’t need the seatbelt of Scripture to navigate through life’s turbulence.

Do you know what’s amazing about this Psalm? This Psalm begins with people who don’t believe in God. And get this:
– There are 41,173 verses in the Bible and God gives one half of one verse to the atheist!
– There are 774,746 words in the Bible and God gives the atheist 11 words.
*** There was an atheist who was complaining to his friend that there’s no holiday for the atheist. Christians have Christmas, Thanksgiving and Easter. Then his friend said, “Then why don’t you take April 1st!”
About 7% of America does just that! They say, “There’s no God, so I’m a fool!” What we just read is the only dialogue God has with the atheist – that’s it! 2 sentences: “There’s no God!” And God says, “Fool”! End of conversation!
***This reminds me of a little boy who was talking to his atheist dad at dinner and said, “Dad, do you think God knows that we don’t believe in him?”
Even the most educated genius with the highest I.Q. can be a fool! The person in the natural can know what E=MC square is, but in the spiritual knows nothing about the ABC’s of God!
Think about it – the most brilliant scientist who sees a car – has no problem believing there’s a designer. He sees a portrait and has no problem believing there’s an artist. He reads a book and has no problem believing there’s an author! But when he sees creation, he denies there’s a creator! That’s really amazing to me!
*** In 1916 Albert Einstein was so disturbed that the universe was not eternal but in fact had a beginning that he wrote about this “Irritating fact”, “Philosophically, the notion of a beginning of the present order of nature is repugnant to me…I should like to find a genius loophole.”
But in 1949 he wrote, “Science without religion is lame; religion without science is blind.”
***You know, while there really is only about 7% in America who are atheist, the truth of the matter is that there’s more foolish people in America than we admit! More foolish people who claim to be Christians even!
*** There are 2 types of atheist in America:
– The intellectual – believes there’s no God.
– The practical – behaves like there’s no God.
And the most foolish person in the world today is not the intellectual fool, but rather the practical fool, the one who believes in God but their lifestyle is godless!
The practical atheist says:
There’s a God, but I’m going to live without him.
There is a Bible, but I’m not going to live by it.
There’s a Lord’s Day, but I’m going to sleep it away or go fishing all day!

What is a Christian Atheist? It is someone who believes in God but lives as if God does not exist. These people’s lives do not reflect the reality, the grace or the power of God in any way. Do you know people who believe in God but do not fear Him? Do you know people who believe in God but worry all the time? Do you know people who believe in God but never share their faith? Do you know people who believe in God but see no value in the local church? It is so sad to see people attend church for 10 or 20 years and never change. How can someone believe in Jesus enough to get them out of hell, but not actually enough to change the way they live?
*** The most famous atheist of our day was Madelyn Murray O’Hare. Her son William quotes her as saying…“I’m an atheist, not because I’ve searched behind every star and looked under every rock to prove there’s no God. I’m an atheist because I want to live my life as if there’s no God.”
*** Pope Francis Says Atheists Who Do Good Are Redeemed, Not Just Catholics

Pope Francis rocked some religious and atheist minds today when he declared that everyone was redeemed through Jesus, including atheists.

During his homily at Wednesday Mass in Rome, Francis emphasized the importance of “doing good” as a principle that unites all humanity, and a “culture of encounter” to support peace.

Using scripture from the Gospel of Mark, Francis explained how upset Jesus’ disciples were that someone outside their group was doing good, according to a report from Vatican Radio

Of course, not all Christians believe that those who don’t believe will be redeemed, and the Pope’s words may spark memories of the deep divisions from the Protestant reformation over the belief in redemption through grace versus redemption through works.

I. Angry Atheists

1. A true atheist actively denies the existence of God. From Time Magazine’s cover story in 1966 that asked the question “Is God Dead?” to some odd atheists like Madalyn Murray O’Hair who were relatively easy to dismiss, it seems that today the playing field has changed with the advent of some really intelligent “scientific” atheists who strike me as angry and abrasive. Also known as the “new atheists,” their attacks have become more prominent and pointed as their books have gone main stream.

*** One could make the argument that in the past 10 years or so, atheism has found its voice in our culture. In 2007, the Lilly Endowment funded a survey by Trinity College that revealed that 15% of Americans now cite “no religion” when asked for their religious preference. Granted, saying you have “no religion” is not the same as being an atheist but one could make a strong case that more and more people are opting out of belief in God.

2. In preparation for this message, I listened to part of an audio book by atheist and best-selling author Richard Dawkins called, “The God Delusion.” I was struck by his angry diatribe against religion. At one point he declared that to raise a child in one’s faith is “child abuse.” I was going to play a section of the audio recording of chapter two from his book but I decided that I couldn’t do it because it’s filled with blasphemy and other bombastic language that should never be used in referring to our Holy God. It makes me wonder why He’s fighting a God He doesn’t even believe exists.

***G. K. Chesterton once said, “After meeting an atheist, I became a Christian.” I can see why.

***Another book that I skimmed this week is written by Christopher Hitchens with the title, “god is not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything.” Like Dawkins, he believes that religion does more harm than good. Listen to what he writes on page 217: “How can we ever know how many children had their psychological and physical lives irreparably maimed by the compulsory inculcation of faith?” Check out some of the chapter titles:

* “Religion Kills”

* “Revelation: the Nightmare of the ‘Old’ Testament

* “The ‘New’ Testament Exceeds the Evil of the ‘Old” One

3. While I’m certainly no expert, and these guys are much smarter than me, neither of them offered any compelling evidence to not believe in the existence of God. Instead, they used venomous language to lambast people of faith. I was both underwhelmed by their arguments and grieved for the state of their souls. In particular, I’m saddened for Christopher Hitchens because he now has cancer and is still rejecting the Lord and making fun of Christians who are praying for him.

4. Interestingly, because we live in a “scientistic” culture, when someone who is a scientist speaks, almost everyone grants him or her undue authority irrespective of what the topic is. While Hitchens and Dawkins are indeed experts in their fields, they are not really qualified to make philosophical and religious assertions. Even the brilliant physicist Stephen Hawking, in his new book, “The Grand Design,” seems to go out of his way to argue that the laws of physics show there is no need for a supreme being. But he then makes a god out of gravity in an effort to argue that “the universe can and will create itself from nothing.”

5. There are many different ways to approach atheism and to argue for the existence of God. I find Dr. William Lane Craig’s arguments compelling:

1. The cosmological argument – the universe came from something rather than nothing.

2. The teleological argument – the complexity in the universe presents the case for an intelligent designer.

3. The moral argument – true morality comes from God.

4. The resurrection of Jesus – the evidence of the resurrection has not been refuted.

5. The immediate experience of God – experience as evidence for God.

6. These philosophical arguments would take an entire sermon series to flesh out so instead I’m going to walk through the Word today, like we’ve done the past two weeks. Partly in response to these arguments, a parody had been propagated called, “The Flying Spaghetti Monster,” which atheists sometimes use to show how absurd it is to believe in a Supreme Being. The central belief is that an invisible and undetectable Flying Spaghetti Monster created the universe after “drinking heavily.” I believe that Jesus would just shrug this off and go right to the Bible for his answer to an atheist. Let’s start at the beginning.

***God Just Is

The Book of Genesis gets its name from the Hebrew – It’s the book of “beginnings.” Look at the first four words: “In the beginning God…” By the way, this is the first instance of baseball in the Bible – “in the big inning.” This is a declaration that God has always been; He’s had no beginning and He will have no end.

Did you notice that Genesis 1:1 is a simple declaration of the existence of God, and does not provide an explanation for His existence? The Bible just assumes that He is. He is eternal. He is here today. He was here yesterday. And He will be here tomorrow. He was, He is, and He will be.

II. Don’t Be a Fool

1. It’s a pretty bad deal to be called a fool by someone. It’s even worse to be called a fool by God. Check out the first part of Psalm 14:1: “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.” The word for “fool” here means someone who is as stubborn as an animal. This kind of fool does not have a mental problem in his head; he has a moral problem in his heart. Notice that the fool says this to himself. Instead of proclaiming his atheism publicly, he privately lives as if there’s no God.

I wonder how many of us do the same thing. We publicly proclaim that we’re following Christ but if someone were to follow us around all day, record everything we say, monitor everything we think, note how many times we pray, look at how much we give, and measure the unforgiveness in our heart, would they conclude that we’re a Christian? Are we essentially just doing what we want and living as if God does not exist? In that sense, aren’t we practical atheists when we live like that?

2. The second part of this verse helps us see that beliefs lead to behavior. If people persist in believing that there is no God, they will act accordingly. Once God is effectively removed from our heads and our hearts, then there will be consequences in our character: “They are corrupt…” and in our conduct: “their deeds are vile; there is no one who does good.” The word for “vile” means “rotten, putrid, and decayed.” The implications of atheism are crucial because everything crumbles with God out of the picture. There is then no basis for morality, no purpose in pain, no reason for existence and no hope for the future.

*** There is a podcast last week called, “The Good Atheist.” I think the name was tongue-in-cheek because the tagline was: “Chilling Tales of Godlessness.” I decided to hang in there and give it a chance but I had to turn it off because of all the cussing, the vulgar talk and the countless times that they took the Lord’s name in vain. I understand why they cuss and talk vulgar because if they don’t believe God exists, then why not do whatever you want and say whatever you’d like? But I don’t get why they take the Lord’s name in vain if they are convinced He doesn’t even exist. That doesn’t add up to me.

A. Creation Cries Out Ps. 19:1-6, 7-14

The Bible makes it clear that there is evidence for God everywhere. We don’t have to look far to see Him because He’s displayed His beauty in creation. Turn over a few pages to Psalm 19.

1. He’s revealed Himself in the world. We see this in verses 1-6. We’ll look just at verses 1-2: “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge.” God is everywhere present and He’s left his fingerprints all over creation. The earth is marked, if you will, by a sign that declares in bold letters: Made by God.

2. He’s revealed Himself in the Word. Look at vs 7: “The Law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul…” God has not only revealed Himself in a general sense through His creation of the world but has also made known His character through His Word. The Bible is bursting with direct statements from God about God – and it reveals His mind, His heart, and His will for us.

3. Our response should be worship. Check out vs 14: “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.”

B. The Living Word Reveals God

When we come to the New Testament, we read in John 1:18 that Jesus has made the Almighty apparent: “No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known.” That means when we understand Jesus, we understand God, for He is God. God’s primary vehicle for self-disclosure is through Jesus Christ. The Bible teaches in Heb. 1:3 that “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His being…” Jesus reveals who God the Father is. Jesus would say to an atheist just what He said in John 8:19, “If you knew me, you would know my Father also.”

In my Bible reading one day last week I came across a verse that reminded me once again that for some people even when they are given a boatload of evidence including many miracles and overwhelming proof, they will still refuse to repent and receive what Jesus offers. Why is that? Because for some, the issue is not lack of evidence, but is rather a refusal to believe in spite of all the evidence. I find John 12:37 really compelling: “Even after Jesus had done all these miraculous signs in their presence, they still would not believe in him.”

***The Christian apologist Josh McDowell tells about a student who once told him that all of his questions and problems had been answered. McDowell then asked, “Are you then going to become a Christian?” The student told him that he did not want to do that. When McDowell asked why, he said, “Frankly, because it would mess up the way I’m living.”

III. Evidence for God’s Existence is Evident Rom 1:18-20

Turn now to Rom 1:18-20 where at least three truths become clear.

A. God expresses His wrath toward those who suppress the truth. Vs. 18

We see this in vs 18: “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness.” We tend to reject the doctrine of God’s wrath but because He is righteous, He must express His wrath against unrighteousness. The word “suppress” means “to hold down.” To deny God’s existence is exhausting and ultimately futile because it’s impossible to suppress. Let me demonstrate with this spring.

B. God has clearly revealed Himself. Look at vs 19:

“Since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them.” Abraham Lincoln once said, “I can see how it might be possible for a man to look down upon the earth and be an atheist, but I cannot conceive how he could look up into the heavens and say there is no God.”

C. We have no excuse to not believe. Rom 1:20

Romans 1:20 states that the evidence for God’s creative power is clearly evident: “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities-his eternal power and divine nature-have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.” Henry Bosch has pointed out this example of God’s careful and marvelous design: “The earth rotates on its axis at approximately 1000 miles per hour. If that had been 100 miles per hour, our days and nights would be ten times longer, and our planet would alternately burn and freeze.”

*** In his book called, “The Reason for God,” Timothy Keller states that the real challenge is not to prove that God exists, but to recognize that people already suspect that God exists. He’s revealed Himself in nature and we know about Him by nature. And because He is the Creator, He is greater than that which He has created. It’s not that people can’t know God; it’s that some don’t want God. But, this natural revelation of God is limited. We can know the power of God by observing His creation, but we can’t know His love. For that we need His Word and we need the gospel.

***An Atheist Sees the Light Here’s some of what he had to say.

“I wish I had insight!! But, I was only a fool pretending to be wise and informed…I valued the praise of men…I felt superior by denying God…Atheism is more about denying the evidence of God all around you than believing God does not exist…One thing is common among most: their interest in learning. Getting an atheist like this into the Bible is the best way to set them up for a conversion by the Holy Spirit. In all likelihood, most atheists will think very little of a Christian and reject what they say without even hearing their words; nobody could have said anything to me that I’d have listened to. I was only interested in myself, I had no profound convictions, only bringing praise to myself…To the man with knowledge, the serpent is logic and the venom is pride.

The atheist that doesn’t believe God can exist in a world with so much bad will have a hard time being convinced by others…We cannot convince them their ways are wrong, we are not the Holy Spirit nor can we fulfill the role of the Holy Spirit. A man that considers himself wise does not seek the counsel of those he considers foolish. I would warn against getting into confrontations or debates; the atheist is likely to approach the debate with anger towards your ignorance (and ours towards their blasphemy). “A gentle answer turns anger away. But mean words stir up anger [Prov 15:1].” Gently warn them — do not quote their ruin — we know not what their hearts are or will be at the time they meet their Savior.

*** Foundation of Faith

When it all comes down to it, while there is ample evidence for the existence of God, the exercise of faith is foundational. We can’t just trust God on the basis of logic and reason. Hebrews 11:6: “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”

*** I’m reminded of the story about the little boy who was growing up in an atheist home. He turned to his dad one day and asked, “Daddy, does God know that we don’t believe in Him?” Phil 2:10-11 teaches that every Atheist will eventually bow before the Lord and recognize not only His existence but His supremacy, righteousness, justice and holiness. Unfortunately, for many it will be too late to be saved: “That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

IV. Reaching Atheists

1. Love atheists. Before speaking to an atheist first make sure that your heart is filled with love.

2. Ask questions. Most atheists hold to their beliefs for a reason.

***According to the Dare2Share ministry, there are four basic questions you can ask an atheist.

* “What do you mean by that?” (This makes them define the terms in their argument.)

* “How do you know that to be true?” (This makes them explain the logic of their argument.)

* “What difference does it make?” (This makes them defend the value for their argument.)

* “What if you’re wrong?” (This makes them think the unthinkable.)

Here are 12 additional questions that will help move them to the logical end of their beliefs.

“What do you mean by ‘atheist’?”

“Do you mean there is absolutely no God?”

“Do you mean that you don’t know personally if there is a God?”

“How do you know that there is no God?”

“Have you been everywhere in the universe?”

“What solid evidence can you produce to prove your position?”

“What difference has atheism made in your life?”

“Has it given you a purpose to live for?”

“What fulfillment has it brought you?”

“What if you’re wrong and the God of the Bible is real?”

“If you’re right, I have nothing to worry about, do I?”

“But if you’re wrong, what are the consequences?”

3. Know your Bible. This is really the main application for every one of the sermons in this series.

*** In September of this year, the Pew Forum on Religious and Public Life released some stunning results of a survey about the Bible, Christianity and other world religions. It turns out that atheists answered more questions correctly than evangelicals! We actually came in fourth place, with atheists and agnostics sharing the top spot; followed by Jews and Mormons (we’ll be addressing “What Jesus Would Say to a Mormon” next week). Friends, this is a survey we should have nailed. I’m not one to bring up Packer football illustrations but we need to do what legendary coach Vince Lombardi did when he took his team back to the basics of football. With his players huddled around him, he held up a football and famously said, “This is a football.” Brothers and sisters, “This is a Bible!”

*** Unfortunately, there has been a continuing decline in biblical knowledge even though we have access to more Bible teaching than any Christians in history. I am pleased to report one bright spot in the study. Those who attended worship services weekly performed better on the survey so it appears that something is sticking on Sundays.

4. Let your kids question but help them find answers. I’m told that the decline of faith among parents in Germany is leading to a whole generation of children growing up with an “atheist mindset” and the belief that “faith doesn’t matter.” The idea of a singular truth has become so unpopular that it is widely regarded as dangerous, arrogant and potentially violent.

*** Os Guinness has said that the biblical view of truth has become “obscene to modern minds” and is taken by many to be exclusive, intolerant and divisive.

Parents, while some children hold on to atheism through reason and logic and science, others are wrestling with serious questions about evil, miracles and prayer. Still others find the Christian faith to be too difficult so they just kind of drift away. And others want to just have fun. But the part that has really rocked me recently is that we as parents sometimes fall into the same kinds of things, and our kids notice.

*** One blogger writes: “What we’ve lived in our homes, private lives, churches, workplaces and friendships have spoken louder. We are the ones who appear to not believe in the God we say is real.”

***The Centrality of the Cross

An atheist once said, “If there is a God, may He prove Himself by striking me dead right now.” Nothing happened. “You see,” he said. “There is no God.” To which his friend replied, “You’ve only proved that He is a gracious God.”

We’re reminded of God’s grace when we celebrate communion as we fasten our seatbelts to the foundation of our faith – the death, burial, resurrection, ascension and second coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus is both “super-man” and “super-God.” How can we not but serve Him with all that we have? My former atheist friend puts it like this: “You cannot give up your life to something without letting it take part in your life for more than an hour a week!”

What Would Jesus Say to a Mormon?

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What Jesus Would Say to a Mormon Heb 1:1-2

1. As we come to the final sermon in this series, some of you might wonder why we’re looking at a group that seems to be up close to us. Most of us understand why we would preach about Muslims, Wiccans and Atheists, but isn’t Mormonism a Christian religion?

2. Others of you might be a bit fuzzy about what it is that Mormons believe. It’s my hope that by putting on the lens of Scripture our own faith will come into greater focus.
3. The Holy Spirit according to Paul explicitly said that in later times some will fall away. Now if the Holy Spirit explicitly says something you best pay attention to it. This particular prophesy has never been more fulfilled than in the Mormon church. Paul said that in the later times or you can translate that in the latter times or in the latter days many will fall away from the faith. It is interesting to note that the Mormons known as the church of the “latter day” saints like what

*** Harry Ironside said when he was talking to a Mormon once. The Mormon said, “Excuse me sir I am a member of the church of the latter day saints. What are you and he said “I am a member of the church of the former day saints.” what he was saying was I am a member of the church of the saints who go back strictly and only to the New Testament.

4. We are going to find that Mormonism is one of the most vicious and pernicious and perverted aberrations of Christian truth that you can find. Now there are some people who get upset when you talk about the faith of other religions. But I want you to know that Jesus would be upset if we didn’t. For Jesus said that anyone other than orthodox Christians who profess to be Christians are indeed wolves in sheep’s clothing.

5. I will say again that your average Mormon is an industrious, clean-living, moral, upright, forthright citizen. But we are not dealing with their deportment. We are dealing with their doctrine. We will find out that the cornerstone of their religion is a man just like the cornerstone of our religion is a man. But the cornerstone of our religion is Jesus while the cornerstone of their religion is Joseph Smith.

6. We need to be reminded once again of what John said in his second epistle vs 9 “Anyone who goes too far and does not abide in the teaching of Christ does not have God. The one who abides in the teaching he has both the father and the son.” So I say at the outset to the Mormon and about the Mormon if you are wrong about Jesus it doesn’t matter what you believe about Joseph Smith.

I. The Positives of Mormonism

1. Let me say up front that this sermon is not meant to be an attack on any individual and will not be presented in a spirit of arrogance or anger. I want to echo what the Apostle Paul said in 1 Tim 1:5: “But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.” Here at MBC we want to love people just like Jesus does. There are many positive things about Mormons.

2. Here are some that come to mind. Granted, these are generalizations, but I think they’re true for the most part.
• They are very kind.
• They love to serve. They work tirelessly to help with the flood cleanup in this community.
• They care about what they put in their bodies. No alcohol, illegal drugs, coffee or tea are allowed.
• They are not afraid to stand up for moral matters. They worked very hard in California in 2008 to support Prop 8 which banned same-sex marriage.
• They care about our country. Glenn Beck, Mitt Romney, Harry Reid and Orrin Hatch are practicing Mormons.
• They are very family-oriented.
• They have outstanding music from the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.
• They believe in education. Brigham Young University is world-renowned.

A. Mormon History
1. I don’t want to bore you with too much history, but it is important to understand a few things, especially as it relates to Joseph Smith, who was the first prophet and founder of Mormonism. You see, the entire Mormon Church rests upon the foundation of its history in America and it originates solely from the visions of Joseph Smith. The 10th Mormon President and Prophet, Joseph Fielding Smith, put it this way: “Mormonism must stand or fall on the story of Joseph Smith.”
2. It’s important to understand that Mormonism is only 190 years old. In 1820, at the age of 14, Smith claimed to have a vision when he was seeking God’s direction about which church he should join. He was told to join none of them because all of them were “wrong…that all their creeds were an abomination… [And] that those professors [of those churches] were all corrupt.”
3. Three years later, he allegedly had another vision and this time a person (or angel) named Moroni told him about some hidden golden tablets. He had four other appearances and eventually translated these tablets from “Reformed Egyptian” into the Book of Mormon in 1830. Smith that after he translated the golden tablets, he was ordered to destroy them, and that while translating them, if anyone else looked upon them they would die.
4. Smith also claimed that John the Baptist appeared to him and Oliver Cowdery and anointed them with the Aaronic Priesthood. They then baptized each other for the remission of sins. Several months later, Peter, James and John reportedly appeared physically to them and conferred the Melchizedek Priesthood upon them.
5. After moving around because of persecution over their practice of polygamy, Smith was arrested and later killed by the militia in Carthage, Illinois in 1844. A struggle for leadership ensued, with Brigham Young becoming the next president and prophet. He led them westward where they founded Salt Lake City.
6. According to their own statistics as published in their official magazine called, “Ensign,” as of 2009, there were 14 million Mormons meeting in about twenty-five thousand congregations. In addition, they have around 52,000 full-time missionaries and 130 Temples. With a presence in over 140 nations, some have said that if Mormonism continues to grow at its present rapid rate, there will be five hundred million Mormons by the year 2040.
7. I should say that the official name for Mormonism is “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.” Instead of using this longer title, I’m going to be using the names “Mormon” and “Mormonism.”

B. Mormon Beliefs
***There is so much material as it relates to Mormon beliefs that I’m going to have to just pick a few areas and summarize. I think it will become readily apparent that Mormon doctrine differs greatly from biblical Christianity. I’m drawing this material from their primary sources, from a book called, “Searching for the Truth” from Group Publishing, from a book called, “Mormonism Explained” by Andrew Jackson and from “Reasoning From the Scriptures with Mormons” by Ron Rhodes. If you’d like to do some more study on Mormonism, see Utah Lighthouse Ministry and Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry.
1. Authority. Mormons consider the Bible to be very important, though they use only the KJV, and then only if it’s their “corrected version.” They also follow the “Book of Mormon,” “The Doctrine and Covenants” and “The Pearl of Great Price” which are revelations for the Americas. Let me quote from the beginning of the Book of Mormon to show the place they give to their sacred writings: “The Book of Mormon is a volume of holy scripture comparable to the Bible.” This is what Joseph Smith said a few paragraphs later, “I told the brethren that the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book.”
We could say that Mormons put on the lens of the Book of Mormon when reading and interpreting the Bible. This book even refers to Christians as fools for only believing in the Bible. Listen to this quote from 2 Nephi 29:6 – “Thou fool, that shall say: ‘A Bible, we have got a Bible, and we need no more Bible…’”
*** A pastor who lives in Salt Lake City stated how difficult it is to appeal to the Bible because Mormons follow other writings and the “Living Prophet,” which is the President of the Church. He speaks infallibly and authoritatively when addressing doctrinal and church matters because they believe God is giving continual revelation to him and through him to the church. An example of this is what happened in 1978 when the head prophet declared a new “revelation” that allowed African American men to be ordained to the priesthood, reversing a doctrine that had been in place for 140 years.
*** Ezra Taft Benson, the 13th President of the Mormon Church, said this in 1980: “The living prophet is more vital to us than the standard works.” That would be not only the Book of Mormon, and the Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price, but also the Bible.

*** Joseph Smith said this “We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly; we also believe the book of Mormon to be the word of God,’ now at first glance you think that they are simply putting the book of Mormon on the same level as he Bible which is bad enough in and of itself to listen again to what Joseph Smith says, “I told I the brethren that the book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth and the keystone of our religion. And a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts than by any other book.

*** As a matter of fact Joseph Smith felt that the Bible was incorrect in many of its translations and therefore he went about correcting some errors in the Bible and formulating his own translation which has become known as the” inspired version of the Bible.” Now he had to do this for the obvious reason that to leave the Bible as it is directly contradicts some precious Mormon doctrine. For example in Joseph Smith’s version we are told in Gen. 3 that Satan rebelled against God because he first offered to come as man s redeemer and God turned his offer down. We are told in Gen. 6 that Adam was baptized by immersion. Then there is a prophesy that Joseph Smith inserts in the 50th chapter of the book of Genesis which establishes him as a greater authority than the Lord Jesus Christ. “And that seer will I bless and his name hall be called Joseph and it shall be after the name of his father for the thing which the Lord shall bring forth by his hand shall bring my people unto salvation. In other words Jesus is not good enough to bring salvation. Only Joseph Smith can do that. And so God’s final and ultimate revelation has been not through the Lord Jesus Christ but through Joseph Smith. We might note that that directly contradicts the word of God for we are told in Hebrews 1:1-2 “God after he spoke long ago to the fathers and the prophets in many portions and in many ways in these last days has spoken to us in his son.” That is, Jesus Christ is God’s full and final revelation, to this world.

***Then there are other sacred works that they consider to be on a par with the Bible. The first is doctrines and covenant; these are new revelations that were given to Joseph Smith concerning baptism for the dead, celestial marriage and polygamy. It is interesting to note that the book of Mormon is silent about the first two things and it denounces polygamy. Then there is the book, the pearl of great price. These are their articles of faith. These are additional revelations that were given to Joseph Smith beyond the doctrines and covenants. So the first thing we need to notice here is that not only is the word of God looked upon as inferior and in need of correction. It is indeed placed beneath the other 3 works by Joseph Smith as the authority of the Mormon church.

2. God the Father. Joseph Smith said this in his “King Follet” sermon, “God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man.” He is married to a physical wife and has “progressed” to godhood as one of many gods. Joseph Smith said it like this in his own words: “The Father has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man’s…” (“Doctrine and Covenants,” 130:22).

*** God according to Mormon theology is not a spirit. Rather he is a body. He has material substance for his being. He is flesh and blood. You can feel God, touch God, see God and in fact you could taste God if you could bite him. God in other words is simply an exalted man. Joseph Smith said and I quote, “God himself was as we are now and is an exalted man.” Now where do they get this belief? Well, they quote verses such as “God’s ears are not dull that he cannot hear, and his arm is not so short that he cannot save. And they say, you see God has arms and God has ears. He has eyes just like we do. But they fail simply to understand that the Bible uses what we call anthropomorphic language. That is we use figuratively language attributing to God human qualities to help us conceptualize God.

***The Bible says in John 4:24, “God is a spirit. Those that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth. But it is interesting when’ you read the inspired version or the Mormon version of that verse they translate it this way: “God has a spirit.

***But it gets worse. Not only do they teach that God is a body and not a spirit, they believe in polytheism. That is they worship many Gods. They distinctly deny the trinity. They believe that the Gods are simply exalted men and that men are in the process of becoming Gods. Joseph Smith says how many Gods there are I do not know but there never was a time when there were not Gods and worlds and when men were not passing through the same ordeals that we are now passing through. That course has been from all eternity and it is and will be to all eternity.” In other words the world we live in is not the only world there is but there have been a great number of worlds and also a great number of Gods. Spencer Kimble, the leader of the Mormon church said this, “What man is God has been and what God is man is becoming.” In other words what the Mormons have done is to humanize God and to deify man and in the process have not only denied the trinity but they have established themselves as a polytheistic religion. Joseph Smith aid this, I have always declared God to be a distinct personage. Jesus Christ a separate and distinct personage from God the father and that the Holy Ghost was a distinct personage and a spirit, and these 3 constitute 3 distinct personages and 3 Gods,” he said elsewhere, “the doctrine of a ‘plurality of Gods (that is many Gods) is as prominent in the Bible as any other doctrine. It is all over the face of the Bible. It stands beyond the power of controversy. You see the best of Mormon men and women are going to become Gods themselves.

*** When you ask the question then how did the one we referred to as God with a capital g become our God? Here is the answer. “The heads of the Gods appointed one God for us.” That is in eternity’ past there was a council of Gods and these Gods appointed our God to be the God of this earth the: he goes on to say, “And when you take that view of the subject it sets one free to see all the beautiness, holiness and perfection of the God” of course our answer to that is we don t worship 3 Gods but we worship one God in 3 persons. We do not worship 3 Gods nor many Gods. There is only one God. The Bible says in Isa. 44:6, “Thus says the Lord, the king of Israel, I am the first and I am the last and there is no God besides Me.” Here we agree with our Jewish friends who quote the Shema, Deut.6:4 which says, “The Lord our God is one Lord. So understand that not only do the Mormons deny the spiritual essence of God, they not only deny his sovereignty, they not only deny his preeminence, they not only deny his Trinitarian nature, they deny the concept of a monotheistic God. They worship a plurality of many Gods.

3. Jesus. The Mormons teach that Jesus Christ was actually produced by a sexual relationship between a resurrected Adam God and Mary. Brigham Young said, “Jesus our elder brother was begotten in the flesh by the same character that was in the Garden of Eden and who is our father in heaven.” A prominent Mormon professor said this, “Jesus was the offspring of a mortal mother and of an immortal or resurrected and glorified father.”

In addition to this they teach that Jesus Christ was married. For as we will see in just a moment the only way to salvation in Mormon thought is through marriage. They teach that the wedding in Canaan was the wedding of Jesus of himself. At this wedding Jesus not only took a bride. He took brides, he married Mary, Martha, and Mary Magdalene. In short Jesus was no more divine than you or I can become or like many others have become. He was just the first born among many Gods, Jesus is not Lord. Jesus is not the savior. The atonement of Jesus did not secure our salvation. The death of Jesus was meaningless in terms of our going to heaven. That in a nutshell is the teaching of the person and work of Jesus Christ

4. Sin. Mormons believe that Adam’s sin was actually a good thing because it fulfilled God’s purpose of populating the earth. They don’t talk much about sin, preferring words like bad habits, mistakes, and poor judgments. According to their doctrine, Jesus’ sacrifice was not able to cleanse us from all our sins (“Journal of Discourses,” Vol. 3, p. 247, 1856).

This is indeed one of their most amazing doctrines. They teach that the fall in the Garden of Eden was a necessity so that Adam and eve could have children. You see they teach that there are many spirits who need bodies to exist on earth. Therefore it is the duty of Mormons to have children so these spirits can inhabit earthly bodies, that’s why it was necessary for Adam and Eve to sin and thus become mortal so that they could have children so it is not a terrible thing. It is a wonderful thing. Joseph Smith put it this way, ‘the fall of Adam and eve was a necessary change in order to provide mortal parroting for the spirit children of God who were ready and waiting for the experience of earth life. In other words before Adam and eve could reproduce children that could be inhabited by preexistent spirits they first had to sin. That of course directly contradicts the word of God because before Adam and eve fell God distinctly commanded that they reproduce and multiply and replenish the earth.

But it was directly because of this teaching that the concept of polygamy became popular at least for awhile in Mormon thought, you see the [Mormons felt that since there were all of these eternal spirits waiting to get into an earthly body then the more children one had the better. In fact as you study the teaching on polygamy by the Mormon church it is amazing to watch how through the years they flip flopped from one end of the issue to the other.

*** For example; In the book of Mormon Joseph Smith expressly forbids the practice of polygamy. I quote ‘here shall not any man among you have save but one wife and concubines he shall have none. In other words one man and one wife for one life. But a few years later Joseph Smith got another special revelation from God which expressly told him to take unto him many wives. And so Joseph Smith was married to almost 50 women. And Brigham Young, Smith’s successor, married 27 women and fathered 56 children. That was the official teaching of the church up until almost the 20th century when Utah applied for statehood and realized the only way they would become a state would be to forbid polygamy and so in 1890 Mormon president Wilford Woodruff issued an official declaration discontinuing the practice of polygamy. However there are many who still believe that Mormons do practice polygamy. The reason for this is that the Mormons believe in celestial marriage. That is they believe there are still spirit beings in heaven who are reproducing spirit children. Therefore there is still more and more need of human bodies for those spirit children to enter into so they can marry and obtain salvation and then go back to their celestial kingdom and they themselves reproduce more children, William Rogers former assistant to the attorney general in the state of Utah states “Today in Utah there are more polygamous; marriages than in the days of Brigham Young.”

*** Incidentally, I agree with Mark Twain on the issue of polygamy. A Mormon once approached Mark Twain and said, ‘can you show me any verse in the Bible that would speak against polygamy?” Mark Twain said, “I certainly can.’ and he said, “No man can serve 2 masters.

5. Salvation. Exaltation is attained by good works, not by grace alone: “We know it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do” (2 Nephi 25:23). And this is from Joseph Smith’s “King Follet” sermon: “This then, is eternal life—to know the only wise and true God; and you have got to learn how to be gods yourselves.”

There Are 2 Keys To Being Saved In Mormon Thought.

The first key and the greatest key is marriage. In the Mormon temple every day there are performed what are known as celestial marriages. These are marriages that are sealed for all eternity now this is very important because people who go to heaven single will never become Gods. They will always remain as angels. For you can only progress to becoming a God if you are married in heaven and are also producing spiritual children. So a marriage for time that is one that is not performed in a Mormon temple will be dissolved by death. And people so married will be single in the life to come and will live as angels and not as Gods. But those couples who are married in a Mormon temple otherwise known as a celestial marriage will be sealed to each other for eternity, their union will last forever and they can forever produce spiritual children and thus progress to becoming Gods themselves . His is so important to them that the Mormon church teaches this, ‘the most important single thing any member of the church of Jesus Christ of latter day saints can ever do in this world is to marry the right person, by the right authority in the right place.” Now the only comment I will make here is to remind you of the words of Jesus who said in (Luke 20:34) “The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage but those who are considered worthy to attain to that age and the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage.”

The second key to salvation in Mormon thought is baptism. They believe in baptismal regeneration. That is that one must be baptized by immersion in order to be saved, from this belief comes one of their most infamous doctrines, the doctrine of baptism for the dead. Thousands of people are baptized every year in the Mormon church for their ancestors who have died before them without being baptized. For they believe that a person can be baptized for a dead relative and secure that dead relative s salvation. They base that belief on 1 Cor. 15:29. The baptistry in the Mormon church is built beneath the ground. That is to simulate the graves of the dead. These baptisms must be performed in a temple. They must be very carefully recorded and there should be 3 witnesses at every baptism.

You see this is one of the reasons why the Mormons are so interested in their ancestry and why the Mormon church has one of the greatest ancestry file; in all of the world. Each Mormon is expected to trace his lineage and ancestry as far back as he can and to be baptized for every person who did not experience the baptism of the Mormon church. How very quickly what Paul simply meant here in 1 Cor. 15:29.was that if there is no resurrection from the dead (remember the context here is resurrection) than baptism is meaningless. Because baptism is to picture the death and the burial and the resurrection of Jesus and it is also to picture the death and burial to sin of the person being baptized and his being raised to a new life in Christ. It is also to picture his future resurrection at the second coming of the Lord. But if there is no resurrection then why be baptized? In other words all Paul is saying here is that baptism without a resurrection is meaningless. You see what they are trying to teach is that you can actual be a savior for someone else. Friend, I don’t need a sinner to be baptized for my sin. I need a savior to be crucified for my sin.
6. Afterlife. People either go to spirit prison or to paradise after they die. Faithful Mormon men will be exalted and some will become gods, ruling and populating their own earths. Women can be exalted only if sealed in marriage to a Mormon man. If a man and woman are “sealed” in the Mormon Temple then when they die they will be with each other in the afterlife, and once they become gods, they will have spirit children and populate their own planet: “We were first begotten as spirit babies in heaven and then born naturally on earth” (“Journal of Discourse,” Vol. 4, p. 218).
7. The true Church. From the very beginning, Joseph Smith believed that all churches were apostate, an abomination and corrupt and that his church was the only one true church. Here’s how it’s worded in Doctrine and Covenants 1:30 – “And also those to whom these commandments were given, might have power to lay the foundation of this church, and to bring it forth out of obscurity and out of darkness, the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth, with which I, the Lord, am well pleased…” While Mormons previously separated themselves from other churches there now seems to be an effort to publicly soften this stance. But the fact of the matter is that, according to them, only those who are baptized in the Mormon Church are true believers. They also practice “baptism for the dead” and have secret temple rituals available only to members in good standing.
If I had to distill their doctrine down to one sentence, it would be something like this: They lower God and lift up man. I would put them squarely outside the biblical frame of Christianity and classify them as a cult. I know that sounds strong but I say that for three reasons.
• They have an exalted and unquestionable leader.
• They have special writings which are equal to or above the Bible.
• They claim to be the only group that has the truth.

III. Three Questions

Some of you may be unsettled by what I have said. Perhaps it seems like the preaching has been too strong. After all, there are nice people practicing other religions. How can we say that they’re wrong? In light of the exclusive claims of Jesus Christ, you and I may be asked at least three questions by pluralistic people.

1. The Question of Sincerity. Who can question the sincerity of a Muslim bowing to pray five times a day or the good things that Wiccans are trying to do for the environment, or the strong family values of Mormons? The assumption here is that because people are sincere they can’t be wrong. But sincerity, or the lack of it, has nothing to do with determining truth. In other words, we can be sincere and right or be sincere and wrong.

2. The Question of Tolerance. This question goes something like this: “Even if you believe Christianity is true for you, does that mean it has to be true for the rest of the world? Isn’t that condescending and unloving?” Because Christianity does have a narrow nature to it, it has been attacked as being intolerant of what others believe.
The underlying assumption is that anything this narrow has to be wrong but a position can be narrow and wrong, or it can be narrow and right. For instance, truth is always intolerant of error. The fact that one plus one always equals two is very narrow, but it’s also right. When I fly with Scott Peterson in an airplane (which I’ve only done once and don’t plan to again), I want him to land on the runway, not the highway. I want my pilot to be narrow-minded when he’s flying the plane I’m on.
Since Jesus says in John 14:6: “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me,” then that’s true for me and it’s true for you, whether we believe it or not. We can argue all day about whether this claim has an intolerant spirit about it. Is it backed up by evidence? Are there reasons to believe what Jesus said? If so, then we must allow for a certain amount of intolerance because truth is always intolerant of error.

3. The Question of Truth. If Christianity is true, then the issues of sincerity and tolerance take a back seat to truth. It doesn’t matter how sincere someone is if they don’t acknowledge the truth of what Christ teaches. Obviously, not everyone accepts the exclusivity of Christianity—or any other religion for that matter. A Mormon and a Muslim believe entirely different things that are contradictory. They both can’t be right.
Here’s another way to say it. How can all religions be true if they contradict each other? The Law of Non-contradiction states that if two statements about one particular issue contradict each other, then there are only two possible answers: (1) only one of them is true, or (2) they’re both false. They cannot both be true in the same sense and at the same time. Since Muslims, Wiccans, Atheists and Mormons all view Jesus differently, they simply cannot, logically speaking, all be correct. If Christianity is true, then those religions that contradict it cannot also be true.
*** It is important it is to develop a relationship with them, pointing out that according to one study it takes seven years on average for a Mormon to move from doubting his faith to becoming a full-fledged follower of Jesus Christ through the new birth. He’s also discovered that while the beliefs of Mormonism are very clear, we really don’t know what an individual Mormon believes unless we ask him or her.
***What would Jesus say to a Mormon, he quickly said, “Jesus would ask them this question: ‘Who do you say that I am?’” This comes directly from Matt 16:15: “But what about you? Who do you say that I am?” It all comes down to Christ, doesn’t it? It must be Jesus plus nothing. We can’t start with Him and then add our own good works or rituals or practices.
*** This is from another pastor who ministers among Mormons: “Most rank-and-file Mormons today are utterly convinced they are Christians, and that is in large part due to the surface similarity of language that clouds the different facts and referents behind the language. As far as what Jesus would say to a Mormon…there is a long-term Free Church pastor out here who has taught the church he pastors to see Mormons as Samaritans. We have common religious history—up to a point. We have common language…which has deviated, but which still leaves them closer to the Truth than other religious traditions. And what Jesus does with the woman at the well is the tactical approach: avoid debating history and talk about life for your dry, thirsty soul found in Jesus. Jesus would say to a Mormon: ‘You’re thirsty and hungry and—though you don’t think it—guilty—and you seek Messiah—misconceived in your own mind perhaps—but you seek Messiah as the answer—that’s me. Come to me and find grace.’ Which incidentally is the same thing he’d say to all the people in your pews this Sunday. So if I were you, I’d…feed their souls, and remove the judgmentalism that is in us in regards to Mormons.”

III. What Would Jesus Say

At the risk of sounding presumptuous because I certainly don’t want to put words in Jesus’ mouth, I can with confidence communicate what Jesus has said in the Scriptures. I’m going to go back over the seven points of doctrine and quote what it is that Jesus is saying to Mormons today. Let’s put on the lenses of the Lord right now…
1. Authority. “First of all, when it comes to what you can ultimately trust, do what I did when I quoted Scripture when tempted by Satan in the wilderness and I said these words: ‘It is written…’ (Luke 4:1-12). ‘Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished’ (Matthew 5:17-18). Later on I made this statement: ‘Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away’ (Matt 24:35).”
2. God the Father. “‘God is spirit, and his worshippers must worship in spirit and in truth.’ (John 4:24).”
3. Jesus. “‘I and the Father are one’ (John 10:30).” I can’t help but quote from Heb. 1:1-2 at this point: ‘In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe.’”
4. Sin. “This is what I said in John 8:34: ‘I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin.’”
5. Salvation. “‘I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.’ ‘I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life’ (John 3:3; 5:24).”
6. Afterlife. “I don’t think I can make it much clearer than what I said in John 3:36: ‘Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him.’”
7. Church. “While some churches have lost their way, there has never been a total apostasy. In fact, I have been and will continue to build my church ‘and the gates of Hades will not overcome it’ (Matt 16:18).”

IV. What the Bible Says

The Apostle Paul really got worked up when he heard that some were bailing on their belief in the gospel of grace and turning to something that was filled with rules and regulations in Gal 1:6-8: “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned!”
He continues in 2 Cor 11:3-4: “But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ. For if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it easily enough.”
John, who allegedly appeared to Joseph Smith, along with Peter and James, gave these cautionary words in 1 John 4:1: “Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.”
And in 2 John 8-11 we’re warned about not welcoming someone who is trying to deceive us: “Watch out that you do not lose what you have worked for, but that you may be rewarded fully. Anyone who runs ahead and does not continue in the teaching of Christ does not have God; whoever continues in the teaching has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not take him into your house or welcome him. Anyone who welcomes him shares in his wicked work.” This warning is especially applicable to those who don’t know what the Bible teaches and are unsure of their own doctrine. It might not be the wisest to have long discussions with Mormons until you have figured out your own faith so that you not only know what you believe, but why you believe it.
The Bible says that those who don’t know Christ are actually blind. Listen to 2 Cor 4:4: “The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” Friends, Jesus came to restore our sight so that we can see again. Check out John 8:12: “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
And for those of us who are believers already, 2 Peter 1:9 warns us about keeping our sight strong and to make sure that we’re growing in grace. The person who doesn’t “is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins.”

V. Witnessing to Mormons

We’ve probably all had the experience of having a couple Mormon missionaries ring our doorbells. How should we handle this? On the one hand, we need to be careful about inviting them in and getting swept away by what they’re saying. On the other hand, we need to see ourselves as missionaries of the true gospel.
I’m greatly challenged by the words found in 2 Tim 2:24-26 when it comes to reaching out to those who need to be saved: “And the Lord’s servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.”
And so, don’t quarrel. Be kind. Gently instruct. And then trust God to lead people to repentance. I also like these four suggestions made by ChristianAnswers.net.
1. Be prayerful.
2. Be prepared.
3. Be patient.
4. Be persistent.

Here are some other pointers that I’ve picked up.
• Love them.
• Use the King James Version of the Bible.
• Ask questions. Don’t tell them what they believe; instead ask for their thoughts.
• Keep the initiative. Don’t let them drive the conversation or get sidetracked.
• Remember the goal is not to win an argument but to win the person.
• Focus on how to have a relationship with Jesus. Stay away from religious church-talk.
• Share your testimony. You might not feel adequate to debate every point of doctrine but you can respond like the man who was born blind and was healed in John 9:25: “One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!”
• Follow the Holy Spirit.

What Would Jesus Say to a Jehovah’s Witness?

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What would Jesus say to the Jehovah’s Witness?           John 1:1,14-17
*** Knock on any door in the United States, as well as in many countries around the world, and the odds are excellent that Jehovah’s Witnesses have been there ahead of you. They are a serious challenge to Christians for several reasons. JW’s continue to grow at a rapid pace. 1980’s ½ million members in United States 2.25 million worldwide 1998 1 million members in United States 5.9 million worldwide in 233 countries. The amount of time JW’s spend “preaching”, either in service, door-to-door, or in other public places is enormous. In 1998, JW’s spent almost 183 million hours preaching in the United States alone. In addition, the JW’s also conducted 4.3 million Bible studies for those who showed interest in their doctrines. Officially called The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, JW’s arm their members with the printed page in astounding amounts. They have a magazine called the Awake which is over 18 million copies and in 80 different languages. The Watchtower, is another magazine sent out semi monthly to instruct the society’s members in doctrine and practice, reached almost 21 million copies in 126 languages. All JW witnessing efforts and tools are designed to oppose and contradict the biblical doctrines and teachings and to twist Scriptures to make the Bible fit a preconceived theology it simply does not teach. The JW’s have their version of the Bible, The new World Translation of the Holy Scriptures, which is filled with mistranslations designed to prove JW doctrines. But just like the other cults, to fully understand where they are coming from, we need to start at the beginning. ***George Gallup states, “This is the most crucial decade in History. Designer, a la carte religion flourishes as traditional Christianity is undermined by counterfeits.”
1. This is true when it comes to Charles Taze Russell the founder of Jehovah’s Witness cult. He was born in February 16, 1852 in Pittsburgh Pa. and died October 31, 1916.
2. He lived a colorful life with all kinds of legal troubles with his religious schemes.
He was selling his so-called sermons that were supposed to have been preached on his “World Tour” in 1912 and that proved to be a lie.
Another scheme was called the “Miracle Wheat” with claims that it would grow 5 times that of normal wheat. It sold for $1.00 a pound. The Brooklyn Daily Eagle was a N.Y. paper that had national importance and it ran from 1841 to 1955. It exposed many of Russell’s schemes through court.

 

*** P.T. Barnum said correctly, “Never underestimate the gullibility of the public…there’s a sucker born every minute.”
In June of 1912 Reverend J.J. Ross pastor of James Street Baptist Church in Hamilton, Ontario published a pamphlet denouncing Russell as a minister and his qualifications as a scholar along with his moral depravity. Well Charles Russell sued Pastor Ross for “Defamatory Libel”.

 

*** In the pamphlet, Ross said that Russell’s system of theology was, “Anti-rational, anti-scientific, anti-biblical, anti-Christian and a deplorable perversion of the gospel of God’s dear Son.”

 

***Under cross-examination that took 5 hours here is just one example of the Russell answered…
Q: Attorney Stanton: “Do you know the Greek Alphabet?
A: Russell: “Oh, yes.”
Q: Can you tell me the correct letters if you see them?”
A: Some of them; I might make a mistake on some of them.”
Q: Would you tell me the names of those on the top of the page?”
A: Well, I don’t know that I would be able to.”
Q: You can’t tell what those letters are? Look at them and see if you know?”
A: “My way…” (at this point Russell is interrupted).
Q: “Are you familiar with the Greek language?”
A: “No”.
The next round of questioning was about his ordination. Russell claimed that his ordination was equal if not superior to ordained and accredited ministers. Attorney Stanton asked Russell to answer “Yes” or “No” to the next questions…
Q: “Is it true you were never ordained?”
A: “It is not true”.
Q: “Now you never were ordained by a bishop, clergyman, presbytery, council, or any body of men living?”
A: “I never was.”
1. He lost his case, and in falling to name the Greek alphabet, he proved himself a perjurer under oath, mainly because all through his ministry he claimed to base his cult on his Greek and Hebrew scholarship!
I. History of the Watch Tower
1. The history of the Jehovah’s Witnesses begins with the founder of the organization Charles Taze Russell. In 1870, at the age of eighteen, an ex-Congregationalist by the name of Charles Taze Russell started a Bible class in Pittsburgh. In 1876, the class elected Russell as their Pastor.
He founded the “Herald of the Morning” in 1879, which eventually developed into what is known today as “The Watchtower Announcing Jehovah’s Kingdom.”  Today this publication has grown to over seventeen million copies per month in over one hundred languages.
2. In 1884, Russell incorporated the “Zion’s Watch Tower Tract Society” at Pittsburgh. Today this organization has branches in over one hundred countries, and it has missionary works in over two hundred and fifty. With over one-half million volunteer workers, the Jehovah’s Witnesses have become a serious threat to Bible believers throughout the world.
. Russell died in 1916, and Judge J.F. Rutherford took over the Society’s leadership. It was under Rutherford’s leadership that the group took the name “Jehovah’s Witnesses,” and Society headquarters moved to Brooklyn. Rutherford died in 1942, and Nathan Knorr took control and boosted the membership to over two million. In 1961 the Society published its own “translation” of the scriptures, called “The New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures.” Knorr died in 1977, and Frederick Franz took over the leadership of the Watchtower Society. Franz is the current leader of the Jehovah’s Witnesses (1991).
II. What Do They Believe?
They offer a cunning mixture of Scripture verses and “almost” Christian doctrines. Their approach, like that of the Mormons, is to stress elements of their doctrine which avoid controversy. The rest comes later.
But they are an “organization” of slaves, working desperately to “earn” eternal life. They seek salvation, not by grace, but by becoming “Kingdom Publishers.”
They don’t have a personal relationship with Christ (who they say is not God), but rather they observe a system of law and works.
They devote their attention to an all-encompassing fascination with prophecy, and the “vindication of God’s sovereignty.”
They believe:
Jehovah God existed from the beginning. His first creations were two angels, Michael (who later becomes Jesus) and Lucifer. Jehovah God created all else through his firstborn, Jesus (Michael).
Jehovah appointed Lucifer to watch over earth, but the angel became jealous of Jehovah. He seduced Adam and Eve, and became Satan. He dared challenge Jehovah’s right to rule! Jehovah gave Satan 6,000 years to try to win over all humanity. When he fails, Jehovah God will re-establish his kingdom and destroy Satan and all his rebellious followers, thus vindicating Jehovah’s name (an obsession with Witnesses).
After thousands of years of this struggle, Jehovah God arranged for Michael to cease to exist and be recreated as Jesus, a human. He was killed as a ransom on a torture stake (not a cross) for all mankind. This released men from Adam’s sinful legacy, and gave them a chance to be worthy of eternal life, if they were faithful Witnesses.
When the human Jesus died, he stayed dead. He was recreated as a spirit (no bodily resurrection) and lives in heaven.
Jesus Christ (now Michael) returned to earth invisibly in 1914 (the date has been changed repeatedly) and is working through his “Organization” to re-establish Jehovah’s kingdom over the earth.
The final battle between Jehovah and Satan, the Battle of Armageddon, is to start shortly, settling the question, “Who will rule earth?” A very special 144,000 Witnesses, the only ones considered “born again,” will rule with Jesus in heaven at the end of this battle. All other Witnesses (numbering millions) will survive Armageddon, and live forever on earth, in the kingdom of the “New World.”
After 1,000 years of this utopian Kingdom comes the final test. Satan will be loosed for a while and deceive many. He and those who rebel with him will be destroyed by fire from heaven (no eternal hell, just quick annihilation). Jehovah’s sovereignty over all creation will have been vindicated once and for all.
While many Christians disagree on the order of final events, there can be no disagreement on the work of Christ, or one is not really Christian. J.W.’s bear the indelible mark of a cult: they claim Christ’s death on the cross is not sufficient for full salvation. One must believe that Jesus is God, and also in His bodily resurrection. Both are denied by the Witnesses.
In fact, Jehovah’s Witnesses deny most of the basic doctrines of Christianity. Former Witnesses point out several basic denials:
They claim: Jesus Christ is not God. Rather, he is Michael the archangel. The Holy Spirit is not a person, but an “active force.” J.W.’s are unitarians, denying the Trinity.
When you’re dead, you’re dead. Man has no eternal soul, any more than animals.
Jesus Christ was not raised bodily from the grave, but was recreated as a new “spirit body.”
Jesus returned invisibly in 1914. There is no “visible coming” planned in the future.
There is no hell. Just like animals, when we die, it is over.
Only 144,000 people achieve heaven. The rest, faithful Witnesses who have died, will be recreated on earth during the kingdom of the “New World.”
Focusing on the Old Testament, their system is a legalistic one. They forbid blood transfusions (they say that is eating blood). They also consider any salute to a flag as worship of that flag, and therefore prohibited. They don’t vote, hold public office or serve in the military.
Consumed with preparing for a “New World,” they know nothing of “New Life” in Jesus Christ.
III. The Doctrinal Error of the Watch Tower
1. Witnesses deviate from biblical Christianity in several areas.

 

First, like all the cults, they deny the Trinity. They believe there is one God, Jehovah. Jesus, is actually Michael the Archangel, the first of God’s creation, who became flesh at the incarnation. After the resurrection, He returned to heaven as Michael the Archangel.1 The Holy Spirit is not God but an active force much like electricity or fire.
2. Second, Witnesses deny the bodily resurrection of Christ, but instead believe He was raised as a spirit and manifested Himself several times in different materialized bodies.
3. Third, they deny the existence of hell and eternal punishment, but believe in total annihilation after death. Only the elite ruling class, the 144,000, are allowed to go to heaven. The faithful Jehovah’s Witnesses remain unconscious after death till they are resurrected in the Millennium. Those who are not in the organization are annihilated after death.
4. Fourth, Witnesses have a works-oriented salvation. Salvation is not based upon a relationship with Christ, but found in the organization. One must serve the society, and depending on one’s faithfulness and absolute obedience, one may be saved.5
5. Fifth, they believe that Jesus returned invisibly in 1914 and established His throne in heaven. At Armageddon, God will destroy all evil, and abolish all the world’s governments, and establish a new Paradise on earth. Then the living and resurrected Jehovah’s Witnesses will inherit Paradise earth. The 144,000 mentioned earlier will rule with Jesus. At this time all unbelievers who have died will be raised (with some exceptions) and will study under the Witnesses during the Millennium, a period of a thousand years. Studying with them will be the unbelievers who have survived Armageddon. After the thousand years, their faith will be tested because God will release Satan from the abyss. At that point all unbelievers will have to choose between Satan or Jehovah. Those who reject Jehovah will be annihilated.
6. Clearly the doctrines of the Jehovah’s Witnesses deviate in critical ways from sound biblical principles.

 

A. Their Deception of John 1:1.

 

1. John 1:1 “…The word was a god.” – New World Translation. In their New World Translation of the Bible that was first published in 1950 shows deliberate misinterpretation of key phrases by their so-called scholars. I call it “scheming scholarship” – it’s a joke!

 

*** On November 24, 1954 Fredrick W. Franz, their leading representative on the NWT Bible translation committee said under oath…
Q: Can you yourself, translate that into Hebrew?
A: Which?
Q: That fourth verse of the second chapter of Genesis.
A: You mean this?
Q: Yes
A: No!
They can’t even interpret the O.T. right, how can we believe their N.T. interpretations?
2. Universal Greek Grammatical Rule: The subject of the sentence is “word”; the verb is “was”. There can never be a direct object “a” following “was”, since verbs cannot take on an object. It is poor grammar and poor Greek to do otherwise.
3. What is this verse from the NWT saying about God and Jesus Christ?
That God is polytheistic – not true!

 

Deut 5:7 “You shall have no other gods before me.”
They get around this as saying that Jehovah is higher than all other gods.

 

Deut 6:4 “Hear O Israel, The Lord our God, the Lord is one.” (Monotheistic)
In Ex 3:14 Jehovah God says to Moses “I Am”
But wait – Jesus said in John 8:58, “Before Abraham was I Am.”
When Jesus said this – any reasonable person can see that Jesus was actually saying, “I Am Jehovah” in the flesh!
By the way, how do we know this for sure? Because in the next verse the Jews tried to stone Him for blasphemy – Jesus was identifying Himself not as a god but Jehovah God!
Now watch this – Isaiah 43:10 “…Before Me there was no God formed, nor shall there be after Me.” Isaiah 43:11 “…And besides Me there is no Savior.”
That Jesus is not equal with God – not true!
To the Jehovah’s Witness, Jesus is Michael the archangel. Remember, Mormons teach that Lucifer is Jesus spirit brother!
4. J.W teach that Jesus is a created god and they use for their proof text…Col 1:15, 16

 

“Firstborn” = origin or initiator

 

Rev 3:14 “…the Beginning of the creation of God.”
Same word as John 1:1 “In the beginning” – which in fact the 1951 Edition of the Jehovah Witness New World Translation of Greek Scriptures agrees!

 

Phil 2:6 “Who being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God.”
“Being” = it’s not the normal Greek word used, but instead Paul uses another word that stresses the essence of Christ’s person – His continuous state or condition.
“Form” = literally, the unchanging character of Christ.
“Robbery” = it’s a word that has evolved over the 1st century. It used to mean something that was seized or snatched by a thief. Then it became to mean – to clutch, embrace or prized.
“Equal” = the exact in quantity, character and number.
Key: When Jesus Christ as God in the flesh, He still had all the exact rights, privileges and honor as deity and so there is still only one God!
Question: Just because Jesus chose not to appropriate all His powers and privileges as man, does that make Him any less God? Absolutely not!
Humble = strength under control

 

Heb 1:3 “Who being the brightness of His glory and the expressed image of God and upholding all things by the word of His power…”
“Being” = His continuous state or condition.
…Same word as in Phil 2:6

 

“Brightness” = not a reflection of God’s glory but rather as God, Jesus has the same exact essence.
“Expressed image” = this word is only used here in the N.T. and in extra biblical literature it meant to engrave on wood, an etching on metal, a brand on an animal’s hide, an impression on clay or a stamped image on a coin. Here Paul is stressing the perfect imprint and the exact representation of the true nature of God in both time and space.

 

Col 2:9 “For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily…” What’s the key word here? All!
It’s interesting that in Paul’s day matter was seen as evil and spirit was seen as good. Notice here Paul takes on this false thinking head on! It was unthinkable that God would take on a human body!
Cults use our terminology but they don’t use our dictionary!
The Jehovah’s Witness are the best examples of this principle. Their massive grammatical abuse of the Bible is alarming to a real Greek scholar!

 

B. Their Denial of The Crucifixion.

 

1. They deny that Jesus hung on a cross, but rather on a stake or a pole in the ground. How do does one hang on a pole?
2. The Watch Tower Society says, “The cross is a symbol falsely used to represent Christianity. Jesus was not crucified on a cross, but on a single stake, a single pole in the ground with no crossbar.”
3. They say that the cross is legend! That it developed after the 3rd century! You know – it’s so easy to say this and never show any documentation! This is what Cults are great at doing because they know most people are biblically illiterate!
What gets me is that even secular historians and archaeologist disagree with Jehovah Witness!
C. Their Departure From the Resurrection.
1. They teach that Jesus rose from the dead in spirit only. In a debate with John Ankerburg, this was their comment on Christ’s body, “We know nothing about what became of His physical body, except that it did not decay or corrupt, whether it was dissolved into gases or whether it’s preserved somewhere as a grand memorial of God’s love.” I’ll tell you what happened to His body, “Up from the grave He arose!”
2. There’s too much evidence that proves that Jesus did raise body and all!
Why did Mary and the woman, John and Peter only see the burial cloth in the tomb?
Jesus ate with the disciples – spirit can’t eat!
Thomas touched Jesus’ wounds – you can’t touch sprit!
1 Cor15 speaks of our resurrection and it involves our bodies and Christ’s bodily resurrection is our assurance. I’ll take Paul’s word over any J.W.

 

Rev 1:5 Christ is “Firstborn from the dead.” Simply – Jesus is the first to rise from the dead with a physical body!
2. J.W. say that since Jesus did not physically rise from the dead, He will not physically return! But wait the Bible says, “Every eye will see Him” return to earth!

 

D. Their Distortion of The Word “Jehovah”.

 

1. J.W. teach that the only name for God is “Jehovah” in the O.T and the N. T. and all other names like Lord (kyrios) and God (theos) are added years later and that we’ve distorted His name.
2. Where do they get this, you ask? Well let’s look at this issue:
This is their argument from the Watchtower and Tract Society, “The evidence is, therefore, that the original Scriptures has been tampered with, the same as the text of the Septuagint (Greek translation of the O.T.) has been. And, at least from the 3rd century A.D. onward, the divine name in tetragrammaton form has been eliminated from the text by copyist…In place of it, they substituted the words “Kyrios” and “theos”.”
Tetragrammaton = the Hebrew consonants YHWH, for Jehovah. This is what the J.W’s want us to believe. It’s better translated – Yahweh!
But in reality, Jehovah is a word created by a 13th century Catholic Spanish Monk named Martini. He took the consonants of “Adoni” and “Elohim” to Latinize the word and it was very popular since then.
Now get this, the J.W. agree with this as they said in 1969, “While inclining to view the pronunciation “Yahweh” as the more correct way, we have retained the form “Jehovah” because of the people’s familiarity with it since the 13th century.”
Bruce Metzger said, “Jehovah does not accurately represent any form of the Name ever used in Hebrew.”
So J.W. believe that they need to restore the true name of God and expose the cover up and yet they aren’t!!
Their argument explodes in there face because of the evidence is to the contrary and rather elementary.
It can be shown from literally thousands of copies of the Greek New Testament and not one does the Tetragrammaton appear, not even in the Book of Matthew, which was possibly written in Hebrew or partly in Aramaic.

 

E. Their Discounting of Christ’s Atonement.

 

1. Mormons have a non-sufficient atonement and the J.Ws. are no better off.

 

*** From they’re teaching, “Should You Believe In The Trinity?” “Jesus was no more and no less than a perfect human…thus, when God sent Jesus to earth as the ransom, he made Jesus to be what would satisfy justice, not an incarnation, not a god-man, but perfect man, lower than angels.”
2. Now watch…this discounting of the atonement messes up their salvation also. If you don’t have an all-sufficient atonement you can’t have an all-powerful salvation! If Christ can’t do it for us then whose left…us! I don’t think so!

 

***The Watchtower Society states, “Salvation depends on works. Grace is more or less the opportunity for human beings to earn their salvation by total obedience to the Watchtower Society. Grace does not involve a free gift of salvation.”
Close to 200 times in the New Testament salvation is said to be by faith alone!

 

Rom 10:9 “…If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead you shall be saved.”

 

Rom 10:13 “For whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
3. What do these verses have in common? Call on the Lord Jesus not Jehovah! The J.W. mistranslate these verses if you didn’t already know!

 

Rev 4:11 – The J.W.’s translate this “Jehovah” but correctly translate Romans 10:9 – because if they did then Jesus is Jehovah God!

 

***Blaise Pascal the great 19th century Christian thinker wisely said, “Truth is so obscure in these times and falsehood so established, that unless we love the truth, we cannot know it.”
IV. How to witness to the Jehovah’s witness?
A One of the most effective ways to evangelize Jehovah’s Witnesses is to destroy their faith in the Society.
Remember, salvation is found only in this organization. The Watch Tower Society is seen as the spokesman for God. If you can show Witnesses the serious errors of the organization, they will begin to have doubts and questions. This can sometimes lead them to leave the Society.
Attacking the Society’s record of false prophecy can cause JWs to to question the organization. This approach is effective because they claim to have the true understanding of the end times. If we can show them that the organization has been constantly wrong in the area of prophecy, this will certainly make an impact. When the Jehovah’s Witnesses show up at your door again, begin first by asking them, “Are you prophets of God?” Some will say, “Yes.” Others may say, “We are prophets in a sense.” You must make it clear there is no such thing as “a prophet in a sense.” There are only true prophets and false prophets. Some may deny being prophets. If so, show them a copy of the April 1, 1972, Watch Tower article on page 197, which states clearly that they are prophets.
B. Define clearly what makes a true prophet and a false prophet using Deut. 18:20-22.
A true prophet speaks in the name of Jehovah and predicts future things which come to pass. A false prophet speaks in the name of Jehovah and predicts future things which do not come to pass. Make sure they understand this, for this is the most critical step.
C. Ask them, “Is there an organization that fits the character of a false prophet?”
That’s when you say, “Let’s take a look at the Watch Tower Organization.” Have handy copies of the articles mentioned here. The 1889 issue, “The Time is at Hand,” page 101 states, “The battle of the great day of God Almighty (Rev. 16:14), which will end in A.D. 1914, with the complete overthrow of earth’s present rulership, is already commenced.” This 1914 prediction of Christ’s return never came true.
Then the Watch Tower predicted that Christ would return in 1925. The 1918 issue of, “Millions Now Living Will Never Die,” p. 89 states, “Therefore we may confidently expect that 1925 will mark the return of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and the faithful prophets of old, particularly those named by the apostle in Hebrews 11 to the condition of human perfection.” This proved to be another false prophecy.
The Watch Tower made a third prophecy of the return of Christ; this one was to occur in 1975. The August 15, 1968, issue of, Why Are You Looking Forward to 1975?, p. 494, predicted the return of Christ in 1975. Once again the Witnesses were shown to be false prophets. If the Witnesses don’t believe these articles are real, tell them to look them up in their church’s library.
Another interesting prophecy is found on page 154 of their book You Can Live Forever in Paradise on Earth. Here they state, “Some of the generation living in 1914 will see the end of the system of things and survive it.” Most of the 1914 generation are dead, and the few remaining are very old. In just a few years, the Watch Tower will again have another false prophecy. When presented clearly, the record of the Watch Tower’s false prophecies is a very effective tool in witnessing to JWs.
D. The Bodily Resurrection of Christ
An area for effective witnessing to Witnesses is the bodily resurrection of Christ. Witnesses believe that Christ’s crucified body was disintegrated by Jehovah never to exist again. Accordingly, Jesus was raised as a spirit who then materialized and appeared in several different fleshly bodies as the angels had done. Indeed, it was in this form that He appeared to His disciples; i.e., He wasn’t in a human body; He just appeared to be human. He ascended into heaven as a spirit and once again became Michael the Archangel. This doctrine can be easily disproved.

 

Luke 24:36-43, Jesus clearly states in verse 39 that He is not a spirit but a man of flesh and bone. He even ate food to prove that He was not a spirit but had a physical body. John 20:24-27, Jesus shows Thomas His wounds. Jesus is clearly demonstrating to His disciples that the body previously on the cross had been resurrected. If Jesus had a different body than the one on the cross, He would have been deliberately deceiving the disciples. Ask the Witness, “Would Jesus deliberately deceive His disciples into believing something that was not true?”
Next, turn to some passages where Jesus predicts the resurrection of His body. In John 2:19-21 Jesus says, “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.” Acts 2:26-27, another prophecy of the Messiah’s bodily resurrection. Clearly the prophecies and Jesus’ appearances prove a bodily resurrection.
Witnesses cite 1 Peter 3:18 ; 1 Cor. 15:44-50 to back up their belief. In 1 Peter 3:18 we read, “Christ died once and for all… he being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the spirit.” This verse does not prove Jesus is a spirit. This verse says that Jesus was raised in the Spirit and by the Spirit of God who gives life. Romans 8:11 states that the Holy Spirit was involved in raising Jesus from the dead. Jesus was not raised as a spirit but by the power of the Holy Spirit.
According to 1 Cor. 15:50, “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God.” Since Jesus is in heaven, Witnesses say He must be a spirit.14 They are correct in saying that the earthly body cannot enter heaven. However, when Jesus rose, He had a glorified body (Luke 24:39). Therefore, He can dwell in heaven because of His glorified state. According to 1 Cor 15:39, “All flesh is not the same: Men have one kind of flesh, animals have another…. There are also heavenly bodies and there are earthly bodies.” Christ’s glorified body allows Him to travel in the earthly and heavenly dimensions. Some verses indicate that Christ exists in heaven in bodily form. “For in him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form” Colossians 2:9. The verb “dwells” in the Greek is katoikei, and is in the present tense. In other words, Jesus has a glorified body in heaven, the one that was resurrected. Note also 1 Timothy 2:5, “There is one God and one mediator, the man Christ Jesus.” The verb “is,” is a present tense verb also. How can Jesus be a man if He is Michael the Archangel? Seeing these errors may prompt them to seek the truth.

 

***Charles Smith was a Jehovah’s Witness, working his way up in the organization for 37 years. Outside one of their meetings, he noticed someone with a sign that simply said, “1 John 5:13.” He decided he would read it later. “These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.” (KJV) The verse was shocking to him. He tried reading it again to be sure he had not misread it the first time. “These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know… that ye may know… that ye may know that ye have eternal life…” Watchtower theology does not allow them to know they have eternal life. Charles Smith was shocked and confused. After 37 years of working his way up in the organization, he did not know he had eternal life. He did not even know he could know. He took the rather unusual step (unusual for Jehovah’s Witnesses) of reading the verse in context. Much of 1 John 5 was contrary to his JW teachings. When he asked questions about it, what did his superiors tell him? “Don’t worry about it.” Charles could not stop worrying about it. He struggled with this chapter for a year before deciding he had to know or go mad. He finally knew he had to accept the real Jesus, not the Jesus of the Watchtower, as his savior. The last time I talked with Charles, he had not met the person holding the sign outside of one of their meetings. The person holding the sign does not know what happened to Charles. I pray that the person has not become frustrated and given up trying to witness. Only God knows all the results of all our efforts.

The Fruit of Forgiveness

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The Fruit of Forgiveness

Psalm 32

 

In this award winning film called “The Mission,” Robert DeNiro plays a mercenary who has taken asylum in the local church after killing his brother in a fit of jealous rage. He eventually leaves the church and heads to a mission post located above the waterfalls in a South American jungle. Because of what he has done, and how bad he feels, he ties himself to a several-hundred pound net of items that represents his sinful life. He feels compelled to drag this sack of sin around with him as a way to do penance for what he has done.
As you watch this clip you’ll see him slip under the burden of his past, with the rope choking the very life out of him. He feels terrible and yet doesn’t know what to do with his sin and the shame that comes with it.
Have you ever felt like that? I suspect that some of you are tethered to some sin or transgressions in the past. Others of you are gasping under the guilt of things you did several years ago. What do you do when you realize that you’ve messed up? How do you stabilize your life when you experience more ups and downs than the stock market? Where do you go when you’ve failed? Where do you turn when you’ve hurt those closest to you? Do you grab some rope and hitch it up to your sin pile and start dragging? Or, is there something better?
Before we look at Psalm 32 this morning, let me list a few things that guilt does to us (these insights are from a sermon by Jeff Seaman, as found on sermoncentral.com).
1. Guilt destroys our confidence. Guilt can make us feel insecure because we’re always worried that someone is going to find out what we’re really like, or what we’ve really done. Many years ago, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the author of the Sherlock Holmes novels, played a prank on five of the most prominent men in England. He sent an anonymous note to each one that simply said this, “All is found out, flee at once.” Within 24 hours all five men had left the country. That’s exactly the picture described in Proverbs 28:1: “The wicked man flees though no one pursues, but the righteous are as bold as a lion.” Is guilt destroying your confidence today?
2. Guilt damages our relationships. When we live with unconfessed sin we can respond to people in wrong ways. Are you impatient with others? Do you find yourself reacting in anger? Are you pulling back from those you love? If so, there may be some guilt in your gut somewhere.
3. Guilt keeps us stuck in the past. Do you continuously replay your sins over and over and over in your mind? Someone has said, “Guilt cannot change the past just like worry cannot change the future. But it can make you miserable today.” Have you ever noticed how your stomach keeps score when you swallow your sins?
While many of us wrestle with false guilt, too few of us take our real guilt seriously. Instead of confessing our sins, we often bury them or just try to ignore them. The Bible calls us back to the truth that we are sinners who have missed the mark of God’s perfection. Our own death warrants have been written into our birth certificates. In short, we struggle with guilt because we’re guilty. Ecc.7:20: “There is not a righteous man on earth who does what is right and never sins.”

Let’s look at Psalm 32. The great theologian Augustine said that the beginning of knowledge is to know oneself to be a sinner. In order to be reminded of his depraved sinfulness and God’s gracious forgiveness, he had this psalm engraved on his bedroom wall as he lay dying in his bed. He read it all the time and when he was too sick, he instructed others to recite it for him.

Before we jump into the text, let’s focus on a few background truths.
David is the author. While he was a great king and walked with God for much of his life, we also know that he committed adultery and murder. When David speaks, he does so as a sinner who has been forgiven. The particular sin that David refers to is not important because there are plenty to choose from. He wrote this psalm to help us know that we can be fully restored and completely forgiven no matter what we’ve done.
This psalm is one of the seven psalms of forgiveness, which include Psalm 6, 32, 38, 51, 102, 130, and 143.
Psalm 32 has also been referred to as one of “Paul’s Psalms” because it is quoted extensively in Romans 4:6-8 to help establish that we are declared righteous not because of what we’ve done, but because of what Christ has done on the Cross.
If you look at the very beginning of Psalm 32, right before verse 1, you’ll see the phrase, “A maskil.” This was a literary or musical term to indicate that the words to follow are very important. In other words, this is a “preaching psalm” given to us so that we can learn from the experiences of another. David wants us to pay particular attention to this inspired instruction so that we’ll understand and embrace our need for forgiveness. This is likely one of the psalms that Paul had in mind in Colossians 3:16: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms…”
With that in mind, let’s see what we can learn about the fruit of forgiveness as we follow this simple outline:
1. The happiness of forgiveness (1-2)
2. The heaviness of sin (3-5)
3. The help of God (6-11)

The Happiness of Forgiveness
The very first word of Psalm 32 is “blessed.” This has a very rich meaning that cannot be defined with just one word. We could say, “How happy!” or “Congratulations to,” or, “Good for the one who,” or “Oh, the bliss of!” In addition, this word is in the plural so we could say, “Oh, the multiple happinessess, the bundles of blessings to the one whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered.”
This is the second Psalm that begins with the word “blessed.” The first use is found in Psalm 1:1: “Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers.” We are to be congratulated when we avoid sin and refuse to follow those who are a bad influence in our life. We are blessed when we do right and yet when we do sin and mess up and have our sins forgiven, Psalm 32 says we are blessed as well. This is cool. It’s much better to avoid sin and experience the blessings that come from making right choices. But when we blow it, we can still be called blessed if we ask for forgiveness.
David provides a threefold description of sin in these first two verses. Charles Spurgeon calls this the three-headed dog barking at the gates of hell. “Transgression” depicts a defiant disobedience toward God, a revolt against the Almighty. “Sin” means to miss the mark of God’s perfection either through acts of commission or omission. The word translated “sin” in verse 2 is actually the word “iniquity,” which represents a crookedness, deformity, or perversion. The image is of a tree that is gnarled and twisted.
The point of using these three different words is to remind us that all types of sin and wrongdoing can be forgiven. We defiantly disobey, we miss the mark, and we’re inherently crooked. Our “little” sins are an affront to the Almighty and those “big” acts of rebellion offend our Holy God. But no matter what we’ve done, we can be restored.
David also uses a triad of words to express the fullness of our forgiveness. The word “forgiven” means, “to lift a heavy burden and carry it away.” Our transgressions are taken away. Instead of trying to tug them along with us, we allow the Lord to lift them from us. The word “covered” refers to that which is concealed. What is offensive to God is put out of sight. The idea is that our sins are so covered that they will never appear again.
The third phrase, “not count against” is rich in meaning. We get the words “reckon” or “impute” from this term. This is the same word used in Genesis 15:6,where God “reckoned” righteousness to Abraham. God does not count our sins against us and in their place he has imputed the righteousness of another. God erases our sin-debt from the books as if it never happened. Romans 4 establishes that Christ’s right standing before God is ours and our sin is His.
No wonder David refers to the blessingnesses of forgiven transgressions, the covering of sins, and the erasing of our iniquities. Isaiah 1:18: “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.” And, according to Isaiah 43:25, when God forgives, He no longer remembers our sins: “I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.”
That reminds me of the man who was telling his friend about an argument he had with his wife. “Every time we have an argument she gets historical.” The friend corrected him and said, “You mean hysterical, don’t you?” “No, I mean historical. Every time we fight she drags up stuff from the past and holds it against me!” God will not get “historical” with you if you have confessed your sins to Him. Psalm 103:12: “As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” I love Micah 7:19: “You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.”
In the last part of Psalm 32:2, David says that God does all this for the one in “whose spirit is no deceit.” That doesn’t mean someone who has no faults but rather refers to those who readily admit their sins. It’s the idea of authenticity. It means that we are not deceitful in acknowledging our sin. Listen carefully. The key to the Christian life is not our personal holiness, but our repentance. It’s not a matter of trying to be perfect but recognizing that we’re not. We need to fully admit that we are twisted transgressors and selfish sinners. Far too many of us are dishonest about our sins.
In his book called, “Not the Way We’re Supposed to Be,” Cornelius Plantinga writes, “The awareness of sin used to be our shadow. Christians hated sin; feared it, fled from it, grieved over it. Some of our grandparents agonized over their sins. A man who lost his temper might wonder whether he could still go to Holy Communion…where sin is concerned, people just mumble now.” Are you mumbling about your meanderings, excusing your infractions, and being deceived by your disobedience? It’s time to get beyond our moral myopia that distorts the true view of ourselves. If we’re not real with God, David describes what will happen in verses 3-5.

The Heaviness of Sin
Look at verse 3: “When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long.” David is reflecting upon those times when he chose to keep quiet about his sins. When he tried to ignore his iniquities his bones felt like they were decaying. The word “groaning” was used to describe the roar of a wounded animal, or the growl of a bear in Isaiah 59:11. Job used this word in Job 3:24 to describe his agony: “For sighing comes to me instead of food; my groans pour out like water.” David tells us that his groaning went on all day long, or continuously, without intermission. When we don’t own our sins, our bodies revolt. Instead of happiness, we experience heartache. When we keep our mouths shut, our conscience screams. When we bottle up evil our bones waste away. Proverbs 28:13: “He who conceals his sins does not prosper.”
We could put it this way: we are only as sick as our secrets. When you hide your sins you will be unhealthy and when you share your secret with God and with someone else, you’ll stop feeling sick. The secret you want most to conceal is the one you most need to reveal. Friend, what have you been concealing? What is it that you’ve been hiding? It’s time to come clean.
Verse 4 continues, “For day and night your hand was heavy upon me.” Even at night David could not rest from the cries of his conscience and the conviction of the Holy Spirit. The word “heavy” means, “to grievously afflict.” God’s hand can bring blessings but can also bear down on us. It’s because He cares so much for us. He loves us just the way we are but loves us too much to let us keep living the way we are. As Hebrews 12:10 says, “God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness.”
David recalls feeling like his strength was sapped, his energy evaporated as in the heat of the summer. Listen to how he described this time in his life from Psalm 38:2-8: “For your arrows have pierced me, and your hand has come down upon me…my bones have no soundness because of my sin. My guilt has overwhelmed me like a burden too heavy to bear. My wounds fester and are loathsome because of my sinful folly…I am feeble and utterly crushed; I groan in anguish of heart.” Guilt is really a divine implant graciously designed to bring the sinner back to God.
These verses remind us that when we don’t fully confess we will experience emotional and physical distress. Anger and bitterness can come as a result of unconfessed sin and will eat your insides out. Ulcers, high blood pressure, migraine headaches, and lower back pain can come from concealing our sins. Karl Menninger, the famed psychiatrist, once said that if he could convince the patients in psychiatric hospitals that their sins were forgiven, 75% of them could walk out the next day!
David is suggesting here in verse 4 that you could be dry spiritually because of some specific disobedience in your life. After describing his spiritual drought and distress, David then writes the word, “Selah” immediately following this verse. This is a word that beckons us to pause and think about what has just been said. David doesn’t want us to miss the point. Only confession will bring restoration. [Pause]
It’s not easy for us to admit our sins, is it? It’s like the guy who went into the Hallmark store and asked the clerk, “Do you have a card that stops short of saying ‘I’m sorry’ yet vaguely hints of some wrongdoing?” Many of us do this with God when we’re not specific about our sins. We might tip our hat to our frailty but rarely fall down on our knees in real repentance before Him.
Two elderly Southern women were sitting together in the front pew of church listening to a fiery preacher. He was banging the pulpit and the ladies were cheering him on. When he condemned the sin of stealing, the two church ladies cried out loudly, “AMEN, BROTHER!” When he condemned the sin of lust, they yelled again, “PREACH IT, REVEREND!” And, when he spoke out against lying, they jumped to their feet and screamed, “RIGHT ON, BROHTER! TELL IT LIKE IT IS…AMEN!”
But when preacher-man condemned the sin of gossip, the two got very quiet. One lady turned to the other and said, “Well, he’s done quit preachin’. Now he’s just meddlin’.” What sin shuts you up this morning? It’s easy for us to get upset with those who sin differently than we do but it’s much tougher when the Holy Spirit starts meddlin’ in our lives.
Verse 5 gives us the right approach. When David could find relief in no other way, he said, “Then, I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the LORD’ — and you forgave the guilt of my sin.” Instead of concealing, David is now confessing. He first acknowledged his sin by stating the obvious. Then he stopped trying to cover it up. By the way, we can’t expect God to cover what we’re not willing to uncover.
Finally, he confessed to the Lord. In a sense, he’s like the prodigal son who had grown tired of living with the pigs. He owns his wrong and doesn’t make any excuses. To “confess” literally means, “to say the same” thing that God says about your sin. Until we can say, “God, you’re right, it’s wrong,” we haven’t really confessed. If you’re not ready to confess, maybe you need a little more distress in your life. David finally surrendered. Are you ready to do the same?
Notice that he takes personal responsibility by the use of personal pronouns ­ my sin, my iniquity, my transgressions. David repeats the three words for sins mentioned in verse 1: he acknowledges his sin, he does not cover up his iniquity, and he confesses his transgressions to the Lord. Notice that he doesn’t deny, minimize, or blame someone else. He simply calls his sin, “sin.” It’s not an error, a mistake, or a lapse in judgment. He doesn’t argue about what the meaning of “is” is. The greatest holdout to the healing of my hang-ups is me.
We would be much better off if we would stop using other words and phrases to excuse our behavior and begin using biblical terms. Sin loves to hide behind euphemisms. Here are some that come to mind.
· Instead of saying, “I stretched the truth,” it’s better to say, “I just sinned by lying to you.”
· Instead of saying, “I just have a bad temper,” it’s more accurate to say, “I just sinned against you with my words. Please forgive me.”
· Instead of saying, “I just want to share a prayer request with you,” it may be more truthful to say, “I want to pass along some gossip in order to defame someone.”
· Instead of saying, “I had an affair,” it’s more biblical to say, “I committed adultery.”
The smug soul that comes before God and says that sin is no big deal can never know the living God. John Piper puts it this way: “Until we fear sin and its consequences more keenly, we will not prize our pardon very highly.” This may sound blunt to you but actually its much better to call sin what it is. Why is that? Because there’s a solution for sin – it’s called forgiveness. Until we acknowledge that what we’ve done is sinful, we won’t experience freedom and restoration.
Confession is more than merely informing God that we’ve sinned. It also involves a turning away. It’s only when we stop being quiet about our specific sins, when we refuse to hide our transgressions and admit to God what we can barely admit to ourselves, that we will experience the fruit of forgiveness. Instead of just confessing our sins wholesale, it’s time to own up for the specifics. Here’s a helpful phrase to keep in mind: when you make a mess, confess! When you recognize your sin and reject it, God will remove it: “And you forgave the guilt of my sin.”
We don’t have to beg God to forgive us because He wants to forgive more than we want to be forgiven. We don’t have to bargain with Him and we don’t have to bribe Him by promising to do a bunch of good things, and we don’t have to do penance for the bad things we’ve done. Another pause is needed here ­ Selah ­­ so that we don’t rush past the beauty of having all of our sins forgiven. Take some time right now to specifically confess any sins that you’ve been concealing.

The Help of God
After talking about the happiness of forgiveness and the heaviness of sin, in verses 6-11, David draws our attention to the help of God. God’s help is seen in three ways.
1. His protection (6-7). David urges those who are “godly” to pray. That doesn’t mean those who are perfect but those who are “inclined” to be godly. It’s not someone who is holy, but refers to the person who belongs to a holy God. There’s a sense of urgency attached to this call to prayer. Pray now while you can. When we seek Him he will protect us from the deluge of mighty waters. Verse 7 says that He will keep us from trouble and surround us with songs of deliverance. He is our hiding place. It’s interesting that in the beginning of this psalm, David is hiding his sins from God; now he is hiding himself in God. Whenever we confess our sins and find forgiveness, we will want to seek shelter under His wings.
2. His instruction (8-10). God promises to instruct us and teach us in the way we should go. The blessing of protection is wonderful but it would be incomplete if it were not accompanied by His direction. What good would it be if He guarded us from destruction but didn’t tell us which way to go?
Verse 9 warns us about not being stubborn and stupid when it comes to following God: “Do not be like the horse or the mule, which have no understanding but must be controlled by bit and bridle or they will not come to you.” By nature, most of us are wild and unwilling to obey. When David acted like a mule, God put the bridle of suffering on him and pulled him to repentance. Is God humbling you right now? Is He trying to break you with the bit and bridle? He only does this so we will see our need and come back to Him.
3. His joy (11). When we stay close to the Lord by cultivating a spirit of surrender and submission, and when we practice regular confession, we can’t help but break out into joy: “Rejoice in the Lord and be glad, you righteous; sing, all you who are upright in heart!” The word, “rejoice” means to “spin around with glee.” And the phrase “be glad” literally means, “to brighten up!” When we have our sins forgiven we can’t help but break out into spontaneous expressions of joy. David put it this way in Psalm 92:4: “You thrill me, Lord, with all you have done for me! I sing for joy because of what you have done.”
Those who are forgiven much love much. Those who have their sins covered can leap for joy. Conversely, if you don’t have much joy in your life today it may be because you’ve been carrying around a burden of guilt. Sin may be sucking the life out of you. It may be strangling your joy. If you want to truly be happy and stop living with so much distress, then learn to confess!
The only way to be rid of your regrets and to have your sins covered is to confess them to God. When you do, He will forgive you. And when He does, your sins are forgotten and you’re free! Some of you have asked for forgiveness but you’re still pulling a suitcase of sin with you.
There’s another scene in “The Mission” where Robert DeNiro is struggling with his load of guilt and someone cuts the rope. His net of iniquity goes tumbling down the path and into the water. Instead of being thankful, DeNiro pushes the man out of the way and runs after his sins. When he gets down to the water he picks up the bundle again and tries to carry it back up the mountain on his back.
Are you doing the same thing today? If you’ve confessed and repented, God has forgiven you. Can you forgive yourself? You see, the only way for God to glorify His name and make people happy is not just to overlook sins but also to change sinners. God not only covers our sins, He makes us into new people. 2
Corinthians 5:17: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!”

 

Letter from an airline pilot:

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Letter from an airline pilot:
He writes: My lead flight attendant came to me and said, “We have an H.R. On this flight.” (H.R. Stands for human remains.) “Are they military?” I asked.

‘Yes’, she said.

‘Is there an escort?’ I asked.

‘Yes, I already assigned him a seat’.

‘Would you please tell him to come to the flight deck. You can board him early,” I said..

A short while later, a young army sergeant entered the flight deck. He was the image of the perfectly dressed soldier. He introduced himself and I asked him about his soldier. The escorts of these fallen soldiers talk about them as if they are still alive and still with us.

‘My soldier is on his way back to Virginia ,’ he said. He proceeded to answer my questions, but offered no words.

I asked him if there was anything I could do for him and he said no. I told him that he had the toughest job in the military and that I appreciated the work that he does for the families of our fallen soldiers. The first officer and I got up out of our seats to shake his hand. He left the flight deck to find his seat.

We completed our pre-flight checks, pushed back and performed an uneventful departure. About 30 minutes into our flight I received a call from the lead flight attendant in the cabin. ‘I just found out the family of the soldier we are carrying, is on board’, she said. She then proceeded to tell me that the father, mother, wife and 2-year old daughter were escorting their son, husband, and father home. The family was upset because they were unable to see the container that the soldier was in before we left. We were on our way to a major hub at which the family was going to wait four hours for the connecting flight home to Virginia.

The father of the soldier told the flight attendant that knowing his son was below him in the cargo compartment and being unable to see him was too much for him and the family to bear. He had asked the flight attendant if there was anything that could be done to allow them to see him upon our arrival. The family wanted to be outside by the cargo door to watch the soldier being taken off the airplane. I could hear the desperation in the flight attendants voice when she asked me if there was anything I could do. ‘I’m on it’, I said. I told her that I would get back to her.

Airborne communication with my company normally occurs in the form of e-mail like messages. I decided to bypass this system and contact my flight dispatcher directly on a Secondary radio. There is a radio operator in the operations control center who connects you to the telephone of the dispatcher. I was in direct contact with the dispatcher. I explained the situation I had on board with the family and what it was the family wanted. He said he understood and that he would get back to me.

Two hours went by and I had not heard from the dispatcher. We were going to get busy soon and I needed to know what to tell the family. I sent a text message asking for an update. I Saved the return message from the dispatcher and the following is the text:
‘Captain, sorry it has taken so long to get back to you. There is policy on this now and I had to check on a few things. Upon your arrival a dedicated escort team will meet the aircraft.
The team will escort the family to the ramp and plane side. A van will be used to load the remains with a secondary van for the family. The family will be taken to their departure area and escorted into the terminal where the remains can be seen on the ramp. It is a private area for the family only. When the connecting aircraft arrives, the family will be escorted onto the ramp and plane side to watch the remains being loaded for the final leg home. Captain, most of us here in flight control are veterans.. Please pass our condolences on to the family. Thanks.’

I sent a message back telling flight control thanks for a good job. I printed out the message and gave it to the lead flight attendant to pass on to the father. The lead flight attendant was very thankful and told me, ‘You have no idea how much this will mean to them.’

Things started getting busy for the descent, approach and landing. After landing, we cleared the runway and taxied to the ramp area. The ramp is huge with 15 gates on either side of the alleyway. It is always a busy area with aircraft maneuvering every which way to enter and exit. When we entered the ramp and checked in with the ramp controller, we were told that all traffic was being held for us.

‘There is a team in place to meet the aircraft’, we were told. It looked like it was all coming together, then I realized that once we turned the seat belt sign off, everyone would stand up at once and delay the family from getting off the airplane. As we approached our gate, I asked the co-pilot to tell the ramp controller we were going to stop short of the gate to make an announcement to the passengers. He did that and the ramp controller said, ‘Take your time.’

I stopped the aircraft and set the parking brake. I pushed the public address button and said, ‘Ladies and gentleman, this is your Captain speaking I have stopped short of our gate to make a special announcement. We have a passenger on board who deserves our honor and respect. His Name is Private XXXXXX, a soldier who recently lost his life. Private XXXXXX is under your feet in the cargo hold. Escorting him today is Army Sergeant XXXXXXX. Also, on board are his father, mother, wife, and daughter. Your entire flight crew is asking for all passengers to remain in their seats to allow the family to exit the aircraft first. Thank you.’

We continued the turn to the gate, came to a stop and started our shutdown procedures. A couple of minutes later I opened the cockpit door. I found the two forward flight attendants crying, something you just do not see. I was told that after we came to a stop, every passenger on the aircraft stayed in their seats, waiting for the family to exit the aircraft.

When the family got up and gathered their things, a passenger slowly started to clap his hands. Moments later more passengers joined in and soon the entire aircraft was clapping. Words of ‘God Bless You’, I’m sorry, thank you, be proud, and other kind words were uttered to the family as they made their way down the aisle and out of the airplane.

They were escorted down to the ramp to finally be with their loved one.

Many of the passengers disembarking thanked me for the announcement I had made. They were just words, I told them, I could say them over and over again, but nothing I say will bring back that brave soldier.

I respectfully ask that all of you reflect on this event and the sacrifices that millions of our men and women have made to ensure our freedom and safety in these United States of AMERICA.

Praying for a New Perspective (Part 2)

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Praying for a New Perspective (Part 2)

You Matter to the Majesty

 

As David pondered the power of God while seeing the solar system, his thoughts come back to earth in verse 4: “What is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?” On this dark night, on this little pebble of a planet, why would God even care about me? Listen carefully. In God’s eyes, you are more spectacular than a supernova. The glory of the galaxy has been placed upon your head. If there is anything more marvelous than the sheer scale and splendor of the universe, it’s that in all of that vastness, you matter to the Majesty.

 

The word for “man” here is the word that means “weak and frail.” Our lives are like a vapor, here one moment and gone the next. And yet, God is mindful of us, meaning that He remembers us. This is a covenant term, indicating that He is committed to us and will never forget us. The word “care” has a rich meaning. It literally means, “to visit.” Because God treasures His creation, He looks for ways to come and get close to us and to visit us with His blessings.

 

Some of you don’t really believe that God thinks about you all the time. You have a hard time understanding how He could love you because of all the things you’ve done. While you may be unworthy, as we all are, you are not worthless! Allow the truth of Psalm 139:17-18 to break through your guilt and shame: “How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand.” Do you know what that means? It means that you can’t even count the number of times God thinks about you!

And Zephaniah 3:17 tells us what He does when He thinks about us: “The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.” When God thinks about you, which He does all the time, He takes great delight in you and even breaks out into song!

 

You are the pinnacle of His creative power, the apex of His awesome plan for the cosmos. We see that in verses 5-8. We are made just a little lower than the heavenly beings and have been crowned with glory and honor. God’s plan for us was to make us co-regents, as He’s called us to have dominion over flocks, herds, beasts of the field, birds of the air, and the fish of the sea. There has always been a special place in the heart of God for humans, whom He made superior to any other part of His earthly creation. Genesis 1:26 reminds us that we have been made in His image and therefore we reflect His glory, though rather dimly because of sin.

 

Allow Jesus to Recreate You

This Psalm leaves us feeling a bit unsettled because we know that while we can ride a horse and catch some fish, all of God’s creation is definitely not under our feet. Earthquakes, volcanoes, floods, fires, cancer, and death are a stark reminder that our world is out of whack. Our trust in corporations, our courts, and even churches has been fractured these past months. And, we wonder when the next terrorist attack will come.

 

We can heal and we can harm. We both educate and exterminate. We can overflow with humanitarian help and then explode in inhumanity to others. The writer of the Book of Hebrews felt a similar tension when he read this Psalm. Right after quoting a section of Psalm 8 in Hebrews 2:8 he wrote: “In putting everything under him [meaning man], God left nothing that is not subject to him. Yet at present we do not see everything subject to him.”

 

We’ve come a long way from the day when God made mankind to have dominion. Great things have happened. Inventions have made life easier. The Sons of Liberty made a stand for independence. We have looked for ways to subdue our planet and have headed to space, looking for other worlds to conquer. We’ve done well…or have we? There’s still one thing you don’t have dominion over. Do you know what it is? It’s you. Humans have never learned to subdue sin. It was unleashed into the human bloodstream by Adam and Eve and it continues to infect lives today. That’s the root of the human dilemma. We’re image-bearers of God and yet we’re marred by the magnitude of sin.

 

The Book of Hebrews also gives the provision to our predicament. Quoting Psalm 8, the writer of Hebrews 2:9 no longer applies it to us, but rather points us to “…Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because He suffered death…” Jesus took on the form of a man in order to taste death for us. He did this, according to verse 14-15, in order to “…destroy him who holds the power of death, that is, the devil; and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.”

 

Humans have been made in the image of God to rule and reign as the divine agent in charge of the earth. But, because of sin, we have rejected God and pursued ultimate destruction for both our planet and ourselves. But Jesus came and dealt the devil a deathblow. When we put our faith in Him, we will become who God has made us to be. He is fashioning a new creation of men and women, boys and girls, who reflect His image and accomplish His purposes in the world.

One People Under God

 

That brings us full circle to the last verse of Psalm 8: “O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth.” Let me ask you a question. Is Jesus your Lord right now? David could say with confidence, “O Lord, our Lord.”

 

Sometime back a federal appeals court declared the Pledge of Allegiance to be unconstitutional because of the phrase, “under God.” Thankfully, that decision has been stayed and will hopefully be overturned. It was amazing to see how our entire nation rallied behind the pledge. I really enjoyed watching Congress recite it, giving special emphasis to the phrase, “under God.”

 

As I watched the reaction and read different responses, I couldn’t help but wonder if we are really “one nation under God.” Don’t get me wrong. I’m glad that the public outcry was so overwhelming. But, let me bring this a bit closer to home. Psalm 8 establishes that God’s glory is above the Heavens and yet it reminds us that He can be “our” God. He can be your God. But that can only happen if you decide to live your life “under God.” Under his authority. Under his Word. Under His values. Under His purposes for your life.

 

As we approach our celebration of independence in a few weeks, are you ready this morning to pledge your dependence upon God and your determination to live under His leadership? If so, will you please join me as I conclude our time by praying through Psalm 8.

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