What Do Jehovah’s Witnesses Believe?/Program 6

By: Joan Cetnar, Brian Garcia, Bob Gray, Keith Walker, and Don Veinot; ©2011
In this session of The John Ankerberg Show, we’ll hear what information led three former Jehovah’s Witnesses to faith in Jesus. We’ll also discover helpful ways to talk about Jesus with those who are Jehovah’s Witnesses, whether at our door, with family members, coworkers, or others who follow Watchtower beliefs.

Introduction

Today, one out of every 282 Americans is a Jehovah’s Witness. Across the world, 7.5 million Jehovah’s Witnesses in 236 countries go door to door preaching the Watchtower message. Who are the Jehovah’s Witnesses and what do they believe? Their headquarters, called the Watchtower, are in Brooklyn, New York. In their publications, the Watchtower claims to be Jehovah’s only channel of communication on earth today; God’s prophet; speaking for God; the only right religion on earth. Yet the Watchtower holds vastly different beliefs than historic Christianity. It has its own Bible, the New World Translation; holds false views of Jesus, Scripture, salvation, and the afterlife; and forbids all Jehovah’s Witnesses from having blood transfusions, celebrating Christmas or Easter, birthdays or holidays. Where did these false beliefs come from? How can you show a Jehovah’s Witness what the Bible really teaches? Today you will find out.

My guests are: Joan Cetnar a former fourth-generation Jehovah’s Witness who served at the Watchtower headquarters in Brooklyn, New York, where she observed first-hand the President and other leaders. Her husband Bill held the position of answering questions submitted to the Watchtower for one-third of the United States. You’ll hear the shocking story of the doctrinal and behavioral deceptions that caused them to leave, later becoming Christians, and founding a ministry that helps those raised with Watchtower beliefs.

Then, Brian Garcia. He was brought up in a Jehovah’s Witness family, and defended its beliefs in college and on the internet. You’ll hear how a Christian friend helped him understand the message of the true Jesus and the good news of the gospel—that everyone who puts their trust in Jesus, they will go to heaven.

Bob Gray was a Jehovah’s Witness for 24 years and served as an elder in his congregation. He went door to door 100 hours each month. But he came to realize he had no basis in Scripture for what he was teaching, and decided to leave.

And, finally, you will hear from two experts who minister to Jehovah’s Witnesses: Keith Walker, president of Evidence Ministries, and Don Veinot Jr., president of Midwest Christian Outreach. We hope today’s program will help you and others around the world to share the truth with those who are Jehovah’s Witnesses. Join us for this special edition of the John Ankerberg show.

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Ankerberg: Welcome to our program. We’re talking with three former Jehovah’s Witnesses who spent a lot of years at the Watchtower Society or serving the Watchtower Society, and came to realize they were deceived in what they were taught about Jesus, about God, about salvation, about heaven, about hell… a whole host of things.
And you were working for this organization that claimed to be… that they were the channel of God speaking on earth. And you believed their teachings. And what I want to talk about right now is the people that are out there that were just like you, but were on the bubble.
Like you, they had finally come to a spot where their conscience was bothering them. They were looking at the New World Translation, the Jehovah’s Witness translation of the Bible, and they were saying, this is starting to open up questions that go contrary to what the Watchtower has taught me. Here you are, defending it on the website; and you’re inspiring other college students and so on to defend the beliefs of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. And all of a sudden, as you’re studying the Bible yourself, you’re coming into doubts. And, Joan, here you are, serving at the Watchtower Society and your husband is answering questions for the Watchtower from Brooklyn for a third of the country, and you guys started having doubts.
When you got to that spot, no-man’s-land, okay, what do you want folks to know to encourage them? Because, look, they’re scared to death. They cannot tell anybody; they cannot tell their husband, their wife, because they could get disfellowshipped; they could be divorced; they could lose their children—all kinds of things. Who do they go to in that kind of a situation? They’re listening now via television or the internet secretly in their home, and they’re listening to you. And I’m saying, please help them. What is the information? Bob?
Gray: I think you hit it on the head when you said, who do they go to, because very often Jehovah’s Witnesses, when I talk to them, they go, “Where else would I go?” It’s a bad citation of John 6:68, when John said to Peter, “You don’t want to leave also, do you?” Peter says, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the sayings of everlasting life.”
Ankerberg: Yeah, because they’re serving an organization now, and they’re thinking, “If I get rid of this one, I’ll have to go to another one.” And they’re missing the whole point. Jesus said come to him.
Gray: Right. So he said, “Come to me.” The other thing is, you know, if you’re out there and you’re at that spot, don’t stay any longer than your conscience will let you stay. You know, follow your conscience; and don’t believe the programming that leaving the organization is leaving God. I’ve talked to so many people who have left. I had one man, he’d been out for 20 years. He told me, “You know, it was only two years ago I could pray again.” And he knew it was false, but he had been so conditioned. So, just turn to Christ; turn to God, and he’ll send you where to go. I mean, like with Abraham. Abraham didn’t know where he was going when God says, “Okay, time to get up and move.”
Cetnar: Trust God.
Gray: Trust him.
Ankerberg: Joan, when you finally left, your folks disowned you.
Cetnar: Right.
Ankerberg: And you lived in the same city with your folks, and for how many years, when you’d see them at the counter, going out buying at the food store, and you would say “Hi, Mom, hi, Dad,” how many years has it been since they wouldn’t say “Hi” back?
Cetnar: Well, they can’t do it anymore; they are not here. But, close to 30 years; about 25 to 30 years.
Ankerberg: So you lived in the same city, and they wouldn’t even talk to you.
Cetnar: No. They would turn the other direction. That’s what they had to do to prove their integrity to Jehovah. I was an apostate, the worst thing in the world. And I would say to a Jehovah’s Witness, if you’ve got doubts, check them out. You have every resource now to be able to do that. Because that’s what I had to do; I had to have a few good stones to stand on in this rocky ground that I could go back to; facts. And I kind of put them down here. False prophecy was one thing—I could prove without a doubt that that they were not God’s prophet. Alright, that’s what goes back to what Bob just said. You’ve got to separate God from the organization. You can’t …
Ankerberg: Let’s stop right there…
Cetnar: Don’t blame God for what they did.
Ankerberg: Alright, let’s take it: the false prophecies, okay. So far, from what you guys have told me—it’s 1874, they claimed that the world was going to come to an end before 1874; then 1879, 1881, 1914, 1918, 1925, 1941 and then 1975. All of those different times, they said the world was going to come to an end, alright. Those are eight false prophecies right there.
Cetnar: Yeah. And that doesn’t even include changing truth. That’s another kind of false prophecy, and that was happening all the time.
Ankerberg: Such as?
Cetnar: Well, there’s an interesting one just before we left Bethel to get married. We were going to leave in good standing, but we were really disillusioned and questioning. And they come out with a new door-to-door sermon on John 3:16: “God so loved the world.” And we were supposed to give a three minute sermon at the door that that was not the world in general, but the New World Society. And both of us said, no way! And don’t they assign that to my husband to give the demonstration in the Kingdom Hall!
Ankerberg: So you couldn’t go that way.
Cetnar: I could not go door-to-door and give that sermon and say that that’s what that meant. So…
Ankerberg: False prophecies was one stone
Cetnar: And number two is deliberate lying. Over and over we’ve caught them. Their Trinity booklet is full of misquotes from other people’s material. They’re famous for that. If you see an ellipsis, three dots, you’d had better go check it out.
Ankerberg: Because if you read where the ellipsis is at, you’ll find out that …
Cetnar: It says different…
Ankerberg: …completely different than what the Jehovah’s Witnesses are implying it means.
Cetnar: And you can’t be a liar and be God’s organization. And that’s just one thing. They’ve changed the Bible: we just talked about that. That’s not God’s organization.
Ankerberg: They put in words that aren’t even in the Greek text, and deceive people by translating it that way.
Cetnar: It’s deception, absolutely. And they went to a spirit-medium translation of the Bible to prove they had the correct translation…
Ankerberg: Johannes Greber.
Cetnar: Yes, Johannes Greber. There are four real violations of Scripture. And you can stand on that and say God’s people would not do that. They are not honest men. They are not righteous men. Why follow them?
Ankerberg: When you came across this whole concept of what true grace is; for example, when Romans 6:23 says, “But the gift of God is eternal life, and it comes through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Okay, this whole concept that it’s a gift: okay, you’re doing 100 hours a week pounding on doors; you’re doing three to four Bible studies a week besides that, and then you’ve got to follow all the rules to the road over in terms of your daily living.
Cetnar: Yes.
Ankerberg: When you finally came to the fact that Jesus went to the cross and paid for all of your sins—everything that will ever be needed for you to stand before God and be accepted, he did; it’s in the books; all you have to do is receive God’s gift to yourself by faith, it’s yours; that’s it, end of the deal, alright. I mean, did you ever get to that spot where you could comprehend that?
Cetnar, Garcia, Gray: Yes.
Ankerberg: When you did, what happened in your thinking?
Gray: Oh, it was amazing. You know, I would say I probably don’t work any less now than I did then. Maybe not as many hours, but…
Cetnar: But you don’t count them!
Gray: But I love the phrase that “work should be the fruit, not the root of salvation.” You know, that we work because we’re saved, not in order to be saved.
Ankerberg: It’s easy to serve God after you realize you don’t have to do it.
Gray: Yeah. Exactly.
Ankerberg: He’s already given you the gift. You say, out of love I want to serve you. In other words, that’s where all of our works spring, is out of love. But even the works that spring out of love are not the thing that merit us eternal life.
Cetnar: That’s right.
Ankerberg: How did you think about this when you realized it was the gift of God coming through Jesus Christ?
Garcia: I was only 16 years old and I already knew that I was tired. I was tired, because I could not work enough to please Jehovah God. And I loved Jehovah God; I didn’t want to disappoint Jehovah God. But it says that “While we were yet sinners”—while we were yet helpless—“Christ Jesus died for us.” I didn’t have to do a thing. I didn’t have to lift a finger. Jesus said on the cross, “It is finished.” I didn’t have to anything; he did all the work.
Ankerberg: Alright. We’re going to take a break. When we come back, we’re going to talk about some of the other things that these folks would like to say to those of you that are on the bubble. You’re saying “I can’t put up with the Watchtower’s teachings anymore. I know it’s false; but, boy, to come out, it’s a truckload here. I don’t know if I can handle that.” And I want you to give some helps here. Where does the Lord help you out? How does it all operate here, okay? We’ll talk about that more when we come right back. Stick with us.

BREAK

Ankerberg: Alright. This is our last segment with our three former Jehovah’s Witnesses and our two experts on the Watchtower’s teachings. And we’re talking to those of you that are on the bubble. You are thinking about these things, but you haven’t come out of the Watchtower yet. Or you’re a Christian, and you’ve got relatives or friends or people at work that are thinking about this, and you’re saying, “What would push them over the line? What would bring them to Christ?”
Let me start with a verse, then I want to come to Joan to ask about this. In Isaiah, God says, “Before me no god was formed, nor will there be one after me. I, even I, am the Lord.” And he says, “Apart from me,” this is Jehovah God in the Old Testament, “there is no savior.” The apostle Paul, in Titus 3, says, listen now, “But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us; not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior.” If there is no savior apart from God, and the apostle Paul says “through Jesus Christ our Savior,” then Jesus Christ is not only the savior, but he is also God the Savior. “So that, having been justified by his grace”—having that legal pronouncement made on your life that all of your sins are past; you stand free and clean before God almighty—“having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs, having the hope of eternal life.” And if that’s not good enough, Paul says, “This is a trustworthy saying.” Let’s underline this one here, okay?
Cetnar: Amen.
Ankerberg: For those who are having a hard time about inviting Jesus in their life, how do they invite Jesus into their life? They’ve invited an organization into their life; they’ve worked for that organization; they’ve got no thrills there. They want to invite… they have a hard time comprehending having a relationship with the God of the universe who actually loves them, will forgive them and help them. How do you show them to get into that relationship?
Cetnar: Well, first of all, you’ve got to discard the organization’s way of salvation and you’ve got to understand that that’s not the way it is. And I began to understand that, even from Genesis, they had it all wrong. Because in Genesis, they say what was lost in the Garden of Eden was perfect Paradise Earth. Well, that’s true, but that’s not really what was lost. What was lost because of sin was relationship with the true God. And that had to be re-established. And he immediately gave the promise to send us a Savior, talking about the Son and his being bruised in the head, and so forth. And the whole Bible is leading up to that, until he arrives in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. And so, what I began to realize is that the Bible now was written for me; not just a few Scriptures in there the way that I should live, but those promises that I should be with Jesus, and that my sins could be forgiven, and that I could have a relationship now with a holy God. When I read 2 Corinthians 5:21, “He made him who knew no sin to be sin on my behalf”—it says “our” behalf, but I read “my” behalf—that we might become the righteousness of God in him.” Romans 8:1, “Now no condemnation.” I don’t know how many times I’ve said that to a Jehovah’s Witness: “He will forgive your sin, I don’t care how bad it’s been.” And I’ve had some pretty bad people come, that, after they became Witnesses, their whole life is haywire. Just tell him you’re sorry and you will repent of that, and ask him to come into your heart and be your Lord. Do you believe that he is God? “Yeah, I believe that.” Well, then, accept him. Trust him. You were trusting men; now trust God. He will never leave you nor forsake you.
Ankerberg: Yeah. I love the verse that you quoted. People are striving to accumulate their own righteousness to come and present before God, saying “Did I do enough?” And the apostle Paul, in Romans 1 and 3 says, I’ve got news for you, there’s a righteousness not of yourself, because that won’t work. You’d have to live a perfect life, and nobody’s done it, so you’re a hung duck. The fact is, there’s a righteousness from God. It’s been provided by God. It is not yours. He provides it …
Cetnar: Beautiful gift.
Ankerberg: …and he’s willing to give you that perfect righteousness. Look, do you think that Jesus Christ, if he gave you his track record, you could stand before God and make it? Yeah, because he lived perfect. That’s exactly what God says he imputes to us when you put your faith in Christ. He makes that declaration. You are free from the penalty of your sins, and plus, he imputes, he gives, to you the righteousness. He clothes you with the righteousness of Christ—every bit of righteousness that Christ had, perfect righteousness. And it’s not going to change, because it’s in the books.
Cetnar: Don’t be afraid to look at him on the cross, because that was where you were. He put himself there—he was your substitute for your sins. Just believe that.
Ankerberg: Yeah. Sin is a serious thing.
Cetnar: It is. It separates us from God…
Ankerberg: It’ll separate you forever.
Cetnar: …and that’s what happened in the Garden of Eden. We never had that right.
Ankerberg: What verse helped you the most in coming to the Lord?
Garcia: Before I read it, I just want to tell the Jehovah Witnesses out there, do not believe us. Don’t believe us; test us by the Word of God. First John 4:1 says to test all the spirits to see whether they come from God. But if you test us, brothers, please test the organization which you serve. Test them according to the same measure by which you test us. And the verse that helped me a lot was 1 John 5. And it says this in verse 20: “And we know that the Son of God”—the Son of God—“has come, and he has given us understanding so we may know the true one. We are in the true one, that is, in his Son, Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.”
Ankerberg: Bob, what helped you?
Gray:I think the one that I hit me the most was John 1:12, “But to all who did receive him [Jesus], who believed in his [Jesus] name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born not of blood, nor of the will of flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” This is one of those verses that only applies to the anointed Jehovah’s Witnesses. And I realized that. And when I did ask Christ into my heart, you know, I fought with him for months over it. And I finally had to just give up and do it. But then I went to, you know, Romans 8:16, because the anointed would point to that as evidence that they are anointed. You know, “the spirit himself,” or they say itself, “bears witness with our spirit, that we are God’s children.” And for a non-anointed Witness to reach out for that would be presumptuous. But when you think about, what happens is, the Watchtower has said that the anointed know who they are because of this positive action, Romans 8:16, on their behalf. The tragic thing about that is that the non-anointed Witness know who they are because the Holy Spirit has not spoken to them.
Ankerberg: Keith?
Walker: One verse that I really like to share is Acts 16,… well, a couple of verses. Verse 30, the Philippian jailer asks, “What must I do to be saved?” And the answer is really, really simple. Paul just says, “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you shall be saved.” Verse 32: “He spoke the word of the Lord with them,” and verse 33 says, “In that very hour they were baptized.” Now, a Jehovah’s Witness has to study for at least a year; they’ve got to answer 80-plus, sometimes 100, questions before they can be a successful candidate for baptism. Where do we see this? Where do we see these questions? Where do we see a year-long wait? Why is it that this Philippian jailer can receive forgiveness of sins within an hour, and it takes the average Jehovah’s Witness, now, more than a year? This gospel is a simple message. Just like you mentioned earlier, it’s just a trade. We’ve got one set of righteousness, which is our own—Isaiah 64:6 says that it’s “filthy rags.” And then we’ve got the righteousness of God, provided through Jesus Christ. He gives you his righteousness; you give him your sin. It’s a trade. And we come out winning.
Ankerberg: Yeah. Don, got a word here?
Veinot: Yeah. Ephesians 3. I want to use a different translation here. I really like this. Ephesians 3:14-19. Paul is writing, “For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, to whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, that he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in the inner man”—so you have the Father and the Holy Spirit—“so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend” —talking about comprehending, is it reasonable?, can you understand it? Paul says, yeah, you can comprehend—“with all the saints, what is the breadth and depth and height, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” Be filled with all the fullness of God. Who is dwelling in you? Christ. So, because Christ is dwelling in you, you have all the fullness of God, and you can comprehend that with all of the saints. It is, as everyone here keeps saying, a relationship, personally, with Jesus Christ—not an organizational relationship; not 100 hours a month, or 1,000 hours a year door-to-door work; it isn’t how you treat the anointed class. It is a relationship where Christ comes and lives within you. And God indwells you.
Ankerberg: Alright. We’ve got to wrap this up. I want to say thank you for coming. This is hard work. And for Brian, for Joan, for Bob, for Don and for Keith, you know, I believe God has used you in a powerful way to talk to folks that are sitting out there. Maybe they’re in bed right now or maybe they’re just looking at us from the couch and they are seeing this, they are hearing this. And I’m expecting God to work in their lives. God has worked in your lives and he can work in their lives too.
So, folks, I hope that you will consider all of this and look to Jesus. He’s offering you his gift of salvation, of eternal life, relationship with him, power to live the Christian life, if you don’t think you can live the Christian life. Come to him. Ask him to do it. Even with as little knowledge as you know, ask him to do it. He will help you. He will be there from that moment on.
Thanks again for all this help that you’ve given to them. And, folks, I hope you will join me again next week.

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