Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Open Letter to AJ

Readers: As an introduction: I was recently contacted by sincere man who identified himself merely as AJ. He introduced himself in January 2016 in a response to an article I wrote over a year earlier. His last response required a much longer comment from me than the comments section of articles allows. So I decided to place it as an open letter to AJ for all to read. AJ, if you read this, and feel it is embarrassing to you, let me know, I’ll gladly take it down.

AJ: “Works of loyalty”? I’m not sure I understand the choice of words here. In any case Bart, what in your estimation is the end-goal of performing these “works of loyalty”?

Me: I thought I explained when I further wrote: “In other words, there are people I know that firmly believe (or at least they say so) that Jesus truly is the Savior, the Messiah, the Christ. Yet their immoral conduct in some cases is so bad, it would land them in prison. Are these people still saved by value of the ransom sacrifice of Jesus' blood? Can they act with unrepentant impunity and still end up approved by God and Christ? In short, is mere faith sufficient?”

In contrast, "works of loyalty" (and, by the way, I was using that as a descriptive term and not some catch-phrase) are just that -- things we willingly do from a grateful heart to demonstrate to God our appreciation, reliance, and obedience.

AJ: A correlative question would be; to whom are these works of loyalty performed for? Is it for the Watchtower Society, or is it for God Himself?

Me: From the post I would have hoped it would be evident that it was loyalty to Jehovah, Jesus Christ (our Lord) and to the direction in the Bible.

AJ: If such works are done to demonstrate one’s loyalty to God, it then implies that the sovereign all-knowing Creator somehow can’t see the true sincerity of our heart for Him.

Me: AJ, do you really see things that cut and dry? I’ve come to see in you a man that is able to reason on scripture, has been successful in coming to live a long married life, grow into a reasonable adult, and the ability to want to understand others. But really, this point seems to be the crux of your belief -- that since God can see our loyal heart we do not need to do anything. Does that really make any sense to you? How does God “see the true sincerity of our heart” if we don’t somehow demonstrate it? As I tried to you illustrate before, merely telling your wife “I love you” but never demonstrating it, will never convince her. The same goes with anyone including God. HOW does a mere imperfect human show God that he is sincere if it not through being loyal to him in every aspect of our lives. Coming back to Jesus’ statement in Matthew 22, our whole heart (of love) our whole soul (of our very being), and our whole mind of (reasoning) are necessary to prove to God who we really are. Mark 12:30 adds the word “strength” to that list. In other words it takes conscious and determined effort. These words from Jesus completely demonstrate that it is not that God can’t see who we want to be, rather he EXPECTS us to SHOW him. At Romans 6:17 Paul commended the early Christians who: “became obedient from the heart to that pattern of teaching.” The words obedient and teaching ought to tell us that merely believing is not enough. At Romans 9:16, Paul sees his conversion and service to God as a requirement to preach. I share that sense of obligation to Jehovah as do all Jehovah’s Witnesses.

AJ: “… the more jarring implications being that the human has come to somehow believe that Jesus’ 33+ years of life of righteous perfection and His substitutionary & willing sacrifice and death in paying the penalty for our sins was efficaciously insufficient, leaving us to do the rest on our own.”

Me: Using that reasoning, then “the end” (Matthew 24) should have come immediately after Jesus died for us. There would have no reason to continue. And yet the very reason we have Mt. 24:14 is to show that there is a directive from Jesus to preach. At Hebrews 6:1 Paul urges fellow Christians of the 1st century to “press on to maturity.” Why? What is there to mature if merely acknowledging the Christ is all that is necessary? At 1Corinthians 3:9 Paul states that the early Christians were to see their calling as “becoming God’s fellow workers.” Starting back in verse 5, Paul shows just how Christians are God’s fellow workers – through their preaching work. The Christian “body” (congregation) in verse 9 is spoken of as a field under cultivation. So this is not the case of seed here, a seed there, all independent of one another. Since the direction is to view ourselves as a Christian body (Romans 12:4), that in itself shows that there is something more than just accepting the Christ into our heart.

AJ: If these “works of loyalty” are required, then how you know when you’ve done enough Bart?

Me: Philippians 3:12-15 answers that question. We should never view anything we do as having done enough. Would anyone ever tell even their mate such a thing: “Hey, I’ve done enough to show you my love”? That should never happen. The one claiming to love should always be wanting to do more.

AJ: And that’s the very thing that brings me to my knees in gratitude & daily, and in submission to the King of kings that God has appointed…

Me: AJ, I am glad you are thankful. But why even drop to your knees? Using your reasoning, doesn’t God already know you are thankful? Is he so unaware that he doesn’t already see how you feel? AJ, I am not sure our conversation can progress because we both seem firmly convinced. Just as you are convinced that works demonstrating our love are unnecessary, I am likewise convinced that even human relationships demonstrate they are absolutely necessary. Then there is the “great cloud of witnesses” mentioned in Hebrews 11, each of which demonstrated their love and loyalty. Why would any of those had to demonstrate their faith if your reasoning is true? Didn't God just "know" they were loyal. Is faith (faithfulness), love and loyalty even possible without action?

Addendum: One last thought that just came to mind: I was asked by a friend one time: "If your life were a silent movie, what about your life would show the type of person you are?" I answered, "My actions." He responded, "Exactly. It is our actions that demonstrate who we really are. No matter what we claim, our actions always tell who the inner man is."

See also: "Can We Earn Salvation?"

1 comment:

  1. God sees a loyal heart, by definition a loyal heart preforms loyal works - one cannot exist without the other. Works are required, but we can never achieve salvation by the law of works, rather, we preform the works of the law of faith! Knowing that where we fall short, God provides forgiveness by Christ to the humble.