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THE REAL JESUS MATTERS
You've surely encountered this situation before: a knock rattles your door, and two or more people greet you with a smile and introduce themselves as Jehovah's Witnesses or as elders from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, also called Mormons. What's your first thought? Take a second to really think about it. Are you indifferent or annoyed at the nuisance? Are you afraid?
Maybe you're just insecure because you don't know how to share your own faith, yet these people who are so misled have the gumption to peddle their "wisdom" on your doorstep. They have been deceived and are deceiving others. Do you know how to tell them the truth?
After reading this book, you will be prepared to give an answer with the hope that is within you and refute false doctrine (1 Pet. 3:15). This knock on your door is actually a gift! It's your opportunity to proclaim the real Jesus and way of salvation so that these people may be set free from their bondage.
The number one question you should ask when it comes to different religions and cults is this: what is the truth? In our society, postmodernists claim there is no real truth, and relativists say truth is determined by culture. However, biblically speaking, truth is whatever conforms to the mind of God as revealed in Scripture.
And with that in mind, Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons, and other religions have fabricated their own doctrine, and it does not match up with God's Word. Many have distorted who Jesus really is — and, consequently, do not have the truth residing in them (John 14:6).
Although everyone is entitled to their own opinions, everyone is not entitled to their own facts. But how do we know which group teaches the real Jesus? Truth is with the group that teaches the Jesus who is found in God's Word — the Bible. Jesus is the eternal second person of the Triune Godhead who has been preached by all orthodox Christians throughout history.
WHAT IS A CULT?
The term "cult" has different meanings. In terms of Christian theology, it refers to any group that denies or deviates from the biblical and orthodox teachings of historic Christianity and essential Christian doctrine.
In their Handbook of Today's Religions, Josh McDowell and Don Stewart argue that religious cults are growing because they seem to offer some answers to man's basic questions of existence, such as "Who am I? Why am I here? Where am I going?" This kind of identity crisis creates emotional problems that make certain people particularly susceptible to cults. McDowell and Stewart write, "During such difficult moments, many cults give the unsuspecting a feeling of acceptance and direction."
As well, they state, "Most cults tell their followers what to believe, how to behave, and what to think, and emphasize dependence upon the group or leader for their emotional stability." But while the cults seem to offer solutions that are ready made, the Handbook says they're ultimately unsatisfying. We agree with this because their answers do not align with what the Bible says and, therefore, they cannot receive abundant life from the true Jesus (John 10:10).
This book focuses on two main religious organizations that have fabricated a faulty theology: Jehovah's Witnesses and Latter-day Saints. Each of these groups has its own view of Jesus that is not based on the inerrant Word of God — or on history. This book may also prove to be insightful for postmodernists, including cultural Christians who don't have a saving faith in Jesus Christ.
Many people believe Jesus was a good man and a great teacher but not divine. They view Jesus as a man of great virtue — no different than how they view the leaders in other religions. They also believe that multiple ways exist to attain salvation. In other words, you can travel multiple paths to reach the divine. However, the Bible repeatedly states there is only one, true God. Anyone or anything else worshipped is a false god.
Jesus states quite plainly in John 8:24 that to reject Him as God means eternal separation from Him forever. So much for the nonbeliever's argument that Jesus was just a good man or great teacher!
Additionally, Jehovah's Witnesses and Latter-day Saints commit two egregious errors in respect to the person and nature of Christ: they both claim that He is a god but not the one, true God. This is an obvious theological error. Anyone with even a basic understanding of Christianity could tell you the Bible teaches there is one God (Isa. 44:6; James 2:19). For two thousand years, essential Christian doctrine has maintained that Jesus is the Eternal God who is the second person of the Trinity. He is uncreated and worthy of worship.
But the cults have committed a glaring philosophical error too. It boils down to this: if there is only one, true God, then any other god is a false god.
Just like the average nonbeliever, the Jehovah's Witnesses and Latter-day Saints have rejected the truth of biblical Christianity. At first, they'll tell you they are "Christians" and believe in the Bible as God's Word. But if you go deeper into their theological understanding and practices, you will quickly find that Jehovah's Witnesses and Mormons preach a different gospel. The doctrine they believe in contradicts the Word of God and the person of Jesus Christ. Thus, according to Galatians 1:8, they will be accursed if they do not repent.
Fortunately, God desires everyone to be saved and to know the truth (1 Tim. 2:4), so there's still hope for them. God has given Christians the task of proclaiming His Word to the lost. We are ambassadors of the Lord Jesus (2 Cor. 5:20), so we should jump at the opportunity to proclaim His truth to the cults.
We would ask any of those who adhere to these religious systems to examine our research and determine if it is true. But for those who are followers of God the Son, this book will teach you how to share who the real Jesus is and the way to salvation.
The goal of this book is to provide readers with a defense (apologetic) of the historic, Bible-based Christian faith as well as proactive tactics to evangelize to misled groups. It will also give reasonable and logical answers to commonly asked questions the cults raise about the Triune God and Christianity.
Additionally, Cult Shock is unique in that it contains Christian polemics. That is, the ability to argue against the beliefs and false claims of Jehovah's Witnesses and Mormons. It involves pointing out doctrinal errors and challenging their false belief systems. We see this concept in 2 Corinthians 10:3-5: "For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ." Certainly, we find many examples of Jesus and the apostles Peter, John, and Paul using polemics. We too should incorporate polemics into our evangelistic endeavors.
To equip the believer to proclaim the real Jesus, we first provide a summary of the history and beliefs of the Jehovah's Witnesses and Mormons using primary sources. Next, we present a powerful chapter 4, titled "Is Jesus Really God?" The core issue that comes up with these groups revolves around the person of Jesus Christ. In reading the chapter, you'll learn how to demonstrate Jesus is God — even with the Bible translation that Jehovah's Witnesses use and despite the extra biblical literature used by the Mormons.
We have also written an excellent chapter on the Trinity, which the cults have grossly misconstrued and misunderstood. We'll help you correctly understand this important doctrine and show you how to explain it.
Throughout the book, you'll find tips on how to engage with the Jehovah's Witnesses or Mormons. First of all, to help you better understand them, we'll review their history and key doctrines; and in chapter 8, to help you evangelize effectively, we've provided examples of witness encounters based on real-life experiences. The last chapter deals with the importance of God's Word as the final authority on what is the truth.
Remember, false doctrines are dangerous. Jesus and his disciples repeatedly warn throughout Scripture of the eternal consequences of rejecting true doctrine and adhering to bogus teachings. The Bible has numerous verses warning about false teaching and its disastrous effect on those misled by it.
God commands us to tear down these falsehoods so the truth of God and His Word can shine. We are to defend God's Word with patience and truth. Jude 1:3 tells us "to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints." King David tells us in Psalm 119 that we must follow the Word of God, because it is true.
The Bible encourages its readers to test religious teaching and claims. The Apostle Paul urged the church at Thessalonica to test prophecies while clinging to the good and rejecting evil. Christians must take on the mentality of the Bereans (Acts 17:11) whenever one claims to be a teacher of the Word to decipher whether the truth is being proclaimed or not.
In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul warned about believing in something more than the Lord Jesus:
But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. For if he who comes preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or if you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted — you may well put up with it! (2 Cor. 11:3-5)
You may be feeling unconcerned or apathetic toward those who don't know the real Jesus and, therefore, will not receive abundant and eternal life. But we ask you to consider the following scenario:
Let's say you and three friends are trapped in a burning building with a choice of ten doors. No one knows where to go until a firefighter, who has assessed the situation, bursts through one of the doors and yells, "Quickly, come through this door! It is the only way to safety. All the others lead to other rooms on fire!"
You tell your friends to go with you to the fireman's door, but some of them just shrug and say, "I don't believe that fireman. I'm going to go to a different one." As your friends proceed to open the door leading to flames, you idly watch as their foolishness causes them to perish.
If you truly love your friends, you would beg them to turn to the only door that leads to safety. Similarly, Jesus is the only door to salvation. In John 10:9, Jesus states, "I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved." This is true whether anyone believes it or not.
Therefore, the Jehovah's Witnesses, Latter-day Saints, and others who don't repent and put their faith in the real Jesus will be in serious trouble when Judgment Day comes. Do you care enough about these people to let them know they have been deceived by their respective organizations? Are you concerned for the people they mislead?
From the outset, you should understand that we are not attacking the members of these religious organizations personally. Instead, we are focused on the organizations and false teachers that have misled them and others. We care deeply about these people. Many of them are sincere and committed to their religion. But to reach them, we believe you must show them the truth and pray that the Holy Spirit will convict them. It is our desire that the unbeliever will develop a relationship with the Triune God of Scripture so he can be set free from the bondage of sin and death.
Note: For the rest of the book, we will mainly use the abbreviation JWs for Jehovah's Witnesses and LDS for Mormons.CHAPTER 2
JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES' BELIEFS
From the outside looking in, Jehovah's Witnesses seem like just another Christian denomination. They'll tell you they believe in Jesus and in one God, whose personal name is Jehovah. They believe the Bible is the Word of God and is to be taken seriously. But there's more to the JWs than what they proclaim about themselves.
The organization was founded by Charles Taze Russell (1852-1916) in the nineteenth century. Cult expert Ron Rhodes writes in The Challenge of the Cults and New Religions that Russell was brought up in the Presbyterian church but later abandoned it because of its teachings on predestination and eternal punishment.
He became a Bible skeptic at age seventeen and studied other world religions. When he became acquainted with the Adventists, he took great interest in their prophetic "end times" views as well as in their teaching on annihilation (soul destruction) of the unbeliever instead of eternal separation from God (hell). Russell joined a Bible study in which he and his friends formulated theologies that rejected the Trinity and eternal punishment for the unbeliever. Additionally, they felt that eternal life was not a free gift, but rather something to be attained.
Adventist preacher Nelson H. Barbour heavily influenced Russell. Barbour convinced the twenty-three-year-old Russell that Christ had been invisibly present since 1874 and would fully establish His Kingdom on earth by the year 1914. To spread the news of Christ's return in 1914, Russell published several writings on the subject. After that year had passed, it became clear that Russell's heretical prophecy had failed.
After Russell died in 1916, however, his legacy did not die with him. In fact, he left it to selected officials; and Joseph Rutherford, a lawyer who'd represented him in legal cases, took over the organization. Rutherford also abhorred the idea of hell, which is why JWs still believe in annihilationism and no eternal punishment for the unbeliever.
The JWs have a worldwide governing body that, for most of their history, operated at their world headquarters in Brooklyn, New York. Recently, however, the Watch Tower moved to a new facility in Warwick, New York, where it oversees the production and distribution of evangelistic materials and their one hundred thousand congregations worldwide.
The organization publishes two magazines in more than two hundred languages. The first is The Watchtower, which deals with world events and Bible prophecies. The second is Awake!, which provides recommendations for coping with everyday problems and tells of God's promise of a peaceful and secure new earth in the future. The Watchtower is the world's most circulated magazine with a monthly circulation of 45 million copies. Awake is the second most read at around 43.5 million.
According to the organization, "True Christians serve as Jehovah's witnesses." JWs claim their organization is like that of the early apostles and that their governing body has been the center of God's rule on earth (aka "theocracy"). Yet there is no historical record of early Christianity having a central organization controlling individual churches, literature distribution, or sermons.
Although JWs use the Bible, it is a corrupted version called the New World Translation (NWT). Their "New Testament" was first published in 1950, and subsequent versions have been produced since, including the most recent in 2013. We know of no seminary, university with theological studies, Protestant or Catholic church, or any non-JW religious organization that uses this version. It is not accepted as a credible translation.
The late Dr. Bruce Metzger, professor emeritus of New Testament Language and Literature at Princeton Theological Seminary wrote, "The Jehovah's Witnesses have incorporated in their translation of the New Testament several quite erroneous renderings of the Greek." Another leading Greek scholar, Dr. Julius Mantey, stated, "I have never read any New Testament so badly translated as the Kingdom Interlinear Translation of the Greek Scriptures."
Interestingly, the Watch Tower will not divulge who the translators of the NWT are. During testimony under oath, former vice president F.W. Franz "revealed that translations and interpretations came from God in such a way that they were invisibly communicated to the publicity department via 'angels of various ranks who control witnesses.'"
To say the NWT is controversial would be an understatement. It can be easily demonstrated that many verses referring to Jesus as Jehovah or God have been altered to suit Watch Tower theology. These will be pointed out in this book. Christian theologian Anthony Hoekema noted, about the NWT, that "[It] is by no means an objective rendering of the sacred text into modern English, but is a biased translation in which many of the peculiar teachings of the Watchtower Society are smuggled into the text of the Bible itself." A heavily promoted booklet produced by the Watch Tower called What Does the Bible Really Teach? claims that its version of the Bible is "historically accurate and reliable." Yet the same book contradicts itself by also claiming that the personal name of God (supposedly "Jehovah") was removed from the Bible in ancient times.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Cult Shock"
Copyright © 2017 Mark Stengler Jr. & Mark Stengler Sr..
Excerpted by permission of Morgan James Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Preface Defend and Proclaim the Truth,
Chapter 1 The Real Jesus Matters,
Chapter 2 Jehovah's Witnesses' Beliefs,
Chapter 3 Mormonism in a Nutshell,
Chapter 4 Is Jesus Really God?,
Chapter 5 Is the Trinity Biblical?,
Chapter 6 Apologetics for Common Cultic Attacks,
Chapter 7 Witnessing Techniques for Jehovah's Witnesses and Mormons,
Chapter 8 Conversations with Jehovah's Witnesses and Mormons,
Chapter 9 Jesus Is the Final Revelation,
About the Authors,