Testimonies Part 1
Shelley (Warne) Canon
Testimony By Joan Warne
I am not writing you because I think I know so much. What I know doesn’t really matter, except to me. But there is a burden on my heart to write you because after nearly 50 years of searching, I have found the Truth. It is because I love you that I want to share what I have found with you.
From the time I was a little girl, I have been searching for the Truth, and somehow, deep in my heart, I knew that I would someday find it. I didn’t know the Bible and I didn’t know God, but somehow I did know that He was good.
Five years ago something happened to me that changed my life completely around. I’ll never ever be the same again. And this is what I want to tell you about.
For 23 years my husband and I were Jehovah’s Witnesses. He was an elder for 22 of those years. We both love Jehovah God with all our hearts, and we want to say now that we came to know many things about Him through the Organization. We learned to love the Bible, as a result of the efforts, time, and concern expressed by the Witnesses. I will always appreciate that, and will give them the credit for the many, many truths I learned through them.
Although in those 23 years, I accumulated many facts about Jehovah, I never really knew Him as a personal God and Father to me. The truths I had learned were a source of much joy and happiness to me, but as the years wore on, there seemed to be something missing. As much as I loved to study and research, even that no longer seemed satisfying, as there seemed to be nothing really new. I can appreciate that to a "new" Witness, there are many new things to learn and it is really interesting and exciting to do so. But the stage where I was at, head knowledge just wasn’t enough. An aching emptiness began to develop within me that could no longer be filled or satisfied with "intellectual" facts. Although I read in God’s Word of the great love He has for us, and the joy that floods one’s soul, and the peace that passes all understanding, as time went on, I began to honestly admit to myself that I wasn’t really experiencing these qualities in my own life. As I observed others and talked to them, I found that they too felt the same way. There seemed to be no "life" so to speak, in my relationship with Jehovah. My mind was full of factual knowledge and I felt confident that I could "debate" and prove what I knew with anyone on the outside, but my spirit seemed more and more depressed, until it felt like it was just withering away. There were all kinds of problems going on in the Congregation, and in the families of others we knew. We were also aware of things going on with the Organization itself that didn’t seem things I felt had nothing to do with Jehovah. All these things really began to distress me and add more discouragement. I knew I had to find some answers.
About five and a half years ago, I finally came to the end of myself, so to speak. I won’t go into all the details, but suffice it to say that I reached a point of Truth, an honest evaluation of myself, my feelings and attitudes, and an admission to myself that I could no longer function as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. For a long time I had been going through the motions, but my heart was just not in it. I knew if I didn’t leave, I would die spiritually. This decision to leave had nothing at all to do with doctrine or believing the Witnesses did not have the Truth. I still believed with all my heart that they did. The problem was, that it wasn’t enough for me anymore. And because I felt like this, for a long time before I decided to leave, I felt guilty, confused and a little scared. I thought something was wrong with that I did not love Jehovah, or appreciate His arrangements. But when I left, I couldn’t even worry about that. I knew that whatever I felt, I had to start with being honest with myself and with Jehovah. He certainly knew my heart and my feelings. I couldn’t hide from Him, even though I could from others and even to a degree from myself. More than anything, what I desired was the freedom and cleansing of an open and honest admission to Jehovah and to myself of how I really felt about things. All I knew was that I was empty inside, and things that once meant everything to me no longer had any real meaning or value. The only thing I had left that seemed real was God’s Word and I clung to that for dear life.
When I first left I felt rather cold and dead inside, yet there was an inner strength and determination that kept me going. I was determined to find answers to the many questions whirling around in my mind. One of the most important of those questions, to me at least, was, how could we, as Jehovah’s Witnesses, continue to judge others on the outside, particularly those in Christendom, when we had just as many problems and failings as they had. This had bothered me for many years and was another strong reason for my leaving. I just couldn’t be part of this anymore.
As I began reading God’s Word and praying, and just opening my heart to Jehovah, I knew that I had to clear my mind of a lot of pre-conceived ideas and just let His Word speak to me. As I did this, I discovered how much I really loved Jehovah. For as I read His Word, particularly the book of John and the three letters of John, I began to feel something I hadn’t felt in a long the reality of Jehovah’s love for me. This was the first "revelation" so to speak, that He gave the actual experience of His love, assuring me that He really did love me. It was no longer words, but reality. This may not mean anything to you, but at that point in my life I was very low spiritually. I had been unhappy for so long and I was not sure of where I stood with Jehovah. I seemed to always be under a burden of guilt for not doing more, and when I did try to do more, I didn’t seem to feel the joy in serving Him that I thought I should feel. It was almost like a ritual, doing what I should because I had to, not out of the desire of my heart.
I knew my motivation wasn’t right, so by the time I decided to leave, I had reconciled myself to the possibility that I was going to be destroyed for leaving. Although I told myself I didn’t care, in fact at times it seemed like almost a relief, as previous to my decision to leave, thoughts of suicide had entered my mind because of the confusion and despair I was experiencing. Yet, even though I had come to grips with the worst possibility, there was a tiny spark of hope in my heart that I was moving in the right direction. This seemed odd because I didn’t feel I was moving forward, but away from something. Something almost like dishonesty and hypocrisy in myself. There was so much confusion in my mind and I wanted to sweep everything away and have a clean start. I wanted to examine everything and build back into my life only those things I really believed to be True. Whatever the cost, I determined to be real and honest, and not accept things I thought were wrong or do things because I was told by others to do them. I wanted everything I did from then on to be right from my heart. And I knew that if Jehovah was going to destroy me for this, then He would destroy me anyway, for He could read my heart and He knew how I really felt, no matter what I did for Him on the surface. I could keep up the pretense and go through all the right motions, but if it wasn’t in my heart, what good would it be?
Anyway, as I continued to see Him from the very depth of my heart, I could sense that He was beginning to draw me closer to Him. It was still hazy and vague, but very real to me. As I began to feel that assurance and love, I knew that I could never ever leave Him or do anything He would not want me to do. At the time, I was writing down all my thoughts and "discoveries" as I prayed and read His Word, and one thing I wrote was that even if He wanted me to go back to the Organization, I would go-"whether I understood it or not. Anyway, the feeling toward Him that began developing stronger and stronger within me was one I did not put a word to at first, because all my life I thought I had it. The word is commitment. I know now, that although I thought I was committed to Jehovah God, I really wasn’t. I was committed to an organization who told me what Jehovah wanted me to do. You may feel that there is no difference, and maybe it is a subtle and fine line, but to me, it is the difference between life and death.
This spiritual experience of "getting to know" Jehovah in a personal way, not through head knowledge of Him, but in reality and experience, I much later, found, was nothing unique to me alone. Although it was, and is, the most personal, exciting experience of my life, this same experience is shared is shared by millions of others all over the earth today. I didn’t know it then, but I do now, that Jehovah is touching hearts all over this earth, hearts that are yearning for Him, crying out, searching and seeking for Him. And He is answering their cries and prayers in a most wonderful way. My background, personality, and experience, are unique to me; I am certain that no one else on earth can relate to them 100%, for each person is different. What is the same, however, is the searching heart. Much later I came across these scriptures which confirmed my own experience.
"Call to me, and I shall answer you and readily tell you great and incomprehensible things that you have not known." (Jer. 33:3)
"‘And you will certainly call me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. And you will actually seek me and find me, for you will search for me with all your heart, and I will let myself be found by you’ is the utterance of Jehovah." (Jer. 29:12,13)
"Search for Jehovah and His strength, seek His face constantly." (Ps. 105:4)
"For, as regards Jehovah, His eyes are roving about through all the earth to show His strength in behalf of those whose heart is complete toward Him." (2 Chron. 16:9)
What I was gradually coming to see was that knowledge alone wasn’t the answer. The key is our deepest desire. This is something only we and Jehovah really know. The question we much ask ourselves is this: Do I really want GOD? Or am I satisfied with something less: a Religion, security, friends, a place in this world. Is my desire centered on the gifts and promises of The hope of those gifts and promises? A child will sometimes obey his parents’ orders and rules either because of promised rewards or the fear of punishment. But is this motivation the desire of the parent? To have his children obey him for such self-centered reasons? Or is his ultimate desire that the child do these things out of a heart filled with love, which only can come from a deep intimate relationship with that parent. This love motive may not be possible at first, but it must come. If any relationship is based only on self-interest, it will not last. This is why knowing things about God, and even obeying and serving Him is not enough. It is our motive in doing these things that counts.
I think many times people start off seeking God for selfish motives, which is okay. I feel God will honor that, because the truth is, we DO need God, just as a child needs his parents and must realize that he is dependent on them for life and support. But as he grows older, the relationship should mean more than that.
Yet, sometimes it never develops any further than that, so that when the child is old enough to be on his own, he will leave. There is no bond of love between parent and child.
God did not create us for this kind of relationship. He created us to know Him and to love Him with all our heart, mind, soul and to be inseparably joined to Him in an unbreakable bond of union forever and ever. To know and feel His love for us personally as his precious child, to experience daily, hourly, by the minute, His caring and concern for us. We cannot love God on our own. Our love for Him is merely a response to His love. Until we know experientially His great love for us personally, our relationship will be cold. Our hearts will be unsatisfied, longing for something more, aching for something we know not what.
As I continued to read God’s Word, I felt like I was coming out of a long, dark tunnel. Jehovah was drawing me to the light and it turned out that light was Jesus, His Son. Scriptures about Jesus began to almost leap off the page as I read. I couldn’t believe that all those scriptures were in the Bible all along. Yes, I had read them many times, but it was like I just sort of glossed over them. They were dead to me in the sense that they had no real, personal meaning to me. I knew Jesus was the Son of God, he died for our sins, he was Savior and Lord. But how this related to me personally was kind of vague in my mind. These were just words that I believed and my 23 years as a Witness was based on an intellectual acceptance of them, yet my personal relationship with Jesus and his with me was non-existent. I felt he was only for 144,000 select people. But now he was becoming more and more real to me. As I read the overwhelming evidence of his true position and place in our lives and how he was appointed by Jehovah God to be our personal Lord and Savior, I began to be more and more convinced. I must tell you that I felt some apprehension also, because you see, for 23 years I sensed that it was wrong to get too close to Jesus or talk too much about him, as this would take away from Jehovah’s importance and position. It was almost like a competition between them. People on the "outside" of the Organization worshiped Jesus, but we, as Jehovah’s Witnesses worshiped
Jehovah alone. As I became more and more convicted, I really had a terrible struggle going on inside me, but I couldn’t deny what I was reading in Jehovah’s own Word. I couldn’t seem to put it out of my mind. It just kept growing stronger and stronger and more real to me, until the day came when I knew I had to accept it. Little did I know then what the cost would be, but even if I had known, it wouldn’t have mattered, because what I had found meant everything to me. Jesus had said that we must be willing to leave everything for the closest of relationships, family and friends, hating even our own lives in this system of things, and be will to pick up our torture stake and follow him, even to the point of giving up our very lives for him, if necessary. For the first time in my many years of reading certain scriptures I was actually experiencing them. I really knew the meaning of the words of Paul in Philippians 3:4-11 where he wrote how he counted all things that he had gained up to that point in his life as LOSS, because of Christ and the excelling value of knowing him and being in union with him.
Of course I didn’t really believe that what would result would be just as Jesus warned would happen to those who would commit themselves to follow him at any cost. I naively felt that my true friends would stand by me and my family would also see the wondrous truths I was finding. But even when they didn’t I had to go on. "I (had) sought him whom my soul has loved. And when I found him I would not let him go." (Song of Solomon 3:1,4)
What swept over me was the revelation that Jesus was Jehovah God’s gift of love to all mankind, and only through him could we really come to know the Father, as well as have eternal life. But even eternal life seemed of secondary importance to me as compared to the glory of knowing the heart of God, experiencing the heart of God and experiencing the drawing power of His great love. What everlasting life means to me now is being able to worship and praise my God forever and ever in His constant presence. Without Him life is death. There is nothing I want apart from His will for me. I have always loved Jehovah, but it was a different kind of love. I had never known before this strong and intense desire to worship God as I knew it now. I realize now that this too is a gift of God through the Holy Spirit. It is not from ourselves, but only a response to His great love for us.
Jehovah God met me where I was, at my point of need and despair and He gently and lovingly drew me to His Son. I got down on my knees and tearfully opened my heart to Jesus Christ, convinced that he alone was the Way, the Truth and the Life, and the ONLY approach to Jehovah, our heavenly Father. I had searched His Word and I knew at last that there was no other way, going through other men or other arrangements. Jesus was the one and only way that was designated by Jehovah in His Word. I was free at last to acknowledge this.
Friends, I must tell you that my life has changed from that point on. I cannot honestly say that I have not had many times of struggling and despair and many questions that demanded answers. There were many times of confusion about so many, many things. I had to re-evaluate everything--everything I had formerly learned and fit it together with everything new I was learning. This all took time, but at last all the pieces are fitting together. But what I want to share with you that is so wonderful, is that during this entire time, in spite of all the ups and downs, confusion, struggling and praying for answers to my questions, my heart was continually filled to overflowing with God’s love, peace and joy. The awareness of His presence was always there with me, reassuring me, leading me and guiding me. I have learned how to walk in faith, step by step, trusting in Jehovah and Jesus to lead me. I have come to know truly and by my own experience what faith it is not always seeing the whole picture, and having all the pieces fit, but it is learning to lean, not on your own understanding and wisdom, but to allow God to lead and reveal things to you, to walk in the light .
He gives you and be obedient. It is shunning error WHEREVER it is, and walking in Truth WHEREVER it is. Truth does not come in a neat little package. It must be searched for as hidden treasures. No one person or organization has it all. This is the deception we have all been under, thinking that one Church or Organization is the Truth. Jesus is the Truth and God’s Word, the living Word and the Written Word, no man or group of men on earth. The best that anyone has is only part of the Truth. Our responsibility before Jehovah God is to seek NOT to compare ourselves with others and judge them because they do not have the Truth we have. If we will honestly examine all things, we will come to see that although they may not have the Truth we have, they have other Truth that we NEED. As long as we are in bondage to men, and looking only to what they tell us, instead of Jehovah and Jesus, we will not be able to see this, for we are only looking at part of the whole picture.
Along with the joy and inner peace that comes with getting to know God and know that He truly lives in me, through the Holy Spirit, and knowing He will never leave or forsake me, unless I choose to leave or forsake There have been many trials along the way. But after each one I emerged stronger and with more understanding of God’s workings in my life. What a God we have! How He wants us all to know Him like this! I will never cease to praise and worship Him, for He is WORTHY! And this is why I want to tell the WORLD about Jesus, the REAL JESUS, the LIVING LORD and personal Savior, because it was through HIM and him alone, that I came to know in a FULL way the heart of the Father. There is no treasure on earth that is greater to me. Deep down inside me I always thought I knew how Jehovah was, but in my wildest imagination I could never have dreamed of the greatness of His love for all mankind and the lengths He will go to, to save them and turn them around from their ways that are in opposition to His way for them. Only ONE thing blocks us from knowing Him, and that is unbelief, and unbelief comes through deception. As 2 Cor. 4:4 shows: "The god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving, that they might not see the light of the good news about the CHRIST, who is the image of God." This was one of my favorite and most quoted scriptures as a Witness, yet I missed the whole point of what it was saying! Paul goes on to say in verse 5: "For we are preaching, NOT OURSELVES, but CHRIST JESUS AS LORD, and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus’ sake."
When I first began learning the Bible as a Witness, there was such a joy and excitement in me. I could hardly wait to tell family, friends and everyone about what I had found. But as people failed to respond, that joy began to be crushed and hurt and in time began to dim. But the joy I have now is "built it is not affected by outer response or circumstance. For it is not my joy, but the joy of the Lord Jesus, a fruit of the holy spirit. He has given me his joy to be within me forever. One of my favorite scriptures is "That joy of the Lord is my strength." This is why I can "Rejoice in the Lord always." Phil.4:4
I found out through my own experience, that this joy is what sustains you when you go through all kinds of trials. This joy from the holy spirit sustained me when I was disfellowshipped from all my friends, my spiritual brothers and sisters,. Humanly speaking, I was all alone, I had no one who understood, but God was with me. Later Jehovah kindly revealed to me that even those who accepted Jesus as Lord in the first century were expelled from the Synagogue and cut off from fellowship with the Jews who worshiped Jehovah alone: John 9:22 12:42 16:2 Men can cut you off from fellowship with them, but praise God! Jesus said he KNOWS his sheep and they know Him and NO MAN can snatch them out of the Father’s hand!
Besides being disfellowshipped for the "sin" of confessing Jesus as Lord, many strange and untrue stories were circulated about me. This was another type of trial especially the fact that friends I had know and been close to for years, willing to believe the worst about me. But again, the joy of the Lord within me was my sustaining strength. Jesus said, "Happy are you whenever men hate you, and whenever they exclude you and reproach you, and cast out your name as wicked for the sake of the Son of man. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, for look! Your reward is great in heaven, for those are the same things their forefathers used to do to the prophets. Luke 6:22,23 "Happy are you when people reproach you and persecute your and lyingly say every sort of wicked thing against you for my sake, Rejoice and leap for joy." Matt. 5:11,12 "If you are being reproached for the name of Christ, you are happy, because the spirit of glory, even the spirit of God, is resting upon you." I Pet.4:14 Oh, how real those words came to be for me!!
Even the hurt I felt when my friends of many years chose to believe these stories rather than to come to me and find out the truth, was dimmed by my joy in the Lord and also the knowledge that the reason they were acting this way was because of the fear in them instilled by the Organization. I can really forgive them from my heart because I truly know how they felt. At best I had abandoned Jehovah (by leaving His Organization) and at worst, that I was deceived and led astray by Satan. Either way put me in a unapproachable position.
Looking back I can really understand their position, and I know now it was unfair of me to expect more of them than they could conscientiously give, in view of the rules of the Organization. I just want to say now that I am sincerely sorry for any hurt that I have caused them or anyone in the organization. I really love them and would do anything in my power to reach them and try to explain the truth of what has happened to me. I would want them to know that I have not compromised what I know to be Truth in any way. I have not joined any other organization or church, not do I intend to. I will not believe or support any teaching I feel is false, and I will stand on what I believe to be true, no matter where I hear it as long as it is supported by the infallible Word of God. I know what I believe, but I can no longer judge others who love God also, and feel that I am better than they, because I may know some things they don’t. God deals with us all from the point of where we are. We’re all wrong in some areas, and judging, comparing, competing and separating ourselves from others who love God and are also seeking Him and His will, is not God’s way. His way is LOVE, which unites, and heals and covers over a multitude of sin and error. In time we will all come to know the whole Truth, but in the meantime we must share what we have, and help and encourage others, not draw battle lines.
I realize that this is a very hard way to look at things, and I don’t expect everyone to understand what I am saying. I am not saying that the Organization is wrong. I am saying that it is not right. It doesn’t have all that it must have. It is not giving the people the necessary truths they must have to come to know Jehovah in an intimate way and find life.
I just pray that you will examine the scriptural section at the end of this book with an open heart and mind, asking Jehovah God to show you if they are true. What I say doesn’t matter, but what God says in His Word does matter. Let us all turn from looking to men and begin to see Jehovah’s face and ask HIM to reveal His Truth to us. We need not fear that when we ask for wisdom, He will not give it to us. (James 1:5)
Nor do we need to fear that He will give us a serpent or a scorpion (anything harmful or demonic) when we ask for the Holy Spirit, (Luke 11:9-13) In fact God does not give us a spirit of fear or cowardice, but that of power and of love and of soundness of mind. (2 Tim. 1:7
The spirit of fear is from Satan, by which he keeps us in bondage and deception. It is the Truth that sets us FREE. We should never be afraid to examine. I am not asking you to examine doctrine, but only the TRUTH about the place that God’s Son Jesus Christ must play in all of our lives if we are to please Jehovah. The Truth about him is the ULTIMATE TRUTH, for if the SON sets you free, you will be TRULY free. (John 8:32,36
May our Heavenly Father, Jehovah, and His Son, Jesus Christ, richly bless your efforts in seeing the Truth.
I love you,
Testimony By Shelley (Warne) Canon
In the last few years my life has changed dramatically. Looking back I think the real change started when I started searching on my own for some answers to questions that had been raised in my life.
I had been born and raised a Jehovah’s Witness, and had lived happily as one for twenty-two years of my life. I loved being a Witness. It was a secure feeling knowing that you had the, "truth," and associating with people that believed like you, and lived like you. I realized that in many ways, we as Witnesses were very different from the "World" and other religions but that just confirmed to me the idea that we had the Truth, as Christ had said, His followers would be "no part of the World" and would stand out as being different.
Although I was a very happy Witness, I did have some questions concerning our beliefs. These questions never seemed to be too much of an issue, but the time came when certain understandings that I had were questioned, and it came time to really examine my beliefs.
My mother was influential in my beginning to search for some answers. She had left the Jehovah’s Witness Organization for over a year, and had spent that time on her own, reading the Bible and praying and had recently begun talking of a new faith she had found in Jesus Christ. Knowing that she was very sincere, I patiently listened to her, and I could see that she was much happier with herself and more at peace with her life. But I seriously doubted that she could be correct about her ideas of not needing an organization but needing a relationship with Jesus Christ and His Father Jehovah.
Her views led her to being expelled from the congregation of fellow Jehovah’s Witnesses. Her friends were no longer allowed to speak to her or associate with her in any way. Her family, namely my father and I, were admonished not to have any kind of spiritual association with her at all, which included praying or reading the Bible with her.
Although these were drastic measures, I understood the positions of both sides of the issue. My mother simply had been honest about something that she had found to be true, that the only way to Jehovah God was through His Son, Jesus Christ, and that anyone who had this relationship with Jesus and had made Him Lord in their life would be accepted by Jehovah God. I didn’t have any doubt that my mother was being totally honest and sincere, knowing as I did that her whole life had been devoted to studying the Bible and her search for more knowledge of God.
I also realized the position of the Organization. They sincerely believed that They are the One, True Religion today, and that God through His Son Jesus and His Anointed Ones (the Faithful and Discreet Class as they are called) had set up this one organization to bring all honest-hearted persons into this one "fold." For my mother to say that there was another way to salvation other than the Organization was nearing blasphemy. If she didn’t change her ideas, they would have no other recourse but to disfellowship (expel) her from the Organization.
I understood the disfellowshipping action, but what discouraged me were the attitudes expressed by the elders and also persons who had known my mother for years. I would attend meetings where my mother was not mentioned by name, but it was common knowledge who the elders were referring to when they talked of "the evil root that had sprung up among us" and the "dross that would be skimmed off the pot" so as not to contaminate the rest. In my heart, many of the accusations about my mother and also about a dear friend that had disassociated herself on the same grounds, I knew were totally untrue. This discouragement led to the beginning of my search.
I began on my own to pray to Jehovah God and ask Him to help me understand His Word. I then began reading the New World Translation without any other "Bible Aids" or commentaries or anything else that would give me a pre-conceived idea of what the scriptures were saying. I started in the Book of John and it was amazing! There were so many things that I had missed out on by not just reading the Bible and allowing God’s Spirit to reveal to me what His Word was saying.
It was overwhelming to see the place Jesus had in the early believer’s hearts. They loved and worshiped Him as Lord. He was and Is The Way, the Truth, and the Life, and the Light of the World. The Father said that no one could come to Him except by His Son Jesus. It was endless. I began to see that this was the key Truth that was missing in my life. I had always believed in Jesus Christ and knew that we couldn’t be saved except by
His sacrifice and the ransom He had paid for my sins. But He had always seemed so far off from me and my life. I began to see that Jehovah desired that Jesus become lord in my life. No longer could I set Him so far away in my life. He had to be real and a relationship with Him was essential for me to be pleasing to Jehovah. All I know is that this Truth brought the monumental change in my life. Whatever I read in the scriptures I accepted and there was no denying that Jesus was the answer for all mankind, and my own life.
I also prayed concerning many doctrines that I had believed. I thank Jehovah that He answered my prayers. No, He has not said that all of my belief as a Jehovah’s Witness was wrong and He has not said that all was right. He did show me that I had building on a wrong foundation. I had been building on the foundation of the Jehovah’s Witness Organization and not on the foundation of Jesus Christ. I had been putting all of my hope and trust in an organization of sincere seekers of God but not on the One True Foundation, Jesus Christ. Much of what was built on that foundation was good I believe, but what God did was tear down all of my "house" so to speak, meaning all of my previous doctrine, and began helping me to build my house again, but this time starting on the right foundation of Jesus Christ. This was not easy but it had to be done. I had to examine everything that I had believed and hold it up in the light of God’s Spirit that I had received when I turned my life over to Jesus Christ. I have seen that there is Truth in the Organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses, but the Truth can bring you no life unless it is built on the right foundation of Jesus Christ.
It is hard to condense all that has happened to me since that beginning. I too was expelled from the Organization. Contrary to what most Witnesses believe, Jehovah does not leave you when you leave the Organization. He has been with me and is to this day guiding me. I now this is hard for Witnesses to understand, but it is true.
The ideal of having an organization or one right denomination, is just that, Idealistic. It would be ideal to have one organization that had all the Truth, and had the "dibs" on God so to speak. But this is just not realistic or what God had in mind. What I have come to find is that organizations and denominations become walls. In their effort to be separate and hold out all of the bad and evil, they hold you in to the point where you are not free to examine or question, or express another point of view. These walls also hold out much good. I have found so many persons who have devoted their lives one hundred percent to God, study the Bible, and really live Christianity. They have found the "Truth that sets them free," and this Truth is in Jesus Christ. They are free to examine and free to express what they feel God is showing them.
Unfortunately I have also found that there are many Christians who have an outlook similar to the Witnesses. They feel that you must accept a certain set of doctrines to be saved. And in a sense they believe that their belief or denomination is the only correct one. I feel this is unfortunate because it leads to attitudes that were prevalent in the organization and that I also experience outside the organization. When you believe that you have all the truth, a self-righteous attitude develops. I know because as a Jehovah’s Witness I had it. It is easy to stand off and judge others when they do not accept "The Truth" as you see it. Also, a close-minded attitude is fostered. You are not open to another opinion or interpretation even though you think you are. You automatically close your mind when someone expresses a view that does not agree with yours.
When God was bringing together all Jews and Greeks into one Body, a Body that had all accepted Jesus Christ, they had similar problems and attitudes. Jews felt that certain things were necessary to please God while Greeks disagreed. Much scripture was written admonishing them to accept one another and put away these attitudes.
Today God is bringing together all who have accepted His Son Jesus as Lord into one Body. We have come from many denominations and walks of life. Jesus Christ is our Head and our basis for Unity. I feel we cannot come together thinking that our way of understanding is the only way. We should come together in a spirit of love, to edify and build one another up. We must put aside preconceived ideas and allow God’s Spirit to work in our lives and reveal to our hearts what His is teaching us today.
In all that I have learned, I think the most important thing to me is that God is our Teacher and to learn from Him we need to know Him in a personal way. This is done by turning our lives over to Jesus Christ and allowing God’s Spirit and God’s Word to lead us into Truth.
To conclude, I would like to share a scripture that I feel is being fulfilled today. It speaks of a "new thing" that God desires to do."The time is coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah.... This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time, declares the Lord. I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother saying, ‘know the Lord, because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest." Hebrews 8:8,10,11
Testimony By Maria Lau
What moves a person to leave family and friends and religious organizations to follow Christ? I’m sure there are many answers to this question, all moving and encouraging to other Christians. But whatever our reasons, praise God that we are called. Jesus calls us through our different needs, and I would like to share my experience with you.
It was difficult belonging to an organization and not fully believe in its teachings. Especially if you were taught that organization was Jehovah’s sole channel of communication on earth. I felt that if I did not agree with the Organization, I was against Jehovah ("running ahead" as it was called) and contending with the Holy Spirit. This had a demoralizing effect on me and I felt like a "lost sheep" in the midst of the congregation.
But Jehovah God is a loving God, for as I continued in the Organization feeling that I could never be reconciled to Him, He poured His Holy Spirit upon me and led me to Jesus. He caused me to separate Himself, Jesus, the Holy Spirit and the Bible from the Organization. One side was perfection--the other imperfection.
Through the organization, reconciliation to God was impossible for me; but with Jesus as mediator, I was made to see that reconciliation with God was possible--not only for me, but for every human being who desired it. What a blessing to come to the full realization that man is not dependent on organizations for salvation, but on Jesus Christ our Lord!
I am not adamantly against organizations; they have their places and serve their purposes, and they exist because there is a need for them. But their findings, interpretations and scriptural applications, and even attitudes, should not be closed to scrutiny and even disagreement. This is because of the element of imperfection. To acknowledge that an organization is imperfect is a noble thing, but it is quite difficult for an organization to treat itself as such.
It’s hard to imagine that non-acceptance of a precept was an indication of apostasy. Rejection of Jehovah and Jesus should constitute apostasy for a Christian, not the rejection of the interpretations and application of an organization. The early Christians, such as the Beroeans, were free to scrutinize without recrimination. This freedom would eliminate the danger of any organizations becoming "Sacred Cows" or "Golden Calves--untouchable things to worship.
But we know that all these things in our Christian Society will be taken care of by our Lord Jesus. We know that God, His son Jesus, and the Holy Spirit are Universal. No one man or no one organization has a monopoly on them. No one can capture God, harness Him, and claim Him as his alone. It’s the Lord who chooses...He who captures our hearts and who Shepherds us. Praise God.
Testimony By Doug Warne
I was a Witness for 23 years, during which time I held many responsible position as an Elder, from presiding Elder of a congregation to giving public talks regularly in Kingdom halls and larger assemblies.
Regardless of what they might think of me now, I believe those Witnesses who knew me best during those years will acknowledge honestly that during that time my love for them, Jehovah and His "Organization" was sincere.
I would like to touch on three separate points in this testimony:
1. Why did I leave the Jehovah’s Witness organization?
2. What has happened to me since I left?
3. Where do I stand today?
Why did I leave?
First of all, let me make it clear that my departure was from an "Organization" or "System." It was not a departure form Jehovah or the ones I love so dearly still in the organization.
As a Witness I prided myself in being able to come up with the right answers to the myriad of doctrinal issues that made up my religious life. I was skilled in research and the ability to put together a logical argument for what ever point was at hand to be proved.
One of the most difficult aspects of my life as a Witness was dealing with the rigidity and "interpretations" of organizational procedures by fellow elders and those in authority. I realized the need for "unity" and for the most part remained submissive, but with so many details set down in our publications there were bound to be inconsistencies in handling of similar situation by different groups of elders.
As an example: It always bothered me about certain aspects of counting time spent in Witnessing, and particularly the designation of "pioneers." Time and time again I saw dedicated, sincere persons, oftentimes young ones deferring marriage and families because of the urgency of the times, enrolling as pioneers. And time and time again I saw subtle changes taking place in the attitudes of these people.
Getting in the required monthly quota of hours became of paramount concern to them. A visit to a sick, elderly sister would be deferred because it was the 30th of the month and I need ten more hours." Little "tricks" or time counting devices were used, such as stopping by to study the days text with an unbaptized Witness child to set the clock running early so that time at a meeting for field service could be included as witnessing time, etc. In their hearts these people knew such things were really not quite right, but the stress of "quotas" on pioneers forced them into such things.
I remember about ten months after my wife stopped attending meetings (although she was not yet disfellowshipped) I had been doing some serious soul-searching. Joan was talking more and more about Jesus and "relationship" and how wrong it was for the Witnesses to sit in blanket judgment on other religions on the outside when they themselves (as an organization and individually) were far from perfect.
I also saw such a marked change in Joan for the better that I was getting confused. By all of my past understanding, Joan should have dried up spiritually by not associating with the others regularly in meetings. Instead, I saw her character blossom in joy, love and understanding far greater than at any time in our married life. The "Experience" of living with such a changed person defied all my logical explanations.
I thought about my hang-up on the pioneer issue. I felt that if this truly was Jehovah’s organization, He would allow for input from those down the chain to filter up to the top, allowing for the Governing Body to sense the pulse of what was going on and change things if necessary, With that motive, I let the elders know my feelings at one of our meetings, and also told them I couldn’t in good conscience accept any assignment to speak to the congregation exhorting them to pioneer. That started things!
A new elder who had come into our congregation just about a month earlier, but who had a string of credentials as long as your arm had become the dominant force in our local group. He himself was a pioneer, and I suppose this struck a wrong chord with him. In any event, I was immediately removed from any speaking assignments, since obviously the "strain of my wife’s attitude" had affected my spiritual balance.
With a good deal of extra time on my hands to think, it didn’t take long before I resigned as elder, followed by my wife’s being disfellowshipped for her stance on her relationship with Jesus.
At that time I left the organization...not my friends, but the institutional system. I was not yet disfellowshipped, because as yet there was no organizational "grounds" for it. But I had pulled away from the major part of my adult life, with my very religious foundation shaken. It was a difficult and frightening step.
What has happened to me since I left?
With a disfellowshipped wife, and myself somewhat suspect, there was very little association for me with my brothers and sisters. I spent a good deal of time reading the Bible alone and talking things over with my wife. By now my wife had started watching the 700 club on TV and, once in awhile if I was home in the daytime, I would glance at it and scoff. The conviction that all outside churches were firmly in Satan’s control was still very strong in my mind. I remember telling Joan that those "happy" people were just acting...after all, if a TV camera is on you, you obviously will put your best foot forward, even if it isn’t truly in your heart.
Strangely, a series of "coincidences" was beginning about this time which would turn my life around 180 degrees. My best friend at work turned out to be a Bible student (not Jehovah’s Witness). While still a Witness, I began to talk over scriptures with him from time to time, as usual figuring I could persuade him to the "truth" as I knew it doctrinally. But Mick was a tough nut to crack. He kept talking about the "experience" of Christianity as being more important than the letter of the doctrine. He didn’t "fight" me on points I felt strongly about, and even granted that many ideas I had were new to him and worthy of consideration.
(I learned over a year later that Mick and Karen, his wife, were keeping up a correspondence with a group of "born again" long term prisoners in the Florida State Penitentiary. They wrote about Joan and I and for months we were held up to God in prayer by these people.)
The coincidences continued. Joan was really crying out of some association in a spiritual sense. Finally she called the 700 Club and asked if there was any Bible study group nearby that was "non-denominational" and this without the tie-in to an organized church. They directed her to a little home group nearby and she went. As for me, I was going through a bitter period and in no way did I feel ready to step out of the frying pan into the fire.
After a couple of weeks of my "ho-humming" Joan’s enthusiasm about this study, she finally got my attention when she came home and told me, "our teacher is going to the Mainland for a few weeks."
"Oh?" (I tried to pretend interest,)
"And guess who’s going to take over while he’s gone?"
Now that surprised me. This fellow who I worked with had probably spent less than three years to date looking into the Bible. He had no formal training in Bible schools. What could HE talk about for several weeks?
Curiosity got the best of me. I told Joan I would go "just once" to see what is going one, but cautioned not to expect me to make it a habit.
We went to the home and I was introduced to several pleasant men and women. Mick began the study by a verse by verse teaching on Galatians. Mick was not eloquent, nor argumentative, but their was a depth of spirit and a real sense of what the Apostle Paul was trying to convey that really struck me.
Mick pointed out verses dealing with direct relationship with Jesus, with the meaning of Grace (undeserved kindness) and the importance of knowing the "good news about the Christ." Gal. 1:7) for the first time I was able to see the stress in the first two chapters on not relying on men, however high up or well-regarded they might be, but seeking direction directly from God through the Holy Spirit, now made available to all men through God’s son, Jesus.
At the end of the study, prayer was called for, with all present bowing heads and taking turns (if they felt like it) in speaking from their heart to God. To me it was extremely strange. A woman spoke out, not teaching others, but simply talking to God about the difficulty she was having that day in her attitude towards her husband. Another spoke of a relative who was ill, and prayed for God’s healing had to be with him; another spoke a simple expression of thanks for some particular blessing that day. There were gaps of silence, where nothing was said at all.
This was my first introduction to a new dimension in prayer which has become one of the most precious areas of my life ever since.
I went with Joan to that Bible study every week from then on until finally the family who was holding it moved to the Mainland.
In my mind the home study was good. The people there were loving and accepting, even after they heard where we were coming from. We weren’t put through a third degree doctrinally, and even when things were said that contradicted our understanding, there was a willingness to hear what we had to say and leave certain areas unresolved intellectually for the sake of the love that was being shown between us.
The next major "step" I took was to agree to accompany Joan to Bayview Chapel, a little fellowship where Mick and Karen went on Sundays. As usual, Joan went first while I (the skeptic) stayed home to be able to say, "I told you so."
Unlike the Bible study group in the home nearby, Joan sort of tiptoed around the explanation of what Bayview was like. There was no question she liked it, but when it came to specifics, she was somewhat vague--saying they sang some nice songs, and the people were really loving...and the pastor was a good teacher.
"Pastor!" Only those who have been Jehovah’s Witnesses can understand the connotation of the word to them. From their frame of reference, the Churches are all condemned, and the most reprehensible individuals on earth today are the "clergy of Christendom." Actually the word simply means "shepherd" and fits the scriptural connotation, especially if not used as a title, but simply as descriptive of the function of the person.
"Joan," I said, "I love you dearly; but I don’t fully understand where you’re coming from these days. All I can say is you’ll never get me into a "church" building with a ten foot pole."
I guess Jehovah’s spirit can reach farther than a ten foot pole. In fact, I’ve learned in the past few years never to say something could never happen. If I could have seen where I am and what I’m doing today back while still a Witness, I probably would have had a heart attack! Praise God that He moves us in graduated steps so we aren’t totally overwhelmed.
Anyhow, after a couple of Sundays, Joan was getting ready to go to Bayview when the phone rang. It was Mick calling to say he wouldn’t be able to make it himself that morning. Mick and Karen were taking Joan and giving her moral support in this adventure into the unknown. I saw the disappointment on Joan’s face, and knew she wouldn’t have the courage to drive over by herself. Besides, that curiosity was welling up in me again.
"Just this once," I told Joan as we drove over. "Don’t expect me to make it a habit." Joan nodded, and probably said a prayer that whatever happened at Bayview wouldn’t scare me off.
We went into a small building very much like a Kingdom Hall, with no ornateness or frills. Again, we were greeted by many loving people who accepted us as we were. As far as the service itself was concerned, I suppose the most startling thing to me was the singing.
A young lady played a powerful piano, and voices were raised in song with such enthusiasm, I couldn’t help but be impressed. Hands clapped in rhythm and a tambourine began to ring out the beat. There was no question that this group looked at singing as an "experience," not just a pleasant interlude. Songs ranged from stirring proclamations of God’s greatness to gentle melodies reflecting on His goodness and love. Most of them were direct scripture quotations set to music, or in any event strongly scripture oriented. People even used the songs to offer prayer or worship, speaking directly to God in the words.
I was touched to see one song sung by having the leader ask the group to open their Bibles and sing directly from Psalm 104:33,34:
"I will sing unto the Lord as long as I live: I will sing praise to my God while I have my being. My meditation of him shall be sweet: I will be glad, I will be glad in the Lord..."
Then the pastor gave a teaching. To this day, I don’t remember what he spoke on, but I do remember listening to find some errors or deceit, which I had been trained to expect would come forth from such a person. What I found instead was a loving message with strong scriptural backing delivered in a sincere, humble manner.
It turned out the pastor was called "Leon." He had a beard which I wasn’t used to from my Witness background...but at least he didn’t wear black robes, wear his collar backwards, or want to be called "reverend" or some such. He didn’t even wear a tie. In fact, he was so different from my pre-conceived ideas of what to expect from a clergyman, I was a little unsettled. Needless to say, I did go back...and still fellowship with this group to this day.
Several weeks after attending Bayview and getting to experience more and more of the love of these people, I felt a strong need to be certain I was right myself with Jesus Christ. By now I was convinced that it was necessary to be "born again" as a Christian to really come into the intimate relationship God held out to everyone through Jesus.
I probably had asked Jesus into my heart some time back, and there was no question in my mind I was being blessed as never before. Yet, I couldn’t pinpoint a place or time where I had actually made such a heartfelt request. So, one day at lunch in a small coffee ship, Leon and I held hands across the table and I made sure I received Jesus as my Lord...recognizing him as the only one to lead me to the Father. If there was any doubt before, it was dispelled then.
Soon thereafter we started a home bible study in our daughter Shelley’s home which grew in time until several former Witness from our local congregation began to attend. Through this study we were able to work out together some of the questions we had, and learn to pray and worship more effectively. Finally, it was felt the group was becoming too "ingrown" and we needed to get out and mix with other Christians of different backgrounds to expand our thinking and sharing. While we still are very close and get together frequently, we all feel Jehovah is leading us individually into new and exciting areas of our Christian experience.
Where do I stand today?
Whether I like it or not, the Witness organization has placed a solid barrier between me and those on the inside by means of disfellowshipping. They cannot even say a greeting to Joan or I or any of the others who left, without becoming subject themselves to disfellowshipping action.
So, I feel my ministry today must be directed towards Christians who are not in the Witnesses. I feel what we’ve been through has been a teaching experience from God and that perhaps we can share what we’ve learned with the non-Witnesses.
There are many Christians who have a real burden to reach persons in groups such as the Witnesses, but it pains me to see that for the most part (however well-intentioned) they are going about it in the wrong way.
It concerns me to see many who left the JW’s printing "exposé’s" of the organization and publishing doctrine by doctrine "refutation" of the Witness teachings. Such tactics do little towards bringing a Witness out, but merely entrench them deeper as they go to their scriptural "arsenal" to return the volley and "refute the refutation." I know, because I often did this while still on the inside of the group.
Worse, some of these doctrinal attacks do not paint a fair or accurate picture of the actual Witness teaching on the subject. Going to lengths to refute a doctrine is very hollow indeed if the doctrine you are refuting didn’t exist in the first Place.
Besides, if you want to bring a Witness "out" of his organization, what are you going to bring him into???" Think about that for a moment.
How doctrinally united are the various denominations of Churches on the outside? I guarantee you any Jehovah’s Witness worth his salt can come into any denomination and find scriptural flaws in its teaching or practices. The point I am trying to make in all of this is: doctrine is not the issue:
All denominations are flawed to some degree...I really believe that. So, if our salvation depended on having an institutional "church" which was 100% correct, we would be in serious trouble indeed. What I am trying to say is that Christians
shouldn’t be too hasty to label groups like Jehovah’s Witnesses a "cult," implying that everything on the inside of their Organization is evil and sinister, while everything in the "churches" outside is beautiful and God-blessed.
The issue, and the ONLY issue, is: do the individuals have a relationship with Jesus Christ as Lord in their lives. Anything else will neither save nor destroy them.
As a Witness, I had no problem seeing the barrier a formalized Church Institutional structure could become. I would try to reason with a Catholic, for example, asking why they felt it necessary to check with a priest or their creeds before accepting what the Bible itself said on a matter.
Yet, if I had a question of interpretation of a scripture, my first step was the Watchtower Index, followed, if necessary, by a letter to the Society. If the subject was already dealt with in writing, I was expected to follow it, even if I disagreed at heart. Why couldn’t I see the similarity?
Then, as a Witness, I had no problem in seeing the "wrongness" of the Jewish religious system of Jesus’ day which had built volumes of Talmudic "interpretations" of scripture--giving law upon law to cover virtually every conceivable circumstance of life.
Yet, a good portion of my own personal study was spent in combing the publications for answers to question on dress lengths, hula dancing, whose funerals I could attend, etc. Again, why couldn’t I see the similarity?
As a Witness, I knew from scripture that the church was people, a gathered "body" with Christ as the head. I knew such a body would be receiving instructions directly from the head through Holy Spirit. (Granted, I didn’t feel I was part of that body, but I knew such a body was described in the Bible.)
I saw that Religious Institutions were setting up their own channels to Christ through their particular creeds or rituals...in a sense putting the structure between the communication of the Holy Spirit and the Christian.
Yet, as a Witness I accepted the concept that there was a remnant of the Body yet on earth, but even among this "born again" remnant, only a select governing body of a handful of persons were being used by the Head in direct communication. Other members (even of the remnant) would be out of order if they were to speak out on what God had revealed to them personally without clearing it through the Organizational structure.
I knew all man-made religious systems would crumble in the end. Why couldn’t I see the possible application to the Watchtower Society itself?
As a Witness, I felt the difference was that Jehovah selected this group in the end times over all other groups, and through His Spirit, a faithful "slave" class. I was led to believe that my eventual salvation would come through "taking in Knowledge" of the Father and the Son, and that somehow the "knowledge" would be filtered through the slave class to me. I see now that Matt. 24:45 could well apply to the individual Christian and not a class, especially in view of a parallel account of Luke 12:42-48 which shows three slaves, not just the faithful and evil slaves in Matt.24, but a faithful, a non-understanding and an evil slave in Luke 12). To illustrate:
I have two grandsons, Chris and Ryan, ages six and three respectively. They are a joy to me, and my love for them knows no bounds. When I come into their home and they come running and smiling up to me and give me a hug, my heart is truly gladdened. They know me--they say, "Hi, Grandpa!" and begin to suggest what we can do together.
But do they really have a knowledge about me? Do they understand what I do all week at my job, or how I plan my family finances? Why, Ryan probably doesn’t even know my name!
Perhaps before I let them come running up to me, I should set minimum requirements. I should have a teacher go there who has researched about me a great deal. He can set up a plan whereby the kids can learn a minimum basic amount about me before they trouble me by running up and hugging me. At least they should know my name and list of several other things about me--what kind of a car I drive, my street address, who are my friends, etc. Now they can come to me, but of course the schooling must continue. True, this will cut into some of the time we might otherwise have to walk and talk together, but after all...they must continue to take in knowledge.
Can you see where over-stress on head knowledge can deprive both me and the children from a full on-going relationship?
Wouldn’t it be better for all concerned if they learned more about me by being with me? Especially if my heart longs to spend time with them. By talking and doing things together they will get to know the part of me I want them to know my character and my love for them will be understood through experience.
I recall as a Witness using John 4:23 in the field to show the importance of having true doctrine:
"The hour is coming when the true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and Truth, for indeed, the Father is looking for suchlike ones to worship him."
I missed the key point in the scripture. It was talking about worship not doctrine. Worship--"a word whose root meaning is "to kiss towards." The scripture is really saying God is looking for true worshipers who will ""kiss towards" the Father with spirit and truth. Jehovah is looking for relationship.
Since sin is a barrier between me and my Heavenly Father, it must be removed before I can truly worship Him. Jesus, God’s son, is the only means of this sin-removal. In turn this comes about not just by "knowing about" him, but by receiving him. (John 1:12 "As many as did receive him, to them he gave authority to become God’s children....")
I see now that this receiving goes far beyond head knowledge. It implies actual possession of Christ. The scriptures dealing with being born again as spoken by Jesus were all-encompassing, not restricted by him to the 144,000 of Revelation. John 1:7 is strong in saying "you must be born again."
Being born again implies putting the old man of sin to death and becoming a new creation, receiving on the inside a new life--"Christ in you, a relationship of the most intimate sort. The New World Translation of "in union with" for "in" is an interpretive rendering which implies intellectual agreement rather than the actual possession of Christ’s nature by God’s Spirit in our heart--"a literal rebirth from death to life.
NOTE: An interesting summary of "Christ in You" scriptures can be found by referring to the New World Translation concordance under the word "union." This will show a full column of entries, almost all of which deal with our relationship with Christ.
The translators seem to feel the "in union with" substitution for "in" is justified only in dealing with our relationship to Christ or Christ to the Father, but never justified in the hundreds of other occurrences of the identical Greek word for "in."
(A similar interpretive translation used is found under the word "obeisance" where the same Greek word for "worship" when it applies to the Father is changed in English consistently when applied to Christ.)
I am stressing this point because I feel this is the one doctrinal point that is a life/death issue. From no other teaching does the Bible place such an eternal issue before us as individuals. To miss this one point makes any other "truth" we have worthless to us.
Then, from this foundation of an individual rebirth, we personally have access to the Spirit of God in us, and through Jesus can approach the Father to worship Him in Spirit and truth.
From this foundation, we can individually apply the promise of I Cor. 2:12-13: "Now we received not the Spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is from God, that we might know the things that have kindly been given us by God. These things we speak, not with words taught by human wisdom, but with words taught by (the) spirit, as we combine spiritual matters with spiritual (matters) with spiritual (words.")
I know from the thinking of one of Jehovah’s Witnesses this is too simplistic. Also, this seems to excuse all the doctrinal division and error in Christendom.
What I’ve learned is that the life/death relationship is simple, totally available even to the most uneducated person on earth. From that relationship we have access to direct leading from God individually right now...and God teaches us according to His priorities (not ours)
What the entire true church (Christ’s body) needs today appears to be a heart unity allowing Christ’s love to flow between them until world-wide there is a true bond of love. God is tearing down structural man-made walls which are dividing the body.
God is not looking for doctrinal compromise--so called "inter-faith or ecumenical movement. No, God is looking for complete surrender. A willingness on the part of each member to trust God in faith that He (and He alone) is able to accomplish what He set out to do. His will is to be done in Jesus Christ.
There is an anti-Christ spirit that pervades the earth today, just as there was in the first century. "Anti" can mean "instead of" and not simply "against." Jesus, when walking the earth gave us the perfect example of Christian attitudes. Jesus himself in Mark 10:18 made the statement "why do you call me good? Nobody is good except one, God." If Jesus in his perfection didn’t seek to exalt himself, we need to be very careful individually or organizationally, whether Jehovah’s Witnesses, Catholic, Baptist, Charismatic or whatever. "We need to be careful not to point to ourselves in comparison to others, but to continually focus our comparisons on our individual relationship with God...
In that relation, we either are in it through Christ, or we are not. Anything that comes across that relationship, be it our own pride or other men’s teaching comes from the anti-Christ spirit...the spirit in the world which is running directly counter to God’s Spirit.
Each individual, you and I, have a unique place in God’s purpose, one that on one else is as qualified to fulfill. Yet, we can’t do it alone, nor can we do it through men’s teachings. Only with Christ as our teacher through God’s Spirit will we be gently and lovingly hewn to the necessary shape and placed in our spot.
"For no man can lay any other foundation than what is laid, which is Jesus Christ." ( I Cor.. 3:11)
"On account of this I bend my knees to the Father, to whom every family in heaven and on earth owes its name, to the end that he may grant you according to the riches of his glory to be made mighty in the man you are inside with power through his spirit, to have the Christ dwell through (your) faith in your hearts with love; that you may be rooted and established on the foundation, in order that you may be thoroughly able to grasp mentally with all the holy ones what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may n everything be filled with all the fullness that God gives." (Eph. 3:14-19)