My Little Black Book

I keep it in the den drawer – my little black book.  It reminds me of what I once was.  I know what you’re thinking – it’s not that kind of little black book.  This one is much blacker, much darker.  This book once belonged to a Jehovah’s Witness.  It’s a record of the house calls made, the pamphlets handed out, and the spiel to be performed along the broad way to servitude.  No, I was never a Jehovah’s Witness, but at one time, I thought like them – we all did.  Before Christ puts His Name on us in Holy Baptism, we were all slaves to sin and believed with all our heart that the way to salvation was through our good works.

Slave tabs

The Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that in order to be saved “you must become 1) knowledgeable about the Father, 2) obey God’s laws, 3) be associated with the Jehovah’s Witnesses, and 4) be loyal in spreading the kingdom news of God” (reference).  If you ask them, they’ll certainly say they’re saved by grace, but here’s their grace:

JEHOVAH GOD has shown his love for us in countless ways. Without question, though, the greatest proof of Jehovah’s love is the provision of the ransom sacrifice. His love for mankind is so immense that he even sent his beloved Son here to earth to die in our behalf. (John 3:16) Jehovah did this because he wants us to live forever, and he also wants us to benefit from his love forever!

House callsCan we assume, however, that Jehovah will automatically keep us in his love no matter what we choose to do? No. For at Jude verse 21, we read this exhortation: “Keep yourselves in God’s love, while you are waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ with everlasting life in view.” The expression “keep yourselves in God’s love” implies that some action is required on our part. What, then, do we need to do in order to remain in God’s love?

How Can We Remain in God’s Love?

We find the answer to that question in Jesus’ own words, spoken on the final night of his life here on earth. He said: “If you observe my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have observed the commandments of the Father and remain in his love.” (John 15:10) Clearly, Jesus felt that observing Jehovah’s commandments was essential to keeping a good standing with his Father. Now, if that was true of the perfect Son of God, would it not be true of us also?

…Jehovah wants us to remain in his love forever. But all of us individually need to make sure that we do our very best to remain in God’s love. This we can do by following Jesus’ example and proving our love for Jehovah by obeying His commands. If we do so, we can be certain that nothing “will be able to separate us from God’s love that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”—Rom. 8:38, 39.  [all emphases in original] (reference)

Their form of grace is conditional; “some action is required on our part.”  We can only be certain of our salvation if we prove our love for Jehovah by obeying His commands.  Have you obeyed enough? Theirs is a very uncertain certainty.

Like the terrified jailer before Paul and Silas, we should tremble with fear before a Holy God, a God whose wrath we could never placate.  So what must we do to be saved?

And the jailer called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas. Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds; and he was baptized at once, he and all his family. Then he brought them up into his house and set food before them. And he rejoiced along with his entire household that he had believed in God. Acts 16:29-34 ESV

P1040511Like the jailer and his family, we have been released from the death sentence of our own sin. Every day, we’re unconditionally released from the threat of the Law through our Baptism.  When I open my drawer and see that little dog-eared black book lying there, it reminds me of the slavery from which I have been freed.  I rejoice that sin, death, and the devil have no hold on me.  I rejoice that God’s promise to me, and to you, is unconditional.  “Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for ‘The righteous shall live by faith’” (Galatians 3:11).  In Christ’s Epiphany, we can sing with the hymn writer,

Manifest in making whole
Palsied limbs and fainting soul;
Manifest in valiant fight,
Quelling all the devil’s might;
Manifest in gracious will,
Ever bringing good from ill;
Anthems be to Thee addressed,
God in man made manifest.
(LSB 394, st. 3)

For a closer look at what servitude looks like, click on the photos.

Field service report

About Scott Diekmann

Scott is a lifelong LCMS layman. Some of his vocations include husband, dad, jet driver, runner, and collector of more books than he can read. Oh, and also chocolate lover. He’s been involved in apologetics for over a decade, is on the Board of Regents at Concordia Portland, and is a column writer for the sometimes operational Around the Word Journal. He’s also written for Higher Things Magazine, The Lutheran Clarion, and has been a guest on Issues Etc. as well as the KFUO program Concord Matters.


My Little Black Book — 4 Comments

  1. The Lord is gracious and merciful, indeed. The pictures make me want to cry…because I know someone who is still trapped. If it wouldn’t be impertinent, Mr. Diekmann, perhaps you wouldn’t mind sharing some of your journey out of the JW’s? My father and his wife are both entrenched in the cult, and it weighs so heavy on my heart knowing that they are on a path to destruction. I have spoken to my father about the fact that I don’t believe we worship the same deity (now, when together around the dinner table, SEPARATE prayers are said – talk about awkward). Things are strained, to say the least. My biggest hurdle has been that when I ask questions, a wall is put up, and the subject generally changes. For instance, my dad was maligning tv evangelists for how much money they bilk out of people, then proceeded to tell me how the JW “speakers” are not paid so that they can keep their heart and mind on the work of Jehovah and not money. Well, I asked about the verses in the NT which exhort us to care for our “shepherds” as he goes about his work of sharing the Gospel. This was a phone conversation, so I read the verses, then proceeded to email them to him so that he’d have them to look at as well. He said he would check into it and get back to me. Never did. We’ve had a few exchanges like this, where it seems he and his wife are not prepared to answer a certain type of question, so they just won’t. They’ll ignore it instead. Do you have any advice on evangelizing JWs as one who has come out of it? I have tried to share the GOSPEL message with them, but it’s like they speak another language! Thank you for your article.

  2. Hi Nicole. I’m not an ex-Witness. I got involved in witnessing to the Witnesses through a friend quite a few years ago. I’m sorry to hear of your father and his wife’s entrapment. It’s a very difficult thing to have loved ones stuck in a lie. Be patient. Keep praying. The Lord hears your prayers. There’s really no “magic bullet” that promises to reach JW’s. Be gentle and patient, and keep speaking God’s Word to them. I’ll pray that their ears would be opened to hearing the Gospel!

  3. @Nicole Manners #1

    Nicole, I don’t have any advice for you, only a bit commiserating. I think there’s little more difficult than witnessing to a family member who has left the Church. When a beloved family members says, “I’ve left the Church, and now I’m a ________,” the hurt goes deep. I’ve seen it, and I’ve experienced it.

    We owe it to them to pray for them often.

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