When one of the blokes who became a Christian among us last year told me yesterday that the Jehovah’s Witnesses had been coming around recently – and that he might invite them in for a chat next time – my heart did skip a beat or three. “Oh, no,” I thought, “It’s all gonna go pear-shaped from here.”
Imagine my relief – and I have to say surprise – when my bloke said, “Yeah, I felt so sorry for him, not knowing the truth and all that, that I thought maybe I could speak to him about it.”
Turn up for the books eh? There I was worried that the newly minted Christian was about to be whipped away by the Arians.
“So what told you that he was on the wrong track?” I asked.
“Well, to be honest, it was the Bible translation. He started reading passages to me from and it and it sounded more like a Simpsons script than the Bible. I asked him what translation he was reading and he said New World Translation.”
My bloke went on to tell me that after all the Bible reading he’d done this past year, plus the literally hundreds of MP3 sermons he’d listened to whilst working, he could just tell that something was wrong. Even the Old Testament passages from books he’d never read yet sounded as if they were wrong.
“It stank,” he said simply.
It stank. Interesting choice of words. My guess is it had that rotten egg smell. What do we call it? Hydrogen Sulfide.
It’s interesting isn’t it, how, when it comes to discipleship, our primary assumption is that we have to work hard to get new Christians to understand the guts of the gospel or else they will be snatched away by wackos, or Satan, or both. And obviously there is a great need to teach new converts the basics and get them into a good Bible reading/learning pattern. It’s an oft-repeated truth that currency counterfeit training involves not simply being able to identify counterfeits, but knowing the real currency so well that any dodgy note, however close to the real thing, just “stinks”. Evangelicals in particular, are keen to ensure that new Christians don’t go off on a tangent early.
However, what a comfort to know that God the Holy Spirit takes and applies the Word into the lives of new Christians in a far deeper way than we possibly can. My observation with several new Christians recently, is that there are some things they just know. Some lifestyle choices they just make. Some attitudes they just jettison. Some godly practices they just seem to take on, as if they were er, born to do so.
That makes sense, doesn’t it? After all if it is only by a work of the Spirit that we can repent and believe, then it seems a cinch that it is a work of the same Spirit that leads us into truth and away from error in word and deed. Whilst I take it that Jesus was specifically addressing the disciples’ future role as the apostolic guardians of the gospel when in John 14 he says “the Helper… will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I have said to you”, there is a further application for us today.
The new covenant promise in Jeremiah 31 of God putting the law within the hearts of his people, indeed writing it on their hearts, results in people really “knowing” the Lord, not just knowing about him, but experiencing him internally. That’s what salvation is. And part of the fruit of that is the Holy Spirit’s ability to open our eyes to truth AND error instinctively. The Holy Spirit transforms our olfactory processes: Some things just suddenly smell bad, in a way we would have never noticed before. My bloke “got it” because the Spirit has taken up residence in his life.
It’s such an encouragement for those of us who take seriously Paul’s command to Timothy: Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything.” (2Tim 2:7). What a radical, liberating truth for all God’s new covenant people.