Janet Hayes former Jehovah’s Witness

FROM DECEPTION TO JESUS – THE REAL TRUTH

As a child I was very curious about life and God and often wondered what life was all about. My mother professed belief in God but my father didn`t claim to have any faith, but rather was inclined towards belief in evolution. I went to church with mum now and again and was christened and confirmed, but certainly didn`t have a relationship with God at that time. My mum wanted me to be confirmed so I went ahead at age 13, but only went to church very irregularly. Once I was well into my teens spiritual things didn`t have any part in my life as I was totally absorbed with the music and dancing of the 60`s. I didn`t know anything about Jehovah`s Witnesses other than they would rather die than accept a blood transfusion.

At the age of 23 I was married and working full time as a secretary. Six months after John and I married, one evening there was a knock on our door and two Jehovah`s Witnesses stood there – a man and his wife. They offered me a book for twelve & a half pence (this was December 1971). The book was called “Is the bible really the word of God?”, and I thought to myself “if I buy this book they`ll go away” and so I did and they did! They said they would call back sometime but I knew they would probably not find me in as I was working full time. The book didn`t really captivate my attention and I didn`t think much more about them.

Around four months later, however, in the Spring of 1972, I was chatting with a colleague at work who was complaining about his mother-in law and the fact that she was coming to stay with him and his wife for the weekend. I asked him what was wrong with his mother-in-law and he said “Oh, she`s OK, but she`s a Jehovah`s Witness”, and then added “and so is my wife”. Now this was quite a surprise to me as I had met his wife who seemed really nice (I was one of those people who thought Jehovah`s Witnesses were really strange and probably looked and acted nothing like “ordinary people”). I then asked Bob (the work colleague) what Jehovah`s Witnesses believed and he proceeded to tell me all about Armageddon and the idea that 1975 would mark the end of the world as we knew it. I was fascinated by what he was saying and remember thinking, after our conversation, that I wished the two people who had left me the book four months earlier would call back. The following day Bob brought me a book from his wife called “The Truth that leads to eternal life” and this book really did capture my attention. I felt all my questions finally were being answered – and so it seemed, from the bible.

Two weeks later there was a knock on the door and there stood the two people who had originally called on me. I really thought God had sent them and asked them to call back two evenings later. Needless to say, they were astonished at my keen interest, especially after a lapse of four months from first meeting me.

From that time a study commenced in the “Truth” book and continued for around 18 months – two years. They would come for about 3 hours every Monday evening and we became really good friends. They always checked the scriptures and I was really impressed with their bible knowledge. I was soon completely hooked on the idea of the paradise earth and totally believed this was indeed God`s organisation. I was soon attending the Kingdom Hall with my new found friends and seldom thought of anything else other than what I was learning, as I thought, from the bible.

It was around the time I was studying that two evangelists (man and wife) came to my door with the true gospel, but I was so taken in by the Watchtower version that the truth didn`t penetrate at all. They really tried hard to win me to the Lord, calling many times, bringing people with them so they could share their testimonies with me, and even taking me to their house at the other side of town. We eventually agreed to differ. Since I`ve been saved I`ve been able to get in touch with them and, of course, they were delighted. Fifteen years had elapsed from our first meeting until I became a Christian.

During my studies with Jean & Brian (the Jehovah`s Witness couple) things were a little tense at home as John, my husband, had absolutely no interest in spiritual things whatsoever. Also our first baby arrived in 1974, the same year that I was baptised, and I found it very hard to settle down and enjoy being a mother for the first time as I was so anxious to get back to meetings and out on the service as I believed the end of the system was so close (the Society had led us to believe that Armageddon could happen in 1975).

I remember in those early days thinking there were so many rules. I was very concerned about chicken and whether it was bled properly and there was much talk about blood products being put in sausages and ice cream. None of my family were interested at all in what I was telling them and it really hurt them when I wouldn`t buy Christmas and birthday presents. They took it personally – that I was in some way rejecting them. I tried to get around the problem by buying gifts at other times but it just wasn`t the same. My father was the most opposed and really hated me being a Jehovah`s Witness (He died just over 2 years before I left which saddens me a great deal).

Three years later (1977) my second child was born and by this time things had settled down a bit at home. However, once the children started nursery the ban on Christmas & birthdays became a problem. There was always something cropping up – for instance, a child would bring cake to school and if it was birthday cake my child couldn`t have any. If it was “something else” cake – eg – “holiday” cake (or just cake for cake`s sake), it would be OK but not if it was “birthday” cake. I used to feel really silly making an issue over such things with the teachers, and yet at the time it seemed so important to obey all these petty little rules, but I was very unhappy that my children were singled out in this way, and for no good reason other than what one called a cake.

I came to absolutely dread the run up to Christmas and used to heave a big sigh of relief in January, only to be faced shortly afterwards, of course, with Valentine`s Day, Mother`s Day and Easter – all occasions which the Jehovah`s Witnesses had to avoid.

Christians do realise the pagan influence in these holidays but accept that it really is up to the individual christian as to whether or not (or how) they celebrate these occasions. To have a Christmas tree or not, or to buy a chocolate egg or not, is a matter of individual conscience not something to make a big issue about. (Colossians 2 v 16-23) (Romans 14 v 5-8).

As time went on, however, John and the family got used to me being a Witness and when we moved congregations in 1981 we met a lot of new friends and John even started attending Sunday meetings. He still was not particularly interested but used to come to please me. Life had settled down by this time into a steady pattern and apart from the children being singled out at school (which I never got used to) I was quite happy.

I guess I was what you might call an average Jehovah`s Witness, putting in a regular ten or so hours a month in field service and occasionally auxilliary pioneering. About five years before I left I started meeting a lot of Christians during my door to door witnessing. They would tell me they were born again, rather than what church they belonged to and I liked talking with them as I enjoyed a good debate and used to get tired of people saying, “I`m not interested”. However, these Christians did bother me somewhat because they seemed to have real joy in their lives. Also they had bible studies and I thought how nice it would be to be in a group like theirs and be able to offer your own opinion (there is no freedom of thought in the Watchtower Society). These Christians seemed to have a real relationship with Jesus. They certainly had something I didn`t have. As the Watchtower Society insists that everyone outside of the organisation is “of the devil” I thought these Christians were being deceived, but this was hard to believe. Sometimes I would pray to Jehovah to show me clearly if the Christians were being deceived but I would feel very guilty praying this way as I really did believe God had already shown me the truth by bringing me into “his organisation”.

In 1987 I met a Christian who made a remark that really had an effect on me. He said “you`re trying to take away what I`ve got”. I knew it was true – he had got something I hadn`t – whatever it was it seemed very good.

The real turning point came in January 1988 when I met yet another Christian on the ministry. He talked to me about Jesus for about an hour and I flitted around the bible in the usual manner showing him all the Watchtower “proof texts”. At the end of the conversation he gave me a small booklet called “Journey into Life” and I gave him a Watchtower leaflet. (Jehovah`s Witnesses are not supposed to accept literature from Christians but I felt that if I wanted him to accept my leaflet I should take his).

When I got home I read the booklet (feeling very guilty) and when I read the gospel -the simple unadulterated gospel – it was as if “the penny dropped” and I finally understood why the Christians always said that they knew they had eternal life. (I used to think they were being presumptuous). I had always found the way the Watchtower Society explained the ransom sacrifice of Jesus quite complicated, but when I came across the gospel in its simplicity (Luke 24 v 45-48 & 1 Cor. 15 v 1-5), I knew that Jesus had died for my sins and that by accepting him as my Saviour I could have eternal life. It was so simple and straightforward. Suddenly I realised why Jesus had cried out “My God, my God why have you forsaken me?” I realised he had been cut off from his Father because of the sins of mankind and that he had died spiritually and physically and taken the punishment for my sin, so that I could be set free from the penalty of sin. I then read the prayer at the end of the booklet and it really touched me that Jesus could be with me as a friend.

A few days later, (feeling very guilty as I felt I was being disloyal to “Jehovah`s Organisation”), I decided to pray the prayer in the booklet, although I didn`t pray to Jesus as I had been taught that I shouldn`t, but I prayed to Jehovah, telling him that I accepted Jesus as my Lord and Saviour. I felt that if I didn`t pray this prayer I might miss something very important. I know now of course that the Holy Spirit was drawing me. As I prayed, Jesus, for the first time, became real to me. It`s hard to explain but I was suddenly aware of the reality of Him. God had always seemed a long way off to me and I could never understand how he could hear my prayers. As I prayed I felt a love for Jesus which I had never had before. I was born again that evening and the following day I put a ring around the date on the calendar as I knew it was a date I wanted to remember. Two scriptures kept going through my mind at this time – one was “we love because he first loved us” and I knew that the love I felt for Jesus was the result of him first loving me. The other was “My grace is sufficient for you”; obviously God was impressing on me that I couldn`t work for my salvation, it was a free gift.

From this point God really began to show me the truth. A few days later I picked up the New English Bible which I hardly ever used (Jehovah’s Witnesses have their own bible ‘New World Translation’ which has been considerably altered to accommodate their doctrines); I then turned to Romans 8 v 9 which says “If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ he is not a Christian”. I knew that the Watchtower Society taught that the indwelling Holy Spirit is only for the born again ones, the 144,000, and I thought, “so where does that leave the `other sheep`? (The “other sheep” make up over 99% of Jehovah`s Witnesses who claim they do not need to be born again and have the indwelling Holy Spirit). Then I turned to John chapter 14 and thought it was beautiful and it dawned on me that maybe, just maybe, it was really for me personally and not just the limited number of 144,000. At this point I didn`t really know what to think as I was very confused. I still believed the Watchtower Society had most of their doctrines right (I know differently now of course) and yet somehow I knew that salvation was all to do with Jesus and having a relationship with Him. I felt I was on the verge of a big adventure but didn`t know quite what.

A week or so later I felt impelled to talk again to some Christians but didn`t feel as if I should go back to the person (Ron) who had given me the leaflet. It worried me that he might tell the next Jehovah`s Witness that called that I had doubts about the organisation and then I really would have been in trouble. Therefore I decided to go out on the ministry and see if I came across any Christians (I usually did). It was a Tuesday morning, a regular ministry day for our book study group. However, hardly anyone was in and I decided I would go back to see Ron who had given me the leaflet.

When I arrived at Ron`s house no-one was in and so I left a short non-committal note saying that I would welcome another chat. About an hour later the `phone rang and it was Ron`s wife (Sandra) who said she was a committed Christian also and asked if she could help. That evening I went to see them and asked them lots of questions – I had so many questions, mainly about the book of Revelation. Since I’ve been a Christian the bible has become like a new book to me and it’s been wonderful to study it without the Watchtower bias and faulty interpretations. I recognised in Ron and Sandra the same joy and peace that I had seen in the other Christians I had met and knew that I had been on the wrong track. They prayed for me and after I went home I felt so much better and less confused. I knew what they had was real and the truth and that I had found it also.

The following night I prayed again, to Jesus this time (the apostles did and therefore so can we – Acts 7 v 59 / 2 Cor. 12 v 8-9) and I felt so close to him. It was wonderful and he seemed so real to me. Since that time I have never had the inner loneliness I had as a Jehovah`s Witness. My fear of death has completely gone and I have a deep down peace in my heart and know that I will spend eternity in the presence of God because of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on my behalf. The bible has become a completely new book to me now and it is as if I never knew it at all before, as a Jehovah`s Witness. I realised that I`d been searching in all the wrong places for God and that all I had needed to do was to look at Jesus and turn my attention to him. I knew that where I fellowshipped with other Christians didn`t really matter, provided it was a bible believing church where Jesus was worshipped.

I decided to write to a friend in another congregation and tell her what had happened to me and evidently her husband (an elder) read the letter and went straight to the elders in my congregation who called an “emergency elders meeting”. Soon they were meeting with me to see if I disagreed with the Society on any point. After my first meeting with them I decided not to say anything controversial as I wanted to show my friends what I had discovered before I left. However it didn`t quite turn out that way. A friend from another congregation telephoned and asked me to go on the ministry with her and I told her I had been born again and explained what had happened to me. I also told her that the elders knew how I was feeling and that it was being dealt with and asked her not to say anything. However she went straight to the elders and told them what I had said and they came to see me again.

We had a short judicial committee meeting within a week, at which time I tried to share the truth with them but they were only interested in who I had been talking to and whether or not I disagreed with the Society. By the end of the evening I had handed them my letter of disassociation. They said I had a week to change my mind but once they had left I sent letters to my two best friends telling them about salvation in Jesus Christ, and the elders were so alarmed that they announced my disassociation the following evening.

During the short time before my disassociation I decided to go to the C of E church with Ron and Sandra. However I really didn’t like it at all; the WTS give you such a dread of churches that I felt quite nervous and it had such a bad effect on me that the same afternoon I went to the Kingdom Hall – not because I had decided to stay but because I just needed to be in familiar surroundings with long time friends. The public talk was all about “not listening to people with doubts” and I guess they had me in mind of course. Everyone was very nice to me although my best friend kept looking at me as if I`d grown horns and turned into the devil himself.

What was I to do next I thought. I didn`t want to go to the C of E church; it doesn`t bother me now where I worship Jesus (provided I`m with true believers in Jesus in a sound bible believing church), but it did then, I still hadn’t got the WTS out of my system. Just before I disassociated I contacted someone who had left the Society three years previously and she gave me a lot of literature exposing the error and the deception of the Society. I `phoned her and asked her for advice on where I should worship but she hadn`t become a Christian so couldn`t really help me, but she told me to get in touch with a friend of hers. I `phoned Christine (the friend) and she became my best friend. She had left the organisation two years before me and worshipped at the Christian Centre in Nottingham. The first time I went I knew it was the place for me. I thought it was wonderful and even the choruses seemed especially for me, echoing the way I was feeling. One particular one was called “All honour due your name” which includes the words “you broke the chains that bound me and set this captive free and I`ll lift my voice to praise your name for all eternity”. That chorus still brings tears to my eyes. I was baptised at the Christian Centre on April 3rd 1988, two months after I was born again and I was “floating around on cloud nine” for months and was so overwhelmed with the love of Jesus and the love of other Christians – it was a wonderful time for me.

I didn`t realise how difficult it would be to free people from the deception of the Watchtower organisation and bring them to Jesus. I`ve had to learn that no amount of reasoning will free a person from the deception. Only by turning to the Lord will they see the light. My transition from the Watchtower Society to Christianity was easy for me because I did turn to him and he showed me the truth. I have learned to be patient and keep praying for my old friends still in the Society. Fortunately none of my family ever joined.

A scripture that means so much to me is Phil. 3 v 7-9:

“Whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from Law, but that which is through faith in Christ – the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.”

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