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Question #94

What about family members with different beliefs?

I am having a great deal of difficulty with a beloved youngest brother who has been involved in three marriages and has all the baggage that goes with it, from dysfunctional kids to his dysfunctional lifestyle etc.

We as kids were started out in the Methodist church by our mom, our dad did not attend or did he ever discuss or show any leadership spiritually. I was moved or led over time to discover that there was something more than what I had been exposed to. After years of searching I found a friend and began studying with [name of preacher], I and my wife were added to the Lord's church.

As I have in my excitement and growing knowledge tried to "show my brothers and my mom where to go and the error of their ways," I have been confronted with what I see as a common problem. They don't want to hear from me as I have joined a "cult"! I've been told they don't want to hear the stuff, that it isn't my business anyway.

As the oldest son and the one who took on many of the roles I thought my dad should have, I have found it most difficult to share my passion for the truth without apparently offending them. I have had the old "Judge not lest you be Judged” thrown in my face on numerous times. I really don't intend to sound judgmental, but I do want them to hear the truth and what God's word says....not my opinion! In my refusal to give in, or become passive I am losing relationships with them, and they are changing rapidly. This burdens me. But, I do believe I am right with love in my heart for them. I do believe there is but one way out for them. I pray many times daily for them as well as in church weekly.

I have used the "MIRROR" approach. I have tried to assure them that as a mirror only reflects what you really are, their lives and choices and decisions do the same, and I suppose that comes off as judgmental to them. I try to assure them that I do the same. As a sinner I have at times blamed the mirror for reflecting what I really was. I have come to understand that our circumstances are about as responsible for how we act as a mirror is for how we look. It only reflects what we really are.

How should I approach them as a bold strong Christian and not appear judgmental, but at the same time have them understand that I do not believe the same as they do and it is problem that will not go away.....I will not UNBELIEVE myself for the sake of a family relationship.

What approach should I take? I have backed off the rhetoric with them only to find we have very little in common. I have not spoken to my youngest brother in over 2 years and I see no change in sight. I did, however, help lead my grandmother who is 93 yrs old to Christ, and she had been a faithful member of the Methodist church until she was 88 yrs. old. She had ears that would hear! My mom has not been to church of any kind since I was 16. I'm 50 and she doesn't want to hear that there is one church either. What to do?

The Answer:

The situation that you describe, though sad, is one that the Lord predicted would result from the preaching of the gospel. “34 Think not that I came to send peace on the earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. 35 For I came to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law: 36 and a man's foes shall be they of his own household. 37 He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 And he that doth not take his cross and follow after me, is not worthy of me. 39 He that findeth his life shall lose it; and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.” Matthew 10:34-39. While this was the inevitable result of the gospel’s proclamation because some would accept the gospel while others rejected it, it was not the Lord’s purpose. His purpose was that all would come to him and be saved. “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30 “9 The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some count slackness; but is longsuffering to you-ward, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” 2 Peter 3:9. “3 This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; 4 who would have all men to be saved, and come to the knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God, one mediator also between God and men, himself man, Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself a ransom for all; the testimony to be borne in its own times; 7 whereunto I was appointed a preacher and an apostle (I speak the truth, I lie not), a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.” 1 Timothy 2:3-7.

Unfortunately, the type of rejection that you have described often occurs when one comes from a religious background to which others remain committed, or from a background which has led to the rejection of a type of life to which others remain committed. The early Christians had this same problem. “1Forasmuch then as Christ suffered in the flesh, arm ye yourselves also with the same mind; for he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin; 2 that ye no longer should live the rest of your time in flesh to the lusts of men, but to the will of God. 3 For the time past may suffice to have wrought the desire of the Gentiles, and to have walked in lasciviousness, lusts, winebibbings, revellings, carousings, and abominable idolatries: 4 wherein they think strange that ye run not with them into the same excess of riot, speaking evil of you: 5 who shall give account to him that is ready to judge the living and the dead.” 1 Peter 4:1-5.

The charges made by your family against the Lord’s church are not unique. Rejection of the gospel must somehow be justified. When individuals wish to reject what they understand Scripture to teach, or wish to continue in their ways and don’t care what the Scripture teaches, they must rationalize some justification. This rationalization often leads to unkind comments about the believer and the church – why don’t you live like we do any more, or the church is a cult. We have already seen the former from New Testament days. 1 Peter 4:1-5. The latter or similar charge was also made in the days of the New Testament: “4 But this I confess unto thee, that after the Way which they call a sect, so serve I the God of our fathers, believing all things which are according to the law, and which are written in the prophets.” Acts 24:14.

Clearly the church is not a sect (sectarian) or cult. If the church of the Lord in New Testament days was not a sect, it cannot be now. To understand the nature of the New Testament church, listen to the lesson on this site concerning The Undenominational Nature of the Church. The term cult is generally applied to groups whose teachings are so heretical as to remain outside of historic Christianity. In Han van Baalen’s The Chaos of Cults, he expounds the beliefs and critiques theosophy, Christian Science, Mormonism, and Jehovah’s Witnesses as “cults.” Although this book is a classic, many similar books have since appeared.

Mormonism is a good example of a cult. First, Mormonism is characteristic of a cult because it rejects what is called historic or orthodox Christianity. Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism, said that he was given this assessment of the Christian Church when he inquired of the Lord as to what church to join. “I was answered that I must join none of them, for they were all wrong; and the personage who addressed me said that all their creeds were an abomination in His sight; that those professors were all corrupt; that “they draw near to Me with their lips, but their hearts are far from Me, they teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof” (The Pearl of Great Price, 2:18-19).

Second, Mormonism is characteristic of a cult because it rejects the authority of scripture. It is true that the Mormon Church says, “We believe the Bible to be the Word of God is no far as it is translated correctly. . .” (Articles of Faith of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Article 8). Although this sounds like the Mormons trust the bible, they in fact believe that it has been changed and corrupted. The Mormon apostle Talmage said: “There will be, there can be no absolutely reliable translation of these or other Scriptures unless it is effected through the gift of translation, as one of the endowments of the Holy Ghost. . . .Let the Bible then be read reverently and with prayerful care, the reader ever seeking the light of the spirit that he may discern between the truth and the errors of men (James E. Talmage, The Articles of Faith, p. 237). Such a statement opens the door for Mormonism’s additional sacred books, The Book of Mormon, The Pearl of Great Price, and Doctrine and Covenants as greater authoritative sources. Thus, the Bible is not truly their final source of authority.

Third, Mormonism is characteristic of a cult because it rejects the true nature of Jesus Christ. The Mormon Church does not accept the unique deity of Jesus Christ. It uses “double talk” to hide what it really believes about Christ. The first article of faith in the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints reads, “We believe. . .in His Son, Jesus Christ.” This gives the impression Mormons are Christians since they believe in Jesus Christ. However, when we understand the semantics of what they mean by Jesus Christ, we discover they are far removed from orthodox Christianity. Nevertheless, the impression the Mormon Church gives from their advertising is that they are another group of Christianity. One must be on the alert for organizations that advertise themselves as “Christians” but whose internal teachings disagree with Scripture. According to Mormon internal teaching Jesus is one of many gods, the “first-born spirit child,” spiritually conceived by a sexual union between the heavenly Father (whom they believe to be Adam) and a heavenly mother. He also was the spirit-brother of Lucifer in his preexistent state. His incarnation was accomplished by the physical union of the heavenly Father and the human Mary. Jesus did not die for the sins of the world, but for Adam’s sins. Adam’s sin was actually a good thing according to Mormonism because it was necessary for Adam to fall before he could beget human offspring.

Fourth, Mormonism is characteristic of a cult because it rejects the doctrine of the trinity. There is only one Heavenly Father. While they speak of Jesus as God, Mormon teaching is that Jesus is god only in the sense that all humans can become god. Good Mormons who follow Mormon doctrine fully are elevated to the third heaven where each of them rules over his own planet and lives with his wives to whom he is wed by earthly or celestial marriage. Celestial marriage takes place only in a Mormon temple and is valid only for eternity. It may include, but is not limited to, a Mormon male’s earthly wife. On their planet they copulate for eternity. (See the comments on Mormonism in Lesson 23 on 2 Corinthians on this website.

Again, the church of the Lord has none of the characteristics of a cult as that term is generally understood.

That leaves the question about what to do about family members who do not share New Testament faith. First, remember that Jesus had the same problem: “54 And coming into his own country he taught them in their synagogue, insomuch that they were astonished, and said, Whence hath this man this wisdom, and these mighty works? 55 Is not this the carpenter's son? is not his mother called Mary? and his brethren, James, and Joseph, and Simon, and Judas? 56 And his sisters, are they not all with us? Whence then hath this man all these things? 57 And they were offended in him. But Jesus said unto them, A prophet is not without honor, save in his own country, and in his own house. 58 And he did not many mighty works there because of their unbelief.” Matthew 13:54-58. We also learn, however, that there is hope: at least two of his brothers, James and Jude, came to believe. James became a leader in the Jerusalem congregation and both of them wrote New Testament books. While the scripture does not say what led to their faith, it is likely that it was the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. We know that Jesus appeared unto James. 1 Cor. 15:7. Our family members’ refusal to listen leaves us neither helpless nor hopeless. We are able to preach to them by our lives. Abel’s life of sacrifice spoke even after his death. Heb. 11:4. Noah preached through his obedience by which he condemned the world. Heb. 11:7. Teaching is not limited to words. Peter had advice to women married to non-Christians that is applicable to all who would convert family members: “In like manner, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, even if any obey not the word, they may without the word be gained by the behavior of their wives; 2 beholding your chaste behavior coupled with fear.” 1 Peter 3:1-2.

All of that being said, we must finally recognize that not all will be persuaded. You are correct that in the final analysis you may be able to save only your immediate family. Continue to be strong in your faith. It is your only hope for eternity and it may be your only avenue for reaching those whom you love. May God bless you as you struggle with this battle. It cannot help but hurt as you see family members going down the way that leads to destruction. It does not help when they accuse you of wrongfully judging. This charge is often made against teachers of truth by those who do not want to hear that they are falling short of God’s will. From comments on this wrong application of scripture see the answer to Question 18 on this website.

These comments will not eliminate your pain, but how wonderful it is to find solace in the bosom of the Savior. Be faithful to Him who for your sake died and rose again, and you will find rest unto your soul.

God's Plan of Salvation

You must hear the gospel and then understand and recognize that you are lost without Jesus Christ no matter who you are and no matter what your background is. The Bible tells us that “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) Before you can be saved, you must understand that you are lost and that the only way to be saved is by obedience to the gospel of Jesus Christ. (2 Thessalonians 1:8) Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6) “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12) "So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." (Romans 10:17)

You must believe and have faith in God because “without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6) But neither belief alone nor faith alone is sufficient to save. (James 2:19; James 2:24; Matthew 7:21)

You must repent of your sins. (Acts 3:19) But repentance alone is not enough. The so-called “Sinner’s Prayer” that you hear so much about today from denominational preachers does not appear anywhere in the Bible. Indeed, nowhere in the Bible was anyone ever told to pray the “Sinner’s Prayer” to be saved. By contrast, there are numerous examples showing that prayer alone does not save. Saul, for example, prayed following his meeting with Jesus on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:11), but Saul was still in his sins when Ananias met him three days later (Acts 22:16). Cornelius prayed to God always, and yet there was something else he needed to do to be saved (Acts 10:2, 6, 33, 48). If prayer alone did not save Saul or Cornelius, prayer alone will not save you. You must obey the gospel. (2 Thess. 1:8)

You must confess that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. (Romans 10:9-10) Note that you do NOT need to make Jesus “Lord of your life.” Why? Because Jesus is already Lord of your life whether or not you have obeyed his gospel. Indeed, we obey him, not to make him Lord, but because he already is Lord. (Acts 2:36) Also, no one in the Bible was ever told to just “accept Jesus as your personal savior.” We must confess that Jesus is the Son of God, but, as with faith and repentance, confession alone does not save. (Matthew 7:21)

Having believed, repented, and confessed that Jesus is the Son of God, you must be baptized for the remission of your sins. (Acts 2:38) It is at this point (and not before) that your sins are forgiven. (Acts 22:16) It is impossible to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ without teaching the absolute necessity of baptism for salvation. (Acts 8:35-36; Romans 6:3-4; 1 Peter 3:21) Anyone who responds to the question in Acts 2:37 with an answer that contradicts Acts 2:38 is NOT proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ!

Once you are saved, God adds you to his church and writes your name in the Book of Life. (Acts 2:47; Philippians 4:3) To continue in God’s grace, you must continue to serve God faithfully until death. Unless they remain faithful, those who are in God’s grace will fall from grace, and those whose names are in the Book of Life will have their names blotted out of that book. (Revelation 2:10; Revelation 3:5; Galatians 5:4)