Red Letters Trump All!

We would like to share something that has been (and continues to be) our anchor of hope and source of peace during the emotionally traumatic experience of laying aside something we had been deeply involved in and invested in all of our former lives.  Perhaps this will encourage someone else to seek and find what has been so helpful to us.

What we continue to find comforting, instructional, correctional and life-giving is our disciplined and purposeful focus on the recorded words (the red-lettered words) and actions of our Lord Jesus.  In fact, it was our perception of the 2X2’s lack of focus on Jesus’ secret message of the Kingdom of Heaven, His promises to believers and His warnings to those who rejected or contradicted His words that initiated (in the fall of 2005) our gradual disenchantment with and ultimate exodus from (in early 2010) that fellowship.  If you are wondering what is meant by “secret message” above, we urge you to read “The Secret Message of Jesus” by Brian D. McLaren.  It was both an enlightening and confirming experience for us.

Contrary to what any of our relatives, friends or former associates may have speculated or rumored, we have not lost our faith in or love for God—those are stronger now than ever.  We were not mistreated or offended by any person or any group nor did we suddenly fall victim to worldliness, fleshly lusts or the wiles of Satan.  And we certainly were not drawn away by a desire to affiliate with any other religious organization, denominational or not. 

We simply began to focus on reading and meditating on the recorded words and actions of Jesus and found that many of the prevailing beliefs, teachings and attitudes that we had accepted, repeated and lived in the 2X2 fellowship for decades were either badly misaligned or a direct contradiction of the words and example of Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

But, even if our motivation to leave had been something else, we would still be thankful for what our focus on Jesus’ words and actions has done and continues to do for our spiritual vision and health.  God, in His infinite love and depth of compassion, directed His Holy Spirit to open our minds and hearts to “hear” and carefully consider the words of His Son, Jesus, just as He advised Peter, James and John at the transfiguration: “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!” Mark 9:7 NIV

To us, that statement of the Father, contained in His Holy Word, is all-sufficient justification for placing the utmost importance on Jesus’ words, the red-lettered words in many Bibles (and many versions). 

While there are numerous examples of where our former beliefs were misaligned or directly contradicted Jesus’ teachings, time and space does not permit their inclusion here.  The seriousness of such occurrences is clearly seen in Jesus’ stern rebuke of Peter, “Get thee behind me, Satan!” in Matthew 16:21-23. Instead, we will simply state our convictions and offer some additional scriptural references regarding the importance of Jesus’ words.

We have a strong and growing conviction that there are no words in the Bible that are MORE important than Jesus’ words.  Note: that statement does not denigrate, reject or refute any other words of scripture; it simply places the priority of importance for our application where the Father, Jesus and the apostles also placed it.  We feel any interpretation or application of scripture that ignores, twists, marginalizes, contradicts or attempts to refute the red-lettered words of Jesus is not only incorrect, it is evil because it is a deception of Satan.  In fact, we have a saying, “Red letters trump all!” which simply means that if there is ever a doubt, the words of Jesus prevail.

John’s gospel simply identifies Jesus as the “Word” that in the beginning was with God, was God, was the creator of all things, was the source of light and life, became flesh, dwelled among us and was full of grace and truth (John 1:1-14).  Could the recorded words of Jesus be ignored, marginalized, contradicted or refuted by anyone who truly believed those credentials of Jesus given by John?

John also recorded Jesus’ testimony that the words He spoke were spirit and life to believers (John 6:63) but would also judge and condemn any who rejected or disobeyed them (John 12:47, 48).  Jesus promised joy to those who knew and obeyed His teaching (John 13:17) and also said that obeying His commandments was evidence of our love for Him (John 14:15).

But, perhaps the most clearly stated and well-illustrated statement by Jesus regarding the importance we place on knowing and obeying His teaching and commandments is found in the closing of His “Kingdom Manifesto” (aka “Sermon on the Mount”) as recorded in chapters 5, 6 & 7 of Matthew’s gospel.

MAT 7:24   “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. (25)  The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. (26)  But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. (27)  The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”

How can anyone obey words they don’t know or have not been helped to understand?

A few years later, the apostle Paul asserted the importance of Jesus and everything about Him when he wrote to the Colossians: 

COL 1:14  “In whom (Christ, the Son) we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins: (15) Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: (16)  For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: (17)  And he is before all things, and by him all things consist. (18)  And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence. (KJV)  Or, “so that in everything he might have the supremacy.” (NIV)

Paul (or whoever wrote Hebrews), also acknowledged that Jesus was the messenger God used to speak to us in these “last days”:

HEB 1:1  In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, (2)  but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe.

If we believe, follow and worship Jesus as the head of the Christ-centered, spiritual church that He alone is building in the earth (Matt 16:18), surely we should make knowing and obeying His words our highest priority in life.

If there is any further question about the importance or relevancy of Jesus’ teaching to us today, we only need to consider the great commission that Jesus gave his apostles just prior to ascending:

Matt 28:19, 20 “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations … teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” (NIV)

One of the first specific studies (many are possible) of the red-lettered passages we initiated was of Jesus’ commandments because we felt we had not been taught them by the 2×2 ministry.  In Matthew’s gospel alone, we found (and documented in a data base) 120 individual commandments given by Jesus (i.e. “Repent!”, “Come unto me!”, “Believe in me!”, “Deny yourself!”, “Take up your cross!”, “Follow me!”, “Be baptized!”, “Abide in me!”, “Fear not!”, “Have faith in God!”, “Love one another!” “Love your enemies!”  etc.). 

Later, we found that in 1925, J. S. McConnell had documented 147 total commandments of Jesus in the entire New Testament.  Many of the friends and workers can list the Ten Commandments given to Moses, but ask them how many of the commandments given by Jesus they can list and see what you get.  Yet Jesus said, “If you love me, keep MY commandments!”

Regardless of our individual reason(s) for leaving the 2X2 belief system, we can all rejoice in the liberty with which Christ has set us free!  Now that we have been delivered from the bondage of deception, ignorance, arrogance and hypocrisy of the 2X2’s, we need to maintain a Christ-centered focus to guard against the bondage of getting involved in other religious groups that are similarly bounded by their own thinking, values and rules. 

Keeping our focus on learning and applying Jesus’ teaching is the best deterrent we have found to becoming “entangled again with the yoke of bondage”.

Dennis & Jane Bengtson

PS Due to the frequently encountered 2X2 bias against using “red letter” Bibles, some ex-members of that fellowship may never have owned or used one.  We first acquired a “red letter” Bible when we decided to begin reading the New International Version (NIV) in parallel with our KJV Bibles in the late 1990’s.  Reading a Bible with a modern translation AND red letters for Jesus’ words was a very refreshing and exciting change for us.  Most Bible study software programs and some on-line Bible sites also offer red-letter versions. 

History of how Red Letter Bibles became available: