Friday, 20 May 2011

Am I Antichrist or Just Struggling With Sin?

A friend of mine told me that in their lifegroup discussion of the recent sermon I preached, they discussed the difference between someone who is antichrist, and someone who is struggling with sin. It's an important distinction to make. If, as a Christian, I give in to sin, does that mean my heart is antichrist?

These kinds of of discussions can be fraught with difficulty and need a lot of pastoral wisdom and my desire is to comfort the disturbed, but also disturb the comfortable. So, given that my sermon threw up the discussion point, here is a slightly more thought out version of what I might have said, had I been in on the coversation...

To answer the question, run yourself through two tests, one for the head (truth) and one for the heart (affections).

The Head Test
This is the classic do you believe the Bible on what it says about Jesus test. The following is not exhaustive, but hopefully it touches all the main bases:
  • Do you believe that Jesus is fully God and is one united Godhead with the Father and the Spirit? (Jn.1:1)
  • Do you believe that Jesus has co-existed with the Father and the Spirit eternally? (Jn.1:1)
  • Do you believe that Jesus, at the command of his Father, created everything that we can see and everything we can't by the power of the Spirit? (Jn.1:3)
  • Do you believe that Jesus perfectly and without loosing any of his "God-ness" united himself to the human race by being miraculously born as a helpless baby 2000 years ago? (Rom.8:3)
  • Do you believe that Jesus has revealed sinlessly, perfectly and uniquely all that God is both in himself and for us (Jn14:9) and that in him are found all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge? (Col.2:3)
  • Do you believe that at the cross, Jesus willingly bore the wrath of the Father, himself and the Spirit for all the rebellion of the whole human race defeating the power of sin, death and the devil? (Heb.2:14-15)
  • Do you believe that coming to Jesus is the only way to receive the eternal life from God? (Jn.14:6)
  • Do you believe that Jesus will judge all people at the end of history - sending those who reject him to a place of eternal death (punishment) whilst welcoming those who love him, and have been transformed into his likeness, into a renewed world to enjoy friendship with him and his Father through the Spirit forever? (Matt.25:31ff)
If the answer to all these is yes, then you pass the head test. If the answer to any of these is no, then you're at best playing with fire and at worst, a heretic, (1Jn.2:22). Not language we like to use in our appeal to everyone age.

That doesn't mean you can't have questions about these things or find them intellectually confusing. (Esp. the whole - "Will God condemn those who have never heard of Jesus? thing. That one makes my head spin somewhat.) It does mean that fundamentally, (in your soul) you embrace Jesus' testimony of who he is and who you are to be the true one, and not any wacky idea you, I or we dreamt up about him some day back when...

But we aren't safe just yet. The head test is a necessary foundation but it is not a sufficient one. The devil and his angels believe the right things, but they aren't going to be saved, (Matt.25:41, James 2:19). So too, you can believe the right stuff - even do mighty things in the name of Jesus (Mt.7:22-23) and still be cut off at the end from eternal life.

So we have to move on to...

The Heart Test.
  • Do I love and obey the Jesus of the Bible who is identified above?  Do I love him? Really love him? Do I love God the Father who he has revealed to me? Do I love the fellowship of the Spirit who desires to walk with me and show me the Father and the Son? (Jn.14:23)
  • Do I love God brightest and best, more than anything else in this world? (Mt.10:36-37)
  • Do I relish the thought of being united with Jesus and his Father through the Spirit forever in a new creation? (1Pet.1:8)
  • Does the hope of being with Jesus forever shape more and more of the day to day reality I live? (2Cor.3:18)
  • Do I love everything that I love in this world through Jesus' eyes with the love that he has given me for them / it?  (2Cor.5:16)
Of course, none of us does this perfectly. My heart is one big idol factory, desperate to make things other than God, god in God's place. That's where God's grace is so life giving. It doesn't depend on the perfection of my moral performance, (1Jn.1:8-9), but it does require faith (albeit stumbling at times) to welcome the promises and love of God (Heb.11:13-14)

Christians can have moments (Peter - an evening) or even seasons (David - at least 9 months) of getting beguiled by sin and the things of this world. I should know, I've been there all too often. They can have a big backsliding event before God graciously snaps them out of it.

But if you meet one whose eyes show no sparkle, or heart shows no relish at the thought of being united to God in love or if they show no fear of being under his rebuke for their waywardness, then you have to come to the conclusion that the hard-hearted spirit of antichrist is on the throne of their life and not the soft and tender-hearted Spirit of Jesus. (1Cor.16:22) And so pray for a miracle of resurrection.

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Having shot my bullets, I am nervous that I have missed something big and obvious. :-S And I'm hoping that you'll tell me...

4 comments:

Ian Greig said...

Robust summary, I would say... but if you meet someone who is lacklustre and far from 'on fire' for God, it could be that
(a) The heart is sick from hope deferred (Proverbs 13:12)
(b) Their walk with God has strayed off into... not being on a walk, being distant and distracted
(c) The enemy has found them an easy target for lies of condemnation and other confusion...
... in which case they may just need loving back into a secure relationship where they touch again the Father's heart of love for them.
I believe that distraction and confusion are common, especially among believers who get a bit out of fellowship with others -- stray sheep -- but might not indicate a wholesale change of occupant of their throne.

Richard Walker said...

Agreed. Stray sheep have the sparkle of hope when you remind them of and woo them with the love of God. :-)

chris e said...

Surely the answer to this comes down to who is feeling this way and why.

Yes, there is a place for introspection, however someone who struggling with the thought that they might be exhibiting the spirit of the antichrist needs to be directed outside themselves. What helps at that point is the object of faith, not analysis of how strong your faith is.

The gospel is entirely outside you.

Richard Walker said...

Absolutely! :-)