It was a tall order for me to try to post new things about Lent, at the moment there doesn’t appear much more that I can say for the moment, so it’s time to go back to what I do best.
As I was reading my Bible – I noticed something in this passage:
Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come. This is how we know it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us. (1 John 2:18-19)
I say this because many deceivers, who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh, have gone out into the world. Any such person is the deceiver and the antichrist. (2 John 1:7)
I wonder if John had even fathomed a time such as this – the church is divided and fracturing. Whole generations of believers are now going out of the churches in search for an authentic faith. One might be tempted to read these verses and assume that all of the nones and dones, the prodigals, nomads, and exiles – are turning their backs on the institution that is church because each and every one of them harbor the spirit of the or an antichrist, who are sinning sinners deceiving themselves by failing to acknowledge Jesus Christ as the church presents him.
One warning that appears all over scripture (2 Peter 2, 2 Timothy 2, 1 Timothy 1, 1 Timothy 3, and towards the end of Acts 20,) that false teachers would be a problem. The Bible promises that the false teachers will reap what they sow, but the advice it offers can be difficult to implement in order to remedy false teachers.
For one, false teachers often draw a group of followers who believe the teaching is genuine. We don’t have to deal so much with people not acknowledging Jesus – but we do have Word of Knowledge, Word of Faith, Seed-Faith, Healing, Prosperity Gospel teachings that often do much more harm than good. It seems as soon as one televangelist disqualifies himself (or more rarely, herself) others rise to prominence to replace them.
I can tell you from experience that sitting under false teaching is spiritually detrimental. To recognize that untruths are being said, to have to expend energy reminding yourself that “this pastor is not quite right” or “this teaching over-emphasizes God’s sovereignty but demotes His love, it’s not accurate” is wearying week after week, month after month, year after year.
I don’t think that the numbers will bear out that antichrists are leaving the church because they don’t belong and are sinning sinners. Far too many people have stories about how their church failed them. When a victim went to elders of church for help, she was ignored or the situation was mishandled. When a young person had ideas about drawing more people to church, every single one of them was rejected and they felt as if they weren’t being taken seriously because they were young like Timothy who couldn’t get enough elders on his side to fix some serious problems. When a child has serious questions about evolution and creation and the church isn’t giving them the best possible answers, making them doubt creation and everything that follows. Countless more stories from all walks of life …
Could John have foreseen that the Church would create this darned if you do, darned if you don’t situation? Would he have wanted believers to remain in a church where false teaching was believed to be solid, Biblical teaching? The thing about the corrective advice – “Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth,” it doesn’t work when the people already believe that their teaching is sound, to them, any opponent is living a lie because they do not believe exactly as the preacher indicates the Bible says they should. Suggesting possible other interpretations of Scripture is seen as rebellion against the inerrant, infallible Scriptures and plain reading thereof.
A lot of us ‘antichrists‘ just want to try to figure out what it means to be a part of the one church that is the body of Christ just without the experiences that prompted us to leave our former churches. That means in my case, I don’t want to be branded as a heretic and driven out to wander wilderness until I come back to my senses and stop being like the prodigal son. I don’t care if you craft the most biblical list of beliefs one can believe in from the Bible with a complete list of scripture references to back it up – I’m not going to sign my name to some document as there’s no mention of such a practice in Scripture.
The interesting thing about being left to my own devices is that without the constant pounding of Biblical teaching I’ve come to see a much clearer picture of who Jesus is in the gospels. The tide has changed to tell another tale – not one where a sovereign God created a world full people to punish – one of a servant who came to seek and save the lost. Without the crashing waves of emphasis, I’m sailing on calm waters that gently rock me in the rhythms of God’s grace in action. Had I not been cast aside, I’d still be in that big boat, fighting God’s grace by believing in the doctrines of Grace. Being taught about God so sovereign over this world that he controls the pattern of dust swirling in light and everything good or bad that ever happens is rooted in his omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent will. I wouldn’t have come to know the servant who seeks and saves the lost. I’d know another version of him whose sole purpose was to model obedience to enact the plan of salvation. Day in and day out, this particular emphasis would mold and shape my beliefs and drive me forward through the storm.
In this way going out from the church has been the best thing that has happened in my spiritual walk. I get to meet Jesus as he his, not some presentation of him that emphasizes some of his aspects and ignores others. Maybe I’ll do what my ancestors did with “Sooner” or “Yankee” and own the term “antichrist” not as something derogatory, but turn it around into a badge of honor. “Anti” can mean “against” or “opposite of” but it can also mean “in place of” and as a follower of Christ, I am in the place of Christ in a world of people who lost who need to be sought out – though I’ll leave the saving to Jesus, there’s bound to be ways I can help, provide food, clothing, shelter, a kind word, encouragement, that sort of thing. I wouldn’t mind being that kind of antichrist that was a friend of sinners, who brought healing, mercy, and forgiveness, who challenged religious authorities for being legalistic and losing their way. I could live with being that kind of antichrist .