Tag: pure Grace

Is Evangelical Christianity The Antichrist?

There is great speculation in regards to the reality and essence of the antichrist. Differing descriptions are given throughout the Bible, many of which have been leveraged by Hollywood-style dramatization. Be it a real person or government— many entities or a singular manifestation, the one thing that holds all viewpoints in common is the clear presence of an anti-Christ spirit that stands against Jesus in action, word, and creed.

For many, the predominant conclusion is that the antichrist is some kind of carnal, sin-dripping, non-believing, God-hating entity from the world that desires to thwart all things Christ, especially when viewed as a singular, eschatological figure. Popular, individual candidates have been Hitler, Obama, Caesar, and Napoleon.

For those Christians who paint with a broader brush, identifying the antichrist is centered on looking for the brightest blip on the radar screen of organizations, ideologies, and cultural realities believed to be wielding the most anti-christian, sin-seductive activity in the world. Homosexuality, ISIS, and liberalism have been frequently declared as primary contenders.

Bottom line, whoever or whatever is determined to be deserving of this diabolical label, the “antichrist” serves as yet another “they” or “them” that fundamentalists can rage against and leverage with fear for the conversion of souls.

It all seems so cut and dry, does it not? Revealing the antichrist is simply a conservative Christian, finger-point away.

Not so fast.

If you asked Jesus to cast a spotlight, revealing a person or people who are best qualified for the antichrist label, He wouldn’t bull’s-eye a demonic candidate from the sinning world, not even a Herod, a Pontius Pilate, or the likes of a Roman Empire— though all certainly anti-Jesus in their own way. Rather, His eyes would gaze straight into the heart of the religious, as they have pierced many times before.

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as much a child of hell as you are.”  –Matthew 23:15

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean.  In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.”  –Matthew 23:17-28

In the same way, I find it interesting when examining the primary biblical descriptions used by conservatives in determining the antichrist, or a spirit thereof.

“Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction”  -2 Thessalonians 2:3

“By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already.”  1 John 4:2-3

On the surface, it would seem these two passages serve as a slam dunk for conservative Christians in the identifying of the antichrist as a worldly, liberal, pantheistic, wayward, sin-loving, Jesus-debunking, progressive-minded entity who dwells outside of their Christian fundamentalism.

However, a deeper look reveals something much different.

First, the “lawless” person described in 2 Thessalonians is widely misunderstood. It’s a reference often used by conservatives as a clear determination that the antichrist is one whose lifestyle is characterized by licentiousness and a blatant disregard for doing what is right and good in the eyes of God. Therefore, the antichrist is easily revealed by their disobedient, sinful, morally rebellious actions. Find a person or reality that is living or advocating choices of sin, and there you have it— easy peasy, lemon squeezy, you’re the next contestant on “The Antichrist is Right.”

However, “lawlessness” can’t be referring to the Law or fulfilling any kind of legalistic, moral standard or spirit thereof through personal performance, as Paul declared, we are “under Grace, not Law.” In fact, it is under this Grace that Jesus flips the tables of religious thinking and ushers in a radical new way of calibrating our life and living, turning our attention fully away from any efforts to appease God (Law) through our faithfulness, to a focus on simply loving people (a life of Grace).

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.” John 13:34

The truth is, if there is any kind of “law” in our lives, under Grace, it is solely to love people— completely, thoroughly, and unconditionally. This is to be the singular, exclusive focus and foundation of any impulse or action in our Christian lives.

Being “lawless” isn’t adopting a life of moral rebellion or missing the mark of Christian obedience, but rather, becoming a loveless person. For to be lawless, is to be loveless. Period.

Second, the passage from 1 John 4 focuses on Jesus and His manifestation of God— in other words, the author is appealing for a firm understanding of who Jesus is and what He brings.

For conservatives, this passage, and others like it, are wrapped as clear admonitions that an antichrist label can be firmly affixed to anyone or anything that doesn’t properly repent of their sins, turn to Jesus as their salvation, and sandblast their lives into moral, conservative purity.

This is the very essence of the Evangelical gospel of who Jesus is and what He brings— the world is bad, people are a project, and we have exclusive revelation and rights to the solution. Believe in our Jesus, repent of our list of sins, become discipled in our “sin recovery and management” programs, agree to stand against all the things we stand against as you learn to spiritually police a wayward world, and adopt our elitist lifestyle of “hating the sin and loving the sinner” all while you sing choruses of how “on fire” and “radical” you are for Jesus— hands in the air of course.

Oh, and one more itsy bitsy, wee-little thing. If you don’t subscribe to this playlist, our same people-loving Jesus will drop-kick you into the eternal barbecue pit down under where somehow you will be separated from an omnipresent God to be tortured forever as people in heaven high-five with rousing hymns of “He is Holy and Just.” Not to mention, we will be forced to draw the only conclusion available—since you are anti-us, you are obviously anti-Christ. We love you, we really do… but.

The problem is, that’s not the Gospel. That is not who Jesus is and what He brings.

Jesus is Grace, and Grace is the Gospel. It’s all Grace.

There is only Grace. Period.

This is the divine, cosmic assertion from the megaphone of heaven that rings salvation to the broken and torment to the religious.

Through the cross, it’s all one-and-done. Salvation, for all. Wholeness, holiness, sanctification, righteousness and justification, for all. New creation life, without blemish or condemnation, for all. Grace, love, acceptance, and affirmation, for all.

None are better, only different. Grace, the great equalizer—lifting the condemned, deflating the condemners, writing us all onto the same page and into the same plot— rendering all our performance as irrelevant to the leveraging of God, and ourselves over and above another.

Salvation isn’t something you get, sanctification isn’t something you become, holiness isn’t something you achieve, it’s who you already are and what you already have, because of Jesus.  And faith— your effortless, beautiful awakening to all this, that Jesus has fully furnished and finished on humanity’s behalf.

As you believe it, you feel it, you desire it, and you live it. Grace upon Grace. Breathing for the first time.

There is nothing left to do, only everything to believe— God is love, Jesus is Grace, and His Gospel is peace.

It’s as simple and good as that.

Everything else is just a spiritual veil to an empty life— a vaping of the Law as if it’s the Gospel, inhaling death as if it’s life.

The most anti-Christ thing one can believe is that God is anything but pure love, Jesus is anything but Grace, and our lives should exhibit and manifest anything but unconditional love for all people— no “ifs,” “ands” or “buts.”

The most anti-Christ thing one can do is to look to our efforts, however spiritual they may seem, and believe any of it actually works with God or ourselves— brainwashing people into a life of spiritual striving and a subtle positioning of oneself as better than another, having the capacity and even a calling to judge, change, or condemn.

That, is to believe and do what is pure evil and anti-Christ.

For the message of Grace takes the Law and sin so seriously that it bows down its entirety to the sobering reality that no one can summon the will nor apply enough spiritual “to do’s” to master or manage it. It takes Jesus so seriously, that no bible, denomination, organization or person can perfectly reveal the Father but Him. It takes Grace so seriously, disarmed by the awareness that nothing else works to change or empower. It takes God so seriously, that love is all He is and all He brings, exclusively and completely. It takes the Christian life so seriously, that all we can, and are capable and called to do, is to simply love, as God first loved us, without condition.

It’s Jesus + nothing, or your gospel is nothing but anti-Christ ladened, bad news.

Yet sadly, as much as I love all my Christian brothers and sisters and wish my observations and experience could surmise a different conclusion, I can’t identify a more Jesus-misrepresenting and loveless manifestation on earth outside of Evangelical Christianity— whose blatant hallmarks are a law-mixed, performance-driven gospel, legalism, judgementalism, bigotry, discrimination, condemnation, and spiritual elitism— all in the name of Jesus.

Disgusting.

To be sure, for some, they are unaware of what comes in the Evangelical to-go box from which they consume. For others, they do not subscribe to all the artificial adding and fillings immersed in this brand of faith —doing their best to eat around it. In that way, the term “Evangelical” will always be imperfect in its use. For that, I apologize.

However, if your are looking for the antichrist or its spirit among us, before you go pointing fingers, perhaps a mirror would best do. Somewhere along the way, we have too open our eyes to the heights from which we have fallen.

What is and has been the primary catalyst behind the uprising of rampant prejudice in America and beyond?

What is turning more generations of people away from Christianity and the person of Jesus?

What keeps more people from loving freely without restraint, restriction, condition or apprehension?

What has caused more people in the LGBTQ community to lose hope, spiral into depression, and even hang a noose to take their own lives?

What has marginalized, minimized, and deprived more women of their equal rights, status, gifting, calling and capabilities within the faith community and all of life?

What has enticed and imprisoned more people into a life of sin and hypocrisy through the proclamation of the Law and the mixing of it into the Gospel?

What has personified God more as an angry, vengeful, schizophrenic drunk who storms out of heaven to love you one moment and hate you the next?

What has done more to turn “church” into a club of pretentious people who talk amongst themselves and judge the world?

What has inspired this great nation, from our birth all the way into our present, to justify more acts of violence, hatred, privilege, and greed?

One answer: Evangelical Christianity

Behind every legislation of discrimination, transgender suicide, homophobic rant, sin-enslaved  human, dechurched follower, and disillusioned Christian is the touch of Evangelical Christianity, in part or whole, directly or indirectly. This is the print our steps are making and the legacy we are leaving— a ministry of emotional, spiritual, and physical death pimped as the way, truth, and life.

Oh how we Christians have become experts at not only missing the point and the plot, but missing the very people and creeds contributing most to the sabotaging of all that is truly Jesus and what He brings.

Look no further, it is us, we are the “they”— the fallen from Grace.

Perhaps, of all that would seem to be so easily anti-Christ, we are the most anti-Christ of all— loveless, Graceless, and therefore, Jesus-less— addicted to our self-requiring Gospel and a love filled with conditions, the very attributes that Jesus discerned and declared as most anti-Himself.

Moving Away from Insecurity

So, do you want the real solution to insecurity?

I believe as the Bible declares, “as a man thinks in his heart, so he is.”  The way we see ourselves is foundational to how we go about living our lives, especially when it comes to dealing with things like insecurity. This is a critical truth to understand. Identity problems lead to living-life problems. It’s hard for people to make you feel insecure about something in your life that you first don’t have a certain amount of insecurity about within yourself.

Much of how we see ourselves (our identity) has been influenced by how we believe God sees us, even if the reality of God hasn’t been a significant topic of care or concern in your life. The perceived reality of or absence of God is a concept all humans give much mental and emotional attention, and much of the conclusion we draw are of great influence on our thoughts and conclusions about ourselves.

It is our sense of identity that has tremendous influence in our security of self. Whether we are secure or insecure as a person has much to do with our sense of identity. The challenge is, in order to truly deal with issues of security and insecurity in our lives, we need to examine our beliefs about God and our beliefs about our self in order to get to the root and vines of insecurity. For it is within our identity (which is deeply influenced from our sense of God) that we find the issues and remedy for insecurity.

With that in mind, not that I want to box in or label anyone, but for the sake of this post, there is one of 3 general categories people will likely fit into when it comes to their beliefs about God and how they are worked out in their lives, especially their identity.

Category 1) You don’t see Jesus as your Savior.

Category 2) You see Jesus as your Savior, but still live your life with a reoccurring sense of condemnation, guilt, and lack.

Category 3) You see Jesus as your Savior, and live you life with no sense of condemnation and believe you lack nothing.

All three of these have critical things in common. All three bottom line on 1) how you see (or what you believe about) Jesus 2) how you see yourself 3) how you see that your life should be lived. Additionally, depending on which category you fit into best, each will have a huge impact on your sense of security in self. In fact, only one category truly leads to having victory over insecurity, the other two lead to insecurity.

Let’s take a closer look into each of these categories as you discern into which one you might best fit.

People in Category 1 don’t see Jesus as their Savior. To them, He might be a very wise teacher, a very spiritual man, or simply a great motivator, but He is not seen as their Savior.  Some people in this category don’t see Jesus as their Savior because they have intellectual issues with doing so. Perhaps they don’t even believe there is a god at all or that all religions represent or lead to God. Others don’t see Jesus as their Savior because they are applying other methods and solutions to remedy or improve their life. They don’t see Jesus as their Savior because they believe in simple terms they don’t  really need to. Some are outwardly satisfied with their lives as is, feel they can make it through on their own, or don’t believe they need anyone or anything to “save” them.

People in Category 2 are Christians by profession. They believe they need Jesus and that Jesus died for their sins.  Yet, they believe that their closeness with God and many other aspects of their current life with God are based on their spiritual performance.  Though they might be saved, much of God’s presence and blessing are based on their performance in life. As a Christian, they believe they need to continually ask God for forgiveness to maintain their right standing with God.  They believe that they are still by nature, prone to sin and must battle to feed the old self (they believe still exists within themselves) more than then new self in order to have victory. When they sin, they still harbor levels of shame and guilt as they conclude God’s judgement and condemnation are still upon them. For them, God’s punishment is an every present possibility, and whether or not His favor is upon them is in direct proportion to their performance.  Though they received God’s salvation through a sure sense of Grace, they approach their spiritual walk with a sense that God’s love for them and His work in their life has many conditional elements upon which their performance hinges.  They tend to believe that  too much Grace leads to furthering a life of sin and encouraging unfaithfulness. Beyond having faith and belief, their efforts are seen as a critically important part of determining the closeness, stability, and standing of their relationship with God. For them, a primary job of the Holy Spirit is to convict both the unbeliever and the believer of their sin.

People in Category 3 are Christians by faith. They believe they need Jesus and that Jesus died for their sins. Yet, they believe that they have become completely new creations (creatures) in Christ.  Other than their earthly flesh, their entire self including their old sinful (Adam) nature is completely gone as it was crucified with Christ. As a new person, they see themselves as the righteousness of Christ, receiving every spiritual blessing, having had their sins (past, present, and future) forgiven on the cross. They don’t believe it is any longer their core nature to sin, but rather that sin has now become unnatural to them.  Additionally, they don’t believe they need to continually ask God to forgive them (sin that was accomplished on the cross) but rather to continually apply their faith in His finished work on the cross, knowing that it is not their performance that determines their standing, closeness, or favor with God, but rather their standing that is to determine their performance.  Their spiritually life is not a battle between two natures within themselves, but rather the desires of the flesh verses the leading of the Spirit of God.  For them, the primary job of the Holy Spirit is to convict the world of their unbelief of Jesus and convince believers of their righteousness in Christ. They believe that having been given Grace and having been graced with many blessings, it is their privilege, passion, and honor to live their lives diligently building the Kingdom and cooperating with the Spirit’s work in their life. It is because God first loved them that they love.

So let’s talk about how these categories effect our identities and thus our sense of security in self.

For those in category 1, their identities are based on their performance, other’s opinions, or the circumstances around their life. If they believe in a different religion than Christianity, their belief system will dictate that much of their standing with God and His feeling towards them are directly related to what they do or don’t do in life.  All other religions apart from Christianity have this conditional moving-upward-to-God system of beliefs. If they don’t believe in God, they are left with themselves, others, and/or their circumstances as the source of their identity and self evaluation.

At times, for those in category 1, the opinions of other have a profound influence on their opinion of themselves. Furthermore, the circumstances of their life have a great impact on their self evaluation. Many internal and external factors dictate their self esteem. For example, for some, if their physical appearance is pleasing, they feel adequate. Perhaps for others, if their financial circumstances cast them in a positive light, they feel good about themselves.  With or without their religion, there are many “ifs” in their performance or circumstances that have a strong baring on their identity and self-esteem.

For these reasons, insecurity is common for those in category 1.  Our ability to perform and get things right certainly fluctuates as so does the opinion of others and our circumstances.  When our abilities, outward circumstances, and the opinions of others become the source of our identity, insecurity is just a mistake, inadequacy, misfortune, or rejection away.

For those in category 2, though they might feel that their eternal identity may be secure (though not all Christians agree in this) in Christ, much of their relationship with God in the here and now is not.  Sadly, as with category 1, much of their identity is based on their performance as a Christian. Though many would claim they are “forgiven” their trust and sense of identity is measured much more by the level of their faithfulness, particularly in the area of obedience. For some, when they see they fall short in their faithfulness, they resign themselves to an identity as a “sinner saved by grace” having the identity of a “sinner” as their core sense of self.  Many Christians in category 2 live their lives with significant layers of guilt and shame and find it very hard to apply forgiveness to themselves, believing deep down that they are unworthy of continued Grace or that they are still under a certain amount of condemnation. They conclude that God may have forgiven them, but he certainly isn’t happy, nor does he like them, and therefore, might withhold His favor and blessing at any given moment. Many Christians in category 2 see their identity as both sinful and yet forgiven with a sense of having two opposing natures. The goal therefore of a Christian in category 2 is to subdue the old self and somehow stay true to the new self. Here again, it’s their effort and performance in this area that is used to evaluate not only their closeness with God but also how God feels about them and thus their sense of self. Indeed, there are many performance based Christians that turn to their efforts, work, and making headway for significant aspects of their esteem.

For these reasons, insecurity is common for those in category 2. In fact, you may find as many religious Christians being as insecure as people who don’t share in their Christian profession. Since so much of their stance with God hinges on their performance, the foundation for a secure identity is shaky at best. Furthermore, since they believe God still looks against them when they sin (a distance and disgust is created) and their nature is divided between good and evil, they see themselves as broken people who are sinners at heart.  If only they could pray more, do more, take more steps, and sin less, they would feel secure in themselves. This is at the core of the religious spirit that infects many Christians today.

For those in category 3, their faith in Christ is deeply connected to what Jesus did on their behalf. For them, they believe not only are all their sins forgiven (past, present, and future) but that God has remade them into a completely new person, with a new identity. When they sin, instead of believing this a moment where God’s condemnation, disgust, and distance are given and thus they should feel ashamed, they apply their faith in claiming their identity in Christ as forgiven, continually cleansed, and the righteousness of Christ. Sin does not define them.  This claiming by faith and applying Jesus finished work on the cross to their identities does not make sinning easier, but enables them to sin less.  Their performance in life doesn’t determine their stance with God, but rather, their stance with God determines their performance.  The emphasis in their identity isn’t placed on their work, but on Christ’s finished work applied to their life through faith. For them, the Old Covenantal system where so much of one’s relationship with God is based on following rules and being obedient has been fulfilled through Jesus, and a New Covenant of Grace has been brought through Jesus that focuses not on rules to produce obedience but rather through the Grace of God giving people a new identity and standing with God. The more you think you are a sinner at heart, the more you feel you need to perform in order to have God be on your side, the more you think God’s favor and blessing depends on you, the more you will rely on yourself and not on Jesus and ironically, the more you will be prone to sin. As the Bible declares, the strength of sin is the Law.  The more you place yourself under the rules, the more you end up disobeying them. For those in category 2, obedience is the root, faith is the fruit. For those in category 3, faith is the root, obedience is the fruit. The foundation is what is different.

For these reasons, people in category 3 have far less moments of insecurity in their life. When they do, they simply apply their faith in who they are in Christ and the assurance of God’s grace and their new life/identity in Christ. Instead of trying to improve their behaviors to make things right, they apply their faith that all is right because of Jesus, and thus their behaviors follow their identity. An obedience problem is first an identity problem. Jesus isn’t into behavior modification, but life transformation. To be sure, people in category 3 have learned the secret that you can’t become a secure person until you become a new person through Christ, and believe it about yourself.  Right belief leads to right living. Right belief in the pure Grace of God through Jesus applied through faith leads to secure living.

Let me encourage you today as you finish reading this post to become a person in the category 3 club.  God completely and perfectly loves you and has a “new you” ready to be given the moment your heart leaps to what He has done for you on the cross. A life of complete security, assurance, peace, and confidence is waiting for you, and it’s all wrapped up in one person, Jesus.  Walk in freedom and strength, and allow your old life of condemnation, shame, guilt, searching, emptiness, inadequacy, and insecurity to be put to death with Jesus on the cross, and a new life of wholeness, salvation, security and freedom be yours.

Looking forward to your thoughts…

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