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Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Tips for Spotting a Fake in the Flock

About a month ago, I read a biography about a missionary woman who served the Lisu people of southern China, just over the border from what is now called Myanmar.  One chapter was the kind that would shake most people to their core.  It detailed the story of a small group of men from Myanmar who had climbed over the mountains in the dead of winter (sometimes walking on snowdrifts so tall they covered trees) to find out the truth about Jesus in China.  They finally wandered into her mission station, half-starved and frostbitten.  Why had they gone to such extremes just to talk to a missionary?

According to the men, their village, for some time, had been terrorized by a demon who would randomly possess someone and claim to be named Jesus.  The "Jesus demon" had given them, through the mouths of others, most of the Mosaic Law in the Old Testament, and often quoted passages from the Bible to them.  It then told them to destroy all of their crops, or not plant enough, etc., on a promise that it would be their "savior" and that they only had to trust it.  Many people had starved to death over the previous decade because of this.  Finally, these men heard that there were missionaries in China who were talking about Jesus, and they had gone all that way to demand the truth.

The "showdown" in China eventually resulted in the conversion of all of the young men and most of the people in their home network of villages in Burma (Myanmar).

Now, this story made me think a lot about types of antichrists.  In case you've only heard of the last Antichrist, perhaps in a Left Behind novel, an antichrist is a person, used by Satan or a demon as a mouthpiece for evil, who seems to resemble Christ enough to deceive people into following him/her away from the true God.  Sometimes, antichrists are people we know and are trained to implicitly trust, like leaders and elders in a church.  In these last days, when the lines between the truth and lies are often very cleverly blurred, do we know how to judge the difference between Jesus and imitators?


Let me make something clear, if I haven't already: Today, I'm not talking about real Christians who have, from time to time, blown off their mouths and said something hurtful.  When I call someone an antichrist, I am specifically talking about people who are committed to doing evil and trying to deceive others; they don't know Christ, however much they quote Him and imitate Him.  They are not just making the occasional mistake.  They want a following, and they despise the souls of those who follow them.

This is a big problem, especially in religious circles, and Jesus predicted it would get worse as the end of the world approaches.  He also said, "At that time if anyone says to you, 'Look, here is the Christ!' or, 'There he is!' do not believe it.  For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect—if that were possible" (Matthew 24: 23-24 NIV).  It certainly shouldn't be possible, and if we arm ourselves against clever "Jesus demons," we should be able to withstand the attack.  Christ predicted that, too (Matthew 24: 10-13).

If you discover something wrong in anything I say in this list, please tell me.  I'm trying to be thorough, and I don't want to mislead anyone.  If I've managed to put together a definitive list, all the better; however, Jesus--the real Jesus--gets the credit for the work.  And now, without further ado, here's my personal arsenal of tools for identifying an antichrist.
  •  Know your Bible.--the "Jesus demon" in Burma  in the story at the beginning of this post quoted a lot of Scripture.  However, I can be certain that a demon who led so many people to their deaths was not telling people the whole truth.  Recall Jesus' temptation in Matthew 4: 1-11, because this story is the best model for how to handle the words of an antichrist.  When Satan spoke to Jesus, he quoted from the Bible (twisted to mean what he wanted, of course).  Jesus' response was always to quote a passage from the Bible that effectively neutralized Satan's point.  If you know your Bible well enough, you can do the same to the words of an antichrist, effectively "outing" the source of his or her deception.
  • Know your Bible.--  I know, I know, I just said that, but I want to point out how important this is.  The Bible isn't your last weapon against the lies of  Satan--it's your best weapon. Use it.
  • Know your Savior. -- The Apostle Paul wrote once about Christians having the "aroma of Christ" (2 Corinthians 2: 15).  Although this seems like an odd or out-there concept, I've got to say that it's a true phenomenon.  Christians, real Christians, who have spent hours talking to God and who have seen His power displayed in their lives, can recognize the power and presence of God.  It's as distinctive as a smell or a taste.  When you see supernatural power displayed, but it has a different quality to it--perhaps laced with fear, violence, confusion, condescension, etc. (see, for starters, Romans 8: 15-16; 2 Timothy 1: 7)--you immediately recognize that it is not of God.  I wouldn't base everything on this sensation, but if your radar is going off, it's cause for concern.  Back your suspicions with concrete Scripture, and remember to pray to ask God to open your eyes to what you need to see.
  • Talk to people who know their Bibles, especially elders. -- I know, I've already said that elders in a church can be used by Satan to preach a false gospel--antichrists.  However, there are always a few genuine Christian "prayer warriors,"  especially those who have seen many spiritual battles, whose great experience can help you spot the false teaching buried under all the Gospel icing.  Many of them are pastors, but they can be deacons, elders, teachers, or family members.  Seek their advice, but test even that advice against the Bible.  In my case, my parents have been that kind of a resource, and they've pointed out where I had been deceived on more than one occasion.  If you don't have that kind of a "buddy in the trenches," pray that God will send one your way.  "Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up.  But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!" (Ecclesiastes 4: 9-10 NIV).
  • Read the books and writings of someone whose teaching aligns with all Scripture. -- If you don't have a "trench buddy," you can still get help from Christians who have encountered a particular lie from an antichrist before.  Read their notes.  I hesitated to list this one, because there are a lot of very popular books out there which are written by antichrists who want to reach you through their writings.  Hint: You can spot those sort of authors within the first five pages if you've been reading your Bible closely.  At the first sign of apostasy, put the book down!
That's all the tips that come to mind at this moment.  Remember, if you've discovered that someone is an antichrist, however trustworthy he or she has seemed before, trust what you have learned and don't go back.  "A truthful witness gives honest testimony, but a false witness tells lies" (Proverbs 12: 17 NIV), so know them by their fruits!  Jesus described Satan and his mouthpieces very clearly, so that all who have spotted them would know what to expect: "You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father's desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies" (John 8: 44 NIV).  Don't wait around for that one glimmer of good in an antichrist, because without God in his or her life, there is no glimmer of good.

Until next time, take care, and be savvy!  God is near to those who truly seek Him (Isaiah 55: 6-7).

2 comments:

Kamal said...

Rachel,

Thanks for the definition of Antichrist - "an antichrist is a person, used by Satan or a demon as a mouthpiece for evil, who seems to resemble Christ enough to deceive people into following him/her away from the true God" and the character of antichrist - "people who are committed to doing evil and trying to deceive others; they don't know Christ, however much they quote Him and imitate Him. They are not just making the occasional mistake. They want a following, and they despise the souls of those who follow them."

The tools to identify antichrist are much needed in our times. Thanks a bunch for writing on such an important topic.

Rachel M. said...

Thank you! I tried to give some good information here, but I'm not sure I really hit upon everything that needed to be covered. Just the basics that came to mind. :)

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