Rejecting Jesus

But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth. I do not write to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do know it and because no lie comes from the truth. Who is the liar? It is whoever denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a person is the antichrist—denying the Father and the Son. No one who denies the Son has the Father; whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also.

1 John 2:20-23

John tells us that the reason he writes these sorts of things is because of “those who are trying to lead you astray”(1 John 2:26). And when we read the above passage, we are reminded that there are many theologians and leaders in the church who are still trying to lead people astray with false teaching.

Here’s the reality: it is impossible to read the above passage the leave any room for universalism. Universalism says that people with all different religions and belief systems will ultimately be accepted by God the Father. It says God accepts all belief systems equally and so everyone will make to heaven to spend eternity with God.

But the only way to hold a universalistic understanding is to completely ignore this passage of scripture (and many others like it). One cannot believe in the Bible and be a universalist. You can pick one or the other but not both because the two are incompatible.

John is clear about what the truth is. The truth is that Jesus is the Messiah, the Christ. To deny Jesus is to reject God. To deny the Son is to deny the Father. There is no equivocation here. John makes no attempt to soften his language or side-step this foundational truth. If you acknowledge Jesus for who He really is, then you have connection and intimacy with the Father. But if you deny that Jesus is who He says He is, then you are simultaneously denying the Father.

John confirms this truth by referencing the anointing of the Holy One, the Holy Spirit. It is the internal witness of the Spirit that confirms the truth of these statements. About the Holy Spirit John goes on to say, “As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things…”(1 John 2:27). The Holy Spirit is ultimately our teacher and our guide. He confirms the truth of God’s word in us. And the Holy Spirit never contradicts the word of God.

What is interesting to notice is that the same sections of the church that dabble in the falsehood of universalism have also created distance from themselves and the things of the Holy Spirit. When we stop listening to, engaging with, receiving gifts and power from the Holy Spirit, our teaching is sure to become more and more influenced by the corrupt thinking of the world.

By the time many seminarians finish seminary, they’ve been filled with false teachings and emptied of any intimacy with the Spirit. They start doubting the truth that they read in scripture and begin distancing themselves from the authority of the word of God. As someone who went to seminary, I saw this firsthand in my own life and I continue to watch it happen to others. No wonder the churches in American are shrinking and dying. We need to return to the boldness that John writes with, proclaiming the exclusivity of Jesus as the Christ and the only way to the Father!

Prevalent False Teachings

Peter is warning the early Christians about false teachers that will try to influence the Church when he says this:

For they mouth empty, boastful words and, by appealing to the lustful desires of the flesh, they entice people who are just escaping from those who live in error. They promise them freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravity—for “people are slaves to whatever has mastered them.” 

2 Peter 2:18-19

Sound familiar?

Beware of leaders and teachers in the church who think they are offering freedom by saying things like, “That lifestyle isn’t really sinful.” They think they are offering freedom by not calling sin what it really is. But instead they are peddling slavery dressed up as freedom. Their message is appealing precisely because it appeals to the lustful desires of the flesh. It calls itself love when really it is licentiousness.

This false teaching is especially appealing to those who are “just escaping from those who live in error.” In other words, this kind of message appeals to new or immature believers who haven’t yet been grounded in the truth of God’s word.

Here are some common versions of this kind of false teaching:

  1. You don’t need a church community. It’s better to be spiritual on your own than commit to (what they call) “organized religion.”
  2. Sex before marriage is normal and good. Those who champion purity are just oppressive in their forcing of Victorian Era morality on us.
  3. The only way to really love the LGBTQ community is to let them express their sexuality however they want.
  4. Abortion is a women’s right because the fetus a part of her body, and she gets to decide what to do with her body.
  5. Pornography is a just a coming-of-age rite of passage for teen boys and can actually help young women throw off oppressive patriarchal sexual repression.
  6. Other people dictate my emotional state. So if I am offended or hurt by something, I bear no responsibility. The other person must account for the harm they have done to my emotional wellbeing. If I am offended, someone else (other than me) is to blame.

The list could go on but much of this false teaching pervades our current American culture. In each case above, there is an appeal to the selfish, sinful nature. That is why these false teachings have become so popular. In response to each of the above, here is the truth that we find in God’s word:

  1. Christianity was never meant to be done alone. We were meant to live in community as the Body of Christ. Most people who avoid church community do so because they never healed from an old, emotional wound. Many don’t want to look at the mirror that community often holds up to our own lives.
  2. Sex before marriage is common but not healthy. It ushers in all manner of destructive things into our lives. Besides helping to create a rape culture and a culture of promiscuity, sex before marriage is damaging to our bodies, our emotions, and our spirits.
  3. There is a better way to love those who are attracted to the same sex than saying “do whatever feels right.” This advice is bad advice in every area of life, including our sexuality. There is real freedom available in Christ from the distortions of the LGBTQ version of sexuality.
  4. The unborn baby has its own body that needs protecting. No one should have the right to kill an innocent life. Abortion violates the body of the unborn baby in the worst possible way. The most vulnerable in our society should be protected, not discarded.
  5. Pornography is a major part of the human trafficking network of oppression. It rapes the mind, objectifies women, and fosters toxic and violent sexual fantasy. It destroys healthy sexuality and has become an addiction that is destroying our society.
  6. Other people do not have control over my emotions, I do. I am responsible for how I react to people. I am not a victim of the world around me. I must take ownership of how I respond to the hurtful and harmful things that are sent my way. Most of the time, when I am offended, there is a combination of things happening, some of which I am responsible for and some of which I am not. Maturity is learning to discern the difference.