THE ANTI-CHRISTIANS ARE EVERYWHERE
Dr. Chuck DeVane, Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
June 14, 2020
1 After this Jesus went about in Galilee. He would not go about in Judea, because the Jews were seeking to kill him. 2 Now the Jews' Feast of Booths was at hand. 3 So his brothers said to him, “Leave here and go to Judea, that your disciples also may see the works you are doing. 4 For no one works in secret if he seeks to be known openly. If you do these things, show yourself to the world.” 5 For not even his brothers believed in him. 6 Jesus said to them, “My time has not yet come, but your time is always here. 7 The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify about it that its works are evil. 8 You go up to the feast. I am not going up to this feast, for my time has not yet fully come.” 9 After saying this, he remained in Galilee. 10 But after his brothers had gone up to the feast, then he also went up, not publicly but in private. 11 The Jews were looking for him at the feast, and saying, “Where is he?” 12 And there was much muttering about him among the people. While some said, “He is a good man,” others said, “No, he is leading the people astray.” 13 Yet for fear of the Jews no one spoke openly of him.
— John 7:1-13, ESV
John is the most skillful biblical writer of all when it comes to defining and describing what a Christian is. He is also quite proficient at teaching us what a Christian is not. As we continue to slog through the slough of despond in John’s Gospel, describing the final months of Jesus’ life when unbelief became militant, we meet a diverse group of anti-Christians.
Anti-Christians are the offspring the Anti-Christ, a figure forged by John in his epistles (ref. 1 John 2:18, 2:22, 4:3; 2 John 1:7). The Anti-Christ has spawned a multitude of extra-biblical and pseudo-prophetic books meant to strike terror in the hearts of readers. But the Anti-Christ does not come to us with horns on his head, fangs in his mouth, and a pitchfork in his hand. He simply walks into our homes, business, and churches dressed like an ordinary man. He is a brother, a banker, or even a Baptist preacher.
But an anti-Christian is fully what a Christian is not. He is an unbeliever who uses his unbelief to belittle and battle true belief. Our families, the world, and the church, are full of them.
Anti-Christians in the Family
Jesus Christ was surrounded by anti-Christians in His own home. “For not even His brothers believed in Him” (vs. 5). Many Christians today, no matter how Christ-like they are, have the same problem.
Protestant theology and the plain reading of Scripture attest to the fact that Jesus has blood brothers, albeit half-brothers. Joseph and Mary had children together after the virgin birth of Jesus. Two of the boys were named Jacob (James) and Judah (Jude), after whom two of our New Testament epistles are named.
What little is said about them in the Gospels is not good. They joined with their mother to try to have Jesus institutionalized at the beginning of His ministry (ref. Mark 3:20-21). As His ministry nears its end, they are seen here making fun of Him. James and Jude were certainly not Christians at this point; therefore, they were anti-Christians.
It is sad and perhaps shocking that people can be so close to Jesus and not believe in Him as Lord and Savior. Maybe the brothers were jealous. Maybe the brothers were callous. Maybe the brothers were trying to be humorous. One thing is certain, they did not believe in the Lord Jesus Christ.
We who are Christians have members of our families who are not, and it is the saddest fact of life to face. They do not share our faith commitment to Christ. They do not share out time commitment to worship and serve Christ. And, they will not share our eternity with Christ, unless they repent and believe.
How are we to respond to anti-Christians in our own families? Jesus will show us the way.
Anti-Christians in the World
Jesus had to face brothers who did not believe in Him, and a whole world who hated Him. The hostility increased as Christ’s steps to the cross grew shorter. “The world ... hates Me,” (vs. 7) Jesus said.
“World” is a word John uses differently according to context. Overall, he makes it clear that while “God so loved the world,” the world does not love God, nor His Son Jesus Christ. The world, apart from saving grace, is anti-Christian.
The world, contextually the lost world, is much like Jesus’ brothers at this time. They do not have time for Jesus. People are busy making money, busy making love, making movies for Netflix. Sundays and other days spent worshiping God, reading the Bible, engaging in church ministry does not fit into the world’s otherwise busy schedules. A schedule where Jesus is absent is anti-Christian.
The lost world enjoys its sin and does not want anyone, not the Christ and not some Christ follower, telling them that they are wrong. In these modern times, it seems the only thing a person can do wrong is to tell a person they are doing wrong. The world does not want the church telling them what to do. It does not want the police to tell them what they cannot do. Such moral relativism and criminal nihilism is decidedly anti-Christian.
The anti-Christian world is seldom ugly as it has been lately, though. Normally, the world makes beautiful art, films, and music. It believes in social justice and social programs. But people in this world do not repent and do not believe, which are the definitive New Testament prerequisites for being saved and becoming a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ. Non-Christians are by nature anti-Christians.
The anti-Christian and the Christian are as different as love and hate. If you love this present world with all of its sins, then you hate the gospel of Jesus Christ (see also 1 John 2:15-17). If you love God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength, as Jesus commanded (ref. Matthew 22:26ff), then you will hate sin and the destructive effect it has upon people.
That the anti-Christians are in the world all around us is no secret. Is there a secret to reaching them? Jesus will show us the way.
Anti-Christians in the Church
It should not surprise us that many of our family members are unbelievers, nor that unbelief is the dominant belief in the world at large. What is shocking still to me, however, is how many anti-Christians there are in the Christian church.
The context of every text in the Gospels is a religious context. “The Jews” (of vs. 1 and vs. 13) were the most religious people on the planet, in ways good and bad. The good astutely adhered to the Old Covenant while waiting for the dawning of the New Covenant. The bad perverted the Old Covenant and prevented people from being introduced to the New Covenant. It was a mixture of the good, the bad, and the ugly.
“The Jews” more specifically in the Gospel of John point to the religious rulers of Judea and Jerusalem who were adamantly opposed to the Lord Jesus Christ. They intimidated the people, too, and bullied anyone suspected of belief or even sympathy towards Jesus Christ. They ignored the good news, and they were bad and ugly about it.
As Jesus prepared to appear at the Feast of Tabernacles, about six months after the feeding of the five thousand and six months before His last Passover, the anti-Christian elements of Jesus’ family, the world, and the Jewish “church” were all conspiring against Him, against Christ. They were anti-Christ. There was virtually no one left who would speak up for Jesus, for the Christ.
Do not think this is merely an Old Covenant Jewish problem? Today it is very much a New Covenant church problem. If you take into account all the Christians in all of the churches of the world today, most of them are worldly and anti-Christian. They deny the cardinal doctrines of the Christian faith, pillar the five pillars of the Great Reformation, and live lives untethered from the most basic teachings of Holy Scripture, which they relegate to myth and legend. Most Christians today are actually anti-Christians.
So what are the real Christians supposed to do? Jesus will show us the way.
The Christian Response to Anti-Christians
How did Jesus respond to His brothers, to the lost world around Him, and to the religious hypocrites of His day?
Jesus loved His brothers. He lived with them and provided for them for thirty years. They may have mocked Him, but He loved them. They may have abandoned Him at the cross, but He came to them after the resurrection.
We must be the resurrection to our families. We must show them the love of God that saves by loving God in front of them and loving them in front of God. So often, love find a way and leads people to the way.
Jesus shined a light in the lost world. At the Festival which featured rituals of pouring water and lighting candles, Jesus offered living water and the light of the world. His true righteousness, not self-righteousness, and His direct preaching of the gospel provided a saving light at the end of a lost tunnel.
We must be the light of the world to lost people in the world. We must shine for Jesus in our faith commitment and our moral character, We must offer them as much forbearance and tolerance as Scripture will allow. If Christ is alive in us and the Bible is true to us, perhaps the living Word and the written word will find a way to change their hearts the same way He has changed ours.
Jesus rebuked religious charlatans. This is the one group of anti-Christians that even the Christ could not take. “The Jews” killed His reputation and then killed Him, but Jesus never backed down from them for a moment. Where is Christ now, and where are they?
Liberal theologians and prosperity gospel preachers are the parasites sucking the life out of Christianity today, and we must expose them and remove them from our midst at every opportunity. They are the anti-Christs that the true Christ just could not stand.
The only antidote for anti-Christians is true Christianity. True Christianity shows itself in love, moral excellence, and courage. True Christians’ lives are the means of grace that fuel the gospel and can turn anti-Christians into Christians. This is the reason why we are still here, in our families, in the world, and in the church.
DROPOUTS AND DISCIPLES
Dr. Chuck DeVane, Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
June 7, 2020
60 When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” 61 But Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples were grumbling about this, said to them, “Do you take offense at this? 62 Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? 63 It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. 64 But there are some of you who do not believe.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.) 65 And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.”
66 After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. 67 So Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” 68 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, 69 and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” 70 Jesus answered them, “Did I not choose you, the twelve? And yet one of you is a devil.” 71 He spoke of Judas the son of Simon Iscariot, for he, one of the twelve, was going to betray him.
— John 6:60-71, ESV
Last year the number of church members who do not attend church services or offer other signs of spiritual life reached 65% (according to Barna Research). Southern Baptists are among the worst, as on any given Sunday 75% of our members cannot be accounted for. During last century’s heyday of Billy Graham Crusades and local church revivals, 90% of persons making so-called professions of faith never followed up with baptism and membership in a local church.
But these numbers pale in comparison with the evangelistic ineffectiveness of Jesus as described in the sixth chapter of the Gospel of John. Here our Lord preached the gospel to approximately 20,000 people and wound up with only 11 real disciples of Christ. In the concluding verses of the chapter, that ugly cloud of unbelief is traced by a silver lining of genuine faith and real discipleship.
The word “disciples” in this context is used about as loosely as the term “Christian” in our age. Titles and testimonies too often do not tally up. Thousands of people were following Jesus during His next to last Passover pilgrimage, but it became clear that their faith was superficial for selfish reasons. Once Jesus laid out the gospel plain and clear, claiming absolute lordship and demanding real repentance and faith, the crowd began to drop out, for a variety of reasons.
Dropouts find the gospel is too “hard.” Not everyone is a United States Marine. The higher you try to climb on the educational ladder, the easier it is to quit before completion. And while there is no shame in not being a soldier or obtaining a Ph.D., it is a curse to put your hand to the gospel plow and then turn back.
When Jesus told the crowd they must consume His flesh and blood He meant they must be consumed with His person and work, the gospel, the kingdom of God, New Testament Christianity. You cannot get the benefits of Jesus’ life and death until you are willing to live for Christ and die to self. You should not count on going to Heaven if you have given lip service to the gospel but no life’s service to the kingdom of God and Christ’s church. Perfection is not required, but commitment is absolutely necessary, and keeping your commitment can be hard. Dropouts don’t do it.
Dropouts find the gospel is “offense[-ive].” The Greek word is “scandalon,” from whence we get our English word “scandal.” A scandal is an harmful, embarrassing, scandalous situation caused by someone’s sin.
The cross of Christ is the greatest scandal in the history of the world, perpetrated by all of the sinners in the world against the Savior of God’s people. Confessing to being a sinner and crying out to God for mercy is something the typical man finds untenable. Many may drop into the church for a season to release some tension or enjoy some social benefits, but the scandal of the cross will eventually offend them, or bore them, and give them a reason to walk away.
Dropouts discover that the gospel is impossible for the “flesh” to “believe.” This prompted Jesus to say, “This is why I told you that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted by the Father.” There can be no faith in man apart from the grace of God.
The lost man suffers from total depravity unadorned by irresistible grace. The flesh can fake it, but belief in the Gospel of John is always used as a verb, usually present tense. The lack of ongoing discipleship is proof that a profession of faith is false, and those who drop out simply evidence the obvious that they were never saved in the first place.
Dropouts now make up the quantitative majority of the modern church. Disciples, however, are the real quality of Christ’s church.
Jesus’ last words in the last part of John six is addressed to “the twelve,” “yet one of you is a devil.” That means at the end of this day, Jesus had eleven true disciples sitting at His feet. They were uncommon men who would change the world, yet there are some things about them that all disciples have in common.
Disciples call on the name of the “Lord,” and mean it. Though the Bible tells us in both Covenants, “Whoever calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved” (ref. Joel 2:32;Acts 2:21; Romans 10:13), many who have said it throughout history never really meant it. At the end of the day, and at the end of every person’s life, what you say means nothing if not backed up by what you do or what you’ve done with your life.
A disciple by definition is disciplined to take actions based on the doctrines of their mentor. In the case of Christianity, Christ has commanded many spiritual disciplines. He commands baptism, responsible church membership, holiness of life, generosity of spirit, witness of lips and life, and agape love. Disciples are never perfect in this life but always persistent, in keeping with the key doctrine of the perseverance of the saints.
Disciples hunger for “the word” of God, hear it and heed it. Those first eleven had a wonderful advantage, hearing the word of God from the Word of God face to face. They would stumble and fall but they would never fail to get back up and follow. They treasured God’s word above bread, above healing, above money, and just about any other thing.
Simon Peter, the leader, would to on to write that the ensuing generations of Christians would have an even better gift than hearing Jesus in person, that of the Holy Scriptures, which to us today are “the words of eternal life.” A body that refuses to eat is either sick or dead. So is a so-called disciple who has no desire for the Bible or biblical truth. Disciples crave it more than candy.
Disciples “believe” that Jesus Christ was, is, and always will be “the Holy One of God,” and live their lives accordingly. Jesus’ signs and the sayings send forth the message of the deity of Christ. The 99.99% just did not get it, but the .01 percenters did, transformed by grace and taking constant actions, revealing they are the true disciples.
If Jesus is God, and He is, He made you. If Jesus is Lord, and He should be, He saved you. If you believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, your life will show it, consistently and persistently. Disciples do not drop out. They drop everything else to be disciples. Find a church full of them and stick with them. Be a disciple, not a dropout.
Dr. Charles F. "Chuck" DeVane, Jr., is the Pastor of Lake Hamilton Baptist Church in Hot Springs, Arkansas. His weekly sermon article, "The Gospel Truth," has been published in newspapers in Arkansas and Georgia. Dr. DeVane is a graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and has served in the pastorate for over 20 years. Contact Pastor Chuck at PastorChuck@lakehamiltonbaptistchurch.org