As usual, feel free to submit comments and questions regarding the week’s sermon or scripture to firstname.lastname@example.org. Additionally, you can submit questions and comments at the end of the service each week by writing it on your blue slip. You can check out this week’s sermon on 1 John 2.18-27 on our podcast by clicking here.
1. You mentioned in the sermon that certain religious systems are anti-Christ, like Mormons and Muslims. And you also mentioned that the Reformers said the pope was antichrist. What does that mean?
John says in 1 John 2.18 that in his day, “many antichrists have come.” This is clearly not referring to the antichrist of the end times, but of false teachers who were propagating a false gospel. To be an antichrist is to oppose Christ, or to put something or someone else in the place of Christ. So there were false teachers in John’s day whose teachings opposed Christ and put something else in the place of Christ as Messiah. I mentioned in the sermon on Sunday that there are likewise in our day religious systems that are anti-Christ, such as Mormonism and Islam, and that the Reformers considered the pope and the Catholic church to be anti-Christ. It should be noted that when we speak false teachers in this context and use the word “antichrist” we are not making a statement about the end times. Rather, we are making a statement about false teachers.
How are these religions anti-Christ? Mormonism teachers a twisted, unbiblical view of Jesus (that he is a spirit-being, literally the son of God as a result of a sexual union between God the Father and Mary, that he is the brother of the devil, and many other false, unbiblical ideas). Additionally, Mormonism places good works in the place of Christ, denying that salvation is by grace through faith, but instead is through faith and works. This religious philosophy is utterly opposed to the biblical gospel, and to Christ. The Jesus of Mormonism is not the Jesus of the Bible. Mormonism is therefore antichrist.
Islam recognizes a historical Jesus but regards him merely as a prophet and not the Son of God, denying his divinity. Like Mormonism, Islam imposes a system of works-righteousness on its adherents, requiring obedience to a set of expectations in order to make one righteous (but even then, a true Muslim has no assurance of his salvation, according to Muslim doctrine!). Islam is antichrist.
The Reformers (rightly) held that the Catholic Church similarly required works for salvation (the sacraments: confession, the mass, the Eucharist, etc.) in addition to several other unbiblical practices that the church required for salvation. The Reformers saw the pope as the leader of the church, and therefore labeled him and the church antichrist.
2. I’m not sure that God did not create the “power of positive thinking.” The chemistry of the body changes with emotions. Emotions that cause cortisol to be released (fear, anxiety, sadness, depression, etc.) will break down the body’s ability to fight off infection. We need to wonder at what God has made. The good news is a positive thinking pattern and it is power in this world.
In the sermon I made an assertion that the “power of positive thinking” is a false teaching that has made its way into the church and is a prominent subject of many modern Christian books. This comment confuses the “power of positive thinking” that I referenced in the sermon with a generally positive outlook on life as brought about by the gospel. I apologize for not being clearer in what I said on Sunday morning.
The power of positive thinking that I referred to in the sermon referred to the philosophy of positive thinking as perpetuated by Norman Vincent Peale. Peale developed his philosophy in the 1950’s as a result of addressing his congregation’s difficulties, insisting that they could change their lives simply by having positive thoughts. Peale formulated his philosophy by drawing from all sorts of influences: Christian Science, Christianity, psychiatry, and other places as well. When he was finished, his philosophy represented an amalgamation of ideas and practices of multiple religions and philosophies. Put simply, Peale taught that if you can believe it, you can have it, be it, or do it, which is a notion that is anything but Christian. As stated previously, this philosophy has infiltrated the Christian church and is evident in books such as “I Declare!” by Joel Osteen.
The comment speaks instead of, I think, the general joy that is brought to our worldview in Christ. This kind of “positive thinking” I would wholeheartedly agree with and endorse. The Christian sees the world differently and interprets events and emotions through the lens of Christ. This should lead us to view life in a more positive way, knowing that God is sovereign, all things work together for the good of those who love him, and that we have an eternal inheritance awaiting us in heaven. This kind of positivity, however, is vastly different to the kind advocated by Peale and other modern day false teachers.