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3. How to Discern the False Christ?

– Chapter 3 –

How to Discern the False Christ?

In this third message on the Antichrist, I will summarize the previous message, then deal with one or two technical points to explain the biblical foundation of my messages.

I started this series on the Antichrist at an elementary level. But as the messages proceed, we will have to go deeper. I will, however, speak in such a way that you will be able to understand the mes­sages even if you are a non-Christian or you lack a strong biblical foundation. Occasionally I have to explain the biblical foundation of what I preach because these messages are recorded and sent to various parts of the world. Among those who receive them, some have had Bible training and even advanced Bible training. It is only fair to them that they know the biblical basis of my messages.

Do you have the Spirit of God or the spirit of Antichrist?

There are only two kinds of people in the world. Everyone in this meeting hall, as well as everyone outside, belongs to one of these categories. The one category consists of those who have the Holy Spirit; the other category consists of those who do not have the Holy Spirit. Which category do you belong to? Do you have the Holy Spirit or not? Some people are in the sad position of not knowing whether they have the Holy Spirit of God. Worse yet, some are self-deceived, thinking they have the Holy Spirit when they do not.

The two categories can also be delineated in this way: you have either the Spirit of God or the spirit of Antichrist, with no middle ground between them. Therefore, if you do not have the Holy Spirit, you are living under the spirit of Antichrist. That is why these mes­sages on the Antichrist apply to every person, for good or for bad.

Part One: Summary of the Last Message

Why is the cross important?

Let us summarize our last message on the cross and the Antichrist. The cross is important for our study on the Antichrist because the cross is the only means of discerning who the Anti­christ is. The Antichrist will not come into the global scene look­ing like a devil with two horns and long fangs, such that every time he smiles, we shout: “Look! There’s the Antichrist!” No, I would imagine that the Antichrist will be strikingly handsome and have a refined taste in clothes. I imagine that he will be very intelligent and that, above all things (and this is where the problem lies), he will be very religious. Worse yet, he will be a religious leader. That will make things very complicated. Will you be able to discern the Antichrist when he appears? He will be charismatic, capable, and full of charm and grace — not God’s grace but human grace and gracious­ness. Anyone who has the power to lead and mislead the world will certainly have these qualities.

What does “anti” mean?

Last time I explained that the word anti in Greek does not mean “opposed to” as it does in English. On the contrary, it means a substi­tute or a replacement. Therefore the Antichrist will be a replace­ment Christ or a pretender Christ.

Kittel’s Theological Dictionary of the New Testament gives three definitions of anti, none of which has the meaning of opposition: “Anti does not have the sense ‘over against’ in the New Testament but is used for (a) ‘in place of,’ (b) ‘on behalf of,’ and (c) ‘for the sake of.’” Arndt and Gingrich’s lexicon (2nd edition) gives three similar definitions of anti: “instead of,” “in place of,” and “in behalf of.” See the Appendix at the end of this book.

When we understand the meaning of anti correctly, we can see that the Antichrist will not be opposed to Christ publicly. Certainly he will be opposed to Christ in what he does, but only in a hidden, secret way. He will conceal his opposition because his intention is to deceive, and especially to deceive the elect (a biblical term for true Christians). If you are one of the elect, the Antichrist’s objective will be, first and foremost, to deceive you. He will be too clever and subtle to start off with outright persecution. But if he cannot deceive you, only then will he start his terrible campaign of perse­cution against you. The Lord warns us that even the elect will be deceived. To complicate matters, the Antichrist will pretend to be the Christ, the long-awaited Savior.

The Messianic expectation in present-day Israel

Many people in the world today are looking for the coming of the Messiah (the Jewish term for the Savior King of Israel). Among the Jews in Israel, the messianic expectation is very strong and will intensify as the political pressure on Israel becomes greater and greater. The pressure is already intense. Israel, with a population of six million [in 1987], is surrounded by four or five hundred million enemies.[1] In military terms, it is precarious to be outnumbered one hundred to one. The Jews have no illusions about their situation. Israel is so small that you can drive from east to west in 45 minutes. A military tank would take less than two hours to cover the distance, and a jet fighter about one minute at full operational speed.

Can you imagine that? Every city and airbase in Israel is within one minute’s strike once an enemy fighter-bomber enters Israeli airspace. That hardly gives the Israeli jets enough time to scramble into the air to engage the enemy aircraft especially if radar fails to detect the approach of such aircraft or if hostile intent is not evident. That is why Israeli pilots are on the alert 24 hours a day. Their survival is at stake. Having two hours to meet an oncoming tank is not too great a problem. But how do you deal with a fighter-bomber which can be on the scene in one minute, dropping bombs all over your cities and airports? Now we can see why the Israeli pilots are the most skillful and best trained in the world. The survival of the nation is at stake. We probably cannot even begin to understand the magnitude of the tension that exists in Israel today.

But the Israelis know that even this is not enough. Israel is organized such that within minutes of hearing a secret message on the radio, the soldiers will be deployed at their battle stations. No one else knows the secret message, but the infantry, artillery and tank units all know what that signal is, and they will respond immediately. Survival depends on immediate action; a delay of five minutes may be too late. In Israel it is not uncommon to see people walking around with guns strapped over their shoulders. Everyone stands ready but they also know that this is not enough. In military terms, a four-to-one superiority is more than enough to attack an enemy. A hundred-to-one superiority absolutely boggles the mind. It is a question of survival. Now you can understand why Israel is looking for the Messiah, the Savior King. And that gives the deceiver a chance to do his work.

Another example: Germany before World War II

The most ideal condition for the deceiver to carry out his work is when people are looking for a savior. Germany before World War II was in this kind of situation. Germany was desperately looking for a savior to rescue her from economic disaster and to erase the memories of her defeat in World War I. And that gave Hitler his opportunity.

Hitler, a prototype of the Antichrist, was charismatic, dynamic, intelligent, and endowed with a perfect grasp of human psycho­logy. Whenever he got up to speak before a crowd, he would stand there with his nose in the air as if sniffing something. Was he sniffing the fragrance of spring or autumn? No, he was gauging the mood of the people. Being an expert in human psychology, he knew how to exploit the people’s emotions; he knew exactly what they wanted to hear. If you watch Hitler’s expressions in the old news­reels, you can see how skillfully he sensed the mood of the crowds. Within minutes he would have them shouting in a frenzy, “Heil! Heil! Heil!” He had the German people at his finger­tips, and played with them as if playing with a puppet on a string.

The Germans are not a stupid people. They might not be the master race that Hitler convinced them they were (I think they have since gotten out of that illusion), but at least they were of reasonable intelligence. Yet Hitler knew how to control them; he knew how to pull the right strings to get them into a frenzy and shouting, Heil! He told them to go to Russia, to France, to Scandinavia — and die. Sure enough, they went forth and died. I once asked a German friend of mine to explain this phenomenon to me. How could one man deceive a whole nation? But he said to me, “If you don’t mind, I’d rather not talk about it. It hurts too much.”

For the German people, deception meant death by the millions. I read the account of the battle of Stalingrad where the Germans were finally stopped on the eastern front. They thought they will have an easy victory; that they will wipe out the Russian defenses; that the Soviet Union will be at the mercy of the Nazis.

But the Russians put up a fight, and dug deep in Stalingrad. They were determined to make the Germans pay with their lives for every lamp post, every tree, and every door they des­troyed. I feel sorry not just for the Russians but also for the young Germans who had been deceived. As the battle wore on, the harsh Russian winter came upon the German soldiers who were still fighting in their summer uniforms. Those acquainted with the Canadian winter could well imagine the terrible conditions that befell the German soldiers. At -20 degrees Fahrenheit, the German soldiers were shivering so much that they could hardly pull the triggers of their guns. But they still went forth and died. Finally the German soldiers surrendered at Stalingrad. They were starved and frozen, surrounded by Russian soldiers wrapped in warm battle garments and gloves and fur hats.

It is incredible how the Germans were deceived into thinking that they were doing something worthwhile. Yet the Antichrist will be a greater deceiver than Hitler ever was. I want to show you just how dangerous the Antichrist will be. He is dangerous not because of any demonic appearance with horns and fangs, but because he is a master of deception. The main point of this message is how to prevent ourselves from being deceived. I hope that you will not be found among the deceived. Your eternal welfare is at stake.

Soon the whole world will be looking for a Savior

The coming of the Antichrist might not be far away. As I said, the Jews today are looking for the coming of the Messiah and Savior King. And so are the Christians! The world situation will deteriorate more and more until it is similar to the situation in Germany just before World War II. Then the world will be looking for a political savior. Many of you are old enough to remember what happened in China after World War II. China was bankrupt and torn by civil strife, and that gave an opportunity for ambitious military and political leaders to take over the country. The day is coming when a similar situation will prevail in the world. Then the Antichrist will appear as a world leader in the spirit of Antichrist and the power of Satan. That will give him an advantage that no other political leader has ever had. Indeed, the spirit of the Antichrist is already now at work in the world with great power.

The Antichrist will be a counterfeit Christ

Before I conclude the first part of the message, let me present a few more facts to establish what I have just said, namely, that the Antichrist will not be publicly and openly opposed to Christ. On the contrary, he will be a pretender Christ.

For the purpose of analysis, we distinguish between what we call a contra Christ (contra is a Latin word meaning “opposed to”) and what we call a pseudo Christ (that is, a false Christ or a pretender Christ). Now, the Antichrist is a contra Christ insofar as he opposes Christ, but he is a pseudo Christ in the way he works. Let me present the evidence.

As we have seen, the Greek word anti does not have the meaning of opposition. On the contrary, it means “in place of,” “for the sake of,” “as a substitute for.” This we see in Matthew 20:28 and Mark 10:45 where it is said that Christ gave his life as “a ransom for many” (Greek, lytron anti pollōn). Here anti expresses the idea that Jesus is our substitute and acting on our behalf.

Even in compound form, anti does not necessarily carry the meaning of opposition. In 1 Timothy 2:6 (“gave himself as a ransom for all”), the compound antilytron expresses the idea of Christ being a ransom for us — as our substitute and in place of us. In Luke 14:12, antikaleō does not mean “to call against” but “to invite in return.” Antimisthia (e.g. Romans 1:27) means a recompense, either good or bad, depending on the deeds that are being judged. These examples show that anti, even in compound form, does not neces­sarily carry the idea of “against.” But there are other compounds which do carry the meaning of “against”. For instance, antikeimai means “opposed to” (Lk.13:17); antidikos means an opponent (Mt.5:25); and antilegō means “to speak against” (Lk.2:34).

Therefore anti can have two meanings. It can mean “as a substi­tute for” (primary meaning) but it can also mean “in opposition to” (secondary meaning). It is impor­tant to understand the one in relation to the other: The Antichrist is a substitute Christ, but he is also an enemy of Christ by his hostile actions in which he tries to replace Christ by pretending to be the real Christ.

Can you discern who is speaking the truth?

When we are confronted with two persons who both claim to be the Christ, our problem would be to tell which is the real Christ, and which is the false one. Or if a person claims to be Christ, whether or not he is actually Christ. Discernment is important not only for the future, but also at present. Can you tell whether what I am saying is true or false? The problem is that most of you do not have enough biblical training to tell whether I am speaking the truth or not. As I said, the Antichrist himself will be a religious leader with religious training. But you do not have the Bible training or Bible knowledge to discern whether he is speaking the truth. Your problem, even today, is that you don’t know whether any church leader is speaking the truth. You lack the means to know, having neither the equip­ment nor the training. If a religious leader says such and such, and if I ask you to catch anything in his message that is contrary to Scripture, can you? You might not have the training to discern his teaching. In our churches, we have this exercise as part of our training: After quoting a writer or speaker, those in training would be asked if they can find anything wrong with the teaching. Of course, my indicating that there might be something wrong is already a big hint. But if no one had given you a hint, you would have no way of discerning whether the teaching is true or false. Let us now deal with this problem in the remainder of this message.

Part Two: How Can We Discern the Truth?

The example of the coin

We come now to the second part of this very important message. How do we discern the truth? Here I have a coin in my hand. For those sitting at the back, it may be hard to see. It looks like an ordinary coin but it is no ordinary coin. On one side is the head of Alexander the Great. If genuine, this coin would be over 2,300 years old. Imagine, I am holding a coin that dates from before the time of Jesus. Few of us can even appreciate the length of 2,300 years. If the coin is genuine, its value is very significant, well beyond the US$20 I paid for it. If it is not genuine, I stand to lose US$20.

I bought the coin last year when I was standing on the Mount of Olives with my wife Helen. While we were looking at the city of Jerusalem, an Arab man came up to me and asked, “Would you like to buy a coin? Look! Alexander the Great!” I examined the coin and sure enough written on the back was the word “Alexander” in ancient Greek. Part of the letter “A” had been worn away with time, but the remaining portion “lexander” was still there. After examin­ing it carefully, I asked him how much he wanted for it. He started with a sky-high price but I finally brought it down to US$20. If it is genuine it may be worth thousands of dollars; if not, it isn’t worth much, maybe a few dollars for the silver.

Now, in this case it does not really matter much, does it? If it is fake, I stand to lose a small sum of money. But with the subject we are talking about today, it matters beyond everything else, because we stand to lose our lives, indeed our eternal lives.

Distinguishing the true from the false: A daily problem

Today we are constantly faced with the problem of what is genuine and what is not. If you give a U.S. bank note to a money­changer in Hong Kong, he would take out a strange looking instrument and run it over the money. If you ask him what he is doing, he would say, “Don’t worry, I’m not destroying your money. I’m just checking whether it is genuine or not.” The instrument emits a certain sound if the note is genuine, and a different sound if it is counter­feit. This neat little instrument can tell you whether your bank note is genuine. How convenient! If only we could do that with teaching! If only we had an instrument that could scan a teaching and tell us whether it is true or false.

How can we discern the truth when there is so much false teach­ing today? If you talk to a non-Christian about the gospel, he would say, “But whom should I believe? There are Catholics and there are Protestants. Among the Protestants there are the Baptists, the Methodists, and many other denominations. What about the non-Christian religions such as Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, and so on?” In a world where a thousand voices are clamoring for your attention, how do you tell who is speaking the truth? If you think the situation is confusing now, let me tell you that it will be even more difficult as time goes on. It has become so difficult that even the experts have a hard time distinguishing the true from the false.

If I take this coin to a numismatist (a coin expert), he would have a hard time telling whether it is genuine or not because forgeries are so good nowadays. I showed it to some of my archaeologist friends who have lived in Israel for many years. They examined the coin but couldn’t tell whether it’s genuine or not. I said to them: “You can’t tell? But you are archaeologists; this is your depart­ment.” But they told me that forgeries are so good nowadays that it is almost impossible to tell.

Where does that leave us? Like I said, some things don’t matter, but other things matter a lot. The Antichrist is going to be like a twin to the Christ. You look at this one and you look at that one, and you say, “Hey! Which one is the real one?”

I returned to Israel recently, and went to St. Andrew’s Hospice where I used to stay when I was studying at Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Recognizing a man I knew from before, I said, “Hello John, how are you?” He looked at me and blinked.

“I’m not John.”

“Surely you’re John!”

“No, I’m Paul.”

“But weren’t you here the last time I stayed in this hospice?”


“Yes you were!”

“No. That was my brother.”

“Your brother? Your brother is called John?”

“That’s right!”

“Then you’re identical twins?”

“That’s right!”

They were identical in so many ways, even in the way they combed their hair. I could not believe my eyes. The only thing that gave him away was that he didn’t recognize me. If I show you a photo of these two brothers, you wouldn’t be able to tell any difference between them. So I said to him, “It must have been very con­ve­nient in school. If you weren’t prepared for an exam, your brother could take it for you!” Their teachers could not tell them apart even after many years. There was no distinguish­ing mark to tell them apart: they were of the same height, had the same hairstyle, and were identical in almost every respect.

Which is more dangerous, the anti-Christian or the false Christian?

We are faced with a serious problem. That is why I asked this ques­tion: Which is more dangerous, an Antichrist who is openly opposed to Christ, or an Antichrist who is so similar to Christ that you can’t tell the difference? I think the answer is obvious. A related question is this: Which is more dangerous, the anti-Christian or the false Christian? Obviously the false Christian is far more dangerous than the anti-Christian.

The church throughout its history has never been in danger of being destroyed by the anti-Christians no matter how brutally they persecuted the church. Persecution has always been good for the church. Look at what happened in China. When the Communists came into power, China had an estimated 1.2 million Christians. The Communists were anti-Christians; they were hostile to Christians and drove out the missionaries. But thanks to the Communists, we now have more than 30 million Christians in China. Going from 1.2 to 30 million Christians was not something that even the mission­aries could accomplish, yet it was accom­plished during Communist rule without a single missionary. The anti-Christians have always been good for the church. Yes, they persecute the church but they also purify it and strengthen it.

But the greatest danger to the church has always been the false Christians or pseudo Christians. I have constantly preached against false Christians in the western world. In so doing, I have made many enemies, and I will continue to make enemies. I will make sure that the false Christians become clearly identifiable because they are so hard to identify. In many places including England and Wales, I have preached against false Christians in such a way that I will never be invited back. They will either love the truth, or find the message so offensive that they will never invite me back. I do this because false Christians are the greatest danger to the church.

Many years ago, I didn’t want to become a Christian myself. Was it because of the anti-Christians? No! I thank God for the anti-Christians. It was because of them that I became a Christian. In this sense I thank God for the Communists because if they had not ta­ken over China, I would not be a Christian today. The Communists purged the church so thoroughly of phony Christians that I finally saw the real ones. Before that, whenever I went to church, I would be so disgusted with Christians there that I didn’t want to become one myself. But when the Communists came, they purged the church of phony Christians. And what was left? The real thing. When I saw the real Christians, I said to myself: “They are the real thing. That’s what I would like to be!” You see, anti-Christians have done us a great service, but phony Christians destroy us. Many non-Christians have said, “I don’t want to become a Christian. This Christian in my office is absolutely repulsive!” How many people have you met who have been put off by phony Christians?

Distinguishing mark of the Antichrist: he exalts himself

Related to the matter of true and false Christians is a wider question: Is there some way to tell the true from the false? Do we need to become Bible experts before we can discern anything? Thanks be to God, the answer is no! It certainly helps to be well trained in the Bible, but we are not at the mercy of having to receive five or ten years of Bible training before we can tell the true from the false. The merciful God has pro­vided more than one way to tell, but it starts with you. You must allow God to change your life through the cross before you can distinguish the true from the false. In other words, discernment is not a matter of academic knowledge but whether you have God’s life in you, whether you are a new creation, whether the cross has been implemented in your life.

I will make it simple and intelligible. What is the mark of the Antichrist? 2 Thessalonians 2:4 sums it up in two words: he exalts himself. Self-exaltation is the exact opposite of the cross. Jesus never exalted himself; he humbled himself even to death on the cross. But the natural man, like the Antichrist, exalts himself. That is the key to discerning the true from the false. It is just as reliable as that instrument that verifies American bank notes. I put this mark of the Anti­christ as simply as that, without going into the technical details.

Before talking about the Antichrist, start with yourself, and look at your own character and temperament. Do you like to be exalted? That is precisely where you can tell whether the cross is in your own life or not. Every natural man, whether Muslim or Buddhist or so-called Christian, likes to exalt himself. It doesn’t matter whether he is a Protestant or a Catholic; it doesn’t matter whether he is a Baptist or a Presbyterian — we are not interested in any of this. It doesn’t matter what his denomination is because you can discern his inner character by examining his life to see whether he exalts himself or not. With the same simple test, you can discern whether the cross is in your own life or not. Do you exalt yourself, or do you seek to go down to the depths of the cross?

I say categorically without fear of contradiction that every natural man likes to be exalted. Why do we study so hard to get good grades and a university degree? To make a good living, isn’t it? Why do you want to earn lots of money? To gain respect and exalt your­self, isn’t it? Let’s be honest. What motivates a man to work so hard? To exalt himself. He may say, “I just want to make a living.” But rebuke him and see how offended he gets. “How dare you talk to me like that! Do you know how many degrees I have, and from which univer­sities? Do you know what my profession is?” His true colors will show. We have an infallible mark — I dare say infallible — of whether the cross is in a person’s life or not. It is that easy to tell.

Take for example the school teacher who demands respect from the students. “Do you know who I am? The teacher! Behave yourself or I will have you duly caned!” If you ask him whether he is being proud, he would say, “No! This is the education system, and you’ve got to teach young people to behave themselves.” We always have good reasons for exalting ourselves. Sometimes the explanation is valid, sometimes not. But you know in your own heart whether you like to be exalted or not.

The Antichrist exalts himself and that is how we can identify him. Look through the Bible and you will see that Jesus never exalted himself. It was always God the Father who exalted him; it was the Father who gave him the “name which is above every name” (Phil. 2:9). Jesus himself would always go down, but it was God the Father who raised him up. God raises up those who put themselves down. That is an important biblical principle; that is the meaning of the cross. I want to speak to you in plain language lest I make it so technical that you don’t under­stand what I am saying. Look at your own life every day, look at the way you behave and how you relate to your friends and colleagues.

A painful example

Before I close, I want to give an example so that every­one may understand this message. This case is very painful to my own heart. Every time I think about it, it hurts me very much because I truly love this person up to this day. He was a coworker of mine, a very capable person, and someone whom I love very much. But the way he did things and the way he treated people revealed to me that he was not suitable for full-time service even though he had been in full-time service for several years.

I spent many sleepless nights agonizing over this. One day I spoke to him face to face. Out of the deep love in my heart for him, I said to him: “I have to tell you the truth. You are not suitable for full-time service. You should withdraw and return to civilian life because you are causing too much damage to the church and to yourself. For your own good and for the well-being of the church, return to your profession. Maybe one day in the future the Lord will permit you to return to full-time service. But now is not the right time.” I had to dismiss him.

He was silent for a moment. Then he said to me: “You know, there was a time when I would have laid down my life for you.” He was expressing his disappointment with my decision, and was implying that he would no longer lay down his life for me as he would in the past. When I heard these words, I thanked God in my heart. It lifted the grief in my heart because it confirmed to me that he shouldn’t be in the Lord’s work. That is because he loved me as his idol and hero. He entered full-time service because he wanted to follow me.

Brothers and sisters, I put it on record that if any man loves me because he loves Jesus, I find that acceptable. But if any man loves me instead of loving Jesus, I will not accept that. I put it on record that I will not take for myself even one beam of the glory of Christ. God forbid! I only want to stand in the shadow of my Lord so that the glory may be his alone. I will not allow anyone, not even out of his good intentions, to make me an antichrist.

Now you can understand the definition of “Antichrist” as a “substitute Christ,” as somebody who takes the place of Christ. This brother was follow­ing the wrong person; he was following me instead of the Lord Jesus. When he said to me, “I would have died for you,” I knew that my decision to dismiss him was the right one. He ought to return to civilian work, and he has remained in civilian work to this day. I will not have anyone serve the Lord who, inten­tionally or unintentionally, makes me an antichrist or a substitute Christ by loving me instead of Christ.

I warn all my coworkers from the depths of my heart: If anyone does the same thing, he cannot be my coworker because that would make me an antichrist, a substitute Christ. Looking back, I can now understand why this person was not used by the Lord, and why he had caused so much damage in the church. It was precisely be­cause I was his idol and substitute Christ. No wonder God could not bless him or work through him. I still love this dear brother deeply. I pray that from now on, he will follow only Jesus. I hope that one day he will return to the Lord’s work.

Let it stand on record that I don’t want to be exalted. I only want the privilege of being the least among the servants of my God and king. Let no one make an antichrist out of me, for that is to condemn himself and to condemn me as well. Let that be clearly understood.

But if I were unregenerate and functioned in the spirit of the Antichrist, I would seek glory and exaltation from man. The fact that I refuse to receive glory from man is something that I don’t even understand myself. How has God so captured my heart with his love that I don’t want anyone to give me the devotion which belongs to him? That is the mark of the cross which he has implanted in my heart. It is not something we can do in ourselves. We cannot change ourselves into this kind of person. That is why I say it is an infallible mark. It is by the work of the Spirit in your heart that you don’t care whether people glorify you or not.

I once stood at the height of glory among the Chinese churches in Canada. I was honored everywhere I went: “Oh, that great man has arrived!” At a large Christian conference in western Canada, the organizer kept on saying to me: “What a great privilege and honor to have you speak at our conference!” My heart sank when I heard these words. Why? Because the Lord Jesus said, “Woe to you when all men speak well of you” (Luke 6:26). So I asked the Lord, “What have I done wrong to receive this worldly honor?” Even before going to the conference, I had already told the First Training Team that something had gone wrong: “Why is everybody praising me? I have turned my back on the world; I have taken up the cross; I have followed my Lord through shame and suffering. And what do I get? Nothing but praise and honor! What have I done wrong? Have I somehow compromised on the truth?”

But thanks be to God, as soon as I contended for God’s truth, I made many enemies. And I will continue to make more enemies, not because I want to make enemies, but because the truth will always be opposed. Now my name is known throughout the Chinese churches for better or for worse — and mostly for worse! I thank God that my name is now detested. This I say with absolutely no pretense.

Are you afraid to speak the truth? Do you stand up for the truth at your school or office, and among your classmates or colleagues? Does your life shine in the open, or have you been a silent Christian for many years? If you are even afraid to profess that you are a Christian, you are an absolute disgrace to the gospel. You are just one more phony Christian among multitudes of phony Christians.

Are you willing to accept correction?

Let us come to the last point. Do we accept correction or do we reject it? Why do people reject correction? Because correction humbles us. Rebuke, reproof, discipline — all these humble us. Those of you who have been disciplined in this church, I beg of you to understand that you are privileged. Of course, if you have never been disci­plined, you can also thank God for that as well. But if you have been disciplined, you are indeed privileged because it is helping you to place the mark of the cross into your heart, and to destroy self and pride. Proverbs is full of warnings about people who reject correction; it says that the wise man delights in correc­tion, but the fool rejects it (cf. Proverbs 9:7–9). That is because fools like to exalt themselves, and are offended when you point out their faults.

Have you ever tried correcting your children? You are always “unfair”. I have yet to discover “fair” parents. My daughter will testify that she used to think that I was “unfair” most of the time. Children always find ways to justify themselves. “Why are you so severe with me? If only you knew the facts, you wouldn’t be so hard on me.” It is only when the children have grown up that they might realize their parents were right after all. But at the moment of discipline, parents are always unfair, scolding us when we don’t deserve to be scolded.

The church leaders are also “unfair”. Have you ever seen a rea­sonable church leader? What kind of a church is this whose leaders are so unreasonable? If this is how you think, you do not have the cross in your heart.

What about your roommates? They are always unreasonable and critical, aren’t they? You are always the innocent victim who is accused of being inconsiderate. How do you accept their remarks? And what about your boss? He is always unreasonable, isn’t he? The world has yet to see a reasonable boss!

Do you accept correction and rebuke? This will tell whether the mark of the cross is in your life or not.

Apostle Peter: A man with the cross in his heart

The apostle Peter said something wrong to the Lord Jesus, and the Lord gave him such a crushing rebuke (“crushing” is probably the right word) that I marvel how Peter could take it. I have thought about the incident again and again, and I wonder how I would take it if the Lord had said the same thing to me. It all started when Jesus told his disciples that he must die on the cross, but Peter said to him out of a human love: “Lord, don’t do such a thing, don’t go to the cross.” I am trying to picture this incident recorded in Matthew 16:21f. I am trying to imagine the grief of the Lord Jesus when he looked at Peter and said to him: “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me because you are concerned with the interests of man, not the things of God!”

We are so familiar with these words that we no longer appreciate their crushing force. Peter must have been totally stunned by the quiet but powerful rebuke. He could have stood up and said, “That’s it! I am through! I have given up every­thing, even my profession, to follow you. I have suffered shame and disgrace in following you. It was out of love that I tried to prevent you from suffering, but you had the nerve to say, ‘Get behind me, Satan!’ Well, that’s it!”

But Peter didn’t say that. The cross was in his heart in a way that is beyond my understanding. No wonder he is the chief of the apostles. I am filled with spiri­tual admiration for Peter. There were many other disciples who quit over a milder rebuke. This we see in John 6:66 (notice the interesting number 666, the number of the Antichrist), a verse that tells us that some disciples turned away from Jesus because they could not accept what he said, and stopped following him. The mark of the cross was not in their hearts. They could not stand the truth. Can you stand the truth?

Here then is the mark of the cross: the willingness to be humble rather than self-exalting. It is seen in such commitment to the truth that we accept what it takes to be humble: to be disci­plined when we are wrong, and to refuse glory from men when we are right. If you have the mark of the cross in your life, I guarantee you that the Antichrist will not be able to deceive you. You will have such clarity of spiritual perception that you can discern him imme­diately: “Yes, he is a religious leader and a good preacher. Yes, he is good looking and very capable. But he is false!” You will have the spiritual percep­tion to see this even if you lack formal Bible training. The cross is the means to distinguish the true from the false, and the Spirit of God from the spirit of Antichrist. Your eternal well-being depends on it.

[1] This discussion about Israel’s military situation reflects that of 1987, the year in which this sermon was preached.


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