I was having a crisis of faith. Most of us do—it’s not entirely novel. Either we question the fact of God or the sincerity of our belief. We don’t want to be fools and hypocrites. My crisis of faith, however, was different: I had reason to believe I was the antichrist.
I aced Bible college, stomped my seminary colleagues, and collected more honors than livestock at the county fair. Success fed my spiritual ambition. I wanted to build a mega-church, run for office, end war, alleviate poverty, cure cancer, star in a reality show, and walk on water. These were lofty goals, but in my mind, I had the spiritual charisma to achieve them.
I had grown bold, smart, strong, and which fed my antichrist inklings. The pieces seemed to fit.
What would the folks in my church think? I have a few announcements this morning. The Pierced Hands ministry will meet this afternoon. The Swollen Knees prayer meeting on Tuesday is moved to seven o’clock. And I am the antichrist. There might be a mass exodus, but, more likely, I predict an influx in our weekly attendance. Fanatics always draw a crowd. My better judgment told me that subtlety was a more effective strategy.
As I pastor, I manufactured smiles. Charm was my predominant quality. I laced sermons with humor and conversation with wit. I could get kids to giggle and old ladies to snort. Perhaps this steered from the typical caricature of the antichrist—the Russian tyrant, the Middle Eastern terrorist, the US president—but I was convinced the affable evangelical was a more likely candidate.
Subtlety is the mark of the beast. The antichrist is a con artist, not a carjacker. He is a magician, not a bully. He uses slight of hand, turn of phrase, and sustained eye contact to deceive. And he smiles.
I could mask a wicked heart with morality and bury a lie in the deck. I could preach the gospel of self-improvement, self-fulfillment, and self-actualization. Preach cheap grace—shallow friendships, minimal sacrifice, euphoric worship—and tickle people’s ears. The gospel of the con-Christ, the slight-of-hand Jesus.
The foolproof route to apostasy is to skirt the topic of Jesus altogether: speak solely to the Self. Use phrases like Reach YOUR full potential; Chase YOUR dreams; Embrace YOUR destiny. Strip people of the word obedience, and fixate on improvement. Show people how to smile. The antichrist’s job would be easy in America. Our culture is ready for such a time as this. Perhaps I’m the man to lead it. Then again, I may just be an average, self-possessed Christian.
NOTE: I wrote this several years ago after mixing up my pronouns while singing worship songs. Instead of singing "Thy will be done," for example, I'd sing "My will be done." It worried me. I submitted the article to a few online magazines. No one took it. Yesterday I resurrected it for a sermon on testing the spirits (1 John 4:1-6). When I read it to my congregation, the silence was eerie. I hope I didn't get myself in trouble!