Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.
You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. They are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us.This is how we recognize the Spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood. (1 John 4:1-6)
I spent some time examining the websites of the United Church of Christ, the United Presbyterian Church, the United Methodist Church and the Lutheran Church. It was frustrating trying to discover what they believe.
For some Denominations it was hard to even find a page that stated what they believe. In all, but the Lutheran Church, there is an absence of definition in their statements. While they affirm that Jesus Christ is the head of the church, their statements are squishy. It is hard to get a grip on where they stand on basic doctrines of the Trinity, who Jesus is, the sinfulness of mankind, the need of salvation, what salvation is, and the meaning of Communion and Baptism.
John instructs us to be skeptical. Not every spirit is of God.
Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 7:21)
What is the will of the Father?
This is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. (John 6:40)
It seems to me this is very simple and straightforward. If the truth is so simple, then why is it so hard to discover it in reading through the statements of these denominations? Why do they cloak God’s message in platitudinous statements about unity, service, acceptance, embracing everyone wherever they are theologically?
I’m with John:
Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. (1 John 4:1)
I’m skeptical. If one is unwilling to state what the Bible says,… If one is unwilling to quote from the Bible, it makes me suspicious that they are trying to hide from something. It puts me in mind of a certain couple who sewed leaves together and hid in the bushes, because they were hiding from the truth.
Are these Denominations hiding from the truth? I know they are. I experienced firsthand their attempts to obscure their deviation from the truth of Scripture by the flowing language of inclusiveness, and the moral uprightness of defending the weak and effusive fretting over the sacredness of the planet.
John makes it very clear:
This is how you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and is already in the world. (v. 2 & 3)
The dividing line between truth and lie is Jesus Christ.
Paul speaks directly to Timothy and us.
I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom: Preach the word, be ready in season and out of season, reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with all patience and teaching. For the time will come when people will not endure sound doctrine, but they will gather to themselves teachers in accordance with their own desires, having itching ears, and they will turn their ears away from the truth and turn to myths. (2 Timothy 4:1-4)
We are seeing the signs in the Christian community of listening to teachers who explain away the plain truth if Scripture. We see churches who embrace feel-good doctrines that are strongly opposed in Scripture.
It appears that because the condemnation of sin stings their souls, these churches and denominations avoid mention of sin and the need for salvation. Of course they must also ignore the redemptive work of Christ on the cross.
Instead they preach a gospel of works salvation. They promote teachers and preachers that baptize their lusts and sanctify works to better the lot of people in this world. Tragically, like the Pharisees of old, they give their converts no hope of eternal life.
Now this seems far removed for us. We are not in an apostate Denomination, so why should we care?
These Denominations affect us with their false doctrines by being the major players to whom the world turns to get the “official Christian view” of the issues of the day. They weigh in on the ungodly side of social issues, abortion and homosexuality. They make it appear to the decision-makers that they proclaim God’s truth. Anyone who upholds the “ancient” teaching of the Bible is part of a fringe group and can be ignored.
The result in America is legislation that has condoned a severe decline in morality.
The result has been the growing trend of excluding the Lord Jesus Christ from American society.
The result has been a dumbed-down morality to the extent that anything goes. Even among believing Christians sex without marriage is common, divorce is common. Even among evangelical churches acceptance of abortion and homosexuality are creeping in.
To clarify, all these sins are to be condemned, but the repentant sinner is to be loved and embraced.
The fact is that the enemy of our souls has not only his foot in the door of America, but has been invited to come in and sit down. Our culture is becoming more and more uncomfortable for believing Christians. We can no longer assume that anyone around us is a believer. It is becoming harder to find believers so we can have close fellowship.
This tragic truth means that:
They are of the world, and therefore they speak from the world, and the world listens to them. (v. 5)
Therefore, we must follow John’s advice:
You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. (v. 4),
You and I must know what Jesus has done in our lives that make us true Christians. We must humbly acknowledge that we are sinners; that we need a Savior; that Jesus is the God/man Who is our Savior; and that there is no other. Indeed, we are sinners, but wonderfully saved by the grace of God and the Blood of Christ.
We must be rock-solid in the knowledge of the truth that you and I are children of God. Unhappily, we must be aware that most of those around us are not. As Children of God, we are joint heirs with Christ. The Holy Spirit dwells in us. Conversely, most of those around do not have the Spirit of Christ and, tragically are in fact on the road to spend eternity in Hell.
God is our Farther, and has poured out upon us such a gift of love that our hearts cannot contain it. Unhappily, we spend too much attention on living in this world and too little time with Jesus. We spend too little time appreciating what wonderful things He has for us.
When we realize who we are in Christ we can stand in His power against all the forces in the world
… because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. (1 John 4:4)
You, who are here, are the over-comers Jesus talked about. You can overcome.
Turn to the person next to you and say, “In Christ, you are an over-comer!”
Jesus overcame Satan by the Sword of the Word of God. Is there sin in your life? Have you confronted the ways you are living that are contrary to the Word of God? You, too, can defeat temptation and sin. You need to hide God’s Word in your heart so you will not sin. Sin gives Satan an entry point into your life. You do know that, don’t you? Sin in your life is the doorway that allows Satan free access. He is the Accuser of the brethren, and so he has a legal right to mess with us because of sin in our lives
The Holy Spirit will honor your efforts against sin and strengthen you to resist. You need to memorize Scripture so you are ready with an answer for the hope that is in you. You need to ask the Lord God Holy Spirit to give you a testimony to the faithfulness of God in your life. We are God’s people in a dying world.
John, in this epistle, talks a great deal about love. The love of God in our hearts should stir our hearts with compassion for the lost. They are on the road to Hell. There they will have only unutterable misery. In Dante’s Inferno, he labeled the gate of Hell, “Abandon Hope, All Who Enter Here”.
We are the ones who have the hope of Christ’s redemption to offer the hopeless in the world all around us.
Look in your kit bag and inventory the resources you have available to share God’s love.
Now that you have inventoried these and others, examine them. How polished with use are they? How sharp is your sword of the Spirit? How current is your testimony? How fresh is your conversation with the Lord Jesus? How full are you of the Holy Spirit’s power?
If your inventory reveals some flaws, turn them over to the Lord for refurbishing. Jesus will never leave you in the lurch if you appeal to Him. You always have recourse to all the resources He has for you.
The Holy Spirit does not wake us up in the morning and say, “Don” or “Mary” or Gene” or “Cindy, at 10 AM I’m going to bring someone to you, so take these Scriptures with you and polish your testimony, because you will need them.” Just as we do not know the day or the hour when Jesus will return, we do not know when God will bring into our lives “God-incidences” when we have to opportunity to proclaim the gospel to someone.
There was a venerated Rabbi long ago who said to his students, “Repent the day before you die!” They diligently took notes. One stopped and asked, “but, Rabbi, we do not know the day of our death?”
The rabbi responded, “Therefore repent every day!”
Since we do not know when the Holy Spirit will give us the opportunity to glorify Jesus in a conversation, we need to keep our armament of salvation prepared and ready to use; and to keep an ear open to the whispers of the Holy Spirit, “This is the one.”
There are many who will verbally challenge us. I was at a meeting of Real Estate brokers and salesmen; in conversation we exchanged business cards. On my business card I had the Scripture
But now in Christ Jesus ye that once were far off are made nigh in the blood of Christ. (Ephesians 2:13)
When one man read my card, he became angry, “That is offensive!” he said. My response was mild, “but it is true.”
When the negative comes, we must be ready to respond in love and truth.
As you well know, I live by the adage that it is the Christian’s prerogative to bless. I have made it a practice of saying, “God bless you,” to all I meet and greet. Recently, this paid off again. A business associate came to me saying, “You have shown you’re a man of faith. I’m troubled about my faith.” In the subsequent conversation, he was able to unburden himself. God gave me the privilege of leading him in the sinner’s prayer. Then I gave him some guidelines in prayer and Bible study to establish him in either his new-found faith or in his revived faith. Since that time, I have written him with further suggestions for growth.
Do you see how simple it is when you operate in love and make yourself available for the Holy Spirit to use? There are opportunities that He will drop into your lap. People will ask a question that will leave a spiritual opening you can drive a truck through. The Holy Spirit will open these opportunities when He knows that you are prepared.
This takes a reorientation of life. Whose are you? Do you belong to Yourself? Do you belong to the world? Do you belong, heart and soul, to Jesus? Belonging heart and soul to Jesus – that is where you belong.
If you will embrace the truth that you belong to Christ and dedicate your “spare” time to read and study His Word, you will be thrilled with what God will do. Set aside the romance novels, the evening TV, the social media, and even the demanding work. Instead, commit to morning and evening prayer, memorize Scripture, and study devotional classics. When you do, you will find a surprising number of opportunities coming your way. You will find your love for Jesus deepening and discover greater depths of His love for you. You will uncover greater love in your life for others.
Your confidence in Christ will grow so that John’s words will become active in your life/
We are of God, and whoever knows God listens to us. Whoever is not of God does not listen to us. This is how we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error. (v. 6)
Our confidence in God will enliven our prayers, knowing He is listening. The tighter our relationship with Jesus is the more the Holy Spirit will give us the gift of discernment. John has exhorted us in vs. 2 & 3 to discern spirits–evaluate the desires in our own hearts and evaluate the lives of others. All that is not of Christ is of the antichrist.
This knowledge allows us to choose spiritually what to engage in. The Holy Spirit will use that knowledge to direct us to engage some persons, witness to some, and avoid others.
John tells us that God is love. Does is not stand to reason as you include God more intimately and more consistently in your daily life that you will experience more of His love? As you experience more of God’s love His joy will fill your heart. You will find that you will overflow with joy at just being with Him, at feeding on His Word, and at being in fellowship with other believers. I don’t mean to say you do not have such joys now. I do mean to say that the joy you now have will pale in comparison to what He has in store for you, when you spend more time with Jesus.
Oh, my friends, my brothers and sisters I know that your lives are going to blossom in the love of Christ as you surrender fully to Him.
Precious Jesus, Your love is far beyond our comprehension. We know well and truly that you love us with an everlasting love.
It is a wonder that you have given us the discernment to know Your love and to know those who love you. You have given us the discernment to recognize the marks of an unbeliever. You have given us the power to overcome the evil one and his devices. You have given us the confidence that you hear us.
Therefore give us the further confidence to stride into the world and proclaim Your truth. Give us the courage to declare the reality of sin in the world and your righteousness to those who will listen. Give us the boldness even to proclaim these truths to those who will not listen and to those who resist the truth.
Lord Jesus make us worthy witnesses, to Your glory.