Journal 1 John 4 (all references are from the ESV; changes in punctuation and notes are mine)
Scripture: Beloved, do not believe every spirit…but test the spirits to see whether they are from God…for many false prophets have gone out into the world.
By this 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 Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist (which you heard was coming and now is in the world already). (1 John 4:1-4)
Observation: Not being trained in biblical orthodoxy, lack of discernment is a weakness and liability. If I am not fundamentally solid in Biblical doctrines, precepts, and principles, then I can be led astray by folks who have other agendas that are not of Christ.
I do not have to be a church professional for this; in fact, I am required to be growing in this every day, whether church professional or not.
Application: Ok, thinking out loud, I need to be harshly blunt with myself—avoid being flowery and wordy, peel back my heart with a butter knife. Here goes…
Don’t believe every spirit. Test every spirit…
Why is the Holy Spirit saying this through John?
John plainly says with the confirming test: “Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God…” So, why would I even ask the question? What are the circumstances that the interrogation of testing ANY spirit would be necessary?
I would think that most Christians would spot an obvious deviation from the Truth, from the Bible. But what about a “not so obvious” deviation?
Jesus warns, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing (Christian camouflage—they look like believers, sound like believers, act like believers—maybe even smell like believers) but inwardly are ravenous wolves.” (Matt 7:15) Jesus says that wolves will be around (Luke 10:3), and Paul says they will be ruthless towards the flock (Acts 20:29).
What, then, is a clue? One clue would be “who does this benefit?” Is it about me and somehow celebrates me, or does it celebrate God? Does my world revolve around my desire to surrender my life at the Cross or am I being tempted to walk another path that looks vaguely like Christianity…but isn’t?
It is that “vagueness” that is dangerous.
At this point in my life, I am like the Supreme Court Justice, Potter Stewart, on the definition of pornography, “I can’t define it, but I know it when I see it…” When “something” is said, I might cock my head over and say to myself, “There is something wrong here…That doesn’t seem right.” The more I get into the Bible and do things like Journal writing, I might do it more often.
Is this being unnecessarily harsh, snobby, judgmental (in a condemning way). I don’t think so because if we read John’s warning (as well as our Lord Jesus and Paul’s admonitions), there is always a starting point. Even the Bereans were thought noble to check on the validities of assertions (Acts 17) even as they were excited and eager to hear.
Earlier I referenced Matt 7:15. The verse immediately before that, Jesus admonishes the disciples:
“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many.
For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” (Matt 7:13-14)
And then Jesus says, “Beware the false prophets…”
Why? If there might be someone who is relaxing the Word to make it more palatable to the masses—especially because of so-called Love—they are not embracing the factual Gospel.
Prayer: Lord God, I wait upon you. Fill my mind, heart, and life with your Fruit. Many questions are facing me tomorrow…and I hope I can answer them with kindness, gentleness, and persuasion and not mean spirited, angry contention. Proverbs says, “A gentle answer turns away wrath.” Please help me to have that kind of tongue in my mouth.
Ricky Two Shoes