Almighty God, I need You. Pardon my sin, realign me with Your will, restore me with counsel from Your Word.
Read 1 JOHN 4:1–6
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. 2 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, 3 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.
4 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. 5 They are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them. 6 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.
New International Version (NIV)
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“God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24).
“Test the spirits,” says John (1). The word translated “test” is that used for checking for counterfeit coinage. Today we may be more at risk of being swindled through the internet and credit cards. We still need to be “wise as serpents and harmless as doves” (Matt 10:16, KJV).
The Greek world was alive with people promoting new ideas, as Paul observed in Athens (Acts 17:21). Reading between the lines in this letter we can detect that there were people in Ephesus who had deviated from the faith they had originally been taught. They had apparently claimed to have learned the truth about God from some source other than Jesus Christ. They seem to have been teaching that Jesus was not the Messiah. Their influence was confusing the church.
We need to be wise as serpents and as harmless as doves. We are aware of the many different religions that surround us and are appalled at some of the things they teach. It’s easy to point the finger at practices that are radically different from our own; it’s less easy to think in a Christian way about what is socially acceptable. There are false teachings in our own churches too—appealing to our love of money and power in ways that sit so comfortably with our lifestyle that we never notice. This scheme or that, someone claims, will appeal to the youth culture around us, or lead to church growth or gain us some publicity. In a world that is excited by big numbers—whether of people in our building or “likes” on Facebook—it is easy to be seduced. Success, as our culture sees it, is not our goal. We need discernment as much as John’s original readers did. The price of gullibility is the adulteration of the Gospel for which Christ gave his life.
How can you tell if a teaching, Bible interpretation or new program for your church is genuine or not? How can you train yourself to be spiritually street-smart?
Holy One, the world around me constantly presses in on me. As I engage with Your Word, fill me with Your wisdom and discernment.