Daniel 11:36-45; 1 John 4:1-6; Psalms 122:1-5; Proverbs 27:4-6
NT: “Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see if they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This is how you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming; even now it is already in the world. You are from God, little children, and you have conquered them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. They are from the world. Therefore what they say is from the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God. Anyone who knows God listens to us; anyone who is not from God does not listen to us. This is how we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of deception.” (1 John 4:1-6 CSB)
Once again, John came back to the topic of truth versus deception. One of the main reasons John wrote this letter was to come against heretical teachings that were being introduced. Many people will say that they believe in God. Many people will claim that they are Christian – especially in the United States where Christianity is more of a culture than a core conviction and the way to life. In order to not be caught up and dragged away into deception, John told his readers to test the spirits. By saying “test the spirits,” he was talking about testing the spirit of a teaching, the spirit of a teacher, or the spirit of a certain belief. In this context, spirit means the essence or nature of someone or something. By testing the spirits, you are discerning what is at the core of a person, belief or teaching.
Thankfully, we are not expected to test the spirits with our own limited insight and understanding. In 1 Corinthians 12:7-11, Paul described nine gifts (manifestations) of the Holy Spirit that are available to each and every Spirit-filled believer, and distributed to those Spirit-filled believers as needed. One of those gifts is the distinguishing between spirits. That particular manifestation of the Spirit within a believer is divine discernment on top of already existing human discernment. It is the Holy Spirit empowered and enabled ability to discern whether something or someone is of a human spirit, a demonic spirit, or a divine spirit.
John also gave his readers a simple test. Any prophet, teacher, teaching or belief system that is truly from God will confess that Jesus Christ is God come in the flesh. This confession is much more than just “believing in Jesus.” It is more than acknowledging Jesus as a true historical figure who taught a way of life. It is more than believing in God. It is not a theological statement of belief that someone has ascribed to. It is a confession of fundamental and personal faith that the God of Creation – the second person of the Trinity – came in the flesh as the man Jesus of Nazareth; and that Jesus is the Messiah… the Christ… the anointed One promised from the beginning of creation to save mankind from sin, destroy the works of the devil, and restore mankind to a reconciled relationship with God. Unfortunately, there are many who claim to be Christian that cannot or will not make that confession. Anyone who cannot or will not make that confession, or any teaching or belief system that does not make that confession, is of this world and not of God… and is ultimately of the antichrist spirit.
There are many prophets and teachers that become popular. Their popularity does not legitimize the spirit of what they are teaching. The world will always listen to and accept that which is of the world. That which is truly of God will oftentimes be misunderstood and rejected by the world. Because of that, we who are truly of the spirit of God will be misunderstood and rejected, especially when we refuse to compromise and buy in to the teachings, philosophies, and popular ways of the world. But we don’t need to lose heart and become discouraged. In Christ, we are ultimately the conquerors because He who is in us – the true Spirit of God – is greater than the one who is in the world.
Prayer: Lord, I thank You that in You, I do not need to be deceived into believing a lie or led astray by false prophets and teachers. Through Your Holy Spirit, you give me the ability to discern and test the spirits – to know if someone or something is truly of You. Help me to know the Spirit of truth and recognize the spirit of deception, that I may remain walking in the light of truth on the pathway to abundant and eternal life. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.