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TEST THE SPIRITS

Kevin Walker

 

Please turn with me to 1 John 4:1-6

 

​1 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world.

 

2 By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God,

 

3 and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world.

 

4 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.

 

5 They are of the world. Therefore they speak as of the world, and the world hears them.

 

6 We are of God. He who knows God hears us; he who is not of God does not hear us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.

 

 

The reason I want to cover these first 6 verses with you is because what John says here is very needed today.

 

·         It is a basic principle, one that many of you already know.

 

·         And yet, for some of you who may be new Christians this is something you may not have heard before.

 

Let me give you just a little background to help you understand what is going on.

 

·         When John writes this letter he writes to Christians who were dealing with the influence of some people who claimed to be “in the know” on spiritual matters…he is writing due to the influence of the Gnostics.

 

·         These Gnostics had come along and they were teaching all sorts of convoluted ideas and philosophies…and they made them sound so good…and so right…and as a result many of the Christians were being led astray…especially the new, immature in Christ.

 

·         So out of a deep concern for the purity of the Christian doctrine and God’s plan of salvation John writes this.

 

 

·         These Gnostics, and there were many varieties of Gnostics, were perverting God’s sound doctrine and John writes to refute them.

 

Now, even though this letter was written toward the end of the 1st century the Gnostic teachings are alive and well today.

 

·         People teaching doctrines that counter the word of God…that dispute God’s plan of salvation…teachings that express man made views rather than God’s.

 

·         So what John says here in these verses is something that we must learn in order to not be deceived by some of the teachings that we encounter in our lives.

 

So look at what John says starting in verse 1:

 

I.              Beloved, do not believe every spirit…

 

·         The Gnostics claimed to be “spirit people.”

 

·         Some claimed that what they taught they got from God through some spiritual experience or through enlightenment.

 

·         Others claimed that what they taught they got through some other esoteric or outside spiritual experience…

 

·         And John says here…do not believe every one of those spirits.

 

And it is much the same today

 

·         There are so many teachers out there all claiming that what they are teaching has come from God.

 

·         Some say they got what they are teaching from some “spiritual experience.”

 

·         Others say they received their knowledge when God spoke to them…or as the result of a dream…or a vision…or as a result of something that touched their heart.

 

·         And what John says here in verse 1 applies to us…”Do not believe every spirit…”

 

·         They may sound so good…they may sound so right…they may even give the appearance of being very spiritual speaking using all the “Thee’s and Thou’s…and God bless you and Peace to You”…but John says, “They can be wrong!”

 

·         We cannot just accept anyone who claims they have the Spirit; we cannot just let our minds fall under the influence of any spirit. It may be the spirit of error. The only way to know is to read the Word of God. You cannot believe everything you hear! Let me just name several fields of human activity:

 

·         Politics ~ Can you believe everything you hear?

·         Medicine?

·         Science?

·         History?

·         Computers?

 

·         What about religion? Can you believe everything you hear? If you listen to the various religious messages about in the world today, you soon discover messages in conflict. All you hear cannot be the truth. All you hear cannot be taught in the Scriptures by God.

 

So, how do you know which spirit to believe?

 

·         Look what John says next.

 

1 John 4:1  …but test (this word dokimazo in the Greek literally means “to put them on trial) the spirits to see whether they are from God;

 

·         When someone comes to you and teaches you something claiming that their teaching is from God…you need to put them and what they teach on trial!

 

·         Don’t just take what they say for the truth…check it out…examine it…question it.

 

·         It may be a very popular teaching and a lot of people may be embracing it…but that doesn’t make it exempt from the test.

 

·         John says, “Test it!

 

“Test the spirits to see whether they are from God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world.”

 

So how do you test them…how can you tell if they are a “false prophet?”

 

·         Look at verse 2:

 

II.            “By this you know the spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is from God

This verse eliminates over half of all the religions in the world as being from God.

 

·         It eliminates

 

·         Hinduism,

 

·         Buddhism,

 

·         Judaism,

 

·         Islam,

 

·         Shintoism,

 

·         Spiritualism,

 

·         Zoroastronism,

 

·         Paganism,

 

·         New Age,

 

·         Scientology,

 

·         Jehovah Witness,

 

·         and all these other forms of Gnosticism.

 

·         And here is why.

 

III.           John says, “Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is from God.”

 

·         “Jesus” is the name that was given to Him because “He will save His people from their sins”; Matthew 1:21

 

·         This name indicates “Savior”…it was a name specifically given to Him by God.

 

·         The name “Christ” means “Messiah”…the one sent from God!

 

·         And then John says, “is come in the flesh”… He was human!

 

·         Every spirit that confesses that Jesus is the Savior…that confesses that He is God’s Messiah…and that confesses that He came in the flesh…that spirit is from God.

 

But any spirit that denies that He is the Savior…or that denies that He is the Messiah (they want to separate Him from the God of the O.T.)…or that denies that He came in human form…that spirit is of the antichrist.

 

·         In short, the first thing to do when testing the spirits is to see what they say about Jesus.

 

·         That is the reason why over half of all the religions of the world are eliminated from being from God…

 

·         they deny that Jesus is the Savior, the Messiah,

 

·         or that He came in human form.

 

Look now at verse 5. John says:

 

IV.           They (false prophets) are from the world; therefore they speak as from the world, and the world listens to them.

 

·         Their knowledge is human speculation…

 

·         it is worldly wisdom…

 

·         and the world loves this kind of doctrine.

 

·         It allows you to believe and do those things that are worldly...

 

·         things that tickle the ears and satisfies the flesh.

 

·         This is the reason why some doctrines and teachings are so popular…

 

·         the world loves it and the world speaks of a lot of people.

 

·         Just because a lot of people like it doesn’t mean it is from God.

 

·         Let me ask you ~

 

·         Which religious teachers today, should we apply this test to??

 

·         Every single one of them!

 

·         Billy Graham,

 

·         Jerry Falwell,

 

·         Max Lucado,

 

·         Charles Swindoll,

 

·         Warren Berkley,

 

·         Joel Osteen,

 

·         and every other preacher or teacher you might listen to,

 

·         and every uninspired author you read.

 

·         Every single religious teacher should be tested in the same way, by simply seeing if what they say are in the Scriptures!

 

·         Let me state the matter in these terms:

 

·         Never think that if a man is popular and brings in huge crowds, that means he must be teaching the truth!

 

·         Never think that if a man is a good public speaker and can hold the attention of an audience, that means he must be teaching the truth.

 

·         Never think that if you like the person, he must be teaching the truth.

 

·         Never think that if a man quotes a lot of Scripture, he must be teaching the truth.

 

·         Never think that if a man has academic, educational credentials, he must be teaching the truth!!

 

·         There is only one way to determine if a man is teaching the truth - -

 

·         see if what he says is in the Bible!!

 

·         In order for you to make that determination you know what you'll have to do?

 

·         Read and study your Bible!!!

 

So John says: They (false prophets) are from the world; therefore they speak as from the world, and the world listens to them.

 

Now vs. 6:

V.           We (the apostles) are from God; he who knows God listens to us, he who is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.

 

·         If someone comes along and teaches you something that does not agree with what the apostles taught…

 

·         if they reject the apostles testimony…

 

·         they are not from God…

 

·         they are instead “the spirit of error.”

 

·         If what they teach does not agree with the Bible…

 

·         don’t listen to them.

 

As John says, “Many false prophets have gone out into the world.”

 

·         And they will tell you all kinds of things some of which sound so good…so right…so pleasing.

 

·         But they can be so wrong.

 

·         John says, “Test them…put them on trial.”

 

·         See what they say about Jesus…if they deny that He is the Savior, the Messiah, or that He came in human form…they are false prophets.

 

·         And if what they teach does not agree with what the apostles say…if it does not agree with what this says (Bible) then they have a spirit of error.

 

VI.           Another way to “test the spirits” to determine if someone is a false teacher or not…turn with me to Deuteronomy Chapter 13, Verse 1.

 

·         Moses is speaking here to the Israelites…and when it came to meeting false teachings and pagan ideas these people encountered them.

 

1 "If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder,

 

2 and the sign or the wonder comes true, concerning which he spoke to you, saying,' Let us go after other gods (whom you have not known) and let us serve them,

 

·         If someone comes along and he wants you to follow or serve some other god…and to get you to follow him if they perform a miracle…and it comes to pass.

 

3: …you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams; for the LORD your God is testing you to find out if you love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul.

 

4 You shall follow the LORD your God and fear Him; and you shall keep His commandments, listen to His voice, serve Him, and cling to Him.

 

·         It doesn’t matter if the prophet can perform a miracle…or a sign. (i.e., Benny Hinn, Peter Popoff etc.)

 

·         They can be pretty convincing and impressive.

 

·         Here is what God says in 2 Thessalonians chapter 2 Verses 9-12

 

·         9 The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders,

 

·         10 and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved.

 

·         11 And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie,

 

·         12 that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.

 

·         What matters is that you listen to God and what He says…and you keep His commandments…and you listen to His voice…and you serve Him and cling to Him.

 

·         John told us to test the prophets…and here God puts us to the test to see if we will listen to Him no matter what someone else might say or do.

 

VII.        Another way to tell if a “spirit” is from God.

 

Turn with me to Deuteronomy chapter 18, Verse 18:

 

18 'I will raise up a prophet from among their countrymen like you, and I will put My words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him.

 

19 'And it shall come about that whoever will not listen to My words which he shall speak in My name, I Myself will require it of him.

 

20 'But the prophet who shall speak a word presumptuously in My name which I have not commanded him to speak, or which he shall speak in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die.'

 

21 "And you may say in your heart, 'How shall we know the word which the LORD has not spoken?'

 

22 "When a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the thing does not come about or come true, that is the thing which the LORD has not spoken. The prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him.

 

·         Throughout the years men and women, claiming to be speaking that which the Lord has revealed to them,

 

·         Let me give you an example of two men who have claimed to have a “Revelation from God”:

 

·         One man stood up ready to preach his sermon, when another man stood to preach his sermon and do you know how they settled the matter about who was to preach that morning?

 

·         One man asked to the other, “When did God tell that you were to preach?” And the guy said that, “he got a revelation from God late last night.”

 

·         Do you know what the other guy said? “Well you sit down because God spoke to me first thing this morning.”

 

·         Some have prophesied that the world would come to an end.

 

·         Some have said that God wanted them to run for president.

 

·         Others have predicted great conflicts that never came to pass.

 

·         When they speak in the name of the Lord and prophesy that something is going to happen…and it does not happen…they are false prophets.

 

·         This truth will eliminate many who claim to be followers of God as being from God.

 

VIII.       To sum it up, the way you “test the spirits” is listen to what they say about Jesus.

 

·         If they deny Him as Savior, as Messiah, and having come in human form…they are false prophets.

 

·         If what they teach and promote does not agree with the teachings of the apostles…they are of the “spirit of error.”

 

·         Even if they perform amazing signs and wonders…if what they say does not agree with what God says…don’t listen to them.

 

·         And if what they prophesy does not come to pass…they are not to be feared.

 

We have all of these different religions and religious groups in the world today…something that God never intended…but knew would happen.

 

·         He also knew that many people would come along and claim to be His prophets…and claim that their teachings were from God.

 

·         And He also knew that people would be confused and perhaps pulled away by the false teachers and doctrines.

 

·         Because He knew these things would take place…He gave us these guidelines on how to determine who we should and shouldn’t listen to.

 

·         With these guidelines comes great responsibility…because the only way you can follow these guidelines that God has given…they only way you can keep from being deceived…is you have to have a firm, confident, knowledge of what the Word of God says.

 

·         For the sake of our own salvation and to keep from being led astray we each one must dedicate ourselves to a greater, faithful knowledge of the Bible.

 

There are many false prophets that have gone out into the world.

 

·         Do not just blindly believe what they say…instead…test the spirits to see if they are from God.

 

·         By testing the spirits; by comparing what is taught to what is revealed, we can know the difference between truth and error.

 

·         Now, one way to consider this is:

 

·         The message authenticates the speaker, not the speaker the message.

 

·         Let me explain.

 

·         It is a mistake to decide you like the man, therefore you'll accept everything he says.

 

·         The better approach is take the message, compare that message with what is revealed; then accept the message - not because of the man, but because it is revealed.

 

·         One thing must influence everything we believe, teach and practice.

 

·         The Word of God.

 

·         The Word of God is inspired, authoritative and sufficient to govern all that we do before God (2 Tim. 3:16-17).

 

·         You cannot turn your soul's salvation over to men.

 

·         You cannot just listen to a preacher you like and let that govern your responses to God.

 

·         Search the Scriptures.

 

·         Read your Bible.

 

·         Hear, believe and obey the gospel.

 

·         Just be a Christian; a member of the Lord's church. "And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free," (Jno. 8:32).

 

·         In order to be a Christian,

 

·         you must believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God,

 

·         repent of your sins,

 

·         confess your faith in Christ,

 

·         be baptized in water for the remission of your sins,

 

·         you must remain faithful to God.

 

·         Dear Christian, have you remained faithful to God?

 

·         If you have sinned,

 

·         You must repent,

 

·         and confess your sins.

 

·         If you are subject to the invitation please come forward,

 

·         as we stand and sing this invitation song.