1 John 4:1 – 6
Spirituality #2: Test the Spirits
Last week we started a series on “spirituality.” The “First Principle” in the Bible is to listen carefully (to the Lord), do what is right (in the Lord’s sight), pay attention (to the Lord), and keep all the decrees of the Lord.
This week is a warning against blindly accepting whatever is the “latest and greatest.”
Wise words from the Free Methodist Discipline (2003) “The Bible is God’s written Word, uniquely inspired by the Holy Spirit. ... It has been faithfully persevered and proves itself true in human experience. ... Whatever is not found in the Bible nor can be proved by it is not to be required as an article of belief or as necessary to salvation.”
To that I would argue... or practice.
Unfortunately the lack of the knowledge of Scripture and the replacement of experience for truth has fueled a hunger for the “next experience.” The Apostle John suggest something that would sound like blasphemy in the current American chaos.
John states bluntly: “Do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God.” In other words, what we are seeing now is not a new problem and it was a serious concern to the first century church.
What does this mean to us today.
I. Think it through. (“This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God.” [v 2a])
(Ill.) TV personality interviewing an author who insists, “Truth is not something you know, it is something you experience. If you can know it, its wrong.”
A. The problem is we have created “haves and have nots.”
1. Thinking about God is sometimes called “theology.”
a. We have made thinking about God the “special” property of seminaries and professionals.
b. We have made it complicated with lots of extra-biblical material, words, and tag lines.
(Ill.) What is “Openness” theology? Who knows the four defining points of Arminianism? (Hint, if Calvinism is a “TULIP” then Arminianism is a “ROSE”) What are the 30 Wesleyan verses? What is grace? (Hint: there are five types of grace in the New Testament.) What are the presuppositions of liberation theology and its hermeneutical implications?
2. Experiencing God has become a mystical (transcends human experience), ecstatic (emotional), or ethereal (light or heavy sensation).
a. Need something special, such as contact with an individual, training or technique.
b. The back lash against the “have/have not” intellectualism is to give experience power over thinking (or reality... or reason)
(Ill.) The idea that a trip to the alter, praying the “sinners prayer,” etc replace Jesus’ requirement to believe.
B. However, certain “facts” apply.
1. Humans have only reliable one source of information about God, salvation, and everything spiritual. The Bible.
a. “Primary source” is the actual facts. If you want to know a person, you talk to them and spend time with them (that’s the Bible’s function).
b. Problem is we use substitutes and mistake them for truth.
(Ill.) We substitute a sermon (or commentary) for earnest study and search of the Bible.
2. If the Bible is the primary source then the revealed knowledge of God, salvation, and all things spiritual is open to everyone (who has access to the Bible).
a. There is no distinction between the Ph.D. and the one who has never gone to school (assuming they read or listen to the Bible).
b. The only question is, will we listen carefully, do what is right, pay attention, and keep the decrees of the Lord?
(Ill.) When I say “meditate” what images does that bring to mind? The Bible says, “But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.” [Psalm 1:2]
There are two words in the Old Testament that are translated meditate. The one means to rehearse (suach), the other means to mutter (hagah). “May the words of my mouth and the meditation (hagig) of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.” [Psalm 19:14]
You already know how to do this: Ever get a son stuck in your head? Ever get a mental picture you could not forget? Ever worry? Then you know how to meditate... you do it naturally.
II. Reference it to Jesus.
A. “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” [1 John 4:2]
1. The word the NIV translates “recognize” is commonly translated “know.” [KJV, ESV, CEV, ASV, NKJV, NLT, NASB, NRSV) It means "to know absolutely."
a. The denial of Jesus Christ (God), come in the flesh makes the that person’s teaching “anti-Christ.”
“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.” [1 John 4:3]
b. Why is it anti-Christ?
1.) Denying the divinity of Jesus takes away everything Jesus did on the cross for our salvation.
2.) Denying the Lordship of Jesus takes away the authority of Jesus to be our pattern for life.
2. Another way to say this: is it Christ-centered?
a. The way to stay in balance is to look to the “author and perfecter or our faith” [see Hebrews 12:2]
1.) Jesus said, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.” [see John 14:9]
2.) Even the Holy Spirit would draw attention to Jesus, “But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” [John 14:26]
b. If it is not Christ-centered then it is probably human-centered.
B. The test is about the work of the Jesus Christ.
1. Jesus came to do two things:
a. “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.” [Luke 19:10]
b. “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil's work.” [1 John 3:8b]
2. It becomes an issue of who you listen too...
“They are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them.” [1 John 4:6]
a. Here is the question of influence... who do you listen too?
1.) The struggle of the 60's: teens began to listen to their culture rather than their parents (who held socially and morally conservative views). [The rebellion born in culture was nothing more than a money grab.]
2.) Is it a wonder that the first principle God gave His people was LISTEN CAREFULLY/PAY ATTENTION.
(Ill.) The other day I was stopped at the light between Ashmun and Easterday. Police car with lights and sirens came roaring up to the intersection. NOBODY stopped or gave the right of way to the police car.
b. If you are not listening carefully and paying attention to God, you are going to look silly at best and turn evil at worst.
(Ill.) The TV personality mentioned earlier said the moment they “started thinking” was during a sermon. Their “charismatic” pastor was preaching on the “greatness of God.” Then the pastor said that “God is a jealous god.” The TV personality began to reason, “that’s not right, God is a god of love, jealousy contradicts love...”
Someone was not listening. The context of the Bible’s “jealous” statements is that of a mutually exclusive relationship. You are jealous too... If you are in a mutually exclusive relationship, such as marriage, what are you going to think about the other person if they break that exclusive relationship with someone else?
III. Take it to another level.
A. Fact is that the common garden variety of spirituality proposed by the world and by eastern philosophies and religions is a cheap substitute for the real thing.
1. (Ill.) I love to drink soda pop... if its sweet, syrupy, fizzes and says Mt. Dew or some Cola.... The other day I tanked up on Pepsi, then tried to work out. What I managed to do was cramp up. Why? Because liquid sugar and caffeine is not water. It is a pleasant but false substitute. Worse yet, my substitute of choice drains necessary water from my body.
2. No spirituality will satisfy your soul. None. Not the common variety. Not the eastern religion and philosophy variety. Not the Christian variety. Only a relationship with God will satisfy your soul.
(Ill.) As a kid I was on vacation in the mountains of Arkansas and picked up some shiny gold colored rock. Was I excited! After all, gold was valuable... I wondered why nobody else noticed all this gold or why they didn’t stop me from stuffing my pockets with it.
Ever here the expression, “all that glitters is not gold?” That was me, picking up “fools gold.”
That’s the person watching the TV guru, Reverend, Doctor, psychic of the month. That’s the person filling their hours so busy they hope to never slow down enough for the pain to catch them. That’s the person so consumed with bitterness they can’t forgive and move on. That’s the person experimenting with drugs or pornography or fame or fortune or power or pleasure.
B. What you need is Jesus.
1. Turn of the 20th century (1900) A. B. Simpson wrote these words:
Once it was the blessing, now it is the Lord;
Once it was the feeling, now it is His Word;
Once His gift I wanted, now the Giver own;
Once I sought for healing, now Himself alone.
Once it was my working, His it hence shall be;
Once I tried to use Him, Now He uses me;
Once the power I wanted, now the Mighty One;
Once for self I labored, now for Him alone.
Once I hoped in Jesus, now I know He’s mine;
Once my lamps were dying, now they brightly shine;
Once for death I waited, now His coming hail;
And my hopes are anchored, safe within the vail.
2. Maybe our spiritual hunger comes from:
a. We do not know Jesus. We only know about Jesus.
b. We want to use Jesus to feel good instead of be changed.