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March 26, 2000                             Coy Wylie

1 John – Living in the Light

How to Test the Spirits

1 John 4:1-6


1. “Discrimination” is a bad word in our cultural vocabulary. Our courts are filled with lawsuits based on discrimination. In a multi-cultural society we are taught to be tolerant of one another. To an extent this is appropriate. Our Constitution states that all men are created equally. Acts 10:34 says, “God is no respecter of persons” (KJV); He does not show partiality. Therefore we are not to discriminate racially, economically, socially or culturally.

2. In this passage, John teaches we must discriminate doctrinally. We must “test the spirits.” We must learn to discern between “the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.” These 6 verses are a parenthesis on his discourse about love. Love evidences our fellowship with God but love can never be divorced from truth.

An elementary school class toured a medical facility. A child asked why the doctors and nurses were constantly washing their hands. The nurse replied, “We wash our hands for two reasons: we love health and we hate germs.” The Christian who abides in Christ and walks in the Spirit loves truth and hates error. He discriminates.

3. As Christians, we are called “believers.” However, every believer is also called to be an unbeliever when it comes to error. The Bible not only encourages us to believe but also to not believe. Just as we can inhale and exhale at the same time, we cannot believe truth and accept error. You cannot love until you reject hatred. You cannot pursue righteousness until you abandon evil. John Stott has written, “Unbelief can be as much a mark of spiritual maturity as belief.” (p.157).

4. With this background in mind, let’s examine the command to test the spirits and three criteria by which we test the spirits.


I. The Command to Test the Spirits (v.1).

A. Why We Are to Test the Spirits.

1. John is speaking to believers. He calls them “beloved.” He says we are not to “believe every spirit” but “test” them as to “whether they are of God.” Why? Because there are “many false prophets” who have “gone out into the world.”

2. Historically, the background of this passage is in the era in which the NT was being completed. There was no NT cannon. The apostles were still in the process of writing the inspired books and epistles that make up our understanding of the Christian faith.

3. God delivered His word to the congregations of believers in part by the verbal word of divinely gifted and inspired prophets. We read about the powerful and prevalent gifts in 1 Cor.12 and 14.

4. John warns his readers not to “believe every spirit” but to “test the spirits whether they are of God” because not everyone who claimed to be a prophet was divinely inspired.

5. There was and is the great necessity of critical assessment of spiritual teaching. There are still many false teachers in the world.

B. What it Means to Test the Spirits.

1. Every believer has the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit. In 3:24, we learned last week that God “have given us… the Spirit.” In chapter 2, John calls the presence of the Spirit “the anointing which you have received from Him…”

2. God has given us His indwelling Spirit but John now points out that there are other “spirits” loose in the world. If we have the Spirit, we ought to “test the Spirits.”

3. Christians often test teaching by how it sounds, the words used, the inflection of the voice, the stories told, if it moves them or makes them feel good. None of these are appropriate tests. “Test” in v.4 means “to approve or examine.” The term was used of gold put in the fire to test its purity.

4. There are two categories of spirits operating in the world. When someone proposes to speak for God, you should “test the spirits” or you might “amen” the wrong spirit! I’ve been in some churches where they would “amen” almost anything.

5. Behind every prophet is a spirit. The great question is does the Spirit of God or an evil spirit lead this teacher. Before we trust any teacher, we must “test the spirits.”

6. Paul wrote in 1 Thess.5:20-22, “Do not despise prophecies. Test all things; hold fast what is good.”

7. Jesus warned in Mt.7:15-16, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits…”

8. Paul warned the Ephesian elders in Acts 20:29, “For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock.”

9. Peter also offered this warning in 2 Pet.2:1, “But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction.”

10. Today there is still a great need for biblical discernment and discrimination. Many believers remain biblically illiterate and spiritually gullible. They naively accept any teaching as truth.

11. In Eph.4:14, Paul says that a sure sign of spiritual immaturity is “tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting.”

C. Failing to Test the Spirits is Dangerous.

Every good parent teaches his children to discriminate, to discern. We teach them to never take candy from strangers or accept a ride from strangers. Why? We know that there are evil people in the world who will take advantage of the naiveté of our kids. Too many of God’s kids have never learned to discern. They don’t discriminate. They are led astray by spiritual candy with a pseudo spiritual wrapper that is nothing more than sugarcoated error. It tastes good and makes them feel good for the moment but leaves them with nothing but empty calories. There is no spiritual nutrition because there is no truth.

1. If you follow the wrong spirit, you will pay a price. The famous circus entrepreneur, P.T. Barnum is quoted as saying, “There’s a sucker born every minute.” Satan has many slick sideshows that sidetrack God’s children and rob them of their spiritual riches.

2. There are “many” false teachers in the world today. The spiritual candy store is full. Satan has all flavors of teachers and preachers ready to fill your spiritual appetite with a sugarcoated experience that will leave you with a bellyache. Test the spirits!

3. Remember when Moses first appeared before Pharaoh? He had a rod that turned into a snake. Satan was not to be outdone so the magicians’ rods turned to snakes too. He knows how to put on a good show, to entice and lure us away from the truth.

4. The reformers insisted that even the most humble of believers has “the right of private judgment.” John is writing to the “beloved,” all Christians. You don’t have to have a seminary degree to test the spirits. You don’t have to attend a spirit-testing seminar. Why? Because the Holy Spirit already resides within you.

5. In this church we wear the name Baptist but our allegiance is to the Bible. Just because it is a Baptist teaching does not necessarily mean it is a biblical teaching. We “test the spirits” and the chief measuring stick is the Scripture!

II. The Criteria for Testing the Spirits (vv.5-6).

A. How Do They View the Son of God? (vv.2-3).

1. The first test is the acknowledgement of the historical incarnation of Jesus, that “Jesus Christ has come in the flesh.” Believers are to test for truth based on a teacher’s attitude concerning the person and work of Jesus. The first question is always “What do they believe about Jesus?” because if you are wrong about Jesus you are wrong about God.

2. In John’s day there was a teacher known as Cerinthus who taught that Jesus became the Messiah at His baptism. The Spirit came upon and at His death on the cross, the Spirit left Him and He died and remained dead, thus denying the resurrection. Cerinthus taught his disciples that Jesus did not come as God but became the Son of God for season. This was a terrible false teaching.

3. Jesus did not become the Son of God. He has always existed as the Son. He was incarnated, came “in the flesh” to be our Savior. Jesus was fully God and fully man. The baby in the manger humanly did not know anything but divinely knew everything. The baby in the manger could humanly be only one place at a time but divinely was omnipresent, equally present everywhere. The baby in the manger was humanly terribly weak and hopelessly dependent but divinely was all-powerful. The baby in the manger was humanly unable to speak but divinely had spoken the worlds into existence.

4. Many religions seek to honor Jesus as a great man or a great teacher but do not recognize Him for who He is. Some of them knock on your door with attractive publications and reverent, religious words but they don’t believe that Jesus is the “express image of His person” (Heb.1:3). They will say He is God’s Son but just for a time, not for eternity. They will agree that He is a great prophet, but they want to put him on the level of Mohammed or Confucius.

5. A teacher must not only acknowledge the incarnation as a historical fact but they must also “confess” Him. They must commit their lives to Him.

6. Satan and his demons acknowledge the historical incarnation but do not “confess” Him as Lord. Evil spirits readily recognized Jesus during His earthly ministry. In Mk.1:24 we read the words of one spirit encountered by Jesus, “Let us alone! What have we to do with You, Jesus of Nazareth? Did You come to destroy us? I know who You are; the Holy One of God!” In Mk.5:7 another said, “What have I to do with You, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I implore You by God that You do not torment me.” James 2:19 remarks, “Even the demons believe; and tremble!”

7. Christian Scientists claim that Jesus was a man who received the Spirit of the Christ. Mormons say Jesus was a man who became god to show us how to become gods. Liberal theologians deny the virgin birth of Jesus and thus deny His incarnation and His deity. All these people fail to “confess” Him as God.

8. There are many people in church every Sunday who believe Jesus is the incarnate Christ but have never truly confessed Him.

9. The one who is led by the Holy Spirit will always “confess” Jesus. Jesus taught that the Holy Spirit would testify of Him and glorify Him. He said in Jn.16:13-14, “However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you.”

10. Paul states in 1 Cor.12:3, “No one speaking by the Spirit of God calls Jesus accursed, and no one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit.”

11. John says in v.3, to proclaim anything else about Jesus smacks of “the spirit of the Antichrist.” John has already mentioned the Antichrist in chapter 2. We know there is coming a world leader known as “the Antichrist,” however; “the spirit of the Antichrist” is “now already in the world.”

12. Be careful who you listen to that you do not take false medication.

B. What is Their Relation to the Spirit of God? (v.4).

1. In saying that believers “have overcome them” John is telling us that the false teachers have not succeeded in deceiving us.

2. False teachers are intimidating. They ask, “How can you believe that?” Raise the issue of creation in your biology classroom and watch them go into a frenzy. However, truth is absolute. It is immutable. It never changes.

If I play a B-flat on the piano you will hear a B-flat. A B-flat was a B-flat a thousand years ago and will still be a B-flat in the next millennium. It is absolute. Truth is absolute. Jesus is absolute. Heb.13:8 says, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.”

3. Why have we “overcome” them? Not because we are smart, sharp or extremely intelligent, but because of the Spirit is within us. “He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.” Although, Satan is great, the Holy Spirit is greater!

We all have insulation in our houses. Insulation keeps the warm air in and the cold air out or visa versa. The Holy Spirit is the God-given insulation in the believer’s life who helps us keep out error. Have you ever heard a sermon or listened to religious discussion and thought, “Something doesn’t sound right?” That is the Holy Spirit filtering out the error and leading you in truth.

C. Are They in Harmony with the Word of God? (vv.5-6).

1. Notice three pronouns in vv.4-6. In v.4 John speaks of “you” or Christians. In v.5 he speaks of “they,” false teachers. In v.6, he speaks of “we” or the God-ordained apostles.

2. Now in v.5 we see that that “they” are heard by the world. The world recognizes its own people and listens to their message. One of the easiest ways to recognize a false teacher is by whether the world is comfortable with him.

3. When you are on the job speak about the truth of Jesus, someone will invariably say, “I don’t want to hear that!” Why? Truth divides. People want to feel good about themselves. Truth always makes them take a hard look at themselves.

4. When I prepare a sermon, I don’t ever ask, “Will they enjoy this message?” My goal is not your entertainment but your edification. Truth always will help you.

In order to survive under the water, you need special equipment. Scuba gear enables a diver to live and function in a hostile environment. In the same way, the Spirit of God and the Word of God enable us to function in the world.

5. When John says, “He who knows God hears us; he who is not of God does not hear us,” it sounds somewhat arrogant. In effect, he is saying, “You can tell our message is God’s message because God’s people receive it.”

6. I could never say that. It would be prideful and presumptuous for me to say, “Whoever knows God agrees with me and only those who don’t know God disagree with me.” I’ve known a few preachers who’ve come close to that level of arrogance though.

7. John is an apostle; I am a pastor. John personally walked with Jesus. By inspiration, he wrote words of Scripture. To agree with the apostles is to agree with Scripture. Eph.2:20 says the church is “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets.”

8. Turn the page to 2 Jn.10-11. Churches met in houses in those days. John was saying don’t let him in the church. In this church we discriminate doctrinally.

9. Someone might say, “Truth, truth, truth! Pastor you major on truth, but what about emotion? What about feelings? I want to feel the presence of God.” Amen! I want to feel Him too. He gave me my emotions. I want both spirit and truth. However, I want to be certain what I am feeling. I don’t want to get off into subjective feelings until I am dead on in objective truth!

We can navigate a course by the use of a compass. A compass points to the north because of the magnetic field. Christians can navigate life by responding to the “true north” of the Word of God. We have the Word of God before us and the Spirit of God within us. Let us “test the spirits” and the teaching of anyone who claims to speak for God.


Copyright © 1998 – 2003 Coy M. Wylie. 

This data file is the sole property of the copyright holder and may be copied only in its entirety for circulation freely without charge. All copies of this data file must contain the above copyright notice.

Saints Alive

Witnessing to the Cults

Ed Decker

We are besieged by heartsick Christians around the world who have lost a loved one, a child, a parent, a spouse or a friend to one of the many cults that abound in the land. Of course, we get just as many inquiries from Christians who have made the acquaintance of a Mormon or Freemason or Muslim and want to know the best way to share The Good News of Jesus with them.

There are as many variations to the questions and needs as there are groups out there. The New Age, for example, has about as many definitions as it has followers. But there are significant base parallels to every cultic group.

In every case, every attempt is made to humanize God,deify man, minimize sin, and separate you from the authority of Holy Scripture. The last is often done by adding to the Bible, that group’s own created scripture of higher authority, usually given by mystical means to that group’s spiritual leader. They will also make every effort to convince you that salvation is only available through that group and its special plan for your step into eternity.

This tells you then, that in order to witness to someone in any of the cultic groups, it will be necessary for you to deify and glorify God, reveal mankind as lost to God through sin, demonstrate the validity of the Bible and point the way to the cross as the only way of salvation for mankind.

Simple! No, not at all. Well, if someone shows up that you know is head over heels into some cultic theology, and you know absolutely nothing about it and you don’t have time to run to a library, then you can always start from the above premise and you will never go wrong. Trust me, the newly arrived cult member will quickly set you straight on his/her doctrine in any of the above areas.

But, assuming you do have some time to prepare, I strongly suggest that you learn the simple basics that separate that specific group from orthodox Christianity. Then you are ready to proceed. Almost.

With an acknowledgment and thanks to JEWS FOR JESUS for an old tract I carried around until it was unreadable, here it is rewritten with some of my own pointers on witnessing that I consider vital to your success on being a really effective witness :

1. Be a Real Friend. There are a zillion spiritual scalp hunters out there who want to win a lost soul for Jesus, but are completely unaware of the person who is attached to that soul. Try to have an honest and well rounded relationship with your friend before you attempt to witness.

Pray about your own motives and make the association a real one. It is the intensive person to person witness through which most cultists are being won to Christ. It’s really true that what you are usually speaks louder than what you say.

Be ready to love that person just exactly as they are and where they are, even if they never leave that cult. I am convinced that the vast majority of these people are where they are because they really want to serve God with all their hearts. These people are not God’s enemies nor are they ours. They are victims of false teachers. The Scriptures say “For the leaders of this people cause them to err; and they that are led of them are destroyed.” (Isa. 9:16 )

2. Encourage Discussion on Life issues to get some insight on how your friend perceives and understand things. Listen to where his (her) heart really is. Get him to talk about the things which concern him and lead him into a discussion about what his group means to him. People are in cults for many different reasons.

In no way let him come to the understanding that you only care for him as long as you might convert him. Love that person right now!

3. In Some Way Give Your Own Testimony. A good place to begin is to tell specifically how God has answered prayer in your life. Avoid testimonies that talk about the peace and joy you have in the Lord.

Remember, those who follow Eastern religions and any number of the new cults will give just as fervent a testimony. Like the Mormons who use their burning in the bosom as a test of truth, each group has its own subjective method of instilling a counterfeit sense of security.

4. Answer all questions and objections from Scripture. But remember, you don’t have to answer every question when it’s asked. In fact, your friend will feel a whole lot more comfortable with you if you can’t. You can say, “I don’t know the answer to that, but I’ll find out”, or “Let me think about it a little more and I’ll give you an answer the next time I see you.” Then, find the answer, be sure you understand it and bring it back!

5. Get your friend to study the Bible with you. Don’t concentrate only on their theological problem areas. There is power in all the Scripture. A good beginning point is the first chapter of The Book Of John.

6. Offer to pray for your friend’s needs. While an apologetics kind of ministry is not always welcomed, few people will decline prayer and God seems to be particularly pleased to honor prayers as evidence of His love and concern in these cases.

7. Try to bring your friend into the communication sphere of other Christians who are former members of that cultic group. Such a meeting might be painful at first, but it does bring persons to the place where they can see that there really can be a God centered life after the cult.

8. Emphasize that Christ is the sin bearer for you and your friend alike. Remember that your friend has been programmed to think that he has to carry his own sin until it can be released only through his cult group leadership. It’s up to you to show him that is not true!

9. Ask for a decision. As a general rule, it’s not good to continually press for a decision, but you will prayerfully know when the timing is right in the matter.

10. Remember the areas that the cult cannot deal with and bring your friend to an understanding of these important matters; the power of the shed blood of Jesus, the Cross and the nature of salvation by grace. Be able to give a good, clear definition of the doctrine of the Trinity, an area of confusion with every cult.

11. Always pray before your visits. Going into this sphere of spiritual contact without the Holy Spirit is dangerous for both you and your friend. The Scriptures promise us the power of the Holy Spirit to guide and direct us at times such as this.

Realize that your friend is under spiritual bondage which can only be broken through intercessory prayer. It is vital that if you have a burden for this person that you be involved in persistent, aggressive prayer directed against the principalities of powers of darkness over him. Pray according to the Bible that the strongman be bound so that his captive can be set free. Pull down those strongholds and cast down vain imaginations and “every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God…” (2 Cor. 10:4-5)

Ask for the intervention of the Holy Spirit to draw this friend to the Cross of Jesus for salvation. Also, solicit the assistance of the prayer group at your church and/or among other believing friends and family.

This bondage can be broken through prayer in the name of Jesus. Many have been set free through the love, intercession and fellowship of committed friends and relatives.

12. If you need help, email usand we will be glad to help!

Find Ed Decker’s website HERE

Ed Decker, founder of Saints Alive, was a Mormon for 20 years of his adult life. He was a member of the Melchizedek priesthood, a Temple Mormon and active in many church positions. Through a crisis in his life, Ed met the real Jesus and his life was changed forever. An active author, speaker and evangelist, Ed has brought the light of Biblical truth to uncountable thousands of those lost in spiritual darkness. Today, the work of Saints Alive Ministries has expanded worldwide and includes ministry to other groups such as the Masonic Lodge.

Rick Perry involves himself with the NAR (New Apostolic Reformation), Romney is a Mormon*, and now Gingrich shows up at Rodney Howard Browne’s church. What a testament of apostasy in those seeking the highest office in our government.

Please Read:

 Newt Gingrich Visits the “Holy Ghost Bartender”

Today Newt Gingrich made an appearance at River Church in Tampa, Florida, pastored by Rodney Howard Browne. Slate’s Dave Weigel tweeted that in introducing Gingrich, Browne prayed that America “will not allow the killing of unborn babies, and the takeover of Islam” and “the Constitution that we have, and your word, and Jesus is the only way we can be delivered from this plight.”

Browne is no inconsequential—or uncontroversial—figure in the world of charismatic Christianity. He’s been described by Christianity Today as the “often flamboyant Pentecostal preacher.” He’s associated with the “holy laughter” manifestation of charismatic gifts, which the same CT piece characterized as “rang[ing] from uncontrollable laughter to the noises of animals.”

Full Story  HERE

*Mormonism

Mormons like to think they are mainstream Christians but this is not so. Christianity has to hold to primary essential doctrines such as the sole authority of the Bible, the Deity of Christ, Jesus died a substitutionary death for our sin and that He rose from the dead and that He is coming again. Salvation is grace through faith alone.

Mormonism contradicts all of the above when one closely studies what they believe. This makes Mormonism a cult.

 
 
posted by Ronald Harnage
 
DefCon has chronicled Ravi Zacharias’ downfall beginning with his first public compromise when he accepted an invitation to speak at the LDS temple in Salt Lake City but failed to make any distinction between the true Jesus Christ of the Bible and the demonically inspired false Christ of Mormonism. See Ravi Zacharias fails to preach the Gospel to the Mormons.We then examined his further compromi…se in Ravi’s Descent where he accepted the condition to not pray in Jesus’ name at the National Day of Prayer coordinated by NDP chairwoman Shirley Dobson, wife of James Dobson of Focus on the Family which recently promoted the cult of Mormonism. Beginning to see the big picture yet?Then we examined Ravi’s Crash and Burn as he not only accepted an invitation to speak at rank heretic Robert Schuller’s New Age ReThink conference, but that Ravi Zacharias also spoke favorably of Roman Catholic mystic Henri Nouwen, calling him “one of the greatest saints in recent memory.”

Now Slice of Laodicea and Apprising Ministries are reporting that not only will Ravi Zacharias not apologize or even back away from his endorsement of Henri Nouwen, but his ministry is defending his position. You can read the following letter from Ravi Zacharias Ministries in defense of Ravi’s endorsement of Nouwen by clicking here (PDF).

One of the most shocking parts of this letter written by Margaret Manning was her justification of Ravi’s compromise via the following statement:

“ . . . if it weren’t for the Catholic church you and I would not be here–nor would Christianity.”

Ravi Zacharias has become one of a long line of “public figure” Christians to compromise a little here and a little there until full blown apostasy is reached. What next Ravi, what next?

“Today I personally believe that while Jesus came to open the door to God’s house, all human beings can walk through that door, whether they know about Jesus or not. Today I see it as my call to help every person claim his or her own way to God.”

Roman Catholic mystic Henri Nouwen

Sabbatical Journey

Page 51, 1998 Hardcover Edition

There are three kinds of false prophets, I see in the Bible, three kinds, and this is a definitive statement that might help you in understanding it. Three kinds, number one, is a heretic, this is somebody who comes along and says, that’s not true, that’s a lie, I don’t believe the Bible and teaches heresy. Or even says I believe the Bible but teaches a heretical doctrine by twisting it, somebody whose doctrine is obviously, openly heretical.

Secondly is an apostate who denies the faith, who denies Christianity, who apostatizes, departs from it. The first two aren’t tough to spot, it’s easy to spot false doctrine, isn’t it? Just take your Bible and check it, it’s easy to spot apostasy because they’re denying it. And beloved may I hasten to add to you that both of these are dealt with in verse 6 of chapter 7, they are the hogs and the dogs. It says, “Don’t cast your pearls before swine or before dogs, giving that which is holy.” It’s easy to see the hogs and the dogs, they’re in the vomit and the mire. You see the first two kinds of prophets, false prophets the heretics and the apostates are made manifest. …………………….

It is the third kind of false prophet, I call the deceiver, that is the one Jesus is referring to here, this is the one you don’t see, this is the one who comes with the cloak of the shepherd. This is not the cultist, this is not the Mormon or the Jehovah’s Witness or, or somebody who belongs to Christian Science who, who openly and flagrantly teaches false doctrine, those are apostates or heretics. This is the one who talks about Jesus and he talks about the cross and he talks about God and he talks about the Bible and he talks about the church and the Holy Spirit and he hangs around with people that are true Christians and he mingles within the framework of evangelicalism, and he’s on the radio and he’s on television and he’s in the pulpit and he’s on the platform and he writes the books, and he always looks like a Christian. That’s the one Jesus refers to. Not heretics, heretics are obvious. Apostates are obvious too because they’ve denied the faith. But these are subtle. The Lord is not warning us against heretics, He’s not warning us against apostates, He’s warning us against people who sound like they teach the Gospel, who sound like Christians, who use the speech of the Bible, the speech of the Gospel, but it’s only a guise. They express orthodox terminology.

{Red Clover} from a facebook comment

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