Peninsula Community Church
July 15, 2012
Displaying the Life of Christ – Don’t Believe Everything You Hear
In the passage before us today John instructs the passionate follower of Christ to examine and test the attitudes and the messengers presenting the Gospel. Let’s read together:
1 John 4:1-6 –Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already. Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. They are from the world; therefore they speak from the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error.
John’s call to the passionate follower of Christ here is to test the spirits, the attitude and the message, to see if what is being spoken is from God and whether or not the message is founded in truth or falsehood.
One of the key words used in this text is the word confess. It is legal term which means to bear witness of something or someone. It also means to come into alignment with. Our confession of the gospel is in essence our testimony. A testimony is a presentation of evidence whose purpose is to help a jury decide the truth of a claim. For those giving testimony there is an assumption and presumption that the testimony presented is both factual and truthful. The job of the lawyers is to provide appropriate questions that will test the validity of the truth that is being spoken. As passionate followers of Christ we are called to examine the testimonies and confession of those to determine the validity of their faith and their message. With that understanding in mind let me make a couple of observations about this passage.
The first observation is that it is possible to come from the place of one of two extremes in testing what is true or false.
The first of these extremes is that anything goes. The key words here are gullibility and naivety. Rather than test the truths that are being propagated, we would rather accept them solely on the basis of the presenter rather than on the factualness of their claims. The fact is we have become a gullible society in that most decisions are made not on intellectual prowess but rather on emotional intuition. We are in another political season. Over the next few months we will hear a number of messages on the local, state and federal level of candidates about their “truth.” Our goal is to not accept what is said at face value but to be educated voters who find the truth for themselves. Politicians and pastors can say many things but just because they say it does not make it true. Read the word and study it for yourself so that you can know the truth.
In preparing for this message I came across an article entitled “How Gullible Are We? ” The article talks about a freshman at Eagle Rock Junior High in Idaho who won first prize at the Greater Idaho Falls Science Fair. He was attempting to show how conditioned we have become to the alarmists practicing junk science and spreading fear of everything in our environment. In his project, he urged people to sign a petition demanding strict control or total elimination of the chemical “dihydrogen monoxide.” And he had plenty of good reasons to do so, since it can: cause excessive sweating and vomiting; it is a major component in acid rain; accidental inhalation can kill you; it contributes to erosion; it decreases effectiveness of automobile brakes; and it has been found in tumors of terminal cancer patients. He asked 150 people if they supported a ban of the chemical. One hundred forty-three said yes, six were undecided, and only one knew that the chemical was……Water! The title of his prize winning project was, “How Gullible Are We?”
Someone has said that as strange as it may seem, the danger today is greater for the fervent Christian who is on a journey to find truth. The seeker after God’s best things is eager to hear anyone who offers a way by which he can obtain them. He longs for some new experience, some elevated view of truth, some operation of the Spirit that will raise him above the dead level of religious mediocrity he sees all around him, and for this reason he is ready to give a sympathetic ear to the new and the wonderful in religion, particularly if it is presented by someone with an attractive personality and a reputation for superior godliness. But just because it is the latest religious fad does not make it true.
The second of these extremes is that we judge and criticize everything. I can testify to this as upon graduation from Bible school I found myself to be particularly judgmental of every preacher on the radio or TV. Instead of listening with an ear to receive from the message being presented I would wait for that one nugget to criticize or judge. You see this was not some local pastor on the AM radio; I am talking about men of God like Chuck Swindoll, Charles Stanley or Jerry Farwell. The fact is my judgment would often be a small word or the inflection of the voice or some other minor issue that I could use to discredit the entire ministry of the individual I was listening to. I reached the point where I could not sit under anyone’s ministry without being critical or extremely negative in my view of their presentation. But I had to repent and change because I was becoming miserable. In fact the change came as I began to listen to some of my own tapes and I realized how imperfect my own style and presentation was.
The second observation is that this text does not point out the antichrist as much as it focuses on knowing the truth of the Gospel. You see we can be so captured with finding the false that we miss the truth. God will reveal his truth to us if we search for it. God’s intent is that we learn and know the truth because it is only the truth that will set us free and restore us to right relationship with Him.
The third observation is found in this passage that there are two keys to discerning the whether or not what is being spoken is truth and if the person is receiving it. The first is key is to test what people say against what they do and how they live. We must fight hypocrisy. You see we need more than mere words to express the truth of the Gospel. We need action that is aligned with what we confess, so that our confession is acceptable.
Too often when we look at this subject we often look at the message carrier but the second test focuses on whether or not people will allow sincere and truthful words into their hearts. We must be teachable. Too often we concentrate on what is spoken rather than on the teachability of the person. You see we must always be in the position of learning the lessons that God desires to teach us.
The fourth and final observation is that the true test of the indwelling Spirit is realized in the fact that the Spirit causes us to love which is knowledge of others and the Spirit causes us to believe which is knowledge of God.
When the Spirit of God is in us He gives us the power to love the unlovable. He gives us the ability to interact with those we never thought possible. But the Spirit also initiates the power to believe and understand God and all that He is doing. Therefore the genuineness of our love and the genuineness of our belief about Christ are the evidence of God’s work in our lives.