Knowing the Spirit of God

Knowing the Spirit of God

Life & Light Community Church

Message from 7/30/2022

Life & Light Community Church began in the early months of 2020. What began as an opportunity for me, my wife and step-kids to continue to worship together, has now evolved into a ministry that has expanded to include close friends, family, and those who are simply hungry for the word of God. You can find us on Facebook, so please, feel free to reach out and join us.

“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because 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, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world.”

                                                                                    1 John 4:1–3 (NASB95)

I cannot think of any Christ follower who has ever been able to say they were fully satisfied with their faith. There always seems to be something missing. The most common thing I hear Christ followers saying they wish they could do better or knew more about was hearing God speak to them. There always seems to be this lingering question or feeling of doubt. How can I know for sure it is God speaking and not the enemy trying to trick me? How can I be sure this is God’s will and not my own agenda? There is only one way and John tells us how we can do that in today’s passage.

This letter was written by John the apostle when he was much older and at the Church of Ephesus. There was much happening in and around the church including the existence of the Temple of Diane, false teachers and prophets attempting to infiltrate the church and knowing, living, and understanding true Christian faith. Knowing the Spirit of God is the only way any Christ follower will ever be able to know and identify those false spirits sent from the spirit of antichrist, and to know beyond a shadow of doubt, they are hearing the voice of God as He speaks to them.    

John encourages the church at Ephesus to know the Spirit of God, for by Knowing the Spirit of God, they are able to test the spirits, for only those spirits who confess Jesus has come in the flesh are from God – the rest come from the spirit of antichrist.

As Christ followers, we are to know the Spirit of God, for by Knowing the Spirit of God, the Christ follower is able to discern those spirits and false prophets who come from the spirit of antichrist – a spirit already in the world filled with lies and deception.

In this message we seek to answer the question, “Why is Knowing the Spirit of God important to the Christ follower?

Knowing the Spirit of God allows the Christ follower to understand which spirits come from God and which are spirits sent from the spirit of antichrist.

1). Knowing the Spirit of God allows the Christ follower to understand which spirits confess Jesus has come in the flesh.

Test the spirits to see if they have been sent by God!

John unlocks the key to Knowing the Spirit of God with a single simple statement, “Do not believe every spirit but test the spirits…” Why should Christ followers test the spirits? To see if they are from God! Where else might a spirit come from, if not from God? Once again, John tells us in no uncertain terms, false prophets. And, according to John, there are many of them now in the world.

John calls them prophets because, technically, a prophet is the mouthpiece of some spirit. And as we know all too well, among prophets, or any other group for that matter, there will always be frauds. We must understand that as John is writing this letter, the house churches of his day were scattered throughout the city. Our modern understanding of the church gathered together in one spot skews our understanding of the early church and how they functioned and gathered. In addition, there were no formal creeds to help guide in doctrinal issues and few copies of the Scriptures were available, unlike today. Therefore, oral communication was essential for the early church.

The early church relied on messengers from their leaders to relay information quickly and accurately so other communities would have the same information and were taught the same this information in the same way. The issue that has arisen for the church at Ephesus is the arrival of teachers or prophets claiming authority that is not theirs to claim. Unfortunately, with many of the churches being young and not yet fully established in faith, they fell prey to these false teachers and prophets. We find Paul addressing much of this same thing in his letters to the churches he started and played a leading role.

Thus, early Christians must be ready to address these false teachers and prophets. But how can young Christian’s fight against these false teachers and prophets? John makes the point that the Spirit of God will equip the Christ follower to identify the Spirit of God in others. These Christians, young and old, were to objectively weigh the words of the prophets with what they have already been taught. They are to spend time in prayer, seeking the wisdom and discernment of God, to help identify those spirits that come from God, from those that come from the spirit of antichrist. This is the only time the Greek word for “test” or “testing” appears in John’s writing, so we must take note that this is a serious issue that must be addressed and is important enough that John spends time teaching on the subject.

As Christ followers today, we too have our share of false teachers or prophets in the modern church. Most of us have at the very least, heard about the prosperity teachings of modern pastors, but what about those who preach only that God is love, while neglecting the other attributes of God such as holiness? What about those who claim to be Christ followers who claim that Jesus is not the only way to heaven? This goes against the very words of Christ and yet they claim to follow Him. What about those who preach and teach that Jesus was only a great teacher and example for us to follow? The list goes on and on and I could name dozens of others, but I think the point is well taken. We face the same issue in the modern church.

We must learn to identify and know the Spirit of God, or the enemy will eat us and spit us out. Remember he has been called craftier than any other creature God created. He knows the Scriptures and has the profound ability to twist them just enough to cause you to doubt. Once doubt creeps in, it takes very little to spread throughout your entire faith system and cause erosion and decay. We become confused and uncertain which voice we should be listening for and then the questioning begins anew and the process of causing doubt starts over, a successful attack by the enemy to twist, confuse, and eventually, destroy your faith.

Questions for discussion/reflection:

How does your understanding of the modern-day church skew your thoughts on the early church and how they faced issues we face today?

What potentially false teaching are you struggling with today? If none, how are you combatting false teaching?

How did you come to know the Spirit of God? If you do not, what steps do you need to take to know Him beyond doubt?

Knowing the Spirit of God allows the Christ follower to understand which spirits come from God and which are spirits sent from the spirit of antichrist.    

2). Knowing the Spirit of God allows the Christ follower to understand the spirit that comes from the many false prophets now in the world.

This is the spirit of antichrist – filled with lies and deception.

What, exactly, as Christ followers are we to try and understand about the spirits that come to us or against us? We need to understand what they say about Jesus Christ. How do they view Jesus? Is He the Son of God come in the flesh or just another great teacher? Remember we said earlier that a prophet is the mouthpiece for some spirit, so what the prophet or teacher has to say about Jesus is the first clue to where the spirit is coming from and how to understand them. If they are unable to say the Jesus came in the flesh, then this is a spirit coming from the spirit of antichrist. Now, perhaps they will not say these exact words but something within the same vein. Perhaps something like Jesus is fully deity, or Jesus was a great prophet. What a prophet or a teacher has to say about Jesus will make them a true prophet or teacher, or a false prophet or teacher.

The key is to remember the Spirit of God will always glorify Christ Jesus. The true Spirit of God will always confess that Jesus came in the flesh, fully man and fully God. There are many in the pulpits and pews today who try to say that Jesus was EITHER fully man OR fully God, but He could not be both. What a person has to say about Jesus reveals much about the spirit behind the person. The Spirit of God can only confess the truth, therefore, anyone who confesses to be of God must be able to confess the same truth. In this case, that Jesus did come in the flesh, fully man and fully God. A spirit sent from God will confess Jesus as the Savior. The true spirits sent from God will confess Jesus as Messiah. The true spirit sent from God will confess Jesus as the Son of God. Anything less means the spirit has been sent from the spirit of antichrist.

Behind his words, John is really encouraging three things about our faith. First, that Jesus of Nazareth is indeed the Word of God. This is the first point John makes in his gospel account, taking measure to make certain all who would read his gospel account would understand beyond the shadow of doubt, that Jesus was the Word of God. Second, that Jesus was and is fully divine as well as fully human. Again, in reading through the gospel account of Jesus one cannot come away from this reading without being forced to make a decision about Jesus. John writes so that all may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God and make certain to show the full humanity of Jesus as well. Finally, Jesus is the only source for eternal life, and He alone reveals the Father to us as the only source to remove our sin.

Questions for discussion/reflection:

Are you struggling with false teachings that seek to draw you away from Jesus? If not, how are you combating these false teachings.

Are you learning to distinguish between the spirit sent from God and those who come from the spirit of antichrist? If not, what steps do you need to take to learn the difference?

Where are you struggling with your faith today?

Knowing the Spirit of God allows the Christ follower to understand which spirits come from God and which are spirits sent from the spirit of antichrist.    

John was at the church in Ephesus during his old age, likely right before he went to the island of Patmos, where he wrote the Revelation of Jesus Christ. Many Christ followers today are aware that the letter begins with a view of the Risen and Glorified Christ and then contains letters to seven churches in Asia Minor. The church at Ephesus is included in those letters. Can you imagine how John must have felt as he heard Jesus begin to address this church? You can find this letter in Revelation 2:1-7. Jesus commends the church for its deeds, toil, and perseverance. Jesus commends the church because they cannot tolerate evil men and they tested those who called themselves apostles but were not. This church persevered for the name of Jesus.

It is clear that this church continued to struggle with false teachers, false prophets and false doctrine because Jesus warns them to remember from where they have fallen and to “do the deeds they did at first.” In so doing, this church will be granted the right to eat from the tree of life in the Paradise of God. This church obviously took the message of John to heart and tested the spirits, the teachers, and the prophets in which they came into contact. This is a message Christ followers must take to heart as well. We would do well to remember the deeds we did when we first came to Christ and worked to show His mercy, grace, and love to others. We would do well to call out those who come at us with false doctrine that has been perverted or twisted by false teaching.

While it is true that we should love all people, we do not need to tolerate evil or evil people. We must draw our proverbially line in the sand make a stand against evil. The first place to start is by refuting those who claim Jesus was just a man, a great teacher, or a great prophet. Jesus came to the earth He created in the human form, in the flesh. He lived all things human while fully divine, fully God. Without this truth, without Jesus being the Son of Man and standing before God as the perfect representative of human being, without Jesus being the Son of God and fully representing and revealing the Father here on earth – our faith is useless. Today is the day to draw your line in the sand. Stand firm in your belief that Jesus is the Son of Man, the Son of God – fully human and fully God. He is the only way to the Father and eternal life, for He is the only One who has defeated sin, death and the grave.

We do all things for the glory of God through Christ our Lord,

Amen and amen.

Next Week: John 5:33-47

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