************ Sermon on 1 John 4:2-6 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on March 8, 2020
1 John 4:1-6
1 John 4:2-6
"Test the Spirits (2)"
Lent # 1
In the history of the church, there are so many false teachings about Jesus. Let me list some of them:
-God did not become man. He only inhabited a man's body for a while and then went back to heaven.
-Jesus is not God. His miracles are by the power of the devil.
-Jesus is not God. He was created by God.
-Jesus only appeared to be man but He really wasn't man.
You know what John says about all of this? "Do not believe every spirit." That's what John also says to us as we observe lent and prepare for the Lord's Supper. We looked at this last time. You can't believe everything you hear or read or see. Even if someone says their teaching comes from God and is based upon the Bible, you cannot believe all teachers and preachers of religion. You cannot believe all who claim to speak the truth of God.
The last sentence of verse 6 sums it up for us. It tells us there are two voices in the world: the Spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood. The Spirit of truth is the Holy Spirit. The spirit of falsehood is Satan and his demons. Because God is truth and speaks truth and reveals truth, what comes from the Holy Spirit is truth. Because Satan is a liar and deceiver and the father of lies, what comes from Satan and his demons is nothing but a pack of lies. Here is a reminder that all spiritual teaching comes either from a divine source or a demonic source. It is crucial, it is critical, that we know the difference, that we discern the difference. "Test the spirits," says John, "because many false prophets have gone out into the world." We must test the spirits because God's truth is always under attack. Because Satan never lets up. Because he is relentless.
"Do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God." I'm afraid that lots of churches pay no attention to this warning because church history tells us it takes only one generation for any church to become apostate. Twenty years, maybe thirty, is all it takes for a true, thriving, solid church to turn to falsehood. Think of the churches of Asia Minor and Galatia. Think of the mainline churches in our country. Especially for the sake of our children and youth, especially for the sake of the next generation, we must test the spirits.
I The Test that Proves
A "Test the spirits." How do we do that? What do we look for? Here is the test:
(1 Jn 4:2) 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,John mentions every spirit that acknowledges. A literal translation of the Greek is "every spirit that says the same thing." That says the same thing as what? That says the same thing as the Word of God. That agrees with the Word of God. Continually. Not just occasionally.
How do we recognize the Spirit of God? Those with the Spirit of God continuously say the same thing about Jesus that the Bible says about Jesus. They say Jesus Christ has come in the flesh.
B "Jesus Christ has come in the flesh." There are so many parts to this confession. We need to break it down into its various components.
First, this speaks of His deity. "Jesus Christ has come." From where? Who sent Him? He has come from heaven. He has come from the Father. He has been sent by the Father. Meaning He is God. The one thing that all demonic powers and belief systems deny is that Jesus is God in human flesh. They know better. They know Jesus is divine. Demons recognize His deity (Lk 4:41). But they deny it. They deny the deity of Him who was born in Bethlehem and laid in a manger. They deny that Jesus is the eternal Son of God. They deny, to use the language of 1 John 1:1, that Jesus is the "Word of life" -- a title that expresses the very deity of Jesus. They not only deny the written Word of God, the Bible; they also deny the living Word of God, the One who was from the beginning. They deny Jesus was with God and was God (cf Jn 1:1). They deny He was with the Father (cf 1 Jn 1:2). They deny to have fellowship with the Son is to also have fellowship with the Father (cf 1 Jn 1:4). They deny He is fully and completely God. They deny He is Immanuel, God with us.
"Jesus Christ has come." This confession presupposes something. It presupposes the Trinity. You can't confess Jesus has come from God unless you also confess the doctrine of the Trinity. In fact, Jesus can't be God if there is no Trinity.
JWs or Mormons come to the door. Tell them the Spirit of truth teaches they are of Satan, the spirit of falsehood, because they deny Jesus is fully and completely God, because they deny the Trinity. Because they say Jesus is a created being and not eternal God. Spear them with their own lies.
C "Jesus Christ has come in the flesh." Second, this speaks of His humanity. The eternal Son of God took to Himself a truly human nature. He didn't just appear to be a man or pretend to be a man. He is man. Fully and completely man. Like us in every way -- except for sin.
"Jesus Christ has come in the flesh." There is an old, ancient heresy that says Christ came down, went in to some man, stayed there for a while, and then left. The Bible doesn't say Jesus has come into the flesh. It says He has come in the flesh. He didn't descend into an already existing man. He came into the womb of Mary. He was born.
Notice His name. It tells us why He has come in the flesh. He was given the name "Jesus." It means God saves. He had to come in the flesh in order to save. As John said back in chapter 2, "He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins" (1 Jn 2:2). He is the sacrifice that satisfies the righteous judgment of God. He is the fitting substitute to die for us. He is our Redeemer. He came to save us from our sins and from the power of the devil (1 Jn 3:9).
D "Jesus Christ has come in the flesh." Third, notice the title "Christ." It means anointed one. It means Messiah. It means King. He is Lord. We bow before Him. We serve Him. We live for Him. We belong to Him, body and soul, in life and in death. We make every thought captive to Him. This, of course, is something the devil will never do. Instead -- remember this from the temptations of Jesus -- he wants Jesus to bow before him.
E People today want to say all religions are the same, all religions are equal. Whether the faith is Jewish, Hindu, Muslim or Christian, they are all the same. Every path leads to God. Some even go so far as to say Allah and Buddha are just another name for God. But what does the Bible say? What does the Bible say? The Bible says if you don't confess Jesus Christ has come in the flesh, you are part of Satan and his lies. To say anything but this is not just wrong, it is against Jesus. It is antichrist. Antichrist is not just future, congregation. It is not just some future beast described in Revelation. Antichrist is now. It is anyone who refuses to acknowledge and confess what the Bible says about Jesus.
As we prepare for the Lord's Supper, as we observe Lent, the Spirit of God leads us to confess Jesus Christ has come in the flesh. Is this what you believe? Is this your confession? That He is fully God. That He has come as man to save you. That He is your Lord.
This, then, is the test that we learn from John: do they confess the full truth about Jesus?
II The Power that Enables
A "Test the spirits." What false prophets say and claim sounds so confusing. A lot of it sounds so biblical. How do we know we are on the right track? John's answer is that we have been given the power to discern between truth and falsehood. Listen to verse 4:
(1 Jn 4:4) You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.You are from God. The one in you is greater. Who or what is John talking about? He is talking about the Spirit. He is talking about being anointed by the Spirit. When you have the Spirit, you are from God because you have been born-again, you have been regenerated.
In the test that proves (our first point) we see God becoming a partaker of a truly human nature. In the power that enables (our second point) we see man becoming a partaker of the divine nature.
B What does any of this have to do with testing the spirits? We need to go back to the other times John has made a reference to the Spirit and the work of the Spirit.
(1 Jn 2:20) But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth.You have an anointing. You have the Spirit.
(1 Jn 2:27) As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit--just as it has taught you, remain in him.
Because of the Spirit you know the truth. Inside of you is a lie-detector. You don't fall for lies, you don't believe lies. The Lord lives in you so you know the truth and recognize the truth; which means you also recognize the lie. The Spirit in you is your security against false teachers and their lies and their heresies and their false teachings. The Holy Spirit in you is greater than the devil who lives in the world and protects you from his lies, deceit, and heresies.
The indwelling Spirit puts within you the mind of Christ. So you are devoted to the truth and understand the truth. This doesn't happen with the natural man and woman of the world. They don't understand the things of God. They can't understand the things of God. They things of God are foolishness to them. But you understand, dear people, you understand because you have the mind of Christ. Because you have the indwelling Spirit.
When something false is said about Jesus, you know it is not right. You may not be able to say exactly what is wrong, but you know it is wrong, it is off, that it comes from the spirit of falsehood.
"The one in you is greater than the one who is in the world." This is your protection against the lying spirits and false prophets.
III The Listening that Follows
A We've looked at the test that proves and the power that enables. We come to our last point, the listening that follows. What a difference between true and false prophets. What does John say about false prophets?
(1 Jn 4:5) They are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them.
The false prophets, what is their source? They "speak from the viewpoint of the world." They say what is popular, what is trendy, what is politically correct, what makes people feel good. But their theology has its source in demons. Their religion has its source in demons. They ideas are from the world. And the world, don't forget, is under the control of the evil one. They speak the lie and not the truth.
The false prophets are highly popular. People listen to their lies instead of the truth. They fill stadium after stadium, megachurch after megachurch. They have a large TV audience.
You know, this describes most of the world. Most of the world is under false teaching: Hindu, Muslim, Roman Catholicism, feel good religion, the prosperity gospel, and so on. "Whoever is not from God does not listen to us." They can't listen and they won't listen. Because they don't know the truth or love the truth.
B By way of contrast to these false teachers is what John says about himself and every other true prophet: "We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us." The source is God, not the world.
Those who know God listen to the truth. The truth about Jesus who has come in the flesh. The truth about Jesus that we find in John's letter and gospel. The truth about Jesus that we find in the Bible. We love this truth. We want to hear it again and again. We can't ever get enough of it. We love to hear the story of Jesus and His love.
(1 Jn 4:1-2) Dear friends, 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. (2) 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.This is what we need to keep in mind in this season of Lent, as we prepare for the Lord's Supper. Is this what you believe by the power of the Spirit within you?
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