“Test the Spirits” 1 John 4:1-6

“Test the Spirits” 1 John 4:1-6


“Test the Spirits”

1 John 4:1-6

Pastor Ryan J. McKeen




Well, turn with me in your Bibles once again to the book of 1 John. Again, it is good to be back with you after some time away, and it’s good to be back in the book of 1 John. And last time we finished chapter 3, and so we are in chapter 4 this morning.

This morning, John will talk about discernment, that we need to test the spirits. And one of the classic stories of discernment that is often used is an old story that you probably have heard of, and that is the story of the Greeks besieging the city of Troy. And as they warred against the city of Troy, they did so for about 10 years, and they couldn’t penetrate the city. The city was built so well that they could not get in. So they devised a plan to give a gift to the city of Troy. And so they built a big wooden horse. It became known as the Trojan horse. And they gifted this horse and left it outside the city gates and they left with their navy. And the city could see that the ships were leaving and that they left this giant horse outside and presumably it was a gift. And that was just a nice thing.

So they went out to receive the gift and to bring it into the city. And there was one man in the city of Troy, one of their priests, who said, don’t do it. I don’t trust the Greeks even in their gifts.” Well, they didn’t listen to him, but they went out and they brought in the horse. Well, when evening came, they found out that the horse was certainly a gift, and it was filled with soldiers. And those soldiers came out, opened the city gates and let the Greek armies in, and they besieged the city of Troy and conquered it and slaughtered almost everybody within. You see, there was one man in Troy that truly had discernment and truly wanted to pause and wait a minute and think about this. This group has been fighting us for 10 years, and no matter how well-intentioned this might seem, it may not be what we think it is.

Well, the church has had many Trojan horses over the years, and as we’ve been We began this morning our study of church history. As we continue through that, we will see not everything that looks well-intentioned is so. And not everything that begins well-intentioned remains that way. That’s what John will be speaking to this morning, is that we need to use discernment. And as I’ve mentioned before, as we come through the book of John, we see the same themes over and over. John likes to cycle back around and around to the same truths and he explains them more fully and in a different way every time. And so as we hear familiar things, we need to pay attention to the new things that John brings to this teaching. And we’ll do that this morning.

So again, what we’ll hear this morning is not completely unfamiliar. It’ll sound a lot like the passages we’ve already covered in 1 John, but it will be a deeper and more enriched treatment of this topic. And really what he begins with is that there are many false prophets, many antichrists who have gone out into the world.

So I’m gonna read our passage once again this morning, verses one through six of 1 John chapter four. 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. You are from God, little children, and have overcome them, because greater is he who is in you than he who is in the world. They are from the world, therefore they speak as from the world, and the world hears them. We are from God. The one who knows God hears us. The one who is not from God does not hear us. From this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.

So again, this is a repeated theme for John. False teachers have gone out into the world. And the spirit of the Antichrist is coming and has already come. And he’s already in the world. And what John is commanding believers to do here is to practice discernment. Really, he’s warning that there’s false teachers out there, and then he’s saying, this is how you know what a false teacher is. This is how you know whether or not somebody is from God or from the world. The need for discernment is nothing new. The very beginning of the church, John’s writing to the first century church, within a hundred years of Jesus Christ being on earth himself. And even then, they needed discernment. But it’s not just the first century problem.

We need discernment today. The very end of this passage, John says, from this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error. That’s the aim of this passage, and that’s what we need today. That is discernment. Christians must be discerning. In Ephesians chapter four, the Apostle Paul says, excuse me, that we are no longer to be children tossed to and fro by waves and carried by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men and by craftiness and deceitful scheming. That’s Ephesians 4.14. We need to no longer be children in our faith. We need to be anchored. We need to not be tossed to and fro by trickery of men and deceitful scheming.

And in Thessalonians, 1 Thessalonians 5, Paul encourages the Thessalonians, verses 21 and 22, to examine all things, hold fast to that which is good and abstain from every form of evil. That’s discernment. examine all things. Discernment is a consistent theme for the people of God. This is not just a New Testament thing either. It wasn’t just in the church, the New Testament age, that they needed to start discerning. Discernment has always been key, essential for the people of God.

Go back to Deuteronomy. Deuteronomy 13, Moses preparing the people to go into the promised land without him. He would no longer be there for them. They trusted him, he’d taken them through the wilderness, he helped bring them out of Egypt, God worked mightily through him, so they knew he was legit. He is from God, we know that. But Moses isn’t gonna live forever. Moses won’t live forever. They’re gonna need prophets after him. They’re gonna need people to bring God’s word to them after him, and so Moses says, you’re not gonna be able to just trust while it’s Moses. So what do you do? How do you know if somebody is a true prophet?

Well, in Deuteronomy 13, verses one through three, he says this. If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder, he doesn’t say, if his name isn’t Moses, then don’t believe him. He gives them some criteria, some things to test them by, some things to use discernment with. He says, and the sign of the wonder comes true concerning which he spoke to you saying, let us walk after other gods whom you have not known and let us serve them. You shall not listen to the words of that prophet or dreamer of dreams. For Yahweh your God is testing you to find out if you love Yahweh your God with all your heart and with all your soul. There’s a criteria, they aren’t just to believe everything they hear just because he says he’s a prophet. It had to come true, and if he’s telling you to go after other gods, which is completely opposite of what Moses, God said through Moses to them, that’s obviously not true. He provides them criteria to use discernment with.

Also in Isaiah, the prophet Isaiah. really is rebuking the Israelites for not using discernment because they’re going to these spiritists and these mediums and these false prophets, really. And this is what he says to Israel in Isaiah 8, 19 through 20. Now, when they say to you, inquire of the mediums and the spiritists who whisper and mutter, should not a people inquire of their God? Should they inquire of the dead on behalf of the living? to the law and to the testimony. If they do not speak according to this word, it is because they have no don. Or if these spirits and mediums, if these false prophets or teachers, if they don’t speak according to, he says, the law and the testimony, or the word of God, then they’re a false teacher. Then they’re not true.

One of the functions of God’s Word is to measure what we hear, measure the teaching we hear from people. Israel was not doing that. Israel was believing things that were completely counter to what the law and the testimonies said. Isaiah says, you’re going to all these other people because you want to know what’s right and wrong. Should not a people go to their own God? If they do not speak according to this word, they have no dawn or they are not true. They are false prophets.

Jesus himself warned of the false prophets that would come, the false teachers. So this is not just an Old Testament thing. Jesus says in Matthew 24, four and five, Jesus answered and said to them, see to it that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, saying, I am the Christ, and will deceive many.” That’s verses 4 and 5, and down in 10 and 11, he says, and at that time, in the later times, many will fall away, and will betray one another, and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise, and will deceive many. He doesn’t say might. This will happen. There’s no doubt there. Jesus is telling us exactly how it will be. False prophets will arise and will deceive many.

We’ve already heard from the Apostle Paul speaking on discernment and in the book of Acts when Paul is leaving the Ephesian elders. He’s been with them for a long time, and now he’s moving on, and what he has to say to these elders he set up in the Ephesian church, in verses 29 to 31 of Acts 20, he says, I know that after my departure, savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. And from among your own selves, men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore, be watchful. Remembering that night and day for a period of three years, I did not cease to admonish each one with tears.” Paul’s speaking to the Ephesian elders. And we know from church history and from the book of Revelation that one of the churches that John ministered to was the Ephesian church.

In fact, John lived in Ephesus for a long time. So there’s a good chance that the people he’s writing to are the very people that Paul said they’re coming. These savage wolves are coming. These false teachers are coming. Keep watch over your doctrine. Be watchful, remembering night and day for a period of three years the things that Paul said. And now John, speaking to these same people, perhaps, is warning them and admonishing them. This is how you know who these false teachers are.

Paul again in Corinthians, Corinthians of all people, 2 Corinthians 11, 4, he admonishes them for their use of discernment. He’s saying, you’re doing this well. 2 Corinthians 11.4, he says, for if one comes and preaches another Jesus whom we did not preach, or you receive a different spirit which you did not receive, or a different gospel which you did not accept, you bear this beautifully. The Corinthians’ problem was not their doctrine. They were discerning. They knew right from wrong. It was their practice. Their head didn’t always connect with their heart and their actions.

And later in 2 Corinthians 11, Paul explains where these false teachers come from, the motivation behind these false teachers. 2 Corinthians 11, 13 through 15, he says, for such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostle of Christ. And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. Therefore, it’s not surprising if his ministers also disguise themselves as ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their deeds.” Paul says these false teachers, these false apostles, they’re ministers of Satan.

Well, that’s not very nice. He’s well-intentioned. He’s got a good heart. No. They’re ministers of Satan. If they’re teaching you another Jesus, if they’re teaching you another way of salvation, if they’re teaching you another gospel, they’re ministers of Satan. Satan uses them. Satan himself is a false teacher. No wonder his ministers are false prophets. Satan has been a deceiver since the beginning.

And his deception is not always blatant. It’s not always obvious. It was Charles Spurgeon who said, discernment is not simply knowing the difference between right and wrong, it’s knowing the difference between right and almost right. Right and wrong is usually easy. When something is blatantly wrong, though not always, usually we see that. And people aren’t deceived by that. That’s obvious, we know that. It’s when it’s almost right. When it’s pretty close to the truth. And we think, well, it’s close enough. It’s not that big of a deal. I mean, yeah, they’re off a little bit there, but the rest of it’s okay, so discernment is the difference between right and almost right. Obvious error is easy to spot, and this is how Satan works. He uses the subtleties, the little differences, the things that slowly, little by little, lead us astray.

This is Satan’s strategy from the beginning. He did this in the Garden of Eden. He had a three-fold attack on God in the Garden of Eden in Genesis chapter 3. First, he cast doubt into the minds of Eve and Adam. Indeed, has God said, you shall eat of the tree or you shall not eat of the tree? Did he really say that? And then Eve repeats what God says and adds a little more to it. Well, he said, don’t eat of it and don’t touch it. Well, he didn’t say that, but he’s casting doubt into her mind. Secondly, he blatantly denied. In verse four, he says, you will not surely die, even though that’s explicitly what God said. Don’t eat of the tree or you will surely die. Satan blatantly denies. No, you won’t surely die. And then in verse five, he distorts God’s word. He twists God’s word. Once you eat of the tree, you will be like God, knowing good and evil. Well, that’s true in a sense, because they didn’t know evil before. But it’s not true in the way that they were hoping. Satan takes the truth and twists it.

And Satan still uses the same tactics today. He casts doubt in our minds. He causes us to deny what God specifically said. And he even twists what God’s Word says. That’s why Paul told Timothy in 1 Timothy 4, verses 1 and 2, the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons. by the hypocrisy of liars who have been seared in their own conscience. Deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons. That’s what false teachers are. Any ideology or philosophy or opinion or even theological ideas or religion If they’re other than God’s truth, they fit right into Satan’s agenda. Because Satan’s schemes and Satan’s deceit are not always in what we categorize as our religion. It’s the little lies from the world that we believe. The little things that when we actually measure them by scripture, they fall short, but we are so bombarded by them. from the world that eventually we just start to go along with it. And if you ignore it or you excuse it long enough, all of a sudden your mind starts to just think that way and believe that it’s true. And before long, you have no tether to the truth because you’ve been walking the way of the world and believing every little thing or even some little things.

But that’s how Satan works. Little deceptions that lead farther and farther away from God. This is why it’s so crucial, so essential for believers to do as John says here, and know the spirit of truth from the spirit of error. In all things. Most importantly, in our understanding of who God is and our understanding of God’s word, in the things that, in our spiritual lives, but also in all things, we need to discern the truth. We need to know the spirit of truth from the spirit of error. We need to know the truth and guard the truth so that we can remain faithful ourselves, but then also so that we can share that truth. share it with others we meet, share it with the next generation.

And in our text this morning, that is exactly what John teaches us how to do. He teaches us how to be discerning. We’ll see first in verse one here the command to be discerning. But then as we get into verses two through six, we see guidelines of how to do this. how it is that we can be discerning.

Really, we see three guidelines for how we can spot a true teacher versus a false teacher. The one who has the spirit of truth will meet these three criteria. One, they will confess Jesus as Lord. Two, they will possess the spirit and eternal life. And three, they will profess the Word of God. They will confess Jesus as Lord, possess the Spirit and eternal life, and profess God’s Word.

At first we see, in verse 1, the command to be discerning, that we need to be discerning. Verse 1 says, beloved, John’s familiar way to address his readers. 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. If you remember from last time we were in 1 John, in chapter 3 verse 24, one of the evidences he gave for how you can know that you are a Christian is that you have the Spirit. In verse 24 of chapter 3, he says, the one who keeps his commandments abides in him and he in him. We know by this that he abides in us by the Spirit whom he gave us. We talked through that, the indwelling ministry of the Spirit. Having the Spirit is one of the ways we know if we have eternal life.

Now the very next verse, He’s saying, but don’t test or don’t believe every spirit. Test the spirits to see whether they are from God. Christians must be careful to closely examine what he calls the spirits here. Really, this is speaking to the spiritual messages or the spiritual teaching. We need to be careful to closely examine them. John says, do not believe every spirit.

And really the way this is worded, it could be said, stop believing every spirit. This is really a rebuke. There were those who were believing the wrong spirits. We saw that earlier. They went out from us because they were not of us. They believed the wrong spirits. They didn’t test the spirits. And here he says, you need to stop believing every spirit. They had the means to discern. They could do this. This wasn’t something that they were unable to do. That’s why he’s telling them to stop. Don’t do it. They have the word of truth, which he’s already explained, and they have the spirit of truth. But it takes our own effort to use those means. Just because we’re Christians doesn’t mean we are all automatically, we have autocorrect programmed into our minds and it just automatically, oh, I don’t believe that, I do believe that. We need to use the means God’s given us.

Unbelievers are spiritually darkened. So it’s not surprising that unbelievers are easily fooled. Believers, however, have the mind of Christ. We need to use our spiritually enlightened minds, and we need to test all things by the word of truth, the word that God has given us, in order to test all things.

So he says, don’t believe every spirit, but then he continues, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God. Now, some take this to refer to confronting demons or exorcisms or things like that, and that is not what this passage is talking about. This is talking about evaluation, evaluating what you see and hear. Don’t believe everything. Test them to see if they’re true, to see if they’re from God. Test the spirits to see if they originate from the Spirit of God. or the spirit of the world, the spirit of Antichrist.

And the only reliable way to do this, to test the spirits, is to measure them by God’s infallible written word. That’s why He gave us His word. 2 Timothy 3.16, our go-to passage for inerrancy and sufficiency, this is where you see it put into practice, All Scripture is God-breathed. It’s breathed out by God. It comes from Him. Every word is His Word. And it’s profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness. So that the man of God may be equipped or complete for every good work. We have the means. We have what we need to do this. The Word of God provides believers with our primary defense against false teaching and error. We need to be discerning.

2 Corinthians 10, Paul explains, verses 3 and 5, though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. The weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the tearing down of strongholds, as we tear down speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.” We don’t do this according to the flesh. You don’t figure out whether or not it’s a false teacher by your own intelligence. This is a spiritual battle. We use the word of God.

Therefore, you can’t measure a false teacher by saying, well, it makes sense to me. Well, that sounds pretty good. Oh, he’s very eloquent. The weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh. We don’t do this by our own knowledge and understanding and intellect. We use the Word of God. We measure it by the Word of God. And we do it humbly, willing to be corrected ourselves by the Word of God. This is an essential task for every believer. Because, as John says in verse one, many false prophets have gone out into the world.

In the first century, and they have their followers, there have been many, many, many more false prophets who cast doubt, who deny, who deceive, who twist Scripture. These are ministers of Satan. They’re already in the world. Be warned. That’s your warning. They’re already there. Here John is repeating what he said in chapter two, verse 18. Children, it is the last hour, and you heard that the Antichrist is coming. Even now many Antichrists have appeared, and from this we know that it is the last hour. We know that many have gone out. We know they’re out there. We know that many deceptive false teachers are already in the world. Now it’s up to us to not be naive, to use the means God has given us to be discerning.

Again, Jesus warned in the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 7, beware of false teachers who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorn bushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, and the bad tree bears bad fruit. It’s not their appearance. They appear to be sheep in sheep’s clothing. They look just like the next guy, maybe a little better. But inwardly, they are ravenous wolves, and you will know them by their fruit. This is a warning from Christ, and if we ignore his warning to be discerning, we do so at our own peril.

There are many voices trying to grab your attention. There are many preachers that want you to listen to them, especially with the internet. The internet is a wonderful, development and technology. We have access to more biblical teaching, more biblical books and good, sound, solid doctrine than ever before. You have more access to truth than any Christian in history. You also have more access to deception, more access to false teaching, more access to teaching that will send you to hell than anybody in history. We, as much as anybody, need to be discerning.

And that is the command here in verse one. Do not believe every spirit. Test the spirits. Be discerning. And now, as we get to verse two, we see these guidelines for how to be discerning. How do we do this? Okay, we get that we need to. How do we do this? He really gives three characteristics of true teachers, teachers who are from God, the Spirit of God, the Spirit of the truth. This is how you measure this teaching. Does it measure up to these standards?

Number one, the confession of Jesus as Lord, the possession of the Spirit in eternal life is number two, and number three, profession of the Word of God.

So number one, confessing Jesus as Lord. See that in verses two and three. 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. This first criteria, is theological or really Christological. What do you think of Christ? What do these teachers say about Christ?

In John’s scenario, in his setting, these churches, there was this false teaching going around called docetism. These docetics believed that Jesus didn’t really come in the flesh, that he only appeared to be flesh, that he only looked kind of like a man. just so that you would believe in him. But really, he was just a spirit. He was not really a man. And John says, every spirit that says that is not from God. If they get Jesus wrong, they’re not from God. This is why John began this letter with his own testimony. He had seen him, he had heard him, he had touched him. John himself was a trustworthy witness to Christ. And if anyone knew whether or not Christ truly came in the flesh, it was John. John was there.

And here John says that anyone who says otherwise is the antichrist. Jesus Christ came from God the Father. He was the living Word, as John 1 tells us, and He became flesh. He is one with the Father. He is God and He is man. He was revealed to humanity as the second person of the Trinity, the Son. He came in the flesh so that He will die in the flesh. A substitutionary death for those who would believe in Him. He took their sin upon Himself to take their punishment so that they wouldn’t have to. That’s the only way that He could redeem all who believe, was to truly become flesh so that He could truly die.

So if anyone is teaching you that Jesus did not come in the flesh. There is no salvation there. There’s no hope in that teaching. You have no answer for your sin. To be saved, you must believe that Jesus is God, that He is the second person of the Trinity, and that He became a man. He is not just some created being. He’s not even the greatest created being, as though that’s some sort of compliment. He is the creator. He is God. And he took on human flesh. But agreement with those true things is not what saves you. It’s not just intellectual agreement. It’s belief.

And Romans 10, 9 and 10 says that if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord. You need to confess him as Lord. You don’t need to make him Lord. He is Lord. You need to submit and confess that he is Lord. And you believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth he confesses and is saved. or spirit who says anything otherwise is wrong. They’re not from God. They’re from the deceiver. They’re there to deceive you. But the ones who understand Jesus Christ and preach Him and His work accurately, they prove that they possess the spirit of truth. They are from God.

So our first guideline there is that they confess Jesus. They confess that Jesus is Lord, that he came in the flesh, that he is the Christ.

And number two, they possess the spirit and eternal life. This is seen in verses four and five. John says, you are from God, little children, and you have overcome them because greater is he who is in you than he who is in the world. They are from the world, therefore they speak as from the world, and the world hears them. Greater is he that is in you. Who is the one that’s in you? What we just saw at the end of chapter three, it’s the Spirit. The Spirit of God dwells in you. And guess what? The Spirit of God is greater than Satan. You’ve already overcome them.

As Dr. John MacArthur has said, in the incarnation, God became a partaker of human nature. Through regeneration, on the other hand, human beings become partakers of the divine nature. The spirit dwells within us. We become part of God’s family. We partake of the divine life. Peter says it this way in 1 Peter 1, 23 through 25, he says, we have an incorruptible seed of eternal life within us now. That’s what happens when we become a Christian. And therefore, if that’s true of you, no satanic deception will ultimately take you out of God’s hand. That seed has been planted in you. The Spirit dwells in you. And not only that, Christians who have the Spirit love the truth.

That doesn’t mean we get everything right all the time. Good Christians disagree on a lot of theological issues. But especially the secondary doctrines. When it comes to the gospel, when it comes to who God is, when it comes to who Christ is, those essential things that make you a Christian, Christians have the mind of Christ.

You have the spirit. dwelling in you, enlightening you to the truth, they will not ultimately be fooled by false teachers, false teachers who diminish and devalue the work of Christ by teaching you any other way of salvation, whether it’s adding anything at all to faith. Well, yeah, you need to have faith, but you also need to be baptized in order to be saved, or you also need to do all these rites and rituals. continually to be saved. You need to go confess your sins to the priest to be saved. None of that is found in Scripture. Those are all deceptions to lead you away from the true saving gospel.

He says, they are from the world, in verse 5, therefore they speak as from the world and the world hears them. False teachers get a good reception with the world. They don’t say things that are controversial. They don’t say things that are going to ruffle too many feathers. Their church services are about your feelings. They want to make you feel good, and they want to make you Trust in them to come to them in order to solve your problems. They don’t point you to Christ. They don’t show you your sin. They don’t show you that Christ is the only answer for your sin. They say what the world likes to hear. And the world hears them.

Often ministries that are very big and very popular. There’s a reason. Because the unpopular things don’t get said. The things that make people leave your church don’t get said. The truth that divides doesn’t get said. They say what the world likes to hear. They are from the world, therefore they speak as from the world. John is very logical. The reason why they sound like the world? They’re from the world. Makes sense. And the world hears them. True believers, however, resist worldly ideas because they have overcome the world. They have overcome the world because greater is he that is in you.

Number two is they possess the spirit and eternal life. They are not of the world.

Characteristic of someone of the truth, of a true teacher, is number three, they profess the word of God. True believers and true teachers teach what aligns with God’s word. He says, we are from God. The one who knows God hears us. The one who is not from God does not hear us. From this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error. This is how we know The spirit of truth and the spirit of error. John says that he and other writers of Scripture are from God. That’s who he’s referring to there. We are from God, the apostles. Apostle means messenger, sent. We are from God and the one who believes us, our message, the gospel. The one who knows God hears us and the one who is not from God does not hear us. Jesus said, my sheep hear my voice and they follow me.

True Christians will listen and obey the Word of God because true teachers will teach the Word of God. We have no authority outside of the written Word of God. There is no teacher, no leader in the church who has any authority outside of what God’s Word says. No matter what any teacher or leader may tell you about themselves, No matter what experience they may have had, no matter what credentials they have, nothing outside of the authority of the Word of God.

This is what Peter believed. Peter was the leader of the apostles, the leader of the early church. And in 2 Peter chapter 1, Peter says, yeah, I was there on the mountain of transfiguration. I saw that. But in verse Peter 119, he says, and we have as more sure the prophetic word, to which you do well to pay attention as a lamp shining in a dark place until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your heart. Peter was there. He saw it with his own eyes. And he said, and even more than that, we have the word of God. Peter knew his experience meant nothing outside of the word of God. We have more sure, even more sure than what you see with your eyes and you touch with your hands. More sure than that is the word of God.

God’s word is the standard of truth. John 17, 17, Jesus says, your word is truth. How do we know truth from error? Your word is truth. Does it measure up to your word? John’s aim is that we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error. We need to know the difference. That’s what discernment is. We have the tools, we have the means to do this, but we need to do it. We need to put in the effort to use discernment. And the way we do that is to examine the spirits, teachers, to see if they confess Jesus as Lord, they possess the Spirit and eternal life, and if they profess the Word of God. Only if a teacher passes those tests is he a teacher from God. True believers are called to test the spirits, to see if it’s the spirit of truth or the spirit of error.

Only then can we contend for the faith, as Jude says. contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints. We need to guard the truth, but to do that we need to know the truth. We need to guard the truth for our own sake so that we can hold fast to right doctrine and we can discern right from wrong. But we need to guard the truth for others’ sake, for others who hear the truth from us, from the next generation. who learn the truth from us. Fighting for the truth is a battle, and it’s a battle that’s raging today. You don’t have to look very far to see people who have no idea what the truth is. We have the truth. We need to fight for the truth. We have the truth, we have the word, and we have the spirit. We need to use those to practice discernment.

If you do not know Christ, you have no access to these means to use discernment, and you need to know Him today. So don’t leave here today without talking to somebody here about how you can know for sure that Christ has paid for your sins and that you have salvation, that you can trust in Him as your Savior.

Let’s stand and close in a word of prayer this morning. Our Father, we thank you for the tools that you give us in your word, that we can test the things that we hear and the things that we see and measure them by your word, and that we can know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error. I pray that this would motivate us to be even more diligent in our discernment, that we would take nothing for granted, but that we would test all things, that we would examine all things To see whether or not they are of the truth or of the world. Pray that this word would have its effect in our hearts and that you would mold us more into the image of Christ. We pray all of these things in Christ’s name, amen.

Recent Sermons