Published on
November 24, 2023

1 John 4

“Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to determine if they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the World.”

Author Photo
Steve Wiggins
Author Photo
Steve Wiggins
Read Time
4 minutes
1 John 4
“Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to determine if they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the World. This is how you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit who confesses that Messiah Jesus has come in the flesh is from God.” 1 John 4:1-2 (HCSB)

A few years back, I worked for a church in Chicago. When the church renovated its offices, I often took the train downtown and worked from a coffee shop. At lunchtime, I would walk across the street to the Chicago Art Institute.

One of my favorite sections of the museum was the modern art exhibit. As a kid, I remember seeing some of those paintings in textbooks and wondering what kindergartener painted them! Abstract art can seem boring in books, but it can be quite compelling in person.

God’s Spirit, alive in a person, has an even more riveting effect! Reading the accounts of the apostles often seems black & white and clinical. One can feel detached from the page. But when you are confronted with an actual Spirit-filled believer, faith in the Messiah takes on a whole new dimension!    

Many profess to know the secrets of God. Many call themselves “experts and teachers,” even amassing large followings. They may be highly educated and have instant answers to criticism. Some of them become extremely wealthy from their “ministries.” Yet, none of that external evidence guarantees the person is speaking on behalf of God on any particular issue. This scenario was true even among the early Messianic (Christian) community, so John felt compelled to address it.

To not be led astray by false teaching, how can we test the spirits? First off, we should know the Bible. God would never contradict His Word, nor would His spokesmen. I teach the Bible linearly (chapter-by-chapter) instead of topically because I want people to understand the Bible as an entire narrative…how it all fits together. I personally seek to have a comprehensive knowledge of God’s Word so that when a person says, “I have heard from the Lord!” I respond, “Show me in the Bible where God would agree with you.” I never rely on a “gut feeling.”

There are many “spirits” or “suggestions” offering spiritual direction. Many of them cozy up nicely with a person’s belief in Jesus. The best counterfeits are those that look like the real thing. In the end, the source of all spiritual direction is either the Lord or Satan. How must we discern the truth amid such mixed messages? We cannot assume to know God’s unrevealed will for our lives unless we pursue His revealed will, the Bible.  

Think of it this way: A sign of sickness is a “Gut feeling.” Only the Bible brings true healing.

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