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.
I John 4:1-3
There seems to be a never-ending stream of talking heads these days. Everyone - from pastors to political analysts, parents to pop stars, and professors to peers - wants to tell us what to believe about God and to what extent that should impact our lives. But how do we know who to trust? How can we tell the ones who are just spinning propaganda apart from the ones who are teaching us the truth about God? I John has some help for us.
A major issue facing the church(es) this letter was written to was a group of false teachers who were opposing the truth about Jesus and trying to lead the church astray. So the Apostle John provides his readers with a number of litmus tests to help us accurately evaluate the trustworthiness of those desiring influence over us. Here is a brief list of questions to ask ourselves about these leaders.
- Do they walk in the light as God is in the light (i.e. practice righteousness) or do they walk in the darkness (i.e. continue in sin)? (I John 1:5-7, 2:29, 3:3-10, 5:18)
- Do they honestly and humbly acknowledge their sinfulness? (I John 1:8, 10)
- Do they keep God's commandments? (I John 2:3-6, 3:24, 5:2-3)
- Do they love other believers? (I John 2:9-11; 3:10, 13-15; 4:7-8, 11-12, 16, 20-21; 5:1)
- Do they avoid the love of the world or the things of the world, i.e. the desires of the flesh, desires of the eyes, and pride in material possessions? (I John 2:15-16)
- Do they have continued fellowship with the church? (I John 2:19)
- Do they acknowledge Jesus as the Messiah? (I John 2:22-23, 5:1)
- Do they give of their resources to meet the needs of other believers? (I John 3:17-18)
- Do they confess Jesus as the Son of God who came to earth as a real man? (I John 4:2-3, 15; 5:5)
- Do they speak from God or from the world? Do those who know God listen to them or does the world listen to them? (I John 4:5-6)
- Do they believe that we receive eternal life through Jesus? (I John 5:10-12)
Be careful who you listen to and who you allow to speak into your life. As the Apostle John reminds us, there are many false prophets out there in the world.
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