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. 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, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world. I John 4:1-3
People have a lot of words for Christians today, not all of them complimentary. When I hear various messages coming from the pulpit and over the internet, a word that comes to mind is “confused.” Many believe we’re in the “End Times,” and that certainly appears to be a possibility. Of course, everyone is entitled to their opinion. But if you profess to be a follower of Jesus Christ, you’d better be ready to back up that opinion with some Scripture – in context, please.
People claiming to be experts state their positions with such authority it’s easy to believe they know what they’re talking about. But truth isn’t a tone of voice.
Others make their declarations as though God Himself were talking through them; they begin with, “Thus says the Lord …” and continue with a first-person prediction of what God is going to do in the coming days. For all I can tell, the speaker is utterly convinced that what (s)he is saying is a direct message from God.
But should we be convinced?
Fellow Blogger Bruce Cooper recently posted an important reminder of the importance of “testing the spirits,” as the apostle John admonished in his letter to the churches.
As Bruce explains, the test consists of simply asking this question:
“‘ Will you confess that Jesus the Christ has come in the flesh and is from God?’
And given a choice, if the spirit is not representing God, the spirit will not confess this reality. There will be silence or some form of non-acknowledgement.”
When I first heard of this “test,” I wasn’t sure how to use it, but I had an opportunity to do so years ago during my songwriting phase, as I was about to leave on an extended trip.
First on the itinerary was the wedding of a friend, where I was to sing an original song I had written for the bride and groom. I was staying with friends and some of their family members, whom I didn’t know. Next, I was to fly to Nashville to spend about a week pitching my songs to people in the music business, singing at a “songwriters’ night” in a bar (!), and touching base with some relatives.
The night before I was to leave, I was almost asleep when a voice in my head said very clearly,
Suddenly my plans seemed to turn to chaos, as I wondered what sort of calamity awaited me if I ignored it and went anyway. – Car accident? Plane crash? or …!?
But remembering this test, I whispered into the darkness, “Will you confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh and is from God?”
Part of me wondered if the response would be, Yes, of course. Then what?! How would I know the voice wasn’t my imagination?
As it turned out, the question was moot. My imagination didn’t kick in, and the response was dead silence.
I smiled and thought, Ha! I thought not and went to sleep.
I could see the Lord working in every step of that trip. At the first stop I had an extended “God conversation” with my friends and their relatives who were hosting me. I found my “second wind” after the long drive and launched into telling stories of what the Lord had been doing, while my friends, who had amused smiles on their faces, chimed in occasionally, and their relatives nodded and smiled. When the relatives left the room, my friends burst out laughing and hugged me. I learned that my assumptions about the family had been incorrect. The relatives weren’t saved, and in my ignorance, I had witnessed to them in a way my friends never could have done. The “witnessees” had been too polite to interrupt me and tell me we weren’t on the same page.
The wedding next day was a blessing to be a part of, and the song was well received. (The bride and groom had refused to hear it ahead of time. They trusted me and wanted to be surprised.)
When the wedding festivities were over and I was on my way to Nashville, I sensed the Lord’s presence in conversations (and prayers) with fellow passengers on the plane, and later my taxi driver and the people I met in the music industry. I even got to witness through one of my songs to the people in a bar. I don’t know everything the Lord was doing, but I had the distinct feeling I was scattering seeds.
Maybe the voice in my head telling me not to go was coming from my imagination, but if not – if it was a messenger of the enemy – I could see many things he might have been trying to prevent from happening. If I had believed those words, I would have either missed a great trip or spent the whole time in fear, instead of experiencing the thrill of resting in Jesus and being carried along according to His plan.
Prayer: Father, You know this world is full of lies and liars, and the best intentioned of Your children need guidance. Thank You so much for inspiring John to write a way to test the spirits that would serve believers down through the centuries. Help us to avail ourselves of Your truth and avoid deadly assumptions, in Jesus’ name. Amen.