Thursday, September 28, 2006

How to Try the Spirits

(Extracts from an essay by A. W. Tozer)

There are large numbers of persons who have not left the true way but who want a rule by which they can test everything and by which they may prove the quality of Christian teaching and experience...Briefly stated the test is this:

How has it affected my attitude toward and my relation to God, Christ, the Holy Scriptures, self, other Christians, the world and sin.

By this sevenfold test we may prove everything religious and know beyond a doubt whether it is of God or not.

1. God
The health and balance of the universe require that God should be magnified in all things.

[...]The big test is, What has this done to my relationship to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ? If this new view of truth – this new encounter with spiritual things – has made me love God more, if it has magnified Him in my eyes, if it has purified my concept of His being and caused Him to appear more wonderful than before, then I may conclude that I have not wandered astray into the pleasant but dangerous and forbidden paths of error.

2. Jesus Christ

Whatever place present-day religion may give to Christ, God gives Him top place in earth and in heaven (verses cited: Acts 2:36, 4:12)

[...] He must stand at the center of all true doctrine, all acceptable practice, all genuine Christian experience. Anything that makes Him less than God has declared Him to be is delusion pure and simple and must be rejected, no matter how delightful or how satisfying it may for the time seem to be.

[...] If the new experience tends to make Christ indispensable, if it takes our interest off our feeling and places it in Christ, we are on the right track. Whatever makes Christ dear to us is pretty sure to be from God.

3. Holy Scriptures

Did this new experience, this new view of truth, spring out of the Word of God itself or was it the result of some stimulus that lay outside the Bible?

[...] Whatever is new or singular should also be viewed with a lot of caution until it can furnish scriptural proof of its validity.

[...] What does it do to my love for and appreciation of the Scriptures?

While true power lies not in the letter of the text but in the Spirit that inspired it, we should never underestimate the value of the letter.

[...] If the new doctrine, the influence of that new teacher, the new emotional experience fills my heart with an avid hunger to meditate in the Scriptures day and night, I have every reason to believe that God has spoken to my soul and that my experience is genuine..

4. Self Life

Before the Spirit of God can work creatively in our hearts He must condemn and slay the “flesh” within us; that is, He must have our full consent to displace our natural self with the Person of Christ.

[...] A good rule is this: If this experience has served to humble me and make me little and vile in my own eyes, it is of God; but if it has given me a feeling of self-satisfaction, it is false and should be dismissed as emanating from self or the devil. Nothing that comes from God will minister to my pride or self-congratulation.

5. Fellow Christians

Any religious experience that fails to deepen our love for our fellow Christians may safely be written off as spurious.

[...] we conclude that whatever tends to separate us in person or in heart from our fellow Christians is not of God, but is of the flesh or of the devil. And conversely, whatever causes us to love the children of God is likely to be of God. (John 13:35)

6. The World

(The definition of the world he refers to here is from 1 John 2:16,17)

This is the world by which we may test the spirits. It is the world of carnal enjoyments, of godless pleasures, of the pursuit of earthly riches and reputation and sinful happiness. It carries on without Christ, following the counsel of the ungodly and being animated by the prince of the power of the air....

Any real work of God in our heart will tend to unfit is for the world’s fellowship... It may be stated unequivocally that any spirit that permits compromise with the world is a false spirit. Any religious movement that imitates the world in any of its manifestations is false to the cross of Christ and on the side of the devil – and this regardless of how much purring its leaders may do about “accepting Christ” or “letting God run your business.”

7. Attitude toward sin

The operation of grace within the heart of a believing man will turn that heart away from sin and toward holiness.

[...] Anything that weakens his hatred of sin may be identified immediately as false to the Scriptures or to the Savior and to his own soul. Whatever makes holiness more attractive and sin more intolerable may be accepted as genuine.

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