Sunday, April 26, 2015

The litmus test of true spirituality

"Jesus and the Woman at the Well" - Tresures of the Bible, Jesus' Ministry
"Jesus and the Woman at the Well" - John 4:5-26
Illustration from Treasures of the Bible - Jesus' Ministry

TODAY'S SPECIAL: 1 John 4:1-21

TO CHEW ON: "Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world."

In our time when it's fashionable to be "spiritual," it's more important than ever to "test the spirits" as John here tells us to do. The writer of my Bible's study notes on this passage elaborates:

"Believers are not to be so gullible that they indiscriminately accept pronouncements of all prophets who claim to be of God… A spirit is indeed behind every prophet…" - Peter E. Prosser, study notes on 1 John, New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, p. 1787.

John names the two types of spirits. The prophetic spirit that speaks from the Spirit of God he calls the "spirit of truth" (1 John 4:6), while a false spirit he calls the "spirit of Antichrist" and the "spirit of error" (1 John 4:3,6).

How can we tell which is which? John here also gives us a simple test. He says that spiritual truth is all tied up in Jesus and our reaction to Him. The true spirit, whose message source is the Spirit of God "… confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh…" - 1 John 4:2.

This is more than mere mental assent to the fact that a person named Jesus of Nazareth once lived and was a remarkable person.  More from the study notes:

"The crux of a test is a spirit's acknowledgement or rejection of Jesus Christ as the incarnate Son of God. A confession of Jesus involves more than an admission of His identity (see Matthew 8:28,29; Mark 1:24; 3:11). It is a profession of faith in Him and submission to His sovereignty. … a confession proclaiming the truth that Jesus is the incarnate Christ is of God and testifies to both His full humanity as our Saviour-Redeemer and HIs full deity as Lord and Sovereign King - Ibid (emphasis added).

And so when missionaries come to our door, or when our friends talk to us of the usefulness of their spiritual practices, or we watch documentaries or read books on modern spirituality, we should be on the lookout for the answer to that test question: What do they say and believe about Jesus?

PRAYER: Dear God, thank You for this test of spirituality and whether or not particular belief systems and practices are from You. Please sharpen my discernment. Amen.

Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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