1 John 4:1-6 Biblical Discernment

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Biblical Discernment and Spiritual Warfare

1 John 4:1–6 ESV
1 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. 2 By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 3 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. 4 Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. 5 They are from the world; therefore they speak from the world, and the world listens to them. 6 We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error.
1 John 4:1–4 NIV
1 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. 2 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, 3 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. 4 You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.
1 John
In the Bible we find teaching about spiritual warfare, and biblical discernment. However as we peruse the bookshelves of Christian book stores over the last 100 years it appears as if many more books have been written about “spiritual warfare” than there has been written concerning discernment. By spiritual warfare books I mean the type that grasps at every mention of the spiritual realm in the Bible and then adds to what the bible says, misinterpreting verses about the armor of God and resisting the devil.
Biblical discernment is a much less visited topic. However spiritual warfare and discernment are inseparable.
I have used the term spiritual warfare many times, but I have begun to see that a better term for what we call “warfare” is spiritual steadfastness.
Standing fast is what we are called to do in Ephesians when Paul addresses this topic. We do not rush out to attack or defend, as Christ has already defeated death. Therefore we are called to stand IN HIM as we await His return. And through the Spirit of God we have been given everything necessary for life and godliness.
2 Peter 1:3 LEB
3 because his divine power has bestowed on us all things that are necessary for life and godliness, through the knowledge of the one who called us by his own glory and excellence of character,
1 Corinthians 12:8 LEB
8 For to one is given a word of wisdom through the Spirit, and to another a word of knowledge by the same Spirit,
1 Corinthians 12:8–10 LEB
8 For to one is given a word of wisdom through the Spirit, and to another a word of knowledge by the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10 to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing of spirits, to another kinds of tongues, to another interpretation of tongues.
1 cor 12:
Who and what is John talking about?
Who and what is John talking about?
Remember that the church he was writing to, his dear children, were being influenced and trained by the Gnostics.
These were some of the “many false prophets gone out into the world.”
And we can imply from what John is teaching here that the main emphasis of what these men were teaching was that A. Jesus did not come in the flesh and B. That he was not Lord.
In the very first verse of our text, John instructs them. “Beloved, do not believe every spirit.”
Imagine him like a Father kneeling down and telling his children, “Remember children, just because the man has candy, that does not mean you should get in his van!”
This issue of following false teaching has been chronic for the church throughout it’s entire life.
Evidently, the church John was writing to was believing as doctrine anything that anyone said as long as they claimed to be inspired by God.
Paul had also warned the church of these false teachers.
There are two parallel passages to where we are in
1 Timothy 4:1–4 ESV
1 Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, 2 through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared, 3 who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. 4 For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving,
It is possible for one to depart from the faith by embracing the teaching of demons being spoken through the mouths of people.
This is true spiritual warfare.
There are people in this world right now who are teaching things that are demonic, and Christians are believing them.
A current example of this is the “self-help” and prosperity gospel trends. These are often interwoven, the ideas of fixing ourselves, by ourselves, for ourselves, and for ultimate material gain, these ideas are inherently unbiblical and demonic.
Why are they demonic?
We think of demonic oftentimes in a horror movie setting with black magic and human sacrifice. Don’t be confused, humans by the wickedness of their own hearts have been darkened to the point of sacrificing to demons.
The demonic activity that is most present however is in the realm of thought. What we believe about God. For we act based on our belief.
Satan is interested in any doctrine that would take our eyes off of God and get in the way of our relationship to Him.
Satan doesn’t need you sacrificing humans on top of a pyramid in order for you to lose your soul.
He just needs you take your eyes off Christ and deny His Lordship.
Why is the Lordship of Christ so important?
James 2:19 NIV
19 You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.
Is Christ Lord?
Talk about Jehovah’s witnesses coming to the door.
The other parallel passage for us is
2 Timothy 4:1–4 NLT
1 I solemnly urge you in the presence of God and Christ Jesus, who will someday judge the living and the dead when he comes to set up his Kingdom: 2 Preach the word of God. Be prepared, whether the time is favorable or not. Patiently correct, rebuke, and encourage your people with good teaching. 3 For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to sound and wholesome teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear. 4 They will reject the truth and chase after myths.
I'm looking for someone who lines up with and affirms my lifestyle. In this age of media on the internet, there is someone out there teaching anything and everything. Whatever you want to hear, whatever you want affirmed, it’s out there.
There is a very practical side and a very deep spiritual warfare side. What Satan wants is not ultimately to get us to not eat the fruit, but to get in the middle of the relationship.
The fruit that Eve plucked from the Tree of the knowledge of good and evil inevitably tasted sweet.
After all, God made it.
The question is not about the eating of the fruit it's about "Who is God?" Either I'm seeking him and what he wants or what I want.
Matthew 16 LEB
1 And when the Pharisees and Sadducees came to test him, they asked him to show them a sign from heaven. 2 So he answered and said to them, “When evening comes you say, ‘It will be fair weather because the sky is red,’ 3 and early in the morning, ‘Today it will be stormy weather, because the sky is red and darkening.’ You know how to evaluate correctly the appearance of the sky, but you are not able to evaluate the signs of the times. 4 An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, and a sign will not be given to it except the sign of Jonah!” And he left them and went away. 5 And when the disciples arrived at the other side, they had forgotten to take bread. 6 And Jesus said to them, “Watch out for and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees!” 7 So they were discussing this among themselves, saying, “It is because we did not take bread.” 8 But knowing this, Jesus said, “Why are you discussing among yourselves that you did not take bread, you of little faith? 9 Do you not yet understand or do you not remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many baskets you took up? 10 Or the seven loaves for the four thousand and how many baskets you took up? 11 How do you not understand that I did not speak to you about bread? But beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees!” 12 Then they understood that he did not say to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees. 13 Now when Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he began asking his disciples, saying, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14 And they said, Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 And Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God!” 17 And Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. 18 And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overpower it! 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you release on earth will be released in heaven.” 20 Then he commanded the disciples that they should tell no one that he was the Christ. 21 From that time on Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised on the third day. 22 And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, God forbid, Lord! This will never happen to you!” 23 But he turned around and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a cause for stumbling to me, because you are not intent on the things of God, but the things of people!” 24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone wants to come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life on account of me will find it. 26 For what will a person be benefited if he gains the whole world but forfeits his life? Or what will a person give in exchange for his life? 27 For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of his Father with his angels, and at that time he will reward each one according to what he has done. 28 Truly I say to you, that there are some of those standing here who will never experience death until they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”
Matthew 16:13–23 NLT
13 When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14 “Well,” they replied, “some say John the Baptist, some say Elijah, and others say Jeremiah or one of the other prophets.” 15 Then he asked them, “But who do you say I am?” 16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” 17 Jesus replied, “You are blessed, Simon son of John, because my Father in heaven has revealed this to you. You did not learn this from any human being. 18 Now I say to you that you are Peter (which means ‘rock’), and upon this rock I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it. 19 And I will give you the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven. Whatever you forbid on earth will be forbidden in heaven, and whatever you permit on earth will be permitted in heaven.” 20 Then he sternly warned the disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah. 21 From then on Jesus began to tell his disciples plainly that it was necessary for him to go to Jerusalem, and that he would suffer many terrible things at the hands of the elders, the leading priests, and the teachers of religious law. He would be killed, but on the third day he would be raised from the dead. 22 But Peter took him aside and began to reprimand him for saying such things. “Heaven forbid, Lord,” he said. “This will never happen to you!” 23 Jesus turned to Peter and said, “Get away from me, Satan! You are a dangerous trap to me. You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, not from God’s.”
Here we see highlighted the difference between knowledge, and understanding. Peter KNEW that Jesus was the Messiah, but He did not understand what that meant.
And therefore His desires were not aligned with Christ’s.
When we progressively grow in our knowledge of God, by reading truth, then our understanding of God grows, and we become increasingly like Him.
When our understanding is overshadowed by
The church John was writing to was inundated by teachings that weren’t true, and so are we.
So John lovingly helps this church employ some tests. Tests that we can apply as well.
Tests for listeners:
Tests for listeners:
Truth can be known
The very first thing to remember when assessing the claims of a teacher is that truth is knowable.
John 17:17 LEB
17 Sanctify them in the truth—your word is truth.
Jesus himself affirmed the truth of God’s word. And God’s word is true because it is God’s word. Truth must ultimately find it’s source in someone who knows everything
2. Teachers of truth confess that Jesus is the Christ, the incarnate God over all.
3. Anyone who detracts anything from Jesus, either His divinity, or His real physical presence, is a false teacher.
Tests for teachers:
Am I preaching for God or men?
2. Is my growth in knowledge causing me to increase while He decreases?
There is a danger in growing in knowledge, that we might lose sight of the relationship we have with God. This is a very common occurence for Bible students in college or seminary. All of sudden they are spending more time in God’s word then they ever have, but they are spending less time with God then they ever have.
3. Does what I teach glorify Christ?
All of scripture points to Christ and Him crucified. If our message does not do the same then we are not glorifying Christ as we ought.
4. Am I correct?
Since we find truth in Scripture, our teaching ought to align with scripture.
When we analyze what we are learning, and filter everything through scripture, than we are equipped to grow in Christ without fear of error.
When we jettison scripture as truth, and seek truth in others, we are ultimately seeking to find truth in ourselves.
And that is a very dangerous path to walk down.
Talk about Daniel.
Friend who professed conversion.
Was sidetracked by “watchmen”
Ultimately denied the deity of Christ.
Went insane.
Peace is found in Christ alone.
John returns over and over to this question of who Jesus is.
Jesus is God.
If Jesus is not God than every part of our faith is dismantled.
Christ has been so good to me, and so good to you.
May we never take our eyes off of Him.
For when we are desiring Christ, then our doctrine will follow, and we can discern what is true.
If you want to be a spiritual warrior, stand firm in the truth of scripture. Root your feet into the cornerstone. May we be that as a church.
So that we can pray for our church,
You, Desert Son, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.
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