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-Although I have never really gotten into it myself, the singing reality show the VOICE has really taken off with an interesting concept. The judges face away from the contestants, and it is the voice of the person that influences their decisions.
-We are in a similar situation in that there are unseen forces out there whose voices try to influence us----The text we are looking at today call these voices SPIRITS, for it is spiritual forces that seek to move us in one direction or another
-Now there is 1 God, & 1 Savior, & 1 Holy Spirit, & 1 Inspired Holy Scripture, so there is 1 and only 1 voice of God which is the 1 and only voice of truth that leads us to righteousness & a life that pleases God
-However, there are numerous voices that try to influence us away from God.
~For example there is the flesh, which is that sinful/selfish side within us that struggles against anything godly
-But there are also voices or spirits that are outside of us trying to move us like a chess piece in a game, but for our harm
~There is the voice of the world trying to make us conform to its worldview & immoral values.
~And then there is the voice of the devil who deceives. Quite often he comes to us in the disguise of an angel of light, twisting the truth just enough to lead us on the path of error.
~And the Bible talks abt the fact that the devil has his own ministers out there (who look like and pretend to be God’s ministers), but are filled w/ the voice of the devil, propagating his lies. These are false teachers who give physical voice to the devil’s wicked spiritual voice.
-With so many voices out there to lead us one way or another, what are we to do==well, our text tells us that in light of the fact that we are bombarded by so many voices, we need to test the voices to determine which voice is God’s voice, and which voices come from another source==my purpose today is that for this new year, I want to help you listen to and follow the correct voice, and not be led astray by the wrong voices
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.

I) The Compulsion to Test (v. 1)

-In appealing to his love for believers, the apostle John gives the command not to believe every spirit, b/c he does not want the church that he loves to follow the wrong voice
-He confirms our worst suspicion, that there are many voices trying to pull us in all sorts of directions, so there needs to be discernment, for as one commentator stated: “behind every statement is a spirit, but not every spirit is the Spirit of God.”
-Even at first glance the statement from one of these voices may sound reasonable because it seems spiritual. But just because our soul is enticed by a voice to go do some spiritual activity, does not mean that it is right, for as another commentator quickly pointed out that “spiritual activity is not necessarily Godly activity”
-John compels us to TEST the voices to determine whether or not they are from God
-the word for test here means to prove or to examine something to determine its genuineness----this word was used in those day in reference to metals or coins – they would closely examine the metal or coin to see if it was real and to check its purity----in the same way every voice & every spirit behind the voice needs to be put to the test
-But this compulsion is not just for Christian leaders, for the command to test the spirits is in the plural, meaning that every believer has the responsibility to take the voices that try to influence us, compare them to Scripture, and see if everything matches up
-Your youth minister, children’s minister, music minister, or pastor can’t do this b/c we are not with you 24/7—so you need to be able to use Scripture to make those determinations
-WHY DOES JOHN COMPEL US TO TEST? Because John says because many false prophets have gone out into the world to lead ppl astray
-there are numerous human voices out there that have wicked spiritual voices behind them tying to feed us false information to get us down the wrong path, & we need to be able to discern them
-It reminds me of a story out of our invasion of Iraq many years ago. When our troops were getting close to Baghdad, there was a guy who would come on Iraqi TV to feed the Iraqi ppl a bunch of propaganda.
-He was a minister of misinformation called BAGHDAD BOB.
-He came on the TV and tried to hand out misinformation, denying they were losing the war – even after we seized the Baghdad airport and then got into Baghdad itself, he went on the news saying that “We butchered the forces present in our airport” even when the rest of the world knew we had the airport. He would say that there was no presence of American troops in the city, when our news had images of troops all over the city.
-there are many voices of misinformation detrimental to our spiritual well-being pulling at us; that is why we have the compulsion to test
-Not only does John compel us to test the spirits, he then gives us:

II) The Characteristics of the Test (vv. 2-3)

-in verses 2 & 3, John gives us the characteristics of the test to determine whether or not the voice that is trying to influence us is from God==what are the criteria for testing the voices
-it all centers around what that voice or spirit does with the person of Jesus Christ==if the voices/spirits confess Jesus Christ in the flesh they are of God, if they don’t then they’re not----So the characteristic of the test is whether or not the voices/spirits agree with God’s revelation of Jesus Christ
-this doesn’t only refer to the fact of His incarnation (although it certainly includes that) but of the whole revelation of Jesus as the Messiah – this also includes very core teaching like the virgin birth, His life, teachings, death, burial, resurrection, and His being very GOD – if the voice or spirit is not in agreement with God’s revelation of Jesus then it is not from God
-in fact, John says in v. 3 that it comes from the ANTICHRIST
~the word “anti” means “instead of”, so the spirit of antichrist is trying to feed our souls on a teaching and a Christ that is “instead of” the real Christ and His real teachings==it tries to feed us a substitute Christ
-Antichrist is not just some end-time figure that John is speaking of here, for he says that his readers had heard that this spirit was coming, and is already at work in the world at that time, and is definitely at work right now==we are dealing w/ the spirit of Antichrist right now b/c there are so many religions and preachers and voices and spirits that are giving us a different Jesus
-So where can we get the right revelation of Jesus Christ? Nowhere else but the infallible, inerrant Word of God – THE BIBLE
-if there is a voice out there trying to influence you, and what it is saying is contrary to the Bible, than that voice is not from God, it is the spirit of Antichrist
-If we don’t test by biblical characteristics, we cld be lead into spiritual danger
-It reminds me of a story I read about an elderly lady on a very busy street corner in a very large city who was confused and hesitant to cross the street because of the heavy traffic.
-Finally a gentleman came up to her and asked if he could cross the street with her. So grateful for his help she took his arm, but grew progressively more alarmed as he zigzagged randomly across the street, to the blare of horns and screech of locked brakes.
Finally, once they ended up on the opposite curb, she said angrily to the man, "You almost got us killed! You walk like you're blind." "I am," he replied. "That's why I asked if I could cross the street with you."
-There are ppl who are spiritually blind who are the mouthpieces of the spirit of Antichrist and don’t know it—there is music out there filled w/ the spirit of Antichrist…TV shows…there are even impressions in our own heart that cld lead us astray for the heart is deceitful above all things & desperately wicked----all of these try to feed us a different Christ & lead us astray
-So we test these voices/spirits to see if what they say abt Christ is true or not according to Scripture

III) The Conquest in the Test (v. 4)

-John tells us in v. 4 that we have already overcome, we have already conquered, b/c the One Who did the conquering is in us by faith, and He is greater than any other spirit or voice we may encounter==we already have the victory
-when Jesus Christ died on the cross for our sins, victory over the lying voices was already won for us at the cross
-we do not have to sit back in fear and wonder if these voices are going to get the best of us – believers in Christ shall find final victory--not due to anything we have done, but due to the Spirit of the Conquering Christ within us, for this verse says we are of God – we have our origin and dependence upon God
-we are the children of God and we belong to Him, and the voices of this world shall not prevail over us in the long run
-Sure, they may temporarily trip us up, but in the end we will overcome, as the apostle John even says himself later in his epistle: 4 For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world-- our faith. (1 Jn. 5:4 ESV)
-those other voices may be loud & strong, but they will not overcome us==we don’t have to be stronger than the source of those other voices ourselves, we don’t have to be more intelligent, we don’t have to be any more skilled than the false teachers that are around, because we are indwelt by One who is more powerful, more intelligent, and more skilled – the Holy Spirit – and because of that we can claim victory
-I saw a story about a father (probably in his 50’s or 60’s) that took part in the Ironman triathlon, named Richard Hoyt. He has a son, Rick, who can’t walk or talk. He communicates through a computer and needs a wheelchair. Richard took Rick through the triathlon with him. When it was the swimming part, Richard swam pulling Rick in a raft. When it was the bicycle part, he pulled Rick in a special chair. When it was the running part he pushed Rick in a special wheelchair. When they crossed the finish line, Rick started celebrating, putting his arms up in the air in victory for finishing. Rick didn’t do anything to get past the finish line. His dad did all the work. Yet they both could celebrate the victory as a family.
-Our relationship with Christ through the Spirit within us, is like that. He does all the work, but we are able to lift our hands in victory because of what He did through us. We have conquered because He is in us, so those other voices cannot overcome
Finally, I want to quickly close:

IV) The Condition of the Test (vv. 5-6)

-the condition according to verse 6 is to know God—if you don’t know God, you can’t test or discern what spirit is true or not== 14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. (1 Cor. 2:14 ESV) —if you don’t know God, you are susceptible to the voices of error b/c the Spirit of the living Christ is not in you to discern the voices for you—so you need to know God
-But knowing God is not about knowing the facts abt Him, but is knowing Him through a relationship----& you can only enter a relationship with God by grace through faith by believing on His Son Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior
-When you know God thru Christ, you can discern the voice of Christ out of the chaos of voices around you
-if you do not have Christ, you fail the test, because the only voices you will hear are those of the world, the flesh & the devil==the voices of the spirit of Antichrist
-v. 5 says that those who are of the world (those without Christ) only hear the voices of the world (those related to antichrist)----the lying voices are in perfect harmony with the world, and vice versa
-So to hear the voice of God, you need to be in relationship w/ Him thru Christ
-The voice of Antichrist is in direct opposition to the voice of truth:
Voice of Antichrist Voice of Truth
Many ways to God “I am the way…”
Sin all you want, be forgiven “be ye holy…”
Give into your lust “Blessed are pure…” “Keep marriage bed…”
Homosexuality is alright “abomination” “Neither homo or effeminate”
Right to be angry Make amends
Get a divorce, no longer love “God hates divorce”
Keep your money, don’t give Tithe, give the first fruits
Prayers will not be answered “Ask, seek, knock”
Don’t go down aisle “Today is day of salvation”
There is no hell Hell is real
-What voices are you listening to? Christian, maybe today you realize you haven’t tested the voices and you know you are in error—come to the altar today and commit yourself to the voice of Christ
-Or maybe there is a voice you are having trouble discerning—come to the altar and ask for discernment
-But maybe you are following the wrong voices b/c you are still a natural man/woman==you do not know God through Jesus Christ—there is no salvation from sins in any other==you will face eternity paying for your own sins…
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