Now, factor in John’s stressing loving one another and showing love to everyone, being hospitable. That’seasy to understand on the surface, but when you play it out in your daily lives, questions come up. Then, intothe middle of all of that come these people who claim to follow God. They came into the churches and begansharing their thoughts and teachings. So how does love and acceptance play out in this scenario? Do you letthem in and fellowship with them? Do you send them packing? How do you determine whether they arebrothers in the faith or wolves in sheep’s clothing?The world will tell you, if you practice this love thing to the full extent, you’re opening yourself up to be takenadvantage of. That’s not entirely untrue. It can happen. It brings up issues that might never come up otherwise.Love people, but don’t be naïve. Jesus told his disciples:
"I am sending you out like sheep surrounded by wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.”
(Mat 10:16)In that vein, John tells us to Test theSpirits.Between Johns message of loving one another in Chapter 3 and his warning to test the spirits in Chapter 4, hegives verse 24 as a bridge.
“And the person who keeps his commandments resides in God, and God in him.Now by this we know that God resides in us: by the Spirit he has given us.”
His point: Believers aren’t left defenseless. We do have a great resource to help us discern what is from Godand what isn’t. First and foremost we have the witness of the Holy Spirit, God in us, to testify that we,ourselves belong to the Father. Of course, it’s easy enough to claim to have the Holy Spirit, and, naturally,these false teachers do. But, John wants us to know that the spirit that influences and motivates them is notnecessarily the same Spirit that influences and motivates us. It becomes crucial for us to know how to discernthe spirits. It’s not a first century issue. We’re bombarded with more false teaching today than ever before. Weneed to be careful… We need to test the spirits. What we don’t know CAN hurt us.
Test The Spirits:
I. By Their Emphasis (1-3)
When false teachers come along, they usually don‘t show themselves as something far out in left field. Theywant to claim that they are normal Christians, maybe with just a little twist. After all, Jesus called them wolvesin sheep’s clothing. That’s not a hard illustration to understand. From all appearances, they look harmlessenough. They look just like us. But, under the costume, they’re deadly.When a Jehovah’s Witness or a Mormon comes to your door, they don’t come off as someone with reallydivergent beliefs. You have to get deep into the discussion before you get any idea that they have a verydifferent theology.John says the major test is this: What do they say about Jesus? Who do they say He is? Is He the one andonly God? Did He come to Earth to live as a man? This is the crux of the matter.Now, Christians down through the centuries have insisted on arguing just about any issue imaginable. That’swhat we do. Are you pre-mil, post-mil, or a-mil? Sprinkle or dunk? Transubstantiation, consubstantiation, or memorial? But, none of those are make-or-break issues. The only real dividing issue is ‘who is Jesus’ and‘what has he done’.This is no minor issue. Jesus is not only the foundation of our faith. In a real sense, he IS our faith. He is our salvation. If you tinker with your view of him, you change the terms of salvation. If Jesus wasn’t God, his was