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I John # 6 - Test The Spirits

I John # 6 - Test The Spirits

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Published by Ron Lair
What you don't know CAN hurt you!
What you don't know CAN hurt you!

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Published by: Ron Lair on Nov 01, 2010
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11/01/2010

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Test The Spirits
I John 3:24 - 4:6
Now by this we know that God resides in us: by the Spirit he has given us.
(I John 3:24)
What you don't know can hurt you
 
According to Peter Kendall in the Chicago Tribune, Ruben Brown, age sixty-one, was known on the southand west sides of Chicago, as the friendly neighborhood cockroach exterminator with "the Mississippistuff." The Mississippi stuff was a pesticide Brown had bought hundreds of gallons of in the South, and itreally did the trick on roaches. Brown went from door to door with his hand sprayer, and his businessgrew as satisfied customers recommended the remarkably effective exterminator to others.
 
In the process, however, Brown is alleged to have single-handedly created an environmental catastrophe.The can-do pesticide-methyl parathion-is outlawed by the EPA for use in homes. Southern farmers use iton boll weevils in their cotton fields, and within days the pesticide chemically breaks down into harmlesselements. Not so in the home. There the pesticide persists as a toxic chemical that can harm the humanneurological system with effects similar to lead poisoning.
 
The EPA was called into Chicago for the cleanup. Drywall, carpeting, and furniture sprayed with thepesticide had to be torn out and hauled to a hazardous -materials dump. The U.S. EnvironmentalProtection Agency estimated that the total cost of the cleanup would be some $20 million, ranking this asone of the worst environmental nightmares in Illinois history.
 
Brown was charged with two misdemeanors. He apparently didn't know much about the pesticide hesprayed so liberally. Brown's attorney said, "It's a tragedy. It is one of those situations where he did a lotof harm, but his intention in no way matches the damage he has done. He is a family man and handled itwith his own hands. Do you think he knew how toxic it was?"
 
What you don't know can hurt you. That is true both of pesticides and of false teaching.
 
I John is tough for me to break down. John doesn’t think the way that I think. It’s much easier for me to teachPaul’s writings. Now, Paul… he’s someone I can relate to and understand. He thinks like me. He thinks inoutline form. It’s like stair steps. One thought leads to another, building on the thought that came before. But, IJohn is more like a spiral staircase. It’s not in a straight line, but winds around and around key topics. Justwhen you think you’ve covered a subject, you find John circling right back to it.In Chapter 2, John talked about love and then gave us a warning about false teachers that he labeled‘Antichrists.’ Then comes chapter 3 and he talks about the family resemblance and love again. Here we are inChapter 4 and guess what… another warning about Antichrists. Anybody want to take a stab at what we’llstudy next week? That’s right: love. What do you suppose John considers to be the big ideas?I wondered, though, what is the connection between loving one another and false teachers? Why does Johnfind it necessary to follow up an admonition to love with warnings about false teaching. The connection isn’timmediately obvious, but I think there is one.Let’s set the stage as what church life was like at that time. Churches weren’t huge brick buildings with pews,pulpit, and programs. It was simply a handful of people that got together regularly to worship their Lord andlearn of Him. There was no educated professional leader. Probably, it was the man who was fortunate enoughto be able to read that led them and taught them. He had no formal training and to make matters worse,Christian doctrine hadn’t yet been fully established. For instance: believers had some concept that God wasone, yet seemed to be in three separate persons, yet it would take centuries for the full doctrine of the Trinity tobe worked out.
 
 
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
 
 
 just another death, without any real effect on our salvation. If he wasn’t fully human, his death had nothing todo with us.While the mission of Jesus is to seek and to save those who were lost, Satan's greatest objective is to preventthis from happening. One tactic that he often uses is deceit, particularly about who Jesus is. If he can causeconfusion about the identity of Jesus, he can cause people to doubt that Jesus is the Savior of the world.
 
There are many false teachers out there and they have one thing in common. They hold some deviant view of the person and work of Christ. If you’re able to detect it, you will know proof-positive that you’re dealing with afalse teacher, no matter what else he may say.
A. The Spirit Within You
So Jesus is the issue. But, the Holy Spirit is also involved.
‘So I want you to understand that no one speaking by the Spirit of God says, "Jesus is cursed," and no one can say, "Jesus is Lord," except by the Holy Spirit.’ 
(1Co 12:3)How do we understand that? Is it true that it’s impossible for a unbeliever to utter the words “Jesusis Lord?” No. They can say it. But, do they mean it? Can they say it (and all that it implies), wholeheartedly?We acknowledge Jesus for who he truly is because of the witness of the Holy Spirit. No one, by his ownexploration could discover this truth. No one independently comes to this conclusion by following his owncorrupt heart. No one can bring himself to love Jesus by his own determination. It takes a work of the HolySpirit in our hearts to really see Jesus for who he is.
This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come inthe flesh is from God.
B. The Spirit of Antichrist
But, there is another spirit. The spirit of this age, the spirit of antichrist. Who or what is that? It is a spirit notfrom God, a spirit that does not and will never acknowledge Jesus. That spirit is in this world today. He seeksto influence and motivate men. His purpose and his passion is to prevent people from coming to Christ. He’s adeceiver who will use any means necessary to keep people separated from God.He’s busy today. Look around, you’ll see his work. He’s busy convincing people that God is a myth, that theChristian faith is irrelevant, that going to church is a waste of time, that Christ was only a good moral teacher,that there are many paths to God, or that any faith is good enough as long as you’re sincere.TV and movies really irritate me. Have you ever noticed that the people that really believe what the Bible saysare invariably mean and uncaring hypocrites, conmen, or serial killers? Granted, Hollywood doesn’t have aclue to what we’re about and that’s understandable to a degree. But, it’s more than that… it’s the spirit of antichrist that distorts the truth and twists what’s good into something hideous.

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