What to watch for below: In today’s video service we are continuing in the First Letter of John 4:1-6. I have prepared a Video Message that will challenge us to test the spirits or test the messages we hear about Jesus and test those who hear the message. Are we listening to the truth in this day and age of compromise? I conclude with an audio prayer and you can read my sermon manuscript for a deeper look at John’s passage. May you be encouraged as we get closer to the day that we will be together again! God bless you in Jesus Christ our Saviour, Redeemer and LORD!
Click the arrow below to hear the closing prayer
Testing the Message and the Hearer
Text: 1 John 4:1-6 ~ The Scripture passages below are from New International Version (NIV) Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
There are a lot of metals that on the surface look similar to gold. Centuries ago, people discovered that unscrupulous operators would take advantage of this to trick people into paying for worthless metal. In order to determine whether gold was genuine or not, scientists devised an “acid test.” The item that is supposed to be gold is rubbed on a black stone, leaving a mark behind. Gold is what is called a noble metal, meaning that it is resistant to the corrosive effects of acid. If the mark is washed away by the acid, then the metal is not real gold. If it remains unchanged, the genuine nature of the gold is proven.
In our world, where it is easy to be taken advantage of, wouldn’t it be a relief to have an “acid test” to determine the genuineness of products you are buying? How about having an app on your mobile phone that simulates a “lie detector test” so that it will indicate if the person you are speaking with is telling you the truth or not? The draw back to having these tests is that we could become overly critical and suspicious people.
However, as we will see in today’s passage of Scripture, the apostle John actually commands believers to test the “message and the receivers of the message.” This of course is in response to the false teachers who have made their way into the churches of Asia Minor and are leading believers away from God’s truth. Would it benefit us today if we heeded the apostle’s command? Read today’s passage from 1 John 4:1-6.
1John 4:1-6, “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. 5 They are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them. 6 We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us. This is how we recognize the Spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood.”
In testing the message and the receivers of the message I have narrowed down John’s test to two questions. Let us look at these questions below about the message and the messenger.
Questions to Know the Genuineness of the Message and the Hearer
1. Does the Message Centre on The True Jesus?
The first test that separates the false message from the true message is to answer this question, “Does the message centre on the true Jesus?” In verses 2 & 3 John clear indicates, “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.”
The true Jesus that must be preached is the Jesus who is not only fully God, but He is also fully man. For Jesus to come to this world as a man in the likeness of sinful flesh, but without sin, is called the “incarnation.” John highlights the incarnation in his gospel. In John 1:1, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” John is stating here that Jesus is the Word and is co-equal with God. Then in John 1:14, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” Every spirit, every teaching or message that acknowledges Jesus has come in the flesh (incarnate) is from God.
The false teachers in John’s day had an extremely low regard of the flesh. They believed that the only way to spiritual ascendency and value was through the mind which was governed by the spiritual. They believed what they did in the flesh had no consequence on their spiritual pursuits. Therefore, the sins they committed in the body did not prevent their spiritual growth and their pursuit of godlikeness. They believed Jesus had a brief encounter with the flesh but did not come in the flesh. They did not believe in the incarnation.
Theologian Charles Ryrie in His book Basic Theology writes, “Without the Incarnation we would have no Savior. Sin requires death for its payment. God does not die. So the Savior must be human in order to be able to die. But the death of an ordinary man would not pay for sin eternally, so the Savior must also be God. We must have a God-man Savior, and we do in our Lord (Hebrews 10:1-10).”
Knowing that Jesus is God-incarnate, what practical daily significance does this have on your faith and life? The key is in what John says about the spirit that denies Jesus’s true identity in verse 3b, “This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.”
Everyday we need to be on guard against the spirit of the antichrist. This spirit is from Satan who opposes the message of the gospel and the true identity of Jesus. When Jesus walked this earth, his main opposition was from the religious elite called the Pharisees. In one encounter, Jesus pulls no stops in calling out the lies that the Pharisees were believing and propagating in their teachings. John records Jesus’s words addressed to the Pharisees in his gospel in John 8:44, “You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” We see earlier in this letter John wrote, 1 John 3:10, “This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not God’s child, nor is anyone who does not love their brother and sister.”
Billy Bray was a Cornish miner who accepted Jesus Christ as his Saviour in 1823 at the age of 29. He lived a life of drunkenness and debauchery before his salvation, but he became such an outgoing witness and testimony for God that he became known as “God’s glad man.”
One time he was digging potatoes from his garden and felt the devil oppressing him. It seemed to him that the devil said, “Billy Bray, God doesn’t love you. If He did, He wouldn’t give you such puny potatoes and so few.”
But Billy Bray didn’t listen to the devil’s temptation, he talked back to him. He said, “I served you long and true, Devil, and no better servant could a master ever have than I was to you. But when I served you, you didn’t give me any potatoes. When I served you, you didn’t give me anything good for my efforts.”
Billy Bray reminded himself that the burden he had serving Christ was lighter than the one he had had serving the devil. The yoke that he wore in partnership with and submission to Jesus was easier than the yoke he wore as one of the devil’s disciples.
Billy Bray once said, “I would rather be in Hell with Jesus than in Heaven without Jesus. For Hell with Jesus would seem just like Heaven to me and Heaven without Jesus would seem just like Hell to me.” Submitted by Dr. R. B Ouellette
Today I want to encourage you to take John’s command seriously to test the spirits and test the messages you hear about Jesus and the gospel. Do not believer every teaching you hear about Jesus. Does the message centre on the truth about Jesus that He is fully God and fully man in order to be the Saviour of the world? Also teach this truth so that the spirit of the antichrist will be thwarted from telling lies to others. Ask God to give you the boldness to be a witness about the truth of His Son Jesus so that many more people will be delivered from serving the lies of the devil. May verse 4 also give you courage, “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.”
The second question that helps identify what truth is and what is false is…
2. Do the receivers of the true message of Jesus actually listen?
Look again at verses 5 and 6, “They are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them. 6 We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us. This is how we recognize the Spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood.”
John makes it clear in this passage that there are two groups of people in this world. First there are those who are from the world speaking and listening to its viewpoint. Their viewpoint is based on human philosophy and human knowledge defining their reality and making in many cases their religion.
Appetite says, “Be sensuous, enjoy yourself.”
Education says, “Be resourceful, expand yourself.”
Materialism says, “Be satisfied, please yourself.”
Psychology says, “Be confident, fulfill yourself.”
Pride says, “Be superior, promote yourself.”
Humanism says, “Be capable believe in yourself.”
God says, “Be wise, humble yourself.”
The second group are those who are from God. These are the children of God who listen to the truth about Jesus. To listen is more than being hearers of the Word, but also doers of the Word.
John is telling the children of God do not expect those who have the viewpoint of the world to listen to you. Those who do not listen are not from God.
Today I want to encourage you by this truth – when people are not listening to the gospel of Jesus Christ, they are not rejecting you, but they are rejecting the message because the are not from God. We cannot expect people of the world to embrace the message of God unless God opens their ears to it and their hearts to receive it. This is what we need to pray for. We cannot force people to listen to the gospel.
In honour of Ravi Zacharias (a formidable apologist) who died this week I want to conclude with his words that sum up today’s message very well:
“Every other person who is at the heart of any religion has had his or her beginning either in fancy or in fact. But nevertheless, there is a beginning. Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem was a moment preceded by eternity. His being neither originated in time nor came about by the will of humanity. The Author of time, who lived in the eternal, was made incarnate in time that we might live with the eternal in view. In that sense, the message of Christ was not the introduction of a religion, but an introduction to truth about reality as God alone knows it. To deny Jesus’ message while pursuing spirituality is to conjure an imaginary religion in an attempt to see heaven while sight is confined to the earth. That is precisely what Jesus challenged when he said, “I have come that [you] may have life” (John 10:10). His life spells living. Your life or my life, apart from Him, spells death.” ― Ravi Zacharias, Jesus Among Other Gods: The Absolute Claims of the Christian Message
In our quickly changing world Jesus’s message remains the same. He loves you. He died for you and He wants you to spend eternity with Him. I invite you to accept Jesus (fully God and fully man) into your life as your Saviour from sin and become a lifelong listener and doer of His Word. This alone will keep you on the path of truth and the path of life everlasting. AMEN!