Test the spirits

 

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“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.”

This verse assumes that not all who claim to speak from God are actually from God. It is clear from the passage that not only do false prophets exist, but they are actively in the world trying to deceive the elect. The question then is how do we know if a prophet is genuine. We are told three things about them:

They do not believe in the incarnation of the Lord Jesus Christ (v2-3)

“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.”

The key point in this passage is that “every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God”. This calls back to what is said in the first chapter: “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us…” This is central to the message of the gospel. God became man. Those who don’t believe and confess this truth are not from God.

They are popular in the world because they have the same message as the world (v4-5)

“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.”

Christians ultimately overcome the deception of world and its agents because we have Christ. We hear the voice of the Shepherd and can distinguish it from the sweet seductive voices of the wolves of this world. We are able to do this because “because (we) are strong, and the word of God abides in (us), and (we) have overcome the evil one ” – 1 John 2:14. In recent times a lot of worldly principles have sneaked into christian doctrine. We sometimes celebrate greed and selfishness in the name of blessing and empowerment and in so doing we neglect the material and spiritual needs of those who struggle in our midst. We need to go back and continually feed on God’s Word so that we are strengthened to overcome. The best way to recognize what is counterfeit is increased familiarity with the authentic Word of God.

They do not listen to authentic gospel as preached by the Apostles (v6)

“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.”

The “we” here I think refers to the combined witness of the Apostles and those to whom they are writing (and by extension all christians). It seems like a callback to Chapter 1: “that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ”. We have fellowship with God because we listened and believed the witness of the Apostles. We in turn proclaim that gospel and whoever does not agree with that witness, that Jesus Christ our Lord left his throne in heaven to die for our sins so we can have life eternal, shows themselves to be false.

There are many different gospels being preached. There are many different people who all claim to be sent from God. But not all who claim to speak from God are actually from God. Let us draw near to God’s Word and test that what we hear is in line with Scripture.

What Are You Reading? 05-02-2018

  • Pray Shorter Prayers“When you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” (Matthew 6:7–8)…
  • Do You Love the Church?The Apostle Paul explains the doctrine of the church so that we might understand what God has done and so that we may understand who we are. And in calling us to understand who we are and what we’re called to do, Paul says that we’re the church. We’re the church that God ordained from the foundation of the world. We’re His people; we’re His household, so let the church be the church…
  • What Makes a Good Sermon? Five Questions to AskIs God’s Word the most important part of this sermon? Do you leave understanding the main point of the text? Did the preacher preach Jesus? Did the preacher apply the sermon to my life?Does he speak as one who knows God or knows about God?…
  • Jackie Hill Perry on Why God Gives Artists to the ChurchJackie Hill Perry—speaker and hip-hop artist—discusses why God gives artistic talents to members of his church…

My Worth Is Not in What I Own

This husband and wife duo write the best modern hymns. Their songs are not only beautiful to listen to but rich in content as well. There is really a lot of gospel in their music.

My worth is not in what I own
Not in the strength of flesh and bone
But in the costly wounds of love
At the cross

My worth is not in skill or name
In win or lose, in pride or shame
But in the blood of Christ that flowed
At the cross

Refrain:
I rejoice in my Redeemer
Greatest Treasure,
Wellspring of my soul
I will trust in Him, no other.
My soul is satisfied in Him alone.

As summer flowers we fade and die
Fame, youth and beauty hurry by
But life eternal calls to us
At the cross

I will not boast in wealth or might
Or human wisdom’s fleeting light
But I will boast in knowing Christ
At the cross

Two wonders here that I confess
My worth and my unworthiness
My value fixed – my ransom paid
At the cross

Written by:
By Keith Getty, Kristyn Getty, and Graham Kendrick
© 2014 Getty Music Publishing and Make Way Music

The Art of Listening

There are several elements that make a band sound great. One of those elements is the ability of the individuals in the band to listen to each other. Paying attention to what each person is playing and supporting the lead instrument so that the band sounds like a cohesive unit . No matter how brilliant the individual musicians are, if they don’t listen to each other the overall sound can be cluttered.

Bass virtuoso Victor Wooten uses this analogy to describe playing as a band. He says it is like having a conversation. When you are having a conversation with a group of people, not everyone talks at the same time. Someone is always leading the conversation and everyone else listens. They might nod and say a few things in agreement with what the lead is saying but that is only to support the lead. When everyone starts talking at the same time it becomes noisy and cluttered.

In this live performance of the track “Monterey” from the smooth jazz band Fourplay, Nathan East (bassist), Lee Ritenour (lead guitarist) and Bob James (pianist) play some of the most inspired improvisations I have heard:

The interplay between the three of them is simply brilliant and the way their solos blend with each other can only be that smooth because they are listening and supporting each other the entire time. And they are also able to express themselves fully because drummer, Harvey Mason, has built a solid support structure to keep the entire band going. He builds up and slows down, plays quieter or louder all depending on what the other instrumentalists are doing.

 

The same thing applies when the lead instrumentalist is the vocalist. Sometimes, we as instrumentalists, can get so carried away with what we are playing that we compete for space with the singers. Instead of supporting the vocalists and giving them space to be heard we overshadow and drown them out. In gospel music, words are very important. It is from the content of what is being sung that people can actually hear the gospel. We can aid in that process or hinder it, depending on how well we support one another musically in the band.

 

This is Keith and Kristyn Getty performing their song “In Christ Alone”. Notice how the piano and the vocals work together. The pianist supports the vocalist so that we can truly appreciate the words of this great song.

So next time you are playing in a band, it will be helpful to ask yourself a few questions:

What are the other members of the band playing?
Is what you are playing blending in with what they are playing?
Is the band creating space that allows the congregation to actually hear what is being said in the songs?
Is it possible for you to play less in order that the entire band sounds better?

What Are You Reading? 29-01-2018

  1. Public Faith: How to Share the Hope You Have in Christ: We remember what it is like not to believe, and we do not expect people to believe simply by being told what is true. People want to know why
  2. Why Young Christians Need Old Books: At times, the church can be guilty of thinking that young Christians need something new. A new app, new Bible translation, new style, or new truth for modern times. But what young Christians need is tremendously and radically old. We need faithful wisdom from ages past. Instead of newer, cooler, faster, edgier, we need simple, beautiful gospel. Growing young Christians need mature old Christians to help guide, curb, and correct…
  3. 5 Lies Christians Tell About Money: Money is an important part of our lives, so it’s important that we clearly grasp what the Bible teaches about it. Take time to study the Scriptures for yourself and see how they apply to your situation … Above all, strive to be a faithful steward of all that your King has entrusted to you…
  4. How Christian Is Self-Improvement? You might go running to your Bible looking for “self-improvement” verses. You will be hard pressed to find any command (or even license) to pursue your own growth and maturity in a way that does not directly and immediately affect other people. Instead of self-care, you will find self-control and self-denial. The Christianity we find in Scripture is not about self-improvement; it’s self-abandonment. Jesus says, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” …

 

What Are You Reading? 22-01-2018

  1. Love One Another: …Since Christ sacrificed all he had for our sake, we as his followers are called to do the same for our fellow brothers and sisters.
  2. Warning Concerning Prayer: …I need to sound a warning. In our day, many people have rediscovered the power of prayer… However, some carry this to an extreme and jump to the conclusion that prayer is something of a magic wand, that if we do prayer with the right sound, in the right manner, with the right phrases, and in the right posture, God is obligated to answer.
  3. Dissect Your Discouragement: …It’s one thing to feel a wave of discouragement; it’s another to sit in a puddle of self-pity. Dissecting our discouragement paves a way to Christ that neither denies discouragement nor allows it to dictate.
  4. Have Bible Quoters Replaced Bible Readers?: …“They have the capacity to recall a relevant biblical text in support of a particular doctrinal point, or in opposition to a hot spot in the cultural wars, or in hope of emotional support when times get tough. They approach the Bible as a sort of reference book, a collection of useful God-quotes that can be looked up as one would locate words in a dictionary or an entry in an encyclopedia.”
  5. Making Sense of Scripture’s ‘Inconsistency’: …“If I believe Jesus is the resurrected Son of God, I can’t follow all the ‘clean laws’ of diet and practice, and I can’t offer animal sacrifices. All that would be to deny the power of Christ’s death on the cross. And so those who really believe in Christ must follow some Old Testament texts and not others.”
  6. Can we really know what the Bible means?: The bonus for today is a short video that answers this simple question.

Love One Another

1 John 3:11-24 For this is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another. (12) Do not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own actions were evil and his brother’s were righteous. (13) Do not be surprised, my brothers and sisters, if the world hates you. (14) We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love each other. Anyone who does not love remains in death. (15) Anyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life residing in him.

(16) This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. (17) If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? (18) Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.

(19) This is how we know that we belong to the truth and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence: (20) If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. (21) Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God (22) and receive from him anything we ask, because we keep his commands and do what pleases him. (23) And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. (24) The one who keeps God’s commands lives in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us.

What does is it mean to love one another as christians? We follow the ultimate example of Christ who shows us what love is: “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers”(v16). If it wasn’t any clearer, the point is emphasized in the next verse: “But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?”. I think these verses lie at the heart of this passage.

Love becomes more than just mere sentimentality instead it is how we act towards each other. Since Christ sacrificed all he had for our sake, we as his followers are called to do the same for our fellow brothers and sisters. In recent times, the call to be generous and to help each other materially is generally self-focused. If you want [money, prosperity, health etc] then be generous with your finances. This passage says: If you claim to have God’s love and are in Christ, then you will be generous.

I would also suggest that if we are truly generous and follow God’s commandment to love one another, it will show in what we ask for when we pray. And the Lord will give us whatever we ask, because what we ask will please Him and be in line with His commandment (v22-24). Its about a life truly transformed by the Holy Spirit so much so that our ambitions, dreams, hopes etc are all shaped by the gospel and stands in stark contrast to the what the world values. This is seen by how we are about to care for one another’s needs: both spiritual and physical.

“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” – John 13:35

 

What Are You Reading? 15-01-2018

  1. The Day I Made My Biggest Mistake in Evangelism: “… Friends, never underestimate the power of God’s Word. It is a fire that can melt and a hammer that can break even the hardest hearts… We can schedule meetings—but thanks be to God, he schedules conversions
  2. Moralism is Not the Gospel (But Many Christians Think It Is): “…We are justified by faith alone, saved by grace alone, and redeemed from our sin by Christ alone. Moralism produces sinners who are (potentially) better behaved. The Gospel of Christ transforms sinners into the adopted sons and daughters of God
  3. Why repentant pastors should be forgiven but not restored to the pulpit: A very good take on what it means for a pastor to be “above reproach”. “… To be a pastor, you at least need to meet the qualifications Paul gave to his disciple Timothy … “Above reproach” doesn’t mean a pastor is sinless. It means that if everything about his life is brought into the light, people would still trust him and follow him in the way of godliness.
  4. What Does “Gospel” Mean? Philippians 1:27–28: Grab your Bible, a notebook and some highlighters. “… How do you define ‘the gospel of Christ’ in Philippians 1:27–28? If all you had was the Bible, how could you find the definition?

Children of God

1 John 3:1-10 See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. (2) Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears[a] we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. (3) And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.
(4) Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. (5) You know that he appeared in order to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. (6) No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. (7) Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. (8) Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. (9) No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him; and he cannot keep on sinning, because he has been born of God. (10) By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.

Are you a child of God? In this passage, we see what characterizes children of God. The references to “children of…” seem to point to who we follow or the one who leads us. The children of God are those who have been loved by the Father (3:1), who are looking forward to the coming of Christ (3:2) and hope in Him for their purification (3:3). Those who are children of God practice righteousness (3:7 and 3:10) and this is shown by how they love each other (3:10).

On the other hand, those who practice sin and makes a habit of it are not of God. “No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God” (3:6). “Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning” (3:8). This might seem very harsh but it almost mirrors Jesus’ statement in the book of John:  “You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies (John 8:44)”.

What the Apostle John has been emphasizing from the beginning of this book is that those of us who received the word of life proclaimed by the Apostles (1:1-4), and are in fellowship with God(1:5-10) should live a life that is characterized by keeping God’s commandments(2:1-6) which is summarized by loving each other (2:7-17) and we should stay away from practicing sin but rather pursue righteousness (3:1-10). We do all this by the power of the anointing (2:18-29). The biggest take away for myself is that sin is not something to be trifled with and we should be very wary of making a habit of it. Also we can’t say we are practicing righteousness if we don’t consider how we love each other as brothers and sisters in Christ.