“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God…” 1 John 4:1-2
Many years ago my older brother, Jim, asked my twin brother, Jere, if it was wrong to deceive people by telling them the truth.
At first we chuckle because the idea that you could deceive with the truth hits you kind of funny. But then you might recall a time when someone actually did that very thing to you. They told you a very carefully calculated telling of the truth so that they could get you to believe a lie without ever telling a lie. It’s at this point that you realize that it doesn’t matter how crafty a person is, if their intent is to deceive then what they’re saying is a lie, no matter how they might dress it up.
We live in a world full of lies. Some people lie all the time and more than make up for those others who are absolutely scrupulous about telling the truth.
Some would say that if you’re going to be happy you can’t go through life being cynical. You need to think the best of people and you need to trust them. I, however, find that it’s easier to get along with people if I expect to be lied to. I don’t think badly of people. I just know that this world is full of lies because it’s full of sinful broken people trying to paint a pretty picture of their messed up lives. So I expect to be lied to. I expect to have to ask a lot of questions and then read between the lines to discover what the truth really is.
I find that I t’s also good to remember how this world got this way. We became liars mired in a world of lies because God has an enemy that lied to us about God. It would be nice to think that that’s where that particular attack on God and his character ended but thats just wishful thinking. Satan’s entire goal is to get as many people as he can to believe lies about God and he can only accomplish that by lying.
That’s why John says we need to test the spirits. People are going to come and lie about Jesus. People are going to have super natural experiences where fallen angels whisper to them lies about Jesus. It would be wonderful if we could just take every message we got about Jesus at face value but we can’t. We live in a world full of lies. We have to seek for the truth.
There are three or four ways to test the spirits but the two big tests that every message about God and his kingdom needs to pass are: does this message lift up Jesus, and does it match the truth that scripture has already told us.
Rejoice in the truth God’s given. Never forget that we have an enemy that would rob us of that truth and the joy we have in Jesus.
Jesus is coming soon. We have too much peace, and hope, and joy, and love to lose to let our vigilance down now.