Sunday, February 17, 2013

Who Are You Listening to?

1st John 4:3 says:
“And every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world.”

This is why we’re to test the spirits back in verse 1 because not every spirit is of God, not even if they seem sort of right. We must look behind the words and look at the motivation. We must look at the source of inspiration for the words they speak.

You can see this in an Old Testament example. In 1st Kings 22, Israel’s King Ahab invites Jehoshophat, King of Judah, to join him in fighting against Syria. Nothing much changes over the millennia, but they were having a border dispute over Ramoth-Gilead. Jehoshophat was a man of God and wanted to get God’s mind on the battle, so he asks for a prophet in 1st Kings 22:5, “Jehoshaphat said to the king of Israel, “Please inquire for the word of the LORD today.”

Ahab gathered 400 of his hired court prophets to spew the party line. 1st Kings 22:6 says, “Then the king of Israel gathered the prophets together, about four hundred men, and said to them, ‘Shall I go against Ramoth Gilead to fight, or shall I refrain?’ So they said, ‘Go up, for the Lord will deliver it into the hand of the king.’” It was unanimous affirmation of Ahab’s wishes. Yes, they were all ear-ticklers, and not real prophets – they were “Yes men.” Their message was easy for Ahab to like.

But Jehoshaphat wasn’t satisfied. He’s a little suspicious. 1st Kings 22:7 says, “And Jehoshaphat said, ‘Is there not still a prophet of the LORD here, that we may inquire of Him?’” “Don’t you have a real prophet?” he asks.

Reluctantly, Ahab responds: 1st Kings 22:8, “So the king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, ‘There is still one man, Micaiah the son of Imlah, by whom we may inquire of the LORD; but I hate him, because he does not prophesy good concerning me, but evil.’ And Jehoshaphat said, ‘Let not the king say such things!’”

There! That’s the point! Ahab hated the man of God who prophesied accurately because the answers weren’t ones he liked. This time, the prophecy would be that Ahab would die in battle.

But that’s the very reason almost everyone despises a true prophet. We want our ears tickled. When they aren’t? Well Ahab had the true prophet thrown into the dungeon.

Look at this New Testament confirmation:
2nd Timothy 4:3-4 – “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. “ That time was in Ahab’s day, and that time is now.

Well, how do we wrap this section up? How about with a question: To whom are you listening? Are you listening to those God sent and entrusted with His message of salvation? Or are you listening to those who come out of the world to distort the message? There aren’t three right paths to God, or four, so it doesn’t really matter which one you follow. There is only one.

Jesus made that so clear in John 14:6, “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.’” Are you of God, or are you of the world?

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

False Teachers Deny the Doctrine of Christ

1st John 4:1 tells us to the test the spirits. But what really do we test? Maybe we can learn from John. In this passage, John is giving us a specific test pertinent to his own situation, and the situation he faced in the first century was Gnosticism.

Here is the red light warning he put up: 1st John 4:2-3 –
“By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world.”

The test is the doctrine of Christ. Is Jesus the Christ sent by God who came in the flesh? This is the fundamental doctrine of Christianity. It stresses that Jesus is both God and man.

Remember the battle John was fighting? The disease of Gnosticism had infected the early church. The Gnostics claimed to have greater knowledge than anyone else, and they stressed the importance of the spiritual over the physical. So, in the teaching of Cerinthus, a Gnostic spokesman, Jesus was a normal born man on whom the Spirit of God came at His baptism. Then, according to Gnostics, the Spirit of God left just before the cross.

But this teaching destroys the truth of Scripture. Scripture stresses the incarnation. Jesus was Immanuel, God with us, God in human flesh. He wasn’t a normal man that God’s Spirit came upon for awhile then left, like happened often in the Old Testament.

What difference does it make? All the difference in the world -Think about it! What benefit would the cross be if Jesus wasn’t who He claimed to be? Not much, maybe Jesus would be a good example, but not capable of bringing salvation.

But that’s the purpose of false doctrine: To destroy the way of salvation. False teachers want to get you to believe a lie so you won’t get saved. If Jesus was just a normal man, sinful at birth, He would have had to die for His own sins. He would have been ineligible to die as our substitute. Only the innocent can stand in for the guilty, not another guilty man bearing his own guilt and conviction. So Jesus had to be born without a sin nature, and had to live a sinless life.

Except only God is sinless, but God can’t die. Therefore, God must become a man. That’s exactly what Scripture tells us happened. And He was virgin born so that He wouldn’t inherit the sin-nature that comes through the Father.

Can we deny the virgin birth as the liberals do? No! Not without destroying the possibility of salvation. But that is the mark of a false teacher. They might say all kinds of wonderful things about Jesus, “He was a great moral man, a great teacher,” but they will not affirm the doctrines that are necessary for salvation. And one is that Jesus was 100% God and 100% man. That’s where the rubber meets the road. No matter how charming and how plausible and how eloquent they may be, If they don’t teach the truth, they are false, and will lead you to hell.

And, according to John, they bear the spirit of antichrist.
1st John 4:3 says:
“And every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world.”

This is not the antichrist of the book of Revelation that comes on the scene during the Tribulation, but they will both have the same spirit within them. And it’s not the Holy Spirit in them, but the spirit of Satan.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

The Test for a False Teacher

When John told us to test the spirits in 1st John 4:1, the point of John’s warning is false church doctrine. What are we to do about false teachers that invade the church? And they will!

Paul warned the Ephesians about that in: Acts 20:27-31
“For I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God. Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves. Therefore watch, and remember that for three years I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears.”

Do you see the problem? It’s not easy to detect who the false teachers are. They don’t come in looking like savage wolves, but, instead, they wear sheep’s clothing. They look and sound like one of us. And they don’t make frontal attacks on truth, or we’d escort them out. Rather, they shade the truth. Like Jude said, Jude 4 , “for there were certain men who crept in unnoticed.” Literally, they entered in by the side door while we weren’t looking.

Like in the parable of the Tares of Matthew 13, Satan sows them in our midst while we are distracted. And we don’t have a clue they are there until after they have taken root. They come in, looking just like us, and they seem to love the fellowship, and make themselves right at home. But then, once they are entrenched, they try to change us from the inside out into something different, something less, something false and dead with no life. Remember, an apostate is one who turned away from what they once professed. So at one time, they would have even sounded like us. But not any more.

But, wouldn’t that be why Paul would pray for the Philippians in: Philippians 1:9, “And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment?” People like to concentrate on the first part. Yes, we want to be a loving church where people are warmly received and welcomed, but we have to have “knowledge and all discernment.” We don’t want to be so gullible we’ll be taken in by every false teacher who would lead us astray.

Well, here is the answer: Paul tells us to “test the spirits.” Historically, that’s always been necessary. Wouldn’t Eve in the Garden have been wise to test the Serpent who was tempting her? It has never gotten any less important.
Throughout Israel’s history, they were plagued with false prophets, so much so God gave them criteria to tell which ones were genuine.

The criteria is listed in: Deuteronomy 18:22:
“When a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the thing does not happen or come to pass, that is the thing which the LORD has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him.” And God specified the penalty for a false prophet. It was death. But it’s not always that easy. What about when the teaching sounds kind of right?

The answer is found in Deuteronomy 13:1-3:
“If there arises among you a prophet or a dreamer of dreams, and he gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or the wonder comes to pass, of which he spoke to you, saying, ‘Let us go after other gods’—which you have not known—‘and let us serve them,’ you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams, for the LORD your God is testing you to know whether you love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul.

Wow! He actually got a prediction right. Just so you are aware, false teachers can often make great eloquent appeals; they can build huge, successful churches; they can do signs and wonders, or miracles. Satan can duplicate much of what we consider miraculous or sensational. But the true test is whether or not they are leading you to God, to truth; or away from it. It’s directional. And as Jesus said in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” So the test has to be whether or not the teacher is leading us to Christ, or away from Him.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Test the Spirits

John is often called the Apostle of Love, and with good reason. One of John’s main topics is love. It is from John that we learned of the New Commandment given by Jesus as stated in John 13:34, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. “

Also, in this epistle of 1st John, John repeatedly circles back around to the topic of love. In chapter 3, he told us this: 1st John 3:16 – “By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.”

Very soon in chapter 4, he will hit the topic again with a long discourse. The high point of that discourse is 1st John 4:7-8, which says: “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.”

John repeatedly makes the point that love is both the characteristic and the duty of a believer. Yet, in the middle of this long discourse on love, John interrupts with a warning. It’s the beeping on the TV screen – “Tornado warning, tornado warning, beware!” And this is what he warns us of: 1st John 4:1 – “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.” The warning is against false prophets.

Why do we need to be warned? Because we are gullible.
1st John 4:1 tells us in the KJV, “Beloved, believe not.” It tells us this because we often do believe every spirit. We are told to love everyone; and we want to love, and accept, and believe everyone. And we think it is the Christian thing to do

But we can’t! There is a big difference between loving everyone, and being taken in by everyone. We can’t accept every false teaching that comes down the pike. God is truth, His Word is truth, but Satan is a liar and those who follow him are liars.

Face it! We live in a big, mean, wicked world intent upon taking us in. The world wants to deceive us. It is always watching for the chance to take us in, and we have to be constantly on guard. From lying politicians, to dishonest car dealers, to yes, especially preachers who teach false doctrine, we must be on guard. They are continually trying to feed us the lie, waiting for the gullible to accept it hook, line, and sinker.

Don’t doubt this. Satan waits along the path like a lion waiting to pounce. 1st Peter 5:8 tells us: “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.”

That’s terrifying imagery. But the problem is, that’s not how Satan appears to us.
He camouflages his fangs, he hides his cruelty and evil, and he comes to us as a temptress with all the allure of a beautiful seductive .woman

Oh, yes, sin is always made to look attractive. Sex sells, so even a truck commercial usually has a beautiful, provocatively dressed woman, and offers the promise of fun and excitement. But you are never shown the casualties of sin, the broken and ruined lives.

False doctrines come packaged the same way. False teachers always come with charisma. They make eloquent and flashy appeals to lure you in. You can see this in 2nd Corinthians 11:13-15:
13 For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. 14 And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. 15 Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works.

Oh, yes, Satan wants to tempt us to fall, and so do his mouthpieces on earth. We even have some of our relatives that would rejoice if they could get our kids to fall. They aren’t out for your good. Satan wants you to sin, he wants you to get all covered in the mire of sin. And especially, he wants you to miss heaven. He wants you to be cast into hell with him. But he’ll never come to you as the fiery dragon Scripture describes him as. He’ll come as an attractive angel of light preaching love and appealing to your base desires. Don’t be taken in.