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Who Speaks for God? #1

The Truth Pulpit / Don Green
The Truth Network Radio
December 27, 2022 12:00 am

Who Speaks for God? #1

The Truth Pulpit / Don Green

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December 27, 2022 12:00 am

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Beloved, do not believe every spirit. Don't believe everyone that comes speaking claiming to speak for God, but test them. We're glad you've joined us for the Truth Pulpit with Don Green, founding pastor of Truth Community Church in Cincinnati, Ohio. I'm Bill Wright, and as Don continues teaching God's people God's Word, today we move forward in our series titled, To Follow or To Flee, with a message called, Who Speaks for God? It's designed to help you discern false teaching when you encounter it.

Last time we alluded to pop culture authors as possible examples of false teachers. But Don, these days it's entirely possible to run into false teachers within the walls of at least nominally Christian churches, isn't it? I think the professing church is especially where you need discernment, Bill. Beloved, Jesus said that wolves come in sheep's clothing. By outward appearance, you'd think you could trust them. But the writer Jude says that we need to contend for the faith because ungodly people creep in unnoticed into the church and deny Christ.

Today some deny creation or approve gay marriage to try to fit within culture. Don't you listen to that. Don't trust a church just because of the name on the sign outside. You test the spirits to see whether they're from God. Okay Don, and friend, turn now to 1 John 4 as we join our teacher in the truth pulpit. Well in our passage from 1 John chapter 4, I'd invite you to turn there. The Apostle John shows us how to discern and to protect ourselves from those false teachers who would corrupt the gospel and undermine our confidence in Christ. And so we're going to look at the first six verses of chapter 4 from the epistle of 1 John.

And let me read them for you to set them in your minds as we begin. The Apostle John writes, Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God. Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God.

This is the spirit of the Antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world. You are from God, little children, and have overcome them, because greater is he who is in you than he who is in the world. They are from the world, therefore they speak as from the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God. He who knows God listens to us. He who is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.

Now people get confused over the conflicting voices, and to the point of wanting to throw up their hands and say, I don't know what to believe, therefore I'm not even going to try. And this passage teaches us that checking out spiritually, resigning from the process, is not an option. John tells us to test the spirits, not to withdraw from any and all spiritual instruction, but he says to test the spirits. There is a responsibility that you have as a believer to test the spirits, to examine what teachers say, and to determine whether what they say is true or not.

And so we're not meant to be people who don't know who to believe or what to believe, but understand this, and I find a lot of encouragement from this particular fact, our situation today is nothing new at all. Throughout the history of Revelation, of Bible history, there have been competing truth claims that people have had to deal with as they were walking through life as the people of God. The Egyptian magicians challenged Moses in Exodus chapter 7 through 11. The prophets of Baal challenged Elijah, 1 Kings chapter 18. Moving into the New Testament, the Pharisees challenged Jesus, and magicians challenged the Apostle Paul.

This is nothing new, and spiritual confusion reigning in the masses is nothing new. You remember that Jesus asked his disciples, who do people say that I am? They said, well, some say John the Baptist, and others Elijah, and others one of the prophets, and there was just total confusion in the circle surrounding the teaching of Jesus about who he was. This confusion, these competing truth claims were nothing new, and we ultimately have to get down to the question of who speaks for God. And speaking of your individual responsibility, I always find it fascinating that Jesus' response to that, to those confusing perceptions of who he was, was to ask the disciples directly, but who do you say that I am?

That's really the question. Who do you say Jesus is? What do you say the truth is? How do you know what the truth is? It's not that we're independent agents flying around making our own truth claims. The question is, how do we understand the objective authority of truth that is outside us? What are the marks of truth that are independent of us? What is true if you had never been born? What is the truth, and how do we know who speaks for God?

Well, can we get something out of the way real quickly? Especially in this day where the charismatic nonsense has infiltrated the church and become a cancer that doesn't seem to be going away anytime soon. Understand this. Understand that miraculous signs prove nothing. It's as though their little controlled environment healing services in stadiums would somehow prove that what they say is true. Nothing could be more backward and false and misguided than that. The Bible specifically warns us not to look for signs and wonders as a test of truth. Jesus said in Matthew 24 at the end times, he said, False Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect. The fact that somebody puts on a little show in front of you doesn't say anything about whether they're speaking the truth or not.

The beast in Revelation 13 performs great signs in order to deceive the nations. And so the message of the Scripture, as we're going to see as we go on consistently so many times, is don't be gullible. Don't be gullible. Don't believe everybody that passes by. Don't be taken in by the latest excitement that's surrounding the latest charismatic thing that's going on.

You can count on more waves of this coming. Don't be tossed about, Ephesians says, don't be tossed about from one wave to another, but be established in the truth. And understand that those who are looking for miracles are easy prey. They are targets for the devil.

Because the fact that something, even if something is supernatural and not simply manufactured, the fact that something is supernatural does not say anything about whether it is from God or not. Listen to 2 Corinthians chapter 11, beginning in verse 13. He says, these men are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ.

Paul's talking about contemporaries of his. No wonder, he says, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. Can you imagine how many books somebody could write if they had a true experience? Oh, an angel of light came to me.

Man, the Christian world would suck that up and put it at the top of the best sellers list, all the while drinking in a doctrine of Satan. It's unbelievable that we've become so gullible and so spineless in our discernment in this day and age. But understand this, disguised as an angel of light, Paul goes on to say, therefore, it is not surprising if his servants, Satan's servants, also disguised themselves as servants of righteousness whose end will be according to their deeds. Understand that there are going to be disguises. There are going to be men pretending to be one thing when they're actually something else.

Wolves in sheep's clothing. You have to be able to penetrate beyond the superficial appearance, beyond the superficial claim that someone has to be speaking for God, and say, what are you actually saying? By that, I will judge whether you speak for God or not. Well, 1 John chapter 4, this passage I just read directs us toward that kind of discernment. There's three points that I want to bring out for you today from the passage. First of all is the command for discernment. The command for discernment.

That's the first point. Understand that we are commanded to be discerning. We are not to be gullible children, but we are to be mature adults who test what we hear. Now, entering into the world of the people who received John's letter, they were the subject of the teachers who were trying to deceive them. When John wrote this, he was writing about a matter that was urgent and practical to them when they received the letter.

They needed this help urgently right now. Look at chapter 2 verse 26, just to help you see this, that the threat of spiritual deception among the recipients of John's letter was an immediate important issue. He says in verse 26, he says, These things I have written to you concerning those who are trying to deceive you. There were people in their midst trying to deceive these believers that John was writing to protect.

The efforts at deception are nothing new. The fact that we realize that should give us some strength and encouragement. Look at chapter 3 verse 7. Little children, make sure that no one deceives you. The one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as he is righteous. The one who practices sin is of the devil.

He says, little children, beloved, he's appealing to them. His apostolic love and concern for them, which is the mark of a true man of God, that a spiritual leader is one who loves the flock, and it comes out and is expressed in the way that he talks with them and deals with them. Contrast that with what the Jehovah's Witnesses do when someone wants to leave their organization. They shun them and essentially kill them and have no contact.

There's a brutal method of dealing with people who would presume to test the spirits. Well, by contrast, the true men of God, the true leaders of God, those who truly speak for God, are those who are inclined toward obedience toward God's Word and who love the brethren. That is the nature of true spiritual leadership. Well, all of that simply to say that John's readers were dealing with this problem of potential deception, and so John steps into the breach in order to help them.

I love that about this letter. I love the whole approach that the Apostle John takes. There's a great article waiting to be written by someone who would examine John's pastoral approach to his leaders, but that's for another time and for another man to do.

But notice this. Notice that in the midst of that deception, John tells them to test the spirits. Look at chapter 3, verse 24.

We'll pick up the context. He says, The one who keeps his commandments abides in him and he in him. We know by this that he abides in us by the Spirit whom he has given us, by the Spirit that he has given us.

And then John picks up on that word spirit and says, Oh, but there are other spirits that are at work as well. And so in chapter 4, verse 1, he says, Beloved, do not believe every spirit. Don't believe everyone that comes speaking claiming to speak for God, but test them to see whether they are from God because many false prophets have gone out into the world. Now, a true prophet in Old Testament times was a genuine mouthpiece for God's spirit. God would put his words, as it were, in the mouths of the prophets, and the prophets would speak forth those words, and that would be the way that God communicated with his people. In Old Testament times, and there was a bit of a carryover as the New Testament canon was being completed, that there were some New Testament prophets as well. Well, they were supposed to be speaking revelation from God. Now, by contrast, a false prophet was a mouthpiece, get this, was a mouthpiece for a lying spirit, a mouthpiece for a demonic spirit, speaking lies, drawing people away from the truth, trying, if possible, even to mislead the elect, the elect of God. And so, in these competing claims of spiritual authority, we need to recognize that there is a spiritual battle going on behind the scenes between unseen forces, the Holy Spirit speaking true through true teachers of the Word of God, and demonic spirits speaking through the false teachers of God, deceiving people, deluding them, leading them away from the true Christ, leading them away from the true gospel of salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, based on the Scriptures alone. The difficulty in that situation is that both prophets, both kinds of teachers, let's say, are claiming to speak for God. I speak for God, I speak for God. One is speaking by inspiration of a demonic spirit, the other speaking truth from God's Word. Well, how do you know? How can you tell the difference between that? This is of profound importance.

Who do you listen to? Well, in the Old Testament, God acknowledged this issue, and he gave Israel certain standards by which to tell true prophets from false prophets. You can read about that in Deuteronomy 13 and Deuteronomy 18.

We won't take time to go there. Jeremiah 28. You know, if they speak forth, they make a prediction about the future, and it doesn't come true, they're exposed as a false prophet. If they speak things that are true, but somehow use that and distort that in order to call you away from the true living God, false prophet. Who's the God that they ultimately point you to is one thing, one aspect of the Old Testament test. And so God, from the very beginning of calling his people out from Egypt, established these standards so that they would have a means of knowing who they should listen to and whom they should follow. Well, in the New Testament, it's not any different. He's given us other standards by which we can know, that we can test the spirits and know who is speaking the truth. We need to be discerning today, even if the teachers aren't claiming to receive new revelation from God. I mean, go to some of the liberal denominations. Look, they're just dead.

They're not claiming to speak for anybody. But you still need to know how to discern that. Say, oh, I'm listening to a dead spirit.

How about that? No wonder no one's here. Well, when we say test the spirits, when John uses that phrase, test the spirits, he's meaning it has a sense of examining something to see if it is genuine or not. A teacher stands up and says, here is God's word for you.

The question is, how do you test that to see if it's genuine, something that's true, that it's true gold, not fool's gold, you might say. Well, this call to the sermon, as we said, is prevalent. Jesus said, Jesus, if you're claiming Jesus as your master and Lord, understand that he himself raised this issue in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew chapter 7 verse 15. He said, beware of the false prophets who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. And he said that in the context of teaching that the way to heaven is like a narrow gate, a narrow gate.

There are few who find it, there are few who enter in, but there are many who are deceived and deluded going on the broad way. Well, in that context, Jesus says, now beware of the false prophets. Beware of those who would point you to a different way to heaven, a different way to God.

He says, be on your guard, be discerning, watch out for this. And the early church understood the importance of this. You'll remember Acts chapter 17 verse 11 as the Apostle Paul was circulating and doing his ministry. Acts 17 verse 11, where it said of the Bereans that they were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica.

Noble-minded. For they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so. Now think about this.

Think about this. Here they are getting instruction from an Apostle. The Apostle Paul is instructing them, and they're hearing what he says and they go to the Scriptures and examine what he's teaching them to verify whether it's true or not. And what does the Scripture say about that? What does the Scripture call them?

Noble-minded. Contrast that with teachers who don't want you to challenge their authority, who don't want you to ask questions, who try to perpetuate their teaching by virtue of their own inherent personal authority and say don't challenge it. That in itself is a big warning sign that somebody is not speaking truly for God. Because the true teachers invite you to say, listen to what I say, understand it, and then compare it with Scripture.

True teachers don't mind that test at all. True teachers invite that, want that, because they want you to know the truth. If a man is simply concerned about perpetuating his own authority, he'll try to forbid that from you. And understand that when that kind of forbidding tone takes place, a forbidding tone that says, no, you can't listen to that person. Don't read the Bible for yourself. Well, understand that they're trying to seal you off from that which would give you discernment and that which would expose them as the liars and the demonically inspired hosts that they are. No, the Bible commands us to test the spirits. Going back to 1 John 4 now, you can't see this as clearly in the English translation, but in the original, the command to test the spirits is in the plural. It's a plural noun given to all believers to test the spirit.

No pope, no other leader can preempt or extinguish your right and your responsibility to exercise your private judgment on spiritual matters. You are designed to know the Scriptures for yourself and then be able to be discerning about who's teaching the truth and who's not. Understand that God commands us to discern.

That's the first point. Point number two, we won't need to spend much time here because I've been saying this all along. Point number two, the need for discernment. The need for discernment. John commands them to test the spirits and then he immediately tells them why they need to do so. Look at the end of verse one, he says, test the spirits because many false prophets have gone out into the world. Many false prophets go out into the world.

They can't assume that everyone who claims to speak for God actually does. False teachers thrive on their livelihood, and they're pretty wealthy livelihood a lot of the times, huh? Depends on people being gullible.

It depends on people not asking questions, not thinking for themselves. They thrive on gullible people. They live off the income of gullible people who don't know the Scriptures and who don't think to ask. Second Peter, the apostle Peter mentions this in Second Peter chapter two, verse one. And notice that he warns the church about this as he's speaking. Second Peter two, verse one. He says, false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the master who bought them, bringing swift destruction on themselves.

Paul said to the Ephesian elders in chapter 20, verse 29 I believe it was, where he said, I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. And speaking to the Ephesian elders, he says, and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things to draw away the disciples after them. We have to be discerning, even here in our context. The whole point is to teach and to learn so that we could be even more discerning about what the truth is. What's the need for discernment? There's a lot of false teachers out there. There's a lot of false prophets out there.

Wolves, wolves manifested by the same satanic spirit that is looking for someone to devour, to bring you under to their authority, to bring you captive to their power, and to intimidate you so that you will be an instrument to accomplish their personal and satanic ends. That's why you need to be discerning. You don't want to be under the rule of men like that. That's why God commands us to be discerning. It's not so that we can be unloving. It's not so that we can be puffed up and boastful about our position or anything like that. No, it's in order to protect us.

Think about building a garden, and you build a garden and you put a fence around it to keep the rabbits out, so that the rabbits don't come in and devour what you're trying to grow. What the apostle John is doing here in this section of scripture is, he's putting offensive protection around the believers so that, get this, the confidence that he had been talking to them about at the end of chapter three, this confidence before God in chapter three, verse 21. We have confidence before God. Well, John understands that if false teachers get into the garden, so to speak, they are going to eat away at the spiritual fruit that he was trying to cultivate in them. They were going to be attacked by these false teachers if he didn't do something to protect them. And so in giving this passage on discernment, he is protecting the believers, building a fence around them to keep the wolves out and to keep the true believers in a situation where their love for one another could flourish, their love for God and their love for Christ could flourish, and that they could glorify God in the circumstances in which he has placed them. There are significant things at stake in this, significant spiritual consequences to this, and that's why the Bible talks about it so very much. That's why John talks about it here.

Well, we'll have to pause there for today because we're almost out of time. But Don Green will have part two of his message called Who Speaks for God on our next program, and he'll give you some very practical tests you can use to discern genuine teachers from those to avoid. Well, Don, it's our hope that these broadcasts will edify and encourage our listeners, and there are quite a few folks behind the scenes that make these programs possible. Yes, Bill, there are people behind the scenes, and one of those faithful people is a woman named Katherine Currie. Katherine's been my secretary and assistant for well over ten years. She is a faithful Christian who loves Christ and diligently serves our audience that does things behind the scenes that make this program possible for those who listen to us. And so, Katherine, thank you. And if you're listening today, stop by our website and go to our website, and go to that Contact Us link. Send a little note to Katherine. Thank her and encourage her for what she does in the Lord. Thanks, Don. And friend again, do visit us at And now on behalf of Don Green, I'm Bill Wright, inviting you back next time as Don continues to teach God's people God's Word from the Truth Pulpit.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-03-12 05:02:45 / 2023-03-12 05:12:29 / 10

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