Notice what John writes, he says in verse 1, many of these false pretenders have gone out into the world. I mean, just as we're sending mission teams to different places around the world to deliver the gospel of Jesus Christ, false teachers are racking up frequent flyer miles delivering a false understanding of the nature of God and above all, a false interpretation of the gospel of Jesus Christ. They're on a mission though.
Are we on a mission? You're listening to a station right now that's careful about the teaching they bring you. But there are plenty of media outlets and podcasts where you might encounter a false teacher. Have you ever stopped to realize that those encounters are not random? You see, there are people who are actively and aggressively spreading falsehood and false teaching. There are people who want you to believe the wrong things. Therefore, you need to be equipped to know true teaching from false teaching.
Stephen Davey is going to help you with that. We're in 1st John with the lesson Stephen called putting teachers to the test. Long before the apostle John picked up a quill and began to write letters to Christians, a Persian soldier had become a wealthy man. Five hundred years before the birth of Christ, Cyrus, the king of Persia, wanted to conquer Sardis and capture its legendary treasures of gold. He first had to capture the fortress which protected the city and the fortress was built on the edge of a cliff.
Simply no way to attack it from the front really and certainly no way to attack it from the rear. Cyrus, in his frustration, finally offered a large reward to any soldier who could figure a way in. A soldier by the name of Hieroides determined to watch the soldiers that guarded that cliffside stone battle. One evening he was watching and a soldier accidentally knocked his helmet off the wall, tumbled down and sort of cascaded down the cliff into the valley and to the surprise of Hieroides, I hope you never name your son, that'll never be able to say hello to him in the lobby. Hieroides watched as that soldier climbed down the wall and then down that cliff, find his helmet and scamper back up.
He made a mental marker of that path and later as he led a small group of soldiers under the cover of darkness they found depressions had been carved into the cliff and even into the wall and when they eventually reached the top of that battle meant they found the walls unguarded for the most part except for a few soldiers and they were asleep. Even though one of the world's most powerful empires was in battle array, not too far away, the soldiers of Sardis weren't concerned enough to stay awake, to keep watch. It's no coincidence that 500 years later God will effectively refer back to that event as he warns the church located in Sardis and the church located everywhere to wake up, specifically pointing their memories back to a time when they fell asleep. In fact, twice God admonishes the church that they are spiritually sleeping at the wheel effectively in grave danger. So John the Apostle translates God's warning to Sardis in the book of Revelation and chapter 3 using this verb gregoreo, which means to wake up. It means to be alert.
We've taken that verb gregoreo and we've turned that into a name that we can pronounce, Gregory or Greg. In Revelation chapter 3, the Apostle John uses the imperative as he challenges the church in Sardis and he literally shouts wake up. The Apostle Paul will use the same word as he warns the believers living in Corinth, where he writes to them, exhorting them to be on the alert, gregoreo, wake up, stand firm in the faith, act like men. He writes, be strong, 1 Corinthians 16, 13. One of the great concerns of the Apostles was the protection of the church.
Even to a new, young church, the threat was serious. The Apostle Paul warned the Ephesian church that they needed to be discerning so that they wouldn't be spiritually gullible, just sort of carried around on every wind of doctrine by the trickery of men, by craftiness and deceitful scheming. Ephesians chapter 4 verse 14. The Apostle Paul actually lays a good deal of responsibility of spiritual alertness and protection at the feet of the elders of the church. He warned these elders in the church at Ephesus that as soon as he left them, he just knew that as soon as he left them, false teachers would try and find a way, as it were, over the wall of truth. He says, I know that after my departure, savage wolves, he calls them, will come in among you, not sparing the flock, Acts chapter 20 verse 29. One author writes it this way, he says, many an elder fails because he is not vigilant.
He took it for granted that there really weren't any wolves, no birds of prey, no robbers, and while he was sleeping, the enemy arrived. False ideas, destructive interpretations, and false teaching came into the flock and he never knew it. Errors as fierce as wolves and pitiless as hyenas, they tear faith, hope, and love to pieces and leave churches mangled and half dead. The danger, of course, in the 21st century is even greater, perhaps because teaching can reach a member of the flock without ever having to come to the assembly, without ever having to gain credibility among the flock and then begin to teach false teaching.
They don't have to come through the front door anymore. In Paul's day and in ours, part of the trouble is that false teachers also, they don't just show up in red suits with pitchforks in their hands, they often do many good things, they're good people, and many of them present themselves as family-oriented and values-driven and model citizens and oh yeah, we believe in God too and we're ever smiling ready to put you in touch with the Jesus you'd really like to follow. The devil doesn't just prowl around like a lion, roaring lion, 1 Peter 5.8. The devil also appears as an angel of light, 2 Corinthians 11.14. He spreads systematic, carefully thought through teaching, 1 Timothy 4.1. He has his array of false ministers, 2 Corinthians 11.15. Even fallen angels masquerading as messengers of the gospel, Galatians 1, verse 8.
So if the apostles had problems with counterfeit teaching in the first century, why would we ever think in the 21st century that we can go to sleep? The truth is detecting counterfeit truth and counterfeit gospels and counterfeit spiritualities and counterfeit teachers is as great a problem for the church today than it has ever been. It's been interesting to me as we've studied through this particular letter together that several individuals who work in the banking and financial world have come up to me after one of our morning services and have said to me, you know, you've mentioned some things that have provoked my thinking. I wonder if you know about the special training given to those who handle currency so that they can spot counterfeit. And I said, no, tell me about it and they told me, fascinating training. In fact, the American Banking Association sponsors a two-week training program to detect counterfeit bills.
And during this unique program, the tellers never once ever look at counterfeit money. They don't handle it. They don't look at it.
They're not showing all the different varieties. They literally spend two weeks handling, observing, counting, holding, feeling, inspecting the real item, hour after hour, day after day. One of these individuals that came up to me said that this training includes times when all the lights are turned out and they handle the money in complete darkness. They're going to be able later on to detect counterfeit money, as it were, with their eyes closed just by the feel of the texture of the paper. Detecting and avoiding counterfeit teachers, counterfeit deceiving doctrines is one of the big strings on the Apostle John's fiddle. And he strums it often throughout his letters. He's about to do the same again as he gives us a wonderful and objective way to put teachers to the test to see if they're really delivering the truth. Here's how to test your teacher.
Here's how you can test me as well. First John, let's pick it up where we left off at chapter 4 and verse 1. Beloved, by the way, he's writing this to believers, right? Beloved, which means the beloved can believe wrong things.
They're not careful. Beloved, 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. Now in this opening verse, John gives the believer a command. There are two parts to the command, you notice.
First he tells us what not to do. Do not believe every spirit. Now the word spirit here is not a reference to some vaporous being, some disembodied ghost.
This isn't a reference to some strange, weird, vaporous, misty thing. It's a reference to anything under the guise of spiritual truth, spiritual wisdom, spiritual direction. In other words, don't believe everything that comes under the banner of spirituality.
Let me break it down even further. Don't believe everything you hear even if the person uses the names God or Jesus or heaven or the Bible. Don't believe everything you hear. There's no spiritual prize for gullibility here. Don't believe every spiritual thing you hear. And the world uses the word spiritual, doesn't it? They'll talk about, oh, that was a spiritual experience.
He's such a spiritual person. I'll never forget one Saturday morning a number of years ago with our twin sons. The three of us were in a booth eating. And I remember there was a couple in their mid-30s sitting in the booth next to us having this intense conversation. It wasn't angry, it was just really intense, especially the woman. And I remember hearing her say the word spiritual. And it kind of perked up my ears. And I kind of leaned over.
Boys, hang on just a second. I kind of leaned over just to hear what was spiritual over here at this booth. It turns out that this woman was trying to convince her friend to follow her spiritual guru, she called him.
I remember my heart kind of sinking. She was trying to convince this man to follow her teaching. She said, he leads you to truth.
Very intense. She referred to her teacher's wisdom, his many years of experience. In fact, near the end of the conversation, she said, in fact, I wrote in my journal, she said with this great sense of urgency, I could see her with her fists clenched and she was kind of whispering loudly. And she said to him, you must follow the voice of his experience. That's not the message of John. He doesn't say here in verse 1, do not believe every spirit unless they've got years of experience.
Unless they're down the road. You know, the further down the road, the more likely you are to have true spiritual wisdom about the reality of Jesus Christ. Now, you can hear the truth about Jesus Christ from a five-year-old. Don't do that, he says.
That's what not to do. Now, here's what to do, he adds, verse 1. But test the spirits to see whether they are from God. The word for test that John uses here is the word dacamazzo. It means to scrutinize.
It means to carefully examine, to think critically, to put to the test. Do what a young lady did recently who left Colonial. She moved away and was looking for another church. She came back for a visit and told me. She came up and she said, you know, I'm looking for another church and I said, how's it going? She says, well, I got a system. I said, what is it? She said, well, I go and I visit the pastor of a prospective church and I bring in with me a notebook and I've got all of my biblical and doctrinal questions laid out. I said, way to go. Way to go.
It's outstanding. You see, when you were in school, maybe you're still there, here's the way it works. You listen to your teacher and then you take a test and John says, no, no, no, let's create a role reversal.
You first test the teacher and then if they pass the test, listen to them. The word he uses here for test is commonly used in John's generation for testing the genuineness of coinage, most often by weight. Made me think of early American history, simplest but not always the best test for determining real gold from fool's gold was to bite down on the coin.
Gold is softer than fool's gold, which is why in western movies, I always wondered why until I read this, you got the old timer kind of biting down on a coin. What's he doing? He's seeing if he can dent it. If he can, it's good.
If it breaks his tooth, it's bad. John isn't telling us to go around biting people to see if we're going to listen to them, but he does command us, examine them, scrutinize them. Notice verse one, to see if they are from God.
You're not only hearing what you're seeing. So examine everything about their lives and their teaching to see if they are from God. That is, see if what they say and how they live would be something that God would be willing to associate with. Now the Old Testament tests for determining true spokesmen or prophets were fairly simple and prophecies were more than predictions. They were messages supposedly from God. So Deuteronomy 13 offers the test. Does their message draw people away from God or toward God? Another test is, does the prophet deliver man-pleasing messages, what they want to hear, or what God wants to say? Ezekiel 13 and Micah 3. Does their moral character meet God's standard? False prophets were often charged like in Jeremiah chapters 8, 14 and 23 with lying and immorality. Lying and immorality just seem to go together.
And probably the most obvious of all, and you're probably thinking of this particular test and you're waiting for me to get to it, here's the last one. Did their predictions come true? Simple as that. Did what they said would happen, happen? So write it down, remember it, and then a few years later find out, did it happen? Or maybe even sooner, did it come to pass? If it didn't come to pass, guess what happened to that prophet's retirement plan?
It was gone, as was his life for daring to masquerade as a spokesman of God, Deuteronomy chapter 18. Anybody who predicted the future and supposedly received information from the spirit world and it didn't come true was executed, which had a way of keeping people from volunteering for this particular role because they thought it might be a nice career. I couldn't help but think of a most recent case of these missing girls who were abducted and held for around 10 years. One of the mothers of one of these girls was on a television talk show 10 years ago in which the talk show host brought in a psychic who had, as she said, a spirit guide to inform her. And when this psychic was asked by this mother who was terribly distraught, as you can imagine, if her daughter was alive, the psychic responded definitively by saying the girl was dead. Quote, she's now on the other side, but her last words were, goodbye, mom, I love you. The mother, of course, was crushed. In fact, she would die a year later of heart failure, even though a young mother.
Within nine years later, her daughter, very much alive, escaped from her abductor. It's been interesting and going online and looked at some of the response back and forth. This psychic has come under intense fire, which I'm grateful for. She would respond to her spokesman on her blog or website to being held accountable for her false prediction by saying, and I quote her, I have been more right than wrong. Being a spokesman for that which is true and genuine is not a matter of percentages.
I got three out of four right. Notice what John writes. He says in verse one, many of these false pretenders, false prophets have gone out into the world. Catch that. He's not saying they're gonna go out. He's saying they already have.
This isn't a future danger. In fact, the phrase they've gone out into the world has the nuance in the original language, this implication that they are on a global mission. They're literally on their own mission trip. I mean, just as we're sending mission teams to different places around the world to deliver the gospel of Jesus Christ, false teachers are racking up frequent flyer miles delivering a false representation of the spirit world, a false understanding of the nature of God, and above all, a false interpretation of the gospel of Jesus Christ. They're on a mission though. Are we on a mission?
They're at it. It doesn't matter where I've gone in the world. It amazes me to find false religion at every other corner, many of them from America. If John is saying that there is a proliferation of false teachers 2,000 years ago, imagine how many false prophets and false religions and false teachers and false spiritual leaders and false paths and false faiths there are today, all claiming to speak with the authority of God. And this doesn't mean, by the way, that they're all really bad people, that they always do really bad things.
They might be model citizens. John doesn't use goodness as a litmus test and necessarily the final test for authenticity. They may have done a lot of good things in fact, every deceiving prophet or teacher we know from the word of God will not be exposed until the final judgment. In other words, many of them will go undetected throughout their entire lives until they stand before Jesus and they complain, Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name? Did we not give messages in the name of Jesus? And Jesus will say effectively, well, you did, but I don't have a relationship with you.
I don't know who you are. Matthew chapter 7. That day of reckoning is coming. In the meantime, John doesn't want us floundering out here and just say, well, I'm not going to know for sure if they're telling the truth or not.
I guess we're just going to have to wait. No, he says, look, stay alert. Don't be gullible. Put your teachers to the test. And now John provides the most important test you can give to your teacher.
You have the command and now the criterion. Look at verse 2. By this, you know the Spirit of God. In other words, this is how you know the Spirit of God is speaking and not some counterfeit spirit. Every spirit that confesses, agrees with this truth that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God. And to every spirit that does not agree in some way, shape, or form is not from God. This is instead the spirit of the antichrist that is against Christ, diminishing Christ, of which you have heard that it is coming and now it is already in the world, the spirit of antichrist. John has already introduced us, by the way, to the Holy Spirit in chapter 2, more explicitly in chapter 3, the last verse. In fact, if you look up at verse 24, we're told that it's by the Spirit we know this.
In fact, we have been given the Spirit. This third person of the Godhead, the Holy Spirit, he's called the Holy Spirit only by John in his gospel, chapter 1, chapter 14, chapter 20. Now John is going to refer to the genuine protecting ministry of the Holy Spirit in you which resonates with the truth from the Word of God about the Son of God. And this is the criterion that you run everything by. What does that prophet, what does that teacher, what does that person with spiritual insight, suppose a discernment, what do they say about Jesus?
That simple. More specifically, by the way, let's look at what John says. More specifically, what do they confess about Jesus Christ coming in the flesh? Verse 2, that Jesus Christ has come, if you have a pencil you ought to circle the word in, in the flesh, not upon flesh but in the flesh. John is attacking Syrenthian Gnosticism.
You're not going to have to know that for the quiz I'm going to give you later, but let me at least tell you this much. Syrenthus lived during the days of the Apostle John. He was a burr in his saddle. In fact, at one point in time John was at a bathhouse and he found out that Syrenthus was there and John rushed out of the building not even wanting to be under the same roof as this heretic. Syrenthus was the first one to sort of package a heresy that has been promoted all the way up until our time today, and it is this heresy that Jesus was an ordinary man upon whom the Spirit of Christ, or the mind of Christ, or the Christ Spirit descended. It happened at his baptism.
The Bible tells us that something resembling a dove descended on Jesus. Well, that was the Christ Spirit, and that empowered this ordinary man to do wonderful things, amazing things. But the Christ Spirit left Jesus at the crucifixion, poor Jesus, and Jesus then died. Of course, this effectively destroys the atonement. A man can't die for the sins of the world. An ordinary sinful man cannot die to pay the penalty for other sinners. So I want you to notice carefully here how John equates Jesus with Christ.
He runs both terms together. Jesus Christ. Jesus was not empowered by Christ. Jesus is Christ.
He didn't have some Christ Spirit descending upon him. He is and always shall be the anointed one. What a person or a system of belief teaches about Jesus is vitally important. If someone gets Jesus wrong, all of their theology will be wrong.
That's not a person who should be your teacher, and we want to help you understand this more, but we're going to have to conclude this lesson tomorrow. Another way that Stephen is equipping people to know true doctrine is through the seminary that he founded called Shepherd's Theological Seminary. God is blessing that school. In fact, it was recently recognized as one of the top five fastest growing seminaries in the United States. We believe there's a reason for that.
We believe that God is blessing the faithful proclamation of his word. If you'd like to take classes at Shepherd's Seminary, you can do that at one of the four teaching sites across the United States. The main campus is here in this area of North Carolina, not far from the offices of Wisdom International. There's also a campus in Wyoming, Texas, and Florida. Visit wisdomonline.org to learn more. And join us back here next time for the conclusion to this message on Wisdom for the Heart.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-01-09 00:26:09 / 2023-01-09 00:35:37 / 9