1 John 4:1

Thoughts from Stuart Poteet

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Swipe Immanuel
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“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.”

1 John 4:1

BTS Immanuel
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This week we have been talking about how Jesus is our Wonderful Counselor, how He guides us and directs us through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. But how do we know if what we think is His voice really is? This is a question that is SO important for us to ask ourselves, and one that John tells us we must ask ourselves. He tells us to “test the spirits” and not to believe every voice or thought that enters our heads.

Slide

The word for “spirit” here is the Greek word pneuma which can be literally translated as “breath” or “wind”. This word is often used to describe the Holy Spirit or the spirit inside you and me. But it can also be used to describe feelings, emotions, or influences. What John is saying in this verse is not to believe every idea, thought, feeling, or influence that crosses your path. Make sure to test them to tell if they are from God.

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See, we are often prone to being pretty gullible. We can fall into the trap of believing anything that seems or feels right. We jump to accepting it as truth before taking the time to examine it and test it. Especially when a thought, idea, feeling, or teaching is coming from someone we admire or trust, or when we resonate deeply with it, we can fall into the trap of believing before testing it.

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And unfortunately, history shows how damaging this can be. A leader with smooth talk, emotional words, and flattering diatribes can all too often pull in the masses, convincing them to accept something that is wrong, or worse, even evil. False prophets, corrupt leaders, and convincing guides throughout history have been “pulling the wool” over our eyes by playing off our emotions and twisting the truth.

Slide

But God calls His people to be gentle as doves, yet wise as serpents (Matthew 10:16). We are told to test every spirit, not just accepting them at face value, but holding everything up to the character of God Himself to know if it is true and right.

MIR Immanuel
Slide

So, what does it look like to “test every spirit” to see if it is from God? There are a few key things that I think are Biblically sound ways for us to test things. I want to share with you the things that God has shown me over the years, tools for testing thoughts, feelings, and influences. But I also want to encourage you to take each and every one back to the Bible, pray over it, and seek God’s truth above my own. Here are some questions I have learned to ask both of myself and others to see if what I am hearing, feeling, or understanding is from God:

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1. “Is it Biblical?”- Does this thought or feeling line up with the expressed Word of God? God has given us an amazing tool in the Bible by which we can test what we are receiving. But we must also be faithful to use that tool well. Be sure to use the Bible in correct context as a means by which to test. For instance, many parts of the Bible are descriptive not prescriptive, meaning that they tell what was happening, not what should have been happening. Be sure to read the whole context to know what the Bible is actually saying.

Slide

2. “Does it bring glory to God above all else?”- John goes on to explain later in this passage that any spirit that is from God will proclaim Jesus as Lord. Likewise, we can ask ourselves if this thought or idea we are testing brings glory to Jesus as Lord. Does it acknowledge or line up with His Lordship? Or does it contradict it? For instance, Jesus has taught us that as followers of Him we are to be servants of all. So, any thought or idea that elevates self over others would be contradictory to what it means to be a follower of Jesus and thus would undermine His lordship in our lives.

Slide

3. “Does this draw me closer to God or away from Him?”- In Romans, we are told that God works all things for our good that we would be conformed to the image of His Son, Jesus Christ (Rom 8:28-29). This means that anything that is a part of God’s good for us will draw us closer to Jesus and make us look more like Him. If something we are testing draws us away from Jesus or causes us to look less like Him, we can know that it isn’t God’s good and isn’t from Him.

Slide

4. “Does this line up with the character of God?”- We know that God does not change. Sometimes He does something new, but He never changes who He is. So, if we are testing something that doesn’t line up with the character of God, we can know that it isn’t from God. For instance, we see a constant theme throughout scripture that tells us that God’s character is unity and peace under the banner of His righteousness and truth. So, if we are testing something that says we can find unity and peace outside of His righteousness and truth, we can know that isn’t from God.

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5. “Does this cause me to need God more or less?”- We were created to live in reliance and submission to God. Anything that causes us to need God less is not of Him. If what we are testing elevates my abilities above a reliance on God, it is not of Him. If it elevates another leader above God, it is not of Him. If it elevates anything in all of creation above God, it is not of Him. The very first commandment we are given in the 10 Commandments is that we should have no other God above Him. So, anything in our lives that causes us to need, worship, or praise anything more than God, we can be sure it is not from Him.

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This is by no means an exhaustive list of questions to ask. But I think it is a good place to start. What other questions can you ask in order to test if the thoughts, influences, or feelings you are experiencing are from God? What is one practical way you can test a “spirit” in your life right now? If you aren’t sure, who can you talk to in order to brainstorm and seek God’s truth?

EIP Immanuel
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Heavenly Father,

Thank You that You are a God who is constant, and we can test what is from You and what is not. Help me to not be too quick to just accept everything that comes my way. Help me to be wise and test the influences, feelings, and thoughts that vie for my attention every day. I trust You and I want to seek You first.

In the name of Jesus Christ,

Amen

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“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.” 

1 John 4:1

Behind the Scenes

This week we have been talking about how Jesus is our Wonderful Counselor, how He guides us and directs us through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. But how do we know if what we think is His voice really is? This is a question that is SO important for us to ask ourselves, and one that John tells us we must ask ourselves. He tells us to “test the spirits” and not to believe every voice or thought that enters our heads.  

The word for “spirit” here is the Greek word pneuma which can be literally translated as “breath” or “wind”. This word is often used to describe the Holy Spirit or the spirit inside you and me. But it can also be used to describe feelings, emotions, or influences. What John is saying in this verse is not to believe every idea, thought, feeling, or influence that crosses your path. Make sure to test them to tell if they are from God.  

See, we are often prone to being pretty gullible. We can fall into the trap of believing anything that seems or feels right. We jump to accepting it as truth before taking the time to examine it and test it. Especially when a thought, idea, feeling, or teaching is coming from someone we admire or trust, or when we resonate deeply with it, we can fall into the trap of believing before testing it.  

And unfortunately, history shows how damaging this can be. A leader with smooth talk, emotional words, and flattering diatribes can all too often pull in the masses, convincing them to accept something that is wrong, or worse, even evil. False prophets, corrupt leaders, and convincing guides throughout history have been “pulling the wool” over our eyes by playing off our emotions and twisting the truth.  

But God calls His people to be gentle as doves, yet wise as serpents (Matthew 10:16). We are told to test every spirit, not just accepting them at face value, but holding everything up to the character of God Himself to know if it is true and right.  

Make It Real

So, what does it look like to “test every spirit” to see if it is from God? There are a few key things that I think are Biblically sound ways for us to test things. I want to share with you the things that God has shown me over the years, tools for testing thoughts, feelings, and influences. But I also want to encourage you to take each and every one back to the Bible, pray over it, and seek God’s truth above my own. Here are some questions I have learned to ask both of myself and others to see if what I am hearing, feeling, or understanding is from God: 

  1. “Is it Biblical?”- Does this thought or feeling line up with the expressed Word of God? God has given us an amazing tool in the Bible by which we can test what we are receiving. But we must also be faithful to use that tool well. Be sure to use the Bible in correct context as a means by which to test. For instance, many parts of the Bible are descriptive not prescriptive, meaning that they tell what was happening, not what should have been happening. Be sure to read the whole context to know what the Bible is actually saying. 
  2. “Does it bring glory to God above all else?”- John goes on to explain later in this passage that any spirit that is from God will proclaim Jesus as Lord. Likewise, we can ask ourselves if this thought or idea we are testing brings glory to Jesus as Lord. Does it acknowledge or line up with His Lordship? Or does it contradict it? For instance, Jesus has taught us that as followers of Him we are to be servants of all. So, any thought or idea that elevates self over others would be contradictory to what it means to be a follower of Jesus and thus would undermine His lordship in our lives.  
  3. “Does this draw me closer to God or away from Him?”- In Romans, we are told that God works all things for our good that we would be conformed to the image of His Son, Jesus Christ (Rom 8:28-29). This means that anything that is a part of God’s good for us will draw us closer to Jesus and make us look more like Him. If something we are testing draws us away from Jesus or causes us to look less like Him, we can know that it isn’t God’s good and isn’t from Him.  
  4. “Does this line up with the character of God?”- We know that God does not change. Sometimes He does something new, but He never changes who He is. So, if we are testing something that doesn’t line up with the character of God, we can know that it isn’t from God. For instance, we see a constant theme throughout scripture that tells us that God’s character is unity and peace under the banner of His righteousness and truth. So, if we are testing something that says we can find unity and peace outside of His righteousness and truth, we can know that isn’t from God.  
  5. “Does this cause me to need God more or less?”- We were created to live in reliance and submission to God. Anything that causes us to need God less is not of Him. If what we are testing elevates my abilities above a reliance on God, it is not of Him. If it elevates another leader above God, it is not of Him. If it elevates anything in all of creation above God, it is not of Him. The very first commandment we are given in the 10 Commandments is that we should have no other God above Him. So, anything in our lives that causes us to need, worship, or praise anything more than God, we can be sure it is not from Him.  

This is by no means an exhaustive list of questions to ask. But I think it is a good place to start. What other questions can you ask in order to test if the thoughts, influences, or feelings you are experiencing are from God? What is one practical way you can test a “spirit” in your life right now? If you aren’t sure, who can you talk to in order to brainstorm and seek God’s truth? 

Crystal Garnett

Crystal Garnett

ACF Digital Discipleship Director and Church Planter

End in Prayer

Heavenly Father,  

Thank You that You are a God who is constant, and we can test what is from You and what is not. Help me to not be too quick to just accept everything that comes my way. Help me to be wise and test the influences, feelings, and thoughts that vie for my attention every day. I trust You and I want to seek You first.  

In the name of Jesus Christ, 

Amen

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