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Test & Testify | Testing Spirits From 1 John

Sermon Series:

Final Words

Aaron Lewis
Aaron Lewis

Wayland Campus Pastor

Peace Church Wayland

Main Passage:
1 John 4


All right, well, hey, good morning, Peace Church. Peace Church Wayland, special shout out to you. If you don't know, my name is Aaron. I'm the campus pastor of our soon-to-be Peace Church Whalen campus. And so super excited to be here and be a part of this series. We're in week four of final words series. And so we're going to be in first John chapter 4.

 So if you have your Bible go ahead and open that up and find 1 John 4 we're going to be sitting in there for the morning and so today's message is titled Test and Testify test and testify on page 1303 if you grabbed one of the Bibles on the tables as you walked in so for the Apostle John Maintaining clarity and purity in the church is paramount. And how our lives represent Christ day in and day out is among the top priorities for the Apostle. Now, if you've been following along with the series, you heard Pastor Ryan talk about how the Apostle John was once the youngest Apostle in the group of the Twelve. old age writing back wisdom and all that he's learned to Christians.

And so I am not an old man regardless of what my daughters will tell you, but I am old enough to where I experience glimpses of, you know, I'm too old to lie about that. I'm too old to try and spin this in any particular way, or I'm too old to really care what the repercussions are of telling the truth and so I've had moments and I've had glimpses where I just lay out the truth and let the dust settle where it may and so we find the Apostle John in that same scenario he's old he just wants to tell the truth these are his departing words of wisdom to a church that he is responsible for discipling and So we find the Apostle John in his old age giving this departing wisdom and words to Christians and it's in this chapter where we get the infamous words God loves a beautifully true statement about the nature and character of God because he is, in fact, love God because He is in fact, love.

But before we dive in here, let's go to the Lord in prayer and ask Him to be present with us.

Heavenly Father, we are grateful for Your Word. May Your Spirit be present with each of us as we look to Your Word, discuss what it means to test the spirits, to test ourselves, and then to testify to Your goodness. It is in Christ's name that we pray. Amen.

So recently I was driving through Wayland and I saw this all too familiar sign that I'm sure you've come across over the last several years and it has another true statement, right? God is love, but we also see love is love. Again, a true statement, right? Love is in fact, love. And so we have love does equal love. Love is love. And we have God is love. And if we do a little old-school reasoning or logic here, we have love is God. Is that a true statement? No.

So as Christians, we accept the premise that God is love, but we reject this idea that love is God. And so that must mean that something is wrong with our first premise. And we can conclude that love is in fact not love. Or at least, love cannot be defined as love. This may very well be the entire reason that there's a fallacy of circular reasoning. But I think in our culture, I think this is the question of our time. What is love? And for the Christian, this is of the utmost importance why because 1 John 3 as pastor Nate pointed out last week makes a direct connection between being or acting loving and our status as a child of God and I think it's important for us the church to have a crystal clear understanding of what love is and How we are called to love people. That is, to be clear in our understanding and pure in our execution of love. This is, in fact, one of the ways that we are called as Christians to be distinct.

As Christians, we are called not simply to love people, but we are called to truly love people. How do we do this? What does this look like? Well, I think our main point here is that true love is grounded in God's love. True love is grounded in God's love. But again, the question still remains, how can we be clear in our understanding and pure in our execution of true love? Well, I think we are clear. That's the question. I think we're clear in our understanding by using Jesus as our test of truth. I think Christians are clear in our understanding by trusting the Spirit to keep us from error. Christians are clear in our understanding by seeing God as our example of love. And then Christians are pure in our execution by making Jesus the hero of our testimony.

Let's dive in here to point number one Christians are pure and our Christians are clear in our Understanding by using Jesus as our test of truth now the thing that makes this so tricky is what love is and how we love the thing that makes us so tricky is there is no black and white way we go about loving all people at the same time, no matter the circumstance we find ourselves in. We are called to discern different paths and how we're to respond and what this looks like and so we need to understand what love is and what it's built upon. And this is why it's so interesting because in 1 John here, we have two passages of scripture where is pastor nate what he covered last week at the end of chapter three it's this whole idea that we are told to love one another as Christians and then the end of chapter four what will finish with is this idea that god is, in fact, love and so we have love one another god is love and then we have this really interesting space in between and what we have to know and remember is that the chapters and verses of the scriptures are not divinely inspired. They were added later by mere humans to help with reference.

And so sometimes we need to back up and we can't just look at chapter 4, we have to look at 3 and 4 and we find John's thought process as he's writing to the Christians, love one another, God is love, but then we have this moment where he says, but you need to test the spirits. You got to test them. And so John continues in chapter four, verses one through three, he says, beloved, do not believe every spirit again, love one another, beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God For many false prophets have gone out into the world By this, you know the Spirit of God and every spirit that confesses Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God and Every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you heard was coming, and now is in the world already. See, what John makes clear is that the active agent behind false teachers is the spirit of the Antichrist. And I think this is a good reminder for us as Christians. As we engage in the cultural battles of our day and we engage in the spiritual warfare We've got to be clear exactly who it is that we're battling against and waging war against and it is not Against flesh and blood but as Ephesians 6 12 tells us that it's against the ruler's authorities cosmic powers over this present darkness Against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. See, so our beef is not with people, but with the evil one as he goes about his trickery and performs his schemes.

Now, if you remember, at the very first message of this series, Pastor Ryan unpacked the cultural moment that John was addressing. And I encourage you to go back and listen to it. It was an absolutely awesome message, but in that message, the first message, Pastor Ryan talked about something called Gnosticism. And so Gnosticism is the belief that salvation, nirvana, and perfection is achieved by a revelation that awakens some knowledge of the divine spirit from within. And what John made clear in chapter 1 of 1st John is this idea of total depravity. So total depravity is not that we are as bad as we possibly could be and totally depraved in that way. What total depravity means is that everything is touched by the power or by the effects and the corruption of sin. Everything. Nothing gets off on this. So that means everything within us is affected and corrupted by sin. Every part of who we are on the inside. And this brings us to our need for a savior. Someone or something outside of ourselves. Specifically Jesus.

So how do we do this?

Let's go back to our example, love is love, as from the opening illustration. Love is love. So love is love means that we are to do or desire whatever we feel like we want to do or desire. That they are something to be embraced, not something to be rejected and redeemed. See, and I know this is a simplified version of this with all the intricacies and everything underneath, and so I get all that, but just go with me here. So the very nature of love is love is anti-gospel because there is nothing within to be saved from. It's all good, right, and beautiful, and to be embraced, that there's nothing in need of redemption. No Savior is truly needed. And we as Christians, we can conclude that because of the teaching, because the teaching of love is love, rejects the need for redemption. It rejects the gospel. And according to 1 John 4:1-3 is from the spirit of the Antichrist those who preach this would be referred to as a false prophets false prophet and We are simply to dismiss the claim.

See and this is how clarity comes to our understanding of what it means to love people. All new teaching, all fresh takes, must be tested through and by Jesus to see if they're from God or from the Antichrist. Now this is very much a sexuality thing, but this is not only a sexuality thing.

Are you tracking with that? What I mean is this so I've heard it said in a couple of different ways all sorts of false Assumptions and false truths, right? So I've often heard. Hey, hey, you can do it. When the scriptures clearly lay out that all have fallen short of the glory of God, and that Christ did it for us. And so for us, we need to take these truths, we need to take these thoughts, we need to take this information, apply it, and test it by the gospel to see whether or not it's true or false.

I've often heard it said, you know what brother, you work hard, you deserve that boat. When the scriptures tell us that all of our actions are nothing but filthy rags. Now that doesn't mean you don't get the boat, but we see the boat as a good gift from a good dad who loves us. but something that our dad allows us to enjoy. I've heard different things like, you know, I need this from my wife. I need this from my husband. When in reality, what Jesus says, that he came to serve, not to be served. And we are to be fulfilled by Jesus and not fulfilled by any single person here on earth.

And so we need to protect our thoughts, we need to protect our mind, and we need to test them by the gospel to see whether they're of God or of the Antichrist. And this is what we do over and over and over again. But I get it, like, how can we keep doing this over and over again? Or maybe you're a new Christian, and you're like, how can I do this as a new Christian? Or how can we do this when we have new ideas that come at us every day, in every way, about everything? Well, I think that leads us to point number two, that Christians are clear in our understanding by trusting the Spirit to keep us from error.

Picking up in verse 4, it says,

4 Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. 5 They are from the world; therefore they speak from the world, and the world listens to them.

We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us. Whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this, we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error. See, as new ideas come to us, as potential false prophets preach to us, we need to take that and we need to test it by the gospel of Jesus and then we need to trust the spirit that dwells within us. Because there are three things here in verse four it says the one who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. And so when we have those moments where we come into contact with some information and just kind of in our spirit we're like, I don't know about that. We need to trust that. We need to trust that and then whatever that information is We need to write it down and we need to come back to that later and bring that to the scriptures to see whether or not that's of God or of the Antichrist But you need to trust that the Spirit is within you and when he prompts you take note The other piece of this is that we need to understand that False prophets are from the world. So the world, excuse me, the world is going to listen to them.

I can't tell you how often I have conversations with Christians and their confidence is just completely shattered because so many people seem to be believing this. But they're from the world, they're speaking their language. And so for God's people, as we gather, of course we're going to look out and we're going to see the world believing the world's advice. That can't cause us to question what it is God tells us and how we're to live our lives. The world will listen to the world. Not because we are better than them, but because we know that Jesus is better.

And then finally the Spirit testifies to the truth of God's Word saying we are from God in verse 6.

6 We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error.

And So as the Spirit is within and he he brings to light something. Oh, I I don't know about that We need to take note. We need to take note and then we need to circle back to this We circle back to the scriptures to see if it's truth or error.

I think it was not too long ago, two weeks ago, I think my daughters and I, we went to the beach and it was just us. It was my two daughters and me. And so we show up to the beach and they immediately run out into the water. And so I'm like, all right, this is cool. I'm gonna sit here and I'm gonna read and I start reading and then all of a sudden, I don't know, one, maybe two hours goes by and I'm like, Oh, I better check on my daughters. And so I'm sitting there and I look up and I'm checking and I'm kind of scanning the water in front of the beach and I'm not seeing them and I'm like, Hmm. So I get up and I walked down to kind of the shoreline and I'm standing on the beach and I'm still looking out and I'm not seeing them. And so I begin kind of opening up and I'm scanning further and further out. And then all of a sudden I see one of my daughters pop up and they're like, hey, dad, hey. And I was like, in that moment, the spirit kind of showed me that's how a lot of us live our Christian life. We're out in the water, we're playing, we're figuring out life, we're solving our problems, we're building relationships, we're going to work, we're doing all the things, we're adulting well. And we're out there and all of a sudden, time goes by and we don't even realize we've drifted down the beach. And then all of a sudden our dad stands up and he comes out and he's looking for us and then we look up and we're like, hey, hey dad, oh, I didn't even realize how far I had shifted. We have to come back in line with our dad. That's what the Holy Spirit does within us. As He causes us, He says, Hey, hey, hey, look up. Look for your dad. Look for your dad. And then all of a sudden we're out in life and we've wandered down and we look up and we, Oh, I have to get back in line with my dad. I have to get back in sight with my dad.

And that's what the Spirit does. And it points us to the scriptures to have our lives in line with our dad, our heavenly father. Because it's our father who keeps watch over us. It's our father who protects us. It's our father who cares for us. We want to be in his sight. And so for us, when we have the Spirit on the inside of us, and he says, hey, hey child, look up, look up, find your dad. We look up, we see him on the shoreline, and then we readjust and we come back into our father's sight.

See the spirit that is within us is always active. It's always working. It's always listening. It's always assessing information. Listen to the spirit that's within you If I say something up here that doesn't sit well with you, I pray to God that you will write it down, you will note it, and you will test it by the gospel of Jesus Christ. And that goes for all pastors, teachers, influencers, gurus, consultants, anybody that you willingly put authority over you, that is investing in you, take that information and anytime the Spirit kind of tweaks that, bring it back to the scriptures because that's our final word and authority about the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.

See, now it's at this point that the Apostle John shifts back onto the topic of love, right? So love one another. God is love. Test the spirits. This is really, really important. And so back to God is our example of love. And that's point number three is that Christians are clear in our understanding by seeing God as our example of love.

He says,

7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

So, God is love. But still, what the heck does that mean? And I think conceptually we understand the words, God is love. But truly, what type of love is a love that can accurately describe the true God? See, we rejected in the introduction that love is God, but what if there is a type of love that accurately describe who God is? What type of love is described in John 3:16? That God so loved the world that he gave his only son That whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life Goes on in verse 17 for God did not send his son into the world to condemn the world But in order that the world might be saved through him.

See I think we have Christians we as Christians, have grown so used to these words. We hear them, but we don't hear them. Not too long ago, again in the last couple of weeks, my wife does a Bible study out of our house. And the ladies, they were over and they were kind of talking about all these things in the gospel and we're talking about how you know God.

Christ came to earth and took on our sins and paid the punishment for our sins and all the Bad and the pain and suffering and how we actually get the results of his perfected life his perfect life the blessing and and the good that comes from that and that when he paid for that on the cross, that we received the goodness and the blessings from his personal life and how all of this we kind of switched, right? So he took on our sin and we got his blessing and it's this great exchange. And then all of a sudden in this moment, one of the ladies was like, why would he do that? Why would he do that? That doesn't make any sense that God would love us to the point that this great exchange would happen and we would receive all the benefits of his perfect life. Why? Why would he do that?

See in this the love of God was made manifest among us that God sent his only son into the world so that we might live through him. Not that we have loved God, but that God in his love sent his son to be the propitiation for our sins. See, this is God doing the unthinkable. The creator God, having been rejected by his creation and who could have chosen to simply destroy us, be done with it, and start over, chose out of compassion and love for us to take on the penalty of sin and suffer in our place. This is a king dying for unrepentant traitors. This is a creator dying for his creation. This is a betrayed lover sacrificing himself for I wouldn't have done that. I just wouldn't have. And he wasn't obligated to do that. He didn't need to do that, but he wanted to do that. He doesn't need us. He wants us. See, this was all God the Father's plan to redeem us. He is the one who sent Jesus. He is the one who watched as his Son took on the sin of the world. And what kind of love motivates that? I think we could say a defining characteristic of God is love. And the defining example of God's love is the grace he showed to us. This, the gospel, is our example of love. And I think we need to sit and we need to meditate on this until it permeates our entire being. This grace that God has shown to you and shown to me is beyond our comprehension.

Charles Spurgeon said this, he said if there was one subject that he could always speak of but one he felt utterly incapable of, it was the love of God. He said this about the love of God. The love of Christ is the most amazing thing under heaven, if not in all of heaven itself. Martin Luther said this about the love of God. He said, if we had a full understanding of this love of God for men, a joy so great would come to us that we would promptly die of it. From this we see how truly dull our hearts are, that only a few even taste, a few taste even a few drops of this immense joy, not to mention the whole ocean of it.

This reminds me of a time when I was with my oldest daughter, McKenna. We lived in Florida at the time, so we would go out to the ocean, and her and I were heading out to swim in the ocean, and I'm just in this moment, I'm looking out and I'm like, man, the ocean is just huge, it's so vast, like this thing is insane. And so we're walking out, my daughter, she was maybe four or five years old, and we get about, I don't know, two feet into the water and the waves are coming. All of a sudden, this wave comes and just whack, takes my daughter out. She goes rolling under the water, right? She pops up, she's like, oh, daddy, daddy, daddy, too deep, too deep. And in that moment, all I could think of as child, you have no idea how deep this ocean really is. This ocean is miles deep in some areas, seven miles to be exact. Still unexplored.

There are still elements of God's love that we have yet to explore. Because I think, I think this is our experience with God's love. It is beyond our comprehension. As we look out over the vastness of the ocean, we try to define God's love by the small waves that kind of take us out in a moment. So it's safe to say that anytime we attempt to define God's love from our human, selfish, finite experience, we grossly underestimate what true love actually is. We attempt to define God's love by the waves that hit us as we overlook the vast size and depth of the ocean combined, all the oceans combined. See, love does not get to define our God. Our God gets to define our love as we look to Him as the example of love. And His idea of love is not that you are fine just the way you are, celebrate you. No. It's a loving Creator who with a deeply broken heart saw His creation in active rebellion, in pain from their sin, suffering from their sin, taking advantage of one another because of their sin, victimizing one another from their sin, all while cursing the very God who loves them and desires good for them. And in the midst of all that, in the midst of our cursing of God and in all the pain and all the actions, God turns to his son and says, Jesus, go get my people. Go get my people. This is not a wave of grace, a wave of love that knocks us down. This is a whole ocean of love that came for us. And so what is our response? What is our response to this?

Verse 11 says, beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God, but if we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us. By this, we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us His Spirit, and we have seen and testified that the Father has sent His Son to be the Savior of the world. And point number four, we'll finish up here. Christians are pure in our execution by making Jesus the hero of our testimony.

Verse 14, we have seen and testified that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. And we testify to the truth of who Jesus is, our Savior.

See, the name of Jesus is a difficult name to say in our personal testimony. We'll talk about how much God loves us. We'll talk in theory about how much Jesus loves us. We'll talk about how Jesus came to save the entire church. We'll talk about how Jesus came to save the world. We'll talk about how we love the church and how the Holy Spirit now lives within us. But in our personal testimonies, we tend to shy away from the name of Jesus. Why? Well, I think in religious West Michigan, I think we've perfected the art of knowing Jesus without needing Jesus. We've cleaned ourselves up to the point where we can fake it in public. We've got everything under control. We are adulting well. And if we're honest, we can't be honest about our need for Jesus, but Jesus loves me, but there's really nothing on the inside I need to redeem or Jesus needs to redeem. Nothing in need of redemption. No Savior is truly needed. Did you catch that? What did we say earlier?

The very nature, this is what we said earlier, the very nature of love is love, is anti-gospel because there's nothing to be saved from, nothing in need of redemption, no Savior truly needed. We said that we as Christians, can conclude that because of the teaching of love love rejects this need for redemption and the gospel, according to 1 John 4:1-3, it's from the spirit of the Antichrist and those who preach this would be a false prophet. See when we pretend as Christians that we have arrived or when we act as if we don't need Jesus to continue perfecting our faith as Hebrews says it will that we are rejecting the gospel in any attempt to love people outside of a full understanding of our own personal need for a Savior which is the defining example of God's love for us will be met with suspicion or flat-out rejected by an unbelieving world and the word hypocrite comes to mind see the believing world the unbelieving world sees our need for All we got to do is agree with them and then point them to Jesus.

Two weeks ago I had the opportunity to speak at the men's corner at Cornerstone Church on 84th Street, and one of my points to men was this. Men, it is your duty to exemplify the gospel to your wife and to your children by asking for their forgiveness when you get it wrong.

I said this, I said, why would your kids believe you actually believe in Jesus if you've never once asked for their forgiveness? And a man came up and spoke with me afterward, telling me that that very point set his relationship with Jesus back 36 years. He couldn't believe that Jesus was who he said he was because his dad modeled to him self-sufficiency in the name of Jesus rather than total dependence on the name of Jesus. And then through tears, he said that he realized he just did the same thing to his son. But he walked away encouraged because it's never too late to show your need for Jesus by making him the hero of your testimony. So may I encourage you as you test the spirits, as you trust the Holy Spirit, and as you look to God for your example of love, may you love people by making Jesus the hero of your story.

Let's pray.

Heavenly Father, I thank you for your word. I thank you that you sent your son to die on a cross. I thank you that you love us in a such a deep way that would motivate that kind of action. Father, we admit that kind of love is not within us, but it's that kind of love that we desire. May you bring that love to us. And as we go from here and we think about what it means to truly love people in the way that you love them, would your Holy Spirit make that clear to us? How and when and what we are supposed to do to love people in the way that you do. We thank you for your Son. We thank you for your great love for us. that you do. We thank you for your Son. We thank you for your great love for us. In Christ's name, Amen.

Testing Spirits From 1 John

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