1 John 4:1-6

True love has to be guided by authentic faith in God. 1 John 4:7 says that God is love, and if we do not know Him then we cannot love. In order to love someone genuinely, we must ensure our faith is correctly placed in God and strive to love people as to show them that God is the only source of authentic love. 
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Sermon Outline:

Avoid spiritual gullibility (v.1)

Test their doctrine (vv. 2-3)

Discernment their heart (v. 4)

Know their source (vv. 5-6)

Love others with:

  • Truth and love and always both.
  • The Spirit of God as your guide.

Watch the message here:

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 Sermon Transcript:

 There are some people in the church that just have a way of making the Christian life real—Brad Bigney, our speaker last week, is one of those people. I love that man. He is such a genuine picture of faith, love and laughter. It was good to have him with us.We are going to pick up on the same theme that Brad preached on—loving one another—and look at that as we continue in John. That was not an accident that Brand preached on that; he knew what we were studying and chose something that would compliment what God is sewing in our heart.

Help me with this thought experiment: If I wanted to get all the air out of this glass, how could I do it? Cover it. Use a vacuum to suck it out, but that would crush it. The only way to get the air out of it is to fill it with something that is not air (pour water in it).

Now think of this glass like your life—if you wanted to get every little known sin out of your life, what could you do? You could (and maybe even have) worked really hard to remove the sin. But at the end of the day, getting all of you and your sin out of your life is next to impossible. But if this water represents God, and we are filled with God, we are emptied of us. The true Christian life is not accomplished by sucking out sin, but by being filled with the Holy Spirit.[i]

Too often we undervalue the Holy Spirit and overvalue our own righteousness. We think that we have something to give to the world, others or even God. If there is one thing I am sure of, that is that the Bible pretty clear that this life is not about you or me. We should not be in this for ourselves and if we are we’ve missed the point.

Open your Bibles with me to 1 John chapter 4 on page 1023. We are continuing our study called “Authentic Love.” The title of today’s message is “The Test of True Love.” John was and is still calling people to love but he is telling us HOW to be filled with the ability love authentically.

At the end of the Chapter 3, John said that God is IN us and we should be IN God. We know that we are IN God if we have the Holy Spirit at work in our lives. When the Holy Spirit fills us, it is expressed through the way we love God and love others. Before we look at chapter 4 of 1 John, let me remind you of one thing John has already said the Spirit does in our life in chapter 3; then we will look at a second thing today.

How does the Spirit work in my life and why does it matter?  There are two ways the Holy Spirit is expressed in our life:

First, He empowers us to love. You can see this in 3:11-24. The evidence that the Holy Spirit is present in our life is found in how we love. The Spirit puts within us a humble heart and selflessness toward others. As we love others like Christ loves us, it proves that God is abiding in us. We overflow with the joy of God when we pour out to meet the needs of others through care and generosity.

Not only does the Holy Spirit allow us to care for people; But here is what we will see in today’s passage – He furthermore, He empowers us to believe. Love and believe.

The grand summary of the whole Bible can be found in verse 23, “We should BELIEVE in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and LOVE one another, just as he has commanded us.” The one all-embracing commandment in this letter, and indeed in the whole Bible, is this: Believe in Jesus and love each other. These two things are so united in John’s mind that they are not two things but one thing, one commandment. Believe in Jesus and love each other!

So it is not surprising to learn that the second way there is proof of the Holy Spirit in our lives is not simply by causing us to love but also by causing us to believe.

We believe and we love and the Holy Spirit empowers us to do both. John says these are the foundation of our assurance because they are the evidence that God is at work within us. Last week, and the week’s prior we talk about the Spirit’s call and ability to help us love. This week we look at the Spirit’s power to help us to believe; the test of true love.[ii]

In chapter 3 verse 12, John said to avoid being Cain by allowing hatred to fester in our heart. Now he expounds on the spiritual deception that can come into our life and create a vacuum of love if we do not abide in God and believe in Christ. Verse 1 of ch. 4 says,

[1] 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.

“Do not believe every spirit” was to say—don’t trust everything everyone tells you they have a message from God. We should always be looking for signs of authenticity to ensure it is from the Lord. Verse 34 is the basis of why we can and should know the truth, it says, “We know that He abides in us and us in Him.” The point: Because we have the holy spirit in us, we are able to discern the spirit of God and false spirits.

What is a Spirit? The unseen spiritual influences that guide people’s thoughts, words or actions. This can be a demonic force or a innate sinful desire coming from man, not God. A false spirit can be from the devil, or it can just be a hoax or latest fade calling you to believe in anything that adds or is different than Christ.

The passage can literally be read, “Stop believing every Spirit” as if to say, “Stay true to Christ only.” So how do we test them to know if they are truly from Christ? (1) by observing doctrine, which we’ll touch more in a moment, and (2) by spiritual discernment.

Discernment is kind of like women’s intuition, but better. It is an ability to perceive that something is not right because you know what is right. 1 Corinthians 12:10 seems to say that some are given a gift to be able to discern whether a spirit is from God or not. So while some may have this ability more than others, John doesn’t limit this to some or as a gift that is unique and only given to a few. Rather, He seems to present it as something all Christians are to be involved in discerning what is of God and what is not. While some may be more gifted than others, we ALL must avoid fallacy and cling to truth.

{Many false prophets} In Chapter 3 he talked about “many antichrists” that have gone into the world. Now the author says there are many false prophets—which is the same warning, different title but a different way of saying it. A false prophet is someone who says they speak for God but are actually speaking by demonic influence.

Our culture doesn’t like pointing fingers or calling names, but the Bible seems to do it often. We live in a world of high tolerance, so to discriminate someone because we feel their Spirit is wrong can get us in all sorts of trouble. Yet, if we allow false teaching to go on just so that we can be “PC” is wrong. Speaking about someone or their teaching in a way to say, “They are wrong, don’t believe them” is okay. John is doing this clearly—“They used to be with us… but now they are against us. Run!” That is okay to do.

Discrimination is not a bad word; it can be positive too. I discriminate between wearing cloths to church or wearing my robe, swimsuit or pajamas. Similarly, we discriminate between what is right and wrong—what holds to Christ as the Savior and what doesn’t. If we don’t seek the truth, we’ll be pushed around like a cow on ice, caught up in political correctness and lose genuine faith in Christ.

The point here is to Avoid Spiritual Gullibility. The Spirit within us is the true spirit of God. When some other spirit comes into our life and claims to be right, true or from God, we must test it.

In the next two verse, we are told what to judge people and their message by. This was not something for just church leaders, but for every Christian. The main litmus test that a person is of genuine faith is that they confess Jesus as God and that he came in the flesh. They must acknowledge the full reality of the incarnation. Really the question is: What do they teach about Christ? Look at verses 2 and 3:

[2] By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, [3] 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.

By this you know is speaking of the “message you have heard from the beginning” and the Spirit within us to keep us on a doctrinal foundation based on Christ alone. The readers knew the truth of God, though they second guessed themselves. We do the same—we get in a talk with someone who knows how to debate faith and we start to question if we’re right. Truth be told—by the Gospel and Holy Spirit we know the truth!

John gives us a clear way to know if something is of God and if it is not: he boils it down to accepting Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. Another way to say that, is to say that the person, teaching, practice or whatever sees Jesus as Savior.

If the answer is anything more than Jesus-is-Lord-period, then it is not of God. Let me be clear here: If someone tells you they are a Christian, but they don’t see Jesus as the savior and add to Him in order to be saved, they are wrong. Mormonism is a prime example of this; They say they are Christians, even accept Jesus Christ —but they do not see him as Lord, therefore it is false. Jehovah’s Witness see Jesus as a perfect man, and even a god, but not the God. Wrong.

ANY teaching that makes Jesus less than the Lord that He is should not be accepted. He is very clear that the way test ever spirit is laid out for us: see if they confess that Jesus came in the flesh. There are two parts to this truth:

  1. Acknowledge that Jesus Christ is God. A true teacher of God’s truth accepts that fact that Jesus of Nazareth came as the messiah—God Himself to save His people.
  2. Acknowledge that Jesus was human. He did not merely appear as a spiritual vision, but actually have a human body. If a person denies that Jesus was fully human as well, he is denying that Christ can actually save us and reconcile us to God.

Jesus is fully like God and fully like us. He is they only one that can be that way. I may not understand how he can be both god and man right now, but I believe it. I am in awe of it. I live with great expectation to experience Him in the fullest in both regards.

Some of the Christians with a Greek background believed that Jesus was divine because in a platonic culture the spirit was overemphasized, the body was just a prison of which one desired to escape. From this a sect of belief was spread called Docetism (from the Greek word dokeo “to seem”) and they held the view that Jesus was just a spirit that looked like he had a body.

We talked about this around Easter: Jesus didn’t Just seem to have a body, before or after the resurrection—he DID have a body. He had a shadow. He ate fish. He left footprints. He was real. Others were involved in Gnosticism which believed that the physical things were evil and Jesus couldn’t have had a physical body or he would be inherently evil.

Do you see the problem here—If we say he was only spirit, we lose the power of the Gospel. He became like us to reconcile us with God. He was fully God, but he was also fully humans. His humanity was important because it made a way for my humanity to be made right with God.

John was clear—I’ve seen him! I’ve touched him! John knew that he was more than a spirit. In the very first sentence of his letter (ch. 1), he establishes this. He also made it clear, here and in his gospel, that Jesus was in existence before time began. Jesus was just as divine as he was human.

So the point of application for them and us is to Test their doctrine. In our time, many people have trouble believing that Jesus is God. Jesus’ divine and human nature is a pivotal issue for Christians. Before you ever accept what a religion or person says about any topic, listen to what they say about Jesus. If we deny either his deity or his humanity, we may him less that the messiah and deny him as a Savior.

So let’s get real here for a minute. Let’s do a true or false pop quiz. Do these things say Jesus is Enough and is Lord? True or false—

  • A Ouija board is something that is a true spirit of God. (false)
  • A palm reader or fortune teller is a true spirit of God. (false)
  • A religion that says Jesus is a prophet is a true spirit of God. (false)
  • A friend who has a dream about my future is of the spirit of God. (could be true)
  • The Quran is of the spirit of God. (false)

Verse 4 is the “Ba-boom” verse; The Spirit is the “How-to” of ministry. Look at it: [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.

You are from Him and He who is in you is implying the Holy Spirit (3:24) that lives within the believer. We are IN God and God is IN us. Notice the way this is written—it is a bit clearer in the original language than English. It is not greater is He that is in “me”–rather “You” is plural, meaning the body of Christ. While there is a personal relationship, the pronoun you is the church. Our spiritual battle is not to be fought alone.

The one that is in the world is the devil and his demonic forces (cf. 5:19). “World” is kosmos and this doesn’t mean the physical earth but in the lives and hearts of those who are not in the community of faith in Christ (c.f. 2:15; 4:5). Satan is after us, I talked about that in this week’s podcast. In 2 Thessalonians 2:7-8 it says “The spirit of lawlessness is not yet released” – meaning we have not seen anything yet; there will be days worse than this. Yet his power is at work. But Jesus will take him out with his breath. I love that!

Because we have Christ we can discernment their heart. We should and can! If a person of their teaching is of the world, or the evil one, we should stand firm in Christ.

We can have personal assurance that greater is Christ than any false spirit or curse spoken against us. We do not need to worry about anyone casting any sort of pagan spell on us. Voodoo, witchcraft, hexes, and curses have no power over us because they come from Satan and he has no power over those in Christ.

At the same, time a believer should not be involved in spiritual games or practices that would open the door for spiritual attack in their lives. We are to walk in the light, not in darkness (1 John 1:5–6), and avoid anything that would claim to give us spiritual power or insight in addition to or outside of Christ.

Yet, as we remain in Him, we must not merely be transformed by our knowledge, but continually be on guard to remain in righteousness (2 Peter 2:20–22). We don’t fight the battle with evil alone. We need others for prayer, resources, advice, guidance, protecting, healing and more! One of the most loving things you can do for someone in the family of God is keep them walking what is right. If you know someone is get involved in things they shouldn’t, you call them on it because you love them and you love Christ more.

People are fickle and they do not always listen to the voice of God. This was true in Jesus time and it is true in our time as well. Verse five says there are some who speak from the world, look at it:

[5] They are from the world; therefore they speak from the world, and the world listens to them. [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.

{from the world} is a statement to say that they come to the world with worldly wisdom and the world loves to hear it. We don’t have to overpower false teachers to conquer them; we can overcome false teachers and their teaching by not following them or recognizing them. The application of 5 and 6 is to Know their source of their words.

Today we have many pseudo Christian teachers. They tell people that what they have is from God (overtly or covertly) and tell people how to tap into the inner truth of the spirit. Most of the things they share are not even found in the Bible. False prophets are popular with the world, because like false prophets in the OT, they tell the world what they want to hear.

Some may use forms of singing, prayer, meditation, but are not Bible based. They will piece together parts of the Bible and combine it with human teaching but actually add or take-away from Christ (both are tragic) and deny the Gospel of Jesus as sufficient. They will use any “wisdom” to enhance their own self-esteem or feel better about their situation to make the world a more pleasant place.

Here’s the truth: Faithful teaching of God’s word will not win a popularity contest. People don’t want to hear their sin denounced. They don’t want to listen to things that will demand them to change their behavior. They don’t want to hear that they should forgive or they might be in the wrong. No one in our American culture of Christianity wants to hear we can’t do it on our own.

Yet, when the spirit of God is in us… whoever knows God listens to us and we are able to know the truth verses the spirit of error. This means that people who are not true believers do not listen to sound doctrine (John said they will run from it). Yet, if someone has God working in their life, they will listen. God open’s their hearts. Yet, if it does not make sense to them and does not fit their man-centered, materialistic system of thought, they will reject it. We don’t know who God is working on, so live in the spirit of truth and reject the spirit of error. The spirit of error is Satan, the father of lies. We can discern his working because we know the truth. The Holy Spirit enables us to believe.

So then, how do we live with authentic love and belief:

We live and speak with truth and love and always both. We’re not afraid to call a spade a spade; we say it as it is, ridiculing what is false and exalting what is Christ. If someone questions your faith, quickly question what they believe of Christ. If they may Him out to be less than who He is, you speak truth in love to them so they may know.

We live with the Spirit of God as your guide. Greater is the Holy Spirit in you than any evil spirit in the world. If you know  God, then your shady doctrine will lead you to shallow love. Always be growing in your love and knowledge of Christ.

Why is correct belief about Christ the test of true love? Because as we will see next week in 1 John 4:7, if we are not connected to God, we are not connected to Love Himself. If I know the God of love, I will be able to love others like God loves me. Let’s pray.[i] Adapted from this story: Speaking to a large audience, D.L. Moody held up a glass and asked, “How can I get the air out of this glass?” One man shouted, “Suck it out with a pump!” Moody replied, “That would create a vacuum and shatter the glass.” After numerous other suggestions Moody smiled, picked up a pitcher of water, and filled the glass. “There,” he said, “all the air is now removed.” He then went on to explain that victory in the Christian life is not accomplished by “sucking out a sin here and there,” but by being filled with the Holy Spirit.

[ii] Adapted from http://www.esvbible.org/resources/piper-sermons/article-test-the-spirits-to-see-whether-they-are-of-god/

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