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Passing the Test 3. 1 John. 11'16'08

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Passing the Test, Part 3

What do I believe?              1 John 4:1-6

Sunday November 16, 2008

Is a test negative or positive?              Our first reaction may be negative – but how do we feel when we pass the test? We have assurance, we have confidence! That is a feeling that God wants us to have about our relationship with him! Without that confidence, we are weak, unsure and stuck.

Passing a test qualifies us to take the next step!

Passing a test shows us how far we have come!

Passing a test gives us confidence and assurance! That is a good thing!

What does it mean to be a Christian? In a country where many say they are – simply because they are not Jewish or Muslim – what does it really mean to follow Jesus? How can we know for sure? How can we have confidence? What are the boundaries of faith?

How do we know that we know God? How can we claim to know him? Why? How can we be sure?

I can remember as a boy, “getting saved” every week! Raising my hand, praying a prayer, wanting to make sure that I was ready to meet the Lord! That came from a good  place in my heart, yet God doesn’t want us to stay there.

John doesn’t want us to stay there either! As a pastor, his goal for us is to move on to maturity, confidence and assurance.

The author was an eyewitness to Jesus life and ministry; he was an “elder” and a pastor. His perspective was unique! He had walked with Jesus, listened to Jesus, touched him, spent time with him – and was now a pastor with a concern for churches that were being misled by false teachers. He had experience in life and a concern to share that with people that he loved.

How do I live? Love?

Background: False teachers were infiltrating the church. People were led to believe that anything supernatural, and prophecy, tongues, anyone who claimed to speak for God, was legit. Many men were claiming to speak for God; they were claiming to have a word from God – how could they tell? These claims weren’t all adding up – something had to give!

“Dear friends, 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. 2 This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 3 but every spirit that does not acknowledge

Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.

4 You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. 5 They are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them. 6 We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us. This is how we recognize the Spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood.” 4:1-6

So, John, as the “elder” steps in. He’s seen it all before.

John the pastor speaks up. He cares about the spiritual lives of these people.

John the eyewitness speaks up. He saw Jesus! He was there on the cross, he saw him suffer and die. He saw Jesus “in the flesh”.

So, What do I believe?

1.    Be a spiritual “critic”

Movie critic, food critic (awesome job!). we do this all the time, anyway. We like some things, we don’t care for others. Movie reviews – find out what is in that movie before you decide to take it in. Restaurant reviews – find out what the food is like, the prices, etc. before you go. (Desiree’s 18th birthday!)

“Do not believe every spirit”. That is our job as followers of Jesus. This world is still filled with false prophets, false teachers – not everyone who claims to speak for God does! That should be obvious to us, but we need a reminder every so often.

A critic looks carefully and discerns.

Not “picky” and critical, but discerning. Not the person who complains about everything in the church (I didn’t like that song; why is she wearing that? Blah blah blah) – but the person who discerns between truth and error.

It’s important to have a healthy skepticism when it comes to spiritual claims. Our culture tells us to believe what feels good or what sounds the best. The word “test” refers to examining, proving and scrutinizing something. Don’t be gullible; not everyone who claims to have spiritual authority ought to be listened to.

Apparently false teachers were coming through town teaching all sorts of goofiness. The key seems to have been that Jesus wasn’t really man / God. He was a good teacher, a good man – but NOT God come in the flesh.

He “appeared” as a man, but he really didn’t take on a human body. Docetists believed that Christ was divine but only seemed to become human. Jesus the man lived his life; The spirit of Christ “came on him” at his baptism and left just before his crucifixion. Or, he “appeared” to be a man, but he was really just a spirit.

John: No way! The New Testament teaching on Jesus is that he was unique – fully man + fully God.

We need to anchor our thinking to the Biblical truth about Jesus. Many people today want to know “What is new?” Always searching for a new twist, a new teaching, a new interpretation of the Bible. Our goal ought to be to hold on to what we know, what has already been revealed to us in the Word of God!

:2         “This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God:” This is a real question! How can you know for sure? How can you tell? Which voice do I listen for?

15 “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. 16 By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.” Mt. 7:15

(turn to 2 Tim. 4:1-4)

“In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: 2 Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. 3 For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. 4 They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.” 2 Timothy 4:1-4

So, we need to be spiritual “critics” we need to be a bit skeptical.                A young Navy man was sent on a 8 month deployment. He didn’t really want to do it, but it would enable him to earn enough to marry his long-time girlfriend. They were going to get married; they were going to put a down payment on a house when he returned. They e-mailed often, but as the lonely weeks went by, she began expressing doubts that he was being true to her. The sailor wrote back, declaring with some passion that he was paying absolutely no attention to any other girls. “I admit,” he wrote, “that sometimes I’m tempted. But I fight it. I’m keeping myself for you.”

In the next mail, he received a package. It contained a note from his girl and a harmonica. “I’m sending this to you,” she wrote, “so you can learn to play it and have something to take your mind off those girls.” The sailor replied, “Thanks for the harmonica. I’m practicing on it every night and thinking of you.”

At the end of his deployment stint, he came home. Her whole family was with her, but as he rushed forward to embrace her, she held up a restraining hand and said sternly, “Just hold on there a minute. Before any serious kissin’ and huggin’ let me hear you play that harmonica!”

She was skeptical! She wanted proof that what he told her was indeed true. We ought to be as well.

2.    What is the Belief Test?

2.         “Who is Jesus?” That is the dividing line in history.

History will not divide people based on race, political party, national divide – history will be divided on the basis of “What did you do with Jesus? Who is Jesus?” a good man, a teacher, a prophet, a legend, an illusion – or God come in the flesh?

If a group doesn’t get their teaching about Jesus right, nothing else will be right either. Look at verses 2-3: “This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.” The word “acknowledge” is actually the word “confess,” which has to do with a commitment that leads to a genuine confession. It literally means to “say the same word,” or to say the same thing that God says about something. What is it that the Father has said about His Son? He is Savior and Lord and God.

If we deny that he came from the Father OR

That he lived as a sinless man – we have missed the truth about Jesus, and we do not have the “Spirit of truth”.

He is:

  • The “way the truth and the life”
  • “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” Peter in Acts 4:12
  • He is God’s “final answer”. (Hebrews) Game show: Is that your final answer? Kids from parents – that IS my final answer.

No compromise here! (on most other points, yes. But not here!) Some things are essential – others are not!

Jesus is the central focus of all God has done, is doing and is going to do. The name “Jesus Christ” covers his humanity and His deity. Jesus is his earthly name and Christ refers to his heavenly name. He is fully God and fully man. Any system that denigrates His deity or dishonors his humanity is not of God. John calls this the spirit of the antichrist.

What I believe is vital! We live in a world where how I feel takes priority over what I believe. Know what you believe! Know why you believe it!  Beliefs have consequences! What I believe becomes the foundation for my life.

The Christian world is a mile wide and an inch deep!

3.    Passing this test makes you an Overcomer!

:4  “You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.”       

NLT    “But you belong to God, my dear children. You have already won a victory over those people, because the Spirit who lives in you is greater than the spirit who lives in the world.

Message          “My dear children, you come from God and belong to God. You have already won a big victory over those false teachers, for the Spirit in you is far stronger than anything in the world.”

False teachers will come and go – in the end you don’t have to worry about them! God has placed his Spirit inside of YOU – and that Spirit is greater than anything that this world can offer. Stay faithful! Stay true! Keep on the right track!

We can know that we are “from God” because of the evidence in our lives. How we live – not for ourselves, but for Him; How we love – not ourselves but His Spirit loves others through us – and what we believe. Jesus is the Son of God! Knowing all that will lead us to have assurance, confidence and strength as we move ahead in life.

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