One Comment to “The Spirit of Truth”

  1. Donald McMahon
    June 24, 2019

    “Spirit of Truth” (1 John 4:1-6)(6.23.19)
    1 John 4:1–6 (NIV84) Test the Spirits
    4 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.
    The word of God for the people of God.
    Title: God’s Children
    It does not take much imagination to see the application of this scripture for today’s culture. The requirement to test the spirits is as much a necessity for today as any time in human history. Lying has become a science. The sorry condition of the truth is why we have such a hard time trusting. One president went so far as to ask, “What do you mean by “is”?”
    It is not only at the top of our government, but through all levels and branches where the truth is treated so shabbily. The not so funny joke asks, “How can you tell if a politician is lying?” The answer, “Their lips are moving.” The problem extends into business, education, and yes, even into religion. It is literally, the way of the world.
    Think about the expression “half-truth.” A half-truth is a statement that conveys only part of the truth, especially one used deliberately in order to deceive someone. So, in reality, it is a falsehood. We don’t even call a lie a lie.
    In the old days, we would lament yellow journalism. That is journalism that is based upon sensationalism and crude exaggeration. Today “fake news” has become part of the vernacular. It trumps yellow journalism and I believe fake news takes propaganda to a whole new level. And, that level is down.
    Propaganda is information that is not objective and is used primarily to influence an audience and further an agenda, often by presenting facts selectively to encourage a particular synthesis or perception, or using loaded language to produce an emotional rather than a rational response to the information that is presented.[2] Propaganda is often associated with material prepared by governments, but activist groups, companies, religious organizations and the media can also produce propaganda.
    Yes, maybe like never before, we must test the spirits. “House of cards” is an expression that dates back to 1645[1] meaning a structure or argument built on a shaky foundation or one that will collapse if a necessary (but possibly overlooked or unappreciated) element is removed. We must be discerning to identify the faulty foundations and critical elements of falsehoods.
    A common mantra today is to follow your heart to find happiness. The concept exalts the individual and their ability to be self-determining. Do what makes you happy. The proponents claim that the key answers to life lie within you. As evidence, let me provide an argument from an article titled, “10 Reasons to Follow Your Heart.” It is written by Dr. Nikki Martinez. Her doctorate is in Psychology and she is a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor. She is an expert.
    Remember as you listen, test the spirits.
    1. When you follow your heart, you cease having regrets.
    There is no greater truth that when we follow our heart, we cease to have regrets. While things may not always go in our favor, at least we will have tried. At least we will know the truth, and at least we know we will not live asking ourselves, “what if…?” You learn to trust your instincts and know that if you listen, your heart will guide you in the right direction.
    3. Get to know who you really are and what really matters to you.
    When we start to follow our hearts, when we are willing to ask the tough questions about what really matters to us, we may get to know ourselves on a level that we never have before. We may surprise ourselves, when we are willing to ask the deep and tough questions, what we would choose if faced between what our heart and our intellect tell us to do. If we listen to our hearts, we may be surprised that we can find a way to make our hearts desire come to fruition.
    4. Ensure that you are on the right and true path for yourself
    When we listen to our hearts, we can ask ourselves if we are on our right and genuine path. If there is apathy or ambiguity for what we are currently doing, we know that somewhere and somehow, we have gone off course. That we are not on the path that we should be, the path of fulfillment, and the path of that is our true course. Our hearts will guide us towards our true direction, and our ultimate calling.
    9. Stop overthinking and go with what life throws us.
    When we follow our hearts, we stop overthinking things. We are able to deal with the curve balls that life throws us more easily. Why is this? It is because we have started to believe that what should be is what will happen. We have faith and believe in our hearts that we can survive anything that comes our way, and that it has come our way for a reason.
    10. Listen to your heart — it knows your true desires.
    To end, I find it important to highlight the concept of listening to your heart, because it knows your true desires. It knows your wants and needs, and what will genuinely make you fulfilled. When we are honest with ourselves, when we are willing to ask ourselves what is truly in our hearts, we open ourselves up to possibility. Possibility to fulfill our hearts desire, and to be who we were truly meant to be, doing what we were meant to do.
    It sounds like a pretty convincing argument, doesn’t it? She is an expert in her field. The article was published in the Huffington Post online magazine. Let you and I test the spirits by looking at the foundational half-truth. The primary tool we have is scripture. The question is should we follow our hearts?
    Proverbs 28:26 (KJV 1900)
    26 He that trusteth in his own heart is a fool:
    But whoso walketh wisely, he shall be delivered.
    Jeremiah 17:9 (KJV 1900)
    9 The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?
    Dr. Martinez’s house of cards falls when we remove her primary premise. In contrast, we read in Romans 12:2 (NIV84) Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. Not your will, God’s will.
    In addition to the scriptures, we have the Spirit of Truth, the Holy Spirit, to equip us in this testing. Do not forget John 14:6 (NIV84) Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” The Spirit of Truth was given to us as a helper, another advocate, the Counselor. And, He speaks to us about Jesus. Jesus laid this all out for his disciples in His Final Discourse before His crucifixion.
    John 14:16–17 (NIV84) Jesus said,
    16 “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever— 17 the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you”
    John 14:25–26 (NIV84) Jesus continues,
    25 “All this I have spoken while still with you. 26 But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.”
    John 16:12–15 (NIV84)
    12 “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. 13 But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. 14 He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you. 15 All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will take from what is mine and make it known to you.”
    This is how the Apostle John can declare that He who is in us is greater than he who is in the world. Certainly, the Trinitarian presence of God within us is greater than the Prince of this dark world; greater than the Deceiver; greater than the Father of Lies; who was a murderer from the beginning.
    We have another resource: Other children of God. Years ago, a friend found a book while cleaning out his basement. He brought it to me. It was a religious book that exalted Jesus but denied His place as part of the Godhead. It was extremely well written and logical and it made a strong case.
    So, I got with another strong Christian and we argued it through while we used our Bibles as the standard. After this, it was possible to go back and read this book with more discernment. There were subtle changes in that author’s biblical references. Once they could convince you of a smaller point, they could build on it. It is kind of like baiting a theological hook. The book was consistent with the beliefs of the Unitarian Church.
    Ecclesiastes 4:9–12 (NIV84)
    9 Two are better than one,
    because they have a good return for their work:
    10 If one falls down,
    his friend can help him up.
    But pity the man who falls
    and has no one to help him up!
    11 Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.
    But how can one keep warm alone?
    12 Though one may be overpowered,
    two can defend themselves.
    A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.
    Yes, I encourage you to join yourselves with other children of God; and, make the Spirit of Truth your third strand.
    The central premise for testing the spirits according to 1 John 4:1-6 is whether it is from God. To determine that you must know if they acknowledge that Jesus is from God and that Jesus came in the flesh. Instead of acknowledge, other translations say confess.
    This is not a matter of solely reciting a creed like the Nicene Creed we said in unison at the beginning of service. It is not solely an intellectual concession. Several weeks ago, we read the account of the Demoniac called Legion. Those demons called Jesus, Son of the Most High God. Yet, surely they were not of God. James 2:19 (ESV) tells us, You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder!
    This acknowledging or confessing includes professing Jesus as Lord AND Master. It includes progress in the faith, which we call sanctification, or progressive holiness. As we saw last week, it requires fruit of the Spirit. It requires new birth and transformation. For children of God, all these things are evidence that the Spirit of Truth lives within us.
    The Apostle John was arguing against some specific false prophets. There was a school of mysticism called the Gnostics. They did not believe that God became flesh in the person of Jesus. In the first century church, there were also those that were trying to blend their Jewish beliefs with the Christian understanding of salvation through grace by faith in Jesus alone. There were also various pagan religions that tried to combine their old practices with being Jesus followers.
    Author, professor and pastor, Earl F. Palmer explained it this way:
    “In effect they would take possession of the name and some of the teaching of Christ, but then redefine and recast these Christian elements so that they would harmonize with the point of view into which these persons were already settled. The result was a domesticated Christianity. It would be as if a person who had already decided upon the main motivational influences of his life then reached out to the Christian faith in order to support the position he already held. Jesus Christ would be incorporated insofar as He agreed with the previously decided position; where disagreements arose He would be either ignored or redefined.”
    The same thing has been happening in every generation since our Lord ascended to the right hand of the Father. It is still happening today. It is called syncretism: the amalgamation or attempted amalgamation of different religions, cultures, or schools of thought. Surely, you can see examples of it yourselves. The most common equation today falsely claims that because God is love, all manner of behavior is acceptable.
    Preacher R. S. Candish breaks down testing the spirits to this final test:
    The essential characteristic of the spirit of antichrist is that it is “not of God.” It does not look at the Savior and the salvation as on the side of God; rather it takes an opposite view, and subjects God to man. It subordinates everything to human interests and human claims; looks at everything from a human and mundane point of view; measures everything by a human standard; submits everything to human opinion — in a word, conceives and judges of God after the manner of man. This, indeed, may be said to be the distinctive feature of all false religions, as well as of all corruptions of the true religion. They exalt man.
    Sometimes we miss the forest for the trees. In this case, the forest is that there is a conflict going on between Truth and falsehood. The spiritual realm and the natural realm are intertwined. There is the Spirit of Truth and a spirit of falsehood. God is at work in both realms; both worlds.
    Preacher A. T. Pierson used this illustration:
    “I have read a story about a swan that was walking on the shore of a lake, and a wolf came up and ran after the swan, and would have torn him to pieces. But the swan said to himself, “I am not strong on the land, but I am strong on the water.” So he plunged into the water, and when the wolf followed him into the water, he with his strong bill just gripped the wolf by the ears, and pulled his head down under the water, and drowned him. There are a great many people who try to fight the devil on the devil’s ground, and they always get defeated; but if you can meet the devil on the Lord’s ground you will defeat him.”
    How do we keep the battle on the Lord’s ground? We study and apply the Bible to our lives. For the word of God is sharper than a two edged sword. We join ranks with other children of God and protect each other’s flanks. We embrace the Spirit of Truth.
    As we sang in our opening hymn, Spirit of Faith, Come down:
    Inspire the living faith
    (which whosoe’er receive,
    the witness in themselves they have
    and consciously believe),
    the faith that conquers all,
    and doth the mountain move,
    and saves whoe’er on Jesus call,
    and perfects them in love.
    You, dear children, are from God and have overcome the false prophets, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.
    Spirit of Truth, be with us always.
    Amen and amen. Let us pray.


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