1 John 4:1-6
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.
First John chapter 4 is teaching us about spiritual discernment, which is a responsibility of all Christians. Discernment is nothing more than the ability to decide between truth and error, right and wrong. Discernment is the process of making careful distinctions in our thinking about truth. The ability to think with discernment is synonymous with an ability to think biblically.
Spiritual discernment flourishes in an environment of intense, faithful Bible study. You will not be spiritually discerning–even though you desire it, pray for it, learn from the gifted and mature, and depend on the Holy Spirit –unless you diligently study His Word. Only there will you find the principles and truths to discern between truth and error. In Acts 17, for example, the Jewish people of Berea received Paul’s preaching eagerly, and then tested his gospel message by comparing it to the teachings of the Old Testament. As a result many became believers.
The key to living an uncompromising life lies in one’s ability to exercise discernment in every area of his or her life. For example, failure to distinguish between truth and error leaves the Christian subject to all manner of false teaching. False teaching then leads to an unbiblical mindset, which results in unfruitful and disobedient living-a certain recipe for compromise.
Unfortunately, discernment is an area where most Christians stumble. Why? Some say the doctrine divides. That’s true! If you set aside biblical truth and remain silent for fear of offending people, opposition will disappear, but so will some other things like truth, holiness, and God Himself. (Jude 1:3-4) Also, many Christians, rather than seeing things as black and white–as right and wrong or true and false–it prefers to see things in infinite shades of gray…
Discernment intersects the Christian life at every point. And God’s Word provides us with the needed discernment about every issue of life. According to Peter, God “has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence” (2 Peter 1:3). You see, it is through the “true knowledge of Him,” that we have been given everything we need to live a Christian life in this fallen world. And how else do we have true knowledge of God but through the pages of His Word, the Bible? In fact, Peter goes on to say that such knowledge comes through God’s granting “to us His precious and magnificent promises” (2 Peter 1:4)
The Holy Spirit is the true Discerner who will lead you into all truth (John 16:13). He perfectly knows the mind of God: “The thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things freely given to us by God, which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words. But a natural [lost] man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. But he who is spiritual appraises all things, yet he himself is appraised by no man. For who has known the mind of the Lord, that he should instruct Him? But we have the mind of Christ” (1 Cor. 2:11-16).
Spiritual discernment requires desire, prayer, learning from the gifted and mature, dependence on the Holy Spirit, patience, faithfulness, obedience, and a diligent study of God’s word. Hosea 4:6 says, My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge….If you follow those steps, you will strengthen your doctrinal convictions, be kept from worldly approaches, be a good interpreter of God’s Word, and confront sin. All that will help you mature and bring honor to God! Amen.
Scripture of the day: All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. ~ 2 Timothy 3:16-17 NIV
Pastor Peter Okereke Jr.
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