This morning at PBF we continued our exposition of 1 John by looking at the subject of spiritual discernment. In 1 John 4:1-6 the apostle tells us that we are not to believe every spirit, but to test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This, of course, assumes that we believe what the Bible says about the world in which we live, which many today do not. Our world is not a closed system that runs according to naturalistic laws. There is more to the world than meets the eye and that can be examined under a microscope. There are spiritual dimensions to the world that are always under the control of God, but nevertheless are part of reality, and play a larger role that we often realize in our lives.
However, just because something is spiritual does not mean that it is good, or that it has come from God. There are both good and bad spirits in the world. Paul writes: "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms" (Ephesians 6:12). Not only that, but the apostle says in another place that Satan, the ultimate expression of spiritual evil, is able to masquerade as an angel of light, and he is able to give this perverse ability to his servants who are also able to masquerade as servants of righteousness (2 Corinthians 11:14-15).
Consequently, spiritual discernment is required. The Bible never puts a premium on spiritual naivete or gullibility. Just because someone is well educated, or charismatic, or good looking, or tells us what we think we want to hear, or gets rave reviews from others, or has written a book, or appears to be successful... does not mean that they know what they are talking about, or that they are telling the truth. In fact, we hear echoes of Jesus in this passage when John tells us that many false prophets have gone out into the world! We must remember that the devil does not come to us and say, "Here is a whole load of heresy, believe it and be damned!" Rather his approach is much more subtle. He often comes with class and sophistication. Or he appeals to our vanity, our passions, our pride and arrogance. He knows our weaknesses and targets us appropriately. He is a wily foe that we ignore or downplay at our peril.
To be continued...