THE SPIRIT OF JESUS?
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. This is how you recognise the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus 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 antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world (1 John 4: 1-3).
John was aware, in the first century after Jesus, that there were already false teachings growing up around Him. It does not take long for unscrupulous people to twist the truth to suit their ideas and very often their pockets. Those who have no inclination to follow Jesus and abide by His requirements for being His disciples, need to accommodate sin in all its subtle forms. Rather than match their lives with His, they change Him into someone who is less demanding so that they can water down His standards and carry on with their sin.
Unfortunately for them, what they teach does not change the truth of who He is, but it does disqualify them from having any part in the life He promised those who believe in Him. Even more tragic is that they drag others down with them in their unbelief.
How do we know that we are on the right track in the midst of the outpouring of false teaching all over the world? John gave us one test, to help us stay on course. There are other tests as well. How do we recognise the Spirit of God? By the testimony of Jesus.
Now I know that John wrote that people who cannot confess the name of Jesus or who deny that He was truly human are manifesting the spirit of antichrist. However, there are far more subtle forms of denial within the church which gullible believers swallow without giving it another thought.
We are aware of the cults that teach that Jesus was not true God or true man. But what about the preachers and teachers who add their prescriptions to the simple invitation of Jesus, “Follow me”?
These imposters are not always easy to recognise because they masquerade as the ministers of Christ but they are even more dangerous than those who openly deny the truth of the word. Paul warned that anyone who adds to the finished work of Christ is under God’s curse (Gal. 1: 6-9). That’s pretty serious, isn’t it? Anathema – he said; cursed by God.
There are both blatant and subtle additions to the gospel of Christ in all streams of the church. What about the rituals and paraphernalia that have been added, for example? The elevation of certain people above others. When did Jesus ever tell His disciples that only certain “ordained” priests are permitted to administer the Lord’s Supper or baptise believers? It’s an imposition.
Jesus expressly declared that real leadership steps down to lift others up while so-called leaders lord it over the laity. Whether people operate officially in the church as priests or whether they claim titles for themselves like Prophet So-and-so” or “Apostle So-and-so” that make them think they are superior to others, makes no difference. It is an imposition and not of the spirit of Jesus.
When did Jesus set up an elaborate religious system with candles, incense, a priestly hierarchy and ornate garments, and bowing to an altar? Imposition! How does any of this fit into “Follow me,” and, “Go and make disciples”? What about teachings like “born-again”, “Spirit-filled” and “tongues-speaking” Christians versus the rest? Did Jesus ever teach these things? Did he ever put people into categories and treat them accordingly? No, He did exactly the opposite. He affirmed those who were despised and marginalised by society – lepers, “sinners”, women, children, prostitutes, tax-collectors, etc.
What about those “spiritual leaders” who milk their congregations through guilt to enrich themselves by pretending to have compassion for the poor? Among the genuine ones who create opportunities for us to channel our money into ministries all over the world that help needy people, are the imposters who teach the “prosperity gospel” from which they benefit handsomely.
And superstition abounds in the so-called “preaching” of the Word. The fear of punishment is a big one. Have you heard this one – that people’s prayers for healing, for example, are not answered because they do not have enough faith, or that their business failed or their marriage fell apart because they sinned? What about “It is finished”? Jesus paid sin’s debt once-for-all, didn’t He?
How can we recognise the spirit of antichrist that is rife in the world and the church? Does it measure up to Jesus’ identity as the Son of God, His work that He died and rose again, and does it fall in line with His simple call, “Follow me, “ and “Go and make disciples”?
Scripture is taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
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