Test the Spirits

Reading the Word

1 John 4:1–6 (ESV)

1 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2 By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 3 and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already. 4 Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. 5 They are from the world; therefore they speak from the world, and the world listens to them. 6 We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error.

Understanding the Word

John tells his readers that there will be false teachers who will come. Believers need to know how to test the teachings of these teachers so they can avoid them.

How does a person identify a false teacher? Do they affirm or deny the truth regarding Jesus Christ? Specifically, do they hold to the truth that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, came into the world as a man? If not, they are false teachers and should not be listened to.

Applying the Word

Every generation of Christians faces false teaching that claims to be Christian, but is not. For John, Gnosticism and the belief that matter was by nature evil caused many to deny that the Son of God could become a man. How could sinless perfection take on a physical body if the physical world is evil? Of course, the Bible teaches that the physical world is God’s creation. Evil springs from our sinful hearts, not the world outside of us.

Many false teachings that distort the gospel are present today. Many are willing to admit that Jesus was a man, but they deny he was divine. Others teach that everyone will be saved because a loving God would never send anyone to hell, even though Scripture plainly says otherwise. And still others teach that if you just have enough faith nothing bad will ever happen to you. You will have great wealth, and good health, and God will give you your heart’s desires. Again, contrary to what Scripture says about taking up your cross and following Jesus.

We have God’s word as recorded in Scripture so that we may know the truth. May we test the spirits behind every teaching we hear by that word and may we never be deceived by those who would lead us astray.

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Discerning Truth

Reading the Word

The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him.(Proverbs 18:17, ESV)

Understanding and Applying the Word

Parents with multiple children will understand this proverb. Have you ever had a time when your kids became engaged in a conflict? This is a regular occurrence in our home with five little ones. When it happens, I always ask how the situation started. It never fails that when the first child shares their version of the events, I am ready to assign blame to the other child. After all, the first story is always believable. However, I also know that I need to hear the other side. What does child number two say happened? Without fail, the second version always points blame in the other direction and that story too is believable.

It is easy to run with the first thing we hear that sounds believable, but this is not usually wise. Today’s proverb tells us that the first thing we hear seems right until we hear another perspective or argument. In the case of disagreements, we need to hear both sides of the story. But this proverb applies to more than just interpersonal conflicts. This proverb is about critical thinking. We always need to be able to hear the different arguments and opinions on different topics and matters and then discern the truth. This is true whether it be settling disagreements with your children, evaluating political views, or Bible study. Critical thinking and discernment can be difficult tasks, but we must put forth the effort if we are to arrive at the truth.


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Casting Lots

person about to catch four dices

Photo by fotografierende on Pexels.com

 

Reading the Word

Acts 1:12–26 (ESV)

12 Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day’s journey away. 13 And when they had entered, they went up to the upper room, where they were staying, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot and Judas the son of James. 14 All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.

15 In those days Peter stood up among the brothers (the company of persons was in all about 120) and said, 16 “Brothers, the Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit spoke beforehand by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus. 17 For he was numbered among us and was allotted his share in this ministry.” 18 (Now this man acquired a field with the reward of his wickedness, and falling headlong he burst open in the middle and all his bowels gushed out. 19 And it became known to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that the field was called in their own language Akeldama, that is, Field of Blood.) 20 “For it is written in the Book of Psalms,

‘May his camp become desolate, and let there be no one to dwell in it’;

and

‘Let another take his office.’

21 So one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, 22 beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us—one of these men must become with us a witness to his resurrection.” 23 And they put forward two, Joseph called Barsabbas, who was also called Justus, and Matthias. 24 And they prayed and said, “You, Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which one of these two you have chosen 25 to take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place.” 26 And they cast lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthias, and he was numbered with the eleven apostles.

Understanding and Applying the Word

Before he ascended, Jesus told the disciples that he would soon send the Holy Spirit to them. Until then, they were to wait. So that is what the disciples did. They gathered together and devoted themselves to prayer.

During this time, they realized that they were short one disciple. Judas had abandoned the group and hung himself. They needed a replacement. There were two men that fit the requirements of having been with Jesus from his baptism until his ascension. The men were Justus and Matthias. In order to decide between the two, they cast lots. The decision was Matthias.

I have heard it mentioned a few times that casting lots is the way decisions should be made in the church today. It has been argued that elders and deacons could be chosen in this way to make sure God’s choice is followed. However, I think this is a mistake.

There is nowhere else in the New Testament where the casting of lots is used or encouraged. In fact, throughout the rest of the New Testament, we are instructed to make decisions by bringing the matter before the church. We are to use the collective wisdom and discernment of the body of Christ.

It is important to note that the casting of lots was used in the Old Testament to aid in large decisions. However, with the events of Acts 2, there was a major shift taking place in the way God was working in the world. The Holy Spirit would be poured out on every believer to equip them for the work of the ministry. This was not the case in the Old Testament (or in Acts 1). Believers today have the Spirit at work within to guide in wisdom and discernment. As the collected body of Christ comes together to make decisions, we do so with the Spirit at work in our midst to guide and direct us. We have been given a great gift and a better way to make decisions than casting lots.