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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The Vanity of Wisdom and Knowledge

Reading the Word

Ecclesiastes 1:12–18 (ESV)
12 I the Preacher have been king over Israel in Jerusalem.
13 And I applied my heart to seek and to search out by wisdom all that is done under heaven. It is an unhappy business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with.
14 I have seen everything that is done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity and a striving after wind.
15 What is crooked cannot be made straight, and what is lacking cannot be counted.
16 I said in my heart, “I have acquired great wisdom, surpassing all who were over Jerusalem before me, and my heart has had great experience of wisdom and knowledge.”
17 And I applied my heart to know wisdom and to know madness and folly. I perceived that this also is but a striving after wind.
18 For in much wisdom is much vexation, and he who increases knowledge increases sorrow.

Understanding and Applying the Word

Solomon was king in Israel after taking the place of David, his father. Solomon was known for his great wisdom (1 Kings 3:1-28). In today’s reading, Solomon tells us that he set forth to make sense of life through the pursuit of wisdom and knowledge. He concluded that such pursuit only resulted in vexation and sorrow.

Why would the pursuit of wisdom and knowledge be a dead end road? Because wisdom and knowledge does not change reality. This is Solomon’s point in verse 15 when he says, “What is crooked cannot be made straight, and what is lacking cannot be counted.” When we gain wisdom and knowledge we only become more aware of the pain and sorrow of living in this world marred by sin and death. It leads only to greater sorrow.

Of course, there is wisdom and knowledge that does free us. It is the wisdom and knowledge of Jesus Christ and the salvation he gives all who believe in him. Do you know Christ? Make knowing him your highest pursuit.


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The Young and the Old

Reading the Word

The glory of young men is their strength, but the splendor of old men is their gray hair.(Proverbs 20:29, ESV)

Understanding and Applying the Word

How old are you? If you are reaching mid-life or more, you likely remember a time when you were stronger, faster, and had a great deal more stamina. You probably remember being able to stay up late and get up early and it was not a big deal. You probably wish you had some of that strength and energy now. If you are young and still enjoying these things, know that they will begin to fade. You will get older.

Youth is not everything. There are advantages to getting older. After all, you get gray hair, as the proverb says! Why would that be such a great thing? Who wants gray hair? Gray hair is a symbol of wisdom. It is for the person who has lived many years and has experienced many things and has learned many of life’s lessons. Wisdom and understanding are very valuable.

This proverb is not trying to say that youth is better than old age or vice versa. It is making the point that there are advantages to both stages of life. The youth has strength and the aged has wisdom. And the two need each other. The younger need the older to teach them how to use their strength. The older need the younger to do the physical things that they can no longer do themselves. We should not look at our youth or our older generation and question the value of either. Let us celebrate each other and work together for our mutual benefit.


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Trust in the Lord

Proverbs 35–6 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

Proverbs 3:5–8 (ESV)

5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.
6 In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.
7 Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD, and turn away from evil.
8 It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones.

Understanding and Applying the Word

We all want to be our own authority. We want to make our own decisions about right and wrong and what is best for us. This is the very reason Adam and Eve ate of the forbidden fruit in the garden of Eden. They wanted to be “like God” and know good and evil for themselves. In other words, they wanted to make their own decisions rather than listen to God.

The problem with us being in authority is we are not God. We do not have a full understanding of all things and what is best for us in each and every situation. God, on the other hand, is the all-knowing, loving Creator. He made us and placed us in the world he designed and has told us how to live. This is the same God who loves us and wants the very best for us. The wise thing to do is to listen to him.

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Worship Changes Our Perspective

person sky silhouette night

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Reading the Word

Psalm 92:5–9 (ESV)

5 How great are your works, O Lord! Your thoughts are very deep! 6 The stupid man cannot know; the fool cannot understand this: 7 that though the wicked sprout like grass and all evildoers flourish, they are doomed to destruction forever; 8 but you, O Lord, are on high forever. 9 For behold, your enemies, O Lord, for behold, your enemies shall perish; all evildoers shall be scattered.

Understanding and Applying the Word

Worship changes our perspective. When we have a God-centered understanding of reality, which worship gives us, we are able to truly understand the world around us. Those who live their lives without God and try to make sense of the world without him are described as “stupid” and “foolish”.

We all seek to make sense of the world. Where are you looking for the answers to life’s biggest questions: Why am I here? How did I get here? Where am I going? What is the purpose of life? It is by centering our lives on God that we are able to find the answers to these questions and find the fulfillment that the answers bring. Seek the Lord and praise him for his works!

**Shaped by the Word is a daily Bible reading devotional. Please use the links at the bottom to subscribe to this page. You can also share this post with your friends through social media using the buttons below. Thanks for reading!