On Sunday mornings we have been looking at the remarkable gifts that the Holy Spirit distributes to believers for the good of the Church. The Church serves and matures through this gifting. One of those gifts, as seen in Paul’s list of 1 Corinthians 12, is the distinguishing of Spirits. The Holy Spirit uses this gift to protect and warn the Church of danger. Through this gift, believers are able to distinguish and discern between what is the Holy Spirit and what isn’t. Even though some believers have a unique gifting from the Holy Spirit for this work, all believers are called to it. The gifted have the ability to give an example, training, and challenge for those who are not. The writers of Scripture were gifted in this work and give all believers training to learn to discern for themselves. The writer of Hebrews tells us that through this Word given to us our senses are trained to be able to discern between good and evil.
John gives some training in 1 John 4. This is after he reminds all believers of their responsibility to discern in verse 1. There he says, “Beloved, 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.” In verses 2-6 then, John gives some guidelines for those who need it. Essentially his guidelines are the same as Paul’s in 1 Cor. 12:3. It all comes down to what is being confessed about Jesus. This will manifest itself in someone’s words, character, and actions. One thing to discern is whether or not these things are reflecting Christ. In verses 5-6, John continues to show the importance and necessity of this gift and practice. Vs. 5, “They are from the world; therefore they speak as from the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God; he who knows God listens to us; he who is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.” John shows us that there are those who are from the world and those who are of God. Those who are from the world talk like the world, think like the world, and act like the world. And see what John says, “And the world listens to them.” The unbelieving world is completely comfortable with them, whether it be their message, lives, or actions because it makes them feel good. There’s no conviction, no call to repentance, no need for submission or sacrifice. Just a sort of “Graduation Speech religion” that tells you to think positively and follow your dreams so that good things come to you.
On the other side, John says, “We are from God.” Who is John referring to here? The same “we” as he referred to in 1 John 1. Those who saw with their eyes, heard with their ears, and received the message directly from the Lord, “That God is light and in Him there is no darkness.” He’s referring to the Apostles and he says, “…he who knows God listens to us…By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.” You want to be able to distinguish between spirits? Does the message (whether that be in a song, movie, music), attitude, perspective, lifestyle agree with what these men from God have spoken? That’s how we know God and that’s how we know the Spirit of truth from the spirit of error; what’s from God and what’s from demons. Again, this is necessary as John says in vs. 1, “…because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” I thank God for people with this ability and hope that He leads many others, including myself, to grow in this.
Learning To Discern With You, Pastor Rudy