“Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God;
because many false prophets are gone out into the world.” – 1 John 4:1
Even though some in the Body of Christ possess and know how to operate in the “gift of discernment,” we are all, as God’s children, commanded to be “harmless as doves, and wise as serpents.” This wisdom requires discernment and, as mentioned in Part One discernment requires “wisdom, and instruction, and understanding.” (Proverbs 23:23.) As believers we need to remember that in order to discern the spirit in operation behind anything the foremost basic foundational test is to discern if it lines up to the Word of God, beginning with the issue of sin. Regardless of how uncomfortable the issue of sin makes us feel, or how difficult it is to broach the subject of sin with people, especially if they are in rebellion against truth, the issue of sin lies at the root of every problem we encounter in this fallen world. The Apostle John wrote, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us….If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us” 1 John 1:8, 10.
You will know that a person is walking in the wrong spirit if he or she willfully sins, or is consistently living contrary to the Word of God, even if he or she claims to be “saved.” Such a person may cause confusion in others, (because he or she claims to be a believer) but the truth is no one can serve two masters. If he or she is living in sin, and continues in sinful practices, the spirit in operation is one of rebellion and unbelief. Usually such is accompanied by pride, anger, self-pity, and fear, among other things. There can be no fellowship with Christ or agreement with such a professing believer while he or she insists on living in a sinful lifestyle. Such a person needs to humble him or herself, come into submission to God, and seek His help and forgiveness.
In 1 Corinthians 10 Paul reminds the new believers in the church at Corinth of those that displeased God because of their lust, and that “they were overthrown in the wilderness” verse 5. He went on to say that the judgments of God upon Israel were for our example, “to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted. Neither be ye idolaters, as were some of them; as it is written, The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play” verses 6, 7. He then said, “Neither let us commit fornication, as some of them committed, and fell in one day three and twenty thousand. Neither let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed of serpents. Neither murmur ye, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer” verses 7-10. God and His Word do not change, regardless of how far and wide Satan’s deception has spread and taken root in these end times. Sin is still sin. The wages of sin is still death. The soul that sins shall still face an eternity without Christ. Those who believe, embrace, follow and support the perverted “gospels” of “New Thought,” “Positive Confession-Word of Faith,” “Contemplative Spirituality,” the “Social Gospel,” “Replacement Theology,” “Kingdom Now” and the sinless, bloodless “Emergent Church” propaganda, and so forth offered today through popular false prophets need to wake up, and flee from these soul-damning, apostate movements and return to solid biblical Christianity before it is too late. Those who scoff at the warning of being “too late” need to remember what happened to the five foolish virgins. (See Matthew 25:1-13.)
Paul wrote, “Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall” 1 Corinthians 10:12. The most dangerous position a believer can take is the one where he or she allows pride to blind him or her to the fact that any Christian can fall into sin. When we receive Christ as Lord and Savior, He does not automatically make us into little robots that He controls, as if to guarantee us that our free will is no longer under our control. Paul goes on to say, “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that he may be able to bear it. Wherefore, my dearly beloved, flee from idolatry” verses 13, 14. Thus, the two things we need to flee from are youthful lusts, and idolatry. Oswald Chambers give us this insight, “Idolatry is not only the adoration of images … but also trust in one’s own righteousness, works and merits, and putting confidence in riches and power.” He also said, “Idolatry is the outcome not of ignorance, but of perversity.” A. W. Tozer summed idolatry up thusly: “Whenever we take what God has done and put it in the place of himself, we become idolaters.” All inward and outward manifestations of sin rest upon the twin pillars of unbelief and idolatry.
Unfortunately, the truth is that many well-meaning Christians have opened the door to a wrong spirit through religious zeal, pride, immaturity, ignorance, and/or impulsiveness. An example of this can be found in Luke 9:51-55, when the Samaritans would not receive Jesus because He was set on going to Jerusalem which greatly angered James and John who wanted to command fire to fall from heaven, and consume them. Jesus “turned, and rebuked them, and said, Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of.” On another occasion Jesus said to Peter, “Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men” Matthew 16:23. Jesus was not calling the man Peter “Satan,” but He was exposing the spirit behind Peter; that is, Satan and the spirit of the world (which is of Satan). This spirit is, of course, contrary to the Spirit of God. Peter was impulsively rebuking Jesus for telling the disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, suffer many things, be killed, and rise the third day. Jesus knew that Satan was using Peter’s human weakness and fear to rebuke Him. After all, Jesus had just told Peter that he was blessed, and that upon the “rock” of his confession of who Jesus is, He would build His church. The future that one minute looked so dazzling bright to Peter was suddenly overshadowed with loss and despair. This passage of Scripture illustrates the collision that occurs between the carnal mind of man, or spirit of the world, and that which is of the Spirit of Christ. One is of this present world, earthy, and the other is of the Holy Spirit, heavenly (divine Spirit).
Because Satan is adept at deluding, seducing, and blinding people as to the spirit that is behind most of what modern man is attracted to, what he admires, and what he desires to embrace into his lifestyle, the sharp contrast between the holy and the profane, good and evil becomes less distinct. This is especially true as everything we incorporate into our lives becomes part of our “culture.”
Once culture has been well established, it becomes entrenched into our way of thinking, and lifestyle habits, so much so that it takes a real love for God, love for the truth, and an honest desire for God’s perspective to begin to discern the evils embedded into it. Most of what we buy into is the result of propaganda. Keep in mind that propaganda is a powerful tool to condition people. Satan, being the father of lies, slithers into nearly every arena of our lives through the constant bombardment of hoopla. Thanks to modern technology, everyone except a handful of primitive people living on this planet are subjected to the deception that lies behind the incessant bombardment of propaganda with its spirit of lust, greed, and lies. In order for God’s people to be able to wade through the deceptions, allurements, falsehoods, and vanity of this world, they must pray for the mind of Christ, for God’s perspective on all things, and ask for wisdom to discern the spirit behind it, and the ability to see through this insidious conditioning for what it really is.
Then there is also the more subtle trap of “comfortable church culture,” which should be wisely discerned. We Christians have our own language, our own set of habits and traditions, our own type of predictable, programmed church activities, and all too frequently our own type of religious attitudes. But, is this the Church that Jesus is building? It all comes down to who is being exalted—man and his ideas, plans, and programs, or Jesus. Here is a timely quote from Archibald G. Brown’s sermon, “What Our Churches Need!” May 19, 1872: “Alas, what an amount of powerless machinery we have in the so-called religious world! Powerless, because it has no unction of the Spirit. Powerless, because it is the work of man–not the working of God through the man. Powerless, because it is dry and artificial. Powerless, because it is done by men who have never ‘tarried until they were endued with power from on high.’ Instrumentality is almost worshiped–while the Holy Spirit is well-near ignored! O, I wish that it were more realized by us all that apart from the blessed Spirit, our acquirements and preparations are nothing, and can do nothing! God’s church is hindered, not helped, by any instrumentality that lacks the Holy Spirit.”
These are some of the things that we need to carefully discern if we are to be as the five wise virgins who were prepared when the Bridegroom suddenly came for them. Keep in mind that the true Church is the body of Christ, He is the Head, and as such His Church should bear no resemblance to a well-established community social club. Ken Butcher wrote in his excellent book, The Church – What on Earth Is It? “There are increasing numbers who are no longer satisfied with a deformed expression of ‘the body of Christ’ defined by its structural limitations and denial of freedom for the Head to operate through the various members by the Holy Spirit. They are beginning to question this false identity and look for a better alternative although they may be quite vague about what alternative options there are, and may be searching but not quite sure what they are searching for or how to find it. As more come to understand that the church is really ‘the body of Christ’ as the Scriptures say it is and recognize the profound implications this has for the practical function of the church, they will not be happy to continue in the failed traditions.”
Revivalist Dr. Vance Havner, had this to say in one of his many books concerning “our marching orders, from Matthew 28:16-20, “The great commission is our Lord’s marching orders to believers. It was a mountaintop experience, which is always a good thing if we carry the vision into the valley. . . . Christian testimony and service are based on the worship of Christ as Lord, not upon admiration of Him as a teacher. . . . Jesus said . . . ‘All power is given unto Me in heaven and in earth.’ He shows us first His resources, the power that is back of His orders. In Matthew 11:27-28, He says in effect, ‘All things are Mine, come.’ In John 17:2-3, He says, ‘All power is Mine, believe.’ Here it is, ‘All power is Mine, go.’ We often flinch before our task, but we need to remember who is back of us. He is with us, as He also says here, but first He is back of us.
“‘Go ye therefore.’ We build churches today and wait for the people to come. Here we are bidden to go after them in the highways and hedges. Too many churches are glorified clubs that have forgotten about the shepherd seeking the sheep.
“‘Disciple all nations.’ Soul-fishing is the Christian’s business. We are not to uplift, reform, cultivate them, but to bring them to know the Lord. We have forgotten our commission and are out proselyting, calling the righteous to repentance, instead of bringing men to Christ.” To which I say a hearty “Amen!”
Now we come to the second foundational test which involves the identity of Jesus Christ, 1 John 4:2, “Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son.” A believer must believe the Jesus of the Bible and that He is the only Christ, the Messiah, and the Anointed One. The next test in regard to Christ’s identity is 1 John 4:2, “Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God.” This is where true Christianity and the majority of cults differ. A good question to ask people is the question Jesus asked His disciples, “Who do you say that I am” Matthew 16:15? If they do not believe that Jesus is God Incarnate, God in the flesh, you know that they have an antichrist spirit regardless of how charming, loving, giving, sweet, and outwardly “religious” they are. Oswald Chambers said, “The Incarnation was not for the Self-realization of God, but for the purpose of removing sin and reinstating humanity into communion with God.”
What is an antichrist spirit? Here is a short explanation from Let Us Reason Ministries: “1 John 2:22-23 ‘Who is the liar but the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist, who denies the Father and the Son. Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father; the one who acknowledges the Son has the Father also.’ This is someone who denies Christ as the only anointed one and refuses the interrelationship of the persons who are deity.
“1 John 4:2-3 ‘By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God; and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; and this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world.’ Several times this term is used in the plural, and can be applied to almost anyone who is opposed to Christ. Those who deny that Jesus came in the flesh are anti-Christ or of the spirit of antichrist. This is one of the ways to discern a false teacher from a true one.
“John is writing after the resurrection and is using perfect tense in Greek which denotes a past action with continuing results into the present, and continuing on into the future. He came in the flesh, rose in the flesh, and is still in the flesh. The same body that He was born and died with, He rose with. If one claims that Christ rose as a spirit creature, and not physically, they are of the anti-Christ spirit and are denying the third point of the Gospel. It was the Gnostics that John is specifically addressing in his epistles.
“The word Anti can be understood to mean either against Christ or it can also mean in place of, a substitute is the fuller meaning. He will be a substitute for the real one. In this way he opposes him. The common use of this title applies to the great world dictator, the last Caesar in the end times. He is Satan’s chosen vehicle the beast receiving from the dragon dominion and power (Rev.13:2).”
Regarding Christ’s identity, 1 John 4:14 says, “And we have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world.” Jesus is the only Savior of the world. He is not a “Way Shower,” a “Master among Masters,” an “Avatar,” “Ascended Master,” “Universal Educator,” “Cosmic Christ,” Universal Spirit,” or “First Principle” and He is not a “co-redeemer” with Mary! To be saved, the Jesus of the Bible must be our personal LORD and Savior.