google-site-verification: google3e8cc4742c5fd8a2.html Gems in the Letter of 1 John - Part 113

Gems in the Letter of 1 John

Part 113 - 1 John 4:1
Testing the spirits.

. We do not know exactly what was happening to cause John to say, “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 can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ 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 the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.” (1 John 4: 1 – 3). The comment about the need to acknowledge that Jesus had come in the flesh probably means that some of the folk John was addressing had come to believe that Jesus was just and only God. We don’t have that problem – if anything the opposite, folk who think he was only human. The detail doesn’t matter – there is a clear principle behind these verses which is as relevant and important today as it was then: that is that Jesus is to have the supremacy in all circumstances. In a good church nothing is to challenge that first place and clear focus on him and, sadly, there are many ways that can be done.

Sometimes it is done deliberately. Some people reckon they are too clever to accept any thing like a resurrection from the grave of a dead person, or something as difficult to work out logically as a Trinity. Very often it happens as an unrecognized result of a good intention. One common way in which this happens is when in order to attract as many people to the church as possible the gospel that is preached becomes human centred rather than Christ centred. The church can easily become not much more than a pleasant club to be a member of. There is an age-old conflict between those who want a church to be more ‘spiritual’ and those who want it to be more ‘practical’. Another set of problems arises when some, usually the leaders, think that it would be better if there were more ceremonial, more processions, more fancy clothing worn by the clergy. This tends to move the focus of thinking of the ordinary church members away from Jesus, this time to the leadership. Some churches decide that they need to emphasize more the good work that they do with the poor and disadvantaged of their community. That is a thoroughly good thing to do; much of what Jesus said would encourage it. But if, as a result, the church loses its focus on Jesus it becomes no more than a do-gooders club. Then there are churches that correctly think there should be an emphasis on the Holy Spirit and the way he can empower every member. But it is quite possible for a church that way to lose its focus on Jesus and move into a sea of often doubtful subjectivity divorced from reliance on the importance of the scriptures for determining the directions in which everyone should go.

The labelling that John applied to things in his situation, ‘the spirit of the antichrist’ can properly and correctly be applied to what happens in many of those situations and others besides. What then can we learn from this passage? Just this: we have to be careful what we are taught and the way our church is going. And those are not easy things to do. We need to analyse what we are told – which is difficult to do without becoming unduly critical and eventually a bit cynical! And if things are going wrong it is very difficult to do anything about it in most church setups. It is not good to be labelled the critic of the church – but someone must be! May the Lord be with you particularly if you have to take on such a role.

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