Tuesday, February 28, 2017, 9:30 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read 1 John 4 (Select vv. NASB).
Test the Spirits (vv. 1-6)
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. 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; this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world. You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world. 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.
When we read a passage of scripture, we should try to read it in its full context, i.e. in relation to the verses surrounding it, in connection with the particular book of the Bible, as a whole, from which the verses are taken, and with the whole of scripture in mind, too. Then, we won’t pull verses out of context and make them say something they are not saying.
With this in mind, when we read, “Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God,” we must understand that there are many false prophets who DO confess with their mouths that Jesus Christ indeed came in the flesh. They are called wolves in sheep’s clothing, because they masquerade as servants of righteousness, but inside they are really ferocious wolves, out to destroy the church. So, don’t be deceived! There are many false shepherds of the people who do tell some of the truth, but they cleverly mix truth and lies together in order to deceive unsuspecting minds.
So, we can’t always judge a book by its cover. It may look right, and feel right, but when we open it up and look inside, then we can tell if it really is right. To confess Christ here means to be “in full agreement; to align with (endorse)” Christ (biblehub.com). So, we need to make sure the people we are listening to are not making verbal confessions only, but that in their hearts (inside the book) they are in full agreement with God, and that they are aligned with him and with his word, both in word and in behavior (i.e. in lifestyle). So, this is why we need to test what we hear, because there are many liars and deceivers who very cleverly insert lies into truth, and disguise them as truth, so that they can deceive naïve minds.
Yet, I believe we can say with most certainty that every spirit that does NOT confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, i.e. the one who is against and who is opposed to Christ, which is evidenced by the vast majority of his words, not by just a few of them, and by his lifestyle, i.e. by the way he lives. And, this is not speaking merely of a single person who is THE ANTICHRIST, but of anyone whose lifestyle, words, and beliefs are contrary to the teachings of Christ and those of his NT apostles. So, this is why we must be diligent in studying the Word of God, and in listening to the Holy Spirit, so that we don’t buy into lies and forsake what is truth.
If we have believed in Jesus Christ with God-given faith, which is divinely persuaded as to God’s will for our lives, so that we have been crucified with Christ in death to sin, and we have been resurrected with Christ to newness of life, then we are God’s children, and as his children we are overcomers with regard to those who are antichrist and who are false prophets.
So, what does that mean? I believe it means that we are not easily persuaded by these false prophets because God is living within us, and he speaks to our hearts, and he reveals to us what is true and what is false, if we will listen. Now, this is not to say that we will never get anything wrong. I think we are always learning things new to us, i.e. things we didn’t see before, and we are always growing in our faith. But, if we are discerning, and we do test what we hear, and we listen to the Spirit’s promptings, I believe we will not follow after those who are wolves in sheep’s clothing. We will not listen to them as the world listens to them.
No Fear in Love (vv. 15-21)
Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love. We love, because He first loved us. If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also.
Again, this confession has to do with full agreement with Christ, i.e. with aligning ourselves with him, i.e. endorsing him. And, this is not in lip service only, but it is from the heart, and it is evident in how a person lives – in their values, attitudes, thinking, behaving and speaking. And, again, we must read this in the context of the whole book which says that if we hate our brother, God does not abide in us, and if we do not keep (as a practice of our lives) his commandments, God does not abide in us. In fact, we don’t know him at all. And, it says that if we say we have fellowship with God, but we walk (in lifestyle) in darkness (sin, wickedness), we are liars (1 Jn. 1:6). So, a mere verbal confession of Christ means nothing really.
Nonetheless, if we abide in love, we abide in God, and God abides in us. So, what does it mean to abide in (agape) love? What this is saying is that if we remain (stay) in love, i.e. in the kind of love that prefers what God prefers, and which centers in moral preference, which is God’s divine love, then we abide in God and him in us. So, how do we do this?
Well, first off God the Father has to draw us to Jesus Christ, his Son, and then he gifts us with the faith to believe in him by persuading us as to his will for our lives, but we have to accept that gift. He doesn’t force it upon us. We have to be persuaded, and then as those who have been persuaded, we yield control of our lives over to God. We make him the Lord (owner-master) of our lives, and we become his bondservants. And we do prefer what he prefers, and so we walk in the Spirit and no longer live to gratify the sinful cravings of our flesh.
As believers in Jesus Christ we die with Christ to sin and we are resurrected with Christ to new lives in him to be lived to his righteousness. We have been set free from slavery to sin so that we can now become slaves of righteousness. The old has gone. The new has come. We prefer what God prefers, and we want to please him. And, our God is in the process of making us holy and conforming us into the image of Christ.
“AS HE IS so also are we in the world.” I don’t believe this is saying that we now have divine perfection, but that we are his representatives in the world, and that we are to be like him in word, action, thought, attitude, mind and deed. We are to be Jesus to the world, and we are to live holy and godly lives, pleasing to him. We are to be set apart (unlike, different) from the world because we are being made to be like Jesus in character and in action. We should not live like the world lives. We should live like we are strangers here on the earth, not as though we belong here. And, the world should hate us just like it hated Jesus. If everyone likes us, something is wrong.
Yet, we should never fear being hated or persecuted or what humans may do to us, because we believe that our God is absolutely sovereign over all things, and he has all things under his control, and our lives are in his hands. He will see us through any and every situation he brings into our lives. We just need to keep our eyes focused on Jesus.
Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus / Helen H. Lemmel
O soul, are you weary and troubled?
No light in the darkness you see?
There’s light for a look at the Savior,
And life more abundant and free!
Through death into life everlasting
He passed, and we follow Him there;
O’er us sin no more hath dominion—
For more than conquerors we are!
His Word shall not fail you—He promised;
Believe Him, and all will be well:
Then go to a world that is dying,
His perfect salvation to tell!
Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.