1 John 4:1-3 ESV
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. 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, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already.
Inward not Outward
The spirit of a person is not what he presents on the outside, necessarily, i.e. it is not the image he wants everyone to believe, but it is who he is on the inside, in the recesses of his soul. His spirit is his true character, which is revealed in all his consistent and continuous actions and attitudes. It is who he is when no one else is looking, or when he thinks no one else can see what he is doing. It is revealed in his pattern of living, in his daily practices, and in the way he conducts his life consistently, day in and day out.
Nonetheless, many people are good actors, who are professional at deceiving and manipulating, thus they may be hard to spot, for they can be very charming and convincing. They can appear very sincere. They may even have tears well up in their eyes as they tell you their stories, but they may be fake tears. They can even fake sincerity and repentance and righteousness and walks of faith with Jesus Christ. For, they masquerade themselves as servants of righteousness. But their end will be what their actions deserve (See: 2 Co. 11:1-15; cf. Jude 1; 2 Pet. 2).
What They Confess
But, it isn’t what they confess with their mouths that proves what they truly believe in their hearts, for that can be faked, too. But, it is what they confess with their lifestyles, by how they live, that confesses whether or not they are truly of Christ or whether they are antichrist. But, these actions (lifestyles) must be determined by God’s standards, not by the world’s standards. For, the world has a different idea of what a good Christian should be like than what God has set for his standard for his people.
For the world looks largely on outward appearance and on good deeds and on whether or not someone is “nice” by human standards. So, they might see a good Christian as someone whom everyone likes, because he never rocks the boat, he always says what makes other people feel good, and he conforms to societies standards, i.e. he “makes nice” with the world. But, we are not to conform to the world, but to God’s standards for holy living. And, Jesus said that if we follow him that the world should hate us, not love us.
The Antichrist’s Lies
The antichrist, though, is hard at work right now, in our day and time, trying to convince the people of this world that a Christian is someone who unites with the people of the world, who conforms to the world’s standards, and who does not judge anyone for anything. A good Christian is a “nice guy,” in other words, who everyone should like, because he “stays in his own lane.”
The antichrist is promoting that the gospel is just going around doing “good deeds” for people like mowing people’s lawns, or taking out their trash for them, or inviting them to your home for a movie and a pizza. Most of these are good things, and we should be doing good things for people, but being “good deed doers” does not make us Christians, and being “nice” or helpful to our neighbors is not sharing the gospel of our salvation with people so that they can be delivered from their sins. Anyone can be “nice.”
But, the antichrist would have us believe that those who are following Jesus Christ in submission to his will, and who are living and who are proclaiming the true gospel message, are those who divide people, and that division is like building walls, and that those who build walls are promoting fear, which is of the devil, and which is not Christian and which is not the gospel. So, basically he is saying that Jesus Christ promotes fear, which is of the devil, and that he is not Christian, and that what he teaches is not the gospel.
1 John 4:4-6 ESV
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. They are from the world; therefore they speak from the world, and the world listens to them. 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.
How to Respond?
So, how do we deal with all of this? How do we respond to the fact that we, who follow Jesus Christ with our lives, are now being treated as though we are the enemies of God, while those who are his true enemies are promoting themselves as “good Christians”? How do we respond to the lies which are being spread concerning the gospel of our salvation and what it means to be a Christian and a follower of Christ and to be saved from our sins?
We overcome the lies with the truth. We overcome the false accusations and the mistreatment with love (including tough love) and with forgiveness.
We pray for our enemies, for those who despitefully use us. We pray for their eyes to be opened to the truth and that they will respond to the gospel in humility and repentance so that they can be delivered from their bondage to sin. And, we do good to them, but good by God’s definition, not by man’s. And, we say to them what will benefit them spiritually, in light of eternity, not just say what will make them feel good. And, this is true love!
For, God’s definition of love never involves ignoring sin or consoling sin, nor does it ignore or pacify outright lies and deceptions. It always speaks the truth in love, and its goal is always to see people set free from their addictions to sin. For God’s love prefers what is holy, just, righteous, pure, moral, honest, faithful and trustworthy. So, it isn’t going to just give you a pat on the back and tell you everything is ok, especially if it knows you are living a sinful lifestyle. Because, God’s love cares about your life.
Against Great Odds!
Yet, if we are following Jesus with our lives, and our consciences are clear before him that we are walking in obedience to him, and we are sharing the true gospel of our salvation with others, thus we are confronting sin and calling for repentance, then those who want to hold on to their sin won’t listen to us. They will mock us. They will fight against us. They will say all manner of evil against us. They will falsely accuse us. And, they will try to trick us into believing their lies. For, they want to stop us.
Yet, we must not let this discourage us. For one of their goals is to distract us, to keep us from doing what God has called us to do, to try to upset us so that we won’t feel like obeying the Lord, or to try to make us feel guilty for confronting them, so that we will feel we are not worthy to be used of God. They will pull out all the stops to twist and to turn things around to their advantage in order to keep us from spreading the truth of God’s Word.
So, we must not let this take us out! We must remain strong in our faith, stand on the Word of God, and keep speaking the truth in love, and keep exposing the lies and the deceptions, too, for many are being led astray by these liars and deceivers. And, we can’t worry about people rejecting us, either. We have to put the salvation of people’s lives above our own reputations, and just keep doing what we are called to do, for it will pay off. We just have to keep persevering, even against great odds!
Oh, to Be Like Thee, Blessed Redeemer
Lyrics by Thomas O. Chisholm, 1897
Music by W. J. Kirkpatrick, 1897
Oh, to be like Thee! blessèd Redeemer,
This is my constant longing and prayer;
Gladly I’ll forfeit all of earth’s treasures,
Jesus, Thy perfect likeness to wear.
Oh, to be like Thee! full of compassion,
Loving, forgiving, tender and kind,
Helping the helpless, cheering the fainting,
Seeking the wandering sinner to find.
O to be like Thee! lowly in spirit,
Holy and harmless, patient and brave;
Meekly enduring cruel reproaches,
Willing to suffer others to save.
O to be like Thee! while I am pleading,
Pour out Thy Spirit, fill with Thy love;
Make me a temple meet for Thy dwelling,
Fit me for life and Heaven above.
Oh, to be like Thee! Oh, to be like Thee,
Blessèd Redeemer, pure as Thou art;
Come in Thy sweetness, come in Thy fullness;
Stamp Thine own image deep on my heart.
*copyright status is public domain
Friday, February 15, 2019