1 John 4:1-6
Tim Riordan, pastor
SonRise Baptist Church, Newnan
Our society is filled with phobias. We have the familiar fears like claustrophobia (closed-in spaces) and acrophobia (heights). Some fears seem justified, like ophidiophobia (fear of snakes). Others seem a little bizarre, like Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia (fear of long words).
When you focus on some of the evil going on around us and consider the spiritual conflict that rages in worlds unseen, it is easy to become consumed with fear. While we may lean toward fear, God calls us to stand firm in faith. In 1 John 4:1-6, God gives us three things to do in order to choose faith and not fear.
Test the Spirits
We are warned not to believe every spirit. These words remind us that one of the enemy’s greatest weapons is deception. When the Apostle John told the early church to test the spirits, he challenged us not to believe everything we hear. Just because someone preaches does not mean he is from God. We should always examine everything we hear by applying two important tests.
The first test is the Jesus test. One of the most accurate methods to evaluate people’s spiritual position is to listen to what they say or confess about Jesus. Confession is a verbal statement of faith that comes from deep within one’s convictions.
Acknowledging the two-fold aspect of Jesus’ nature is a key indicator of the authenticity of one’s faith. Jesus is both human and divine, and to reject either aspect of Christ’s character is to deny the Jesus of the Bible.
We may hear of cults that sound similar to Christianity, but we must be careful not to be deceived into thinking they are another evangelical group. Always look deep into what they teach about Jesus. Does their version of Jesus stand in agreement with the teaching of the Word of God?
The second test is the truth test. In verse six, John stated that someone from God would listen to John’s teaching. He could say this because he knew he was teaching truth. Christians value and pursue truth. Jesus said that believers will know the truth and find freedom (Jn 8:32).
Peter warned the church of false teachers who secretly bring in destructive heresies (2 Pt 2:1-3). We should therefore take note of what people are listening to and what they say. If someone does not listen to truth, or if they speak words contrary to the Bible, they demonstrate the spirit of the antichrist. John indicates the spirit of the antichrist is prevalent in our society today.
Claim the victory
Those who stand in Christ stand in victory. We are overcomers! John indicated that we overcome the false prophets, the spirit of the antichrist, and he who is in the world, which is a reference to Satan.
What is the basis of our victory? It is He Who is in you. We have a contrast between the Christ who lives within us and the enemy who lives in the world. Jesus promised His Holy Spirit would live with us and be in us (Jn 14:17). It is Christ’s Spirit Who gives us daily victory and helps us stand firm in His power.
Because a strategy of those with the spirit of the antichrist is to deceive and distort, we defeat deception by claiming the truth of God. God says you are an overcomer. Do you believe it, or are you allowing Satan to lead you to feel like a spiritual loser? Remember that you are from God and your enemy who is whispering lies in your ear is from the world. What a contrast! Daily victory is already yours in Christ.
Submit to Christ
Testing the spirits and claiming the victory is important, but without daily submitting to Christ, we can easily fall prey to the wiles of the devil. We must regularly remember our source, our roots. We are from God.
John used an emphatic form of the word “we.” He underscored the term to contrast us with those who had a spirit of the antichrist. He also seemed to want to wrap his arms around his readers and remind us that we are a part of the community of God. Some commentators think John was only referring to himself and trying to legitimize his message, but I agree with others who see the plural pronoun as embracing all Christians.
Even though John seemed to be referencing all Christians, he is also highlighting the message of truth he and the other Apostles preached. He said, “He who knows God listens to us.” A true follower of Jesus will listen to the truth. This must point to more than just the physiological process of hearing. We hear a lot of things, but it does not mean we listen to them.
God says that His children listen. We tune in and focus on God’s truth. Listening is more than physically and mentally receiving a thought. It also involves willfully submitting to the truth revealed. James 4:7 reminds us that submission to God is an important step that ultimately causes the devil to flee from us. Satan loves to send false messages our way to distort the truth of God, but through our daily surrender to Christ, we become discerning of the spirit of error.
Fear or faith? It seems to be the crossroad of spiritual victory and defeat. Although we believe some fears are legitimate, God’s word indicates fear should not be welcome in our hearts. Fear is faith on a leash, and God is calling us to set faith free.