Friday, January 8, 2010

Fellowship vs. Followship - Part 4

Following Error

"They are of the world: therefore speak they of the world, and the world heareth them. We are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us. HEREBY know we the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error." I John 4:5-6

In Book of I John, God outlines for us the basics necessary for a sound faith.  He indicates that this is a standard whereby we will know the spirit of truth from the spirit of error.  We should not just believe everything that is said to come from God.  There are only two sources for spiritual inspiration in this world: either the Spirit of the Lord (who is truth) or unclean spirits (who is of error, which is Satan).  Something is either the doctrine of Christ or the doctrine of devils.  God has equipped us, and admonishes us, to know the difference.

Error is not simply an incidental mistake; error has a spirit behind it. There is a spirit of error in the world which seeks to deceive and as a result "many" false prophets are in the world.  This is why it is so important to know the truth for yourselves via personal revelation and conviction from God's Holy Spirit. So how do we test the spirits?  

Who Is Jesus Christ?

The first test John gives us for testing the spirits is summed up in the identity of Jesus Christ.  Having the proper revelation of the identity of Jesus Christ is the foundation of, and central to, sound faith (Matthew 16:17-18). 

"Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world." I John 4:2-3

And to make sure that there is no question regarding who this Jesus is, John spends the first part of this letter describing Him.  He is the eternal Word of life who dwelt with the Father and was made manifest in the flesh unto them (I John 1:1-2).  He is the righteous Son of the Father and the anointed Messiah who was a sinless offering for our sin and whose blood cleanses us from all sin (I John 1:3,7; 2:1-2, 22-24; 3:5).  He is the true God, possessing the same essence as God the Father, whereby one cannot have one without the other (I John 2:23-24; 5:20).

Is someone denying that Jesus Christ has lived eternally?  That He is not the incarnate Son of God the Father? That He is not God?  That He has not paid the price of sin for the whole world?  That one can abide in the Father without having the Son?  These are your first indicators that such persons are speaking by the spirit of error.  If they are not abiding in the doctrine of Christ, then they are anti-christ and have not Christ (II John 1:9).

The Testimony of Our Lives

The second test John gives us for discerning the spirit of truth from the spirit of error is the life we lead.  Is the life and very nature of Jesus Christ seen through us?  Have we gone through a nature change to walk in newness of life?  We not only know the truth about Jesus Christ, but we are being conformed to that truth.  This evidence will be manifest in our lives via spiritual fruit and godliness.

This is not about people "trying" to be Christ-like or figure out "what would Jesus do", because we cannot in our carnal efforts reproduce this life.  The only way that the life of Christ can be poured out in/through us is by the regeneration in the new birth by His Holy Spirit (I John 3:9-10, 5:6).

"Hereby know we that we dwell in him, and he in us, because he hath given us of his Spirit." I John 4:13

When the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts - testifying to our regeneration - we will not love the world, but instead love God and others.

We Honor God's Word

The third test that John gives us for testing the spirits is the honoring of God's word and using it as a barometer of truth.

"And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him. He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked." I John 2:3-6

To be noble, we must search the Scriptures to confirm that a teaching is of Christ before we receive it.  Many fail to do this and as a result, are led into error.  Pastor Zac Poonen has occasionally stated that if we do not study God's word, then we deserve to be deceived.  The idea behind this thought is that one of the reason's God's word has been given is so that we can know the truth and not fall for deception (I John 2:21-27).

Yet how many doctrines can only be established by denying the authority of God's word?  Does someone acknowledge and respond to the authority of God's word or do they deny it, claiming that it is somehow perverted or has no authority?  If someone must deny the truth of Scripture in order to promote a certain belief, then John says we can know that this is also the spirit of error. 

I John provides us with steps we must take to "test the spirits" in order to avoid deception.  In doing so we should:
  • Examine the person's profession to see if the One they confess is Jesus Christ or "another Jesus" 
  • Examine the person's life to see if there is evidence of the new birth via fruit of the Spirit or if inspiration is coming from "another spirit"
  • Examine the person's adherence to the word of God to see if they are holding to His truths or preaching "another gospel"
"For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him." II Corinthians 11:4

There are false prophets promoting another Jesus, another spirit, and another gospel.  You should know that such persons are inspired by the spirit of error.

In the span of just a few moments, Peter was praised by Jesus for receiving revelation from God and then chastised for speaking words of Satan (Matthew 16:17, 23). Being right in one instance is not an immunization against error. We cannot let down our guard and begin thinking that any one person (or even ourselves) is impervious to error.  Instead, God admonishes us to be diligent to show ourselves approved as workmen, rightly dividing the word of truth.

"When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things." I Corinthians 13:11

Church, it is time to grow up and no longer be children in the things of God. This is not said to assume where anyone is in their relationship with the Lord. This is a call to all to begin accepting responsibility and accountability for your relationship with Him.  The discernment of sound doctrine is not a light matter or something that is just the job of the minister.  God equips us to be able to follow truth and not error.

Fellowship vs. Followship

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