Summary: Discerning what is of God and who is of God is the responsibility of every Christ follower.

An Incarnational, Missional People

“Becoming Discerning & Wise”

1 John 4:1-6

How do you feel about tests? Some people like tests and the challenge of proving themselves or showing what they know. Most of us don’t like tests for the fear of looking foolish or ignorant.

Recently a college professor saw something in a test that he had never seen in his 20 years of teaching. After giving a test with 100 questions, a student named Michael marked and turned in the test having answered every question with the letter “C”. Of course it was an example of a student that was not prepared who was hoping to get at least 25% correct on a multiple choice exam.

However, the test was not multiple choice but True/False! His professor sent him an e-mail the following day.

Dear Michael,

Every year I attempt to boost my students’ final grades by giving them this relatively simple exam consisting of 100 True/False questions from only 3 chapters of material. For the past 20 years that I have taught Intro Communications 101 at this institution I have never once seen someone score below a 65 on this exam. Consequently, your score of a zero is the first in history and ultimately brought the entire class average down a whole 8 points.

There were two possible answer choices: A (True) and B (False). You chose C for all 100 questions in an obvious attempt to get lucky with a least a quarter of the answers. It’s as if you didn’t look at a single question. Unfortunately, this brings your final grade in this class to failing. See you next year!

May God have mercy on your soul.


Professor William Turner

P.S. If all else fails, go with B from now on. B is the new C

(found at

Blindly filling in a test is a sure way to fail a Communications class and it will cause you to fail at following God.

The professor was not playing a game with his students. He was not being coy or clever. The professor was seeking to help his students pass his course. No doubt thousands of students have passed his Communications class over 20 years.

Likewise God does not play guessing games with us. God is clear and consistent about who He is and what He purposes to do in this world and in our lives. Because God is a Person and chooses to relate to us personally, the basis upon which we live with God well is like any other relationship. We must become proficient at communication.

If you approach your marriage or your parenting like a multiple choice exam for which you’ll guess at many of the answers those relationships will be a mess.

Who is God? What is God like? What is God doing? How is one made right with God? These are just some of the basic and fundamental questions for which you need solid answers.

As we’ve been studying the First Epistle of John we’ve discovered that one is born into God’s family. And, we’ve discovered that when one is born of God one lives like God. Our lifestyle is characterized by righteousness or right living. Like God, we love others well. Conversely, if righteousness and love are not our lifestyle then we have not been born of God.

Let’s be honest, a lot of people will tell you that there is much more to establishing relationship with God. Some contend that in order to have relationship with God you must be baptized. Some say you must receive the Lord’s Supper. Others hold up confirmation or performing acts of penance.

In other words some religious leaders claim that you must engage in various sacraments in order to be saved while others teach that you are saved by grace alone. Who’s right? How do you know?

Today we’ll hear John exhort the members of his church that they must become discerning and wise Christ followers. It is a message that each of us needs as well.

[read 1 John 4:1-6]

“Do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God…” (4:1)

In this first century church John had some of his church members begin to believe some popular heresies or false teachings. As a result they left the church. It seems though that they maintained relationship with some of the church members and were seeking to influence others to accept the same heresies. John exhorts, “You can’t accept everything that you hear. You must test what you hear. You must be discerning so that you recognize the truth and the falsehood.”

John said to “test the spirits”. John reveals to us that every teaching, every philosophy, and every theology is driven by a spirit. That which is of God is inspired by the Spirit of God. That which is not of God is inspired by the devil.

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