Summary: How important is it that we believe that Jesus Christ was incarnated? Why?
This week in Phoenix, on Wednesday night, after I got home from AWANA, I turned on the news and there were people lined up for gas. Anybody see that? They were lined up for gas in a couple different places in Phoenix, lined up onto the street just like earlier this summer. And they were out there because they had heard that there was a pipeline break, the Kinder-Morgan pipeline had again broken and that there was going to be a gas shortage, so they were out topping off their tanks so that they would not get caught without gas. The officials of the state, Janet Napolitano was quizzed, "Is this true?" And other people of Kinder-Morgan were called, "Is this pipeline break true?" "No. It’s not true." And even though there was official word that it wasn’t true and it was a rumor, an unfounded rumor, but still people went and lined up. The next day they were on the news and they had the egg on their face and they were so embarrassed that they had been wrong. I’m not going to ask if anybody here went out and got gas. I didn’t because I just thought it sounded like a bunch of hooey to me and frankly, it was too late and my tanks were pretty full. So, I didn’t go out.
But, it isn’t always easy, is it to know what’s true and what’s false? We hear these rumors. We hear these things that are purported to be true – that JFK is still alive living on some island in Greece, that Elvis was spotted at a laundromat in Kalamazoo, Michigan. We hear these things, but we learn, don’t we, to decide who it is who’s telling us, what the source of that truth is, and we learn to decide what’s true and what’s not. It’s a little more difficult, sometimes, when a person is doing something, and something is happening, and they are purporting that it’s God at work and there are signs and wonders and there may be a stadium full of people. And we say, "Man. Is this God? Or is this man? What’s at work here?" And you then add to that confusion. In our day, there is a movement that some people are actually calling "Post-Modernism" which is that there is a broadening of truth, so that truth has become relative. "I mean, whatever is true for you is truth. And I don’t want to impose my truth on you."
There was one pastor that I read about in Christianity Today, he teaches an introduction to Christianity class for seekers and inquirers after the faith. At the beginning of the class, he shows them a jar that’s full of beans and asks each participant to guess how many beans are in the jar. Then, he asks each participant to write down the name of his or her favorite song. And then when the lists are complete, he reveals the actual number of beans in the jar, and each class participant looks over the guesses to determine which one of them is closest to being right. Then he asks the class, "Now, which one of these songs that you have chosen, which one is the closest to being right?" Well, of course the class answers that there’s no right answer to a person’s favorite song because favorite songs are simply a matter of personal taste and preference. Then the pastor asks this group of seekers, "When you decide what to believe in terms of your faith, is it more like guessing the number of beans, or choosing your favorite song?" And every time the majority of the class participants respond by saying, "It’s more like choosing your favorite song. It’s relative. The right answer is what I think is right." That’s the world we live in. And the world of the people to whom John was writing in the first century, were also living in a world where there were people who were saying, "This is true," or "This is true and not that."
And so there was that same kind of feeling that truth was something you had to discover for yourself and it really was what you made it out to be. In response to that, the apostle John writes this letter, and specifically he writes in verse 1 of chapter 4, "Don’t believe every spirit. But, in fact, test the spirits." He’s very specific here in telling us there is a test you can apply to what you hear, what is purported to be true. There is a test you can apply that will enable you to discern what is truth and what is false, because you know there really is no middle ground. There is either the Spirit of God teaching and instructing, or there is the spirit of the anti-Christ. You’ll notice in this passage, and this is typical of John – we have come to expect that now, there is no third option. There is no, "And then there’s these guys, who are talking sometimes from God and sometimes …." He doesn’t say that. It’s one or the other.