Summary: We must put to the test what we hear to determine if it is from God.
Putting It To The Test
Text: 1 Jn. 4:1-6
1. Illustration: As the Union Pacific Railroad was being constructed, an elaborate trestle bridge was built across a large canyon in the West. Wanting to test the bridge, the builder loaded a train with enough extra cars and equipment to double its normal payload. The train was then driven to the middle of the bridge, where it stayed an entire day. One worker asked, "Are you trying to break this bridge?" "No," the builder replied, "I’m trying to prove that the bridge won’t break."
2. Just as that bridge needed to be tested, the teachings that we accept must also be tested.
3. The apostle John tells us that we must:
a. Test the Spirits
b. Discern the Spirits
c. Overcome the Spirits
4. Read 1 Jn. 4:1-6
Proposition: We must put to the test what we hear to determine if it is from God.
Transition: First, we must...
I. Test the Spirits (1)
A. Do Not Believe Every Spirit
1. You cannot believe everything that you hear. Scripture warns to be careful about the teachings we receive.
a. Matt. 7:15 "Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves.
b. 2 Pet. 2:1 But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction.
2. Likewise, John tells us "Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits..."
a. The responsibility for testing the spirits rests not merely on scholars or church leaders but on every Christian.
b. The word "spirit" can refer either to an utterance inspired by a spirit or a person inspired by a spirit (Marshall, NICNT: The Epistles of John, 204).
c. Believers should not believe everything they hear just because someone says it is a message from God.
d. They should test the message to see if it is truly from the Lord.
3. This is a strong charge given to believers. Note the word beloved.
a. This was John’s tender address to the believers of the church.
b. He is definitely addressing believers, and this tells us a significant fact: believers can be misled by the spirits of false teachers.
4. Then John tells us why he is giving us this warning: "because many false prophets have gone out into the world."
a. Scripture is not talking about a few, but many. If there were many in the days of John, think how many more there are today.
b. Think how many more religions there are; how many cults have sprung up around Christianity.
c. How many denominations and ministries have sprung up since John wrote these words.
5. Furthermore, think of the multitude of ways that false teaching can be spread today.
a. They didn’t have television, radio, CD’s, and tapes in John’s day.
b. Just because something is on TV doesn’t make it true.
c. Just because someone sounds good or looks good doesn’t make it true.
B. Test What You Hear
1. Illustration: I once knew a man who was a good Christian man. He was faithful to church and faithful to the word. Many, many times he told his pastor "God has not called me to be a pastor. However, he became obsessed with personal prophecy, and one day a self-proclaimed prophet blew into town. This so-called prophet prophesied over this man that he had a "pastor’s heart." Within two months this man split his church and started his own. All because he did not test the spirit’s.
2. 2 Tim. 3:13-14 But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived. But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them.
3. As the days of Christ’s coming grow shorter and shorter, the increase of false teaching will grow worse and worse.
4. We must guard against false teaching and those who teach it.
5. We must beware of those who:
a. Distort the word
b. Deceive the weak
c. Prey on the helpless
6. We must be people of the word who:
a. Know it’s teaching
b. Believe its promises
c. Stand on its truth
Transition: But how will we know? John tells us we must...
II. Discern the Spirits (2-3)
A. By This You Will Know
1. John says we are to test the spirits.
a. THIS IS THE only time the Greek word for "testing" (dokimazo) occurs in the John’s writings, although it occurs often in the New Testament (twenty-two times) (Burge, NIV Application Commentary, New Testament: The Letters of John, 174).
b. It means "to try to learn the genuineness of something by examination and testing—Louw & Nida: NT Greek-English Lexicon