Summary: John gave his readers to tests to determine the Spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood. Every generation needs to continue to test the spirits to see if they are from God.
A. How many of you enjoy ANAGRAMS?
1. What is an anagram? It is “a word or phrase formed by reordering the letters of another word or phrase.”
2. Here are a few that I thought you might enjoy.
3. DORMITORY = Dirty Room
4. THE MORSE CODE = Here Come Dots
5. SLOT MACHINES = Cash Lost In’em
6. MOTHER-IN-LAW = Woman Hitler
B. The whole idea of anagrams coincides with the thrust of today’s message that I have titled “Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing.
1. False teachers are a lot like ANAGRAMS. They try to present themselves as something they are not.
2. They try to hide the true reality and ramifications of their teaching.
3. The sheep will run from obvious dangers like wolves, so the wolves try to disguise themselves so that they won’t be noticed immediately or at all.
C. In our last sermon from 1 John, we noticed that John had a positive message of assurance for the children of God.
1. He concluded that discussion with the statement, “And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us” (1 Jn. 3:24).
2. That mention of the Holy Spirit prompted John to address the larger subject of spiritual discernment.
3. Yes, God has given us His Spirit, but it is necessary for us to weigh the claims of those who say they are spiritually enlightened.
4. So, John insists that we must “test the spirits to see whether they are from God” (4:1).
5. The apostle Paul gave the same warning to the Corinthians, who likewise needed to weigh the authority of the prophetic voices they were hearing (1 Cor. 12:1-3; 14:29).
D. One essential idea that is assumed throughout this section is this: Two spirits are active in this world, the Spirit of truth, and the spirit of falsehood (4:6).
1. There is the Spirit who comes from God, who glorifies and elevates His Son, Jesus Christ, and there is the spirit of antichrist, which is welcomed by the world and sabotages the truth about Jesus.
2. In Matthew 7:15, Jesus warned us, “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.”
3. 2 Peter 2:1, Peter warns, “But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false prophets among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them – bringing swift destruction on themselves.”
4. Paul’s parting words to the Ephesian elders included, “I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. So be on your guard!” (Acts 20:29-30)
5. Because of this reality, John provided two tests so that the Christians to whom he was writing, would be able to discern the truth, and recognize the wolves.
E. We have discussed throughout this series that the church John was trying to minister to was in the grips of a division, a split caused by false teachers.
1. It is important to pause and gain some appreciation for the challenge faced by the early church.