1 John 4:1-6 - Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.  This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God,  but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.
 You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.  They are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them.  We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us. This is how we recognize the Spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood.
But It Tastes So Good
We in the church are often a gullible people who far too easily believe someone because they give a heartfelt and moving testimony. Or, sometimes, we clamor after a person because he or she is a celebrity. Our day is not marked by a thorough vetting of content regarding what a person actually believes. This accounts for much of our cotton candy Christian culture. It doesn’t take much for it to dissolve into nothing.
We are, therefore, malnourished. This is lamentable, especially when we consider the rich legacy of Christian depth and commitment of bygone ages. We are contented to build our Christian lives and churches on the sand of easy-believism. But cotton candy and sand make for poor foundations and they will not, because they cannot, provide strength and safety for the storms of life.
Thus, John directs us to test the spirits to see whether or not they are from God – because not all are. Some of us entertain false prophets unawares. In verse five of 1 John 4, John says these false spirits or false prophets are from the world and therefore, speak from the viewpoint of the world.
And So the Question Is…
Why then does the church often try to look just like the world? Sadly, the church can even be worldlier than the world. I’m reminded of a comment actor, Macauley Caulkin made during an interview about his movie, “Saved.” He said he went to a few Christian concerts to check out what the Christian culture was like and discovered precious little difference between the Christian concerts he attended and those of the world. Sure, there were some differences in the lyrics, but is that the sum and substance of Christian culture?
Give Us Results
The church naturally wants to reach people for Christ. I am not against numerical growth by any means, but it can be a poor standard for biblical fidelity. Sure, some churches are growing rapidly. But how are they growing? And what are they growing? What are they producing? The apostle John states that the world listens to those who speak from the viewpoint of the world. What else would we expect? When the standards of the church focus almost exclusively on what is deemed relevant at the moment, couched in worldly trappings, and communicated in sermonic easy listening, then of course the world is going to respond favorably, even approvingly. But in a climate where truth is, de facto, offensive, worship services and sermons that are centered around God’s Word will be thought of as boring and irrelevant at best and intolerant, puritanical, and mean-spirited at worst.
Let us be as discerning as we can about who likes us and who does not. We must think about who it is that thinks we’re cool and why. For if we, as individual Christians or local churches, are very well thought of by the world around us, we may want to ask why. It might be for legitimate, God-glorifying reasons. But it could it be because we think, speak, and live too much like the world?
What are some reasons some Christians are timid about standing up for their faith in public? What are some ways local churches compromise with the world? What are some ways Christians and local churches can connect with folks they’re reaching out to with integrity? What are some ways you can stand for truth without coming across as a “jerk for Jesus”?
Grace and Truth,
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