1 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2 By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 3 and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already. 4 Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. 5 They are from the world; therefore they speak from the world, and the world listens to them. 6 We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error. - 1 John 4:1-6
There is a spirit behind every religious message and John tells us it’s either from God or from the Antichrist. What should we believe? That's such an important question, isn’t it? What we believe determines what we worship, and what we worship forms who we become. And John tells us not to believe every spirit.
But so many sound so good. For example: “Every religion is a valid path to God.”
We’re tempted to believe this because it means we don’t have to preach about the need to come to Christ. We see people as generally good people who are doing their best, so our mouth stays shut, thinking they’ll be fine in the end. But, to keep our mouths shut and watch people follow a false spirit is to watch them die without Christ. It is like refusing to give oxygen to a diver in the depths of the sea or denying medicine to a sick child. No one is fine without Christ. He’s the only Savior.
Another example, the prosperity gospel: “God wants his children to be healthy, wealthy, and happy.”
We’re tempted to believe this because a life of prosperity is what we all want. My guess is most reading this will deny the prosperity gospel as right doctrine, but do we functionally live as if it is? In other words, are you saying God is not some magical ATM dispensing healthy hearts, large paychecks, and buckets of smiles, yet living as if he is? When things go wrong, do you grow anxious, frustrated, and angry, accusing God of not being good?
I think we are tempted to believe at least a version of the prosperity gospel more than we realize, especially in America. I’m speaking broadly here, and also to myself, but too often, we want what we want, not what God wants. So we spend our money on material things in hopes of attaining the good life, while the things of God are given the standard monthly fee. But that’s a dangerous message to follow.
It’s not that God doesn’t want good things for us; he certainly does. The Bible says, “It’s your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” But what God defines as good is himself. Everything else just gets in the way.
Many eat false spirits like candy. They sound good, but we must be careful. Jesus warned us in Matthew 7:15: “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.” We must always compare the version of the good life the false spirits offer with the glorious life Jesus offers. The candy coating makes it go down easy, but it’s poison inside.
Are you believing any false spirits today? What are you building your life on? Can you find it in the Bible? Do not believe every spirit.
Editor's Note: This post originally appeared at David's blog, Things of the Sort.