1 John 4:1-6 (#9)

I.      INTRO

  1. An overview of 1 John (Remember, the Gospel of John was written that we might believe. The Letters of John were written to churches/believers and were written that we might know – as in assurance.)
    1. Knowing Authentic Fellowship – 1 John 1:1 – 2:17
    2. Knowing Gospel Truth -1 John 2:18 – 2:28
    3. Knowing Our Gift of Righteousness – 1 John 2:29 – 3:10
    4. Knowing Sacrificial Love – 1 John 3:11 – 4:21
    5. Knowing Gospel Assurance – 1 John 5:1 – 5:21
  2. Last week Gene spoke of 3 spiritual bullies from 1 John 3:11-24:
    1. Breaking The Spirit of CainBreak free of legalism and judgment…
    2. Passionless of loveless ChristianityChrist’s passion for us becomes our passion for Him and each other.
    3. Condemning Heart – God knows everything about your heart and He still died for you and forgave your sins then why are you condemning yourself?
  3. Our passage this week: 1 John 4:1-61 Beloved, 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. 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, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world. 4 You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world. 5 They are from the world; therefore they speak as from the world, and the world listens to them. 6 We are from God; he who knows God listens to us; he who is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.

II.    BODY

  1. Our passage today describes two distinct groupings of people…
    1. V. 5 – Those who are from the world-system (kosmos). We must distinguish between the people of the world and the world system. God loves the people (Jn 3:16) and hates the world system that perpetuates greed, abuse of every kind, racism, revenge, hostility, peacekeeping instead of peacemaking…
    2. V. 6 – Those who are from God.  Also in v. 6 John further identifies this distinction as the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.  Everyone one the planet falls into one of these two groups.  It’s yes or no, it’s in or out.
  2. Spirit of TRUTH vs. the spirit of ERROR (v. 6)
    1. TRUTH – (alētheia) Objective truth: That which is true no matter what we believe.  What if you said, “I don’t believe in gravity…”  This word speaks of reality as opposed to illusion.
    2. ERROR – (planē) This word means to wander, or to stray. The word contains the idea of being deluded (mistaken or deceived).
      1. Humanism (which dates back to 6th-century BC pre-Socratic Greek philosophers – and back to 1000 BC in India) is human-centered philosophy, or worldview that rejects the supernatural and focuses on human values and concerns.  Humanism rejects truth in favor of what is tangible.
      2. Humanism merged into the Enlightenment in 18th-century Europe, to mobilize the power of reason in order to reform society and advance knowledge.
      3. The Enlightenment merged into Modernism, which in part rejected the existence of a compassionate, all-powerful Creator God.
      4. Finally, we have Modernism merging into Postmodernism, which is inherently suspicious towards a global meta-narrative (a unifying truth that totalizes the world).
      5. Each of these philosophies, or world-views is, in some way, a reaction to the previous one.  And each, at its core is focused on humankind – and not God.  They are human-centered and not God-centered.
      6. THIS is what John is speaking about in our 1 John passage today.  It reflects what John refers to as from the world (v. 5), or the spirit of error (v. 6).
      7. Now, is the totality of Humanism, The Enlightenment, Modernism, and Postmodernism wrong or evil? No, in fact each worldview, or philosophy, has benefited humanity in many ways – and, it should be noted, each have generated valuable critiques of the Church along the way.
      8. What I am saying is that at their core they are human-centered and not God-centered.  And they each reflect what John is saying in today’s passage in that they have caused humankind to wander, or to stray. At their core they are mistaken and deceived.
  3. So, we must ask: What is the spirit of truth?  What is the essential, bottom-line foundation of all objective truth?
    1. We see it in 1 Jn 4:2 – “Jesus Christ has come in the flesh.”
      1. It is the perfect intersection of God’s mandate for perfect holiness and God’s sacrificial love (4:1 the word Beloved is agapētos and speaks of the fact that John’s readers are loved with God’s sacrificial love.)
      2. This is THE central, objective truth of all time.  Our western calendar reflects this truth when it divides history into B.C. and A.D (Anno Domini — Latin, which means, In the year of the Lord).
      3. This is the essence of the gospel – Jesus Christ, the Second person of the Trinity, became The Suffering Servant of all humanity – and condescended to come to earth and live the life we should have lived (i.e., perfect holiness) – and died the death we should have died.
      4. Here is how John said it in his opening words of his Gospel narrative (vs. 1-2): 1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. 4 In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. 5 The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.
      5. 1 Jn 4:2 – “Jesus Christ has come in the flesh. Again, this is THE central objective Truth of all time.
    2. Now, let’s turn our attention to the word confesses in 4:2.  What does it mean to confess(v 2)?
      1. To confess is not simply to speak the words, to confess means that our affections (or feelings) have been stirred.  There are (at least) three accompanying affections that contribute to our confession: 1) Heartfelt Reverence, 2) Conviction, and 3) Submission
      2. The difference between decisions and affections.  Decisions do not require transformation.
      3. John is saying that a sincere and genuine confession of Christ is evidence of the Holy Spirit’s work.
      4. Mere doctrinal words, no matter how true, don’t prove anything about the spirit or person behind them, unless the words come with heartfelt reverence, and heartfelt conviction, and heartfelt submission to Christ.
    3. Here’s what pastor, theologian and author John Piper says: My conclusion is that what verse 2 means is this: “By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit which sincerely confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh and which has a corresponding disposition of loving reverence and submission to Jesus Christ, is of God.” So the sign of the Spirit’s reality is not merely the truth of the words, but also the disposition corresponding to that truth [which is heartfelt reverence, and heartfelt conviction, and heartfelt submission to Christ].
    4. We must ask the question:  Has the downside of humanism, the enlightenment, modernism, and postmodernism crept into the Church?
      1. YES it has.
      2. How?  We, in the Church, have a tendency to want to view God’s Word as about us – and not about God.
      3. If we read the Bible with the lens of humanism (spirit of error) we tend to see it as a rulebook – what must we do to please God?
      4. The goal of God is God.  God is about promoting His own glory, not ours.
      5. If we read the Bible with the lens of the spirit of truth – that the Book is about God, we will begin to see (in new ways) what God has done for us!
      6. The Westminster Confession got it right with the statement, The chief end of humankind is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. (Or, as John Piper would say, to glorify God BY enjoying Him forever.)

III.   CONCLUSION

  1. I’d like to conclude today with some thoughts regarding spiritual discernment.
  2. What is spiritual discernment?
    1. First and foremost spiritual discernment is the result, or fruit, of viewing all things through the foundational objective Truth, which confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh [and] is from God (1 Jn 4:2).
    2. Second, spiritual discernment is learning to see and evaluate all things from this perspective. (We must all repent of allowing a humanistic perspective to affect and infect our perspective.)
  3. As we wind down, let’s look at 1 John 4:4: [Grandpa Pastor John reminds the people in the church’s he’s writing to:] You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world.
  4. Consider the magnitude of these verses: 1 Cor 2:9-11 (emphasis added) :

9 but just as it is written, “THINGS WHICH EYE HAS NOT SEEN AND EAR HAS NOT HEARD, AND which HAVE NOT ENTERED THE HEART OF MAN, ALL THAT GOD HAS PREPARED FOR THOSE WHO LOVE HIM.” [from Is. 64, 65]

10 For to us God revealed them through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God. 11 For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God.

5.  When conversion breaks in upon our souls the same Holy Spirit who searches the depths of God comes to live inside us. Wisdom and spiritual discernment are freshly and abundantly available to us through the abiding Holy Spirit. (Now THAT is good news!!) This is an amazing truth and opportunity for us to live joyful, abundant, wise, and discerning lives.

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