Having Spiritual Discernment

1 John series: (post #12)

This post marks the conclusion to our series from 1 John. As we have learned from the series, John uses his book to name at least ten identifying characteristics of authentic Christianity. In other words, if you, as a professing Christian, want to have full assurance that you really are saved, look for each of these ten evidences in your life. The legitimately born-again person should find them on full display. If they are not on display, it’s possible that you are an actual Christian, but it will be impossible for you to ever have full assurance about the matter.

I’ll relist the first nine evidences as my conclusion to this post, but for now let’s jump right into evidence #10. I’ll call this one “having spiritual discernment,” and the text for it is 1 John 4:1-6. John says:

Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God: because many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world. You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. They are of the world. Therefore they speak as of the world, and the world hears them. We are of God. He who knows God hears us; he who is not of God does not hear us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error. (N.K.J.V.)

Did you catch the litmus test that John mentioned to those Christians of his day? It’s found there in the closing words of that passage. John says of himself and the other apostles, “We are of God (he could have added in, “We aren’t false prophets”). He who knows God (referring to the true Christian) hears us; he who is not of God (referring to lost people) does not hear us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.”

This would be like me standing in the pulpit of my church and saying to the congregation, “I am a God-called preacher, not a false prophet. Therefore, if you are a true Christian, you will listen to what I say, heed it, and apply it to your life. And if you won’t do that, well then, you obviously don’t have any spiritual discernment about you, you obviously don’t know how to test the spirits to see whether or not they are of God, and you obviously are a lost person.”

That’s some test, isn’t it? If I tried that with my congregation, they would say, “Boy, he sure does have a high opinion of himself, doesn’t he? How dare he make how we respond to his teaching the test of whether or not we are saved people.” But John and the other apostles could get by with laying down such a test.

Notice also what John says about false prophets just before he offers his test. First, he says they are “of the world.” That term “the world” refers to that Satanically driven, anti-God system that I talked about in post #6 from this series. Second, he says they speak as “of the world.” Third, he says the world (lost people) hears (listens to, heeds) false prophets.

Why do lost people listen to false prophets so enthusiastically and heed their teachings? It’s because the false prophets are speaking their language, the language of “the world.” The lost person hears the preaching of the equally lost false prophet and says, “Yes, that sounds right to me.”

John then follows all that up by saying, “But the true Christian will be able to tell the difference between the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.” Putting it another way, the true Christian will have spiritual discernment enough to differentiate between God-called preachers and false prophets.

How could John be so sure about this? The answer is: the Holy Spirit who dwells inside each born-again Christian. The Holy Spirit can tell the difference between false prophets and God-called preachers, and He can inwardly relay that information to the Christian. That’s why John says in the last part of verse 4, “…He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.”

Now let me now wrap up this post and this series by quickly listing 1 John’s ten evidences of a real-deal salvation experience one more time. As I name each of these evidences, I’ll ask you to do a mental checkup and see where you are with each one.

  • #1: The true Christian desires to fellowship with other Christians.
  • #2: The true Christian walks in the light of Jesus.
  • #3: The true Christian keeps Christ’s commandments.
  • #4: The true Christian loves his or her fellow Christians.
  • #5: The true Christian doesn’t love the world.
  • #6 The true Christian continues in the Christian faith.
  • #7: The true Christian has the indwelling Holy Spirit.
  • #8: The true Christian works at purifying himself or herself from sin.
  • #9: The true Christian receives what he or she requests in prayer.
  • #10: The true Christian has spiritual discernment.

So, where does John’s list find you? Does your supposed salvation stand up well to the ten evidences? If it does, then praise God that you are saved and enjoy the assurance that comes with knowing that you are on your way to heaven. But if your supposed salvation doesn’t stand up to John’s test, there is some business that you need to do with the Lord because you are either saved but backslidden or just downright lost. Neither way is what the Lord wants for you. Not only does He want you to be saved, He wants you to know that you are saved and live your life accordingly. That’s what a “know so” salvation looks like in action, and it’s every Christian’s privilege to have one.    

This entry was posted in Assurance of Salvation, Discernment, Preaching, Salvation, Series: "1 John", The Holy Spirit, Truth and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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