God will honor His Word and keep it. As we learn His Word and live it out in our lives, it will be manifested in how God works in our lives. In 1 John, Chapter 4, we are challenged to know what we are to believe about God and Jesus Christ. Unfortunately, not everything that we are taught originates from a place of truth. Many teachings, such as philosophy or religious thoughts, originate from man. In fact, many teachings originate from the spirit world. John warns us to be wary of these teachings, for some are not from the spirit of God.
1 John 4:1-6
“Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to determine if they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This is how you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit who confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God. But every spirit who does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist; you have heard that he is coming, and he is already in the world now. You are from God, little children, and you have conquered them, because the One who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. They are from the world. Therefore what they say is from the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God. Anyone who knows God listens to us; anyone who is not from God does not listen to us. From this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of deception.”
Where do these religious thoughts and teachings come from? They come from either God or from demonic influence in the form of a lie from Satan. John is declaring that every teaching from the spirit world is not from God; therefore, we are not to believe every spirit. We need to be prepared to challenge the authority of the teachings from these spirits and define where these things may be coming from.
Sometimes we need to put God to the test, not because God needs to prove Himself or show off our own abilities to call upon God, but to show others who are caught up in the false teaching the evidence of who God really is for their own instruction. We all have the ability to ASK God anything, with faith and trust in His name, and He will do it if it is according to His will (Matthew 7:7; Mark 11:24; 1 John 5:14). “Then Elijah said to the people, ‘I am the only remaining prophet of the Lord, but Baal’s prophets are 450 men.’ At the time for offering the evening sacrifice, Elijah the prophet approached the altar and said, ‘Lord God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, today let it be known that You are God in Israel and I am Your servant, and that at Your word I have done all these things. Answer me, Lord! Answer me so that this people will know that You, Yahweh, are God and that You have turned their hearts back‘” (1 Kings 18:22, 36-37).
Where did this challenge to God’s authority begin? It started in heaven. “I will ascend above the highest clouds; I will make myself like the Most High” (Isaiah 14:14). This is what every religion outside of Christianity ultimately declares…their role is to be “like God” in their presentation. Satan’s message is indeed earthly. Power and authority can have a foundation of pridefulness. (Ezekiel 28:17; Luke 10:17-18). Satan’s message is taught by a host of demons to people who will listen to him and not to the truth. Demonic spirits inspire error and false teaching (1 Timothy 4:1; Matthew 13:24-26; 1 Corinthians 2:20; John 14:26). We need to be mindful that when we hear truth from God that demonic influence is not far away. Scripture tells us to continue to renew your minds (Romans 12:2) and to not lean on your own understanding (Proverbs 3:5). Our human nature tends to heavily rely upon our own way of dealing with life’s circumstances and situations. To trust in God is truly a learned behavior!
Test the teaching of a prophet. There are many false prophets teaching a message that is not from God (1 John 4:1). How do you know when someone is speaking the truth? “First of all, you should know this: no prophecy of Scripture comes from one’s own interpretation, because no prophecy ever came by the will of man; instead, moved by the Holy Spirit, men spoke from God” (2 Peter 1:21). Knowing the Word of God is your guard and protection against following erroneous teaching. “For our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens” (Ephesians 6:12).
False teaching does, indeed, have a purpose. “But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, and will bring swift destruction on themselves. Many will follow their unrestrained ways, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed” (2 Peter 2:1-2). The purpose of false teaching is to disgrace and discredit God, as well as disregard God, or show a lack of respect for Him. False teaching attempts to undermine God’s Word and its influence in our lives. Even though the Bible remains the largest selling book in the world, it is also largely unread, which means that false teaching is still running rampant because of a lack of knowledge of the content of the Bible and its life application.
Satan makes his message attractive to people. “Now the serpent was the most cunning of all the wild animals that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, ‘Did God really say, ‘You can’t eat from any tree in the garden’? ‘No, you will not die, the serpent said to the woman. ‘In fact, God knows that when you eat it your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and evil‘” (Genesis 3: 1, 4). Satan’s goal is to plant doubt in your heart and mind about Jesus Christ. Many different religions will have parts of the bible used within them, but until you live out the true meaning of God’s Word, you are subject to the deceptive influence of Satan and his demons.
How can we recognize error? (1 John 4:2-3). An important part of Christianity is to believe that Jesus Christ became flesh for us (1 John 4:3). He came in the flesh to deliver grace and truth (John 1:17). If you deny that Jesus came in the flesh, you are denying the work that He did, for He operated in grace and truth–the very message of God. Those who reject or deny Jesus are not from God. This is the act of the spirit of the antichrist. “Regarding them: the god of this age has blinded the minds of the unbelievers so they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Corinthians 4:4). See also Ephesians 2:2 and John 8:44. As Jesus is the head of the church and the body of Christ, Satan is the head of all false religions against Jesus, the head of every demon, and leader of all false prophets.
While Satan has power, he is NOT all powerful (1 John 4:4; Matthew 12:28-29). Thankfully, Satan was defeated at the cross by Jesus Christ. “He disarmed the rulers and authorities and disgraced them publicly; He triumphed over them by Him” (Colossians 2:15). “Now is the judgment of this world. Now the ruler of this world will be cast out” (John 12:31).
How do we overcome the power of Satan and his false teaching?
- We do not accept the viewpoint of the world (1 John 4:5).
- We listen to the saints of God who speak the truth (1 John 4:6).
- The spirit of truth is recognized (1 John 2:20).
- There is a willingness to contend and fight for the truth (Ephesians 6:10-17).
- We continue to live in Jesus Christ, His truth and righteousness (1 John 2:28).
- We continue in examining and testing ourselves (2 Corinthians 13:5; 1 John 4:6).
We are to lift one another up as we remain in Christ. In doing this, we can have great discernment in determining the truth and false teaching.
In summary, we love God’s truth through trusting in Jesus Christ, and hate falsehood when it is presented to us.