Careful Confidence

 There have been a lot of stories from the church world in the last year of leaders who have had to step down or were removed from their place of leadership because of some moral failing. One pastor was not faithful in his marriage, another on the other side of the country was abusive and therefore not faithful to his calling. Everyone’s hope for both these men is that they will repent and honestly seek the help they need. At least, that’s my hope and prayer for them.

But there is another type of unfaithfulness in ministry, one not so easily identified or dealt with. There is the possibility of a leader being unfaithful to the gospel, representing a different Jesus than the one revealed there. This Sunday we’ll be reading 1 John 4:1-6, and John will send a strong caution to the church to be careful about the leaders we follow.

What do you believe John means by “test the spirits”? Why do you believe he uses that term instead saying leaders or pastors? It’s not that I’m looking for a right answer, I’m just curious about what you think of that.

What is John’s criteria for a message that is consistent with the Spirit of God? What, or who does it center on? Why do you think John focuses on that issue? How important is that issue to your determination of orthodoxy?

On the other side of this, John doesn’t want our carefulness to result in paranoia. He encourages us in v4 that the One inhabiting our lives is greater than the one who directs the flow of this world’s system. What do you believe he means by greater…greater in what way?

Take some time to read the story of Elisha and the army surrounding him. What do we learn from a story like that, and how can we apply it to what John writes in v4?

Hope to see you on Sunday!

2 thoughts on “Careful Confidence

  1. Maybe John encourages them to “test the spirits” because not everyone that says Jesus is Lord is actually following Jesus. In many other instances in the gospels we see spirits coming out of people and declaring Jesus as the Christ but not choosing to follow His lead. “Even the demons believe and tremble”. Maybe he is warning of false teachers who say one thing but actually live another. The notes in my bible say a confession of Jesus involves much more than an admission of His identity. Profession of faith in Him and submission to His will in our lives is the true test of authenticity. Its kind of like when the doctor tells us our health is being endangered because we are overweight. He says we need to change our diet and exercise. We can acknowledge that information as being true and accurate but until we actually do what he says our appearance will not change and our health will not improve. When someone is really following Jesus it becomes visible over time, we see it in their choices and by the fruit of their lives.
    In thinking about why he said test spirits instead of leaders or pastors a couple of thoughts come to mind. One is that in Thessalonians Paul says something similar regarding people in the congregation getting up and giving a prophesy. Maybe he wants us to generalize this test across the board to all spirits who are speaking into our lives to make sure they are being swayed by His Spirit and not the spirit of the world. In listening to any counsel from friends, pastors, family, etc. we have to discern the counsel as Godly or worldly. Take what is good and leave what doesn’t bear witness with our spirit. We all have God’s spirit living on the inside of us and are able with His help to discern truth and error. John’s criteria for messages consistent with God’s spirit is that they are focused on Jesus and his nature. Like he reminded us all through John, to know Him we have to look at Jesus, the life he lived here on earth and that revelation of God through His actions and sacrifice on the cross. We don’t have to fear false teaching, prophesy or even wrong counsel because His counsel, His spirit living on the inside of us is more wise, more powerful more real than that of the world. His presence is eternal unlike this world and the evil within it…..that will all be gone one day and all we will see are those armies of allies Elisha pointed out!! We have to remember that they are here with us now too…That He is with us and the whole host of heaven is at His disposal to intervene on our behalf!!

  2. One more thought, I love that story in 2nd Kings…We can depend on the Holy Spirit to “leak us information” to help us discern too!!!!

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