True or False? Spiritual Discernment

by Jack Schull

Spiritual Discernment – 1 John 4:1-6

In this short, yet powerful book written by the the disciple John, we can prepare to be challenged to live out our faith in obedience towards God and love for others. Throughout the chapters, he implores his readers to “walk in the light” in a world that is increasingly dark. We trust God will whisper to each of us as we spend some time examining His truth and study 1 John together.

The Apostle John, having now reminded us to grow in our family resemblance of being a part of the family of God, calls us to prove this identity via our love for one another. It’s the call from the beginning, it’s not new, but it has an ongoing and lasting impact. We’re to love others – it’s to be our standard, not exception. We’re to follow the example of our Savior, Jesus. (we covered 1 John 3:11-18)

1 John 4:1-6 ESV

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.

What is true? What is false? These questions we’re sorting out with discernment at all moments in our lives and in all areas. The Apostle John challenges us to live with spiritual discernment as we navigate life to determine what is real, what is fake, who is telling the truth of God and who is just spewing the ways of the world. As followers of Jesus we’re to think critically as we stay focused on following after him.

The Greek word for “spirit” (pneuma) occurs 7x in the Greek text in 1 John 4:1-6. In the context of this paragraph, John uses the word “spirit” to refer to the animating force of a person.

John has already taught that there are only two groups in the world: those who are the children of God and those who are the children of the devil (cf. 1 John 3:10) – people of God and people of the world. So, every person is a voice either for God or for the world. Therefore, the “spirit” behind each person is either of God or of the world/the enemy.… – we’re to use spiritual discernment to determine who/what we should listen to as we follow Jesus.

Believers must “test the spirits.” to determine whether they are speaking from God or from the perspective of the world or the enemy…

Think Critically. Think Biblically.

Examining the Content of Their Teaching (4:2-3)

-John’s test is Christological. That is, the test by which truth can be discerned from error has to do with what is taught about the Person and Work of Jesus. The person teaching by the Spirit of God affirms that Jesus is fully God and fully Man in one person. (Doctrine of INCARNATION matters)

Examining the Character of Their Lives (4:4-6)

Christians should be critical thinkers, we’re not meant to be blind sheep.

Critically evaluate the things you hear. Grow spiritual DISCERNMENT…

Study God’s Word well enough to determine whether a claim or philosophy or religious teaching is true or false. God’s truth permeating through someone surrendered to Christ will bear good and godly fruit through their character and life.

John 16:7-14 ESV

7 Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. 8 And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: 9 concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; 10 concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; 11 concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged. 12 “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. 14 He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you.

This Scripture reminds us, in no uncertain terms, that we have the power of God within us (the Holy Spirit). So when adversity knocks on our door, We shouldn’t lose heart. Because the same God who created the universe, who holds the stars in His hands, lives in us. The Spirit of God longs to communicate with our spirit the truths and teachings of Jesus, continuously.

Everyone has a set of exclusive beliefs and Christianity has exclusive beliefs.

“Take moralistic religion into the center of your life, and you’ll feel superior to the secularists. Take secularism into the center of your life, and you’ll feel superior to all those stupid religious people. Take the gospel into the center of your life, and you’ll be humbled before people who don’t believe what you believe. You’ll seek to serve the people who don’t believe what you believe, and you’ll know a man who loves people who don’t love him is what your whole life is built on.”

-Timothy Keller


Examine what and who you are paying attention too – pay attention to what you’re paying attention too. Is it from God? truthful? Beneficial? does it help you in growing as a follower of Jesus?

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