Troublesome Topic: John’s First Epistle Shows Us the Bottom Line

The Bible does not provide many explanations of how to identify God’s voice or Satan’s voice. However, I John chapter 4 contains an explanation of how to discern between truth and falsehood, complete with a test for truth. It was written with a specific historical context in mind, but the inspired words of the aged Apostle can also help us find the key to understanding the difference between God’s voice and Satan’s voice. Here is that passage:

You whom I love, 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 can recognize 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 [the truth about] Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist; whom you have heard he is coming, and now he is already in the world now (I Jn 4:1-3).

At first glance this does not seem to have much to do with the things we have been discussing in this study series, but keep reading.

John and the Gnostics

In John’s latter years Gnosticism had become prevalent and was beginning to influence the thinking of some believers in Jesus. A basic tenant of Gnosticism was that material things were evil and therefore God could not have taken on a physical body. To them Jesus was either divine, or human, but not both. The person that died on that cross must have been just a man, not the God-man.

John’s test of truth has to do with a proper view of Jesus. Because of the teachings of Gnosticism, John’s test for truth was that Jesus was both God and man at the same time.

It’s About Jesus, Not About Me

For our social context the test will sound a bit different, but the bottom line will be the same—who was Jesus, what did He do and what have you done with Him? A professor I had in Bible College wisely said that, on the Day of Judgment, God may ask one very simple question: “What have you done about my son Jesus?” This sets aside all other arguments and brings the issue down to whether or not you rejected Jesus, played games with Jesus, or followed Jesus. God may, or may not, ask that question, but asking that question helps us distill things down to the most basic issue. It’s all about Jesus.

Look back at the various schemes of the enemy discussed earlier in this study series. You will notice that all of them turn the focus on us; none of them place the focus on Jesus. The heart of the Apostle John’s test fits our day just like it fit his own day. We could say it this way: “If something you hear places the focus on Jesus rather than on you, and if it agrees with the Bible’s teaching about Jesus, then it is from God. If it places the focus on me and what I want rather than on Jesus, it is not God’s voice. If it distorts or twists what the Bible teaches about Jesus it is not God’s voice.”

Another way to phrase this would be to say the basic problem is self-centeredness. Anything that plays to our self-centeredness is not from God. When we hear a voice in our head, when we are tempted, or when we are confused, we should ask, “Will this bring glory to Jesus, or is it intended to satisfy me?

(This is the last lesson in this set of topical lessons about Not Beating up on Yourself. Thank you for reading.)