By Sherry Black
A Reading from 1 John 3:19-4:6
19 And by this we will know that we are from the truth and will reassure our hearts before him 20 whenever our hearts condemn us; for God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. 21 Beloved, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have boldness before God; 22 and we receive from him whatever we ask, because we obey his commandments and do what pleases him.
23 And this is his commandment, that we should believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. 24 All who obey his commandments abide in him, and he abides in them. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit that he has given us.
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. And this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming; and now it is already in the world. 4 Little children, you are from God, and have conquered them; for the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. 5 They are from the world; therefore what they say is from the world, and the world listens to them. 6 We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us, and whoever is not from God does not listen to us. From this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.
Last fall I saw a Facebook meme of a man and woman in fifties-era garb. The businessman casually tells the woman, “I’m spiritual.” Her response? “Demons are spirits too. Be more specific.” Discernment is important.
The second half of our epistle reading challenges the community to test the spirits, as there were false teachers among them. This Christian community was challenged to pay attention, to watch, to listen. John said there were two kinds of spirits: the kind that confesses that Jesus is God Incarnate; the other, simply, “is not from God” and in fact is oppositional to the true gospel.
How can we tell the difference? By listening. Are they preaching that Jesus Christ, the Messiah, has come in the flesh? Like John the Baptist, like the apostles, faithful teaching always points to and glorifies Jesus Christ.
Remember, even demons recognized the deity of Jesus when he walked on the earth, but they didn’t worship him! So, pay attention to what the teachers say about Jesus. The second test is to consider the audience’s reaction. The sheep know the voice of the shepherd. In community, Christians will be able to discern true from false teaching.
Magnetic north is not the same as true north; magnetic north shifts around, changing locations over time, but true north doesn’t move. Jesus Christ, of course, is our true north. All true Christian teaching points to Jesus, firmly fixed; our North Pole.
The Very Rev. Sherry Black is a second-career Episcopal priest, and has been a full-time hospital chaplain for ten years. She also serves a small mission church as priest-in-charge, and is dean of her deanery.
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Daily Devotional Cycle of Prayer
Today we pray for:
The Diocese of Boga (Province de L’Eglise Anglicane Du Congo)
The Diocese of Southeast Florida