Devotional Reading: I John 1: 3: 19-4:6
Text: 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. (v. 4:1)
Test the spirits. Not every one of my whims is God given. Nor is every idea divine. I need to test the spirits. When the writer of the letter we call I John gave this advice he knew how easily any of us can be led astray. As Robert Bellah wrote centuries later in Habits of the Heart, we can be fooled by the cultural and non-biblical myth that everything is a matter of personal opinion, belief and preference.
The early Church knew better. They believed that an individual found wholeness only within a greater community. Charismatic leaders can too easily lead us astray (Recall Hitler or do a Google search on Jim Jones, for an example).
There is a sure-fire threefold test that can be used to “test the spirits.”
First, ask if it is biblical. Is there overwhelming evidence of it in the bible’s story of faith.
Second is it God-glorifying as opposed to Self-glorifying. We can do all kinds of mental gymnastics to convince ourselves that what we are doing is really for God. So, maybe we need to ask ourselves, “If I never got the credit, would I still want to do it?” This takes a lot of serious honest soul searching. And, it isn’t foolproof because fools can be very ingenious in fooling themselves.
Third, does the larger community of faith that I am an active part of agree that it meets the first two standards; ie. biblical and God-glorifying?
In Infinite wisdom God decides to create us in the Divine image and make us stewards–responsible for God’s Creation. We are to care not only for all things of the earth but for every living thing for all of it belongs to God. And, we are to care for one another. Not every inkling is Heaven sent. We need to test the spirits.
Lord, give me a heart of wisdom and the courage to test the spirits lest I be tossed to and fro by the fickle winds of the world around men. Amen.