Let's talk about "testing the spirits."
This concept is found in 1 John 4, the entire chapter gives us clues on figuring out whether messages, words, sermons, and other spiritual things are truly from God.
Many are going through tough times because they're being led down the wrong path and can't tell whether they're hearing God's voice or not.
So, let's take it step by step:
1 John 4:1-3
"Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this, you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming and is now already in the world."
The speaker or message must have a clear foundation that Jesus Christ came in the flesh and is the Son of God. If there's any uncertainty or if they introduce ideas like "the universe" and other new age or occult concepts into the message, it's a sign that the message is inspired by the spirit of the Antichrist.
Even if they acknowledge Jesus as the Son of God but distort His teachings, downplay His significance, or cause doubt about His mission, it's a sign of the spirit of the Antichrist.
1 John 4:4-6
"You are of God, little children, and have overcome them because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. They are of the world. Therefore, they speak as of the world, and the world listens to them. We are of God. He who knows God hears us; he who is not of God does not hear us. By this, we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error."
Messages that align with worldly values and behaviors. Signs to watch out for include the use of inappropriate language, gossip, hostility, jealousy, and a message that doesn't lead to a closer relationship with God. If unbelievers embrace the message without feeling the need to repent and surrender to God, it's a sign that the message contradicts the true gospel.
1 John 4:7-11
"Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God, and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. In this, the love of God was revealed among us, that God sent His only begotten Son into the world, so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the atonement for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another."
A message that promotes hatred, unforgiveness, selfishness, idolatry, pride, rudeness, doubt, impatience, discouragement, self-righteousness, or hopelessness contradicts God's nature and is not from Him.
1 John 4:12-16
"No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us. By this, we know that we abide in Him and He in us because He has given us of His Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son as the Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. We have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him."
A message that makes you feel like God hates you is contrary to the promise of God's love.
1 John 4:17-19
"Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgment because as He is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love; perfect love casts out fear because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love. We love Him because He first loved us."
A message that torments you, causing fear, confusion, doubt, unbelief, rejection, abandonment, or double-mindedness, is not of God. (This does not include warning messages or calls to repentance. However, even with these messages, you should not doubt the love of God for you because its his love that leads us to repentance)
1 John 4:20-21
"If someone says, 'I love God,' and hates his brother, he is a liar, for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also."
Messages that promote hatred, especially among fellow believers, through gossip, backbiting, jealousy, etc., are not of God.
THIS PART IS IMPORTANT:
God tells us to "test the spirits" for two reasons:
Messages can sound authentic, which makes it imperative that we learn to discern their source.
To effectively test the spirit, you must have a reference point, which is the Word of God. Just like detecting counterfeit money requires knowing what the real deal looks like, discerning false messages can only be done by knowing the TRUE message.
Satan is a master of deception and the father of lies. This is why its important to DILIGENTLY study the Word of God. In John 1:1, it says that the Word of God is God. Neglecting the Word leaves you vulnerable to deception. Knowing God's character and personality through His Word gives you the ability to recognize His voice and distinguish it from the enemy.
Imagine someone coming to you on behalf of your child and telling you a blatant lie like “your son said he wants some ketchup covered oranges”, you would immediately recognize the lie because you know your child well. Same thing!
We take some messages back to God that grieves Him. It grieves the Spirit when we question whether sone of the messages came from Him because it reveals just how much we don’t KNOW Him.
Here's a study tip:
When you study God's Word, pay close attention to how He reacts to various situations, how He communicates with people, how He shares His emotions, His responses to specific matters, what triggers His wrath, what brings Him joy, what makes Him sad etc. You will begin to see patterns. These patterns will help you gain a deeper understanding of His character and His voice.
There's just no way that God would hate something for 2000 years and then suddenly be fine with it. There’s no way God would die for a cause and then suddenly feel differently about it and say "Nevermind, it's not a big deal anymore." His nature doesn't change over time, and His Word remains the same.
We MUST view His Word as our DAILY BREAD and study(eat) regularly. Neglecting it leaves us spiritually starving and makes us willing to eat any message that comes our way. We're not picky when we’re hungry. Studying the Word of God will keep you safe from being led astray and give you POWER to discern God’s Word from the lies of the devil. You can never finish studying Gods Word because you can never finish learning God. He is multifaceted. Learning Him would take longer than eternity. So, you should never feel bored or complacent because there's always something new to discover and experience in your relationship with God.
May this message ignite a hunger for a deeper relationship with the Word of God in all of us.