1 John 4 begins with a somewhat curious phrase. John encourages the hearers of his letter to “test the spirits”. First, this implies there are many spirits. In our churches today, it is common to hear about the Holy Spirit, but there is often little attention paid to the other spirits in our world. We ignore these other spirits at our peril. Behind every false teaching, you will find a demonic source.
Yes, demons are real. They exist and flood the spiritual realm surrounding us. When we go along with false teaching, we are following demons. How’s that for a sobering thought? If we are not careful in examining the teaching we are listening to, there is a very good chance we aren’t being taught God’s truth at all. Instead of growing in our faith, we are opening our minds to demonic influences.
Jesus warned false teachers would come on the scene and deceive many (Matthew 24:11). Therefore we must examine the scriptures to discern what is true (Acts 17:11). In 1 Thessalonians 5:21-22, Paul tells us to hold on to the good while discarding all things that are untrue (evil). Never assume what you are hearing is true, even from preachers and teachers you have grown to trust. If the past decade has taught us nothing else, it has taught us that many we trusted have fallen away from sound teaching and are now preaching a different Gospel. We must be diligent in consulting God’s Word to examine if what we are being taught is indeed God’s truth. If we allow false teaching to permeate our minds, we risk falling away from the faith (1 Timothy 4:1). We must test the spirits.
God’s truth will never be popular. Jesus calls us to walk the narrow path (Matthew 7:13–14). Few will journey this way. They prefer the teaching that makes them happy, wealthy, and comfortable (2 Timothy 4:3-4). Jesus did not lead a comfortable life. Nor was He wealthy. We cannot say if He was a happy man, but we know the prophet Isaiah referred to Christ as a man of suffering and sorrows (Isaiah 53:3). The very life of Jesus dispels the false teachings of the so-called “prosperity gospel” and “word of faith” movements. Test the spirits. If they do not align with scripture, cast the teaching aside.
We live in a world filled with false teachers and teaching. The humble pulpits of our local churches have given way to celebrity pastors who speak on a global stage. The sheer popularity of these people should immediately drive us to search God’s Word so we might test the spirits (Acts 17:11). The teachings of Jesus drove many away from Him (John 6:53-60). The call to follow Christ is one of denial, alienation, and hardship in this world
Jesus never compromised His message and stood firm on the truth of the commandments He gave. He did not bend to the whims of culture. He spoke only truth, and He demands we live in truth because He is the truth, the life, and the only way to the Father (John 14:6). Test the spirits. Know what teaching you are following. If it is not of the Lord, run away. Have nothing to do with demons or their influence (Ephesians 5:11; 1 Corinthians 10:19-20).