by Pastor Joshua Pfeiffer
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Test the spirits to see whether they are from God; every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God (1 John 4:1,2b).
A Christian person is perusing the spirituality section at the local bookstore and notices a book on angels. The book speaks of angels like the ones from the Bible – Gabriel and Michael – and even mentions Jesus. However, the book also mentions other angel names that seem a bit unusual and says that we can talk to angels and get messages from them to guide us in life. According to this book, angels can even help us if we want to get in touch with loved ones who have died. When the person starts to dabble in the practices the book refers to, some apparently real experiences actually happen that can’t be easily explained. What to make of this?
We will always come across counterclaims to the truths of the Bible, and sometimes they can sound close to what we know in our Christian faith while being subtly different. St John encourages us in this text not to be naive and simply accept everything we come across but to ‘test the spirits to see whether they are from God’. The next question, then, is that of criteria. One temptation we have is to judge other ‘spirits’ based on whether their message seems to ‘work’ in our lives or whether they produce real experiences. However, we are given a different criterion in our text – namely, whether a person or movement can confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh. There can be more to it than that, but there’s never less.
Back to the book on angels, the person later read some strange things about Jesus. This author said Jesus wasn’t really the Son of God and didn’t die for the forgiveness of our sins or rise again to defeat death but actually came only to show us how to live a truly authentic life. The person talked to the pastor at church and some other mature Christian friends, and together, they judged that this was not something from God.
In our families, fellowship groups and congregations, let’s be diligent together in testing the spirits and remain faithful to the one who has claimed us as his own.
Father in heaven, we thank you that in your Son, we have conquered the world. Please help us to be diligent in testing the spirits and deliver us from all evil. We pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.
Joshua is married to Kimberley. Together they have four children. He is a pastor of the Lutheran Church of Australia and previously served at St Paul’s, Nundah, in Queensland, and Bethlehem, Adelaide, in South Australia. Currently, he is pursuing doctoral studies at Concordia Seminary St Louis, USA, and enjoying the adventure. He posts videos on a YouTube channel called Kairos (www.youtube.com/JoshuaPfeiffer).