Kingdom Warfare

 

Introduction

 

I wondered when we were going to get to study this. Armor of God class? Today we are going to study the Armor of God, Ephesians 6:10-18. So let’s read our scripture first and try to imagine it being read in Tony’s encouraging voice because no doubt at the end of class we will be blessed to hear Tony say these words again. Ephesians 6:10-18 –

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.   Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.   Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.

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So let’s start with the scary truth – we are in battle with evil. Our adversary, the devil, prowls around like a hungry lion, looking for someone to devour. And the truly scary part is that the devil is very successful. He is the Father of Sin and owns this world and this culture and most – not some, not a few – but most people are deluded by the beauty of evil and the pleasures of sin. Narrow is the gate which leads to life, but wide is the path that leads to destruction.   That means most will not find their way to salvation despite the evidence of God’s love being abundant in creation.

Wiersbe’s commentary of Ephesians had this quote –

“Sooner or later every believer discovers that the Christian life is a battleground, not a playground, and that he faces an enemy who is much stronger than he is – apart from the Lord.”

Slide4.JPGYour task and my task is to be Christ’s ambassador, showing His light of salvation so that all who are called may be saved. But the devil isn’t going down without a fight, and he has had thousands of years of practice and deception, so we must be prepared.

 

The Enemy

 

The first strategy in our battle is to understand the enemy. Sun Tzu was a Chinese general and philosopher who lived 2000 years ago and wrote a famous document called Art of War, and I think this is his most famous line –

是故勝兵先勝而後求戰,敗兵先戰而後求勝。

Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win.

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If we are to win against our common enemy, first we must understand who our enemy is. In the book of Ephesians, Paul describes the enemy like this –

      • The Prince of the power of the air (2:2)
      • The spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience (2:2)
      • A schemer (6:11)
      • Not flesh and blood (6:12)
      • Principalities (6:12)
      • Powers (6:12)
      • Rulers of the darkness of this age (6:12)
      • Spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places (6:12)
      • Uses fiery darts (6:16)

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Notice though, who is not our enemy: people.   And that is the biggest baddest mistake of well-meaning Christians, to go to battle against people. When we make people our enemy, we are actually helping our enemy win. We can look back at the study of Jonah, who rebelled against the Lord when commanded to go to Nineveh. We all remember the fish in the story, but it’s the last two chapters that give the story of Jonah meaning. Jonah had been sent to a wicked people, and was resentful against God for not destroying them. God’s response is that the wicked people of Nineveh were God’s wayward children and he wanted Jonah to teach them about His love. That’s why John 3:16 is so powerful –

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

Not for a few, not for some, not even for many. God loves the people of this world and there is no celebration in heaven greater than when a sinner turns to repentance. The enemy isn’t people, no matter what horrible accusation or insult comes out of their mouth. That’s the devil working through this world. That’s why it’s so important for us to remember to “hate the sin, love the sinner.”

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So when we go into battle against the prince of the power of the air and the rulers of the darkness of this age, what is our battle plan? First, we need to be equipped for the battle, and that begins with Paul’s description of the battle armor worn by a Roman soldier –

 

The Armor – Belt of Truth

 

Ephesians 6:14a,

Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth ((Ephesians 6:14a, Chronological Bible p. 1532)

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In the first century, a soldier would wear a belt that would hold his sword. The belt would also hold his chest plate in place and allow for him to tuck his robes above his knees so that he could engage in battle. Without a belt, the rest of the attire could not function. The belt held everything together. Paul makes a comparison between the belt of a soldier and truth.

The truth of God holds everything together. Without it, we cannot hope to prevail in battle.   If we are going to fight this spiritual battle against the devil and the forces of evil, we must have truth to win.

The devil is the enemy of truth, but he’s devious about it and twists the truth to make it sound believable. Remember his first deception in the Garden of Eden? Genesis 3:1,

Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”

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That wasn’t God’s command, God told Adam and Eve they could eat from any tree, except one, the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. The devil twists the truth.

Sometimes he even quotes the truth, daring us to misapply it. When Jesus was in the desert for 40 days and the devil tempted him, the devil quoted scripture to Jesus. But it was a misapplication, a distorted truth. Matthew 4:5-7,

Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written:

“‘He will command his angels concerning you,

   and they will lift you up in their hands,

   so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’”

Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”

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In John’s Gospel, Jesus gives us great insight into the character of Satan. Jesus tells us that the devil does not “hold to the truth, for there is no truth in him.   When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”

You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. (John 8:44)

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The devil wants us to believe lies about ourselves and of this world. The devil wants us to believe lies about God. The devil whispers lies into our hearts and minds and attempts to lead us away from God. We Christians must arm themselves with the belt of truth so that we can engage in the battles against the lies of Satan.

Truth is more than feelings. Truth is even more than facts. Truth is reality from God’s point of view.   We need an objective standard of reality for the world we live in as well.   Thankfully, God has provided that objective standard in the truth of His Word. Every day you and I must engage in God’s Word of Truth so that we can differentiate between lies and reality. We must put on the Belt of Truth first to properly equip us for spiritual battle.

 

The Armor – Breastplate of Righteousness

 

Ephesians 6:14b,

having put on the breastplate of righteousness (Ephesians 6:14b, Chronological Bible p. 1532

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Soldiers would place a breastplate over their bodies to help protect their vital organs during battle. The breastplate would cover them from their collarbone to their lower abdomen, guarding their heart, lungs, and intestines. With their breastplate on, they could enter the battle with confidence knowing they were protected.

After the fall, Adam and Eve were aware of their nakedness and clothed themselves with leaves.   They attempted to protect themselves with clothing of their own making. God, however, replaced their clumsy attempt to cover themselves with clothing of His own making.

When we clothe ourselves in unrighteous, legalistic, or worldly truth, the self-righteous person is doomed to certain defeat by the enemy. But God clothes believers with the very righteousness of Jesus Christ.

The Breastplate of Righteousness represents the external righteousness of Jesus Christ placed on us. Jesus’ righteousness protects us, and it guards us against the blows of the devil for eternity. But the Breastplate of Righteousness also represents the internal righteousness of a godly life.

Our greatest protection and ally in the Christian life against the schemes of the devil is to pursue a righteous life. Satan, who is our Accuser, cannot accuse us of sins we do not commit. He cannot condemn a consecrated life. Integrity and righteousness in the Christian life protect us from the everyday assaults of the devil and helps us to engage the spiritual battle with confidence. When we live righteously, we can know that we are covered and protected. An obedient Christian is an effective Christian.

 

The Armor – Shoes of the Gospel of Peace

 

Ephesians 6:15,

and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace (Ephesians 6:15, Chronological Bible p. 1532)

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The Roman shoes were tied, ready to go, ready to fight. They had short nails that would help give the soldier traction to make sure they were not slipping in battle. Paul tells the Church at Ephesus if they want to stand firmly in battle, they need to put on the shoes of the gospel. But notice it is the gospel of peace.

I’m reminded of Peter in Matthew 14. The disciples are in a boat, buffeted by winds, when Jesus begins to walk across the water toward them, and the disciples are scared. They think He’s a ghost. Then Peter says in verse 28-31 –

“Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”

“Come,” he said.

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”

Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”

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The peace that the gospel offers is not peaceful circumstances throughout all of life.   The peace of the gospel is, that when the storms of life come, you are still walking on His Word. Peace is not the absence of chaos. Peace is assurance in the midst of chaos.

The gospel is good news because it is the gospel of peace. It offers us true peace with God, providing reconciliation for our sins. It offers true peace with our self, transforming us into the image of Jesus.   The gospel gives us true peace with others, providing an example of sacrificial love through Jesus Christ.

The peace of God are the shoes that hold us firmly in place during spiritual battle.

 

The Armor – Shield of Faith

 

Ephesians 6:16 –

above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. (Ephesians 6:16, Chronological Bible p. 1532)

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A Roman soldier’s shield was large. It would cover their bodies from shin to shoulder. It was wooden but covered in leather so that it was fireproof. The soldier would hold it out in front of him to protect him from spears, swords, and flaming arrows. He could interlock his shield with the shield of other soldiers and form a wall that was virtually impenetrable.

Have you ever watched old black and white Western movies? There is often a scene where the Indians repeatedly ride around the circled wagons of the cowboys. Then, one Indian would dip his arrow in oil and light it. He would shoot his flaming arrow at the wagons. The flaming arrow would not be meant to kill the cowboys.   It was meant to distract the cowboys because you cannot fight fire and fight Indians at the same time.

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Satan will try to shoot arrows of distraction in our lives with the purpose of distracting us from the real battle. We are to take up the shield of faith and protect ourselves from these fiery arrows.   Satan will shoot arrows of distraction to move our attention away from the fight and toward the fire.

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The Apostle Paul instructs us to carry the shield of faith so that we can extinguish the flaming arrows of the devil. When we focus on the object of our faith instead of the distractions to our faith, we can effectively engage in spiritual warfare.

Throughout scripture, faith is always measured by action. Faith is not measured by good intentions, chills that run down our back in worship service, or feelings. Faith is accounted for by action, moving us in the direction that God has called us to go.

If you look at the Hall of Faith in Hebrews 11 you will notice a pattern of faith. It goes like this: the person is named, a declaration of their faith is stated, and a display of their faith through action is explained.

  • Noah → Trusted God → Built an ark.
  • Abraham → Trusted God → Left home to another land.
  • The People of Israel → Trusted God → Went through the Red Sea on dry ground.

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When we utilize the shield of faith we can trust God, extinguish the distractions, and move in action to what God has called us to do. This is a prerequisite to winning our spiritual battles.

 

The Armor – Helmet of Salvation

 

Ephesians 6:17a,

And take the helmet of salvation (Ephesians 6:17a, Chronological Bible p. 1532)

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Soldiers marching out onto the battlefield would first place a helmet on their heads. It was absurd for anyone to engage in combat without a helmet. The Apostle Paul tells the church at Ephesus to put on the helmet of salvation. It was their salvation that served as a guard for the Ephesian church. Their salvation was their standing before God.

The spiritual battle is won on the battlefield of the mind. If Satan can infiltrate our minds and cause us to think wrongly about God, he can convince us to disobey God. He did it with Adam and Eve in the Garden. He twisted their thoughts about God and tempted them to sin. God commands us to put on the helmet of salvation to guard our minds with the reality that we have been saved by Christ.   Right thinking leads to right living.   If we protect the way we think, by filtering it through our salvation, then we will protect what we love. If we protect what we love, ultimately, we will protect what we worship.

Believers must take errant and suspicious thoughts captive and operate out of a renewed mind.   Consider 2 Corinthians 10:4-5 –

The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

Or consider Romans 12:2 –

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.

But too often we fill our minds with trash – movies and television shoes that promote evil or sexual immorality. Garbage in, garbage out. We should fill our minds instead with the goodness of His love.

 

The Armor – Sword of the Spirit

 

Ephesians 6:17b,

and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; (Ephesians 6:17b, Chronological Bible p. 1532)

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This is the only offensive piece of weapon to use in spiritual warfare. Paul says to take the sword of the spirit which is the word of God. In Greek, there are three different words for “Word.”

1) Graphe – which means the writing compiled, as in a book.

2) Logos – an announcement or written narrative or treatise, the topic that is inside the book.

3) Rhema – specific statements or sentences in a book.

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Paul uses the third word Rhema for the word of God. He is urging the Ephesian church to memorize and apply specific statements from scripture to help them successfully fight their spiritual battles.

When Jesus was in the wilderness being tempted by the devil, He used rhema- specific statements from God’s Word to defeat the devil. Satan would tempt Him and Jesus would reply with scripture. And if Jesus relies on specific statements from scripture in order to defeat the devil’s temptation, how much more do we, being mere mortals, need to memorize and apply specific statements from God’s Word in spiritual warfare?

Paul knew the power that came from the scriptures. He knew that the Sword of the Spirit is Hebrews 4:12 –

…living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

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Unlike a physical sword that grows dull after it is used, the more we use the Sword of the Spirit the sharper it becomes and the deeper it pierces. When we interact with specific statements of scripture applying and memorizing them, they bring life and heal us while simultaneously defeating temptation and Satan’s schemes.

 

The Armor – Cloak of Zeal

 

There’s one more piece to the Roman’s soldier’s wardrobe. Paul doesn’t mention it, but centuries earlier, Isaiah mentions in in Isaiah 59:17 –

He put on righteousness as his breastplate,

   and the helmet of salvation on his head;

he put on the garments of vengeance

   and wrapped himself in zeal as in a cloak.

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Isaiah is referring to the Lord’s passion to send a savior to save sinners from His wrath, and the Lord wrapped Himself in zeal.

The Roman soldier used his cloak for many things – it was somewhat waterproof against the rain, warmth against the cold, even used for bedding at night. The comfort of his cloak made him a better soldier during the battles.

A cloak of zeal will make us better spiritual warriors. The Lord was passionate enough to save sinners that the Lord sent His only son to die for us. Can we, then, muster enough zeal to be good warriors?

As adopted children of God, we should adopt the same zeal for His Good News that Jesus did when He willingly went to the cross for us. I have always been struck by this passage in Revelation 3:14-16,

“To the angel of the church in Laodicea write:

These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation. I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm – neither hot nor cold – I am about to spit you out of my mouth.

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Jesus is telling the church that spreading the good news of salvation should fire us up, give us a passion to save others with the same passion Jesus had to save us. He didn’t save us just to be nice. He saved us to saved others. Are we so comfortable in our salvation that we will let others perish? Or will we get zealous for the Lord and spread the news that Jesus died for their sins so they could be saved from a fiery eternal death?

Jesus thinks our lackadaisicalness – that was a hard word to write, much less pronounce – he thinks our lackadaisicalness when He gave His very life is so despicable that He will spit us out of His mouth. Let us have zeal and passion for His word by adding the cloak of zeal to our spiritual armor.

 

Conclusion

 

We engage in spiritual activities every day; therefore, we need to clothe ourselves with the appropriate spiritual attire. Every day we live, we enter into a spiritual battle against the devil and the supernatural forces at work around us. We must put on the full armor of God to stand in the fight.

Remember king David as a boy when he first stood against Goliath? David, too, was well-armed, and as he stood against Goliath, David knew that victory was already his. Why? David’s weapon was the sling, and it was not the first time he had picked up a sling.   David had guarded his father’s sheep for years against lions and bears. He knew how to use the armor given to Him by God because he practiced using it.

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Every piece of armor is important, and the good news is that the battle has already been won.   Colossians 2:13-15,

When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.

Stand and resist the devil, and he will flee. Every morning, put on the whole armor of God and prepare for the spiritual battles of the day, wielding the spiritual armor given to us by Christ Jesus so that we may be victorious in Him and give Him all the glory.

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To God be the glory.   Amen.

Is This of God?

  I.      Introduction

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We’ve been discussing heresies and false doctrines in the church during our study of 1 John, and today we’re going to tackle false prophets and the antichrist. Let’s open up to 1 John 4 and read verses 1-6 to get an overhead view before we begin.

Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.

 

You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. They are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us. This is how we recognize the Spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood.

II.      Do Not Believe Every Spirit, 1 John 4:1-2

This is my 9th year of teaching the bible at Second, and I’ve learned a great deal during this period. The biggest thing I’ve learned is probably that I know a lot less than I thought I knew. Every lesson has life lessons for me that I didn’t know the year before. The preparation for each lesson, if they are to be meaningful, seem to include some common traits. I have to pray for God’s message to be clear, I pray for God to use me as He wills. Then I read and meditate on the scripture.   I create an outline to be organized, I come up with examples and stories that illustrate the point. Then I begin reading commentaries.Slide2

For the most part, I stick to those commentaries with excellent reputations – Warren Wiersby, Matthew Henry, John Piper, but if I feel the need to branch out from there, sometimes I go a’googling. The sheer amount of false teaching on the internet is overwhelming. For every site that says “beware these false prophets” is another site that says, “no, beware *those* false prophets.”

I wanted to give some examples of false prophets for today’s lesson, but I found that a difficult thing to do. For one thing, we are all sinners. That includes you, me, false teachers and good teachers. We just studied that a couple of weeks ago in 1 John 1:8-10 –

If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

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I originally wanted to give some examples of false teachers, but that turned out to be harder than I thought. I can find plenty of examples of biblical error – prosperity gospel, name it and claim it, prediction of the end time, being saved through works, even people who themselves claimed to be God – but false doctrine isn’t the same thing as being a false teacher or even a false church. The truth is truth, and a falsehood is false, but actually proclaiming somebody as a false teacher rather than just saying something false seems rife with dangers of being judgmental.

Besides, I don’t think that’s actually the purpose of 1 John 4, for me to identify false teachers for you. I think the purpose of 1 John 4 is to train you to identify false teaching on your own.

If we are all sinners, then being a sinner doesn’t make one into a false teacher. If it were so, then all teachers would be false teachers. Just as saying something in error doesn’t make you false teacher. If I stand here and tell you that some angels have 6 legs like an insect, that’s not true. Angels may have four wings (Ezekiel 1:6) or maybe six wings (Isaiah 6:2), but not six legs, don’t be ridiculous.

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So if saying something false or being a sinner doesn’t make one a false teacher, what if the teacher says it very very earnestly? What if I was very sincere that angels had six legs? No, saying something earnestly doesn’t make it true. What if I also sent food and clothing to the Philippines, would that make what I said true?  What if I read it on the internet?

Let’s go back to our scripture and see if we get a better clue as to how to recognize a false prophet. 1 John verse 1 says,

Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God

Test the spirits. What John is asking us to do is use discernment to see if the person we’re listening to is being driven by the Holy Spirit or if he’s being driven by something else (and we’ll get to that in a moment).

What do I mean by discernment? It’s one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit; each and every one of us have at least one gift, given freely by the Holy Spirit for the purpose of building up the church. Some of us have more than one.

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The Greek word for the gift of discernment is “diakrisis” and means being able to distinguish, discern, judge or appraise a person, statement, situation, or environment. In the New Testament it describes the ability to distinguish between spirits as in 1 Corinthians 12:10, and to discern good and evil as in Hebrews 5:14. For some it comes easily as a gift, and for all of us, it is a sign of spiritual maturity. As we study and learn and practice and serve, our ability to discern what is of God and what is not should improve. When we hear somebody trying to teach us spiritual truth, in order to discern if it is spiritual truth, we should test it in 3 ways –

  • Test with Truth.  The Book of Truth, by definition, leads to truth.  In Acts 17, the Apostle Paul arrived in Thessalonica and began to teach in the Jewish synagogue, explaining that Jesus is the Messiah and why He had to suffer and die and rise from the dead.  Some of the Thessalonian Jews were jealous, formed a mob and started a riot, chasing Paul out of the city.  Paul then went to Berea and began to teach the same message in the synagogue, but (Acts 17:11), “Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.”  God says it’s noble to seek the truth.  Whether it’s our pastor, whether it’s me, and probably especially if it’s Chris, question our teaching.  Open your bible and read for yourself if what we say is true.  A teacher that is being led by the Holy Spirit will welcome an opportunity to build each other up and correct any errors.  It’s ok.  We encourage you to read the truth for yourself.
  • Test with Love.  Just testing to see if it’s true is not enough.  It must also pass the test of love.  1 Corinthians 13 says that if we speak the truth without love, we are only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.  Truth without love is just noise.  The Old Testament in many places demonstrates the truth of God’s wrath which is meaningless without His message of love and mercy in Christ Jesus.  And it is not love to encourage people to be comfortable in their sin.  Truth must be spoken in love; love must be spoken in truth.
  • Test that it leads to Jesus.  Any test of spiritual truth must lead to Jesus.  Fellowship?  Must lead to Jesus.  Tithing?  Must lead to Jesus.  Service?  Must lead to Jesus.

1 John 4:2 goes on to say,

This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God.

“Every spirit that acknowledges Jesus Christ.” Some translations use “testify Jesus Christ” or “confess Jesus Christ.” In other words, the Holy Spirit testifies that God is in your life when you confess Jesus is Lord. When you genuinely confess Jesus Christ, believers can know that you have the Holy Spirit.

But I think you see the problem here. Is that all it takes? What if I ask Andy Atheist from off the street and into the sanctuary and offer him $500 to say, “Jesus Christ is Lord.” Do you think he will do it? I think so. Words, then, are not enough, but that’s what it seems 1 John 4 is saying. “Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God.”

John Piper tells a story of meeting with the African chaplain of the Banso Baptist Hospital in Cameroon. The chaplain was asked if he was making any spiritual impact on the patients, and he said that the Christians were very open to his help. Most of the Muslims and the followers of the tribal religions would simply agree with him as quickly as they could in order to get him to leave them alone. So do such confessions prove that the person is of God, or that the spirit with which they speak is the Spirit of God?

The key to understanding this verse is probably the word “confess”. John also uses the same word in 1 John 1:9,

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins.

What does the word “confess” mean here? Does it mean just mouthing the words? “Yeah, yeah, yeah, I did it, so what?” That’s a confession. But mere words cannot be enough, because in Matthew 7:21, Jesus says,

Not everyone who says to me, Lord, Lord, shall enter the kingdom of heaven

Jesus is essentially saying confession is not enough. The key to understanding this, then, must be to understand what John means by the word “confess.” Both times, John uses the word “homologeō” which itself comes from two separate Greek words, “homou” (this is the easy word) meaning “together as one, at the same place and time.” And the other word you may be familiar with, “logos.” It’s used 331 times in 316 verses in the King James version. That means some verses use “logos” two or even three times per verse throughout the New Testament. It means the Word, something said, something thought, reasoning and motive, a decision, an intent. When Jesus spoke, it was called “logos.”

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Matthew 24:35, Jesus says,

Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words (logos) shall not pass away.

So when John says, “confess” Jesus Christ, he is saying “homologeō” Jesus Christ.” It’s more than just saying “confess” or “acknowledge.” It is saying a decision to be together, as one, at the same time, in the same place, with the Word of God, in thought and action and deed.

1 John 4:2 can then be shown this way:

This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that (homologeō) that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God.

When you’re listening to a teacher or a pastor and you are trying to decide if his teaching is false, it is fair to examine his life. The teaching must be taught in truth, must be taught in love, and must point to Jesus. The teacher’s words, thoughts, actions, deeds, his lifestyle must acknowledge that Jesus Christ is fully man, fully God, and died to save your sins and mine.

So when I listen to a teacher, I’m listening to hear if he or she teaches the whole truth. “Name it and claim it” or the prosperity gospel takes certain scripture and packages it nicely with a ribbon or bow on top so that if you give money to their ministry you will reap riches, but ignores other biblical truths about the purpose of pain and suffering. If I examine their lifestyle and see they are buying multi-million dollar jets to fly around the world while their congregation is living on food stamps, they are not homologeō in their words, actions and deeds. And if I hear preachers preaching that people are going to hell for their beliefs but do not mention the love of Jesus that can save them from their sins, their message is missing the good news of the bible. And if their message is about hope and love and peace but do not give credit to our Lord and Savior, it is an incomplete message and is not from the very Lord they are ignoring.

III.      Who Is the Antichrist? 1 John 4:3

So if the message is not from the Holy Spirit and we discern that the message is not of truth, not of love, and does not point to Jesus, and the teacher is not homologeō with Jesus Christ, where is the message coming from?

1 John 4:3,

but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.

The spirit of the antichrist.

Every teaching that is not homologeō with the Word of God is from the spirit of the antichrist. In the spiritual conflict between Jesus and Satan, compromise and neutrality is not possible. There are only two eternal destinations, there is no third, and every soul is bound for one or the other.

There may be some confusion about who the antichrist is in this passage. How can the antichrist be coming and already here? In the Book of Revelation, the apostle John refers to the Antichrist by the title “the false prophet.” The Antichrist, with a capital “A”, is the ultimate manifestation of false prophecy and the many “false prophets” are but precursors to the ultimate Antichrist. John confirmed this is 1 John 2:18 when he said, “Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come. This is how we know it is the last hour.” The Antichrist is not here yet – at least I hope not – but the spirit of the antichrist, those who oppose Christ Jesus, have been with us for thousands of years.

The spirits of the antichrist are alive and well in America. Jesus says in Mark 10:8 that “At the beginning of creation, God made them male and female. For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” And in Romans 8, we know that God eventually gives sinful people over to their shameful lusts and unnatural sexual relations. And as I’m studying this and writing this, breaking news pops up on my computer that the US Supreme Court legalizes gay marriage in all 50 states. The spirits of the antichrist are alive and well and legalizing sin that separates us from God our Father.

Our laws and our institutions must necessarily be based upon and embody the teachings of The Redeemer of mankind. It’s impossible that it should be otherwise; and in this sense and to this extent our civilization and our institutions are emphatically Christian… This is a religious people. This is historically true. From the discovery of this continent to the present hour, there is a single voice making this affirmation… we find everywhere a clear recognition of the same truth… These, and many other matters which might be noticed, add a volume of unofficial declarations to the mass of organic utterances that this is a Christian nation. Church of the Holy Trinity v. United States, The United States Supreme Court, 143 U.S. 457, 12 S.Ct. 511, 36 L.Ed. 226 (1892)

I would say that the spirits of the antichrists have been at work for a long time and have been quite successful.

We are all on the front line of spiritual warfare, determining what is good versus what is evil. Scripture tells us that God loves the sinner who repents and that God hates sin, and we are to do the same. Too often Christians are too meek, content to let the world run roughshod over us and our faith.

IV.      The One Who Is In You, 1 John 4:4-6

Fortunately, we do not have to fight this battle on our own. In fact, if we try to fight this battle on our own, we have already lost. The spirit of the antichrists are clever and they are numerous. And we are losing the battle daily. We are like children facing giants.

If you told me a child, a mere boy of 12, could turn away the Philistine army and save Israel from annihilation, I would tell you that you are crazy. But David was armed with more than just a stone. David said to Goliath,

You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the Lord will deliver you into my hands, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head. This very day I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds and the wild animals, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel. All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give all of you into our hands.

If we attempt to battle evil under our own might, we will lose. But our Lord is a mighty warrior. 1 John 4:3 says

You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.

We are not in the battle alone. The Holy Spirit lives in all of those who trust in Jesus Christ, and Jesus has conquered death itself. The battles we may lose mean little. Our Lord has already won the war for us.

We need to keep in mind who we are battling. Our battle is not against our rulers, our nation, the Supreme Court. Our battle is not with coworkers that malign us, and it’s not with neighbors who mock us. Our battle is with the spirits of the antichrist. Ephesians 6:10-12 says

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the whole armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

We are mighty warriors for the Holy Spirit, clothed in the Armor of God and wielding the Sword of Truth. We may not win every spiritual battle, as this week’s Supreme Court ruling shows. But the spiritual war is already won.

Our challenge is to identify what messages are coming from the Holy Spirit and which are coming from the spirit of antichrists. We need to be well versed in the Sword of Truth and be good Bereans and study the Scriptures for Truth.

Don’t let the spirit of the antichrists throw scripture at us to silence us, telling us not to judge. That’s not what scripture means. We are to use righteous judgement with careful discernment to beware of evildoers and false prophets and to beware of judging hypocritical, self-righteous judgement and against judging someone when we ourselves are sinning worse.

It is our charge, our duty, to understand the Truth coming from the Holy Spirit and to recognize falsehoods coming from the evil one. We do this, not through our own power, but to be like little children and allow the power of the Holy Spirit do convict us of good and evil. If we are homologeō with the Holy Spirit, one together with Him in heart, mind, and spirit, then we can indeed do all things through Christ who strengthens us.

  V.      Conclusion

I want to wrap up this study of 1 John 4:1-6 with these words from 2 Timothy 4:1-8. We all have expiration dates, and we all want to live a life well-lived. There is nothing is this world worth fighting for except the love of Jesus Christ and the love of our neighbor. Everything else is just shiny trinkets to distract us from the spiritual battles of this earthy realm.

In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage — with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.

 

For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time for my departure is near. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.

Rely on the Holy Spirit of Truth, and fight the good fight. Test the spirits to see if they lead to truth, love, and Jesus. Be homologeō, one together in purpose and faith that Jesus Christ died for us and was raised to sit at the right hand of the Father to pay for your sins and mine. For by his sacrifice, he lives in us, and the one who lives in us is greater than the one who is in the world.

To God be the glory.