How to test the spirits for Christians – A sermon from 1 John 4:1-6

how to test the spirit for dummies

I haven’t been uploading comic strips since I have been busy doing something else. I got an opportunity to preach at my church :)


Here is the transcript below:


Good morning brothers and sisters in Christ, my name is Andrias, I’m a member of Gereja Focus Indonesia. I’m married to Savitri over there, she’s the reason I’m here this morning as she keeps telling me “stop playing game and do your sermon”. It is such a privilege that I can be here to preach the word of God today. We’ll need God’s help to go through the passage and to understand His word, so how about I pray first before we start.



Father in heaven, praised be to your name for your grace and mercy for calling us to be your people, we thank you for your living word and truth that leads us to salvation in Jesus. Father God give us your spirit that we may discern your word, and let your word shape our life today, in Jesus name we pray, amen.

If you would like to write down notes, here is a simple outline of today’s talk.

I’ll leave it there for a while.

Passage Intro

Brothers and Sisters, have you ever been a victim of hoax? In these recent days, it’s very common for people to become a victim of fake news or fake announcement, after all we live in the digital information age, where every kinds of information is within our palm. But it’s very hard to know whether the thing that we just read is true or false. After all don’t we all believe that if it’s on the internet, it must be correct! If it’s on the facebook newsfeed and my friend’s Like is there it must be correct!


Let’s do a quick test and let’s see if you can know which one is true or fake?

CNBC has reported that it’s actually dangerous to do a selfie with the victory sign a.k.a the asian style, apparently as the phone camera is getting more and more advanced, identity thief can steal your fingerprint!


Story number 2: Some of you may know that The Simpsons correctly predicted that Donald Trump will be president of The United States, but apparently, they also correctly guessed that Pokemon Go will be out in the future! Look at that adorable Pikachu!


Story number 3:

Donald Trump is known for his extravagant lifestyle, he had this family photo snapped couple of years ago.


Which one do you think is a true?

1? 2? 3?


Ah very good guess,

For the first story: it is a hoax, It is not proven that people can steal your fingerprint from your selfies! So yeah, you can continue doing selfie with this pose


Second story: Yep the image has been doctored, it’s fake


And yep third photo is actually a real family photo of Trump.


Brother and sisters not everything that you hear is true, there are lots of lies that circles around in this world. This is the problem that John is trying to address the believers back then. And even worse this is not about fake news about Donald Trump or not, this is about fake teaching, false teaching that has potential to lead the believers’ faith astray.


John began this chunk of passage with a straightforward exhortation by saying “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.”


John tells the christians to not believe every spirit, instead they ought to be critical and crosscheck the spirits and test whether they are from God or not. Because clearly as John said, many false prophets have gone out into the world. So not every teaching are correct, not everything that you hear are the from the spirit of truth.


How to test the spirit

But the next question is, how do we test them?

How do we know whether someone comes with the spirit of God or the spirit of antichrist? John says in the verse 2 and 3:


By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, [3] and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist.


  1. Test 1 Testing from the Confession

If we look at the context of the time, John was probably rebutting a movement within the Christian community at that time called gnosticism which talked about separation of spirit and flesh. (again test me guys, go check if what I’m saying is the truth or not later on),  But regardless not confessing that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh has a lot of impact in our whole biblical faith.

It’s saying Jesus didn’t come from God,

it’s saying Jesus didn’t die for you for he didn’t have flesh!

it’s saying Jesus is not human and God at the same time,

It’s saying he’s not suitable for our sin’s atonement because he’s not human

It’s saying that he’s not our high priest,

It’s saying that his death is not valid in front of God and saying that your faith is rendered useless!!


Therefore John’s remark was really clear, they who doesn’t confess that Jesus hasn’t come in the flesh, is the spirit of the antichrist!!! Which you heard was coming, and now is in the world already. Christians are led astray by it, and John’s message are written for the sole purpose of that christians won’t be deceived but instead keep abiding in the spirit of truth!


  1. Test 2 Testing From Listening

The second way to test a spirit is by testing who they’re listening to. Do not be surprised that those who are not from God, they don’t want to listen to whatever from God because they are from the world. They don’t speak of wiGod but instead they speak from the world and the world listens to them. Let’s look at verse 5 and 6 together with me


“They are from the world; therefore they speak from the world, and the world listens to them. [6] We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error.

It’s very true what Jesus said in the Gospel of John

My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.

John 10:27


These spirits, instead of listening to God and knowing God, they rather speak from the world, teaching things that’s of the world, and guess what the world loves them! Because they’re speaking the same language. And it makes perfect sense that they’re speaking from the world. For they don’t listen to God, that’s why all that they’re speaking is of the world. All that they confess is of the world.


Brothers and sisters in Christ, if the world loves what you’re saying or whatever you’re sharing and says this to you “Hey you don’t speak like other christians, we like you, you speak like us.” Don’t be happy, that’s definitely not a compliment, that means you’re not speaking the truth enough, you’re a salt that’s not salty enough!


The teaching of the world can come in many forms, it can come by speaking in half truth, for example teaching that Jesus didn’t come in the flesh.

The world loves this because it means there is a separation between spirit and the flesh, you can do whatever with flesh, and spirit will stay holy.

Or the teaching  can be pretty subtle, for saying that Jesus is a great philosphical teacher, nothing more, because it means they don’t need to obey him as God.

The world loves this because this means there is not an essence of God in Him!

Or adding stuff to the gospel, as if what Jesus had done is not enough, adding new tradition, saying that you can pay for your sins, the world loves this because they can add their pride to the gospel.

False teaching!


Anything that doesn’t highlight the gospel, the real gospel, highlighting what Jesus as the Son of God has done are the teaching of the world, and is not from God.


They’re not confessing Jesus, but rather speaking something else. They love speaking things of this world, because that’s what falls onto the itching ears of the people of the world!


  1. Real Confession and Real Listening

Confessing that Jesus has come in the flesh and listening to God is the way to test the spirits. But sure confessing sounds really easy, just say that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh, then you sort of pass the test. Everyone can say it easily! But this comes from our current worldly standard that word is cheap. You can say anything but don’t really mean it. But a real confession means a much more deeper implication, it carries interconnected  implication. For example, if I say that “I’m married to Savitri”, the reality that is attached to it, is not as simple as a mere sentence. That sentence means that I have made a lifelong commitment to love my wife and to live with her under Christ  until the day one of us die, and all that comes just from the sentence “I’m married to Savitri”

How about the sentence Jesus Christ has come in the flesh then?

The reality that’s attached to confession is that when christians confessing what Jesus Christ has done by incarnating as flesh, they confess that Jesus is the Son of God in the flesh, and only believing and abiding in Jesus they can be saved. A true confession is reflected by their action in abiding in Jesus, whether they keep God’s commandment or not, whether they live for Christ or not. Just like last week’s sermon, in John 3:24 “Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him,. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the spirit whom he has given us.”


The same goes with listening, it’s not just merely hearing! Notice the difference: According to oxford dictionary:

Hearing is “to Perceive with the ear the sound made by someone or something”

It’s just using your ear. But

Listening is “to take notice of and act on what someone says; respond to advice or a request”

Listening comes with a mind that’s willing to take notice and even act! An active effort to listening the word of God and willing to act on it, that’s the true Listening. It’s not just hearing in one ear and it goes in and out. The mind takes notice and act on it. So if you’re listening to the apostle’s teaching, if you’re listening to the word of God, are you willing to be transformed by it? Are you willing to show it in your real life? Are you willing to keep God’s commandment after listening?

Brothers and sisters in Christ this is the reality that within christians there are spirits that don’t really confess Jesus Christ and doesn’t listen to God. That’s why test the spirit.


I hope by now you’re convinced that it is important to test the spirits.

But some say isn’t it gracious to be trusting, to not question everything with suspicion, but giving the benefit of the doubt to someone. That sounds really good, but the motivation behind not testing the spirit is most of the time because we’re lazy! We’re not willing to check up on the bible whether a teaching is correct or not, we’re not willing to learn by ourselves, we prefer being spoon fed by someone else without digging harder and make effort to know what’s the truth!


If you want to abide in Christ, test the spirit! The ability to discern truth from error is the sign that you’re growing as Christian!


TEST the spirit, test even me too! Am I speaking the truth of Christ crucified today? Or am I teaching you another kind of gospel? Am I teaching from the right source which is the bible?


I have a nephew named Joshua (not Joshua Ng) he is now 2 and half years old, he can now start to argue with me. I find this amazing, when he was 2, he wasn’t able to argue with me, anything that I say, he’ll trust me. But now he can test me, I learned this when he’s singing the song Thomas and his friends from the tv show. You guys know Thomas right? It’s a children tv show about a train called Thomas and his friends. And I’ll deliberately sing with the wrong lyric, it’s actually Thomas and his friends. But I sing it as Thomas and his Truck, or Thomas and his Aeroplane, and my nephew will start to pout, and he’ll say NO, No uncle, Thomas and his friends. He can now test me, and say that I’m wrong for he has seen the original song from the TV, he knows which one is the right one!

This is part of growing up as Christian, to be able to test the spirit, to be able to discern what’s of the spirit of truth or what of the spirit of error. You can see from the tone how John writes his letter, he’s talking as a pastor to his sheep, beloved, little children, listen to me, heed my teaching. And his prayer is that the christians won’t be deceived, and that they will abide in the Lord.


  1. The Comfort: power to abides

And yes, christians can and will abide in the Lord, John comforted the christians by reminding them that they are from God, and they have overcome them, look at verse 4  


“Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world”


Not that the christians have a super strong faith that they can abide in the Lord and not swayed at all, but because the One who you believe in, is much more greater than any spirit who is in this world. It’s the object of the faith that christians has that is the cornerstone of our hope and salvation, our faith in Jesus the son of God who died and resurrected by God, in there lies the power, much greater than anything in this world. Paul has the same confidence in his letter to the phillipians:


And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.

Philippians 1:6 ESV


  1. Application


So how do we apply what we have heard  today in our daily life?

  1. Firstly of course, test the spirit, be an active and critical listener of the teaching around you. Is it biblical? Is it highlighting Christ or the world?


  1. Secondly, Test your own spirit! Whoa, I thought you’re talking about preachers only??? Yes, but with whatever measure that you use to judge someone, you’ll be measured as well! Do not let other’s speck in someone’s eye block the view of the log in your own eye! Have you yourself confessed that Jesus Christ is from God? Is your confession is a true confession that’s produces a reality in your life in submission to our Lord Jesus Christ? Or is it a mere words rather than a real confession?


  1. Thirdly, are you listening to God, or are you listening to the world? Which one do you like to listen better? The biblical message, the gospel that keeps highlighting Jesus greatness, or do you have the itching ears to listen the more sensual messages from the world?

    When is the last time you’re listening with joy to the gospel of God being preached? When is the last time you’re listening with excitement and exclaim that this is a faithful teaching, And as we see before, listening is not hearing, has your life been changed by listening to God?


If you’re prefer to listens to the world my friend, my message is wake up! Stop listening to the sweet tune of the world, because all that there is will only lead to destruction not salvation! Trust in Jesus Christ who is greater than the spirit of the world!


Brothers and Sisters in Christ, as we go away from this place, my prayer is that all of us will be strengthened by the spirit from God, to discern the truth and live upon it in our daily life. Let’s pray.


Closing Prayer
Father God, we praise you for your great salvation work in Jesus Christ, we thank you for saving us and giving us your spirit of truth, father help us to keep listening to your voice, and keep abiding in you until the end. Amen.

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