A Call for Spiritual Discernment: Jesus' Words of Warning and Apostle John's Powerful Message

Apr 28, 2024 – 5th Sunday of Easter | 1 John 4:1-6 ESV

Revelations from Jesus in John 16

Our morning Introit features a powerful antiphon that captures the words Jesus spoke to His apostles on the night He was betrayed. He said, "A little while, and you will see me no longer; and again a little while, and you will see me" (John 16:16). These words were filled with deep meaning, as they referred to His upcoming arrest, crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension into heaven. It's easy to imagine the concern that must have gripped the apostles' hearts upon hearing these words. They had been expecting Jesus to restore the kingdom to Israel, and now He was speaking of His departure.

Despite witnessing His miraculous power and recognizing Him as divine, the apostles struggled to fully grasp the spiritual nature of His kingdom. Jesus understood their confusion and sought to enlighten them. He cautioned them to understand that His kingdom was not an earthly one, but a spiritual kingdom, established through His suffering on the cross. This kingdom offered true liberation from sin, death, and the devil. However, this freedom came with a price - the apostles would face challenges and tribulations in the world. This was contrary to the worldly peace and happiness they had anticipated.

Jesus wanted to prepare His apostles for the difficulties they would encounter. He warned them of the tribulations they would endure but reassured them of His victory over the world (John 16:32-33). He wanted them to understand that even in the face of hardships and persecution, they would find strength and hope in Him.

Our Mission as Believers

As believers, we are fortunate to have the full story of Jesus' teachings and the insights into the warning He gave His apostles. The trials and tribulations faced by the early believers, as documented in Acts and explained in the New Testament epistles remind us of the ongoing challenges we encounter in our own lives. Just as Jesus' earthly life was not the end, our work for His kingdom must persist.

As part of Jesus' Church, our mission is clear. We are called to make disciples by baptizing them and teaching everything Jesus taught, as detailed in the Scriptures (Matthew 28:19-20). This requires spiritual discernment, as we go about our lives in a world filled with deceptive influences that seek to mask truth with falsehoods serving the devil's agenda.

Apostle John's Warning for Vigilance and Spiritual Discernment

The apostle John, in his First Epistle, warns Christians to be vigilant. He urges us to wake up and recognize that the world is not a safe or friendly place for believers. If we find ourselves too comfortable in this world, we may have already lost sight of our faith. John's warning is not about the physical creation itself but about the sinful existence of mankind, steeped in sin and falsehood.

Understanding this perspective requires insight and spiritual discernment. John encourages us to test the spirits, as there are many false prophets circulating in this world of sin and falsehood. Those aligned with God acknowledge Jesus Christ in the flesh, while those who deny Him are of the antichrist spirit. It is vital that we discern these spirits and remain rooted in the truth taught by the Holy Spirit.

Deception in a Dark World

In the world we inhabit, we are constantly bombarded with misleading lies that aim to steer us away from the truth, particularly from Jesus Christ, who embodies truth itself. We cannot afford to be naive, dismissing these occurrences as mere chance. John warns us that the antichrist is already present, serving as Satan's agent to deceive and harm the followers of Christ. With the aid of technology and media, the influence of these forces has grown exponentially, creating a potent environment for the spread of falsehoods and attempts to silence the Gospel message.

Recent events serve as a wake-up call, reminding us that we cannot carry on with our lives without concern. Big Tech and mainstream media, under the guise of community welfare, have assumed unprecedented authority over various aspects of our lives, from worship practices to personal health decisions. This level of control raises questions about how much longer they will allow us to proclaim truths about morality, humanity, and salvation through Jesus Christ.

In this dark world, we must exercise constant spiritual discernment. We should not blindly trust any authority figure, as they are all susceptible to deception. Even well-intentioned Christians can fall prey to darkness. John provides us with a litmus test for discernment: those aligned with God confess Jesus Christ's incarnation, while those who deny this truth are not of God. This discernment is crucial in navigating the complexities of our world and staying true to the Gospel message.

Truth and Spiritual Discernment

During a conversation with His apostles, Jesus forewarned them about His impending departure. However, He reassured them that He would not leave them alone or without guidance. He promised to send the Spirit of Truth, also known as the Holy Spirit, as another Counselor (John 14:16,17). This Spirit would equip them to be witnesses for Jesus in the world, convicting it of guilt in matters of sin, righteousness, and judgment (John 16:9).

The Spirit of Truth makes it clear that any denial of Jesus as the Son of God in human form is not in alignment with the truth, but rather originates from the "father of lies," the devil. Discerning this truth is crucial for our spiritual understanding.

It is important to recognize that there is only one truth and one God. Accepting the notion of multiple truths or gods would render the concept of truth itself meaningless. While there may be physical distinctions between people, our spiritual discernment should help us avoid deception and opposition to truth and God.

In recent years, we have witnessed the rise of ideologies like Cultural Marxism and Wokism, which actively seek to create divisions between different races. These ideologies propagate the idea that certain races are oppressors while others are oppressed. However, it is crucial to recognize that these ideas are rooted in racism and evil. All humans, regardless of their race or status, share a common ancestry in Adam and Eve, created in God's image. While we share a corrupted nature due to sin, we have been redeemed through Jesus Christ.

Spiritual Distinction: Guiding Outreach with Truth and Love

Despite the unity we share in creation and redemption, there is a vital spiritual distinction. Some are guided by the Spirit of God, while others follow the spirit of error associated with the antichrist. These groups are fundamentally different and cannot be reconciled. When Christ returns, He will separate them definitively.

Recognizing this distinction can be challenging, especially when loved ones fall into the worldly category. However, it is crucial not to overlook this distinction, as it guides our outreach with truth and love. Neglecting this distinction hinders our ability to love our neighbors as God loves us. Therefore, while there is still time, we must share the Gospel with those led astray, so they may embrace the Truth and find salvation through Christ.

John's Message to Overcome False Prophets

John provides a comforting message to believers: "Little children, you are from God and have overcome them," referring to false prophets. He reminds us that Jesus Christ, within us, is greater than the antichrist of the world. 

Those who belong to the world are listened to by the world, while we, from God, are recognized by those who know God. This spiritual discernment reveals the truth versus the spirit of error.

If you have been baptized into Jesus Christ and believe in Him as your Savior and God, you can be assured that you are from God. Jesus is not only with you but within you, having already conquered sin, death, and the devil. He guides you to heed the words of John and the other apostles, empowered by His Spirit to speak the truth and keep you in it. As long as you rely on them for truth, false prophets cannot lead you astray from the Truth, your Savior, and God.

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