Today’s passages: Jeremiah, chapters 31-32; 1 John, chapter 4
Scripture: 1 John 4:1-6 (NRSV) – 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. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. And this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming; and now it is already in the world. Little children, you are from God, and have conquered them; for the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. They are from the world; therefore what they say is from the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God Whoever knows God listens to us, and whoever is not from God does not listen to us. From this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.
Observations: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. That sounds very simple, very cut and dried. But as I was reading and reflecting on this, the thought came: “What does it mean to confess Jesus?” Our natural first response would be, “If I ask someone if Jesus Christ has come in the flesh, and they say ‘yes,’ that means they’ve confessed Jesus. But is it really that simple?
As I thought about that, I thought about John’s Gospel, and the importance of belief in that Gospel. “Believing” in the Gospel of John is never just about what someone says; it’s about what’s in their heart: “When he was in Jerusalem during the Passover festival, many believed in his name because they saw the signs that he was doing. But Jesus on his part would not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people and needed no one to testify about anyone; for he himself knew what was in everyone.” (John 2:23-25, NRSV) We know that what is in our hearts is what comes out of us; Jesus said that it’s not what goes into a person that makes them unclean, but what comes out of them, because what comes out is based on what is in their heart. So it cannot be enough to just say that Jesus is Lord; we have to live that Jesus is Lord.
That’s the sort of lesson we get from Jeremiah’s prophecy, too. The people of Judah had “confessed” God all along, but their actions told the real story: sacrifices to idols and failure to obey God’s commands demonstrated that they really weren’t serving God at all. And in the same way, we are called to not just say that Jesus is Lord, but to live as though Jesus really is our Lord. As Jesus himself said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” (John 14:15, NRSV)
Applications: There are a lot of discussions about “spiritual” things in our world today – but not everything that is “spiritual” is connected with God. That’s why we’re called to test those spirits – to examine first what they say, and second how that is confirmed in what they do. That doesn’t mean that we are to “judge” them – it’s not our job to condemn anyone – but it does mean that we should not entrust ourselves to those who do not “confess” Jesus in word and deed. We will know them by their fruit – and we should make sure that our fruit is consistent with our words, too!
Prayer: Father, help me today to bear fruit which reflects the presence of your Spirit in my life. Your Word says that the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control; may that fruit be evident in me, today and every day. Help me to bear witness to Jesus, and to confess his Lordship by my actions and my attitudes, so others may come to know him. Lead me in your ways today, that I may bring glory and honor to you. Amen.