Answer by John Mackay
The questioner is quoting the Apostle Johns first letter from the New King James Version which reads; “ Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” 1 John 4:1. The older King James reads ‘try the spirits’. But what does that mean? Many years of getting to know the Creator God, who is a Spirit, and the Chief over all spirits, has taught us the following:
1) It means daily humbling yourself on your knees before the Creator Lord who is Jesus Christ, so you may be filled with the power of his presence, which is where the full and only authority to test the spirits or even cast out demons comes from. His Holy Spirit vs the rest, which means studying his Word each day to show yourself approved unto God – a worker, who can tell the difference between truth and error! (2 Timothy 2:15)
2) Then you will be able to accept God’s written Word as absolutely true, when it warns Christians to NOT follow the doctrines of demons (1Tim 4:1-3). This warning was given to God’s people who were being fed doctrines of evil spirits, i.e. demons, especially through corrupt preachers. This tragic phenomenon happened in New Testament days and will happen much in end times.
3) This means realising that Satan and his lesser spirits have been busy penetrating God’s church for a long time. You will meet them in church with bibles under their arms. You will hear them from the pulpit and run into them in Eldership.
4) Therefore, you must be able to determine the difference between messages from Angels of light (who even do apparently good things to achieve evil) versus the real Word from on high, from where the Father of lights, who has no shadow of turning sent and sends Truth, the same yesterday, today and forever.
5) It also means you need to ask Jesus for the gift of discernment to separate, believers from disciples. All evil spirits are believers! (James 2:19) The demons fear and tremble. Disciples fear and follow. Don’t be fooled by those who publicly testify to their belief in Jesus often with exciting testimony about how they came to believe in the Lord, yet show no obvious ‘living proof’ they trust and obey Jesus as Lord.
6) You really must know when to NOT rip up weeds from amongst the young wheat in Christ’s church, where a singular apparent spiritual victory in your Church can sometimes destroy a multitude of saints, particularly new Christians.
7) Be aware Satan is very happy to push you too far or hold you back from the whole truth – to make you a liberal who has fewer rules than God, or a legalist who has more rules than God. Satan loves you to see demons behind every difficulty, or no devil at all. It means realising the devil has never made anybody do it, (yourself included) and that human sin is a problem, with or without the help of minor spirits or major Satanic attacks.
8) It also means realising that even Christians can be afflicted by spirits, for those who walk in the flesh. Those carnal Christians who have yet to throw off the yoke of this world from their old sin nature can become so blinded by demonic forces that they have no authority in the natural world, or the world of the spiritual. They can test nothing and end up defeated in all things!
9) And when it comes to dealing with demons, it means not even going there, if like the sons of Sceva (Acts 19:14-17) you only know the formula copied from the apostle Paul, and not the personal power of God’s presence which Paul did. Unless of course you want to get beat up by demons, as Sceva’s sons did!
10) Lastly it means knowing you can only test the spirits when you know where God has set the standard – the point where Christ has become your criteria against which you test all things. (1 Thessalonians 5:21)
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