Try the Spirits

Evil spirits are constantly trying to deceive us by imitating His Spirit, seducing us through thoughts and impressions which appeal to our carnality. (1Ti 4:1) Those who heed such spirits bring much harm to themselves and others (vs 2), so God tells us to try the spirits, to test spiritual influences to see if He has sent them. (1Jn 4:1)

This testing isn’t about whether God is speaking to us or not, but about whether He’s speaking to others. When we hear the voice of God we know Who’s speaking (Jn 10:27); any test would be disrespectful.

But when someone else claims to have a “word from the Lord,” we must be very careful. Satan comes as an angel of light (2Co 11:14), and many in his service appear righteous, which is no surprise. (vs 15) False prophets seek to be revered by presuming God is speaking to them, but without solid evidence such claims are empty. What should we look for?

Firstly, is the supposed prophet benefiting temporally from his calling? God’s prophets typically proclaim a very unpopular message and are persecuted for it (Ac 7:52); they aren’t exalting themselves, seeking prestige. (1Co 4:9) If any ulterior motive is apparent, this should be carefully searched out.

Secondly, is there sufficient detail in the prophetic word to verify its accuracy? Clearly, when sufficient detail is present and the claim is false, we have our answer. Yet prophetic words which lack sufficient detail to be verifiable should also be dismissed, or at the very least regarded with grave suspicion. God’s test of a prophet’s legitimacy requires verifying the prophecy happens exactly as predicted. (De 18:22) When a prophet fails this test, God’s law prescribes the death penalty. (vs 20) Getting this wrong is serious: no one should ever be encouraged to take up a prophetic mantle lightly or presumptuously, or let off the hook when they do.

Lastly, is there anything unscriptural or unwise inherent in the claim? Does it align with God’s character and glorify Him? Any revelation that doesn’t square with the plumb line of scripture is darkness. (Is 8:20)

We’re in a spiritual battle; we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against spiritual wickedness. (Ep 6:12) Be sober; be vigilant: our adversary is real and dangerous.  (1Pe 5:8) We must resist him steadfastly in order to overcome. (9)

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The Voice of Strangers

God’s people hear His voice and follow Him (Jn 10:27), but do we also hear other voices which are not of God? If so, how do we tell the difference?

Horse Head Nebula, Hubble

To be clear, we aren’t necessarily referring to an audible voice, but this might be an inner sense or witness in our spirit that God’s trying to guide us or teach us something. Thinking the enemy can’t try to imitate God like this underestimates him, and implies any kind of impression or leading we receive must be from God.

But God tells us that other spiritual beings, seducing spirits, will also be speaking to us, trying to get us to follow them (1Ti 4:1), and that believers know the difference instinctively. (Jn 10:5b) Yet when we’re desperate to hear a “word from God,” we might override our instincts and fall pray to the enemy’s leading.

So, how do we know?

Simple: if we don’t instinctively know God is speaking with us, then He isn’t, at least not supernaturally, such that we should implicitly obey. If we’re able to wonder if it might not be God, or ask, “Who are you?” then we don’t know it’s God. If the impression is supernatural, clearly external to us … flee (Jn 10:5a); this one’s out to harm us.

When an impression might be God but we aren’t absolutely sure, rather than blindly and passively obeying, or even testing the spirit, we engage our minds and wills. (1Pe 1:13) Does the path before us seem wise? As we examine ourselves, discovering our own will in the matter … does it align with us in all wholesomeness, holiness and righteousness? If so, we should own this way and follow God as well as we can in it, not as being passively lead, but actively in the good fight of faith. (1Ti 6:12) Otherwise, it is not the path for us.

When we need clear direction from God we should ask in faith for wisdom (Ja 1:5) and guidance. (1Sa 23:2) Until God answers unmistakably we should be seeking counsel from others and the Word, and walking it out using all the wisdom we have, trusting He’s working out His will in and through our wills. (Php 2:13)

If we need direct, supernatural revelation, God will speak to us clearly, and there will be no doubt about it. Satan comes as an angel of light to deceive (2Co 11:14), kill and destroy. (Jn 10:10) The voice of God is unmistakable, let’s not settle for a counterfeit.

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Taken Captive

The very idea of being held prisoner is intimidating, but there’s a certain kind of prison we enter voluntarily and lock from the inside, then we throw away the key.

We all find ourselves in this prison at some point, not realizing what we’re doing until it’s too late. (Ep 2:2) It’s a prison of the mind, a bondage of the will. (Jn 8:34)

It starts with deception: we hear a lie that makes us feel good and we’re in, not really caring if it’s true, or even how to tell for sure. The lies spawn unhealthy desires; lust leads to disobedience, and sin eventually enslaves and destroys. (Ja 1:14-15) This is how the enemy takes us captive (2Ti 2:25-26), and he’s very good at it.

We’re each in a fight, a war for our own soul (Ep 6:12), and there’s only one way to overcome: find the truth and live in it. (Jn 8:32) It’s called repentance.

We can be sorry for our sin all day long, sorry we’re suffering, that we’re exposed, but this won’t release us from prison. Repentance is changing our mind, thinking differently, rejecting the lie and believing the truth.

It’s not about what we’ve been taught; it’s about what’s true. It’s not about what makes us feel good; it’s about what’s true. It’s not about convenience or inconvenience, or what works or doesn’t, or what others think. Feel good won’t set us free; orthodoxy won’t set us free … if it isn’t true.

How do we know what’s true? God’s Word is truth. (Jn 17:17) If we aren’t prayerfully and earnestly searching the Word for ourselves, we don’t care about truth. (Ac 17:11)

Changing our mind isn’t as easy as it might seem; it’s not something we can do just any time we like. If we aren’t willing to obey the truth we’re deceiving ourselves, and we’ll miss the truth even as we stumble across it. (Ja 1:22) It’s called blindness, and it’s insidiously powerful. (2Co 4:4)

Repentance is the gift of God: He must open our eyes and help us see. (Ac 26:18) We can certainly ask Him to help us, and we should, earnestly (Ps 119:145-147), unwilling to take “No” for an answer (He 11:6), obeying all the truth we can, all along the way.

As God intervenes and helps us start believing Him, taking Him at His Word, it’s then that the enemy’s grip on our minds and spirits begins to loose, and we start turning from our sin, from violating God’s law. (1Jn 3:4) Here begins our journey out of prison, becoming free indeed. (Jn 8:36)

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God Is Faithful

RainbowDoubleGod is faithful (1Co 1:9): true to His word, keeping His promises, trustworthy, dependable; we can safely trust Him to do what He says He’s going to do.

We can see this both in Scripture (2Th 3:3) and in Nature: for every need He’s designed fulfillment. YHWH is good; we need Him to be faithful, and He is, more than we can know. (Je 17:7-8)

But the enemy lies to us about God’s nature, twisting God’s promises and promoting wrong expectations so when God doesn’t meet them we’re tempted to mistrust Him. Falling for his lies steals our joy and traps us in bitterness; it’s too painful.

So God set His bow in the clouds to remind us of His faithfulness (Ge 9:13); scientists still don’t fully understand how He does it. Jehovah’s gone out of His way to assure us that He’ll never break His Word; He makes no promise lightly; He puts His reputation on the line in every single one. God’s promises are exceedingly precious gifts, open doorways inviting us into His nature. (2Pe 1:4) 

As we wait on the Lord, expecting Him to be faithful, we’re saved by hope; it’s an abundant life of faith rooted in the character and nature of God. (Jn 10:10) 

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The Sword of the Spirit

The Word of God is the Holy Spirit’s sword (Ep 6:17) … so God’s sword is also ours, our primary weapon in spiritual warfare. Without it we’re no threat to the enemy, more a target than a soldier. (2Ti 2:3)

Hawk_Fishing
Osprey by Bill Doherty

And this weapon, the Word of God, is alive … powerful(He 4:12) To be effective it must be an extension of our hearts and minds, interconnected with us (De 6:6-9) … it’s Christ Himself in us (Jn 1:14); both spirit and life. (Jn 6:63)

So how do we wield this supernatural sword? Get it into the Spirit’s hands, interconnect with it?

Christ’s example when Satan attacked Him was to quote the Word, saying repeatedly, “It is written.” (Mt 4:4, 6, 7) By hiding God’s Word in our heart we arm the Spirit for war, equipping Him to defend, protect, feed (De 8:3) and heal us, cleansing us of our lies and strongholds. (Ep 5:26) It’s hard to wield this particular sword unless we can quote it, but merely memorizing scripture won’t do; we must be constantly meditating on it (Ps 1:2), saturating ourselves with God in His written Word. (Jos 1:8)

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Shield of Faith

In our spiritual journey do we feel more like a target than a soldier? Struggling to keep our joyonly to find we’re constantly being taken down in worry, frustration, disappointment and fear? Perhaps we’re missing our shield.

Wildernessjpg
Patagonia, Argentina

Many helpful pieces comprise our armor, but none’s more essential in spiritual warfare than the shield of faith. (Ep 6:16)

Above all. Above our sword, above the girding belt, above the shodden feet, salvation’s helmet and the breastplate of righteousness … we must have our shield of faith.

Faith: knowing God is for us, because He says so. (Ro 8:31)

Faith: knowing, no matter what happens, that all things work together for good to us who love God, because He says so. (Ro 8:28)

There are many dangers, toils and snares in our homeward journey, yet God is faithful. Faith is knowing God sees the end from the beginning, that He’s able to keep us from falling, and that He’ll present us faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy. (Jud 24-25)

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