Have you ever had one of those truly spiritual moments? Most of us remember at least one grace-filled, awe-producing moment. Though fleeting, they put giant smiles on our faces and fill our hearts. Maybe it was a conversation with a complete stranger when you shared a bit of your story and heard his. Maybe it was holding your newborn for the first time, or maybe it was a meal you shared with your spouse or spouse-to-be in a very special place. These are sometimes referred to as “thin” moments or places where, like the sharing of oxygen through the whisper of a bride’s veil, we almost feel the breath of God. There is also the other side, where the membrane between material and spiritual is just as thin. Moments of oppression or unexplained despair can come on us like a viral flood. I remember a night a few years back when I felt an evil oppression in my dreams and I was awakened from sleep to an audible low growl with the weight of a man pressing on my chest, sending me deep into my mattress. I swear I thought I would open my eyes and see someone over me. It feels odd to admit to it, especially because I have no rational explanation for it. Truth be told, I have suffered from a heart condition called atrial fibrillation for over 10 years, but this was not my heart. The physical sensation took my breath away, and though it only lasted seconds, my sleep escaped me for what remained of the night. It was one of those moments when I felt complete vulnerability and real fear. Needless to say, I prayed. The reality of a spiritual realm is not in question for John. He wants to make sure that his listeners are aware that there are spiritual forces at play and they are not always good; but, most important, their quality can be tested. Much like his previous contrast of “love of the world” against “love of the Father” (Session 5), John brings out his permanent marker again to lay down a line between “the Spirit of truth” and the “spirit of error.”
1 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. 2 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, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already. 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. 5 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.
Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Isaac Serrano is Lead Teaching Pastor of South Valley Community Church. He likes talking theology, history, and culture. Isaac lives in Gilroy with his family. On his days off, he likes to go fishing and venture outdoors. Isaac serves on the leadership board for the Regeneration Project and the school board of Pacific Point Christian Schools.