1 John 4:1-8

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.

Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love. 1 John 4:1-8

“Encouragement” is a beautiful word. Like the cowardly lion, we all have courage within us, even when we don’t always realize it. When people encourage us, our courage reservoir is being filled up. We need that. We all need that. I love that it was Barnabas, introduced in Acts 4 as the “son of encouragement” who took the new convert Saul, under his wing.

Today we hear from 1 John, one of the three little letters of encouragement that come near the end of the New Testament. Written out of the same school of thought that gave us the Gospel of John, I always picture the writer as an old respected leader called by God to encourage the Christian community.

He reminds us today to “test the spirits.” In John’s Gospel, Jesus said that, after he went away, he would send the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, to teach and guide the church (John 14.) Now in this first letter, the writer tells us that this very spirit is within us. He describes this spirit as a power greater than the spirits which would deceive us. And he tells us how to tell the difference.

The Holy Spirit confesses that Jesus is God in the flesh. That God is a “down to earth” God. It is this Spirit who communicates truth to us, and it is this Spirit within us who discerns the truth. But this Spirit is opposed by other spirits that often seem to receive a much warmer welcome in the world.

The distinctive visible attribute of the Holy Spirit working within us is love. Agape love. Self giving, self sacrificing, love. Love which seeks the best for the neighbor. Love that seeks to choose on behalf of, and in the best interests of, the neighbor. This love is supernatural, it is beyond us, because it is God’s love which flows to us, and through us, into the world.

Left to our own devices, we will follow whatever voices tell us exactly what we want to hear. We will listen to those voices that promise us a free lunch, that tell us we are better or different than others, that appeal to our basest appetites and instincts. Those are the voices of the false spirits. They might use the word “love” but the world they seek to create is anything but loving.

Beloved, let us love one another.  It was in John’s gospel that Jesus says that the world will know us by our love (John 13.)

So how are we doing? If you asked someone walking down the sidewalk today what is the first word that comes to their minds when they think about Christianity, how would they answer? If that first word isn’t “love” then God has some more work to do within us.

Let us pray: Gracious Lord, you create us in love. You redeem us in love. You send us to love. Though we stray, wander, even get lost, your love for us never ends. As we move into our day, ground us deeply in your love, that we might reflect your love into the world in real, practical, down to earth ways, whether the world likes it or not. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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One Response to “1 John 4:1-8”

  1. Millicent Says:

    This is so beftuiaul, I love the simple, feminine shape of the skirt, and the way you've kept it perfectly simple with clean white pieces. Your hair colour is also so gorgeous and really adds to the look a great deal! xx

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