by Mike Ratliff
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-22 ESV)
Several of us are taking a closer look at John Ortberg’s The Me I Want to Be book and his “church program” Monvee. In our discussions, there inevitably comes a point where we must stop and ask, “How could these people believe and teach this stuff if they know their Bibles at all?” This stuff is chocked full of Pelagianism and mysticism. Ken Silva made the following comment today and I want to pass it on to you for it, I think, succinctly points us to the right way to address this stuff while shining God’s brilliant light of truth into the murkiness.
What’s going on is for years now these people read and quote from their own books. Add in the deception of a false unity received in the practice of CSM and what we see is people trying to please people.
They think they’ve come up with a Christianity that the world will want to embrace. People like us who insist upon Scripture are embarrassing to them. Bottom line: They think one can intellectually choose to be a Christian if we make it sound good enough to the unchurched. – Ken Silva
CSM is an acronym for “Contemplative Spiritual Meditation.” It is a perverse melding of Christian prayer with Eastern mysticism. Bottom line, these people are deceived. They have been taken in by deceptive spirits because they have not “tested” every spirit, but have, instead, eagerly sought spiritual influences from outside the Church. The Word of God expressly warns believers against this sort of thing. In this post I would like to unpack 1 John 4:1-6 which does indeed address this.
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. (1 John 4:1 ESV)
1αγαπητοι μη παντι πνευματι πιστευετε αλλα δοκιμαζετε τα πνευματα ει εκ του θεου εστιν οτι πολλοι ψευδοπροφηται εξεληλυθασιν εις τον κοσμον (1 John 4:1 WHNU)
Loved ones (αγαπητοι), not (μη) all (παντι) spirit (πνευματι) trust (πιστευετε) but (αλλα) prove (δοκιμαζετε) the (τα) spirits (πνευματα) if (ει) from (εκ) the (του) God (θεου) they are (εστιν), because (οτι) many (πολλοι) false spokesmen (ψευδοπροφηται) have gone out (εξεληλυθασιν) into (εις) the (τον) world (κοσμον). (1 John 4:1 word-for-word translation from Koine Greek to English)
The prophets of God (preachers and teachers of His Word) are led by the Holy Spirit and so they speak and teach the truth, but there are ψευδοπροφηται, false prophets, who εξεληλυθασιν εις τον κοσμον., have gone out into the world. These ψευδοπροφηται are perverse. They are so because they propagate false doctrine and error and so are simply spreading the doctrines of demons. This is why we are commanded here to μη παντι πνευματι πιστευετε αλλα δοκιμαζετε τα πνευματα ει εκ του θεου εστιν, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God. This command would not be given to us if we did not have a way to do this.
Before we look at the method of obeying this command, let us be upfront in this. Whenever we hear a preacher or read something that professes to be for the Church, we are to place the spirit behind these things under this test. That would include what you read here αγαπητοι. That would include what you hear from the pulpit in your own church every Sunday as well and definitely on podcasts, radio, and TV. In vv2-3, we have the first test.
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. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already. (1 John 4:2-3 ESV)
The Greek word translated here as “confesses,” ομολογει, is in present tense, indicative mood, and active voice. This asserts something that is occurring while this is being spoken or written. This means that one very clear test of verity for prophet, preacher, or teacher is whether their ministry professes or confesses that Christ came in the flesh to earth. This is a statement about the full humanity and full deity of Jesus Christ. A ministry that does not equally maintain these two truths must be considered disingenuous. Think of those whose teachings limit the deity, foreknowledge, or sovereignty of our Lord in any way. These are examples of ψευδοπροφηται who εξεληλυθασιν εις τον κοσμον. These are of the spirit of the antichrist for they distort Jesus Christ’s true nature, perverting the gospel.
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. They are from the world; therefore they speak from the world, and the world listens to them. 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. (1 John 4:4-6 ESV)
Believers must learn to be aware and alert to false teaching, but not afraid. Why? The genuine believer is a new creation and has the indwelling Holy Spirit. This is a built-in check against false teachings (1 John 2:20, 27). Never forget αγαπητοι the Holy Spirit leads genuine Christians into sound doctrine (Romans 8:17), and this is evidence that their salvation is genuine. The Holy Spirit is greater than our enemy so we really should have no fear of being taken out of the Lord’s hand. Our part is to seek to discern the soundness of the doctrines given to us. When we diligently do this, there is a godly protection against error and a promised victory over it as we adhere to the sound doctrine and submit ourselves as living sacrifices. As we do this, the Holy Spirit works in us to transform us because our minds are being renewed as we submit ourselves to God’s good Word.
On the other hand, false prophets are from the world and they may indeed have a great following, but these will be of the world, not of God. God’s prophets, preachers, and teachers speak God’s Word, following apostolic doctrine. The bold part above is v6; below is the Greek for it.
6ημεις εκ του θεου εσμεν ο γινωσκων τον θεον ακουει ημων ος ουκ εστιν εκ του θεου ουκ ακουει ημων εκ τουτου γινωσκομεν το πνευμα της αληθειας και το πνευμα της πλανης (1 John 4:6 WHNU)
We (ημεις) from (εκ) the (του) God (θεου) are (εσμεν), the (ο) one knowing (γινωσκων) the (τον) God (θεον) hears (ακουει) us (ημων), who (ος) not (ουκ) is (εστιν) from (εκ) the (του) God (θεου) not (ουκ) hears (ακουει) us (ημων). From (εκ) this (τουτου) we know (γινωσκομεν) the (το) spirit (πνευμα) of the (της) truth (αληθειας) and (και) the (το) spirit (πνευμα) of the (της) deceit (πλανης). (1 John 4:6 word-for-word translation from Koine Greek to English)
As we said above, God’s true prophets, preachers, and teachers speak God’s Word, following apostolic doctrine. What is the sole standard by which all teaching is to be tested? It is the Old and New Testaments. That is it. Human concepts of fairness or man-made doctrines are not acceptable, but that is what you will find is the basis of most of what is being promulgated on the visible church in our time. These are demonically inspired teachers. They are so because they reject the teaching of God’s Word or add to it or come up with their own standards (2 Corinthians 4:2; Revelation 22:18, 19). The Greek word translated as “error” in the ESV, πλανης, means, “a straying from orthodoxy” in a spirit designed to deceive or delude. I cannot think of better explanation of things like Monvee and the “The Me I Want to Be” stuff. Of course, this would include the entire CSM, Emergent, Seeker-Sensitive paradigms. All of it is based within το πνευμα της πλανης, the spirit of deceit. These deceivers are deceiving who knows how many people with their man-made doctrines in their transitioning of biblical churches into their seeker-sensitive storefronts to be church for the unchurched.
The reason this has become so prevalent is that the leadership in these churches did not test the spirits. They were deceived and now they are in darkness and the sheep within are either scattered or are being underfed and not cared for by a proper shepherd. Instead, they are bullied and forced to conform to an unbiblical, pragmatic standard not based in solid biblical doctrines. Go here to watch a video sent to me by a friend escaping from a church that has been transistioned into a Seeker-Sensitive model.
Soli Deo Gloria!