Eternal Savior Lutheran Church

A member of the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod

2688 North Park Drive
Lafayette, CO 80026
303-665-6105
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May 6 – Discerning The Spirits By Their Fruit

Introduction:  Grace be to you and peace, from God our Father, and from our Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ.  Our text is the Epistle Lesson just read, 1 John 4:1-11.  We begin with prayer.

Dear fellow disciples of our Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ:

  • We live in the so-called “Information Age.”  I would suggest to you that we also live in the “Dis-Information Age.”  It has always been true that the devil mimics and imitates God, and always provides an alternative to God’s Word and truth. 
  • While this is true in so many arenas of life – business, education, selling, and personal relationships, it is even more the case in theology, teaching about “God.” This was certainly the reality in the earliest years of the church, as we see in our text, and it is perhaps even more so today within the church.
  • It is one of the more difficult and perplexing tasks that we confront, sorting out all the religious nonsense from the truth of God’s Word.  It is virtually a full-time job; but most of us have a number of other jobs that keep us too busy for this.  However, God’s Word in our text is one of warning – and as we value our eternal soul we must pay heed to it and have discernment when it comes to religious teachers and doctrines.
  • The apostle John helps us a great deal with this, urging us to be “DISCERNING THE SPIRITS BY THEIR FRUIT.”  Our text makes it clear that:

 

I.  The Only Truly Good Fruit Comes From Christ, By Abiding In Him And Remaining In His Word

Text:  “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.”

Statement:

  • I’m sure you noticed, and it is certainly true, that John has engaged in a bit of circular reasoning.  He asserts that the apostles are from God, and that therefore we should believe them – including their assertion that they are from God.  However, circular reasoning does not necessarily render an assertion false – it simply reveals that there is a matter of faith to be resolved. 
  • It is a long and involved argument, but it revolves around the matter of “eye-witnesses” and a host of other considerations – all of which end up favoring the witness of the apostles of Jesus Christ.  However, each must decide for themselves.

 

Application:

  •  If, however, one decides for the apostles, then there is great safety in listening to John – the way to insure that you are with Jesus Christ and true in your faith, is to “listen” to the apostles.  The way in which we are able to do this is through their writings, the written Word of God, the Bible.  The way in which to determine which “spirits” or teachers are from God, and which are among the many “false prophets” who have gone out into the world, is by comparing their teaching to that of Holy Scripture, the Bible.  In that the Bible has been around for centuries, and has stood the test of time, it seems only reasonable to side with it and against the “dis-information” of the false prophets.
  • And of course the most important issues in all of this pertain to the person and work of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ:

 1.    Is He the eternal Son of God?

2.    Has He come in the flesh, as the man Jesus Christ?

3.    Is He the Christ, the Messiah, the Savior of the world, the Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world?

4.    Are we saved by faith alone, by believing the Son?

 

  • All of these things are asserted in Holy Scripture – the Word of God, including the prophetic Old Testament Scriptures.  And these are the things that are particularly attacked by the principle falsehoods and lies of the devil and the false prophets.  What is at the heart of the issue is the love of God in Christ Jesus – and we’ll talk more of this in a moment.

 

Transition:  And all of this is of critical importance to us inwardly, at the core of our being, our hearts.  For the fruit produced by God’s love is quite different from all other fruit – and sadly:

 

II.  Many False Prophets, Deceivers, Have Gone Out Into The World, Bearing Counterfeit Fruit

 

Text:  “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. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already.”

Statement:

  • So again, the chief “fruit” by which we can discern is the whole matter of Christ – what is taught regarding the only-begotten Son of God!  Is He God?  Is He incarnate, “come in the flesh,” and truly man?  Is He the Christ, the Messiah, the Savior of the world, Who has atoned for all sin and promises justification and eternal life simply through faith in Him?

Application:

  •  Anyone who denies these things, and teaches contrary to them, is a false prophet, certainly not sent from God, but rather part of the “spirit of the antichrist.”  Yes, God has provided all the truthful information that we need to have eternal life, BUT the devil has also supplied an abundance of dis-information.  Discernment of their fruits comes by comparing their teaching to God’s written Word, the Holy Scripture! 

 

Transition:  And the real proof of all of this is the fruit that is borne, and this is all a matter of love, for:

 

III.  The Real Fruit Comes Through Knowing God’s Love For Us – And This Real Fruit Always Conforms To God’s Love

 

Text:  “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.  Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.  In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him.  In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the blood atonement for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.”

 

Statement:

  • It cannot be a loving thing to deny God’s love, and it certainly cannot be a loving thing to teach others things that are contrary to and contradictory to God’s love in Christ Jesus.  And such false teaching can never produce real fruit of love – for it is devoid of God’s love.  The truth is “not that we have loved God but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the blood atonement for our sins.”  Only the knowledge of this great love of God for us compels the logic: “If God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.”

 

Application:

  • So “DISCERNING THE SPIRITS BY THEIR FRUIT” is not such a difficult and complex task after all, once the basics are clearly in mind and focus.  And it should be plain and evident to all of us just how critical and important all of this is – in the face of the reality that many false prophets and antichrists have gone out into the world!
  • But God takes care of His own,  each and every one of us, urging us to cling to His true Word, that holy Word given to us through His prophets and apostles – who alone clearly reveal and articulate the wondrous love of God for us!  So if we know God let us listen to His servants, those who bring His Word to us – that we also may know His love, and bear the true fruits of His love, in lives of love for one another.

Conclusion:

  •  Information is the gift of God to all of us – but in all areas of life we recognize the insidious attacks of the devil with his dis-information.
  • No information, however, is as precious and important to us than what God has revealed to us about His great love for us – the heart of which is the reality that Jesus Christ is the blood atonement for our sins, that His blood cleanses us from all sin, so that whoever believes in Him has everlasting life.
  • So also the information from God regarding the abundance and multitude of lying and deceiving false prophets is also His gift to us, including His instruction as to how to discern them and reject them!  May He grant each of the wisdom to heed His instruction, that we never be led astray, but always remain among those born of God, who know Him and who truly love one another.  Amen.

 

Votum:  And the peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds in the true faith, which is in Christ Jesus, even unto life everlasting, Amen.