“Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.” 1 John 4:1
This verse is critical for us to consider because in the day we are living in there are so many false prophets all over. Being able to try the spirits and distinguish who the true prophets of Jesus Christ are, those who proclaim the truth, versus who the false prophets are, those who just do and say whatever they want and paint Jesus’s name on it, is really important. We certainly could take this time to consider how to tell a true prophet from a false prophet (which we can tell by their fruits), but I want us to take a look at this verse in a way that maybe you have never looked at it before.
First let’s look at the definition of a false prophet. Strong’s defines a false prophet as “A spurious prophet, that is, pretended foreteller or religious impostor” So in essence a false prophet is a religious imposter who claims that what he is saying or doing is from God and for God when in reality it is from himself and for himself. A false prophet is one that says or does things in the power of the flesh and yet claims that what he is doing is from God.
Maybe with what I have said so far about false prophets your mind has immediately thought of some people you either know of or know personally that fit this description, but before we start hunting down religious imposters in the world around us and throwing stones, I think to discover a false prophet we really have to look no further than the dark recesses of our own heart. Truly before we are able to identify the false prophets around us we must first recognize the false prophet within us.
What do I mean by these startling statements? In us, that is, in our flesh dwells no good thing and we will find that our flesh is fully capable and often does dress itself up in very religious clothing and is able to do a lot of “good things”. It is the ultimate false prophet. How often in my own life have I claimed that I was doing something for the sake of the Lord and in the strength of the Lord when, in reality, I was doing it in the power of the flesh for the sake of the recognition of men? In essence that is what a false prophet does, he claims what he is doing is for God when in reality it is for himself.
One of the reasons that our flesh is so subtle and at times hard to identify as the religious imposter that it is, is because our flesh can do a lot of “good”. If all our flesh did was “evil” it would be easy to identify and come against, but, remember, in the original sin in the garden, the forbidden fruit was not just the knowledge of evil it was the knowledge of GOOD and evil. I believe, when the forbidden fruit was eaten, Adam and Eve became aware of evil but also they became aware of how they could be “good” apart from God. The wolf of our flesh can put on the sheep’s clothing of good intentions and well-meaning gestures, but if it is the flesh it is anti-Christ no matter how good it looks or how much is accomplished by it.
Someone once said something like: “there is no sin which the human mind cannot rationalize”, well I have seen in my own life that there is no selfish desire that the “Christian” mind cannot spiritualize. So as we look at this verse about trying the spirits I think the first spirit we have to try is our own. Why do we do what we do? Are we claiming to be doing things for the Lord when in reality we are doing them for the praise of men? Are we claiming to seek first the kingdom of God but in reality are we seeking first our own little kingdom and painting Jesus’s name on it? Are we claiming to have forsaken all to follow the Lord but in reality are we clinging to that which is dear to us and trying to cling to Jesus at the same time? Are we claiming to live for the kingdom of God but in reality living for ourselves and trying to fit God in as well?
May the Lord give us a revelation of ourselves and the false prophet of self-life that dwells within us. May the scales fall off of our eyes, that we would see clearly areas in our life that we are claiming to be walking by the Spirit and working for God when in reality we are walking according to our flesh life. I think as we look truly at ourselves we all have to acknowledge the reality that we all have some false prophet dwelling in us. We see in Scripture that the penalty in Scripture for being a false prophet was death. The penalty for our selfish flesh is no less and we had to be dealt with by the cross.
When Jesus died on the cross not only did He die for us but also we died in him. The false prophet of our flesh died in Christ. Galatians 2:20 reads: “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” Oh the wondrous heights of this glorious reality! On the cross not only did Jesus conquer death, hell, and satan, He also conquered me! Our arrogant self-life was dealt with at the cross when we died in Christ and were raised with Him to newness of life. Now the life of the true Prophet Jesus Christ lives inside of us! Let us embrace the cross and the reality that we died with Christ and were raised with Christ and may the glorious, overcoming, victorious, resurrection life of Jesus Christ flow through us that we would no longer live unto ourselves but unto Him who raises the dead.