Dear church,

You might find it disconcerting to realize there are multiple spirits to which we might listen. For the Christian – to whom John was writing – a careful decision must be made regarding which spirits to listen to and which spirits to discard.

We must be discerning. We are to test the spirits.

The apostle John warned the first Christians that many false prophets were among them, and those false prophets seemed to be preaching some kind of body-less Christ – a Christ who did not come in the flesh and may not have died physically on the cross or rose physically from the tomb. And it may be that these false prophets were not preaching Jesus as the Son of God.

These false prophets, I suppose, were men and women. But they had a spirit about them of falsehood. And that spirit was even darker than that. It was the spirit of the antichrist.

“Every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist.”

That is an eye-opening statement when you think about it. Any spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. It is the spirit of the antichrist.

The antichrist wants the exact opposite of everything Jesus wants for us. Instead of life, death. Instead of freedom, slavery. Instead of joy, mourning. Antichrist “spirits” want to take God’s people back into captivity to Egypt, or to keep us wandering in the wilderness of confusion, or to cause us to deny we ever knew this man called Jesus.

To confess Jesus means we confess his physical life, death, and resurrection. It means we confess hope always exists. It means we live lives of faith, trusting in the promises of God that have not yet come to full fruition. It means we live for a day that is not just today – but that is an eternal “today” that still is coming. We are a people who lean forward toward eternal life.

“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God.”

I saw a video last week of a press conference by the vice president. He spoke about the coronavirus pandemic and the new vaccines being developed. And then he finished and walked out of the room. He took no questions from reporters.

And as he was leaving, the room exploded in noise. Reporters shouted questions and accusations. One could be heard yelling, “You’re all undermining the democratic election!” The vice president did not stop walking. He just left the room.

Then I saw a video of a press conference by the president’s press secretary. She took several questions. And then she walked out of the room. The same thing happened – an eruption of noise and eager attempts to get the press secretary’s attention. The press secretary did stop, however, to say to one reporter: “I don’t call on activists.” And then she walked out of the room.

A word came to me after watching those videos: “Cacophony.” The definition of cacophony is “a harsh discordant mixture of sounds” (Oxford Languages online).

In our lives, we will encounter at times a “cacophony” of things to which we could listen. It’s a discordant mixture of sounds. Some voices will say one thing, and some things will say another.

And we should be careful to know that not all of these things are from God. There is, as John says, “the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error.” And John urges us to know the difference. And when we encounter the spirit of error, we need to walk away – regardless of how persistent it may become.

We also must be mindful when we are likely to be confronted with the spirit of error. It could be when we are around other people. It could be while we are watching television or listening to the radio or scrolling our social media feeds.

But the spirit of error might appear in our moments alone – in our minds, in the silence. We ought not to forget that, by ourselves and without Christ, we were full of error ourselves. If there is any truth in us now, it did not come from us. It came from God.

And so it is possible we can speak untruths to ourselves at times. We can speak lies and doubts and angry ideas. The “spirit of error,” in some ways, can be ourselves.

Take time to test this. Sit in silence sometime and think about the thoughts and ideas that come to your mind. Take each one aside. Test it.

Does it push you toward life, toward freedom, toward joy? Or does it stir up bitterness or worry? Does it stir up anger? Does it tempt you to sin? Does it leave you entirely confused?

Does it add hope you your life or does it take it away? Does it expand your sense of peace and consolation in life? Does it leave you feeling disconcerted and empty – or certain and full of joy?

“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God.”

Sometimes, when faced with this cacophony of spirits, it is right simply to walk away. We don’t need to “call” on every spirit. To some, we might just want to turn around and walk.

My prayer for you this week is that you would “take every thought captive to obey Christ” – especially those thoughts that come from within yourself (2 Corinthians 10:5). What spirits, in truth or error, are speaking to you – and are you listening?


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