(This post is based off content originally posted at thepalmerperspective.com.)
Look at these headlines:
- Teacher Says ‘Higher Power’ Told Him To Attack Kid On Skateboard
- Mom Allegedly Tries To Drown Son In Puddle Because Jesus Told Her To
- Attorney: Women Thought God Told Her To Kill Her Sons
Because of those type of sinister events our minds tend to be suspicious when we hear someone say, “God spoke to me.”
We are groomed to be that way.
Let’s be clear, if God speaks to you he will not ask you to harm someone else.
Also, I know with that statement that there is an assumption that God speaks to His people. Know this, you do not need to hear an audible voice from God to hear him speak. I believe that all followers of Christ want to experience God in profound ways. I also believe that most people want to be able to discern events, and the times, and what they should do with their lives. I think this is generally true, whether they believe in the same version of God as you do or not; whether they hear an audible voice from God or not.
We all want guidance. Yet even more than that – we all need guidance.
The acknowledgment of the need for guidance is essential for any follower of Jesus.
When we are searching for guidance we ask questions like; “What does God want for my life? Should I move here or there? What house should I buy? Should I take this job or that one? Am I in the right career? Should I marry this person?”
Many of our questions in regards to discerning the Spirit have to do with career, calling, and direction in life. If we feel led in a particular direction is it really of God? Is God concerned with what I am concerned with?
Ultimately what we are asking is, “How do I know what’s true?”
When there is doubt about the guidance we receive from God we ask these questions; “Is this right? Is this a truth of God? Is this direction true? Are these feelings from God? What is the source? How do I know I am trusting in God and not something else?”
We finish this series of posts by looking at the last two Truth Tests for Discerning the Spirit. These truth tests answer the questions, “Is this the Holy Spirit leading me?” “Is this true?” This is not an exhaustive list, but my hope is that it will be a helpful tool to assist in following God’s will for your life. For more information on following the Spirit please read another article I’ve written entitled, 3 Principles for Understanding the Spirit.
Here is the full list of the 5 Truth Tests.
- You are led into the presence of God.
- You maintain the unity of the Spirit.
- You give God the credit.
- You are led to keep God’s commands.
- You choose to love one another.
To understand these final two truth tests we need to first hear from the Apostle John.
This is how we know that we belong to the truth and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence: 20 If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. 21 Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God 22 and receive from him anything we ask, because we keep his commands and do what pleases him. 23 And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. 24 The one who keeps God’s commands lives in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us. 1 John 3:19-24 (NIV)
- You are led to keep God’s commands.
When the Apostle John wrote his Epistles he was writing to combat false teachers who were telling Christians that Jesus did not actually come in the flesh. A simple way to describe their teaching is to believe that the incarnate Christ was an illusion. “Spirit cannot inhabit the flesh!” “The flesh cannot hold the Spirit!” “They are ‘separate and apart’” (No, I’m not about to transition from communion to the offering).
Not only were they teaching doctrinal deception (You don’t have to believe Jesus came in the flesh) but moral deception (What is sin really?). They were teaching that the righteous do not have to practice righteousness, believing that Jesus came in the flesh is not necessary, and obeying God’s commands is irrelevant.
They were teaching that you could be a believer and choose not to repent. You can willfully and habitually sin with no intentions of making a change and yet have no sin. If you have obtained a certain level of knowledge, then you will discover that sin is amoral. They had become indifferent to sin.
Disobedience is bad. Disobedience disguised as a virtue is extremely dangerous.
Are you being led to keep the commands of God or are you indifferent to your disobedience? Do you desire to make a change or are you creatively seeking ways to try and justify your sin? Are you using grace as license to sin?
Those who have the Spirit and have the Spirit in charge will be led to obey the commands of God.
Jesus demonstrated his love for us through his death, burial and resurrection, taking away our sin. Our sins are not counted against us. He loves us so much that we are not condemned but are forgiven and reconciled to God. We do not save ourselves because of our obedience but because of his. Yet when we put our trust in him and are born from above, we will choose to remain in Christ by obeying his commands, demonstrating our sincere love for him.
“This is how we know that we belong to the truth…”(V.19) You will obey God’s commands and…
- You choose to love one another.
The false teachers boasted that they loved God but yet they hated their brothers and sisters. They found spiritual ways to justify their hate.
John reminds us that God commands us to love. It is His greatest command! This is not only a great teaching for the world to follow but specifically it is imperative for those who have experienced God’s unconditional love to give God’s unconditional love.
I think most people would be quick to say, “I love everybody.” Most people would be slow to admit that they hate someone or a group of people.
As a minister, I can remember on one occasion expressing my condolences to someone at church. One of their parents had died. Their response to me put me on my heals, “That’s ok. I couldn’t care less. I hated them.” Maybe you could mark this off as me living a sheltered life, but I had never felt such a visceral response to such a tender moment.
That was rare.
I believe when we talk about hating others we tend to brush it off, “That doesn’t apply to me.” Or we send it off, “That applies to them.” Hate is a harsh word and an embarrassing label to wear. No one wants to be described by hate. So be very cautious of someone who would openly admit to hate with pride. Hate is so bad I would even personally shy away from saying, “I hate the devil.” Maybe you agree.
So let’s briefly help to recognize hate with these six identifiers.
- If you passionately dislike someone. You hate them.
- If you detest their presence. You hate them.
- If you have hostility towards them and wish harm upon them. You hate them.
- If you would never pray for them. You hate them.
- If you don’t like the color of their skin, their nationality, or their ethnicity. You hate them.
- If you don’t believe that God loves them. You hate them.
Let’s name it. Call out hate so that love can move in. Identify hate so that we can change course and ask for God’s forgiveness.
Love is action. It is an action of the Spirit.
Are you being led to do the opposite of what can be described as a hate identifier? That’s the Spirit.
Are you being moved to love people even when it seems impossible? That’s the Spirit.
Do you believe you should love people who aren’t like you? That’s the Spirit.
When you pray, is there an urge to pray for enemies and those who wish you harm you? That’s the Spirit.
You are called by the Spirit to live by the Spirit. It will mean that you are less concerned about what house you buy; what car you purchase; or what occupation you choose.
You may not hear from the Spirit about those concerns because God may not be concerned with the things you worry about. I do believe he is concerned about your salvation. He is concerned about your calling in the kingdom. Your faith. Your obedience. He is interested in your character and how you treat people.
When you choose to obey God’s commands and love others then you not only have the Spirit but you have the Spirit in charge.
That’s a true path my friend. That’s a path that Jesus traveled. That’s a direction that leads to God.