How gullible are you? We’ve all known those who seem to fall for everything. The reason so many crooked schemes work is that we go ahead and do things that we know don’t sound just right but the offer seems so good. Sadly it is often those who are so trusting in life that are also the most gullible. They just can’t imagine that someone is trying to cheat them in some way. I have this person who comes by my office fairly regularly asking for money for some cause or another. Through the years she has to have told me about at least forty different members of her family that have died and of her need to go to their funeral in some distant place and just needs fifty dollars to get her there. About the tenth time her mother died and she needed money to go to her funeral I began wondering if she thought I was brain dead that she gave me the same story over and over and expected to get money each time. (She didn’t). A couple of weeks ago I ran into a man at Walgreens who was telling me that his daughter had been killed in an accident in Chicago and he needed money to go to the funeral. The only problem was that he had been to the church office with exactly the same story, with all the same details about two years earlier. He was frustrated when I was able to add some details to the story as he went along and went on to another person in the store.
The greatest challenge with being gullible is that we are often most gullible in spiritual matters that affect our destiny. Paul was so frustrated with the churches of Galatia because they had been willing to accept the false gospels that had been preached to them and turned away from the grace of Christ to some home made gospel that wasn’t good news at all. He warned the church in Thessalonica to “Prove all things. Hold on to what is good.” One of the most powerful such challenges came from John the apostle in I John 4:1-3. “Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.” Obviously, even in the first century soon after Jesus was on earth and had died for our sins, and been raised to ascend back to the Father, there were already false ideas and false teachings being spread among the people. Wherever the gospel of Christ was preached there were always others who would come and say that the gospel they had learned wasn’t quite the whole thing or that it was mistaken in some way that needed to be corrected. The result was that many were led away from God and went in their own direction.
What is it about a lie that makes it believable? Think about it for a moment. We’ve all heard lies that we immediately recognized as a lie and rejected. But there are others that we fall far and it is often years later before we recognize the fact we have been led down the wrong road. The truth is, the more the lie sounds like the truth, the easier it is to believe. If it just seems like a small variation of what we already believe or know then it tends to draw us in. The Galatians were accepting the notion that Jesus really died for them but if they really wanted to be right with God they needed to become good Jews as well, being circumcised and observing the Old Law. It sounded good, but it cut the heart out of the gospel itself and lost the grace to turn it into law.
Focus on John’s comments for a moment. “Don’t believe every spirit.” Just before that he had said, “The one who keeps God’s commands live 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.” So, we know we are Christians by the Holy Spirit given to us. But, John said, be careful. Not every spirit is from God. There are spirits who love to be seen as the Holy Spirit of God but are really spirits from Satan, who will lead us away from God instead of closer to him. As is always the case, “Many false prophets have gone out into the world.” So, how can we know if the spirit we are hearing is from God or from the devil? John’s response seems odd to us but was extremely relevant to his time. “The spirit that acknowledges that Jesus has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist.”
The error that was being promoted in John’s day was a form of what would become known as gnosticism. It said that Jesus looked like a human but really didn’t have flesh and blood like we do. If you had reached out to touch him you hand would have gone right through him. The result of the idea was that Jesus didn’t really die on the cross, didn’t really face our temptations and of course didn’t really rise from the dead. It was all a hoax according to this notion. No wonder it was called, “Antichrist.” In 2 John 7-9 he adds “I say this because many deceivers, who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh, have gone out into the world. Any such person is the deceiver and the antichrist. Watch out that you do not lose what we have worked for, but that you may be rewarded fully. Anyone who runs ahead and does not continue in the teachings of Christ does not have God; whoever continues in the teaching has both the Father and the Son.”
The test of the spirits that come to us center on Jesus. If they take away from his deity or his humanity it is the spirit of the antichrist and not from God. He is God who became flesh and dwelt among us so that we could see his glory, the glory of the only begotten son of the Father, full of grace and truth (John 1:14). Many of the spirits that approach us seem to do more to elevate us or even the Holy Spirit than Jesus. God’s Spirit will always lift up Jesus and lead us to a closer walk with him. Anything that pulls us away from Him isn’t the Spirit of God. Don’t be gullible. TEST!!