“By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.” 1 John 4:6
Living in the digital age puts all kinds of information at our fingertips. Anyone can voice their thoughts for mass consumption. Many are vying for more than our attention; they want us to subscribe to their point of view. The problem is that one person’s opinion contradicts another’s deeply held beliefs, even in religious circles. So, how do we know what’s true?
Well, John outlines how to determine what information is based in truth by recognizing false beliefs. Those who promote false teaching and philosophy aren’t necessarily trying to deceive but have, themselves, been deceived. So, not everyone who is spiritual believes the truth. There are different ways to be spiritual because there are different kinds of spirits (v1).
First, listen to what someone says about Jesus (vv2-3). Acknowledging Jesus as a good teacher is not the same as believing He is the Son of God and confessing Him as Savior. People often use the word “god” generically; having nothing to do with biblical truth. Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me” (John 14:6). It’s difficult to be elusive when someone says clearly, “I am a follower of Jesus Christ.”
Next, pay close attention to their point of view (v5). A worldly perspective tends to promote physical pleasure and moral freedom. It’s self-indulgent (2:16). These attitudes are easy to recognize in any form because they are blatantly immoral or irreverent. To them, Christian views and values seem like foolishness (1 Corinthians 2:14).
But Satan is cunning. Today’s culturally acceptable worldview counterfeits biblical ideals such as justice, good works, and grace. While they may use familiar language, they have a different lexicon. Their vague spiritualism sounds good to the gullible. However, all worldly viewpoints reject biblical truth, either in part or in whole. We need to discern when their definitions do not match God’s.
In contrast, a biblical worldview is initiated and energized by the Holy Spirit – the Spirit of truth. Consequently, truth cannot be separated from God, from His Spirit, or from His Word (John 17:17). The indwelling Holy Spirit guides believers, helping us to recognize truth from error.
So, how do we know what’s true? Give it the truth test. If what we read, watch, or hear is not in line with Scripture, then disregard it. As believers, we can expect to be ridiculed for our beliefs and point of view. Just remember, “greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world” (v4).