Week 49 Testing the Spirits and Learning to Discern God’s Will

By Elizabeth Yeamans Simrell (Guest Blogger)

Week 49

Scripture Readings: 1 John 4-5

Key Scripture Verses: 1 John 4:1-3 (NIV, Life Application Bible) “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.”

Just as we need to be careful from whom we get our counsel as Christians, when we have spiritual experiences, we need to ask ourselves, “Is this from God? Does this make sense with the scriptures? Does this experience glorify Jesus Christ and acknowledge him as the Son of God?”

Should you encounter a spirit or a teacher who means to guide you, you need to discern from where that spirit comes—all spirits who are from God acknowledge Jesus as the Christ, the awaited Messiah who came to earth in the flesh and who died for our sins to reconcile us to the Father.

Spirits, teachers, guides, or leaders who do not recognize and acknowledge Jesus as Lord are acting as antichrists and are not genuine representatives of God, because they do not acknowledge the truth.

“Love comes from God” and “God is love” (1 John 4: 7, 8), so anyone who does not demonstrate love in the way that is Christ-like in manner is deceived and is a deceiver.

This kind of love is not just a feeling, but is an action—this kind of love requires making deliberate choices and acting on those choices in congruence with the will of God. It is not an “if-it-feels-good-do-it” love; it is an “if-God-desires-it-and-it-fits-with-his-plan” love. This is the kind of love that Jesus had for us that drove him to do what no man would want to do—to die for all of mankind through a horrible, humiliating, and painful death. This kind of love requires a sense of duty and empathy towards others.

If the spirits or leaders guide us away from a Christ-like existence or encourage us to make choices that are not within his will, we should be able to discern that they are not of God. If at any point we are unsure of a spiritual being’s origin, we are to test the spirit by determining if it acknowledges Jesus as Lord—that is the ultimate test. The scriptures say that evil spirits will deny him.

May we be careful of any encounters we have with the spiritual world that we use the discernment offered in the scriptures, as there are spirits who would misguide us. There are humans who would misguide us also, willingly or unknowingly, and we must also be careful in discerning whether following their guidance is the will of God and whether it is what Jesus would do. May we know the scriptures and use their discernment for all of our activities.


By Paul Simrell

The Reverend Paul W. Simrell has served for over thirty years in a variety of congregational and institutional settings. He is a recognized minister with standing in the Virginia region of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada and is nationally endorsed by the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) for specialized ministry in both pastoral counseling and chaplaincy. Ordained in 1982, he has served congregations in Kentucky, Texas, Florida, and Virginia. He currently serves as the pastor of Elpis Christian Church, a small, historic congregation located just a few miles west of Richmond, Virginia. Elpis is the Greek word meaning “expectant hope.” He also serves on the associate clinical staff of the Virginia Institute of Pastoral Care, Richmond, Virginia, both as a pastoral counselor and a ministerial assessment specialist, specializing in executive, clergy and relationship coaching. He is a graduate of the University of Florida and Lexington Theological Seminary and has done advanced clinical training in chaplaincy and pastoral counseling at the University of Kentucky Medical Center in Lexington, Kentucky, Children’s Medical Center and Parkland Hospital in Dallas, Texas and the Virginia Institute of Pastoral Care in Richmond, Virginia. He is a Certified Pastoral Counselor, an ACPE Practitioner, and a member of the American Association of Christian Counselors. He is a Certified Facilitator of the Prepare-Enrich relationship assessment and skills-building program and served as a volunteer chaplain for over twenty years with the CJW Medical Center campuses in Richmond, Virginia. His avocational interests include playing the piano and drawing. He is very happily married to his wife Elizabeth Yeamans Simrell, a free-lance writer, who is also a Certified Facilitator for the Prepare-Enrich program. Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton

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