“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God;
because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” – 1 John 4:1
How do we determine if something is of God or not? This is an important question because we are in a spiritual war in which our adversary the devil is a master liar, deceiver and destroyer. The apostle John was inspired to warn his readers to “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1). He wrote this in love.
The Last Days will be characterized by “deceiving spirits,” “doctrines of demons,” and lies spoken by psychopathic hypocrites (1 Timothy 4:1-2). Satan’s aim is to murder you spiritually and physically (John 8:44). His main tactic is appearing as something good and luring people into evil. Therefore, if we ignore or take this question lightly we risk being victimized by the enemy or worse, being manipulated into a position where we give the enemies of the Lord reason to blaspheme God (2 Samuel 12:14). Because of this God has given us clear precautions in His word to help us discern what is of Him and what is not of Him.
There are many scriptures in the Bible which help us discern whether or not something is of the Lord. Below we list these scriptures with questions we ought to be asking when we are seeking to discern whether or not something is of the Lord.
Is it scriptural? Just because someone uses scriptures does not mean they are of the Lord? Satan used scriptures (out of context) against Jesus in the wilderness temptation (Matthew 4:1-11). Cults use scriptures, as do false teachers. How can we know if scripture is being used in the right way?
We need to see if the interpretation is correct based on the context, or the way it was used in the letter or book in which it is found. Usually you can determine this by reading before and after the scripture to see the proper interpretation of the verses. You may have to read the entire letter or book in which the verses are found. You should also ask whether or not the interpretation in question contradicts other parts of the Bible. God’s word does not contradict itself. We need to determine God’s truth based on the “whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27).
Does it bring me closer to God? You should ask if this use of scripture or thing in question is drawing you closer to or pushing you further away from God. The Bible tells us to draw near to God and move away from the devil (James 4:7-8). This is a question that can be tricky because our hearts are deceitful and we can’t know them on our own (Jeremiah 17:9-10). We need to ask God to search our hearts and see the truth in us (Psalm 139:23-24). And the way we do this is to bring our hearts and thoughts prayerfully to the altar of God’s word (Hebrews 4:12).
There is an interesting scripture in this regard and it states, “If there arises among you a prophet or a dreamer of dreams, and he gives you a sign or a wonder, 2 and the sign or the wonder comes to pass, of which he spoke to you, saying, ‘Let us go after other gods’—which you have not known—‘and let us serve them,’ 3 you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams, for the Lord your God is testing you to know whether you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. 4 You shall walk after the Lord your God and fear Him, and keep His commandments and obey His voice; you shall serve Him and hold fast to Him. 5 But that prophet or that dreamer of dreams shall be put to death, because he has spoken in order to turn you away from the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt and redeemed you from the house of bondage, to entice you from the way in which the Lord your God commanded you to walk. So you shall put away the evil from your midst” (Deuteronomy 13:1-5).
Notice it is not the sign or wonder or impressiveness of something that determines whether or not it is of God. It is whether or not something draws us closer to God and moves us to love Him more and more that determines whether or not something is of God. Jesus said eternal life is to know the One true God and Him (John 17:3). That in a nutshell is the prime reason Jesus came to be with us (John 17:4). We should be asking, “Is what I’m doing bringing me closer to the Lord? Is it making me more spiritually sensitive to His voice? Is it helping me to know Him better? Can I see Jesus involved with what I’m doing?”
Is it causing me to worship the Lord? God is looking for true worshipers who will worship Him in spirit and truth. Those who are trying to determine if the music they listen to is of God should be asking themselves, “Is this causing me to love God more? Is it causing me to worship the Lord in spirit and truth?”(John 4:23-24). Does the music put me in awe of the Lord and cause me to fall at His feet in worship?
Does it bring pleasure to God? Contrary to the popular philosophy of the day, we do not exist for our own pleasure. Humanity was created for the Lord and His pleasure! (Colossians 1:16; Revelation 4:11 KJV). Christians have been purchased by God and redeemed from their sin by the precious blood of Jesus on the cross (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). Christians should especially be asking questions like, “Is what I’m doing pleasing to God? Is it selfish? Does it risk displeasing God in some way?”
Is it really worth it? Is what I’m doing really worth the time? If I’m being tempted to do something that is questionable, is it worth risking my walk with the Lord in any way? Nothing is worth risking a single drop of closeness to the Lord. Greg Laurie once shared some questions we could ask to help us make good sound spiritual decisions. When you come to something that is questionable or really in any situation you should ask yourself five evaluative questions. First, “Will it build me up spiritually?” We have great freedom in Christ, but we should use our freedom judiciously and wisely to assure what we do is edifying. It’s very easy to get entangled in things that will fuel the flesh rather than support the spirit (1 Corinthians 10:23; Galatians 5:13; Hebrews 12:1-2).
Second, we should ask, “Will it bring me under its power?” We have to guard against indulging things that will bring us into slavery. Jesus said he who sins is a slave to sin and that the truth of His word can free us (John 8:31-36). Again, are the things you do lead to sins’ dominion in your life? It should not be so! (1 Corinthians 6:12; Romans 6:14).
Third, “Do I have an uneasy feeling about it?” Whatever is not from faith is sin (Romans 14:23). We have an anointing from the Spirit to help us in discerning truth from falsehood (1 John 2:27). If you have an uneasy feeling about something or someone, it just may be the Spirit warning you.
Fourth, “Will it cause someone else to stumble?” We should always hold a person’s spiritual welfare as a top priority. We should be others oriented. We should restrict our own freedoms for the eternal welfare of others. This is what love is all about (Romans 14:15; 15:1).
Fifth and lastly, “Will it bring glory to God?” This is the bottom line and most important question to ask. Can you say that what you intend to do brings glory to the Lord? Would you be embarrassed to bring Him with you where you are thinking of going? Would you be embarrassed and ashamed if He were to return and find you doing what you are doing? (1 Corinthians 10:31; Colossians 3:17,23).
Satan is a brilliant enemy who is the master of deception. He disguises himself as something good when he is really the worst of the worst. Those he uses practice the same deception (2 Corinthians 11:13-15). Satan does not usually try to sidetrack or victimize people with what is blatantly bad. No. His tactic is to rob people of God’s best by tempting them with what is second best. Unfortunately too many Christians have passed up God’s best because they were impatient and settled for something good, but not God’s best. The choice is not necessarily between good and bad as much as it is between God’s best and an alternative. That tactic is as old as the Garden of Eden, but it is no less effective today (Genesis 3). So beware, pray to the Lord and ask Him for help to discern. Go to God’s word and let His peace be your guide (Colossians 3:15-16). But above all, care whether or not something is or is not of God.