(Edited for clarity on 9/3/2009)
Every night (except when I'm so dog-tired that I can barely muster to find the bedroom), I read a few Bible verses to our son. It's a moment of quality father-son time, that I would not trade for anything. Lately, we've been reading 1 John, which I like to call "the opposites letter", on account of all the contrasts that it contains. The start of chapter 4 hit a chord in me, and I'd like to talk about it a bit.
 Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.
First of all, we must always be on our guard, because false doctrines and false teachers are everywhere, some so cunning that, if it were possible, they could deceive the very elect (paraphrased from the Bible). Like the famous Bereans, we need to be comparing what we see and hear with the Word of God. That means not only having the Bible handy, but internalizing its contents, so that we are walking Bibles. This is especially important, as there seems to be a church on every corner, and religious people all around us.
 Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God:
 And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God....
Here's a litmus test that tells you whether or not a person, organization, or doctrine is of God. Sounds a little simplistic, if taken at face value, but when you look at it a bit closer, you'll find so much more.
What does "Jesus Christ is come in the flesh" mean? Just that there really was this historical guy named Jesus, who walked around Galilee, 2000 years ago? Even many atheists will agree to that. But the "Christ" is not a last name, but a title. A title reserved for the Messiah, the one that scriptures prophesied that would come and bring salvation. The Holy One of God, God Himself, come in the flesh, to die on the cross for our sins. There's a lot there! And there are so many who deny this truth, try to water it down, or add man's ideas to it. God's not into that; no, He tells it like it is, and so do His people. Those who don't, simply aren't of Him.
 ... and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world.
Many Christians are into "The Antichrist" that's supposed to come at the end of the world, only to be defeated by Jesus. I can understand where that idea came from, but there's nothing in the Bible that confirms that any one personage carrying that title will ever come. Only 1 and 2 John even mention the word "antichrist", and he makes it clear that they are already here today (from his time, even) and are very, very common. By his definition, an antichrist is one who denies that Jesus is the Christ (1 John 2:22, 2 John 1:7). Jews are antichrists (how's THAT for political incorrectness???). Muslims are antichrists. Atheists are antichrists. Hindus and Buddhists are antichrists. The various end-times beasts and false prophets mentioned throughout the Bible are antichrists. I think even some "Christian" sects are that way or extremely close. And, of course, there are those (such as the Catholics and Mormons), who although will verbally agree that Jesus is Christ, they have added so many rules, traditions, and doctrines, that Jesus simply gets lost in the shuffle.
But a true Christian is one whose entire being depends on this simple truth: Jesus is Christ.
 Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.
So need we fear the falsehoods out there? Naaah! Jesus has already overcome it, and through Him, we are overcomers, too! How do we overcome? Not by beating everyone else over the head with a family-sized Bible, but by not being tainted by their lies. By being a shining example, in spite of them and by not failing to teach our children to walk in God's truth.
 They are of the world: therefore speak they of the world, and the world heareth them.
How true this is! Here is a phrase software engineers like to use: You put garbage in, you get garbage out. For a computer program, this means that if you feed it incorrect data, you will get incorrect results, no matter how well-written the program itself is. Humans work the same way. We were created in God's image, but if we gorge on the sinful things of the world, that's exactly what we'll be spewing back out. But if Jesus and God's Word are what we put in, then that's what will be on our minds and lips.
 We are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us. Hereby know we the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error.
We have a choice of what we put into our minds. People of the world like to listen to the things of the world, and people of God like to listen to Him. Worldly people will not want to hear what you have to say (even those who claim to be Christian). Here's a funny one for you: will a TV set ever listen to what you have to say (no matter how much you yell at it)? Where does it fall in, according to John?
The rest of the chapter is totally awesome too, but I'll stop here, for now.
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