SDA Sabbath School Lesson

May  18 - May 24

Testing the Spirits

Lesson 8

Read For This Week's Study: 1 John 4:1-6.

Memory Text:  "Test the spirits to see whether they are from God" (1 John 4:1, NIV).

Key Thought:   : Every believer must knowfor sure that what is believed is true. God requires us each to make up our own minds and to distinguish the spirit of truth from that of falsehood.

Sabbath How Great a Love Sun Children of God Mon We Shall Be Like Him Tue Law and SinWed Destroying Demonic Deceptions Thur Like Father, Like Child Fri Further Study   Also see: Lesson Helps for study material used in this lesson. And don't miss: The Inside Story

Sabbath Afternoon May 17

Demon-Designed Delusions.   John writes with great concem for those who are led away by false ideas. All through history, the truth of God has been marred and distorted by perverted teachings, even taught by those who claim to know the truth. This campaign of misinformation directed by the archliar himself will become more and more frenzied as the end approaches. So we must not be alanned over the scale and extent of false teaching, especially by those who put God in a bad light. (See 1 Tim. 4:1, 2.)

The emphasis must be on sifting truth from error in our own lives and making sure that we do not unconsciously identify with the devil's portrayal of God and His character. Remember that in the end times the battle is not only between the religious and the secular, but also between believers and unbelievers. The clear scenario portrayed in Revelation 13 is of a religio-political power that forces worship.

Only as we test the spirits now will we be sure of truth and right and be able, in God's strength, to withstand the end-time counterfeit, which, if it were possible, would deceive even the very elect (Matt. 24:24).

Inside Story

Sunday May 18

Do Not Believe All You Hear  (1 John 4:1).

Why should we be careful about what we believe?  1 John 4:1.

As John says, there are many who claim to be representatives of God, of truth and right, who are false.  Think of how you make decisions in life.  Do you trust the first salesperson to whom you speak?  Do you believe whatever you are told?  Or do you examine the evidence, check the facts, and investigate the person's credibility?

Why then should it be any different in the spiritual world?  We know that the devil is attempting to deceive.  We know that the issues in the great controversy center on who is telling the truth.  We know that there are many false teachers in the world.  So on what do we base our beliefs?  On a warm feeling deep inside?  On authority figures?  On some kind of hunch?

NO!  The Bible is specific in urging us to test all sources of information.  "Test the spirits to see whether they are from God" (1 John 4:1, NIV).  "The law and . . . the testimony" (Isa. 8:20) previously revealed truth is the authority for our beliefs. God is not contradictory!

What does God ask us to examine?  1 John 4:1; 1 Thess. 5:21.

"So then, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message comes through preaching Christ" (Rom. 10:17, TEV).  God does not want us to believe without first understanding what He is saying, and the reason for it:

"God never asks us to believe, without giving sufficient evidence upon which to base our faith.  His existence, His character, the truthfulness of His Word, are all established by testimony that appeals to our reason; and this testimony is abundant.  Yet God has never removed the possibility of doubt.  Our faith must rest upon evidence, not demonstration.  Those who wish to doubt will have opportunity; while those who really desire to know the truth will find plenty of evidence on which to rest their faith."-Steps to Christ, p. 105.

Check out the message. God tells us to examine the content of what is being said:  "When a prophet or a dreamer appears among you and offers you a sign or a portent and calls on you to follow other gods whom you have not known and worship them, even if the sign or portent should come true, do not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer" (Deut. 13:1, 2, NEB)

Inside Story

Monday May 19

Recognizing the Spirit of God  (1 John 4:2).

Are miracles the best proof that someone speaks for God?  Explain your answer.   Exod. 7:11, 22.

Often it is argued that miracles are the evidence for the presence of God's Spirit.  Yet from Scripture we are aware that Satan can use miracles to his own advantage.  John points out the true test: belief that Jesus Christ is both fully God and fully man.

John was especially concerned to combat the false teachings of those in his time who denied either Christ's full divinity or the incarnation.   The same test can be used today.  Many will accept the thesis that Jesus was a good man or that He was an interesting philosopher/ teacher.  But few will admit that He was and is God, the fullness of the Deity (Col. 2:9), the divine Being made flesh.  In his Gospel, John expounds the same theme:  "And the Word became flesh, and lived awhile in our midst" (John 1:14, Weymouth).

The attraction of Christ was simple:  He lived God's truth.  We are not to believe merely because of His power, His position, or His miracles, but because He demonstrated the infinitely perfect character of God in His earthly life and in His death for all human sin.

What did Jesus say about signs and wonders (miracles)?  John 4:48.

When people believe solely because of miracles, their belief is based on a wrong understanding of Jesus and His mission.  So Jesus refused all requests (even from Herod during His trial [Luke 23:8]) to work miracles as a way of convincing doubters.

Why are there so few miracles in the church today?  God wants us to believe for His sake and truth's sake-not because of spectacular signs or wonders.  Reliance on miracle-working produces the wrong kind of faith.  Miracles can get in the way and confuse people.  Jesus never performed miracles for their own sake but always for a very real reason.  And He never performed a miracle to vindicate himself.

"Let none cherish the idea that special providences or miraculous manifestations are to be the proof of the genuineness of their work or of the ideas they advocate.  If we keep these things before the people, they will produce an evil effect, an unhealthful emotion.  The genuine working of the Holy Spirit on human hearts is promised, to give efficiency through the Word. Christ has declared the Word to be spirit and life. . . . The Bible will never be superseded by miraculous manifestations."-Selected Messages, vol. 2, p. 48. (See pp. 48-53.)

Inside Story

Tuesday May 20

The Spirit of Antichrist  (1 John 4:3).

How can we recognize the spirit of the antichrist?  1 John 4:3; 2:22; 2 John 7; Matt. 24:5, 24.

"Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking by the Spirit of God ever says 'Jesus be cursed!' and no one can say 'Jesus is Lord' except by the Holy Spirit" (1 Cor. 12:3, RSV).  "Any such utterance is sufficient proof that the one who voices it ... is definitely not influenced by the Holy Spirit."-SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 6, p 769.

In every thought and act that demeans Jesus as God we see the spirit of antichrist; he wishes to prevent humanity from seeing God in the person of Jesus Christ.  Through a host of different ways, he leads people to disparage Jesus.  There are movies, musicals, plays, books, and articles in which Jesus is portrayed as far from Godlike.  His name is used to curse.  And most effectively of all, perhaps, His message and mission are ignored.

More subtle is the denial of Christ's full divinity by those who otherwise identify with the Christian faith.  Some theologians regard the post-resurrection appearances of Christ as fabrications or myths.  Sectarian groups frequently have their own messiahs, which replace the need for Christ as God.  We cannot be so "ecumenical" as to say it does not matter.  Believing Jesus is God is truly a life-or-death matter.  The answer to the question "Who is Jesus?" remains the decisive key, whoever you are, and whatever else you might believe.

Who or what is an antichrist?

Two main meanings are implied by the term antichrist. One is a substitute christ, a rival to Christ, one who may even pretend to be Christ.  We know at the end Lucifer will appear as "an angel of light" (2 Cor. 11:14; 2 Thess. 2:8-11) bringing the final end-time deception.  How will we be able to tell the difference between the false and the true?  Like bank cashiers who know the genuine currency so well that they can intuitively spot the counterfeit, Christians need to know Christ so well that when the devil comes, mixing error with much truth, they will be able to reject this almost overmastering delusion.

The other primary meaning of antichrist is one who sets up in opposition to Christ, as an opponent.  This description also fits the devil, who is identified in Scripture as the accuser. The end-time antichrist refers to the religious union that identifies with Satan in opposition to Christ. (See Rev. 13:11-17; 16:13, 14; 17:1-6.)

Inside Story

Wednesday May 21

Overcoming the World (1 John 4:4, 5).

What is important in being "overcomers"?  Against each text, write your understanding:

  1. We identify with Christ:  "In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world" (John 16:33, NIV).
  2. We believe specifically in Christ:  "Who is it that overcomes the world?  Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God" (1 John 5:5, NIV).
  3. Overcoming results from salvation:  "Everyone born of God overcomes the world" (1 John 5:4, NIV).
  4. Christ's promises are for overcomers (Rev. 2:7, 11, 17, 26; 3:5, 12, 21).
  5. The glorious future for overcomers:  "He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be my son" (Rev. 21:7, NIV).

On what basis are we overcomers? 1 John 4:4.

We cannot be victorious in our own strength. "Christ in you, the hope of glory" (Col. 1:27, NIV) is the source of our spiritual victory. Our identification with Him and His truth is our protection from deception (Rom. 12:21, NIV). The battle is not primarily one of superior power, but of moral, ethical, and spiritual right. God's great strength of character wins, in contrast to the lies of the devil. If God had wanted to conquer by use of His might and power, He could have done that from the beginning. This is why God says: "Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit" (Zech. 4:6, NIV). God's victory in our lives results from the conviction of the Spirit.

What modern phenomenon shows that there are false spirits in the world today?  Rev. 16:13, 14.

"Modem spiritualism ... is but a revival in a new form of the witchcraft and demon worship that God condemned and prohibited of old.... Concerning such teachers the beloved John declares: 'Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ?  He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son.  Whosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father.' 1 John 2:22, 23.  Spiritualism, by denying Christ, denies both the Father and the Son, and the Bible pronounces it the manifestation of antichrist."-Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 686.

Inside Story

Thursday May 22

God-Centeredness (1 John 4:6).

What dangers do you see in applying 1 John 4:6 to us?

On the surface, this verse, taken out of context, could appear to be arrogant in the extreme: if you are of God, you will listen to us; if you are not of God, you will not listen!  Such broad generalizations have been used by some as a way of crushing dissent and demanding unquestioning obedience.  This is not what John is saying here. John consistently appeals to the inspired evidence for the correctness of his position.  He is not suggesting that people do as he says without evaluating its accuracy against past revelation and Scripture.

This position is the result of trusting God and the proof He has provided of His trustworthiness, His consistency, His intimate interest, His loving care and concern.  So those who now choose to reject John and his message prove they are not truly of God, for John is merely continuing to represent revealed truth, about God.  As long as we are true to God and His revealed Word, we, too, can take the same position.

What is the true test of truth and right?  John 1:14; 14:6; 18:37.

Christ as the source of truth and right means that everything must be tested against these aspects of His character.  By definition, God is truth, and so those who reject God are obviously operating under "the spirit of falsehood" (1 John 4:6, NIV).  God has revealed the laws of truth and right so we can judge whether He operates by such laws.  Knowing that He does, and agreeing with Him that His laws are right, we can have confidence that we recognize the Spirit of truth because we know God.

Why should we not be too surprised when people reject our message?  1 John 4:6; Jer. 6:10; 2 Tim. 4:4.

Spiritual things are spiritually discerned, and those who do not recognize or accept the spiritual nature will find spiritual talk meaningless.  Our aim must be to present Christ in such a way as to attract the attention of even the most spiritually destitute.

For reflection:  If we are not from God, why should anyone listen to us?

Inside Story

Friday May 23

For Further Study:  Examine the following. Which illustrates the way the devil is operating? What does such a plan mean to us?


Discussion Questions:
    1.  Why does God want us to look at, the evidence?  Isn’t it enough to "just believe"?
    2.  What's wrong in relying on signs and wonder to proof?
    3.  How is the "spirit of antichrist" at work in the world today?
    4.  How do we "overcome the world"?

Summary:   The church must be sure to test the spirits.  So many claims are made about religion that the evidence must be examined.  Just because the miraculous happens, this must not be the basis for faith.  Our role is to be overcomers through our trust in God, holding firm to the truth revealed in Jesus.

Inside Story

God provides a Way

James H. Zachary

Michael Melenko did not know what to do. After 70 years of political oppression in Russia, the doors of freedom had swung open, and people swarmed in to hear the message of the gospel.  But now that interest seemed to have waned, and in spite of trying many different approaches, it seemed that every door closed to the pastor's efforts to spread the gospel in the city of Perm.

Pastor Melenko did not expect an easy task.  His father and grandfather had been pastors during the Communist years.  He knew the difficulties they had endured during their ministries.  Melenko believed that God would open the door for him to share the gospel as well.  He and his wife prayed earnestly for a breakthrough.

Michael watched from his seventh-floor apartment window as his 3 1/2-year-old son, Vadim, played in the courtyard below.  A number of babushkas [grandmothers] sat nearby, enjoying the sun's warmth in the little courtyard.  A few minutes later little Vadim rushed through the door of the apartment.  "Please, Mother, may I have my Bible?" he asked, breathless.

"Why do you want your Bible?" she asked.  Vadim could not yet read.

"I want to preach to the babushkas in the yard," he answered.  His mother gave him his little Bible with pictures of his favorite Bible stories, and the little boy raced out the door and back to the courtyard.  Vadim's astonished parents watched as the little boy began preaching to the old women who sat in the sun.  The women asked Vadim whose son he was.  Vadim told them that his father was a pastor, who could tell them even more stories about God if they wished.  Several accepted Vadim's offer, and the little boy's witness opened the door of many hearts in Perm.

Several months later the Melenko family moved to another apartment.  Vadim quickly made friends with children in the building.  He tells them about Jesus and prays with them.  Then he invites them to his apartment to watch videos of Bible stories.  Pastor Melenko reports that the children tell their parents about the Bible stories, and this has opened the door for more people to find Christ.

Today a growing group of new believers meets every week in Perm, Russia.  When the doors seemed closed, God used a little child to open the door and lead people to Jesus.

James H. Zachary is Global Evangelism coordinator for the Quiet Hour.

Inside Story

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Last updated on May 24, 1997

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