Devotional Thought for Today
“Please, Don’t Put God in a Box that You Designed”
1 John 4:1-6 (ESV)
Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2 By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 3 and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already. 4 Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. 5 They are from the world; therefore they speak from the world, and the world listens to them. 6 We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error.
In teaching us to test the spirits to see whether they are from God, the apostle John is clearly inferring that there is an intermingling of both good and evil spirits at work in the life of the church. In other words, there are both angelic and demonic influences, as well as true versus counterfeit spiritual effects. This passage lays out clearly the biblical marks on which we can definitively say that something is a genuine work of the Spirit of God. However, during seasons of revival, you have to wade through a lot of impurity to get to the gold that must be refined. In my experience with conservative evangelical Christians, they don’t often have the patience to get through the impurity, so instead of testing the spirits, they make premature judgments.
Perhaps, the most popular criticism is that the effects seen during revivals are unusual and seemingly outside of clear biblical norms; therefore, they must not be from God. The problem is, there are some of us who don’t like things that happen outside of the normal routine: We want church to be a constant. And so when something extraordinary happens in the church, the first trumpet that is often sounded is that it is unbiblical. It’s here that we need to understand the difference between unbiblical and biblical silence.
Let’s take the example of people falling, weeping, trembling, and experiencing other physical effects. Is this unbiblical or is the Bible simply silent? Most of us would agree that the Bible is more or less silent in regards to these things, and that it is possible for God to move in these ways. Strangely, the greatest defender of revival was Jonathan Edwards, who was an ardent believer that the miraculous gifts of the Spirit had ceased. But after seeing the Holy Spirit move through his congregation, he wrote: “What the church has been used to, is not a rule by which we are to judge; because there may be new and extraordinary works of God…We ought not to limit God where He has not limited Himself.”
The Scriptures are filled with God working in surprising ways, and I believe that He is preparing to move in new ways in our churches. Let’s prepare ourselves in both heart and mind to discern and receive the works of the Spirit.
Prayer: Holy Spirit, we invite You to fill our churches and our lives. Help us to discern Your voice daily and to obey You without delay. We pray that You would silence the voice of the enemy that often confuses us, so that we can follow Your leading with an undivided heart. Amen.
Bible Reading for Today: Acts 12
Lunch Break Study
Read Acts 2:1-13: “When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. 2 And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3 And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested[a] on each one of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.5 Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. 6 And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language. 7 And they were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? 9 Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, 11 both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians—we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.” 12 And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” 13 But others mocking said, “They are filled with new wine.”
Questions to Consider
- What was the occasion for this extraordinary event in the book of Acts?
- How did the crowd react?
- How did Peter explain this phenomenon?
- The occasion for this event was the day of Pentecost, which in Judaism traditionally commemorates the giving of the Mosaic Law. The pouring out of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost signifies many new things, including the start of the New Testament church and a new way of looking at the Old Testament through the illumination of the Spirit.
- The crowd reacted in various ways. Some were amazed because they heard the gift of tongues in their own languages, while others were skeptical, accusing the disciples of being drunk.
- Peter was able to wade through all the confusion and excitement of the morning and show that this was consistent with what was written in the Scriptures.
How is your spiritual state? If you are in a dry period, pray that God would refresh you and bring you into a new season of intimacy and worship! If you are doing well, pray against becoming complacent, but that you would seek to grow all the more.