Testing the spirits


“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God…” (1 John 4:1)

Have a question? Let’s Google the answer!

In today’s world we routinely head to the Internet to find answers to questions. But the fact that it is on the web is no guarantee that it is actually correct.

This week I received emails with web-based stories telling me that military chaplains are prohibited from praying in the name of Jesus in the Navy (not true); that dialing 1-1-2 is the universal way to dial for emergency help in any situation (not true); that gangs are using fake abandoned babies on a massive scale to entice people to stop and help in order to rape and/or rob them (not true); the list goes on and on with these “urban legends” that people pass on with no real idea if they are true or not. They just draw us in because they sound like the could be.

We live in a day where people have a lot of spiritual interest and a lot of spiritual questions. But there are dozens of answers to any question. There are also dozens of people vying for attention in order to get us to think they are the ones who know the answer we are looking for. So, how are we to know the answers that are really helpful and tell them from the ones that are just a bunch of bologna?

The answer for questions of faith lies in being willing to start with the basics of Christian faith and to use them to seek answers to the questions we have.

  • We start where Luther helps us start: that God has blessed us with life and love in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. That foundation grounds all that we do.
  • Second, we listen for God’s voice in scripture and prayer to guide and shape us in the present.
  • Third, we listen and reflect in partnership with others as part of our life in Christian community. Discerning the truth is not an individual task – it is a community task in which we all share.

Yes, it is possible to Google the answer to a lot of our questions. And much of what we can find on the Internet is helpful in learning and discerning. But yet another reason to be a part of our ongoing life together in the church is the blessing that we have in discerning God’s voice and guidance in our lives as together we test the spirits to see if they are from God.

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