Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. 1 John 4:1
When I hear the verse above there is a deep rooted sense within me, one I was not even aware of until today. That sense says to me, 'Instruction'. My mind categorizes this verse as a 'go-to' of sorts on how to discern spirits of this world. I heard a magnificent sermon by Rob Bell today that put this verse in a whole new light, and I feel the Holy Spirit stirring inside me. Since Matt's death there has been a mustard seed effect taking place inside my heart. Long since seeded roots of my early faith continue to hold tightly, but branches of understanding are growing at immense rates. A desire to learn more, a need to engage in conversation, and a bending to allow Spirit movement within my life, mind, and heart.
His sermon is an awesome trip. He empowers us to feel the weight of 1 John 2:20 in relation to 1 John 4:1. I have come up against an internal uncertainty of my ability to discern for months now. Which seems obvious, right? I am in a fragile state of mind. I am in a physical state of exhaustion. I have been through trauma. I am beginning a process of healing which is bringing forth trauma I hadn't allowed in prior to Matt's death. I am, if you will, vulnerable.
. . . or am I?
John, a pastor in the early church and a friend of Christ, assures me I am not. I am anointed with the Holy Spirit, I am from God, and I have overcome the spirits that need to be overcome. He tells me I can do this discernment thing. So was John giving me a protocol for testing the spirits? Is this verse a condensed and inspired 'Discernment For Dummies' workbook? Or is he telling the early church - telling me - we have the ability to do this thing. Is it possible this wasn't an instruction, but meant to be an encouragement? (Or maybe it was both or neither?) What amazing freedom here . . . I feel transformation . . . I feel growth.
This internal battle that rages within me is between these two contenders; the confidence I have in my gift of discernment, and the fear of failing in testing the spirits. But doesn't love cast out all fear? If fear of failure is the result within the context of a verse it feels contradictory to me in some way. It feels like maybe I'm looking at things in the wrong light. This slight shift in thought fills me with joy and confidence in Christ once more. With the choices of joy and confidence, or the fear of failure . . . I think I know which of these Jesus would have me choose.
Rob starts his sermon with a quote along the lines of this, "Sometimes when we assign doctrinal meanings to scripture they can lose the power of what they affirm, of what they embrace, [of what they are trying to transform]. But it is this [power] that can bring them to life in new ways and in new dimensions."
Rob ends with some thoughts along these lines, "You may at times hear something that is disturbing, disrupting, frightening, disorientating. You may find yourself confused, perplexed, and frustrated. And it may be true. It may be the Spirit of God shaking you. Maybe because you are in a rut and God wants to break you in order to open you up to all sorts of new understandings and perspectives. But because you are clinging so tightly to the views you have always had a sort of shaking is needed. When you are discerning you may want to dismiss something because it is disturbing. Part of the process is knowing when that is because it is not from God, or when it is the Spirit of God moving in mysterious ways."
These things I speak of are personal issues I struggle with. These are things I cling to. This is part of my growth journey. There is excitement in that, hope there, and now a renewed sense of confidence in my testing of the spirits.
This post is doesn't contain much of what the message did, it is simply what it stirred in me . . . if you would like to see what it stirs in you it can be found here.