“Be not led astray! Be not deceived!”
This is the thread that the apostle John weaves through his letters. He was in the spirit of truth and sincerely cared for people that they would not be led astray by “nice words” and hypocrisy and lies. “If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.” 1 John 1:6. Walking in darkness means that we have something we want to hide, some sin that will not tolerate the light. That is not the spirit of truth! “He who says ‘I know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him … He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked.” 1 John 2:4,6. There must be no “having an appearance of godliness, but denying it’s power.” 2 Timothy 3:5. People are so easily fooled by an appearance of godliness, so John’s intention is to shine a powerful light on hypocrisy, so that we are not led astray.
We are naturally drawn to good appearances. People who present themselves well, with confidence and a talent for speaking. What we should be attuned to is people’s works – the spirit they are in. What is going on behind the scenes? Are these people walking in the light, keeping His commandments just as they are written, walking as He walked? Beautiful words mean nothing; it is the life that counts. Beautiful words can blind people to the sins of the speaker. People are used to listening to what sounds nice and hearing beautiful phrases, but they have no sense for the truth. Is there a life of walking with Jesus behind the words? People can speak so skillfully, but then they continue to live in sin.
Pastors and leaders of churches can live in adultery and other abominations, and people are not aware of anything until it suddenly blows wide open. Then people are so shocked; he was such a gifted leader! But if people had been in the spirit of truth that John shines such a powerful light on, they could have discerned the spirit behind the façade. God sees to it that such hypocrisy will be revealed. These things cannot be hidden forever. Don’t just sit and listen to what sounds nice – beautiful phraseology, magnetism of character, and so on. Learn from what John exhorts, and learn to discern the spirits! Get a sense for the spirit of truth! Then you will not be led astray by the spirit of the Antichrist that works so powerfully through these people to turn people away from the truth that is in God.
Preaching should be according to God’s Spirit
Our confidence should be in those who preach the word of God in sharpness, clarity, and power. Those who walk openly in the light, whose lives can bear the spotlight of the spirit of truth. Their speaking leads the hearer to a life in Christ. A life of keeping His commandments and walking as He walked. This is the opposite of what the spirit of the Antichrist is accomplishing through leaders who, through their hypocrisy and perversion of the word of God, cannot lead anyone to anything more than forgiveness of sins and good feelings.
“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God.” 1 John 4:1.
Few are they who love the truth
Yet people love to hear these words because it means that they don’t have to use the cross in their own life – it takes away the need for action, suffering, and coming out of sin. This is why people who preach in this Antichrist spirit draw such large crowds with their grandeur and beautiful, empty words. They give people exactly what they want to hear, not what they need to hear. And then Satan is satisfied, because he has people right where he wants them – miles away from the truth of the gospel of victory over sin.
And so people would rather continue in their blindness and ignore the truth. Because then they can live their comfortable lives, secure in their belief that Jesus did everything and they have to do nothing. Those who should be their teachers and instructors in Christ have been possessed by this Antichrist spirit, and so the majority of the religious world continues in darkness and ignorance.
Few are they who preach the word of truth! Few are they who seek the truth and have their eyes open to the deception of an outward show with no life of Christ behind it.
Based on a message given by Sigurd Bratlie in Oslo in 1980.