1 John 4:1-6
1Beloved, 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. 2By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 3and 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. 4Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. 5They are from the world; therefore they speak from the world, and the world listens to them. 6We 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.
Because of the pervasive nature of the internet, we are now the victims of “false news”. It’s one of “the stories” of 2016. There are those who take pleasure in making up a story that sounds like it might be real and then putting it out there for all the world to consume. Since it’s in (digital) print it must be true, right? There are even some who believe the recent election was influenced by these false stories. We’ve forgotten how to test the spirits when it comes to our consumption of current events and not only do we believe some of these false reports, we also share the information with others as if it is true. In the information age that story goes viral and a new "truth" is born.
We are also vulnerable in our spiritual beliefs as well. This little section of godly wisdom from John is aptly observed in our generation. Just because someone says something or interprets a Scripture passage in a certain way and does so in print or maybe even from the pulpit, it must be true, right? Not necessarily. We do not have to be the hapless victims of people who want to tell us how or what to believe. One of Satan’s best tricks is to make his lies sound oh so good.
I’m not going to do any finger pointing here because there is a good chance those comments will come back to bite me. But I am convinced that we all need to be discerning in our consumption of spiritual material. If you don’t know what the Bible says about a topic, then you need to go to the Bible and find out what it actually says rather than just blindly accepting everything you’re told. Learning God’s ways for yourself is vitally important to a healthy faith life. But here is where laziness can get in our way. Why not just swallow what someone else says about God? That’s easier. But it can be dangerous. Unlike those who are perpetrating “false news” I don’t believe that all false prophets even know they are spouting falsehood. Many of them believe what they are teaching to be true. They are like that person who shares a viral story on the internet. They haven't check the facts but are reporting their ideas as if they have done that homework. That doesn’t excuse them but neither does it excuse us! We need to search out the truth and ask the Holy Spirit what is true. He is a willing Teacher if we are willing students. So, expect your teachers to stand up under some scrutiny. If they are truly of God, they won’t mind and your knowledge base will be firmer.