Lent devotions 2011: Tuesday 12 April

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. — I John 4:1

Does it really matter?

Would you send an important document such as your passport through the post without being certain you got the address right? Imagine what could happen to you if your ID fell in the wrong hands! Someone could assume your identity, borrow money that you would have to pay and, perhaps, even implicate you in a crime. Now, imagine yourself being arrested and charged with a crime you didn’t commit, and as you are being taken before the judge you consider: How will I prove my innocence? Where is the true criminal that I might be justified?

There are many spirits out there claiming to tell the truth. They are like wolves dressed in sheep’s clothing, often trying to sell a version of God that is ‘more plausible’ than a Father sentencing His own Son for the sins of the world. Some will say that God is accessible only to a small minority of discerning people. Others say that God is all embracing and pleased if we at least try do His will. Common to all of them is the notion that God would never dare to come down to us but that we have to strive to improve our image.

On one extreme there’s a suspicious and uncomfortable wantonness with that notion; on the other a strong and even oppressive need to find out when enough is enough.

In Romans the Apostle Paul writes “for God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh”. In other words, despite the fact that we are to blame for our many sins, God sent His own Son into our flesh to become our scapegoat. Jesus took our sinful identities upon Himself and died with them on the cross. Then He gave us His own identity so that God might be pleased with us and that is the end of it.

That is how much it matters to test the spirits and the Apostle John gives us the rule of thumb: “every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God”. In John 5:24 Jesus himself says: “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgement, but has passed from death to life.” For Jesus’ sake old sinful wolves like us have been dressed with the righteousness of the Lamb of God and received a new identity – that of children of God.

For this amazing work please make us truly grateful, Amen.