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. 2 By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 3 and 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. 1 John 4:1-3
A wise woman once explained it to me this way: imagine that everything, and everyone could be squeezed or wrung out like a sponge or a towel. When we squeeze, say, our church, what would (hopefully) come out are the fruits of the Spirit- joy, love, kindness, etc. Ideally, the same things would come out when we squeeze our marriage, or our jobs. This is how we know something is filled with the Holy Spirit, or that the thing we are squeezing is aligned with God’s heart- when we wring it out, His holiness is what’s dripping.
John warns us here to do this drip test with not only our lives, but with things that we think might be “leadings” from the Spirit. We cannot believe every spirit, he tells us, so we must test them- the things that proclaim God will have God come out of him when they are squeezed, and the things that are against God will produce something that feels pressure-filled, sticky, or generally yucky when we squeeze it.
Let’s say we are doing this with a relatively normal decision, such as asking God about switching jobs. Let’s say we pray, listen, ask the Holy Spirit to come, and we feel an inkling that God wants us to take a new job that we have been offered. Here are a few ways we could test it by asking questions:
Does it line up with what scripture is already saying? God tells us to put loving him and loving people above all things: will this new job help us do that? Will it grow us and help sanctify us so we look more like him?
Does talking about the job, or thinking about the job bring up fruits of the Spirit in us? Does it stir up peace, joy and gentleness, or are we filled with anxiety?
Do the wise people we know and trust to walk with God agree? What do they think? Does their counsel match that of what we think the Holy Spirit said?
I pray that today we would run big decisions and big answers through the test tube John asks us to- that we would be willing to wring out our decisions to see if they are from the Lord, or not.
PS I am reading a fantastic book called “Discerning the Voice of God” by Priscilla Shirer. A couple of the points that I used can be found in various forms in her book, so I highly recommend you take a look at it if you want to grow in your knowledge and relationship with the Holy Spirit!