4 Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. 5 They are from the world; therefore they speak from the world, and the world listens to them. 6 We 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. 1 John 4:4-6
John gives us one more way to test the Spirit here, although I will be the first to admit that it’s one I don’t like quite as much:
“Whoever knows God listens to us, whoever is not from God does not listen to us.”
When we are testing our decisions, if the believers we are seeking counsel from say one thing, and the non-believers say another, John is telling us it’s obvious who we should be listening to.
As someone who loves to be praised and approved of, this is hard for me. I find myself wondering, isn’t there a way I can please the world, and the believers? Can’t I be the most popular girl in school, and be a devout follower of Jesus? Maybe, but what John is saying here is probably not.
To be a Christian is to be different, to be willing to do a 180 degree turn, walking the complete opposite direction of the crowd. To believe that there is a God who died and came back to life sounds crazy to a non-believer. To believe that this information is the hook we should hang our life on sounds even crazier. But to the people who do abide in God, it’s the most true, least crazy thing we know.
This, John says, is how we know the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error. The Christian is made to walk in the opposite direction of the world. To be in the world, but not of it.
John was the only disciple out of the original twelve not to die from martyrdom. Every other one of the disciples were willing to say things that the world didn’t agree with to the point of death. (John was dropped to die on an island, so I’m not saying that he wasn’t willing as well. He just seems to be the only one who died of natural causes.)
I think that for John, it was much more normal to be considered one who was "not normal". I bet that when watching friends stand for this truth, unwavering before death, it’s hard not to take to heart the truth that at times, the world will not listen, and will even stand drastically opposed to you.
I pray that we are inspired by the way God speaks to us to be “in the world but not of it.” I pray that God would show us how we can do those things in our own lives, how we can be Christians who are willing to speak things that might be ignored by the world. How we can be people who encourage each other to say the truth, and we can learn to discern between the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error.