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How to Know Part I

Does It Agree With the Bible?

Does It Make Me More Like Christ?

Today and for the next two Sundays, let’s consider the important idea of how to know it is God’s voice speaking to us - or to others who claim it is His voice. That is critical knowledge so we can be confident we are doing God’s will, and not our own will or someone else’s will, or, even worse, the devil’s will.

Related to that, there is a Biblical challenge found at the start of I John 4.

“Beloved.” What a kind word that is. It indicates John really and truly cared for the people to whom he wrote. He wanted what was best for them.

“Beloved, do not believe every spirit.” Do not automatically believe everything a speaker says, “but test the spirits.” Think about and study and pray about what is said to determine whether it is from God.

I have shared this before, but I still remember the time my parents told me about a late night news show they had seen. A segment of the show - the segment they told me about - concerned an American who had been arrested and was being detained in a foreign nation. There were two people interviewed about what the U.S. should do about the situation.

One of the speakers was kind of a mercenary-type man. He talked loudly and quickly. He called on the U.S. government to send the military into that other country and forcibly rescue the detained citizen and to do it right now!

The other man did not say as much. He was soft-spoken when he did speak. He spent his time talking about protocols that needed to be followed.

I remember my parents’ reaction. Obviously the quieter man was lying. His demeanor proved it. Obviously the other man was telling the truth. They could tell by how forceful he was that he was telling the truth.

Maybe the reaction of my parents was accurate. Maybe the loud man was telling the truth. Maybe the quieter man was lying. But the sense I got was that they were responding, not to what was said, but how it was said.

Which I think applies here. We are not to determine what is true based on how a presentation is made. We are instead to test the words we hear to discover if what is said is from God. No one other than God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit is infallible. Nothing other than the Bible has a 100% guarantee of being accurate. The challenge is to listen and study and pray to determine whether what is said is truly of God. The challenge is to test everything - including what is said in this message.

There are a number of things that can be used to test what is heard. Six of them will be discussed in this and the next two messages. For today, here are the tests. Does what is said agree with the Bible? Does what is said make me - make you - more like Christ?

Does what is said agree with the Bible? That test is based on Luke 21:33, which speaks of the steadfastness of the Bible, which contains the words of God and Jesus. 

“Heaven and earth will pass away.” Heaven, not as in Heaven, as in the place of reward for people of God. Heaven in this context refers to the sky above us. “Heaven and earth will pass away, but,” Jesus said, “My words will not pass away.”

That means everything God and Jesus said - everything recorded in the Bible - has been true, is true, and always will be true. His word - His teachings - His descriptions of how His people are to live their lives - all that does not change.

So the testing we are to do with everything we hear is, first of all, to be based on the Bible. Is what we hear in agreement with the Bible? If so, we know it is from God. If not, it is a false prophet who is speaking. Someone who therefore should - must - be ignored, no matter how impressively or forcefully he or she talks.

The next few verses of Luke 21 give some warnings. 

One is that it is easy to get “weighed down” in wrong behaviors. One listed is drunkenness. And if that is not the issue, there are other destructive behaviors, described in the Revised Standard Version as “dissipations.” And if not that, also listed are “cares of this life.” Those cares can edge out interest and concern for the teachings of Jesus.

Those things can come upon us suddenly. They can “snare” us. That, too, is in the list. Snares that keep our attention off what the Bible teaches.

Therefore, Jesus added, “watch at all times.” Be alert to dangers. “Pray for the strength needed to escape” the snares of bad behaviors and attitudes. In that way we are able to test what is heard, thereby making sure we respond, not to what is false, but what is true. True according to the Bible.

By the way, we cannot test according to what the Bible teaches unless we know the Bible. Which challenges us to keep reading and studying and learning the Bible. And no, you do not know everything there is to know about the Bible. You never will, this side of Heaven. That is at least true for me. But we are to keep reading and keep studying and keep learning so that day-by-day, month-by-month, year-by-year we will keep learning.

How can you know that what you hear from others? Let me add this. How can you know that what you are feeling that you should do is from God? One test is, does it agree with the Bible? If so, what you hear or feel is from God. If not, it is false, so do not believe it. Do not follow it. Have nothing to do with it.

A second test… And by the way, to be considered valid, as in truly God speaking, all the tests have to be passed, including the ones to be discussed next Sunday and the one after that. It is not enough that what is said or felt agrees with the Bible. As important as that is, in addition - a second test - does it make me more like Christ? 

This test is based on Philippians 2. It includes the point that Jesus is the standard by which everything I do - that you do - that we do - is to be judged.

We know that is true.

For instance, the world says there are many ways to Heaven, including just being good enough. But remember what Jesus said? He is the way to Heaven. The one and only way to Heaven. To get to Heaven, Jesus must be accepted as the Savior He is. 

In addition, the world says we can make it on our own without anyone’s help, including help from a man who lived a couple thousand years ago. But remember what Jesus said? He promised, through the Holy Spirit, to be with those who believe in Him so they can live righteously. Only through Him can that be done.

The world says it is OK to live any kind of lifestyle you want. Who cares what the Bible says? Remember the phrase a few years ago? “You only go around once. Grab all the gusto you can.” But remember what Jesus said? There is a better way. The way He taught in the Bible. The way that will bring peace to us while we are here on earth as we are being prepared to one day enter Heaven.

In Philippians 2, the apostle Paul goes on to list a number of challenges about how to live. If what we hear matches the challenges, that satisfies the first test, which is agreeing with the Bible. For this second test, it is important to know that each of the challenges were met by Jesus. 

For instance… I am not going to give specific examples, but let’s think on our own how Jesus did each of these things. “Do not be selfish or conceited.” Can we think of examples of Jesus being selfless and humble?

I found this devotional. 

Power can be dangerous. History has shown that those who love power and seek after it can do tremendous harm in the world. Power and its pursuit have corrupted many leaders in all spheres of life, causing them to seek selfish gain at the expense of others.

The triune God - God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit - holds the ultimate power to do anything in this world and beyond. God’s desire could be to bring destruction on a rebellious world. Instead, God offers compassion and love. He chooses to offer redemption and reconciliation to the world.

And Jesus. When He came into this world, He could have quickly claimed rightful kingship over all, but He chose the posture and status of a servant, submitting to the suffering of persecution and death on a cross so that people could live once again in the full love of God. 

Rather than seeking favor with rulers and power brokers, Jesus sought out people who were poor, disadvantaged, outcast, and otherwise forgotten. By His life, death, and resurrection, Jesus defined ultimate power and modeled for us the loving posture of humility and service that true power displays.

It is that we are to do. If what we hear or feel promotes that - if what we hear or feel promises to make us more like Christ - what we hear and feel is from God.

Do not be selfish or conceited. Also in Philippians 2 is to “look, not only to our own interests, but also to the interests of others.” Jesus did that over and over and over again as He taught and healed and performed other miracles, even when He was physically tired. He did that all the way to being crucified, not for anything He had done, but for us.

“Do not grumble.” That can be a difficult one.

“Let God work in you.” Jesus certainly did that. He said in one of the Gospels, “I can do nothing on my own authority. I seek not My own will, but the will of the one who sent Me.”

For more words that describe Jesus, let’s consider the fruit of the Spirit, listed in Galatians 5. these are things we are to do, but they again describe Jesus. How He lived His life.

“Love, joy, and peace.” Wanting only what is best for others. Being satisfied knowing you are in the will of God. The ability to survive the trials of life, knowing God is with you, no matter what.

“Patience, kindness, and goodness.” Having the opportunity to take revenge, but not doing so because of love, joy, and peace. Being nice to others, thereby helping them.

“Faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” Being reliable in your relationship with God. Being submissive to the will of God in how you treat others. Keeping your human will subservient to God’s will.

Here is another devotional.

People are drawn to celebrities. Often when a celebrity is met, a normal person feels a racing heart and there is a fumbling over words. 

If anyone deserved celebrity treatment, it was Jesus, but that is not what happened. Instead, Jesus came to show us what true greatness really looks like and what true greatness does. Jesus’ ministry was one of humble service. There was nothing pretentious about Him. He did not expect special treatment or chase after fame. In fact, more than once, Jesus told others to remain quiet about what they had seen Him do or hear Him say.

What we learn from Jesus by His example is the importance of putting the needs of others ahead of our own. Our lives are not to be about the pursuit of comfort or recognition. They are to be about serving in the name of Jesus. We are never more like Jesus than when we are serving ­others in His name.

Next week, two more tests to determine if what we hear or feel is from God. Does our church family confirm it? Is it consistent with how God shaped me? Does it concern my responsibility?

Today, two tests. Does what we hear, including from others, and what we feel on our own, agree with the Bible? Does it make us more like Christ? More of what is listed in places like Philippians 2 and Galatians 5?

If not, do not listen anymore. Pray to get rid of that feeling you have. But if so, know it is from God and is therefore true and worthy of being pursued.

The closing song for today is Have Thine Own Way, Lord. Let’s sing it as a request that we will make it always our goal, individually and as a congregation, to test everything we hear or feel to make sure it agrees with the Bible and that it will make us more like Christ, and to listen and do only those things that are in tune with Jesus and His word.

Have Thine Own Way, Lord. That will be followed by a responsive benediction, that based on another hymn.

Have Thine own way, Lord!

Have Thine own way!

Thou art the potter, I am the clay!

Mold me and make me after Thy will,

While I am waiting, yielded and still.

Have Thine own way, Lord! 

Have Thine own way!

Search me and try me, Master, today!

Cleanse me from sin, Lord, wash me just now,

As in Thy presence humbly I bow.

By the way, I dare say no one will be inclined to want to follow the Bible or be like Jesus unless he or she is a Christian. Unless you have accepted Jesus as your Savior.

I you have not made the decision to accept Jesus, will you do so? Pray to accept Him. Pray to invite Him into your heart and your life. Do that even now as we continue to sing.

Have Thine own way, Lord! 

Have Thine own way!

Wounded and weary, help me, I pray!

Power - all power - surely is Thine!

Touch me and heal me, Savior divine!

Have Thine own way, Lord!

Have Thine own way!

Hold o’er my being absolute sway!

Fill with Thy Spirit ’til all shall see

Christ only, always, living in me!

The benediction is based on the hymn More Like Christ. I will recite the thoughts in the verses. Please respond with the chorus

Lord, my heart is praying to be more like You - more like You from day to day - I want to display all Your graces as I tread my pilgrim way.

Let’s say it. 

More like Christ every day.

More like Christ, my heart does say.

More like Christ. 

Please make me more like Christ

Every passing day.

Lord, help us to be more like You in deeds of kindness and in the words we say. Help us to yearn to help those who are spiritually blind and going far from You. Give us a desire to help with the burdens carried by those who are sad and weak 

Let’s say it. 

More like Christ every day.

More like Christ, my heart does say.

More like Christ. 

Please make me more like Christ

Every passing day.

Lord, help us to be more like You in self-denial. Help us to not seek only a life of ease. Help us to be patient in the depths of life’s trials. We want this so You, our Savior,  will  be pleased.

Let’s say it.

More like Christ every day.

More like Christ, my heart does say.

Lord, make us more like You.

Please help us to be more like You

Every passing day.


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