“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. By this you know the Spirit of God: 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. And this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming; and now it is already in the world.
Little children, you are from God, and have conquered them; for the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. They are from the world; therefore what they say is from the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us, and whoever is not from God does not listen to us. From this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.” (NRSV)
Here is how we know a false prophet
Or if in the mirror, one be
If they would speak not of Jesus
Or aim not His Kingdom to see
If they come saying “look toward this worry”
Or even “look here at this peace”
If such things have nothing of Jesus
Let all that is said, be released
If someone has a spirit denying
Jesus or the Kingdom He brings
Such a spirit, you’ve already conquered
Worry not, of such earthly things
For the One who is in you is greater
For in Christ, what you say comes from God
The world will to the world listen
The deceived will find the Truth odd
Yet before we start pointing fingers
May we listen to what words we live
Is our life being shaped by this Jesus
Or is it lip service we give?
Easily we could become a false prophet
The spirit of error so followed
Lord help us today, to live by the Love
Of Your body and blood we have swallowed
Whether you’re a young person who’s just returned from a summer “Youth Camp/Retreat/Conference” experience, or you’re a little older and still reminiscing on those days, there’s a draw to a particular response. It’s natural. The response we often have is “Oh my goodness, that was a great experience in the presence of God, I wish we could recreate these conditions for all of my future experiences!” It’s good for us to know – we’re not the first ones to feel this way. We shouldn’t feel shame for having such a response. When God meets with us in a particular way, the temptation is to connect strongly to that “way”.
When Sarah and I first started dating, she wore a uniquely fuzzy coat. I remember walking her to her dorm on one of our first dates ever, and giving her a hug “goodnight”, wrapping my arms around the fuzziness of that coat. Just a few weeks later, as I was home on Christmas break, I saw a men’s winter jacket that had the same “fuzziness”, and you know I just had to get it. Even far from her, when I wrapped my arms around myself, I was reminded of that hug and looked forward to seeing her again. It’s part of how God has wired us. The neurochemical responses that form long-lasting memories (especially involving music/singing) connected to our “bonding/attachment” experiences can be a blessing.
Today’s lectionary reading from scripture gives us a similar story. Namaan was a commander in the army of Aram, who’d just been miraculously healed by obeying Elisha’s instructions to bathe 7 times in the waters of the Jordan river. He was saturated in these waters of a particular experience and found himself having a renewal and healing as never before. God was faithful, and released Namaan from the chains of disease. Namaan was grateful, and wanted to make sure he had access to this same experience as he went home. In his culture, gods were often tied to particular areas geographically, so it made sense for him to make this request:
“Then Namaan said… ‘please let two mule-loads of earth be given to your servant; for your servant will no longer offer burnt offering or sacrifice to any god except the Lord.” (2 Kings 5:17)
He wanted to bring some of this holy ground home so that any time he desired an experience of this God who met him in the waters of the Jordan, he could. We don’t have the response of Elisha recorded, but I wonder if he looked with compassion on Namaan as he helped him load up some dirt.
Imagine if I returned to campus after Christmas break, so thankful for my new fuzzy coat. Whenever I missed Sarah, I could wrap my arms around myself and be thankful for the warmness of such memories. But how sad it would be, if I was so contented/taken by feeling that coat around me, that I never pursued building a relationship or creating new memories of love together with her. It’s a silly illustration, but I hope you’re seeing the connection. How pitiful it would be if we came home, and tried really hard to replicate the transformational moments, missing out on the God who wants us to be aware of His presence in every moment and every location. God desires that we would not seek special moments with him alone, but abide with Him as He transforms every moment with Kingdom purposes (John 15:5).
We can be thankful for the experiences we have had of God, and even have moments where we wrap our arms around such experiences in the future. We should definitely remember these moments, and testify about them to others as we share what God has done. But let us not pursue the ground we stood on. Let us pursue the God who we met on that ground. The good news is – this is the same God who has promised to meet with us wherever we seek Him. (Proverbs 8:17) In fact, scripture says that God rewards those who seek Him (Hebrews 11:6).
Recently I was invited to write a spoken word for a church, in response to the “Beatitudes” from Matthew chapter 5. These are the words I wrote, spoken…
To mouths untasting and eyes that may seem blind: Here we pause to find – living Words of Salt and Light to help us do more than understand Living in a land, bland and shadowed We hear the call to Kingdom Living Giving that which we could never create, as fate finds itself defeated By the One who interceded – Christ speaks still today Through those standing in the fray, living in the Spirit empowered Way He has revealed Both those who have been healed, and those desperate still for healing We find Kingdom revealing in these – more than simply platitudes We call them the beatitudes Blessed are the poor in spirit, those who’ve come near it but never quite arrived Or thrived the way this world pretends. Their desire transcends the offers of this realm, yearning for Jesus on the Throne His Kingdom is their own. Blessed are those who moan, and mourn, Suffering – born of living against the norm, and weathering the storms too fierce to be calmed Theirs is the balm of Gilead, with Jeremiah we seek As we continue to hear Jesus speak We hear him whisper – “Blessed are the meek.” Those who quiet their own voice enough to hear, when Jesus himself is near, It becomes clear the noises of this world are often simply distracting, Acting is if they could offer new birth, but theirs is not the earth, it is passed down from Father to child – to those He reconciled. Blessed are those with a Divinely wild hunger and thirst – Those for whom a burst of spiritual enthusiasm could never pass They will not only amass what is sought and could never be bought by religion, but be filled overflowing by His provision. Blessed are those who show mercy and compassion Beyond the trends and fashion – to sacrificial loving, extra mile and going aboving For they will receive the same – in the Name of Jesus The one who frees us to be Blessed as those pure in heart, Those who would depart and turn from old ways, offering their days as a sacrifice of praise To break through this world’s facade – for they will see the face of God. Blessed are those who not only cause violence to cease, or slow its’ increase, But actively seek to create new peace For they will not only hear applause begin – they will be called His kin Children of the most high, those responding to the cry of oppression Those who question the injustice of a system so broken Not just a token representation, but as a citizen of a nation known as New Creation But know the world will not always embrace, any member of the human race that presents a case For repentance. Still – blessed are those who struggle for what is right, for yours is the light of the Kingdom. As you bring them all I’ve inspired, you may still find some wired to view my invitation to reconcile as something vile or offending Rejoice – for I’ll never stop sending my love for them, Just as I have for you. So many have come before, as I continue to restore my grand redemption There is no exemption. Only places and moments in need Oppressed who continue to bleed Hungry mouths to feed Systems built on greed Wheat overgrown with weed