Man, our world is noisy, isn’t it! Everywhere you turn someone, or some institution is speaking to — no, yelling at — you to get your attention.
It seems that we all are like my friend Greg was when he froze in the middle of a youth league basketball game because he didn’t know which of the many voices giving him instructions was the one to which he was supposed to listen. Was it his teammates? Was it his coach? Was it his dad? Was it one of the other parents in the stands? He didn’t know. So, he just froze and stood in the middle of the court holding the basketball.
Greg told me that his parents gave him some great advice after that incident, which was that he needed to learn how to discern which voices to listen to and which ones to disregard. They also taught him how to do that by using the teachings of the Apostle John in the Bible. They knew this lesson was far greater than basketball.
In chapter 4 of his first epistle, John tells us to “test the spirits” of those vying for our attention and seeking to lead us. He identified three different tests to use.
First, we are to test for the spirit of truth (1 John 4:2-3). Is what the person saying true? For John truth begins with the person’s belief about the identity of the Lord Jesus Christ. Does this person’s belief about Jesus match up with the Bible’s testimony? More broadly, John was concerned that we evaluate the trustworthiness and claims of those determining to speak into our lives.
Second, we are to test for the spirit of integrity (1 John 1:6-7). Does this person’s life exhibit the evidence of integrity? Does he or she firmly adhere to an acceptable moral code, while fulfilling a responsible social contract with us? We cannot give top billing to someone whose daily life does not reflect good character.
Third, we are to test for the spirit of love (1 John 4:7-10). Does this person exhibit self-sacrificing love? This is perhaps the tale-tell question of discernment. Here’s why: a person who is committed to the truth, particularly biblical truth, and is disciplined enough to live a life of integrity is going to be a person that will humbly consider and advance others before himself or herself. They know it’s about more than themselves.
These are the people to whom we should give top billing in our lives. We are to listen to them before we listen to anyone else. So, take the time to test the spirits of those incessantly bombarding you with their voices. Pay attention to the ones who pass the test and ignore the rest.
**This post originally appeared in the Wednesday, August 25, 2020 edition of the Chester News and Reporter in Chester, SC.