Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Distinguishing Strange Fire from a True Work of the Spirit (Part 7)

Edwards provides 3 more positive signs to know if a work is a true work of the Spirit. I want to give a brief overview of those 3 positive signs in today's post.

1. "The spirit that operates in such a manner, as to cause in men a greater regard to the Holy Scriptures, and establishes them more in their truth and divinity, is certainly the Spirit of God." Commenting on 1 John 4:6 Edwards rightly establishes that a true work of the Spirit is a work which causes us to love his word more and to gain a clearer understanding of his word. If you see a work of a spirit which is not bringing about a greater hunger for the word of God in Scripture, and a greater illumination of God's word to the mind, then you are not seeing a true work of the Spirit of God. Satan may appear as an angel of light but he never points people to the light of God in the Word. Rather, he leads them to increasing darkness. He confuses their minds and leaves them with strange and novel interpretations of what God has said. Satan started this practice in the Garden and he continues it to this day.

2. "...if by observing the manner of the operation of a spirit that is at work among a people, we see that it operates as a spirit of truth, leading persons to truth, convincing them of those things that are true, we may safely determine that it is a right and true spirit." A true work of the Spirit of God leads men away from error into truth. Satan is a deceiver. The Spirit of God is the truth teller. If a work of a spirit is leading us away from the lies of Satan and to the truth, that spirit is the Spirit.

3. "If the spirit that is at work among a people operates as a spirit of love to God and man, it is a sure sign that it is the Spirit of God." Edwards draws this mark from the rest of 1 John 4, but particularly from v. 12-13, "No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us. By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit." Edwards presses us to define love as it is so in 1 John 4. This kind of sacrificial payment of great cost to self for the sake of showing kindness to others is the work of the Spirit of God.

However, Edwards warns us that there is a counterfeit of this love which often appears among those with a spirit of delusion. "Indeed there is a counterfeit love, that often appears among those who are led by a spirit of delusion. There is commonly in the wildest enthusiasts, a kind of union and affection, arising from self-love, occasioned by their agreeing in those things wherein they greatly differ from all others, and from which they are the objects of the ridicule of all the rest of mankind. This naturally will cause them so much the more to prize those peculiarities that make them the object of others' contempt." Edwards names groups such as the Gnostics, and fanatics like the Quakers. He goes on to argue that true love is marked by humility which arises from an apprehension of the free grace and sovereignty of God's love to us in Christ.

Let me conclude by reminding my brothers and sisters in Christ that we are not cynical, or quenching the Spirit, when we don't believe every spirit. We are being obedient! We are commanded by God to not believe every spirit but to test them, for many false spirits have gone out into the world. I pray we will take the apostle's admonition seriously and test claims of a work of the Spirit. We are commanded to do no less.

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