Wednesday

Is there a possibility of "being formed by the wrong spirit"?



In I John 3:24 and 4:13, the Spirit provides assurance that we are God’s if we abide in God or “live in him” (Marshall, 202). 1 John also provides other conditions to abiding: believers will 1) “walk as Jesus did;” 2) obey God’s commands; and 3) love one another (Marshall, 202). If we are not living according to any of the aforementioned criteria then we will not sense that assurance. In this case we need to examine ourselves and ask God to show us where our spiritual lives are “in jeopardy” (Marshall, 202).

Some people, however, have an overdeveloped sense of guilt, or perhaps they are just tired or having a bad day and feel that they are not walking with God because of these negative feelings. In this case it is good to weigh our actions against what we are feeling. The writer of 1 John says: “Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. This then is how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence whenever our hearts condemn us; for God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything” (1 Jn 3:18-20).

Marshall adds to this by saying “…it is important to recognize that the grounds of Christian assurance and the tests of the reality of Christian experience are multiple: one cannot say that simply because a person professes true belief, or loves his fellow men, or claims to have charismatic experiences, he is a true Christian: it is the combination of these features in a harmonious unity that makes up true Christianity” (219). In other words, we should not depend on fleeting feelings to assess our relationship with God. The significance of the Spirit is that s/he balances everything and assures us despite our emotions.

We can safely surmise that it is possible to be formed by the wrong spirit because right after 3:24 in 4:1, the writer tells us to not believe every spirit. The writer then gives us a test to see whether or not a spirit is from God: every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God (4:3). I guess this is a Christian version of a litmus test.