Jeremiah 23:30-40, 1 John 4:1–6
What is a spirit?
In the Scriptures, there is the Holy Spirit. That is certainly one. However, often the time spirit is used, it is not a good thing. There are evil spirits. There are deceptive spirits. It is the deceptive spirits that make an appearance all too often. What is even sadder is that many of these deceptive spirits deceive with wonderful sounding things like peace. In the case of Jeremiah, the deceptive spirits led people to provide false dreams, false promises, and deceptive ways. The ways, as God says, that are not good for the people. These, of course, are the most subtle, most attractive, the hardest to see, and the hardest to escape.
This is why it is no small reason that John encourages us to test the spirits that come to us. We are to rely on the Holy Spirit, along with the fellowship of mature believers. Of course, there is also the darker side of that, where group-think is in play, and the Holy Spirit is lost in an attempt to sustain the ways of old. The spirits that say Jesus is not from God, or that Jesus really didn’t die, or that Jesus did not rise from the dead? They are all active today, just as they were in John’s time. The world, the part that wants to remain deaf to God, seeks spirits, just not the Spirit of God.
Zeitgeist is a concept from German philosophy. It means “spirit of the age”. The basic concept is that there is a dominating understanding or a group of characteristics that accompany and define a certain time or era. This is a different spirit, but it affects the Christian life, and the world, often as much as the deceptive spirits (as if the deceptive spirits are part of it). Fear, the other, hatred, anxiety, loneliness, and so much else are the signs of illness. They are also the zeitgeist of our day.
As much as we don’t want to fear or hate, we still turn to it. There is a form of deception that appears like living. The world is so full of negative emotions, that often without them people do not feel alive. Let that sink in. Without negative emotions, people feel as if they are dead. It’s strange. In the time of Jeremiah, it was the ways of peace that were a lie and people sought it. From Christ to now to tomorrow, the way of peace is the truth, and people cling to the negative.
1) When you watch or read news stories, do you see positive or negative?
2) When people call one of your tribes (religion, nation, state, political party) evil or misguided, how do you respond?
3) The practice of and need for testing the spirits have not stopped. One could argue that practice and need are even more important now. What are you doing to strengthen and sharpen your ability to test the spirits?