12-Testing a Sermon
People may ask, “How can I discover if a message or sermon is from God or not?” Before anything else, your heart must be open to hear from God. There are three tests that you should apply to every message. First, the message must confess the deity and doctrines of Jesus Christ, which we have just studied. It must be understood that saying Jesus is Lord with the lips and confessing His deity and doctrine from the heart are as different as Heaven and Hell. In I John 4:1-3, John says that anyone who confesses not that Jesus is come in the flesh is antichrist. The Greek of …is come…, also reads…to come or is coming. In other words, the two comings of Jesus, the eternal Son of God, in the flesh or body, are fundamental to our faith.
What is the relationship between the two comings of Jesus? How do they work together? To understand and experience His first coming to the cross, produces a longing for His Second Coming to wear a crown. Because the cross is where the “self life” dies, and His life begins in us. The cross is where “this world” in us dies, and the “next world” becomes our all now!
If His return is not filling your head and heart, have you really understood His first coming in the flesh to die on the cross? Have you confessed from your heart? Have you been to the cross to die to sin, self, and this world? So anyone who speaks or preaches, who is not filled in their heart and mouth with the proper understanding of the two comings of the Lord, is against Christ or antichrist. To omit or neglect preaching either of His comings is to make the other incomprehensible. This is how His cross and its true meaning and purpose has been disfigured by many teachers today.
The second test of a message is, “who listens to the message?”
I John 4:5-6,
5)”They are of the world; therefore speak they of the world, and the world heareth them. 6)We are of God. He that knoweth God heareth us: he that is not of God heareth not us. By this know we the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error.”
Any preaching that omits or neglects man´s sinfulness, repentance, forgiveness and cleansing of sin, faith in Jesus and His imminent return, will be heard and received throughout the world. Many will listen and agree, while their empty hearts remain unconverted. For example, most people feel that we should help feed the poor and keep the commandments of God. However, when these things are preached and taught apart from repentance and faith in Jesus, they deceivingly give people the impression that that´s all they need to do to be saved.
When John said in these verses that the false prophets spoke of the world, and the world heard them, what else was he meaning? The world Satan controls is composed of unregenerated hearts, who are motivated by the lustful desires for earthly gain, success, position, popularity, and power. When these “false brethren” speak and preach, the worldly heart who listens to them is not convinced that these are evil desires which Jesus can remove from him by faith. On the contrary, these desires are enhanced and encouraged by these men who corrupt the word of God. It was these very fleshly desires that Paul counted “as dung,” that he might know the real desires that Jesus gives to a converted spirit (Philippians 3:1-10).
A man who knows the Lord will not spiritually receive these worldly brethren who have misused the word of God to their own advantage. A man who rejects his born sinfulness of heart, or who resists the truth that his very desires are implanted by Satan, will not be able to remain under the strong preaching of God´s uncompromised word. They will leave, but seek out others who believe and live as they do. It is then that the Jesus they proclaim becomes “another Jesus.”
It is not surprising that many of the teachers who put the doctrine of the pre-70th Week return of Jesus at the bottom of their list of things to preach, also preach the abundant, successful, prosperous life in this world. And when people hear their message, their carnal hearts are filled with excitement. For they have just been cleverly told that they can have God, and go get all the gold they desire. In fact, they are taught that God wants them to have all the gold!
God is not mocked. Beware of false teachers. Fiery judgment awaits those who put emphasis on a man´s life in this world, who at the same time neglect to teach the imminent return of the Lord. Don´t be partakers in their sin, shame, or separation from God.
It is evidenced by Jesus Himself, that when you preach repentance and faith in Him, most people will not listen. In fact, if that repentance message is proclaimed long enough, the religious leaders, themselves filled with sin, will kill you. For they don´t think they need to repent.
The third test of a message is love.
I John 4:10-13,
10)”Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11)Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another. 12)No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us. 13)By this know we that we dwell in him, and he in us, because he hath given us of his Spirit.”
I John 4:20-21,
20)”If a man says, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar; for he that loveth not his brother, whom he hath seen, how can he love God, whom he hath not seen? 21)And this commandment have we from him, that he who loveth God love his brother also.”
We are commanded by our Lord to love God and to love our brother and neighbor. There are questions usually asked like, “What is love? Who is my neighbor? How do I love someone? There is so much deception in the world about love. You must understand that love is not some “mystical” word that leaves one hanging as to it meaning.
Love is much more than being kind and compassionate to all people. Love is an action motivated and prompted by the indwelling Holy Spirit toward God and man. This motivation is accomplished without any preconditions. God´s love understands the value of the object being loved. Love is seeing and understanding the unconditional compassion and concern that Jesus has for a man´s soul. Love is the ability, through the indwelling Holy Spirit, to separate the sin and the sinner, to love the sinner and hate the sin.
Some might suggest that this book is hard and critical toward organized Christianity and America. You might say, “This guy doesn´t love people.” But I ask you, “Did Jesus love everyone?” Yes, He loved them so much, He told them the truth knowing beforehand it would kill Him. Some were saved because Jesus cared and dared to confront. How can we say we love people and not tell them the road they´re on is missing a bridge? We warn because we care.
This is God´s kind of love. Not the mushy love that loves only if it is loved back. God´s love working in us produces suffering and rejection from the person being loved if that person is hard hearted. Love rejoices and stands in the truth, which stirs the demons of Hell. Speaking the truth in love will always bring suffering and rejection to the speaker. Listen to Paul´s description of love.
I Corinthians 13:4-7,
4)”Love suffereth long, and is kind; love envieth not; love vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, 5)Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not its own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil, 6)Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; 7)Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, and endureth all things.”
One of the hardest things for us to learn is to love our enemies. For it is our enemies who usually cause us to suffer. How do Spirit-filled believers acquire enemies? Isn´t it because people have heard and seen the truth in the life of the believer and hated it? As Christians, our old carnal mind really stands up when it comes time to forgive and love someone who has rejected us. This sin of unforgiveness is very common in the church world today. I believe that unforgiveness is causing many people to become caught up with the cares and pleasures of this life and the deceitfulness of riches.
Whenever an unforgiving heart is allowed to grow without repentance, selfish worldly desires will worm their way back into the thought life, thereby intensifying the bondage. Once an unforgiving reaction and attitude is rooted, the spirit of love will diminish, and a self-centered life will be manifested. Then it will be only human love that flows from the heart, the kind that loves only to get something in return. Unforgiving people usually like their ears tickled, so they are easy prey for the false prosperity prophets who make them feel good in their sin.
Unforgiveness is a cancer that blocks the love of God. It must be cut out or it will cut that person out of the kingdom of God. Until the Lord showed me this truth I didn´t understand how Christians could take up arms and go to war against their nation´s enemies. The false doctrine of Christian patriotism in America is keeping many Christians in a spirit of unforgiveness. There is no enemy soldier who Jesus didn´t die for, so how can we justify killing our enemies? We must leave the judgment of our enemies to Jesus at His return.
Some years ago, a movie called “Love Story” made famous this cliché, “Love means you never have to say you´re sorry.” This seemingly good movie probably damaged more marriages than drunkenness, if viewers took that cliché as truth. This is the kind of lie being poured out today by the devil. God´s love in Christ demands that you forgive and seek forgiveness. If I knew I had sinned against someone, I´m commanded by the Lord to seek that man´s forgiveness. That means saying to him, “I´m sorry, forgive me.” Not only are we commanded to seek the forgiveness of others but also of God. For it is really Him who we sin against when we sin against others. Sometimes great men of faith fall because a spirit of pride keeps them from being humble and forgiving. But, Jesus teaches us that greatness comes from a spirit of humility and forgiveness.
This is where real victory finds its meaning. The devil will hate you for this flow of God´s love and forgiveness through you. He will cause people to pressure and persecute you, to keep that love from flowing. The devil´s temptation and persecution is designed to activate a carnal reaction from us of fear, resentment or anger. These reactions are carnal and reflect a self-consciousness. But if we remain faithful, then the greatest demonstration of victory is to die by the hands of our enemies, who became our enemies because of He who lives in us. Heaven and His arms will be ours, shame and conviction theirs, as we ask our Father to forgive them of their words and deeds. This evil world can´t understand such apparent defeat, but God does. It is victory over sin, self and the world.
The story of Stephen is just such an example of the love and mercy of God filling a man.
51)”Ye stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Spirit; as your fathers did, so do ye. 52)Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? And they have slain them who showed before of the coming of the Just One, of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers; 53)Who have received the law by the disposition of angels, and have not kept it. 54)When they heard these things, they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed on him with their teeth. 55)But he, being full of the Holy Spirit, looked up steadfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God. 56)And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the son of man standing on the right hand of God. 57)Then they cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and ran upon him with one accord, 58)And cast him out of the city, and stoned him; and the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man´s feet, whose name was Saul. 59)And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. 60)And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice; Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep.”
Didn´t Paul or Saul come to the Lord after he had witnessed the love and forgiveness of Stephen, as he was being stoned to death? It was God´s love flowing like a river through Stephen that touched the heart of Paul. Wasn´t it the truth, spoken by Stephen, to the hard hearts of the religious hypocrites that caused them to be his enemies and to kill him? Can we say that Stephen cared and dared to confront all people with the truth? Did Stephen love those men who he called murderers and betrayers? Aren´t our sinful desires the very nails that punctured the skin of the Son of God? Will you respond to this question like Stephen´s hearers, or will you fall to your knees and seek forgiveness from the Lord God?
These are the three basic tests that you should apply to every message you hear. If you do, you will remain rooted and grounded on the truth. For your sake, be not moved away from the hope of His coming to the earth. Don´t receive into your heart any spirit or word that in any way diminishes the coming of our Lord! They are liars or antichrists, who come to steal your love, faith, and hope.