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October 17, 2021 | Doug Sauder
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“But you belong to God, my dear children. You have already won a victory over those people, because the Spirit who lives in you is greater than the spirit who lives in the world. Those people belong to this world, so they speak from the world’s viewpoint, and the world listens to them. But we belong to God, and those who know God listen to us. If they do not belong to God, they do not listen to us. That is how we know if someone has the Spirit of truth or the spirit of deception."—1 John 4:4–6 (NLT)
Did you know the Bible references sheep over 500 times? This is way more than any other animal. Humans are compared to sheep a number of times throughout Scripture. Why? Well, because, like sheep, we’re not the most intelligent of creatures . . . despite how highly we may think of ourselves.
Like sheep, we have a tendency to get distracted and go astray and be easily overtaken and devoured by predators. Sometimes that predator is a roaring lion looking for someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8). Other times, the predator is a ravaging wolf in sheep’s clothing (Matthew 7:15). It’s not always easy to identify a wolf in sheep’s clothing. They have this ability to pass themselves off as sheep, gain the trust of the flock, and then pounce and eviscerate.
In the passages leading up to today’s verses, the apostle John is warning believers of wolves in sheep’s clothing. The apostle wrote this epistle partly to warn Christians about false teachers—“antichrists”—from within the church who denied the literal, physical incarnation of Christ (1 John 2:18–22; 4:2–3). John insisted that Christ was not a supernatural apparition taking the appearance of a human, but an actual historical person with a physical body. And he informs us that the test of true, biblical Christianity is the belief that Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, was fully human and fully divine.
Today, we see John assuring believers that we “belong to God,” and “have already won a victory over those people, because “the Spirit who lives in you is greater than the spirit who lives in the world.” He is essentially telling us that those who have the Spirit of the Lord can discern the difference between a wolf and a sheep. How? Well, as Jesus, our good shepherd tells us, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them” (John 10:27 NKJV). The more time we spend in the presence of our shepherd and the more we become accustomed to the sound of His voice, the more attuned we become to the Spirit, and it will be easier to discern whether someone is speaking biblical truths or heretical lies that distort the message of Christ.
Believer, you need not fear these antichrists. Why? You have the Spirit in you. And as you spend more and more time with Jesus and grow to recognize His voice, you’ll be able to identify those who are His true teachers from those who preach a false gospel. If you’re not spending time learning to identify the voice of your shepherd, you are putting yourself in danger and leaving yourself open to deception.
DIG: In Matthew 7:15 (ESV), Jesus said, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves,” informing us that we can spot them “by their fruits.” What makes someone a false prophet (Matthew 7 and 1 John 4)?
DISCOVER: Have you ever been deceived by a wolf in sheep’s clothing?
DO: Pray for alignment and attunement to the Spirit of the Lord. Ask God to help you have spiritual clarity and discernment with all the messages out there to know whether they are from Him or not.
Danny Saavedra has served on the staff of Calvary since 2012, managing the Calvary Devotional and digital discipleship resources. He has a Master of Arts in Pastoral Counseling and Master of Divinity in Pastoral Ministry from Liberty Theological Seminary. His wife Stephanie, son Jude, and daughter Zoe share a love of Star Wars, good food, having friends over for dinner, and studying the Word together as a family.