So, he put his question to the test. He went to McDonald’s every day for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. He ordered every single item on the menu board at least once over the course of 30-days. He made sure to eat nothing except McDonald’s. So, that means no cookies at home, no chips, no tacos, no apples, nothing except what McDonald’s offered. He would even SuperSize his meal if the order-taker asked him. Now, he made sure to stay somewhat active during this test; he walked about 5,000 steps per day (which is about how much the average American walks). He did this for 30-days.
Can you guess what happened? In one month Morgan Spurlock gained 25-pounds. In fact, he gained ten pounds in just the first five days and gained an additional eight pounds about a week later. Doctors figure his diet averaged 5,000 calories per day. (For comparison, nutritionists recommend a 2,000-3,000 [calorie] daily diet.) Put another way, he ate the equivalent of nine-and-a-half Big Mac [sandwiches] each day. (Can you imagine eating that?) Not only did he gain weight, but he experienced mood swings, depression, and laziness [lethargy]. His heartbeat grew irregular. He had fatty accumulations piling up on his liver. Friends pleaded with him to stop this unhealthy test. His doctor even said, “If you continue this diet, you will die.” Morgan Spurlock went from healthy to near-death all within 30-days (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Super_Size_Me).
You must watch what you consume because what you consume can kill you. This morning God is not discussing your diet habits at McDonald’s. Instead, God wants you to examine your spiritual diet. What are you taking in? Feasting on false teaching can bring spiritual death. So, God cannot make it any clearer: Test What You Believe. Many false messages exist. So, make sure to stand on the side of God.
It might be the most popular question asked when stepping into a church: “How do I know what the Pastor says is right?”
That is an excellent question to ask. It demonstrates your concern about on what your faith rests. You want to hear God’s thoughts, not the thoughts of another human being. You want a message that will not harm you spiritually, but will strengthen your faith. You do not want to stand before God only to hear him say, “No. What you believe is wrong. Away from me.” You want a message that puts you on God’s right side for eternity!
So then, how do you know that what the Pastor says is God-pleasing? Well, our reading from 1 John says this: Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God… John tells you: Test What You Believe. In the old wild west, bankers would bite down on gold coins in order to test if they were real. If their teeth left a mark, then the coin was made of real, soft gold. If there was no mark, then the coin was made of false gold. How do you that what you believe God approves? Take what you hear and compare it to what the Bible teaches. Does what you hear agree with what is written down? Or does it contradict the Bible?
This is something you must always continue. Why? Because many false prophets have gone out into the world. Did you catch that? You will encounter many different people who claim to speak with God’s authority. You must Test What You Believe.
Understand, no one will sneak out of the shadows and tell you, “Follow me. I preach my own feelings about heaven and hell.” No one will jump out of a dark alley and say, “Hey! Come to my church. What we teach is wrong!” No false prophet calls himself “false.” What makes a prophet “false” is that his preaching and teaching will contradict what God says in the Bible. You will hear Pastors tell you, “Do not baptize infants,” even though Jesus commands, “Go, baptize all nations”— that is, all the people in the world (Matthew 28:19). You will hear Sunday School teachers say, “Mary is not a virgin.” Yet, God makes it so clear, in the Bible: “Jesus is born of a virgin; he is without sin” (Matthew 1:23; 3:17). A couple weeks ago, a very prominent religious leader (whom millions follow) said, “Even an atheist [one who believes God does not exist] will go to heaven if he is a good man” (https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/how-pope-francis-comforted-a-boy-who-wondered-if-his-dad-a-non-believer-was-in-heaven_us_5ad5f549e4b016a07ea0afac). This religious leader contradicted Jesus’ clear teaching: Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned (Mark 16:16).
False prophets look religious. They preach in churches with crosses in them. False prophets open the Bible and speak random passages to cover up their error. False prophets may be sincere, but still spread lies about what God says. When it comes to your heart consumes, Test What You Believe because Many false messages exist.
The trouble is, we are not always so careful about what our hearts consume, are we? The devil does such a tremendous job at convincing us to believe that it doesn’t really matter if you believe the whole Bible. “Just believe the ‘big’ things,” he says.
If you wish to think that your baptism is meaningless, then you are free to disregard God’s teachings on baptism. If you do not think Mary is a virgin, then don’t. If you want to believe that all people go to heaven, then believe it. “Believe whatever you want,” the devil whispers. “It does not matter.”
Yet, it does matter what you believe. No, not because I (as Pastor) say it does. False teaching is dangerous because it puts you against God. This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world. Did you catch that? If you want to follow teachings not found in Scripture, then you will follow the spirit of the antichrist… which is just as it sounds: a person who “stands against” Christ. You will either stand with God or you will stand against him. If you choose to stand against God, then you will hear the most horrific words ever imagined: “I don’t know you. Away from me” (Matthew 7:21-23). If you fill up on spiritual junk food, you will die.
That is why God stresses: Test What You Believe. Many false messages exist. So, make sure you stand on the side of God.
You can because God has given you his Word, the Bible. Do you realize, that God has written down his very thoughts and his very words and his very actions so that you may hear and read and believe? Do you realize that God has made sure that what was first written in the Bible some 3,500 years ago are still same words you have today? God has handed you the Bible so that these words may fill your heart and give you life!
These Words contain the events Jesus endures to bring you to his side. The Son of God is born of a virgin, born sinless— just like God promised. While he lived on earth, Jesus did not chase after teachings that felt good or sounded pleasant. Rather, Jesus keeps repeating the same teachings of God even when Jewish leaders reject it. Jesus will not change his teachings even when he dies on the cross because of it. Jesus never changes God’s Word because it gives life.
You see, Jesus suffers all this to bring you to stand on the side of God. (1) He lets God punish him instead of you (and me) for the times we tolerate false teaching. (2) He rises from the dead to show he never warped the Word of God. (3) Then, he tells you, You, dear children, are from God.
The Word of God gives life. Jesus has grafted you into himself at your baptism. He strengthens that bond in the Lord’s Supper. You, dear children, are from God and you stand on the side of God.
Just think about that! You stand on the side of God. If you stand on the side of God, then it means you have overcome all enemies of God! Yes, false prophets will remain in the world. Christian leaders will pressure you to change your beliefs on sex and marriage. Sunday School teachers may try to tell you that all people will go to heaven regardless of what they believe. Some Pastors will remove parts of the Bible that sound offensive so that churches get bigger, so that they attract more children, so that they can tug on people’s emotions. You may feel as though your congregation is failing! That you must change your beliefs in order to succeed in today’s world. Yet, God still says, [T]he one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.
That means you must continue Testing What You Believe. You stand on the side of God. The devil knows this and he will spend night and day to destroy your faith. He will try to convince you that children’s programs and the number of kids in church is more important than what the Pastor teaches. He will try to convince that the more people in church, the better that church is. He will tell you that you can make an oath to join any organization that honors any Supreme Being. That Supreme Being might not be your Triune God, but all members may pool their beliefs together.
Since the devil wages constant war on you, Test What You Believe and stand on the side of God. If a Pastor teaches that every religion teaches the same thing, then leave that Pastor; he is preaching falsely. If a teacher tells you the Bible has some mistakes in it, then stop listening to that teacher; he is preaching falsely. If your heart makes up beliefs that contradict God’s plan for marriage and divorce, then change your heart. If you realize a group you belong to makes you compromise your beliefs by swearing to an unknown God, then leave that group. Pumping your heart full of spiritual junk food is not worth spiritual death. Test What You Believe; feast on God’s unchanging Word and stand on the side of God.
You must watch what you consume because what you consume can kill you. That was Morgan Spurlock’s wake up call. If he continued his McDonald’s diet, he would die. Change his diet and live.
So, what makes up your spiritual diet? Are you making sure that God’s pure Word enters your life? Or are you willing to change the Word so that you feel happy for today? Are you willing to pick and choose what to believe? Or do you, out of love for God, fight to keep his Word pure?
Feasting on false teaching can bring spiritual death, but Jesus brings you spiritual life. The Holy Spirit used God’s Word to bring you to faith. That faith has grafted you to Christ the Vine. Connected to Christ, you are motivated to live for him. How? Test What You Believe. Many false messages exist. So, stand on the side of God.