Yesterday we talked about testing spirits. Spirits are real, not imagined. In John and Paul’s day there was a widespread recognition of the existence of invisible spirits; the ancient world recognized these as gods and goddesses and bowed down to them (idolatry). In our pride today, many don’t believe in evil spirits, and as such expose ourselves without any defense at all to the control of these evil spirits. We no longer are alert to the deceitfulness of the devil and his demons. But we must be aware of Satan’s schemes so that we do not fall prey to them (2 Cor. 2:11).

“Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. 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. You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.” (1 John 4:1-4)

Satan—the god of this world—has tempted mankind to follow his pride. Satan sets his agenda and deceives humans into following him. It is no wonder that Scripture calls Satan a liar (John 8:44). The antichrist (v 3) will be a person who epitomizes all that is evil, and he will be readily received by an evil world. The spirit of the antichrist is already here, but we may not recognize him because “Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light” (2 Cor. 11:14). All that appears “good”, isn’t.

There is a true Spirit, the Holy Spirit of truth, the Spirit of love, and just as He speaks through people, so evil spirits also speak through people. When you hear men and women talking about religious things or values, do not gullibly swallow everything they say, especially if they appear to be attractively setting forth something about love and sweetness and concern for others. Especially test that line, for it is the usual approach of error. “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8)

The Lord has equipped us for battle while still here on earth. And because He has already overcome the enemy, we are also overcomers in His strength and might (John 16:33), but we must understand what we are up against. “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Eph. 6:10-12)

We have spiritual body armor and a sword (Eph. 6:13–17), and with it Jesus expects us to do everything possible to withstand evil (Eph. 6:13). In other words, we must take the reality of spiritual evil very seriously. The enemy and the war are not metaphors. They are very real. Being armed, we are called to remain alert by remaining prayerful, “be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people” (Eph. 6:18). Prayer is the battle!

To combat the devil’s schemes, we must wear the armor God provides, pray continually, and stay in the Word to test all we hear against it. “Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.” (Acts 17:11) Test all that you hear with God’s Word, and stay alert to the devil’s schemes. “Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man.” (Luke 21:36)