From John MacArthur @ http://www.sfpulpit.com
How can a true work of the Holy Spirit be distinguished from a false one?
From a careful study of 1 John 4, the great theologian and pastor Jonathan Edwards was able to identify five distinguishing characteristics of the Holy Spirit’s work. In short, a true work of the Holy Spirit: (1) Exalts the true Christ, (2) Opposes Satan’s interests, (3) Points people to the Scriptures, (4) Elevates truth, and (5) Results in love for God and others.
The following material is condensed, adapted and excerpted from Jonathan Edwards’s The Distinguishing Marks of a Work of the Spirit of God.
“By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God; and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world.” (John 4:2-3)
“You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world. They are from the world; therefore they speak as from the world, and the world listens to them.” (1 John 4:4-5)
4) It Elevates Truth
“We know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error” (v. 6).
5) It Results in Love for God and Others
“The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love” [v. 8].
These marks that the apostle has given us are sufficient to stand alone and support themselves. They plainly show the finger of God and are sufficient to outweigh a thousand such little objections as many make from oddities, irregularities, errors in conduct, and the delusions and scandals of some professors. But here some may object. After all, the apostle Paul says in 2 Corinthians 11:13-14, “Such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.”
To which I answer that this can be no objection against the sufficiency of these marks to distinguish the true from the false spirit in those false apostles and prophets — even when the devil is transformed into an angel of light. After all, the very reason the apostle John gave these marks was so that we could test the spirits. Therefore try the spirits by these rules and you will be able to distinguish the true spirit from the false — even under such a crafty disguise.