Today we are going to talk about what is commonly called the gift of discernment. The Bible actually calls it the gift of discerning of spirits. There is a big difference between what many people think is the gift of discernment and what is the gift of discerning of spirits. There have been a lot of people who have been taught that the gift of discernment is talking about discerning between right and wrong, sin and righteousness, and whether people are right with God or unsaved or backslidden. This is not the gift of discerning of spirits but more than likely stems from a critical or judgmental spirit. Rarely have I seen a person who claims to have the gift of discernment and using it in this way come from a motive of love but rather they seem to have a hidden emotional need to look better than others.
The real definition of the gift of discernment.
The gift of discernment, is not about discerning the hearts of people but about discerning the source of something. When you are operating in the gift of discernment, you are recognizing where the driving force behind an action is coming from. Many times, the actual motivational force behind people’s actions and behavior is not clear. This is where the gift of discernment comes in.
There are 3 different categories of spirits that operate in this world.
- The Holy Spirit. The Spirit of God living in the inside of born again believers in Jesus. This is recognized by the evidence of the fruit of the Spirit talked about in Galatians chapter 5.
- The human spirit. Man is a triune being created in the image of God. He has body, soul, and spirit. The spirit of man usually can be recognized by a self-centered or egotistical point of reference.
- Demonic spirits. These are fallen angels of whom, Satan is the leader. They are not all knowing, or all powerful, or have other attributes only attributed to God, but they are powerful and dangerous. You can tell if you are dealing with a demonic spirit by the fact that they are always in opposition to the advancement of the kingdom of God. They will oppose the advance of the kingdom of God in the life of an individual or in the region of humanity they are in charge of.
The gift of discernment demonstrated in the life of Jesus.
I personally love the Apostle Peter. He reminds me a lot of myself. At one moment he get’s something right and is on the top of the world, and the next moment, he sticks his foot in his mouth and eats another bite of humble pie. This is the case in the example I am going to show you about the gift of discernment in the life of Jesus. In Matthew’s gospel chapter 16 we have the incident where Peter has just had the revelation that Jesus is the son of God. He is flying high on the accolades of being the first one to understand this. Then Jesus tells them that He is going to be put to death. Peter responds saying “Lord this shall never happen to you!”. Jesus responds by saying “Get behind me Satan!” This is a prime example of the gift of discerning of spirits. Jesus rightly discerns the motivating force behind Peter’s words. Jesus was not calling Peter Satan, but was addressing the spirit influencing Peter at the moment. That spirit was in opposition to the advancement of the rule and reign of Jesus over the earth thus it was a demonic spirit and in this case, Satan himself.
Another example of this gift in operation is at the last supper. Although it is not explicitly shown, you can gather from the context that it is in operation. In Luke’s gospel chapter 22, we see the story of the last supper. It says that Satan had entered the heart of Judas Iscariot. During the last supper, Jesus tells the disciples that one of them is going to betray him, and then subtly points him out. He then tells Judas to go do what he must do. It is obvious to me that Jesus picked up on the change in Judas, and the plot ahead and discerned what Satan was up to. This again is the gift of discerning of spirits.
The gift of discernment in the early church.
In the book of Acts chapter 8 we have the story of Simon the sorcerer. He was a recent convert to Christianity and was amazed at the signs and wonders that was done in the name of Jesus. When Peter and John arrived and started laying hands on the believers to receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit, he offered them money so he could have this gift. Now here is a prime example of how we need to discern the difference between what is coming from the human spirit and what is coming from a demonic spirit. Peter and John did not call him Satan, or try to cast a demon out of him, but instead rebuked him and told him to repent. The motivation was coming from his human spirit. It was out of a desire for fame and power. It was self-centered and egotistical.
Later in the book of Acts we see the Apostle Paul do something that on the outside looks strange. In Acts chapter 16 we have the report of a woman following Paul and Silas and Timothy around proclaiming that “These men are from the most high God and are telling the way to be saved.” She kept this up for many days. Now on the outside this seems to be okay. She is telling the truth. However Paul discerned that the motivation behind the woman’s words and actions is demonic. He cast’s a spirit out of her. The commotion she was causing was actually disruptive and counter-productive. How many times have you seen someone who was spouting what sounded like the truth but in fact had the fruit of chaos? This is why it is important to know the difference between the gift of discerning of spirits and what people call discernment. Many times those that are spouting truth but have no love, are not motivated by the Spirit of God.
The gift of discernment in the modern church.
It is very important to have this gift in operation in the local church. We miss the boat so many times in how we deal with people. We try to cast devils out of people that have no devils but are giving in to the natural man with things like lust and greed and a desire for power. We try to council people who are demonically influenced. We allow people in positions of leadership based on their knowledge of truth and unwittingly allow demonic influence into our church boards and pulpits alike. Too many times I have seen both shepherds and church leaders on the local level operate in ungodly ways. Shepherds who herd the sheep like cattle, rather than lead the sheep like a servant. Boards who want control and be the defenders of the doctrine and protectors of the property. It takes the discernment of spirits to understand what is going on and the proper method of dealing with these situations. Those motivated by their human spirits need to be led to a place of repentance. Those being influenced by demonic spirits need to have that spirit cast out and that is done with much prayer and fasting not having congregational votes or stirring strife. May God grant us all the wisdom to discern the difference between His Spirit, the human spirit, and demonic spirits.
- What Are Spiritual Gifts?
- Are spiritual gifts for today?
- The motivation behind spiritual gifts.
- What is the baptism of the Holy Spirit?
- What is the word of wisdom?
- What is the word of knowledge?
- What is extraordinary faith?
- What is gifts of healings?
- What is the working of miracles?
- What is the gift of prophecy?
- What is discerning of spirits?
- What is the gift of tongues?
- What is the proper use of tongues in the church today?
- What is the interpretation of tongues?