Worldly Discernment vs The Gift of Distinguishing Between Spirits

Discernment is a buzz word I hear from time to time, and I usually hear it within the context of "my discernment is off." I think what's even more interesting is that this often comes from either unbelievers or babes in Christ. It got me thinking, do we genuinely understand this gift, or is it something that is being muddled with fleshly understanding?

I think when most people mention discernment, it many times is a critical or emotional response to something but is hiding under the guise of spirituality. We want to believe that our critiques or emotions have backing, so we call it "discernment." However, it could very well be our own opinions, presumptions, or biases. That, my friends, is not a true discernment.

You're probably thinking, okay, okay, okay. That's all great, but what then do you consider true discernment? Well, as a believer, discernment comes from a manifestation gift of the Spirit (more on that in a bit) called distinguishing between spirits. This gift is sometimes translated to a gift of "discernment," but distinguishing between spirits is more accurate, according to the Greek.

Before we get into what it is, I think it's essential to understand how spiritual gifts work and who can receive them. In scripture, there are three main categories of gifts: motivational gifts from God (Rom 12:3-8), ministry gifts from Christ (Eph 4:11-13), and manifestation gifts from the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 12:4-11). In a nutshell, everyone, even unbelievers, have at least two motivational gifts from God, and only a few Christians are called to the ministry of Jesus Christ. Moreover, every believer has access to all manifestation gifts of the Spirit because there is only one Holy Spirit that dwells in all of us.

Let's take a look at manifestation gifts:

1 Corinthians 12:4-11 New King James Version (NKJV)
4 There are [a]diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. 5 There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. 6 And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works [b]all in all. 7 But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all: 8 for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by [c]the same Spirit, 10 to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 11 But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills.

Here are some key things to understand about manifestation gifts of the Spirit:

  • Again, all believers have access to these gifts since we all have the same Holy Spirit at work in each of us. Just because certain manifestation gifts are more prominent in an individual, doesn't mean the Spirit can't manifest a different gift at a different time.
  • Manifestation gifts are not superpowers. Even if you walk strongly in a gift, remember that it's not you- it's the Spirit who's at work in you. There are weight and responsibility attached to spiritual gifts.
  • Manifestation gifts are for the edification of others, not to become proud and arrogant.
  • The only way to grow in these gifts is to grow in intimacy with the one who gave them to you (the Holy Spirit).

So now we have a better understanding of manifestation gifts, what exactly is a gift of distinguishing between spirits?

This gift allows one to:

  • identify and distinguish different types of spirits (angelic spirits, demonic spirits, and human spirits)
  • distinguish spiritual atmospheres/climates
  • distinguish spiritual time and seasons

Below are some examples of fleshly discernment and the gift of distinguishing between spirits:

 Fleshly Discernment

Gift of Distinguishing Between Spirits
"I don't like that person." "This man is driven by a prideful spirit, and I don't like it."
"My discernment is going off and telling me that this person is not a true Christian." "Although I don't agree with their past, I can recognize the Holy Spirit at work within them."
"I've been fasting for a while, and a demon is trying to make me break my fast ten  minutes early!" "I've been fasting for a while, and I'm hungry because I haven't eaten."
"A demon made me get a ticket."

"I was late to work and decided to speed. Therefore, it was my fault I got a speeding ticket."

"Something tells me that he/she is my husband/wife."

"This person is good looking and has a great personality. Hence, I'm attracted to this individual, and my own emotions may be getting ahead of me."

 

As you can see, sometimes we miss the mark and think it's discernment. The key to this gift is to be able to identify the difference between God's voice, a demonic voice, and your own voice. The best way to sharpen this gift is to get so acquainted with the real thing (the Holy Spirit) and study your Word so that when anything even slightly deviates from it, you'll be able to spot it. Understand that discernment is not just separating what's right from what's wrong. It's the ability to differentiate from what's right and what seems right.~

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