What is the discernment of spirits?

To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues (1 Corinthians 12:10, KJV)

The discernment of spirits is one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit listd in 1 Corinthians 12 above. But what is the discernment of spirits? I will briefly look at the two major words, “discernment” and “spirits” in a simple and clear way to give you a solid understanding of what this gift is.

The word “discernment,” as used in the verse above is a noun that describes the process by which we can tell the difference between two or more things that are before us. It is essentially knowing  the difference between things. For example if I give you an iPhone, an iPad and a MacBook pro, will you be able to tell the difference and let me know which is which? I am sure many of you will tell me that is a very simple task. That ability in you that knows the difference between things is what discernment is. Let us move on to the word “spirits”.

A key characteristic of the nature spirit in our natural world is that it is invisible. We cannot see spirits, but we can see or perceive the results. Let me use an example: your thoughts. Remember, thoughts are just one example used here, but it applies to almost anything that spirits can influence. You “see” your thoughts because you can experience them. However, your thoughts(soul) are animated by your own human spirit( which is invisible). You can have a thought in your mind that is purely from the animations of your own human spirit. This is what the Lord spoke about in Jeremiah 23:16 when He said some false prophets were “seeing visions” or having “prophecies” not coming from Him but from their own hearts. This is false prophecy that originates from the person, from their own human spirit. That is why there are some “words of knowledge” or “prophecies” (false, of course) which are NOT from God but are from the person’s own thoughts! 

The Holy Spirit can also animate thoughts in your mind, in the same way that your own human spirit animates your mind. It means there are thoughts that could come to your mind which are not from you but from the Spirit. Why is discernment needed in the first place? It is because the different “spirits” that can operate in our lives or environment operate through the same natural things, in this case, your thoughts! It is not because a  thought is   from the Spirit that  will make it extra-ordinary in your mind and maybe shake your head or burn your chest for you to know it is from God. It will be as normal as any other thought that comes to your mind. Discernment is the ability to know if a thought in this case is from the Spirit of God or not!

The last “spirit” that will be of importance to us in this devotional are demons. Yes, demons! I hope you do not have nausea or upset stomach with what I am about to write!  Demons can influence people’s thoughts. And again, they can induce or influence thoughts in our minds that will be as normal as any other thought. Have many of you know that the thought that came into Peter’s mind to make Jesus reject the idea of going to the cross in Matt 16:22 was a thought that came from Satan? That is the reason why Jesus responded immediately in verse 23 and rebuked Satan!

I have used an example of thoughts here to show you how different spirits can operate in our lives and the people around us. Discernment simply knows which spirit is operating. It is not limited to discerning demons. It is the ability to tell if it is the Holy Spirit,  a mere human being, or worse still a demon involved. It is a critical gift, especially in these days we are living in. In fact one of the most problematic issues we will face will not even be discerning demons but discerning when it is the Spirit of God or our own human spirit. There are many believers getting all sorts of “words of knowledge” or “prophecies”  which are not from the Spirit but from a purely human mind and they do not know it. If you read about the Azuza street Revival,  for instance, William Sermour had an astonishing gift of discernment. When a brother or sister starts shouting during the revival or doing some of the things we often associate with the moving of the Spirit, he could immediately tell if it is the Spirit or just the emotions of the person. It is recorded that he will go calmly to them, tap them on the back and say something like this: “these are Holy Ghost meetings and not for the flesh!”. This is discerning the Holy Spirit from the human spirit. You will be shocked how many things we call “Spirit” today which are nothing other than human, fleshly manifestations. I wrote a devotional a while ago about “fleshly Christianity”  which you can read here. Grow in this critical gift.

MEDITATE

What is the discernment of spirits?

APPLY THE WORD

Grow in your discernment of spirits. The best way to do so is just knowing God. Also, because it is a gift, it can be imparted, so desire it!

PRAY

Ask the Spirit for the gift of discernment of spirits to grow in your life!

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