Do you know…the more I think about the Spirit of God living inside of me, the more eager I am to experience what that really means for me. Actually, what that means for all of us who are born-again. If the same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead lives in us, I know He is able to quicken us; which means to infuse us with supernatural life in our bodies, souls, and spirits, and that quickening has to be more significant than we can even imagine!
I understand that Paul felt the same marvellous expectation when in 1 Corinthians 2:9, he wrote, “... What eye has not seen and ear has not heard and has not entered into the heart of man, [all that] God has prepared (made and keeps ready) for those who love Him [who hold Him in affectionate reverence, promptly obeying Him and gratefully recognizing the benefits He has bestowed].” Come on, just take a moment to think about this with me…haven’t you ever wondered what the Holy Spirit is capable of doing in and through us if we continuously surrendered our will to Him? I believe we would be able to know and see things that are impossible to know and see with our natural minds and intellect.
Why would this be so important to us? Well, for one thing, we would be able to see and recognise the truth about a situation that is not at all visible or attainable through our natural senses or abilities. And when we do, we’d know just how to respond so that we come out on top instead of being overwhelmed or led off course by it.
In 2 Timothy 3, we are told of the type of people we can expect to hear about and even encounter in these last days. The Bible describes them as being those who deceive the body and are themselves deceived. In fact in Mark 13:22, we read of how even the elect, if possible, will be led astray and deceived. Oh I do hope you noticed those two redeeming words in that verse! “...If possible...” That means, in spite of all the deception that is rife and overwhelmingly effective, there is a very real possibility that every born again child of God can avoid being deceived!
That’s where the Spirit of God comes in! The Bible says that He has given us the gift of discernment. This is one of those spiritual gifts that we should never stop operating in. What I mean is: there are some gifts we only operate in as and when the Holy Spirit prompts us, or as the need for them arises. But the gift of discernment is one that we should constantly be using, day in and day out, for our protection and to efficiently do the work of the Lord.
To explain this gift more accurately, let’s see it in action in the lives of the Christians in the New Testament. InActs 16:6-7, we see how Paul and Silas were instructed by the Holy Spirit to not preach in certain geographical areas, but were instead led to minister the Gospel in others. How did they know His will? It wouldn’t have been written in the Scriptures, and they didn’t have the natural knowledge to avoid those places. The Bible says they were forbidden by the Holy Spirit to go there. That means He would have given them a strong inner witness against entering those places. In Acts 15:28, we find the author (possibly Luke), writing that, “...it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us...” The question isn’t what seemed good to the Holy Spirit, but rather, how could they discern what was pleasing to Him in that given situation? Once again, they were led by a strong inner witness or conviction.
Then, there’s this amazing account in Acts 11, where Peter does the unthinkable. But since he is led by the Holy Spirit, his obedience leads to one of the pivotal breakthroughs for the spread of Christianity to the Gentiles! This is what happened: in his personal time with the Lord, Peter receives a vision that when interpreted by the Holy Spirit, calls things that were previously seen as unclean and prohibited under Jewish law, to be clean because of the finished work of the cross. Just then, he receives some very unusual visitors…Gentiles! They asked Peter to accompany them to another town, to a home belonging to a certain Gentile man and his family.
Now this was strictly against Jewish custom and teachings, which dictated that Jews and Gentiles did not mix. Jews were not even permitted to enter a Gentile’s home, because they were seen as spiritually unclean. But Peter said the Spirit of the Lord told him to have no hesitation to go with them. He had such a strong inner sense that he should go, that it shouted louder than what had been instilled in him all his life! Well, it turns out the owner of the home, a Gentile, had received a visit from an angel who instructed him to seek out Peter and have him brought to his home. He was told that Peter had a message for him that would result in him and his entire household being saved.
So Peter told them all about the saving grace of Jesus. Right then and there, they received Jesus as their personal Lord and Saviour and were all baptised in the Holy Spirit! Can you imagine if Peter had not known and followed the heart of God that day? Once again, the real question is: how did he know the will of God in this situation? What caused him to have such a strong sense that this was exactly what he had to do, to the point of having no hesitation to go along with these strangers, right into the home of a Gentile? Peter knew full well he was violating exactly what he had been taught under Jewish law. Well, if you remember, right before the Gentiles approached him, Peter was in prayer. He was spending time with the Lord and received a clear vision that what he was previously taught to be unclean, because of Jesus, was now clean. That vision and Word from the Lord solidified an inner witness of God’s will inside Peter. When the men asked Peter to come with them, he recognised that same inner witness he felt when he saw the vision and heard the Word of God. He knew in his spirit this was undoubtedly God’s will for him.
Because of the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit, we have the gift of discernment. We are not only able to inwardly sense what the will of God is for us; we can sense what our natural five senses cannot. In fact, we are able to discern not only what is of God, but also what is of the flesh; and what is driven, or motivated by the devil. This is what makes constantly operating in this gift so essential to every born-again believer.
In 1 Corinthians 12:10, Paul describes this gift as, “...the ability to discern and distinguish between [the utterances of true] spirits [and false ones]...” Additionally, Hebrews 4:12 says, “...the Word that God speaks (the Rhema, inspired Word of God) is alive and full of power [making it active, operative, energizing, and effective]; it is sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating to the dividing line of the breath of life (soul) and [the immortal] spirit, and of joints and marrow [of the deepest parts of our nature], exposing and sifting and analyzing and judging the very thoughts and purposes of the heart.”
Did you know that we can become so fine tuned to the voice and leading of the Holy Spirit that we can distinguish what spirit is motivating the intent or decisions or even the behaviour of a person? This is so valuable when it comes to who we include in our close circle of friendships, or when we make leadership appointments.
The gift of discerning of spirits is also very important for our protection. Pastor Neal Reyes speaks of an incident where he and his family were shopping in a large department store. His two young daughters were playing around while he and his wife were causally looking at some outdoor furniture. When he looked up, his attention was suddenly drawn to a man who was walking down the aisle in their direction. He sensed such a strong feeling of unease and danger and asked the Holy Spirit to reveal to him what it was about this man that was so disturbing.
Immediately, the Holy Spirit revealed that this man was being tormented by evil spirits. So very quickly and quietly, Pastor Neil called his young girls and told his wife to keep them close. I assume he began to quietly pray in the Spirit. By this time, the man had walked directly towards them before suddenly stopping in his tracks. He looked directly at them and instantly changed direction, making a clear arc around them before moving away from them, in the same direction.
You may wonder why he didn’t confront the man, cast those demons out and lead him to the Lord, right there and then. Pastor Neal said the Holy Spirit didn’t tell him to do so, because the man was not seeking to be set free. The Bible tells us that while a demon is operating in a person’s life, it will not leave unless that person is willing to let it go; and even if it does, more demons will return in its place soon after. (Luke 11:24-26).
Nonetheless, because he exercised the gift of discernment, Pastor Reyes was able to keep his family out of harm’s way. There are countless testimonies of similar incidents where the Spirit of God has warned believers of danger through this gift and, essentially, prevented them from harm.
In summary, this remarkable and most necessary gift of discernment of spirits is what causes us to sense, by the Spirit of God, what our natural senses cannot discern. We are able to discern the will of God when it’s not naturally obvious to us. It causes us to discern whether the motivation or intent of someone is of God, or the devil, or even of their own human nature. Since through this gift we are able to discern the intents of the heart, we are able to protect ourselves; our families; our businesses or ministries; and the body of Christ from those who seek to harm or deceive us.
Now, what really strengthens this gift is to have an operating knowledge of God’s Word. That way, when we sense something in our spirits, we can test it against the Word, because the Holy Spirit will never contradict it. After all, the scriptures are inspired by Him.
This week, let’s spend time paying close attention to the voice and promptings of the Holy Spirit, trusting Him to give us “...the ability to discern and distinguish between [the utterances of true] spirits [and false ones]...” (1 Corinthians 12:10). What a wonderful privilege to experience the Person of the Holy Spirit in this way!
All my love,