In order to detect counterfeit bills, those in charge of doing so really only do one thing. They spend hours, days and months with the real thing. Some would suspect they spend hours, days, weeks and months with the fake stuff to determine what is real and what is counterfeit. Yet, the fake keeps changing while the real remains constant (for the most part). They take in all of the sensory details of the real bills. The smell, the look, the feel, the sound and yes even the taste. They study every aspect of that which is real to determine what is false. They can then easily spot the fake. The fake is always exposed by the authentic.
They enemy of our souls is constantly on the prowl, trying to sell the church and the individual believer a falsified message, and a counterfeit savior. Things that seem real are in fact utterly false. He purposefully creates a thick fog so it becomes more and more difficult to navigate our way through. He does this in many ways, yet many times we as believers are not hip to His schemes because we lack the discernment. The believer’s lack of discernment causes chaos in the church.
This chaos can have many different faces, but the same root- the enemy. He knows the sad truth: we as believers are not testing the spirits as 1 John 4:1 calls us to do. Many times, we blindly listen to sermons, and blindly invite people into our lives that are actually placed there for our downfall. We don’t think of these things and so are duped. We must engage in discernment by spending so much time with the genuine that it becomes easier to spot the fake. There are however some whom God has gifted to see through the fog much quicker and with much more ease than others. This is the gift of discernment. Although all of us can live in this gift, others have it to a heightened degree. So, What then is the gift of discernment?
These passages explain the gift and a small view into what discernment looks like. Let’s unpack this gift a bit further.
Discernment is Sight Through the Spiritual Fog
The gift of discerning (or discernment) of spirits is the special ability to know with assurance whether certain behaviors purported to be of God are in reality divine, human or satanic. (Peter Wagner)
Things done in the name of God are not always of God. These false happenings are very well hidden in plain sight. The imagery of a wolf in sheep’s clothing comes to mind. So many times the sheep’s clothing seems so real and so authentic that no one questions it. Yet, it is one of the most dangerous enemies of the individual believer and of the Church. Sadly, we are not often taught to operate in the spiritual realm to see through the mist that the human, fleshly realm can create. We are content to stay in the natural. This may be due to ignorance or fear, or even both. Many times, we choose to be ignorant out of a false sense of safety. Yet, this is a purposeful fog, sent by the enemy. The person with the gift of discernment can almost instantly tell the genuine from the false. They are the ones who are to warn the church of false teaching, false prophets, and false friends within a church.
In a church I know of, there were two ladies who ended up being wolves in sheep’s clothing. These two women were excellent at playing church. They sang the songs, they appeared to live the Christian life, but the enemy had purposefully placed them in that church and then in the pastor’s family to cause division. They slowly found a voice of leadership within both places. They were used to manipulate the hearts of the people against the pastor as well as get the pastor’s wife in a place of disquiet within her marriage. There were a few people in the church who felt a bit uneasy about these ladies, but said nothing to the pastor or anyone else. Soon, the damage these ladies had done was complete. The church and the pastor’s wife were demanding for separation as these ladies quietly then left to continue this evil work in another church.
The gift of discernment is hard to live into because it takes great courage. Had the few people who felt uneasy came forward in boldness and knew why it was they felt uneasy; namely God was warning them to warn the church, much of the loss within this church may have been avoided.
Using discernment requires humility, boldness and courage. Many times the person with discernment is the only one able to see through the fog and have clear sight into what the enemy is up to. They must then step out, knowing this is a gift they have, pray into receiving proof, and then come forward with the truth. This person can tell if someone is demon possessed or simply acting out. This person has the ability to distinguish between lies and truth. They are gifted with the God-given ability to detect whether something is of God, the flesh or the enemy. We need people like this to step up and step out into their gifting. Discernment also plays into the realm of brokenness
Discernment is Sight Through the Fog of Brokenness
People are broken. This is a fact that I think all people from all walks of life can confess. Many times people are broken and continue to be broken but don’t know why. Many chalk it up to depression, or some other mental illness. These can and are legitimate, but there can also be (and many times there is) a spiritual component. The person with discernment can see through this murky fog and expose the enemy’s weapons causing brokenness. Certain demonic spirits are unleashed from the enemy to attack us and play on our weaknesses and fears. When we give into these demonic spirits and step into the brokenness they are leading us towards, we give them access to our hearts and it is they who continue to keep us in the bondage of our sins and brokenness. The Spirit realm exists and it’s time we realized it. The person with discernment can see and then name with accuracy the spirit that is causing and encouraging the brokenness. They can detect when a spirit is influencing words and actions. There is caution however, where we are to TEST EVERYTHING. If someone has this gift and jumps in nonchalantly discussing these spirits and past pains, it will not go very well. Sensitivity is key. Discernment requires a sensitive heart. Let me share an example.
In Paris, we met an amazing woman who had an amazing heart and love for us crazy Americans. I had never met this woman before in my life, but I sensed sexual brokenness. She was a friend of a member of our team and I couldn’t shake the feeling she had a spirit of sexual brokenness. As I pondered this, I thought it might have been prostitution that caused the spirit of sexual brokenness to be attached, so I tested it with the member of our team who knew her. She said no, not prostitution but rather rape. She then began to cry because this lady only just told her this last trip. God then used that story to speak to this woman’s heart that He knows her story. This could’ve gone very badly if I assumed this woman was a prostitute and the stated that. Testing is very crucial to these supernatural gifts. I was correct in the spirit of sexual brokenness but wrong about the cause.
There are also spirits that manifest themselves in the manner of people similar to the horribly broken people in the Bible. For example, the person with the spirit of Jezebel is a person that emasculates men or purposefully draws a person into sexually deviant sins. The spirit drives such a person to weasel into ones life for the purpose of leading them into sexual sin. The spirit of Jezebel can and does feel like that of a spirit of sexual brokenness and it takes a person with practice in the realm of discernment to decipher the two.
There are also many other spirits similar to the spirit of Jezebel that always go after certain areas of brokenness- pride, envy etc. They can be named by the weakness they are attempting to exploit (i.e. the spirit of pride).
When it comes to dealing with the spirit or spirits we sense or can call out, it is key we seek God’s guidance on what to do with it next.
One Sunday at a church service I was attending, there was a guest worship leader that came to bless the church. She was an amazing musician and very talented in leading a group of people to sing aloud in song. When we were worshipping, I sensed a spirit of pride and showmanship emanating from this woman. It bothered me so much I stopped worshipping and sat down. I was determined to talk to church leadership and let them know what I sensed. However, God rebuked me. As I was sitting there he spoke to my heart about allowing this spirit to hinder my worship. I was allowing her spirit of pride to try and bring a spirit of pride to me. I then heard His voice in my “knower” say: “I revealed this to you so you can pray a covering over my people. Pray the spirit of pride doesn’t attach itself to them”. When God reveals something to us in our “knower” using the gift of discernment, we must seek Him to know what to do with it and not assume we know.
God reveals to people with this gift some of the inner workings of people’s brokenness. Because of this, discernment can be abused for the purposes of manipulation. Discernment’s abuse comes in the form of manipulation. We must reject using this knowledge against people.
How do you know if you have this gift? Many times when you hear something, or meet someone, God will cause you to feel very weird. You will get a feeling in your stomach or heart that something is off or dangerous. Pray into that and ask God to reveal what it is he’s trying to say. As you live into it, you will be able to more quickly decipher what is being emanated. Then ask God what He desires you to do with this gift.
We need people of discernment. If this is your gift, bless the church and step out in it!