The Doctrine of the Holy Spirit is vast. It certainly can not be thoroughly addressed within the basic format of this site. However, we have addressed it periodically….and will continue to do so within the context of segmented-learning. Today’s installment concerning “SPIRITUAL DISCERNMENT” is an example of that philosophy. Today I want to bring to your attention a rather sensitive subject of SPIRITUAL PRIDE relating to the confusion between “human” wisdom and “divinely gifted” discernment.
Just as though human “knowledge” does not automatically equate to “wisdom,” the same thing can be said about HUMAN-wisdom versus DIVINE-discernment. Good intended people confuse these two biblical terms regularly.
Let me start by offering two very basic examples of how spiritual pride rears its ugly head on a regular basis.
- Generally, if anyone openly and with great enthusiasm “claims” a special Holy Spirit anointing for the purpose of Divinely discerning the “right way” of God through whatever cloudy and confusing circumstance exits……9 times out 10….THEY DO NOT POSSESS THE GIFT! People who are truly gifted are genuinely reluctant to announce their “superiority” over everyone else in the room. Those who are profoundly anointed by God to accomplish great things, do so in AND FOR the glorification of Jesus Christ. These anointed individuals take it very seriously the gift that has been graciously bestowed upon them and also they grasp the ramifications if they are wrong. The balance between NOT BEING AFRAID of trusting and publicly expressing the gift of discerning God’s direction and the unnecessary and often the appearance of being self-serving while bragging about it with no thought to the consequences of that proclamation is essential in helping to determine the authenticity of the gift itself. Let me be clear here. It is a wonderful blessing to have received any gifting or empowering anointing from God Almighty. Standing on that “confirmed” belief is never a bad thing….AS LONG AS….it points toward God and away from the individual.
- Another way an inappropriate demonstration of spiritual pride presents itself can be readily found in the “calling” process of far too many local congregations and their new incoming pastor. Unfortunately, there seems to be a significant percentage of pastors and their “calling” congregations (or for that matter sending newly appointed clergy by an governing body or person) who end up parting ways because of any number of incompatibilities every year. Yet, EVERY SINGLE ONE of those “calling” congregational bodies (or sending bishops) and/or the pastors themselves swear by ALL THAT IS HOLY they went through a “spiritual discerning” process prior to the original joining together. Both the pastor and the local church claim openly that each had participated in the discerning mechanism of God Almighty which then provided them “divine clarity” regarding how they were A PERFECT SPIRITUAL FIT for one another. Ouch!
Truthfully, the list of exaggerated examples concerning the LACK of SPIRITUAL DISCERNMENT is so long it may cause an spiritual depression to set in. Here’s some good news; God’s gift of Spiritual Discernment CAN and DOES exist! Below are a few helpful and practical reminders of how to evaluate the “what”, “when,” “why” and “how” of God’s Holy Spirit of Discernment.
IMPORTANT TO UNDERSTAND….Like all things of the Holy Spirit, its manifestations, generally, do NOT arrive as a surprise. What I mean by that is, most aspects of the Spirit of God do not arrive like a light suddenly turned on in a dark room. Most Christians experience their personal journey-of-faith in segmented learning or “awakenings” that enlighten and illuminate both their future direction and the clarity of their past experiences. Truthfully, if we would see clearly into our personal history, the unction of God’s gracious awakening in us could be plainly identified. I am not saying that God’s spiritual awakening can not be experienced as it is described in the New Testament’s 2nd Chapter of Acts, where it is described as a “mighty rush of wind.” It certainly does. Most of the time, however, if we were honest with ourselves concerning our lack of paying closer attention to our previous life experiences…both good or bad…we would have “discerned” God’s fundamental required direction a lot sooner.
The fact of the matter is, MOST MATURING CHRISTIANS will tell you their (1) ability to clearly and distinctly know…..AND THEN DO….the things of God versus (2) falling victim to the self-serving tendencies of humanity which are diametrically opposed to the Will-of-God is grossly different than a few decades ago. Also I think it is safe to state, that most maturing Christians would openly share even though they are better at the discerning process currently….they are certainly NOT perfect at it all the time. That is why it is generally more advantageous to humbly ask God to supply a genuine discerning of the “Mind of Christ” in a gathering of prayerfully connected and bible trusting believers of a gracious and spiritually attentive and intervening God.
7 QUICK CLUES TO UNDERSTANDING THE PRACTICAL DEMONSTRATION OF SPIRITUAL DISCERNMENT
- Like all “gifts” of God it is an act of the grace of God. We don’t get to choose which one(s) we will be given. Each gift is initiated BY GOD, not us! (1 Cor. 12:9-10)
- Like most demonstrations of God’s interactions with us “believers” the ON GOING and DEMONSTRATED EVIDENCE is the most reliable source of authenticity of a claim of God’s anointing. (1 John 2:27; Luke 4:18)
- The gift of discernment, like all gifts of God, is prompted by love (1 Cor. 13:1-3) Without love (agape’….others needs before our desires or wants), it becomes worthless in the sight of God.
1 If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. (1 Cor. 13:1-3)
4. Each demonstration of God’s gift of Spiritual Discernment is founded on bringing Christians into a closer connection with Jesus and other believers (1 Cor. 12:3)
Therefore I want you to know that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus be cursed,” and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit. (1 Cor. 12:3)
5. It will, more often than not, direct us back to Scripture for confirmation (Is 8:20)
Consult God’s instruction and the testimony of warning. If anyone does not speak according to this word, they have no light of dawn.
6. The gift of Spiritual Discernment has the sole purpose of building up the Church and its members (Eph. 4:11-12)
11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up (Eph. 4:11-12)
7. All spiritual discernment, if authentic, draws the believer into a more righteous life and repels the believer away from “known” evil. History is replete with sickening examples of people CLAIMING spiritual discernment while convincing others to do and believe in horrendous things in the name of God and under the covering of “the bible.” Here are a few additional scriptures that clearly warn and instruct on this topic concerning ungodly “discerning” and the subsequent damage done in the name of God’s anointed discerning.
- Dear friends, do not believe everyone who claims to speak by the Spirit. You must test them to see if the spirit they have comes from God. For there are many false prophets in the world. (1 John 4:1)
- But test everything; hold fast what is good. (1 Thessalonians 5:21)
- And now I make one more appeal, my dear brothers and sisters. Watch out for people who cause divisions and upset people’s faith by teaching things contrary to what you have been taught. Stay away from them. Such people are not serving Christ our Lord; they are serving their own personal interests. By smooth talk and glowing words they deceive innocent people. (Romans 16:17-18)
- Look to God’s instructions and teachings! People who contradict his word are completely in the dark. (Isaiah 8:20)