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The overall purpose of the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ is to advance Christ’s Kingdom in the earth. Included in this is the winning of souls, and the discipling of those souls joining the body of Christ. It is an empowering gift of the Holy Spirit.
Training your senses to discern between good and evil is a process and requires spiritual maturity and growth.
The first point before studying this powerful gifting is to decide how much you want to move in this dimension of the Spirit. It is a gift of the Spirit that cannot be activated from one's will (even in the demonic realm, it is activated by demonic intervention).
There is a price tag for those who operate in this gift. It is not for one's own edification, but to minister healing, deliverance, restoration, wisdom as led by the Holy Spirit. Most people love it when you spiritually discern their more positive attributes, or the presence of the Lord or the angels. When you have the ability to discern the hidden things, however, it can bring a very real level of persecution by those who do not want you to see the things that you see.
In addition, that adversary, the deceiver, Satan, will do anything he can to stop you from blowing his cover. Nevertheless it is a powerful ministry, and brings release to many who receive it with a good attitude, & it is immensely worth it to be in the know spiritually.
The Bible, is full of instances of the supernatural and shows us how normal it is to have supernatural encounters of a wide variety. It even helps us know what experiences to accept and what to reject, and why. The Bible shows us that it is normal to see and experience both angels and demons, it is normal to have visions and dreams from God, and it is normal to encounter a wide variety of miracles. Understand that the supernatural is not a limited, one-time experience for us as Christians, because our God is supernatural and He has no limits.
When non-Christians experience the supernatural, it creates a hunger in them to know more. Only they do not know how to discern or sort through it. People desperately needing physical healing or personal deliverance from spirits might go to occult practicioners and the like to try to get relief, instead of going to Jesus and His Church. There are countless television shows, books, radio programs, blogs and more attempt to provide spiritual counsel for such issues, but God says…..
Leviticus 19:31; Give no regard to mediums and familiar spirits; do not seek after them, to be defiled by them: I am the Lord your God.
Leviticus 20:6 And the person who turns to mediums and familiar spirits, I will set My face against that person and cut him off from his people.
The term "familiar spirit" refers to a demonic spirit/s who by studying your behaviour words and actions knows as much as can be known about you from outward observations. Since spirits do not die in the understood sense, they can stay with families throughout many generations. However once they are bound / cast out / or their connection broken by renouncing & cutting off sinful (spiritual) generational bloodlines, their influence with you at that point terminates.
Jesus gave warning not to let darkness overtake us, because those in darkness cannot see where they are going.
John 12:35 Then Jesus said to them, “A little while longer the light is with you. Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you; he who walks in darkness does not know where he is going. 36 While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light.” These things Jesus spoke, and then departed.
He then said,
John 12:46 NKJV I have come as a light into the world, that whoever believes in Me should not abide in darkness. 47 And if anyone hears My words and does not believe, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world. 48 He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him—the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day.
The word abide in this passage means to live and dwell in darkness. Darkness, then, is a place and a state of being, not just a metaphor.
Seeing in the Spirit is a gift that allows you to see and sense the truth about the spiritual realm. It reveals to you what spirit, whether good or evil, is motivating people, opportunities, conflicts, supernatural experiences and a whole lot more, but it comes without a set of instructions. To operate successfully therefore one needs to be baptised in the Holy Spirit and with power, and with an attitude to listen to the Teacher, the Holy Spirit, day by day and moment by moment in order to experience this gift’s truths and benefits.
Understand that this gift from the Holy Spirit is intended for “the good of all” 1 Cor 12:7. The word good in this verse is the Greek word sympherō, which means to bring together (as in a symphony) and to be profitable, beneficial and advantageous.
This gift gives you a tremendous advantage as a believer in Christ. It allows you to see what is in the dark so you will not stay in the dark. It supernaturally puts you in the know and gives you the upper hand in difficult circumstances. It gives you the right information so you know how to pray, prophesy and battle intelligently.
The Holy Spirit wants to open our eyes and shift our understanding. He wants to activate this gift powerfully, but properly, in the Body of Christ. As you develop a hunger to be equipped, you will become aware of and equipped for seeing the supernatural, so that you can effectively sense, discern and battle in the spiritual realm.
We do not live in just a natural realm; we also live in and are affected by the spiritual realm.
Spiritual laws that the Bible defines for us govern both realms. Honouring God’s Word creates conditions in which we experience natural and spiritual blessings. On the other hand, violating God’s Word nullifies His promises to us, including His promise to protect us from harm and torment.
Romans 2:5–11 5But in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, 6 who “will render to each one according to his deeds”: 7 eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honour, and immortality; 8 but to those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness—indignation and wrath, 9 tribulation and anguish, on every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek; 10 but glory, honor, and peace to everyone who works what is good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 11 For there is no partiality with God.
The apostle Paul commands us, “But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality,” and he tells us to “flee from idolatry” (Ephesians 5:3; 1 Corinthians 10:14).
Ignorance or dismissiveness about the spiritual does not absolve us of consequences, either. When we violate God’s holiness, it is like leaving the front door to your house unlocked. A thief might not discover it immediately, but eventually the thief comes to your neighbourhood, looking for opportunity. And when he finds an unlocked door, he will enter in and try to steal, kill or destroy (see John 10:10).
A common description for the gift of spiritual insight is that it is a supernatural ability from the Holy Spirit to distinguish between spirits—divine, demonic and human & what is the significance of their activity on a person. It also enables us to discern the hidden motives of the heart. Since this gift embraces the “hard to explain” and the “intangibles” of the spiritual realm,
The apostle Paul shared a similar struggle in discussing visions from the Lord, specifically visions of the third heaven and paradise. He referred to both places as “inexpressible.”
2 Cor 12:1–4 It is doubtless not profitable for me to boast. I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord: 2 I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago—whether in the body I do not know, or whether out of the body I do not know, God knows—such a one was caught up to the third heaven. 3 And I know such a man—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows— 4 how he was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.
There are numerous examples of the gift of discerning of spirits in both the Old and New Testaments. Remember, this gift sees past the natural realm to reveal the spiritual realm, causing us to know what is really behind our circumstances and how to respond.
For example, the prophet Elisha prayed an unusual prayer for his servant during a time of battle: “O LORD, please open his eyes that he may see” (2 Kings 6:17 ESV). Elisha was not referring to his servant’s physical eyes, but actually to his spiritual ones. Elisha and his servant had been targeted for certain death by an enemy army. The servant had become terrified with that strangling fear that manifests when you know the worst is about to happen. Elisha could see into the spiritual realm, and he saw the true spiritual conditions of the matter. The truth was that a fierce army of warlike angels had jam-packed the spiritual horizons, ready to fight on their behalf. Their physical enemies were completely outnumbered, which dispelled all thoughts of death and execution.
This is what Elisha wanted his servant to see, and God answered the prophet’s prayer. We also see how this gift operated in other lives in the Old Testament. We see it in the life of Lot, when he encountered the two angels God sent to rescue him. We see it in the life of Samuel, when he heard the audible voice of God—something that was rare in those days.
It operated in the lives of King Saul’s attendants, who saw the evil spirit that was tormenting him.
1 Sam 16:14 But the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul, and a distressing spirit troubled him. 15 And Saul’s servants said to him, “Surely, a distressing spirit is troubling you.
In the New Testament, Jesus not only cast demon spirits out of their helpless victims; He also could identify them by their kind—unclean spirits, spirits of infirmity, deaf and mute spirits, etc.
This, too, was the gift of spiritual discernment in operation. You cannot identify a spirit unless the Holy Spirit reveals it to you.
Later, the apostle Paul did the same thing by identifying a spirit of divination that had possessed a young female fortune-teller in Ephesus, more specifically a python spirit. He cast the spirit out of her, which caused the entire city to go into an uproar.
Acts 16:16–22 Now it happened, as we went to prayer, that a certain slave girl possessed with a spirit of divination met us, who brought her masters much profit by fortune-telling. 17 This girl followed Paul and us, and cried out, saying, “These men are the servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to us the way of salvation.” 18 And this she did for many days.
But Paul, greatly annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.” And he came out that very hour.
19 But when her masters saw that their hope of profit was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace to the authorities.
Finally, the apostle Peter knew by the gift of discerning of spirits that a husband and wife by the names of Ananias and Sapphira had brought him a deceptive offering. They had pretended to sell their land at a certain price, but had secretly held back a portion of the proceeds for themselves.
He addressed their sin openly, but unfortunately, their actions brought the judgment of the Lord upon their lives and they both died for it.
Acts 5:3-6 But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and keep back part of the price of the land for yourself? 4 While it remained, was it not your own? And after it was sold, was it not in your own control? Why have you conceived this thing in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God.”
5 Then Ananias, hearing these words, fell down and breathed his last. So great fear came upon all those who heard these things. 6 And the young men arose and wrapped him up, carried him out, and buried him.
These examples exhibit the gift of discerning of spirits in operation, but they don’t explain how this gift operates or how to distinguish one spirit from another. We see the end point, but not the process. And it is the process of discerning that is often misunderstood, ignored or rejected. The reason is that this gift is a sensory process before it is an intellectual one.
And in our Greek-thinking culture that elevates logic and reason above emotions and the spiritual, we have inadvertently shut down the internal mechanism by which this gift flows.
The writer of Hebrews provides us with some insight about how the gift of spiritual discernment works, which is primarily through your senses:
Hebrews 5:14 But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.
In other words, this gift from the Holy Spirit causes us to discern good and evil through our physical senses. That would be through our eyes, ears, smell, taste and touch, as well as through our emotions. And then the mature have learned through practice how to accurately sort out what they are sensing, so they can respond to the information appropriately. This implies that the gift of discerning of spirits has a learning curve to it and requires community and accountability in order for a person gifted in it to grow in accuracy.
Jesus once described a woman as having this same kind of spirit of infirmity, which was the reason she was bent over and could not stand up straight. A spirit of infirmity does not cause just one kind of physical illness; it stands behind many physical ailments. Jesus then cast the spirit out of the woman, and she stood up straight again.
Luke 13:11–13 And behold, there was a woman who had a spirit of infirmity eighteen years, and was bent over and could in no way raise herself up. 12 But when Jesus saw her, He called her to Him and said to her, “Woman, you are loosed from your infirmity.” 13 And He laid His hands on her, and immediately she was made straight, and glorified God.
What we don’t know is how Jesus knew this information and how He distinguished that it was a spirit instead of a physical condition that would have needed the Holy Spirit’s gift of healing instead.
I believe that Jesus, too, may have felt the woman’s problem within Himself. He thus could accurately diagnose its source, because He is “touched with the feeling of our infirmities” (Hebrews 4:15 KJV). It is important to point out that the gift of discerning of spirits is not just the discerning of evil.
It is a supernatural ability to discern both good and evil. The evil and the demonic just seem to stand out more once you have tasted of heavenly things and finally know the difference.
One can experience the “aroma” of Christ……………
2 Cor 2:14 Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place. 15 For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved
Ps 45:6-8 Your throne, O God, is forever and ever; A sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of Your kingdom. 8 All Your garments are scented with myrrh and aloes and cassia.
We can “taste and see that the LORD is good” (Psalm 34:8 NKJV). Many people have cited that they felt goose bumps or electricity on their skin and recognised these feelings as pointing to the presence of the Lord.
Some hear the voices of angels singing in heavenly chorus, or they have felt the wind of the Holy Spirit upon their person. The gift of discerning is very multifaceted in its expression, but it works powerfully through our senses to reveal the spiritual realm.
Because it works through your senses, your senses begin to react and resonate to the “spirit” of your surroundings—whether good or bad—before your mind can even explain what you are reacting to.
Sometimes, say in busy or crowded situations, we can experience a kind of spiritual overload as we are now perceiving the receiving of many mixed messages (or spiritual sensations). It is good from time to time to simply rest quietly in His presence to have a kind of spiritual refreshing or refocussing.
The fruit of this gift is just as important as learning how the gift processes. Are people being set free? Because the gift of spiritual insight works primarily through the senses, it requires practice and maturity to know what you are sensing and why. It also needs a redemptive application.
Blockages that we need to address that block sensitivity to operate effectively in perceiving the atmosphere of the spiritual environment around us.
One first needs to discern one's own heart to determine if you are functioning out of an unhealed past experience or a competitive attitude.
Whatever you may discern about another person remember that God loves that person even if he or she is demonised, struggling or wicked. There will be times you are called on to deal with the situation more openly, but prayer is usually all that is required of you.
One of the key mistakes associated with spiritual ministry is looking at someone’s outward presentation and presuming a spiritual condition, either good or bad. It is true that you can make some general assumptions by observing how people carry themselves over time, how they habitually dress and act, and how they communicate.
This is not spiritual discernment, however, but natural perception. It can provide helpful information, but it is not the gift of discerning of spirits. Jesus said, “Look beneath the surface so you can judge correctly” (John 7:24 NLT).
The ability to see in the spirit therefore goes deeper than outward appearances. It bypasses our intellect and logic to reveal what is imperceptible to the natural eye. It discloses the spirit of the matter and the real motives of the human heart. When Mary of Bethany anointed Jesus’ feet with expensive fragrant perfume and wiped His feet with her hair, the disciple Judas raised a terse complaint.
He said, “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages” (John 12:5). But Jesus knew the truth behind both Mary’s and Judas’s actions. Mary was not being wasteful at all. She had been moved upon by the Holy Spirit to anoint Jesus prophetically for burial.
Judas, on the other hand, was a thief and would often steal from the offering. That was the real reason he complained (see John 12:6–7). The gift of discernment revealed the truth behind their actions, and Jesus responded by defending Mary’s honour.
Just before Jesus went to the cross, He spoke to those around Him about His impending death. He was troubled and vexed, but had determined within Himself not to ask our heavenly Father to spare Him the cross, but rather be glorified in it. When He shared that out loud, our Father in heaven responded audibly, saying, “I have glorified it, and will glorify it again” (John 12:29).
Amazingly, the crowd heard the audible sound of the Father’s voice! Only they had trouble distinguishing it. Some heard it as thunder, while others thought it was an angel speaking (see verse 29).
Jesus was experienced in our Father’s voice and therefore discerned it more easily than the crowd did. Recognise that there is a continuous learning curve when it comes to the gift of perceiving the spiritual domain.
Whilst it is a gift we have desired and claimed spiritually as a child of God, walking out this gift is like learning a new language; only it is a spiritual language that requires time, practice and commitment for one to become fluent in it.
Discerning the spiritual realm and doing it well is the mark of the mature believer (see Hebrews 5:14). Compare this thought to the attitude of committed musicians who practice their gift and train their ears to distinguish the notes correctly.
We, too, need to do the same with this gift. We will wrongly discern, or not discern at all, until we have first developed a grid for what is spiritually possible through the study of the Bible. For example, we read how God was in the fire of a bush, in the wind, in the earthquake and in the still, small voice (see Exodus 3:2; 1 Kings 19:11–12). We also read how Satan tempted Jesus in the wilderness, and possessed Judas to betray and murder our Lord.
Luke 4:1–13; 22:3).
We further read about angel armies, about the Holy Spirit falling like a dove on Jesus and then like fire on the disciples, and a whole lot more. (see 2 Kings 6:17; Luke 3:22; Acts 2:3–4).
Armed with biblical knowledge, we then need to pay attention to what is happening in our senses and emotions. You will come to discover that things like numb hands, strange fragrances, certain headaches, unusual sights and sounds, or feelings of sudden joy or unusual heaviness may or may not have a spiritual parallel behind them.
This is intended to draw you into dialogue with the Teacher, the Holy Spirit, who will gladly lead you into all truth and assist you in managing your spiritual sensitivity.