I’ve mentioned before that since the beginning of the year God has been impressing upon me the importance of the gift of discerning of spirits. It’s not a gift for just a few, although some will move in it more keenly than others. All believers need to operate in it at greater levels than we have thus far, if we are going to navigate life well.
A few months ago, I shared with you the series, Discerning Between Soul and Spirit. If we do not pursue the Lord for the ability to know the difference between these two, we can easily be fooled into thinking our emotions (which are part of our soul) are the Holy Spirit’s promptings. While our feelings do often align with the Spirit, not all emotions we experience — even positive ones — indicate God’s leading. Many in the Church are operating entirely out of emotional impulses. We need to change that.
For example, sometimes we may feel “righteous indignation,” but it is really only anger fueled by our flesh. Compassion is a Christ-like quality, but we can also experience misguided compassion, coming only from our human emotions. A sense of personal justice (or injustice) might really be selfishness wearing a mask.
Every day, hour by hour, we must discern whether what is propelling us is truly the Spirit of God or our soul — or even something worse! If we listen to our soul too much, our defenses become weakened to where we could begin to be influenced by an unholy spirit, which we then mistake for the Holy Spirit.
As we commit ourselves to listening to the Lord and staying sensitive to Him, we can develop a much keener sense of what is from Him and what is not. Here are some ways I try to do that:
1.) I ask God for His perspective on events happening around me, both in my personal life and relationships and on a national / international level.
2.) I ask, “Lord, is what I am sensing from You, or is it just my own emotions?”
3.) I ask the Holy Spirit to bring Bible verses to mind which address whatever I have questions about and to help me rightly apply them.
Applying biblical principles correctly takes wisdom only the Spirit can impart. It’s easy to find a verse to support whatever position we want to take. But without the Lord’s help, we can end up misusing Scripture for our own soulish purposes.
4.) If I am concerned about something and feel an urge to speak into it, I check my peace barometer. If I’m churned up inside, I try to take a step back and ask the Holy Spirit for more understanding.
Colossians 3:15 advises us, “And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which you are also called in one body; and be thankful.” That word “rule” means to act as a referee. So, if I feel an urge to jump into a debate, but I have no peace, I know I need to find out why before acting or speaking. (To my regret, sometimes I don’t do well at this, but I am learning.)
5.) When possible, I delay responding to people or situations, giving myself time to gain wisdom. Waiting can save us a lot of unnecessary turmoil and discord. It’s a good thing not to be in a hurry!
There are battles which God has called us to speak into publicly and battles which are meant to stay in the prayer closet. We need to know the difference. If we fail to speak up in key moments, we might miss opportunities to advance the Lord’s purposes. If, however, we speak without the Spirit’s go-ahead, we can do damage to His cause.
Ephesians 6:12 is really easy to forget, so we should endeavor to keep it in mind constantly:
For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
When we enter into spiritual battles by taking them on in the natural, we always end up on the wrong side. We cannot serve God’s purposes through fleshly attempts to fix things.
Truly, God is calling His people into higher ways of thinking. Romans 8:5, 6 is a key passage:
For they who live according to the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they who live according to the Spirit mind the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.
Let us pursue the attitudes of the Holy Spirit, asking Him to take us into His thoughts and ways. As we relentlessly do so, we will come into a far greater ability to discern the spirits and to align with Him alone.
The Spirit-Filled Guide to Personal Prophecy,
by Lee Ann Rubsam