Tag Archives: discernment

Discerning Between Soul and Spirit (Part 2)

Each of us must make daily choices of whether we will think according to the soul or spirit. We have to decide whether to agree with the soulish viewpoints of others, or whether to refuse them in favor of the Spirit. As I said last time, besides secular movers and shakers, some Christian leaders who carry a great deal of influence are speaking from the soul, rather than the Spirit.

We must learn to recognize whether what we are listening to is originating with soul or spirit. Once we know how to identify which it is, we are well on our way to understanding how to respond to it.

The answer is simpler than we might suspect: it is wrapped up in the Word of God.

For the word of God is living, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit … and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in His sight: but all things are naked and opened to the eyes of Him with Whom we have to do.  — Hebrews 4:12, 13

Part of the reason believers are so easily led about by soulish influencers is because the majority of us are not well-grounded in the Bible. When we continually eat from God’s Word, we are nourished by the Holy Spirit’s wisdom, counsel, and truth. He becomes the strongest Influencer in our lives. Therefore, when we come into contact with even the most convincing voices, a red flag pops up inside warning that something isn’t right. Colossians 3:15 refers to it as the peace of God ruling (like a judge or umpire) in our hearts. We know in our spirit-man whether something we are being told is right-on or off-kilter.

Do you want to keenly discern between what is of the soul and what is of the Spirit? Here are three practical steps to get you there:

1. Fill yourself with the living, powerful, sharp Word of God. It will help you discern whether to reject or accept the voices of other people. Even more importantly, it will help you quickly discern what is soulish within your own thinking.

2. Pray for greater wisdom and discernment. God wants us to have these qualities even more than we desire them for ourselves. That’s why He encourages us in James 1:5, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, Who gives to all men liberally and without reproach, and it shall be given to him.” When the red flag pops up inside of my spirit, if I am not immediately certain why it is there, I ask God to bring to mind a Bible verse to help me know why. He is faithful to do that.

You can also form a habit of frequently asking God to reveal to you His perspective through the inner voice. As we wait upon the Lord, listening for Him, He gives us understanding far beyond ourselves — whether it is about current issues, teaching we have heard, or personal relationship challenges.

3. Once you have discerned that someone is consistently speaking from the soul, shut your ears to that. Those of us with inquiring minds have a tendency to listen to what people say, even when we know they are off. It’s a curiosity thing. We hope we can “eat the chicken and leave the bones.” Unfortunately, even when we know the truth, if we keep on absorbing teaching or opinions which are not right, those ideas inevitably start to stick to us, even though we don’t want them to. It’s best to shut them out.

Does this mean we should expose to everyone else that So-and-So is coming from a soulish perspective? I don’t think so. Feeling the need to expose can quickly develop into alignment with the devil,  who is the accuser (Revelation 12:10). Just shut your own ears to it, and let the Holy Spirit deal with the other person in His way and time. Focus on talking about Jesus and His qualities, rather than what’s wrong somewhere.

To recap, if we want to discern correctly and be led by the Holy Spirit, rather than by natural-minded thinking, we can hone that ability by

  • Feeding on the Bible, letting its truths influence what we think
  • Seeking God continually for greater wisdom and discernment, so that we are not fooled
  • No longer subjecting ourselves to the words of an influencer once we determine that he or she is speaking from a soulish perspective.

Next time, I would like to examine how Hebrews 4:12, 13 can help us in the areas of prayer and prophecy.

Previous: Discerning Between Soul and Spirit (Part 1)
Next: Discerning (Part 3) — The Prophecy Connection

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Yes, You CAN Be an Intercessor! (CD Set or mp3)
by Lee Ann Rubsam

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Discerning Between Soul and Spirit (Part 1)

soul spirit balancing actThe phenomenon of social media has brought to the forefront a problem we have in Christianity: our inability to discern whether shared ideas are coming from the soul or spirit. In this series, we will look at what we can do to keep from buying into and spreading soulish opinions. We will also look at how discerning between soul and spirit assists us in prayer and prophecy. Our goal should be to operate more consistently from the spirit than the soul.

“Soul,” as I will be using the term here, refers to natural-minded thinking: what comes of intellect and logic alone. “Spirit” refers to the part of us which is able to connect and commune with God, to understand His ways. God has given each of us a soul, made up of our mind, will, and emotions. The soul in itself is not bad — but because sin has marred it, if the soul is left to itself, it can come to very wrong conclusions. It needs to be ruled over and assisted by our spirit.

Being soul-dominated is not limited to indulging in a sinful lifestyle. Having a soulish mentality can also lead us to self-righteously champion Bible truths on a purely intellectual level, thinking that we have the counsel of God, but missing the mark by a mile. My pastor referred to this as applying truth based on the tree of knowledge of good and evil, rather than on the tree of life (Genesis 2:17; 3:1-7; 3:22-24). It is possible to be right, and yet not be righteous.

An example of soulish thinking I frequently see is Christians justifying and even encouraging unkind speech and actions. The argument goes something like this:

Jesus was not “nice” in how He spoke to the Pharisees. He even called them names. So, as a Christian of righteous principle, I am free to “tell it like it is” (translation: be mean) in how I talk to and about people. I am just doing what Jesus did — calling out hypocrites and Pharisees.

The “Pharisees” referred to are usually believers who do not see things from their viewpoint — and of course, theirs is the right one! There’s a problem with this mindset, however. It is just as pharisaical as those it attacks. And if we agree with it, we’ll find ourselves thinking, “Yeah! Give it to ’em good!” But here’s where the difficulty lies: we are not all-knowing, as God is. Jesus could clearly see what was in the Pharisees’ hearts, while we do not have that advantage. All the facts aren’t known to us, so we can easily misunderstand people’s motives.

The Pharisees were legalists. They operated completely in the soul realm, according to their intellectual knowledge of the Scriptures. Mercy? They had none. Compromise? They felt comfortable with their own. They just didn’t approve of other people’s versions. Jesus, on the other hand, always listened to and moved with the Holy Spirit. His purpose in rebuke was not to condemn the Pharisees, but to radically stir up them and those they held in bondage to see their desperate need for a Savior.

Colossians 4:6 counsels us, Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer every man.” Salt with no grace irritates and burns. But Jesus was “full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). He knew how to answer every man, in every situation. He did it with redemption uppermost in His mind.

Whether realizing it or not, the soul-motivated person accuses for selfish reasons — to maintain his own comfort, to get his way, to build up himself by putting down others, or to gather a following. He assumes he knows the motives of the person he condemns. However, the Spirit-led person, like Jesus, is motivated by a goal of redemption.

On the surface, opinions or arguments coming from the perspective of the soul can be pretty convincing — especially when crafted by someone who is skillful with words. Well-presented logic appeals to our natural mind. Unfortunately, some Christian leaders with large Internet platforms are speaking from the soul, not the Spirit, and because they have such weighty influence, it is easy to accept what they say unquestioningly — and then parrot it to our own circles of influence.

Why does any of this even matter? First of all, because if we speak in agreement with soulish things, it is a terrible witness. Nonbelievers around us recognize that we are not speaking like the Jesus we say we represent. And for those of us who function as intercessors, if we do not correctly discern soul and spirit, we can easily become entangled in praying from erroneous perspectives brought on by unquestioningly accepting whatever we are told by people of influence.

So, how do we discern soulish thinking and avoid it? We’ll talk about that next time.

Next: Discerning Between Soul and Spirit (Part 2)

 

Growing in the Prophetic (CD or mp3 set),
by Lee Ann Rubsam

 

Strange Alliances

While in prayer recently, I received a warning for the Church:

Beware of strange alliances.

Typically, this is how strange alliances play out:

You become disgruntled about something happening in your local church — perhaps a policy the leadership puts in place. Suddenly, people whom you never quite liked or trusted before start looking pretty good. It’s not because you have developed a new, Christ-like love for them or they have dramatically changed. No, it’s because they are unhappy about the same things you are. You start to form friendships with them, based upon your common ground of disagreement with church leadership. The qualms you had about them are suddenly wiped away, but for the wrong reason: you have become allied in division.

I am not talking about disagreement over core doctrines. It’s usually about procedures, preferences, or approaches. To the person not caught up in the controversy, the concern over the issue seems trivial or illogical; yet it seems entirely logical and vastly important to those falling into the trap. It is the stuff of which church splits are made.

If someone mentions a gripe they have about how things are done, and it is the same thing troubling you, do not be deceived into believing it is “confirmation.” Whether the complaint is valid or not, it is the devil’s snare — the spirit of division attempting to draw you into an unholy alliance in order to tear apart what God desires to hold together.

What should we do if we are tempted with such a situation?

1.) If people start approaching you to confide their unhappiness about whoever and whatever is already your own area of discontent, run! The devil deliberately brings people across our paths to ensnare us into taking part in dividing the Body of Christ. Don’t fall for it.

The apostle Paul wrote, “Now I implore you, brethren, take notice of those who cause divisions and offenses contrary to the doctrine which you have learned, and avoid them” (Romans 16:17). While Paul was speaking particularly of doctrinal divisions, it’s a good principle to apply on lesser issues as well. Proverbs 6:12-19 speaks of behavior which God hates. Twice, those verses mention sowing discord as one such abomination.

2.) If you have a gripe, don’t talk about it with others. Do not be the enemy’s instrument of division. Proverbs 26:20 observes, “Where there is no wood, the fire goes out: so, where there is no talebearer, the strife ceases.”

3.) Instead, take the matter to God and pray it through until the circumstances you are concerned about change (if they even need to), or until you change. If you harbor little love for the ones you disagree with, the most important change which needs to happen is in you.

It goes beyond the church.

Forming unholy alliances is not limited to the local church, of course. Intrigues and power plays go on in all circles of life, large and small, from the workplace or family right up to national and international alliances. As believers, we must avoid them wherever they arise.

Joining with nonbelievers in social justice causes is one area to be wary of. While some seem noble on the surface, they can end up being perverted due to the flawed motives or beliefs of those involved.

When considering whether to invest our energies in working side by side in these causes with those who do not know Jesus, it is wise to keep in mind the apostle Paul’s warning in 2 Corinthians 6:14, 15: “Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship does righteousness have with unrighteousness? And what communion does light have with darkness? And what agreement does Christ have with Belial [the spirit of rebelliousness and lawlessness]? Or what part has he who believes with an infidel?”

While this does not mean that we can never work together with secular-minded people for a common good, it does mean we should proceed with caution, our spiritual ears sensitive to warnings from the Holy Spirit.

In summary, any alliances which would produce discord and strife, or would compromise our agreement with God and His principles, should be avoided. Such alliances raise red flags by how unlikely they would normally be, if we were to examine them objectively. Whether in our church relationships or in other arenas of life, we must stay spiritually attuned to the Holy Spirit, so that we can discern the tug of these attractions quickly and flee from them.

 

 

Yes, You CAN Be an Intercessor! (CD or mp3 set),
by Lee Ann Rubsam

 

 

 

Growing in the Prophetic (CD or mp3 set),
by Lee Ann Rubsam

 

 

The Merciful Discerner

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy. — Matthew 5:7

For those of us who are keen in discernment, there is a weakness we particularly struggle with: criticalness. Show me a person who is gifted in discernment, and I’ll show you a person prone to being critical.

Why is this the case? Criticalness is the soulish side of discernment. When God made mankind in His own image (Genesis 1:26), He made us perfect, like unto His nature. Each human being since Adam and Eve has been uniquely crafted by the Lord, with particular personality and ability strengths which reflect a small piece of Who He is. And what a wonderful variety we are, all intended to complement and balance each other.

But, due to man’s fall into sin back in the Garden of Eden, the image of God in each of us was marred. The good news for believers is, through Jesus our Redeemer, God is progressively bringing us back into His own image. Still, in the process, sometimes we exhibit the old marred nature, and thus it is with criticalness and discernment.

The difference between discernment and criticalness does not rest in what we see: it’s in what we do with it. We must learn to divide between being aware of the faults of others (which is not wrong in itself) and where our minds go with that information. A critical person tends to be frequently suspicious of the motives of others, thinking that he or she is receiving discernment from the Lord. Criticalness makes unholy assumptions and judgments, often based on one’s own faults or inner hurts.

One of the areas where criticalness often rears its head is in the realm of doctrinal beliefs. Those who are well-grounded in the Bible are the most prone to this. We may feel very solid in our understanding of certain theological points, and when we come into contact with people who have a different viewpoint, or a blind spot, we then think poorly of them, perhaps writing them off entirely.

Most of the time, what is such an important issue to us is not a core doctrine of the faith. It’s just a small piece of how we’re working out our Christian walk — but we make it into a very big deal. For instance, my husband and I have encountered a few people who had such narrow views of how healing ministry should be done that they would no longer fellowship with people who did not believe exactly as they did or who were not as strong in their faith.

The apostle Paul talked about criticalness over minor theological matters in Romans 14:1-4. He was speaking into a controversy about whether to eat meat or not, because there was a possibility it had been sacrificed to false gods before showing up in the public meat market. But the principle can be applied broadly by us today:

Accept him who is weak in the faith, but not to arguing over opinions. For one believes that he may eat all things. Another, who is weak, eats only vegetables. Let not him who eats despise him who does not eat. And he who does not eat should not judge him who eats, for God has received him. Who are you to judge another man’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. Yes, he shall be held up: for God is able to make him stand.

Can we trust God to work maturity in our brothers and sisters, and let Him decide when and how to work on their foibles — even their beliefs which don’t line up with ours to a tee? “Yes, he shall be held up: for God is able to make him stand.”

As we mature in the things of the Spirit, we should find that our discernment is increasingly coupled with compassion, mercy, and patience. That is the heart of God evidencing in us. We must guard ourselves against pride, for Paul warned, “Knowledge puffs up, but charitable love builds up. And if any man thinks that he knows anything, he knows nothing yet as he ought to know” (1 Corinthians 8:2). He also said, “For I say, through the grace given to me, to every man who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think…” (Romans 12:3).

We’ve all got a long journey ahead of us before we reach perfection. Let’s give each other a break.

I’ve written another article on criticalness versus discernment, which contains a list of questions to help us determine whether we are operating in discernment from the Spirit or merely criticalness of the soul. I hope you will find that post helpful.

Living from a Prophetic Perspective (Part 8)

propheticperspectiveI’d like to close this series by mentioning a few extremes which can cause us to become unbalanced or skewed in our prophetic perspective. I sometimes run into enthusiastic people who think everything is prophetic. No, it’s not. Not everything which happens is symbolic; not everything has a spiritual implication. Some things just are what they are, without being a message from God.

More than once, I have been dismayed to see “prophecies” based on sporting events – the Super Bowl or World Series, for instance. Significance is attributed to the teams’ names, the colors they wear, and the numbers on the backs of the star players. Based on the outcome of the game, predictions are made for the coming year. This is weird — very weird — and yet Super Bowl divination seems to be a temptation among prophetic people.

A few years ago, a major bridge collapsed in Minneapolis. For several weeks, prophetic posts flew in all directions about what that event meant in the spirit realm. Can catastrophic events carry spiritual significance? Absolutely! But not all of them do, and sometimes the conclusions people draw from them, especially when prophesying into the future, are coming from their own imaginations.

Some people have come up with prophetic messages based on natural markings on animals which resemble various symbols. Let me just say that a pinto horse bearing a spot which resembles a map of Russia does not mean God is warning of a coming invasion. Horses and cows regularly have markings on their faces resembling lightning bolts. These are not warnings of judgments coming from heaven. That goes for star-shaped markings (not a prophetic sign that an asteroid is going to hit the earth), or patches which resemble numbers. Calling such phenomena prophetic signs is silly.

Don’t try to force the prophetic. In these last days, signs will appear in the heavens, and one day Jesus Himself will be seen coming in the clouds, but don’t try to find spiritual meaning in every cloud or etched on every doorknob.

Don’t follow signs. Follow Jesus. If you follow Him, signs and wonders will accompany you, as you proclaim Him. If you follow signs, you will just get goofy — because your focus will be in the wrong place. You will always need something new to dazzle you more than the last wonder you experienced.

Let’s recap what we’ve talked about in this series. If we want to increase in our ability to view life from God’s vantage point we can do that by:

1.)  Slowing down in prayer and Bible reading, so that we can listen to what God has to say. (“What do You want me to learn from Your Word today, Lord?” “What’s on Your heart today?”)

2.)  Asking for God’s counsel in sticky situations and then waiting for Him to reveal His solutions, rather than forging ahead in our own understanding. (“What would You say or do, if You were in my shoes, Jesus?”)

3.) Asking what is really going on beneath the surface in perplexing events, and what He is up to in the midst of them. (“Lord, why is this REALLY happening, and how do You want to work good out of it?”)

4.)  Listening to our inner peace barometer — receiving guidance through peace or the lack of it. (“Let the peace of God rule in your hearts” — Colossians 3:15.)

5.)  Paying attention to possible divine connections — unlikely people God brings into our lives to speak into us or assist us in some way.

6.)  Noticing repeated pieces of information showing up — through things people say, songs we hear, words or phrases which we zero in on.

7.)  Tuning in to connections God makes in our spirit between bits and pieces of seemingly unrelated information. God will suddenly “connect the dots” between them in our understanding, so that we know what He is up to.

8.)  Paying attention to weaknesses in ourselves, which God brings to light — sometimes in our thoughts, sometimes through other people — so that He can cleanse us of attitudes and wrong perspectives we were not aware we harbored.

9.)  Listening to other people’s perspectives so that the Lord can expand our horizons and show us angles we had not previously considered.

10.)  Listening to others through a 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 filter. Ask God to help you see past surface words to what is behind them. (We then use what He shows us to help bring healing to people’s hearts.)

11.)  Waiting for the Lord to reveal things to us, rather than trying to come up with prophetic revelation by our own effort. (Less is more: go for quality, rather than quantity.)

Here is a link to a wonderful article by Francis Frangipane, which very much ties in with what I have written about in this series — What Does Jesus Say?

Previous — Part 7

Of What Spirit Are We?

LeeAnnRubsam.com

…When the time was come that [Jesus] should be received up, he steadfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem, and sent messengers before him. The messengers went, and entered a village of the Samaritans, to make ready for him.  But the Samaritans did not receive him, because his face was as though he would go to Jerusalem. And when his disciples James and John saw this, they said, “Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them, even as Elijah did?”  But Jesus turned, and rebuked them, and said, “You do not know what manner of spirit you are of.  For the Son of man has not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.”   — Luke 9:51-56

For some time, I’ve been troubled at the number of websites and blogs devoted solely to criticizing various brothers and sisters in the Christian apostolic/prophetic community.  Google the name of any well-known prophet, apostle, or revivalist, and you’ll find that the top ten sites are primarily run by people who feel their God-given mission in life is to expose the “heresy” of others.  Some are so obsessed with harassing and discrediting a particular person that it almost smacks of stalking.  Talk about having a “ministry” specialty! 

As I’ve said before, apostolic/prophetic Christianity is my particular circle.  I see the problems too, and there are times I get pretty perturbed.  Yes, some are teaching things that are not biblically supportable.  Yes, some are hiding sin.  A lot of housecleaning is needed, and I believe God is in the process of doing that.  He wants a pure and spotless Bride. 

But there is something more disturbing to me than doctrinal aberrations and high-profile sin.  It is the hardness of heart that causes Christians to think they can mock and curse other believers and not have a twinge of conscience in doing so.  It doesn’t matter if we agree with someone’s doctrine and mode of ministry or not.  The Lord Jesus has not given us permission to tear members of the Body of Christ apart.  Pointing the finger and screaming, “Heretic!” or licking our chops over the latest one to fall aligns us with an entirely different spirit than the Holy Spirit.  Revelation 12:10 describes Satan as “the accuser of our brethren … which accused them before our God day and night.” 

I’m not saying we should whitewash sin and doctrinal error.  They are a shame and a blot on the Body of Christ.  I am asking what spirit we are of — the spirit of hatred, anger, and criticalness? Or the spirit of mercy, humility, and godly sorrow when a brother sins?  Jesus was grieved with the Pharisees of His day for their lack of mercy and their prideful delusion that they were several notches above other people.  The Pharisaical spirit is alive and well in the Church today.  It is a spirit totally aligned with hell, not the righteous purity of the Holy Spirit. 

There is a better way to address the problems in Christianity today.  For those of us who teach, we can continue to patiently lay down biblical foundations and warn against pitfalls, so that those who truly want to do right can learn to move in life-giving, Spirit-filled patterns.  We don’t need to point fingers and name names in the process of bringing God’s people into maturity.  Let’s teach the principles, so that people can learn to discern between the good and the bad, while keeping our fingers to ourselves. 

And all of us can learn to mind our own business — spending our time in sober prayer and fasting, rather than wasting precious hours at Internet forums, blogs, and chat rooms, talking, talking, always talking, about the latest ministry flap or failure. 

Let’s encourage and build up one another, lifting each other out of the muck if any of us should fall.  The devil doesn’t need our help in beating up on the Body– but he’s more than happy to let us join hands with him if we want to.

LeeAnnRubsam.com

 

All-Surpassing Peace in a Shaking World, by Lee Ann Rubsam

Criticalness or Discernment? (Part 2)

If the flip side of criticalness is discernment, how can we tell the difference between the two?  There is nothing wrong with seeing a real flaw in someone else.  This is just reality at work.  We observe the ways people act, and sometimes wrong motives are very obvious.  It is what we do with what we see that makes the difference.

Ask yourself these questions:

1.  Do I love the person any less because of what I see in him?

2.  Do I take a secret pleasure in seeing this fault in him?

3.  Do I feel superiority or scorn towards him?

4.  Do I have a desire to point out his fault to others?  (Love covers sin.)

5.  Am I eager to see God “punish” him?

6.  Do I write him off as unworthy of any useful place in ministry?

These and other negative feelings about people are strong indications of a judging heart.  The discernment may in itself be correct, but, if we harbor negative attitudes toward people in our hearts, we have crossed over the fine line into criticalness.

God does not give us permission to judge our brothers and sisters.  Finding their flaws is His job, and He doesn’t deal with them in the same way we would.  We tend to want to slap people for the things we see in them that aren’t quite right.  God wants, rather, to whittle on them to change their flaws into strengths.

Sometimes we judge others because we live by a certain set of standards, and we assume everyone else knows and should live by the same code.  God does have standards spelled out in the Bible, but how we interpret the ins and outs of applying them depends somewhat on our personality, the way we think, and the family culture in which we grew up.  In addition, when we see other people doing things that we feel are wrong, we need to remember that God doesn’t convict us all of the same things at the same time in our lives.  We must extend grace toward those who have different standards than we do.  God will work out their realization of what needs changing inside of them in His own good time.

The Christian life is not living according to a set of rules.  Real Christianity is fueled by a yearning to have God’s innocent, pure heart.  If we can grasp the difference between these two mindsets, we will be more likely to view others with mercy, rather than judgment.

When we find ourselves responding with sorrow over others’ failings, a loving desire to pray for change in them, or a desire to help them overcome in any way that we can, we are exhibiting a right attitude.  We who struggle with criticalness can take heart in knowing that God is actively moving us into giftedness in discernment, as long as we yield ourselves in humility to His reforming hand.

 Previous: Criticalness or Discernment? (Part 1) 

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River Life Adult Character Study

 

This article is based on an excerpt from Lee Ann’s book, River Life: Entering into the Character of Jesus, an adult Bible/character study, suitable for use by the individual or as part of a group study.  For more info and sample pages, please visit our web site.