The Need For Discernment!
~A teaching emphasizing the understanding and the importance of spiritual discernment for believers~
"For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect. Behold, I have told you before" (Matt 24:23-25).
Even as you read this letter, the very things that Jesus warned us would come have come. False prophets, false Christs, false doctrines, and false brethren are on the attack, causing great confusion among God's people.
In spite of the Lord's warning, there are still those who, although sincere believers, find themselves derailed in their faith by deceivers and false doctrine. But how can one know? You might ask. When everyone has a different truth, a different Bible, a different belief, how can you know what is right?
Beloved, the Lord knew what kind of spiritual confusion would come, and that is why He exhorts willing believers through His Word to develop the ability to sort out the false from the true by training their spirits to discern.
To discern something means "to perceive by the sight or by the intellect; to show good judgment and understanding." Let us look at a natural example: suppose a person is very skilled in math and algebra. Because of their understanding, they are able to judge the mathematical conclusions and abilities of those who claim to have the same skill.
A lesser skilled person may be easily swayed by other arguments when the subject goes over their head, but the person with "trained senses" will not be easily fooled, because they have developed knowledge and understanding about what is right and what is not. They know how the numbers ought to fit together; they know the tools and the purposes of math, and know what conclusions ought to be reached. They can "discern" the truth in mathematics.
In the spiritual realm, when a person has developed their spiritual discernment (not to be confused with the "gift of discerning spirits" in 1 Cor. 12), they learn to detect spiritual truth and error; they've matured enough spiritually so that they "will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming" (Eph. 4:14, NIV).
You see, your spiritual discernment is to your born-again spirit what your sense of smell, sight, taste, touch and hearing are to your body, or your logic, common sense and wisdom are to your mind. Your spirit has abilifites and functions as well: the sense of Communion, with which we percieve the presence of God; the sense of Intuition, with which we perceive the direction and will of God; and the sense of Conscience, with which we perceive the judgement of God.
Beloved, have you ever heard a teaching, a message, a prophetic word, the right direction, and simply "knew" deep inside that it was of God? You didn't have to "figure it out," or "worry about it," and no one had to explain it to you: somehow, you just KNEW that this was right and of God! Then you you have experienced the discernment of the spirit and the guidance of God, which God's Spirit uses to "lead you into all truth" (1 John 2:27).
But with the fall of man, these spiritual senses and abilities fell, leaving man's spirit "plugged up" with sin like an allergy sufferer's nose in the spring, and leaving mankind "dead" or numbed to the presence of God, who is spirit and must be interacted with in spiritual fellowship (John 4:23). Without the true spiritual discernment of God's will, thoughts and directions, mankind is destined to be confused, deceived, and lost in this world until they accept Jesus and recover what was lost!
But not everyone in the body will diligently seek to develop this ability. This is a hard but truthful statement: there are way too many confused, infant saints in the church today, believing in Jesus one day, then believing they are Jesus the next! There are too many saints who spend years in the church, thinking they've got it all together, only to fall flat on their testimonies with the first wave of deception. Why? Many fall because of the lack of one thing and don't know it: spiritual discernment. If you plan to survive the storms, you must have it!
There are at least three areas that every saint needs discernment in:
Discerning of Times.
"He replied, 'When evening comes, you say, 'it will be fair weather, for the sky is red.' And in the morning, 'it will be stormy, for the sky is red and overcast.' You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times?" (Matt. 16:2-3, NIV).
Jesus berated the Pharisees for being able to discern natural signs, but missing the spiritual signs of the most important event of their time: the coming of the Messiah! Beloved, it is the same today; as sign after prophetic sign tells of the coming of the One World Government, the Antichrist and the Lord Jesus Christ, many churches are still going on about their own "important" affairs, totally oblivious to what's going on within God's time table!
That is exactly what Satan hopes for: that churches will be so busy chasing money, members and mansions that they'll forget to seek God's revelation. By the time they do, Satan will have his own people running their churches!
Discerning of Doctrines.
"Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils, speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their conscience seared with a hot iron" (1 Tim. 4:1-2).
Considering the amount of anointed teaching that is available today, it is incredible how many saints still run off with "new revelations" that don't line up with the Word, thinking that they have something no one else has. These are usually infant saints (but not always!), seeking the spectacular and the new, unwisely devouring anything that appeals to them, but never establishing a strong foundation in the basic milk of the Word. They want to be "deep," but instead end up "deeply deceived!"
"...ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God, and are become such as have need of milk, and not strong meat ... but strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of (constant) use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil" (Heb. 5:12,14).
Beloved, in order to properly discern false doctrine, you must train your senses by daily study and prayer, else you will fall!
"But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them..." (2 Pet. 2:1).
Satan is throwing a tremendous wave of false teachers at the church, hoping to draw some saints off course. Beloved, it may sound judgmental, but it's true: you simply cannot follow everyone who says they're called to the ministry these days! You cannot read every book, order every tape, watch every program, or join every church. In spite of this warning, there are still saints who will follow anyone with a title and a little charisma! If they would only listen to the warning of Jesus, they could be spared a lot of heartache and pain:
"Beware of false prophets (leaders), which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits" (Matt. 7:15-16).
How many saints have had their lives destroyed because of false leaders, preying on them sexually, financially, emotionally, and spiritually? Beloved, the time has come to grow UP and discern what is of God and what isn't! Then we can truly say with the apostle Paul, "for we are not ignorant of Satan's devices? (2 Cor. 2:11). Let us make a strong commitment to grow up in discernment, in Jesus' name!
~Pastor Ron Barnes