Test Everything: A Crash Course on Discernment of Spirits.

#TalkingThursday – If you don’t talk about Jesus who will?

At the start of this year, we examined 12 instructions given to us from I Thessalonians 5:12-22. We decided to implement these instructions by doing at least one of them each month. Following our list, the instruction for November is:

Don’t Despise Prophecies; Test Everything.

This instruction is gotten from this specific verse:

Do not scorn or reject gifts of prophecy or prophecies [spoken revelations—words of instruction or exhortation or warning]. But test all things carefully [so you can recognize what is good]. Hold firmly to that which is good.

– I Thessalonians 5:20-21 [AMP]

We have previously written an in-depth post on testing the spirits, and discussed in a separate post the many reasons why scorning, rejecting or condemning prophecy amounts to grieving the Holy Spirit, so this post will simply be a reminder/short exhortation but let’s just summarize one last time:

God may, and often chooses to communicate his heart to us through prophecies inspired by the Holy Spirit. These prophecies may not always be predictive but can come in form of words of encouragement from others. To disregard such messages when they are given to you or to ignore a prompting by the Holy Spirit to share such messages with a(n) (un)believer, grieves the Holy Spirit.

It’s true that there are those who have faced disappointment because one “prophecy” or the other they were told never materialised, so they choose to stop trusting in prophecies altogether. However, this is not the approach scripture encourages us to adopt. To avoid disappointments which occur when false prophets minister, scripture encourages us, to test everything (meaning, not just prophecy alone) rather than despise it all together.

Therefore, it is important to “discern spirits” whenever we engage the prophetic and ensure that whatever is professed accords with scripture.

Read: I Corinthians 12:1014:29I John 4:1Isaiah 8:20; Acts 17:11Gal.1:8-9).

Now, going back to our main verse to break it down:

Do not scorn or reject gifts of prophecy or prophecies [spoken revelations—words of instruction or exhortation or warning]. But test all things carefully [so you can recognize what is good]. Hold firmly to that which is good. – I Thessalonians 5:20-21 [AMP]

A. Prophecy as a gift

Have you ever thought of prophecy as a gift?

Many of us today do not appreciate prophecy as a gift the way the early church did. Prophecy then was (and still is) a symbol of God’s power (aka, the Holy Spirit) in the church. For example, when Peter clearly discerned the spirit, revealed the sin of Ananias and Saphira and called them out to that effect, a great fear (aka holiness) fell upon the church that day! It was a gift for them, that such a thing could be exposed and removed before it became a dangerous cancer to the body of Christ. It should be the same now, prophecy should be a gift unto us that carries power to change our lives, homes and churches; therefore we must hold it in high esteem and regard it respectfully as a good and perfect gift coming from God himself.

B. The need to carefully test all things

At the same time, we live in a fallen world, and there is a need to discern the spirit behind every prophecy as the devil is a master at mimicking the works, instructions and teachings of God. Like the Corinthians and Galatians, we have the all-too-human tendency to be persuaded by a good sounding argument without spending the time and effort to examine it carefully in the light of Scripture. Therefore, Every prophecy must be tested by the written word.

Further, God knows we are easily discouraged when the words of false prophets, teachers, evangelists etc., lead us in the wrong direction. When people speak to us, the first thing we must do is test it to find the good, we test the spirit behind their words, is it a spirit of truth or of falsehood? We search the scriptures, like the Bereans, to know whether what they say is true or not and what is the motive behind their words – is it to build up or tear down? We must not believe every spirit but must try the spirits. Some are familiar spirits, they may tell the truth but their source or motives are ungodly. We must watch out for these kinds of spirits, commonly seen in backbiters, gossipers and chatterboxes of all kinds!

Brethren, though we must put a value on the preaching we hear, (for faith comes by hearing), we must not blindly accept and follow, trusting the preacher, but must prove what is said by the word and by testimony. Further, we must not always be trying, always unsettled; no! for at some point we must reach maturity, no longer swayed by every wind of doctrine (Hebrews 13:9). The point of trying is to find the good and hold fast to it (we’ll talk more about this next month). In the long run, we need to hold on to good to get us through the bad.

– Abridged, Matthew Henry’s Commentary. 

 

Where Do We Start?

Many of us would like to immediately be able to tell when something is true or false, but discernment of spirits is not like mind reading, it requires a commitment to studying God’s word and seeking his face in the secret place. Peter could immediately recognise the lying spirit within Ananias and Saphira because he so closely fellowshipped with Jesus! When you are committed in the secret place, and you cultivate a strong relationship with God, you will be able to tell when others are misrepresenting Him or His words to you.

Fortunately, we live in an age where studying the Scriptures and fellowshipping with God is more convenient than ever before, despite the increasing distractions of social media and the like. There are Bibles, Concordances, Bible dictionaries, lexicons, commentaries and Bible atlases in many different translations and languages, which are fairly inexpensive to obtain, you can study your bible via a phone app, along with friends and family, complete devotionals together etc.

So that’s our starting place. Our crash course on learning to discern spirits begins with getting to know God and having a relationship with Him by studying His word. You don’t identify a fake by studying a fake, but by knowing the original. Bank clerks can spot fake money because they spend so much time working with real money! Scripture says “my sheep know my voice”, so discernment of spirits comes from studying God’s voice and knowing it so well that even in your sleep you can’t be deceived. Many of us know our parent’s and friend’s voices because we’ve spent so much time developing our relationship with them. The same thing with God, He is our father, and we will become naturals at spotting false spirits and prophecies when we spend more time learning the truth of His words.

What are the benefits?

The benefits of discerning the spirits are tremendous, particularly in the world we live in today filled with self-professing prophets, apostles, mystics etc, who all have something to say to you about God and His word. If you don’t know for yourself what is true and what is false, you will easily be discouraged and led astray in your faith.

Our faith is strengthened when we are sure about and confident in what we believe. We will not be as easily swayed by a new idea or passing fancy of doctrine that comes our way, because we will know what we believe, and more importantly, why we believe it.

A final word of exhortation

The church’s history over the last few decades displays the fruits of taking doctrine for granted rather than discerning the spirits and allowing clear scriptures to guide our understanding of the truth.

People have so many different opinions about what the Bible says because they come to the Bible with preconceived ideas and pick and mix any scripture that appears to prove their beliefs and ignore or make light of verses that obviously contradict their beliefs.

We have continued this practice for so long in the church that it is starting to become tradition. Instead, we ought to encourage people to come with blank slates, like the heart of a Child, admitting they know nothing and holding fast to God’s goodness to teach them what they need to know.

When Paul told the brethren in Thessalonica to “prove all things; hold fast that which is good,” it was groundbreaking advice, and it is more needful than ever for the Church of God in these end times! We have to test our beliefs individually and as a community, continually and rigorously against the only standard that counts—the Bible (Acts 5:29).

So beloved, our crash course can be summed up into these three sentences:

Discernment of spirits comes from fellowship with God. Fellowship with God comes from a commitment to the secret place. Commitment to the secret place requires an investment of our time.

Next month, for our final instruction this year, we’ll be looking at “holding fast to good and abstaining from evil”.

Hope you’ve been blessed in one way or another!

SELAH

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