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SPIRITUAL GIFTS (7)

DISCERNMENT

 

INTRODUCTION

 

Because we are involved in spiritual warfare, it follows that our enemy, Satan, will do all he can to intimidate and deceive us. In the biblical record - both Old and New Testaments - we have repeated examples of how Satan endeavoured to confuse and mislead the people of God. Nothing has changed with the passage of time and we are still subjected to his tactics of deception and error.

 

Jesus said concerning Satan. "...there is no truth in him. When he lies. he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies." (John 8/44). It is evident, therefore, that we are always in need of the gift of distinguishing between spirits - so that we can discern what is of God and what is not. This study flows from the last study on the gift of prophecy. You might recall that we looked at a number of "tests" for identifying the source or origin of a prophetic message.

 

Note that this gift of discernment is placed between prophecy and tongues & interpretation. Whether that is intentional or not I cannot say but it seems to me to be significant .... given that we need discernment to identify the true nature of prophecy and tongues. I would encourage you to re­consider those tests in this study as well.

 

1. Definition: " The God-given ability to penetrate to the origin of spiritual claims and activities"

 

2. Take time to reflect upon the following verses and write in against each any comment that you think is appropriate as it relates to the need of discernment.

 

a. Matt. 4/1-11 __________________________________________________________

b. Matt.7/15-20 _________________________________________________________

c. Matt.24/4,5, 11, 23-25 _________________________________________________

d. 2 Cor. 11/13-15 ______________________________________________________

e. 1 John 4/1-3 _________________________________________________________

 

3. Discuss together in your group any examples in which you recognize that some of God's people were misled and/or deceived. What were the circumstances? What was the nature of the deception? How was it exposed? How did you come to recognize it as a case of deception? What tests did it fail to meet?

 

4. Many are familiar with the story of Jonestown when some years ago a group of almost 1,000 followers of Jim Jones, a self-styled pastor and prophet, took their own lives in a massive suicide pact. How is it possible for so many people to be so misled as to take their own lives? Was there no discernment? How can one man secure so much control and power?

 

5. Read Acts 8/9-13 Imagine yourself in that city at that time. Simon himself believed and was baptized and he followed Philip everywhere. What a prize for the Kingdom of God! Imagine the reverse influence Simon could have now!

 

Now read Acts 8/18-23. Outwardly Simon gave every evidence that he was a genuine, brand new disciple of Jesus Christ. But Peter, functioning in the gift of distinguishing between spirits, saw into his heart. What did that gift reveal about Simon?

 

6. Read Acts 16/16-18, Here is another person who might well be a great "asset" for the Kingdom because of her reputation around Philippi. People would listen to her testimony. But Paul came to the realization that, while the affirmation of their mission was right, the source was wrong and he would not accept that testimony.

 

Read Mark 1/21-26 for another example of that dynamic in the ministry of Jesus.

 

Our enemy is the master deceiver and counterfeiter. In a day when people are increasingly fascinated by the occult and psychic phenomenon, we need to be armed with all the weaponry that God makes available to His people. The ability to distinguish between spirits is part of that weaponry.

 

Read 2 Corinthians 10/3-5 and Ephesians 6/10-20. What other weapons are available to us through Christ?

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