The manifestation of the spirit I want to look at today is discernment – another gift to the church to build it up – that comes through people, to people, so that we can storm the gates of hell.
There are people who, by nature, are more discerning than others. They just have good insight. When naturally discerning people surrender themselves to God, I think the spirit of God manifests through them discernment because they’ve surrendered that dimension of their personality to the spirit of God, allowing him to use it.
1 Corinthians 12:10, “To another miraculous powers, to another distinguishing between spirits…” the Greek word there means to “see through to the truth” or to judge rightly. In other words, to see through the fog to get to the real thing.
What is discernment?
From the beginning of the church, the gift of discernment was the watchdog of the church. That’s what kept it on track. At the time when the apostles and prophets were laying the foundation of doctrine, they didn’t have the word of God to look at and say, “This is true because the word of God says it’s true.” So, the spirit of God gifted them with an ability to discern what was truth and what was error.
Even today we need the gift of discernment because we have people that say the right things with the wrong spirit. Some people can come and sing the most beautiful song - they’re singing “holy, holy, holy,” - but their spirit is singing “I’m great, I’m great, I’m great.” They’re saying the right words and minister a different spirit.
Right words, wrong spirit
Let me give you an example. Acts 16:16-18:
“Once when we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a female slave who had a spirit by which she predicted the future. She earned a great deal of money for her owners by fortune-telling. She followed Paul and the rest of us, shouting, ‘These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved.’ She kept this up for many days. Finally Paul became so annoyed that he turned around and said to the spirit, ‘In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!’ At that moment the spirit left her.”
Paul is walking along preaching and all of a sudden a servant girl begins to follow them making all kinds of proclamations and says, “These guys are great. Listen to every word they say. They are servants of the Most High God and they alone hold the words of eternal life…"
If someone was walking behind me before church and saying, “RAY VAN GILST IS FROM THE MOST HIGH GOD – AND EVERYTHING HE SAYS IS TRUE – YOU LISTEN TO HIM!” Well, I’d probably respond with: “I didn’t pay her anything – she’s just doing that on her own – God must be revealing these things to her…The word of knowledge came to her – who am I to argue?” 😊
But what does Paul do? He turned around, pointed his finger at her and cast out a demon! Where in the world did that come from? She was saying all the right things. Everything she said about them was right. God gave Paul the insight into the fact that everything she was saying was from a demon to bring confusion – and Paul cast the demon out of her.
We still need discernment in the Church today
We need that supernatural ability to see through fog to the truth. Sometimes it will reveal Satan’s work. Sometimes it will reveal work of demons. Sometimes it will reveal spiritual phonies. Sometimes it will reveal carnality and carnal worship.
One of the responsibilities we have as a church is to find leaders - people who can function in leadership positions and give direction to the church. If the gift of discernment isn’t in the body to help us see through carnality and religious veneer, we’re in trouble.
Some of the most pious people I know are the most carnal. They say all the right things – Isn’t everything just wonderful? Praise the Lord! – but there’s this yucky veneer. Discernment gives you the ability to see through legalistic, mushy veneer Christianity to carnality. If that gift is not at work in the church we’re in big trouble because we’re going to put carnal people in positions of leadership – and then we’re going down a road we don’t want to go.
As discernment comes through people to us, it takes the scales off of our eyes and we see through the fog to the truth. We’ve been given a gift, and that gift is discernment. These gifts don’t come to people who are sitting down, doing nothing, uncommitted. He’s not going to waste them. He’s going to build his church and the gift of discernment is part of that.