Discernment (Part 1) – A Missing Necessity

      If you were to ask people what they believe is missing in the church, you would probably receive various answers. The reasons could include inspirational worship, good teaching, sound doctrine, and people. We all have our ideas as to what is wrong with the church and why it seems that people are displaying less and less of a religious conscience in America, even to the point that we are losing the younger generation to the enlightened gospel of the New Age, the social gospel of socialism, the politically correct gospel of progressiveness and tribalism, the demonic, oppressive gospel of communism, and the preferred gospel of humanism.

       However, it is amazing that at the center of these gospels is the awareness that mankind needs saving because it is on a collision course with a variety of forces. As a result, man is forever trying to stop this pending collision with band aids of activities and duct tape of methods as a means to try to hold the world together long enough to usher in some type of utopia for the elite. No matter what methods are used the problems in the world continue to escalate because at the core of mankind’s problems is man himself.

       Man is a sinner, abiding in a doomed state and standing under a death sentence. Man is his own worst enemy and is incapable of saving himself, regardless of the method or system he might devise. No matter how he looks to the world to change his plight, strives to derail his present state of self-destruction, and change the sentence that hangs over him, man continues on a collision course with destiny, and that is with his holy Creator.

       Clearly, the problem with mankind is spiritual, moral, and a total breakdown of what is sacred. Man has tried to address the spiritual aspects of his problem with religion that placates man’s delusion, the moral challenges with worldly philosophies that do away with consequences, and the destructive breakdown with feel-good gospels that allow people to be happy in their doomed state. Sadly, such methods leave man in a lost state, blinded to the pending wrath of God by the false promise of some type of salvation.

       Such heretical salvation always entails the deification of man. In an elevated opinion of himself, man believes he can somehow save mankind outside of God through government measures, spiritual enlightenment, good works, and social reform.

       In the past I have spoken of the condition of the church in America. I have talked about how many in America are gospel hardened. I have asked where is the vision and urgency of the church in regard to lost souls and its commission to offer the only life and Savior that has been made available to mankind.

       The rejection of God’s salvation has created formidable problems. The problems we see today have already been prophesied in Scripture. Jesus in Matthew 16:3b, asked the religious leaders of His day, “O ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky; but can ye not discern the signs of the times?” Where is the modern church as far as preparing each generation to stand in the days they are living in?” Is this generation being taught to properly discern the signs of the times in order to ensure it is prepared to stand against the present darkness engulfing the world? Are they being prepared for the “Blessed hope” that must be intertwined in the Scriptural teaching of every upcoming generation?

       Sadly, we have all kinds of signs around us, warning us of the lateness of the hour. One of the signs is the type of attitude our youth are clearly adopting towards the matters of God, morality, and life. In 2 Timothy 3:1-5, the Apostle Paul stated that in the end of the last days, perilous times would be upon us. He talked about the obvious fruits of these times—men will be lovers of selves, proud, disobedient, unthankful, unholy, void of any natural affection, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, high-minded, lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God. These individuals would have a form of godliness but deny the power thereof, and as believers we are clearly instructed to turn from them. Obviously, we are seeing these attitudes being blatantly displayed in the generation referred to as “the Millenniums.”

       Many churches I have attended seemed to have dedicated saints firmly established in their pews, but they are from a generation that is quickly passing from this world. As these saints look around to see who they can pass the torch to, there is no one coming alongside them to take it. Where are the youth of the church, the young people who are as the Apostle John stated in 1 John 2:13b, “I write unto you, young men, because ye have overcome the wicked one,” and 1 John 2:14b, “I have written unto you young men, because ye are strong, and the word of God abideth in you and ye have overcome the wicked one.”

       Each generation must pass the torch on to the next generation. The older generation may have experience and wisdom, but the upcoming generation has valuable strength to continue the race and fight the battles, but such strength must be disciplined by the Word of God abiding in the young soldiers if it is going to make a lasting difference. It is from the foundations of such disciplined strength that these young people will be able to overcome the evil one and continue to carry the torch. However, a big part of overcoming the god of this present world is something called discernment.

       The Apostle Paul put this perspective on discernment in 1 Corinthians 2:11, “For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God” In 1 Corinthians 2:14, he concludes with this statement in regard to knowing whether a spiritual matter is true or not, “because they are spiritually discerned.

       The Bible is clear; you cannot know a matter unless the Holy Spirit has first revealed it to your spirit. This is true for salvation, sin, righteousness, truth, and the matters of judgment. Jesus told Peter that the reason he knew who He was was because the Father revealed it to him. The Apostle John stated that it was the Spirit of God who convicted people of their sin, established the true standard of righteousness, and put judgment in the right perspective because it is the Spirit alone who leads us into all truth about the Truth, Jesus Christ (Matthew 16:15-17; John 14:6; 16:7-13).

       If your understanding about spiritual matters goes back to your logic, to someone else’s conclusion or to man-made doctrine, you need to know that it lacks heavenly inspiration, and it is either lifeless, limited, perverted, or heretical. And, if you are one of those who claim you know it all and there is no way you could be deceived about what you presently believe, you need to know YOU ARE ALREADY DECEIVED as to your prideful state, and are ready to fall into greater delusion if you do not repent and come back to center as to what constitutes all truth: Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 10:12; 12:3; Galatians 6:3).

       John tells us to test all spirits (1 John 4:1). Testing a spirit means discerning a spirit. Discernment is the only way to identify the spirit in operation. It is not judging a matter, but identifying what is behind a matter. Judging will always come to the conclusions a person is bent towards, but discernment is not looking for a conclusion; rather, it is about identifying what is in order to properly respond to it.

       Many in the Christian realm have been scared from developing the means to discern or to operate in the gift of discernment. Those who have discernment are often accused of being judgmental. Granted, there is a fine-line between judging and discernment, but judging is done from the point of logic and personal standards, while discernment is the ability to see into the spiritual realm and identify the spirit in operation. Judging considers a matter based on whether it makes a person judging the matter uncomfortable or it appears wrong when it comes to personal standards or ideas, while discernment relies on the Holy Spirit to push back the fog of confusion to bring clarity as to what is behind a matter.

       It is hard for Christians to accept that there is a spirit behind everything. When you consider the purpose of spirit it has to do with intent and approach. It is hard to accept that, for the most part, people do not do something because it is something to do; rather, they have a reason behind what they are doing. They want to influence people a certain way as to their understanding and thinking and/or they want to affect the reality of something to ensure a certain outcome.

       Consider Hollywood. You think people in Hollywood make films just to make films or do they have  intent behind each film to affect people’s worldview because they have an agenda they are promoting? What about liberal media? Is the media’s intent to inform people or is there an agenda where their stories are intentionally being slanted and perverted to seduce the listener into coming into agreement with their agenda? How about the different political parties? Are they representing the will of the people or their own agendas?

       A good example is a family friendly network that I occasionally watch for entertainment purposes. However, this family friendly network promotes the New Age by blatantly advertising the practice of yoga, as well as witchcraft by presenting it in a positive light, but all witchcraft is dark because Satan is behind it. Keep in mind, witchcraft comes from the idea of developing a craft or art (magic) and operating in it in order to seduce and deceive people into another reality. The Apostle Paul stated in 2 Corinthians 4:2, “But have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully: but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.” In Ephesians 4:14 the apostle gave this warning, “That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men and cunning craftiness whereby they lie in wait to deceive.”

       When it comes to prophecies concerning the end day and the influence of wrong spirits, many churches act as if they are immune from the demonic darkness now engulfing this world.  They treat the Bible’s warnings and instructions as being obsolete in light of so-called present day “enlightenment,” or mere fables at best and a scared tactic at worse. Instead of discerning the days we are in and the spirit in operation, and going back to the simplicity of Christ by lifting up Jesus and His salvation in unadulterated spirit and truth, many churches are trying to compensate for the waning or absent numbers, especially in relationship to the youth, by resorting to worldly entertainment and methods to draw young people into the “entertainment” halls that once were sanctuaries (2 Corinthians 11:1-4). The truth about such attempts is that it simply wets the spiritual appetites of the youth as it enlarges the sensual appetites of their flesh to seek experiences and not the Person of Jesus Christ. James actually talked about the lusts that consume in James 4:2-3, “Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not. Ye ask, and receive not, because you ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.

       People may wonder why it is important to discern, because Christians must discern a matter to see whether they can come into agreement with it. The Holy Spirit’s goal is to bring us into agreement with the Lord and each other so that we can fellowship with Him, and offer the acceptable sacrifice of praise, as well as worship Him in spirit and truth, so that all service will glorify Him.

       When there is an unholy agreement, one will be spiritually dulled down, which means there will be no discernment to ensure there is separation occurring between the church and the world. God calls us to holiness and holiness points to purity (1 Peter 1:15-16). All things must come from a source of purity or godliness. In fact, the purity of God’s holiness is the consuming, purging fire upon all that is unholy.

       Unholy mixtures means that purity is lacking and perversion is taking root. The more the church becomes inundated with the world, the more the church loses its ability to rightly discern and likewise teach others about separation. Instead of a black and white arena, many live in the misty flats of compromise, where everything is grey. As a result, the world is not being rooted out of the church; rather, the world is becoming rooted in the church creating an unholy mixture and agreement (2 Corinthians 6:14-18).

       Nowadays, there is no distinction between the holy and unholy, vexing the spirits of those who are striving for such distinction in their personal lives. Without the clear distinction of the holy from the unholy, there is no separation between the profane and what is deemed scripturally as being sacred. There is no visible concern that an unholy mixture is present because purity has been sacrificed on the altars of worldliness and political correctness. It is clear that the methods adopted by many churches are to attract the world into the churches and not lost souls.

       Sadly, if we are defiling the line between the holy and the unholy, we will end up with the profane. Even though there is a concept that the holy can influence the unholy in the right way, Scripture teaches to the contrary. In Haggai, the priests admitted that their holy garments could not make unholy objects holy or acceptable to God, but if an unholy object touched the holy garments of the priest, the garments became defiled (Haggai 2:11-14)

       Scripture is clear that if you belong to the world, it will love you, but if you belong to Jesus, the world will hate you (John 17:14). No person can serve two masters at the same time, and if you love the world, you are an enemy of God and the love of God is not in you (Matthew 6:24; James 4:4; 1John 2-15).

       We have warning upon warning about unholy agreements in the Scriptures. These profane agreements could include the world (enemy of God), idols (demonic inspiration), heretical doctrines (wrong spirits), and false leaders (spiritual fornicators). The avenues for such agreements include fleshly lusts, superstition (ignorance), deception, and seduction. The open doors to unholy agreement can include pride, greed, pornography, and witchcraft.

       It is for this reason Jesus warned that deception would run rampant in the last days and that there would be many false prophets (Matthew 24:11, 24). He also made this statement in Matthew 10:16, “Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves; be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.”

       The Apostle Paul declared that some will give way to seducing spirits and doctrines of devils, the Apostle Peter warned of wells without water, religions and leaders that would be void of the right spirit and truth, and the Apostle John instructed us to test the spirits because many false prophets have gone out into the world (Matthew 1 Timothy 4:1; 2 Peter 2:17; 1 John 4:1).

       The Bible has also made mention of wrong spirits that must be discerned and guarded against by the church. Paul talked about the spirit of the world, Satan, who can come as an angel of light along with deceitful workers who transform themselves into ministers of righteousness and seducing spirits, as well as exhorting believers that they must not be ignorant about Satan’s devices (1 Corinthians 2:12; 2 Corinthians 2:11; 11:13-15; 1 Timothy 4:1). John talked about the anti-Christ spirit that was present in his time during his tenure as overseer at the church of Ephesus. We also know the Bible speaks of lying spirits and familiar spirits all working their particular craft to entangle us into a web of delusion.

       This brings me back to the question, what does the church need the most? I would say discernment. It is clearly a missing ingredient in much of what is going on in the name of Christianity. It appears as if many do not care what spirit is behind a matter as long as it sounds good, looks right, and fits into the popular narrative of the day.

       I am going to do a series on discernment to address what it is and what it is not. Meanwhile, I encourage you to consider whether you possess discernment and how it is meant to function in your life and the church today. Perhaps, you are not sure. Humble yourself and ask the Lord in sincerity and He will show you.