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(Is it a Gift or is it Gall)
How does one tell the difference between preaching or teaching that is inspired by the Spirit of God and that which is "of the soul of man"? How does one tell when it is the mind of man, -that is, when it is the soul of man (the "woman" speaking) and not the Holy Spirit speaking through the spirit "man" by the Spirit of Christ?
Many would say it is throughAdiscernment@ that we should be able to distinguish the difference between that which comes from the soul of man, and that which is of the Spirit of God.
The fact that this answer is only partially correct is the root of a major problem concerning spiritual discernment among Christians in every church throughout the corporate (worldwide) church body.
Yes, we need to haveAdiscernment@ -but what kind of discernment? Certainly not the kind of discernment that is by man=s own knowledge, not even by man=s knowledge of scripture but by the gift of the discerning of spirits, and that by the Holy Spirit Himself, who is the Spirit of Truth!
In order to accurately "discern" truth from error, all things must of course be examined according to the measuring line of the word of God, but not by man=s own understanding of the written word and not by man=s interpretation of the letter of the word. In other words, you do not discern truth by what you "think" about your denominational understanding of God=s word God but the Truth of God=s word must be discerned by His Spirit according to the REVELATION of the word by the Spirit of God.
Secondly the things of the Spirit of God need to be established by two or three witnesses.Which is NOT the same as "putting out a fleece."
Thirdly, things that are of God must bear witness with our reborn spirit through the gift of the operation of the discerning of spirits by the witness of the Holy Spirit, by that unction of the Holy One, who is able to teach us all things and will lead us into all truth.
All three of the above are meant as a system of "checks and balances" in order to be sure that we are allowing the Lord to discern the spirit of truth from the spirit of error by His Spirit and are not instead relying upon our own understanding or perception of the written word apart from Him who is the Living Word!
Paul warned against being "in the flesh" -instead of walking "in the Spirit." But Paul correctly identified walking in or according toAthe Spirit@ as being controlled and/or speaking not with the perception, understanding or carnal reasoning of the mind of man Bwhich is from the mind of the "flesh" (otherwise known as from Aour soulish realm@ ).
In his teachings Paul warned that we are not be ignorant of the devices of the enemy and that we ought to beware of the pride of man. We are warned not to walk according to that which is right in our own sight but instead humbly submit what we think in our own reasoning to Him who is the Fountain of Living Water for the understanding and knowledge of His word that comes by the revelation of His Spirit.
Referring to the "soul" realm -as opposed to the realm of the Spirit, means that which is of the soul comes from our own carnal mind, according to our own thoughts or by our own powers of reasoning and from man=s logic and man's earthly kind of wisdom and counsel which is what the scripture calls "leaning unto our own understanding."
False "Spiritual Discerning" occurs in the soul realm when men use their own theology, when manleans to man's own understanding of scripture, when men show preference to that which is taught of men in the traditions and doctrines of man rather than that which is taught to them of the Lord by His Spirit (concerning His word, in Spirit and in Truth) -versus man=s own application of the letter of the word.
We are not to try to judge truth according to our own will, or by being led by our emotions in what "seems or feels" right or wrong to us. We are not to be led even by what we ourselves perceive to be truth or error but are to go to the Lord and ask Him to take us to His word and to show us by His Spirit.
The gift of discerning of spirits is not something man does with his own knowledge of scripture. The gift of the discerning of spirits is a spiritual gift, it is the operation of the Spirit of God by which the Lord Himself by His Spirit shows us the Spirit of truth versus the spirit of error and the Lord does this through our reborn spirit -not through our carnal mind according to the knowledge of man. That is why sometimes something may not sit right with you in your spirit, but in your mind you do not yet quite know just why it doesn=t.
Discerning truth from error by the operation of the gift of the discerning of the Spirit is not the same as "judging" whether or not something is correct by what we know form scripture; although the Spirit of Truth and His word will always agree.
To ask the Holy Spirit to "discern" something for you is not the same as determining something for ourselves by the use of one's mental faculties and our reserves of biblical knowledge. Eve was deceived when she tried to tell truth from error by what she knew God said, the moment the serpent got her to rely upon her own mental powers of reason and logic concerning what God had said, Eve was deceived by theAspirit of error@ not knowing that the lying & deceptive spirit of error cannot be Adiscerned@ by the human mind according to our powers of reason or logic nor by our own knowledge of what God has said, but lying and deceiving spirits of error Blike all spiritual things, must be spiritually discerned and that by our Spiritual Head which is Christ, by His Holy Spirit of Truth!
Spiritual discernment by the Spirit of God requires us to inquire of the Lord concerning the things we see and hear so that by the power of the Holy Spirit, the Lord can reveal the truth to us concerning a thing. And this He does, only as the Spirit wills, when we humble ourselves and ask Him to do so. And this gift operates by the Lord Himself through our reborn spirit by the power of His Spirit and not through the soul or natural mind of man.
There are a number of problems with the kind of so-called "discernment" -as it is mistakenly called, that is taking place in the churches today. In order to have the gift of the discerning of spirits operating by His Spirit, we must first humble our own selves in what we ourselves think we know; which is what Eve did not humble herself to do, and so in her pride she was deceived.
One of the prerequisites for the unhindered operation of the gift of discerning of spirits, in order for us to know the spirit of truth from the spirit of error, the born again believer must be walking according to Spirit,Bhumbling themselves in the sight of God and not walking in the flesh or knowledge of men according to the FLESH.
And if we are behaving proudly or are in the flesh, you can be sure that we are not likely to be able to receive a true witness of what is truth by the Holy Spirit within our spirit (inner witness) if we are walking in the flesh, or if we are operating in the soul realm, acting out of wrong motives or in anyway walking in the ways of the old man in the soulish carnal mind of the flesh.
The gift of discerning of spirits operates within believers (as the Holy Spirit wills) in order that we may through the "inner witness" of His Spirit with our spirits He shows us or help us distinguishAtruth from error@ but this gift cannot operate properly if we are "walking in the flesh." The gifts and the operations of the Holy Spirit do not operate through the soul of man, not by our own mind or our own will, nor according to our feelings.
In fact we quench the operation of the gifts of the Spirit when we are offended by someone or some thing and by feelings that rise up in our flesh. For example, when we are offended by a particular teaching with which we do not personally agree, unless we repent of our offense, we hinder the ability of the Holy Spirit to reveal the truth to us. And if we insist upon following our own reasoning and are determined to be led by what we think instead of asking the Lord, then again we hinder the ability of the Holy Spirit to convince us of the truth. (Which is what the Lord calls the idolatry or stubbornness of the minds of man and hardness of men=s hearts.)
Once we are offended or once we decide to stand by what we have chosen to believe, -apart from submitting ourselves humbly to the Lord, then we cannot correctly "discern" anything because we prevent the Holy Spirit from showing us, that is until we repent and set aside our offense and humble ourselves in heart and mind to receive from Him.
In other words, in plain English: Once you've gotten your nose bent out of shape about something, or once something rubs you the wrong way, then you are not going to be able to hear the Lord for Him to correctly discern anything for you by His Spirit. And at that point, nothing will bear witness with your spirit simply because "you didn't like it" and/or you just don=t want to hear.
Even though a thing may beAof the Lord@ --and even if the Lord does try to establish it in the mouth of two or three witnesses, once we have made up our minds (hardened our hearts) or once we have taken up an offense, we have quenched the Spirit.
Then even if the Lord sent "THE" two witnesses, even if He were to send Moses and Elijah, not even they would not be able to convince the man who has closed his ears or hardened his heart, --unless and until we let go of our offenses of mind and heart and repent of our defensive attitudes!
More often than we realize, the people of God often quench the operation of the gift of discerning of spirits by the things we choose to believe and the things that we have chosen to rejectBall often without ever submitting those things to the Lord.
By our denominational teachings, our religious attitudes, our pious motives, by our personal and even our theological prejudices, we quench the Spirit, even by our own preconceived ideas of what is right or wrong, and by what we think is truth or error, according to our favorite doctrines and/or church dogma. Am I saying that we should throw all these things out, or that we should throw away our Bibles, NO!Bbut we are commanded to submit ourselves in all that we think or do unto the Lord, asking Him to prove all things and test all things for us by His Spirit in accordance with His word!
If however through self-will we choose to hold on to our own man-made "time honored" denominational traditions and teaching of men, then if we are determined to do so in spite of what the Holy Spirit may be trying to teach us, then because of the "hardness of our hearts" we render the gift of discerning of spirits by His Spirit inoperable by the stubbornness of our own hearts which is our idolatry of mind.
Once we harden our hearts against the Holy Spirit, then we are left to believe what we want to believe -even if it is error, because we have chosen for ourselves, and so He says they chose to believe a lie and loved not the truthBand this applies to all of God=s word, not just to hardness of heart against the salvation message. People can be saved and yet harden their hearts against truth by God=s Spirit in favor of what they want to believe.
Because many pastors and teachers do not themselves understand the difference between true spiritual discernment by the power of the Holy Spirit and that of man=s own mental powers of reason by which men try to judge truth from error according to man=s own knowledge of the letter of the word, there is much error and self-deception in the churches.
Pride in knowledge and self-will through the hardness of men=s hearts has caused a loss of true spiritual discernment by the quenching of the Holy Spirit among the leaders and the people alike. Many times a member of one church will defend the doctrines of his church or the teaching of his pastor no matter how the Holy Spirit may try to entreat him Bonce the person has taken up a defensive position based upon emotion or a sense of loyalty for his church or his pastor etc. then the Holy Spirit is quenched by the usurping by the soul (carnal reasoning, feelings and emotions) of man which is acting in oppostion to the operation of the things of the Spirit.
This is especially true among much of church leadership and the different denominational factions and movements today. There are many who claim to be exercising the "gift of spiritual discernment" who are really doing nothing more than defending their own personal prejudices, doctrinal beliefs, traditions and doctrines of men and/or church dogma.
All too often, anything disagreeable, that hits "too close to home"Banything that dares to touch a "sacred cow" or anything that sounds negative is labeled as "not of God" -having been "judged" in the soul realm by so-called discerning individuals --instead of being "rightly discerned" in the spirit by the power and operation of the Holy Spirit.
When someone is actually operating in the soul realm, it is a grievous thing to attribute workings of the flesh to the operation of a gift of the Spirit of God, and to do so is to tread on very dangerous ground. Sadly, many church leaders today are doing just that, they are operating in the soul realm judging truth according to their own knowledge of the letter of the written word, not according to the Spirit of the Word by the power of the Holy Spirit. Many are quenching the correction of the Holy Spirit and are misleading their flocks "in the mind of the flesh" while claiming to be "walking in the spirit" and insist that they are led by the Spirit.
Meanwhile much of the "flock" can't discern the difference either because they have been taught to measure truth and judge error for themselvesBaccording to what seems right in their own sight, and as a result they too are walking "in the mind of the flesh."
Some "sheep" have by the Spirit of GodBby the discerning of His Spirit, been shown these problems of the quenching of the Spirit, and it is a kind of quenching of the Spirit that is far more serious than whether or not people are allowed to dance in the isles. It has to do with quenching the Holy Spirit of Truth by men who pretend to be speaking the truth but who are refusing to hear the Spirit of Truth and will not receive the correction of the Lord in that which He Himself is testifying by His Spirit against the churches -in these our wicked ways and doings.
Sadly those who do see what is happening are prevented from speaking out against this mockery that men call godlyAdiscernment@. Through fear and because of intimidation by pastors and church leaders, many remain silent and are not allowed to speak out against that which the Holy Spirit is saying is blatant error Beven doctrines of demons, now presented as truth.
Many who are correctly hearing the Holy Spirit in the discerning of His Spirit concerning lying spirits, concerning seducing spirits of error and deception have beenAverbally beaten@ into quiet submission to apostate leadership. The word of God is being used against them to justify ungodly pastoral control and scripture is being wielded as a weapon against those who would otherwise speak out, as apostate leaders misuse the Bible to maintain "dominance" over the flock.
Under the guise of shepherding sheep and under a pretense of maintaining and defending purity of doctrine, seducing and deceptive spirits of error are being given place in the churches, grieving the Holy Spirit, as the churches are dominated by the teaching of men, and the sheep are Bible-battered into submission, led like lambs to the slaughter by apostate leaders, blind guides leading the blind. The blind are leading the blind into ditches; the pulpits and pews of the churches today are deeply entrenched in these ditches. And the Holy Spirit stands at the door of the churches calling His people and their leaders to repent.
In these last days, Jesus warned of yet another way in which men would render the gift of the discerning of spirits inoperable, and that is through self-indulgence. Jesus warned that we should take heed, "lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting and drunkenness..." He was warning to beware of more than just over-eating and against more than the consumption of alcohol.
There is a type of drunkenness that is just as deadly as alcoholism, that is just as destructive as drug abuse. And there is a type of surfeiting -which meansAover-eating@ that is much more damaging to the spirit and to our souls than just over-indulgence in junk food.
It goes without saying that over-eating, gluttony and/or drunkenness would indeed quench the operation of the Spirit of God. But how much the more so, is that true of spiritual surfeiting and spiritual drunkenness?
Spiritually surfeiting is not just over-eating, it is indulgence in the spiritual "junk food" of the things of this world. Spiritual surfeiting is feeding our souls, stuffing our minds on a spiritual junk food diet of T.V., and radio, and video games and movies, of worldly literature, on novels and magazines, on sports and all those other false gods we worship.
Christians have acquired a taste for "spiritual junk food" known as entertainment. And to our shame we rationalize the dangers of doing so by pretending and even actually believing that this junk food diet or ours is harmless. Some completely write-off the dangers of indulging themselves in the things of this world, while others try to minimize the danger by saying,"it's just entertainment." Others try to re-label entertainment and try to justify and even try to sanctify it, by calling it "Christian entertainment."
"Entertainment" is not benign, it is a tool of the spirit of the Age and it works its "works" through enticement. Enticement, is a spiritual power which operates through a "principality" called the spirit of whoredoms. These principalities and powers are REAL and we are warned against them in scripture:
"For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places." (Eph.6:12)
Little by little, Christians everywhere are committing a type of "spiritual suicide" through this kind of surfeiting. And they do so often with the "blessing" of ignorant church leaders, -all in the name of a "time honored" tradition that we call, "rest and relaxation."
In addition to warning His disciples against surfeiting or over-eating, Jesus also warned his disciples against drunkenness. But did Jesus only mean physical drunkenness? His disciples were not drunkards? Apart from indulgence in alcoholic beverages, what then is drunkenness? And why would Jesus think it necessary to warn His disciples against drunkenness?
Jesus said that those who thirst should come unto Him and that He would give Living Water. In Jeremiah 17:13 it is the Lord Who is called the fountain of Living Water. Living Water refers to the Holy Spirit and to that revelation of the things of God that the Holy Spirit gives, which is the REVELATION of the Jesus Christ who is the word of God, the Living Word.
Only Living Water brings life. (IICor.3:6) Jesus said that His words are Spirit and they are Life. (Jn.6:63) The REVELATION of the word of God by His Spirit is spiritual drink, it is Life giving water from the fountain of Living Waters.
Instead of Living Water, instead of the revelation of the Word of God by the Spirit of God, when we allow men to substitute the teaching and doctrines of men, then we are drinking muddy water, fouled water (Ezk.34:19) which is that knowledge which James said is from below, it is man=s own knowledge of the written word, of the letter of the word according to the mind of man. And the letter of the word brings death under the guise of giving life.
Through the knowledge of men, -through higher education in religious seminaries and Bible colleges, man often substitutes man=s knowledge concerning scripture. As a result we tend to become drunk with knowledge. Men become filled with Bible knowledge and become not filled with the Spirit, but instead they become inebriated with so-called facts about the Bible, and filled with historical knowledge about Bible history and filled with Bible "theory" etc.
The seminaries and Bible colleges teach courses in homiletics and hermeneutics so that our pastors and ministers will know how to properly force feed their "trampled down fodder" (Ezk.34:19) to unsuspecting sheep.
Bible Knowledge and the knowledge of man concerning the written word of God is not the same as Living Water. The blind scribes and proud Pharisees knew a lot about the written word; they knew every jot and tittle, like many Bible teachers who know the Bible backwards and forwards and have memorized whole books of the Bible. Yet their vast reservoirs of knowledge only made them self-righteous in their blindness to the Truth, as they rejected the Messiah, and refused to hear Him who is the Living Word of God.
The churches too have built vast reservoirs of man-made "religious knowledge" which men store in institutions of religious education called seminaries and Bible colleges. From the broken cisterns of the minds of men come wrested scriptures, twisted in meaning. And from the false teachings (see Jer.2:13) of men many try in vain to draw living water. Meanwhile, our churches suffering from a spiritual droughtBcaused by the failure of our leaders to hear, and by their stubborn refusal to submit themselves to that which the Spirit is clearly saying to the Churches.