The Ability to Distinguish Between Spirits

This is also known as the gift of discerning of spirits.

What moves you? 

Not the action itself. I’m not talking about works. I’m talking about what lies beneath your works. What is inside of your spirit?

Answering this means wading through all of your baggage, your past regrets, your sins, your tendencies, your nature, your nurture, how you were raised, and the choices you’ve made. 

The answer to this can be found by what is in your spirit.

After you’ve finished with this, now try and discern the spirit of the person beside you?

There is a simple and biblical way to do this.

How to Distinguish 

Jesus Sermon on the Mount begins in Matthew 5:

Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him.

2 And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:

3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

5 “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.

6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.

8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.

10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Jesus is explaining the tendencies of those who will seek after His love over all things. 

They will have poor spirits, meaning: they aren’t proud.
They are mournful, meaning: they see and have empathy for this fallen world.
They are meek, meaning: they don’t manipulate others.
They hunger and search after righteousness, meaning: they celebrate and see what is good.

They are merciful, meaning: they are forgiving. They lack bitterness.

They are pure, meaning: well, only Jesus can make you pure and sinless and guiltless besides. 

In fact, only Jesus can make you any of these things. On your own, you will fail.

They are peacemakers, meaning: they don’t stir up or push other people’s buttons or cause trouble.

They are persecuted for righteousness sake. We live in an evil and fallen world. Standing up for what is right and good and of the Lord often leads to persecution. But in the next world to come, Jesus says, “Your reward is great in heaven.” He even compares this persecution to how the prophets who came before were treated.

He continues further with the opening up of the law so that it might be branded within the tablets of our heart (Jeremiah 31:33).

21 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ 22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire. 23 So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.

How many bitter sins do we hold onto in our spirit? Even people at church can hold a grudge with each other. Jesus says to get this dealt with before offering something to God. He calls this hatred murder. 

And this is where the 10 commandments suddenly become something beyond what we see. It is now and forever buried in our hearts. Let’s take the 10 commandments and apply them to our spirit.

  1. Worshiping yourself over God is idolatry.
  2. Worshiping anything in nature that you create is idolatry.
  3. Doing your own thing and calling it God’s name is evil.
  4. Wandering thoughts at church is not keeping the sabbath.
  5. Pretending to honor your parents is being false.
  6. Murder is hatred.
  7. Lust is adultery.
  8. Taking credit for another’s work is thievery.
  9. Inventing wrong things about someone to make yourself appear better is scapegoating and slanderous.
  10. Coveting or wishing or dreaming to have what others have is envy.

Romans 7

21 So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. 22 For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, 23 but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.

Jesus continues in His sermon on the Mount in Matthew 7:

“Judge not, that you be not judged. 2 For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. 3 Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.

This is a warning before going on a “witch hunt” and breaking the 4 th commandment by saying it is “of the Lord”. You can’t call your gift of distinguishing spirits of the Spirit when you are blinded by your sins.

It is in this same chapter that in verse 15, Jesus warns against false prophets. He says that you can know them by their fruit. This is the defining feature of the spirit, their fruit.

Actions can be deceptive. The false prophet Benny Hinn pretends to be a great man of God. He even claims to have repented from the prosperity gospel. Sounds good to me! Let’s let him back into the fold! Now so fast, what he claims to do and what he actually does are two different things. 

Justin Peters has explained this pretty well. Basically, Benny Hinn still teaches what he repented from.

Skip to 8:29 to hear his “repentance”.

Skip to 28:07 starts out really good and true!

Skip to 28:57 to understand the hypocrisy.

You can’t be two faced and call yourself a Christian. If you are found to be wrong, you must fully commit to repentance and be open to God’s sanctification, even to the point that you lose your own glory in the process!

What are the Fruit and How Do You Tell?

Galatians 5
16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

Why would you need a law if you are already patient and loving? But who can be patient and loving without the work of Christ within us?

19 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 

They are evident: this means, if you see it happening, if you have judged well in all things, if you have uncovered that someone’s actions are against what they profess… pay attention! 

But be careful of slander and scapegoating. We live in a cancel-culture that often overreacts to things. And presumes certain things that aren’t even there. Without evidence, a sinner can be slandered to such a point that they must be a demon, even if there is no evident proof of this. 

And what if this “demon” repents? “Very sorry sir or madam, but you’ve committed the unpardonable sin according to my tastes and thoughts. Now, go to hell.”

There are some acceptable sins that our culture turns a blind eye to. 

Currently it is very acceptable to be bitter towards your neighbor. It is acceptable to have and murder certain siners in your heart without any chance at redemption. It is acceptable to be unforgiving and rude to them because of their failures. And, it is acceptable to go on sinning yourself with a plank in your eye and never be called out for your own hypocrisy.

Paul continues in Galatians 5:
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

This is what Jesus ultimately means. If someone is producing the fruit of kindness and gentleness, even–and especially–towards those who are rude and conceited against him, this person, no matter what false slander has been said of him, is not producing the fruit of the flesh.

If someone repents for their wrongs and shows a consistent evidence of turning away from that wrong through the sanctification of Christ, well, at some point the sins they did several years ago should be forgiven.

25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.

Paul is very wise in this, he knows that even when trying to discern the truth, we ourselves can be tempted into sin.

Galatians 6
Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.

I can’t stress this enough. Do not demonize him. Forgive him. Restore him. Be gentle. This will do more to glorify God than scapegoating everyone’s sins upon him, giving people an excuse to sin against him by the hypocritical standards of the world.

This is what Paul means when he says earlier in 5:26
Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.

2 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. 3 For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. 4 But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor. 5 For each will have to bear his own load.

In Review

How do you discern your own spirit and the spirit of other’s?

Recognize the beatitudes in yourself and others (Matthew 5).

Understand the 10 commandments internally as well as externally (Matthew 5).

Do they do what they say? Do you do what you say (Matthew 7)?

What fruit is evident, flesh or Spirit (Galatians 5)?

And don’t forget the warning: 
Is there a sin in your life that is keeping you from seeing the sin in others?

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