DISCERNING OF SPIRITS
A. WHAT IT IS NOT
1. NOT SUSPICION - The gift of discerning of spirits is not simply being suspicious of others. A person who has never had the Holy Spirit can be suspicious of everyone, and often they are.
2. NOT GIFT OF CRITICISM - This gift is not discerning of faults, but of spirits. It is the spirit of the devil which causes people to accuse the brethren. The devil is called the Accuser of the Brethren in the book of Revelation.
3. NOT THE GIFT OF DISCERNMENT - This gift is not simply the ability to discern things, it is the gift of discerning OF SPIRITS. Most anyone can discern different colors, shapes, and sizes of things, but it takes a supernatural gift from God to discern spirits.
4. NOT SPIRITISM - This gift is not to be confused with spiritism, which is condemned in the Scriptures. The spirits of our dead relatives are not floating around in our houses or in the air outside. They are either with Jesus, or else they have gone to hell. As spiritism and demon-possessed people increase in number we need the gift of discerning of spirits more and more.
B. WHAT IT IS
1. DEFINITION - Discerning of spirits is God's Spirit informing a spirit filled Christian, which type of spirit is being manifested. It is a supernatural look into the spiritual world.
2. APPLICATIONS - This gift can show the kinds of spirits which are working in people today; such as unclean spirits, deaf and dumb spirits, demonic spirits, oppressing spirits, or even the Holy Spirit. This gift is a requirement for all who are used of God in a deliverance ministry. Without it, those who seek to minister deliverance are simply left guessing at whether or not a demonic spirit is actually present and if so, what type of demonic spirit. This gift is also a requirement of all those who operate in a prophetic ministry, for without it they would not be able to sit by and judge the prophesies of others as they are called to do in 1Cor 14:29 which says, "Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the other judge."
3. PURPOSE - This gift is given to keep the church safe from demonic presence and practices.
C. BIBLE EXAMPLES
1. PAUL AND THE DAMSEL - A certain damsel, possessed with a spirit of divination, followed Paul and Silas saying that they were servants of the most High God. Instead of making her one of the charter members of the church, Paul cast the demon out of her. Please notice that Paul didn't take her into a special deliverance service and ask her all about her history, he just had a gift of discerning of spirits from the Holy Spirit to know that she had a demon and he cast it out of her that same moment.
2. PAUL AND BAR-JESUS - Bar-jesus sought to turn away Sergius Paulus from the faith (Acts 13:6-10). "Then Paul, FILLED WITH THE HOLY GHOST, set his eyes on him and said, O full of all subtlety and all mischief, thou child of the devil, thou enemy of all righteousness, wilt thou not cease to pervert the right ways of the Lord?" But, Paul first discerned that this evil spirit was there before he spoke.
3. PETER AND SIMON THE SORCERER - Philip let one man be baptized without discerning the evil spirit that was still in the man. But when Peter started to pray for him he discerned it and said, "For I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness and the bond of iniquity," (Acts 8:23). Simon had believed with his mind, was baptized and converted by Philip, but his heart was not right with God. If more of us had the gift of discerning of spirits in our churches, there would be a lot less churches which have people with perverse spirits and hearts full of wickedness. They would have to change their hearts as well as their minds if they wanted to hang around the church.