It was the middle of the Easter Sunday service 1999. Our senior pastor had just ascended the pulpit to give the sermon. Suddenly a lady burst through the back door from the foyer into the sanctuary. I remember she had black hair and glasses. She wore a wedding gown. She skipped down the aisle and stopped directly in front of our pastor. She bowed and handed him a note. Then she turned and departed the same way she had come.
For about thirty seconds the entire congregation sat in shocked silence wondering what the application to his sermon would be. Then the pastor spoke up.’ “I don’t know if this is a joke or not but I can tell you it’s not from God.”
It turns out the Easter bride as she came to be called made several visits up and down route 140 that Easter Sunday morning. It did not take a theological giant or a Spirit baptized Christian to discern that this woman was not working for “our” side. But what about the cases that are not so clear-cut?
The Bible speaks of just such a case in the Book of Acts 16: 16-18. Paul had come to Philipi and was beginning to preach the gospel to the city. Somewhere along the way in his work he picked up a stray. She followed along behind Paul day after day, the Bible says, crying out “ These men are servants of the Most High God, and they have come to tell you how to be saved!”
Now on the surface that does not seem to be such a bad thing. Many evangelists may have been excited about the free advertising. But Paul discerned that the root of this fan’s admiration was not Godly but Satanic. He discerned the spirit within the girl, and finally rebuked the spirit setting the girl free.
In this age of confusion the gift of discerning spirits is much-needed by every believer. The Bible warns us that in the last days false prophets and messiahs will rise up in abundance. They will even have the power to perform signs, wonders, and miracles. However we are counseled not to believe them. How are we to know the real from the fake? By the gift of discerning of spirits we will know.
I Corinthians 12: 10 says, “… He gives someone else the ability to know whether it is the Spirit of God or another spirit that is speaking….” This ability to know what spirit is speaking comes in the form of what many call a check in our spirit.
When I listen to someone ministering I look for the inner witness that what they are saying is from God. If it is, the spirit within me will be peaceful and rejoicing. If it is not from God, then I will have a check ,an uneasy feeling in the pit of my stomach. Sometimes I am not even sure why I have the check. What the person says seems to be from God but…
Discerning of spirits is more art than science. Even Paul, when he discerned the woman following him around Philipi was not from God, did not act immediately. The Word says he let it go on for several days before he took action. The reason? Discerning is different from wisdom. Once a thing is discerned wisdom must be sought to know what to do. So Paul waited until finally in holy exasperation he rebuked the spirit and ended the satanic charade.
Do you operate often in the gift of discerning of spirits? Tell me of your experiences? How important a part does wisdom play in the operation of the gift for you?