Understanding Spiritual Discernment Variations

Spiritual discernment is the ability to judge wisely and rightly discern the truth in confusing or ambiguous situations. It helps believers navigate life through the guidance of the Holy Spirit. There are several types of spiritual discernment mentioned in the Bible that every Christian should understand.

Defining Spiritual Discernment

Spiritual discernment involves perceiving the truth through the power of the Holy Spirit. It enables us to judge between right and wrong, distinguish truth from error, and recognize deception or evil spirits. The Bible calls it “discerning of spirits” (1 Corinthians 12:10).

Spiritual discernment is one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit given to believers. It allows us to separate what is from God and what is not. This discernment is essential for understanding God’s will in situations that are unclear or have multiple possible outcomes.

What Does Discernment Mean Biblically?

In Scripture, the Greek word for discernment is “diakrisis.” It means to separate thoroughly, discriminate, evaluate carefully, and judge wisely. Spiritual discernment involves distinguishing right from almost right rather than obvious right from wrong.

The book of Hebrews states that God’s word enables us to judge rightly and discern our hearts’ intentions and desires (Hebrews 4:12). Through discernment, we can divide soul and spirit, joints and marrow, and judge the thoughts and attitudes of our hearts.

Why Is Discernment Important?

Discernment is crucial for every believer because we live in a fallen world filled with deception and falsehood. The Bible warns us to be alert and on guard against false prophets and teachers (Matthew 7:15, 2 Peter 2:1). We need discernment to distinguish truth from error and testing every spirit according to God’s word (1 John 4:1).

Without spiritual discernment, we can easily be led astray by compromised doctrine, worldly philosophies, and demonic deception. Discernment protects us from deception and enables us to walk in God’s perfect will.

Types of Spiritual Discernment in the Bible

The Bible describes several facets or types of discernment that believers can operate in through the Spirit’s empowerment. Let’s explore some of the key variations:

1. Discernment of Spirits

This refers to the ability given by the Holy Spirit to distinguish whether spiritual sources are from God, human flesh, or demonic forces. It enables us to detect the presence of evil spirits, as Paul did in Acts 16:16-18 when he discerned a fortune-telling spirit in a slave girl.

This gift guards us from demonic deception and false teaching by recognizing what spirit influences a person or doctrine. Every believer needs this discernment to battle spiritual forces of darkness (Ephesians 6:12).

2. Discernment of Truth and Error

This discernment reveals what is true versus false. It lets us judge prophetic words, teachings, and doctrines according to God’s word of truth (1 Thessalonians 5:20-21). We can discern truth from half-truths or slight distortions that may creep into the church.

This gift is crucial today as many false teachers twist Scripture and deceive believers. It enables us to test words against the Bible and reject what contradicts God’s truth.

3. Discernment of Motives and Intentions

Also called discernment of hearts or spirits, this reveals the motives, intentions, and hidden agendas behind people’s words and actions. Jesus operated in this gift, discerning people’s thoughts, beliefs, and motives (John 2:24-25).

We need this discernment to understand others’ real intentions. It protects us from manipulation and reveals wolves in sheep’s clothing who try to deceive God’s people.

4. Discernment of Times and Seasons

This discernment recognizes God’s timing and enables us to understand the times we live in. The sons of Issachar had this discernment to know what Israel should do in their day (1 Chronicles 12:32). It involves seeing current events in light of God’s plans.

With this gift, we can discern proper timing for actions or decisions and align with what God is doing. We avoid fruitless works by partnering with God’s calendar and purposes.

5. Discernment of Spirits in Dreams

This gift enables interpreting dreams through the Holy Spirit’s revelation. It involves distinguishing whether a dream’s source is God, our soul, or an evil spirit trying to deceive. Daniel operated in this discernment of dreams (Daniel 7).

With this discernment, we can understand God’s messages in dreams and avoid deception from false dreams. It’s an important protection against demonic counterfeits.

Distinguishing Between Good and Evil

A key aspect of spiritual discernment is the ability to distinguish good from evil clearly. Scripture exhorts us:

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2).

When we renew our minds in God’s word, we can discern His perfect will from the flawed ways of this world. Here are some principles for discernment:

  • Test words, doctrines, and spirits against Scripture.
  • Watch for fruit – character and results – in a person’s life (Luke 6:43-45).
  • Listen to the Spirit’s inward witness and prompting in your spirit (Romans 8:14).
  • Evaluate whether something glorifies God or leads people to Christ.
  • Consider the counsel of respected believers.
  • Look at the source – is it from God or influences of the world and enemy.

With practice, we can sharpen our discernment to distinguish light and darkness more clearly through the Spirit’s help.

Hearing the Voice of God

An important application of spiritual discernment is hearing God’s voice accurately. We learn to recognize the Holy Spirit’s inward promptings and confirm them against deceptions. Here are some principles for discerning God’s voice:

  • Know God’s word and character – His voice aligns with Scripture.
  • Learn to recognize the inward witness of the Spirit in your born-again spirit (Romans 8:16).
  • Listen for persistence – God often confirms messages.
  • Compare words to Scripture – God won’t contradict His written Word.
  • Consider fruit – words from God’s Spirit produce holiness.
  • Test prophecy carefully (1 Thessalonians 5:20-21).
  • Discern sources – tune out the world’s voices to hear God better.

As we mature in discernment, we become better at recognizing God’s voice from our own thoughts or the enemy’s lies. Patiently testing words leads to clarity.

Developing Spiritual Discernment Skills

Since discernment is a crucial gift, every Christian should desire to grow in discernment through the Holy Spirit’s enablement. Here are some tips for developing stronger spiritual discernment:

  • Pray for greater discernment and for the Spirit’s guidance (James 1:5).
  • Study and meditate on God’s word – it trains us in discernment (Hebrews 5:14).
  • Learn from mature believers who model discernment well.
  • Practice testing words, situations, and decisions against Scripture.
  • Follow the inward witness – learn to recognize God’s promptings.
  • Stay filled with the Spirit and His wisdom and power (Ephesians 5:18).
  • Sharpen discernment through fasting and worship.
  • Avoid polluting influences that diminish discernment.

As we walk closely with Jesus, discernment will increase through the Spirit’s work in us. Staying grounded in God’s word and Spirit are essential for growing this vital gift.

Spiritual discernment is invaluable for walking in God’s will and avoiding deception in these times. Several types of discernment help us judge situations, teachings, and spirits accurately. Staying rooted in Scripture while depending on the Spirit develops sharp discernment. Studying biblical principles equips us to distinguish truth from error and align with Christ’s perfect plans for our lives.