Spiritual Discernment


By Nick Bibile



Discernment is the gift that enables us to differentiate. It is the ability to see issues clearly. Discernment enables us to know right from wrong. It is to distinguish light from darkness, truth from error, best from better, righteousness from unrighteousness, purity from defilement. Webster defines discernment as the ability to grasp and comprehend what is obscure. (Not clear) The Spirit often hides spiritual things to keep them from the unwise and reveals them to the contrite and humble.


1 Thes 5:21 But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good22 abstain from every form of evil. (NASB)


It says examine everything, even if the person is very sincere, honest, nice looking, we are to examine all that the person is saying.The word "examine" is dokimazo, it is to examine its genuineness. Whether it is genuine or not. It is to distinguish between what is true and false, good from bad. Also this word can be used to judge everything to see if it is true or not.


Discernment is the skill that enables us to differentiate. It is the ability to see issues clearly. Discernment enables us to know right from wrong. It is to distinguish light from darkness, truth from error, best from better, righteousness from unrighteousness, purity from defilement. Webster defines discernment as the ability to grasp and comprehend what is obscure. (Not clear) The Spirit often hides spiritual things to keep them from the unwise and reveals them to the contrite and humble.


C.H. Spurgeon said, ďIt is painful to observe how many embrace anything if it be but earnestly brought before them. They swallow the medicine of every spiritual quack who has enough of brazen assurance to appear to be sincere. Be not children in understanding, test that which claims your faith. Ask the Holy Spirit to give you the faculty of discerning, so shall you conduct your flocks far from poisonous meadows, and lead them into safe pasturage.


1 John 4:1 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.


What I mean by spiritual discernment is knowing what is right and wrong, correct judgment on what is right and wrong. This is a subject that is extremely important for every Christian.Because if you do not have discernment you will fall into great error. This has to do with that something looks right, sounds right, feels right, sees right, and many fail to discern rightly and fall into error.Many times you will not notice the difference because it looks, or sound or feel right, yet when you look closely you will see the error. How can you get spiritual discernment?


By the knowledge of Godís word and prayer.


Hebrews 5:12 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. 13. or everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. 14 But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern (Greek diakrisis) both good and evil.


Apostle Paul here speaking that Christians should not remain as babes all the time need to grow in Godís word, if not you will not be able to make spiritual discernments.Here it is clear that spiritual discernment comes in your Christian growth.


Hos 4:6 My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.  Because you have rejected knowledge, I also will reject you from being priest for Me; because you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children.


Eph 4:14 that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting.


We need to stop eating baby spiritual food and go for the meat, stronger spiritual food. This is growing in Christian knowledge. We need to distinguish Christian knowledge. There are two kinds of Christian knowledge. Head knowledge and Heart knowledge. Head knowledge is studying and learning just like how you study and learn other subjects like in school. You go to school and learn, math, science, geography and other subjects; these are learned by our reasoning, gives much head knowledge. There are many engineers, doctors and scientists who have great head knowledge and many of them are not believers in Christ.†† There are many times where Christians study and learn the Bible just like learning another subject in school. Then the rest of the day they forget all what they studied, this is head knowledge as it never went to the heart. Head knowledge will puff you up.Head knowledge brings pride. Head knowledge will not bring a change of lifestyle; there is no change of behavior and conduct. Head knowledge will not grow in holiness of God. Remember the devil knows scriptures well, he quoted scriptures to Jesus, and yes the devil is full of head knowledge.


On the other hand there is the heart knowledge. Christianity is learned not like another subject like in school but by God. When Jesus came to this earth, he did not build a school and teach everyone about Christianity. Neither the apostles go and build Bible schools.The apostles were uneducated poor fisherman except Paul, yet they grew in knowledge as they were with Jesus. They were taught by God. The Bible schools are there today because the church has failed its duty in teaching strong doctrine.


Acts 4:13 Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marveled. And they realized that they had been with Jesus.


Let me show you how you can have heart knowledge.


Eph 1:18 The eyes of your understanding being enlightened.


Reference to this scripture some Greek manuscripts say eyes of your heart. Meaning the heart is your spiritual eye, your inward vision and understanding. The heart is the core of life, the fountain of thoughts. How many times we see in the Bible Jesus said, he who has an ear, let him hear. Everyone has ears, but only few will see the truth with the spiritual eye and will understand from the heart.


Matthew 15:8 These people draw near to Me with their mouth, and honor Me with their lips, But their heart is far from Me.


This is how you can have heart knowledge. Heart knowledge comes from your personal time with God, it mean your personal prayers, studies and meditation. Yes, you will listen to the pastor and good teachers but unless you go home and after two hours you cannot really remember what was said. After few days you forget more and when you come to church next week you have forgotten all, then it is another subject. Then after five years you are still a babe in Christ.This is called ever learning never growing or the growth is very small.This is where the apostle Paul in Hebrews 5 says you ought to be teachers by now but you are still babes.


So how can you get the heart knowledge? Let me give my personal experience. In my spiritual growth, I always had a notebook. I write down the scriptures and important notes. Then during my personal time with the Lord, I study what I heard in church, then I search other scriptures and I begin to write down my own notes. When I have my personal studies and devotion with the Lord, I get away from all the distractions interruptions. This is holy time with my holy God. This is more important than my regular food as this is where I get heavenly spiritual food for my soul. I believe it was John Calvin who said, as God is holy and he is above this earth, when we study Godís word we need to be raised above this earth. Meaning, without interruptions and distractions. Meaning the word of God is spiritual food and we cannot study in the flesh, we need to be in the spirit to study spiritual food. (Rom 8:5-8; 14)


John 17:17 Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth.


You cannot learn the truth without being separated unto God. It is important you pray and meditate what you learned. Then it will digest to your heart and soul. This is heart knowledge. You need to seek Godís word like as you are seeking hidden treasures.


Proverbs 2:1 My son, if you receive my words, And treasure my commands within you, 2 So that you incline your ear to wisdom, And apply your heart to understanding; 3 Yes, if you cry out for discernment, And lift up your voice for understanding, 4 If you seek her as silver, And search for her as for hidden treasures;   5 Then you will understand the fear of the LORD, And find the knowledge of God.   6 For the LORD gives wisdom; From His mouth come knowledge and understanding.


The result of heart knowledge is you will have wisdom from God, meaning you will know what to do in situations, how to make the right decisions. You will have knowledge in Godís word, knowledge that passes all understanding. You will have a great love for the Lord, burning desire to know him more and more. You will become humble as these things are taught at the feet of Jesus, taught by God the Holy Spirit. You will become holy as God is holy, you will change from inside out for the glory of God.


So spiritual discernment comes from heart knowledge. Also spiritual discernment is a gift of God to those who ask. If you are a missionary in a far away land, going place to place, then if someone comes and tell people pointing to you daily, this person is a servant of Most High God and they are here to tell the way of salvation. How do you feel?


Acts 16: 16 As we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a slave girl who had a spirit of divination and brought her owners much gain by fortune-telling. 17 She followed Paul and us, crying out, ďThese men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation.Ē 18 And this she kept doing for many days. Paul, having become greatly annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, ďI command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.Ē And it came out that very hour.


Apostle Paul was able to discern there was a demon inside of this woman. Looks good but demonic.


Ps 119:34 Give me understanding, and I shall keep Your law; Indeed, I shall observe it with my whole heart


The Psalmist goes to the root of the matter. He wanted to attain the power of distinction between right and wrongó spiritual discernment that so he might discern the right. The word of God is the rule of all discernment. Remember our first parents; they were deceived by Satan as they failed in discernment, as they were disobedient to the word of God.


Do not believe all that comes from this pulpit or other pastors and teachers unless you examine what they say is truth. We are not perfect and we can make mistakes.If the Bereans examined apostle Paul, how much more we should test everyone who speaks behind this pulpit.


Acts 17:11 These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched (anakrino) the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so. 12 Therefore many of them believed, and also not a few of the Greeks, prominent women as well as men.

The two main Greek words translated as "discernment" are anakrino, meaning to examine or judge closely, and diakrino, to separate out, to investigate, to examine.

Some of your Bibles may say instead noble minded, Bereans were more fair minded, the Greek word can be translated as open minded and willing to learn.

If you do not agree or do not understand please ask questions. I remember about 27 years ago when I first started teaching Bible studies, at the end of the study people asked questions. I was very young at teaching. These questions allowed me to be more prepared for the Bible studies. When you ask questions it is going to benefit, the one who ask the question, the one who answers the question and the ones who listens. It benefits everyone in the room. By asking questions the pastor or the teacher will grow also everyone in the room. If you donít ask questions you will swallow every spiritual poison that looks good outside.

Many fall into error of not discerning right because they are emotionally caught up. Sometimes our emotions can be very harmful in discerning truth from error. We can get deceived according to outward appearance.

John 7: 24 Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.

Hebrews 5: 14 But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.


Solid food is good doctrine. Good theology. This is the meat of the word. This is not for babes but for people who had grown into maturity with heart knowledge. The full-grown man is stronger than the babe. He has strong bones and muscles. So is the matured Christian, he is no longer to be bent about and twisted by the word of God. They can discern from the tricks and delusions (false impressions) of Satan. Let us continue in Hebrews 5:14 the second part says, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.


Do you see the word senses? Senses have to do with the body organs, sight, hearing, taste, smell and touch. We can discern right and wrong with our body organs. If I am standing at the edge of a tall building my sight will tell me you are at the very edge of danger, donít go to the edge. My tongue can discern bitterness from sweetness, same with the smell and touch we can discern with our body organs. If senses can discern how much more it is important to discern spiritual things.


But the apostle is talking here of the interior senses of your heart, our spiritual eye.When it comes to spiritual discernment our eyes will see something very touching and sometimes it can bring spiritual error. We need to exercise our senses to discern what is good an evil. Do not believe everything what you see or what you hear, do some spiritual exercises and examine them in the light of Godís word. Ask questions, just like a little toddler when he is growing up, they ask a lot of questions, yes, if you want to grow up into maturity ask questions.