The Power Of A Discerning Spirit

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Oftentimes, when life lacks clarity, we get lost. We can’t distinguish between good and evil, truth and fiction, or an outburst of anger and a cry for help. How do we find our way when things seem so confusing?

What we need is a discerning spirit. Without it, we make unwise choices and miss out on opportunities for blessings. Dr. Stanley explains why we need spiritual discernment and how we can develop it. He shares how to:

– understand truthfully what God is saying to you.
– separate truth and error.
– avoid being deceived by sin.
– differentiate between what’s good and what’s best.
– distinguish between legalism and liberty.
– recognize when God’s speaking to you.
– give godly counsel.

Discernment is a gift of God and is something we should pray for daily. But we don’t have to sit around waiting for it to appear. We can seek clarity by reading God’s Word and learning from those who teach sound biblical principles. Also, we can learn from our own experiences as well as the life lessons of others.

You don’t have to go through life in a fog. Discover the peace and clarity that comes with developing a discerning spirit.



rebuild and form a life of sustaining faith and intimacy with God. Begin your journey today. Mm hmm. In touch with Dr. Charles Stanley, celebrating 45 years of God’s faithfulness in sharing the gospel worldwide. Next on in touch the power of a discerning spirit. Isn’t it strange that sometimes we have difficulty determining the difference between good and evil and sometimes we find ourselves being deceived by what we hear and what we see. And sometimes we have difficulty in discerning whether God is speaking to us or not. And then oftentimes in our conversations with other people, we don’t get it. They’re saying to us in their own way, in their own words, their own expressions, I’m hurting. I need help and we just go right by it. Well, one of the reasons all of those things are true is because we do not have a discerning spirit somewhere along the way nobody’s ever taught us what it means to be discerning. We just take things as they are. Take them at face value and living in the day in which you and I live. You cannot afford to do that. Neither we who are parents nor our Children or our grandchildren. In fact, this whole nation, as a nation of people, we cannot afford to make decisions without a discerning spirit. We’re in trouble. Big time trouble because we have not made decisions based on wise discernment but on what appears to be something that will pass for the moment without thinking about the future, consequences. Could that be true of your life? That you’ve made a lot of decisions without thinking about the future consequences? Well, David Prayed a prayer to the father that all of us should pray for ourselves and I want you to turn if you will to the 119th psalm and the 66th verse in that song, the whole sum is about the word of God and it does you good and once in a while, But every few months or so, I just read that whole song just for myself, because it’s all about God’s word and what it does in our life. And if you’ll notice in this 119 summits, the long one Down, the 66th verse, look at the 65th verse and here’s what he says. You have dealt. You have dealt well with your servant. Oh, Lord. According to your word, teach me good discernment and knowledge for I believe in your commandments, teach me good discernment. So, if you think about it and think about the day in which you and I live and the things that are happening today and the fact that we live in a world that’s full of counterfeit lies? Half truths mixed with truth. We live in a day when you have to ask several times, Am I hearing the truth? Or am I not? Is this really the truth? Or is this or is this some counterfeit? It’s something camouflaged about what I see and what I hear world of deception lies. And so we live in lots of turmoil because we don’t know what to believe. You turn on the television and you hear one person say one thing and somebody else comes on next says something absolutely opposite. So what do you believe? You hear about all about finances today? And you hear about something else tomorrow? And it’s totally different. So we live in we live in an age of being overwhelmed with information, but not necessarily the truth. And if you operate simply on the basis of information without truth, you’re gonna get in trouble sooner or later. So, what I want to talk about in this message is simply this and that is the power of a discerning spirit. It is the will of God that all of his Children have a spiritually discerning spirit. That is when you think about what the sermon is. The sermon is all about making judgments, it’s about right judgment. It’s about looking beneath the surface of things to see what’s really there. It’s being able to hear what the person says and also hearing what they don’t say. It’s investigating something and not taken for granted. It’s evaluating its distinguishing it’s it’s looking deep down inside to find out what is the truth and God intends that every single one of his Children have a discerning spirit. So what I’d like for us to do is I’d like to think about it in this light. And that is, first of all, what’s the real need for discernment. We talked about lots of information. We’ll think about it from this perspective, if you’re gonna live in the will of God, you’ve got to have a discerning spirit because discernment says I’m able to understand truthfully and in reality what God is saying to me, he has the will and the purpose and a plan for every single one of us. And so the issue is, do you know what the plan is? Do you understand God’s purpose and plan for your life? So how would I find that out? He’s willing to tell you? He’s willing to show you he’s willing to make it crystal clear for the simple reason. He is the one who designed the plan, he knows exactly what’s best. And so if you can’t discern when God is speaking and when its just yourself for what you choose, how are you ever gonna know that you’re in the will of God are doing the will of God. It’s extremely important. We learn to judge rightly, and secondly, it’s essential to distinguishing truth from error and we’re gonna get to hell in a few moments. But if you can’t distinguish truth from error, you’re gonna make decisions that are gonna be costly. They can be financially costly decisions, relational, costly, whatever it might be. And when you think about what’s happening in Children’s schools, when they when they go to elementary school and all the things that they hear about evolution and and ignore the very idea of God. And now, for example, we have the whole issue, let’s don’t talk about jesus, what do you expect? How do we expect them to grow up having a discerning spirit unless somebody teaches them? And the truth is it’s the parents responsibility. How did I teach my Children to be discerning to be discerning yourself? I suppose, I don’t know how then you’re in trouble. Your kids are in trouble. And the truth is it’s the will of God that his Children follow his will, which means I must be able to learn to listen to him what he’s saying and to be able to discern what is truth and what is error. That a lot of folks will mix truth with error. And there are sects and cults and so forth. That’s what they do. They put enough truth out there to mix it with error. So if you only hear what sounds good and what you’ve probably been taught and you don’t get this part over here, then you got confusion. So it’s very important. We have a discerning spirit to be able to judge rightly to know the truth. Also, I think of it in this light and that is it’s essential for us to be able to overcome and to avoid being deceived by sin sin is a very, very convincing persuading thing and many things that are pleasurable in life that are the will of God. There are many things that appear to be pleasurable in life, but only pleasurable for the moment. And one of the things that discernment helps us to do is ask this question, what are the consequences of this action when the world talks about pleasure? It only talks about pleasure for the moment, or promises of the future that it cannot really fulfill. And so a discerning person asked the question, what is the what what are the consequences of this action? What are the consequences of this purchase now? It’s what, what what what follows after this? A discerning spirit doesn’t just start with what they see and what they hear of what they feel at the moment. It is a dangerous thing to live today with no discerning spirit. And it is the spirit that God offers his Children. It’s it’s it’s it’s essential to distinguish between what’s good and what’s best. Now a lot of folks say, well, you know, as long as I just sort of get along, I’m fine, that’s not that’s not in the word of God, because, you know, the followers of jesus christ and because he lives on the inside of us and because we have the Holy Spirit in us, listen, he expects us to do our best and to be our best and whatever we do, not better than somebody else necessarily, but to be our best and here’s what happens if I if I sort of if I saw the light, good, I’ll never strive for the best. What we have to ask is Lord, is this as far as you want me to go or do you have something else out here that I’m not even aware of? And when a person has a discerning spirit, they don’t make quick judgments when unnecessary. Sometimes you have to make a fast judgment. If you have a discerning spirit, you’re protected. But the truth is, unless a person has a discerning spirit, it’s like going to battle with no shield and no weapon. You’re wide open for defeat because we’re being confronted continuously with decisions. We have to make that affect all kinds of things in our life that are very important name. Any decision that you may just want to leave him out totally. You say, well, surely there’s some decisions I don’t have to ask God about, well, some decision trees, you don’t have to ask God about. You’ve already asked him about, you know, there were some things that crystal clear, right and wrong. And yet there are many things that in people’s minds are in the gray area, but in God’s mind, it’s not great. You say, well, is everything so black and white? Not necessarily. That’s why we have to have a discerning spirit to know Lord, what is your will in this particular situation. What would you have me to do? And so likewise, it’s essential to distinguishing between legalism. Listen legalism and I want to put this on the board here Legalism and liberty. And I want to I want to give you a definition and I hope you write this down because somebody will say to you, well, you’re just legalistic. They don’t even know what that means. Here’s what legalism is. It’s the pressure of personal preferences that we impose upon other people as moral mandates from God. And that is really what goes on sometimes. But we’re not being legalistic by having a discerning spirit. We just want to do the right thing in the right way to please and honor God, whatever that requires of us. And so usually when somebody insists that you interpret scripture a certain way, you have to ask yourself the question, Lord, what’s the will of the father? What are you saying to me? And what people don’t realize, I think is having the word of God. We have the foundation and the basis for wise, truly wise discernment, but I think likewise essential. It’s essential to recognizing when God speaking to us now, if I ask you, do you know how to listen to God? What did you say? But you know how to listen to God. You say? Well, I don’t know that God’s speaking, yes, he is listen, he created you with a plan and a purpose and a will for your life. It would be unlike God in his very character, not to be willing to speak to you, to give you direction and clear guidance in every aspect of your life. So he does speak. The question is, do you know how to listen to him? Because you see when you learn to listen to God, you have a discerning spirit and he will enable you to distinguish between what I want, what I feel and what is the will and purpose and plan of God in this situation, it’s our greatest protection, not only for our Children as they leave home, but for our daily life. And so when you think about it in your own personal life and when he’s speaking, how would you say that? You know when God is speaking to you? Well I’m going to come to that in a moment, he does speak, he does give discernment because it’s his will that you and I make wise decisions. Therefore I must be able to look beyond what I see beyond what I feel beyond what I hear and be able to see what it how is it that God looks at it now, what’s the source of real spiritual discernment? Well, the source of real spiritual something first of all, it’s a gift of God, so happen to be a gift of God. Here’s the reason, jesus said to his disciples in the upper room the night before he was leaving, he said I’m gonna send you a helper, He is the holy spirit, he will be in you with you and upon you, he will enable you, he will give you direction. He will bring things to your remembrance, He will he will help you understand the truth. That’s the promise that every single one of us who is a believer has, we have the Holy Spirit living on the inside of us to enable us and direct us to have spiritual discernment. So we have a helper. And so as you think about your life and you come to make a decision, listen, you don’t ever have to make a decision alone as a believer. You have the Spirit of God living within you, that’s God’s in the Spirit living within you. And he says, I’m sending him as your helper. So we have someone to help us. You help you? How in every single aspect of life we have him. When you trust that jesus as your savior, he says, he came to live in your life direction, guidance, your personal helper, naturally, he’s going to help you make wise decisions. So when you think about it, we we have the asset number one of the Holy Spirit to enable us to be wise in our judgments. But the second thing we have is this, we have the Word of God, he says. The entrance of the word gives light now. So when it comes to making wise decisions and when it comes to having spiritual discernment, what is the basis of it? The basis of all discernment is the word of God Because every single situation and circumstance, you and I are confronted with. There is an answer. In the word of God, he said, oh, I’ve got something. No, you don’t you don’t have any spiritual moral issues in life 4th, which there’s not an answer in the word of God. So when somebody says, well, how do I have a discerning spirit? Listen carefully, think about this life. You come to church, week after week, after week after week, or you listen or you watch and you hear one principle after the other 11 principle after the other. This is how God works. This is how God thinks. I’m just simply giving you what God says in his word. So what have you done? You have filled your mind with what with biblical truths. Let’s just take the 10 commandments. If you just take the 10 commandments and you say, well, I’m gonna run everything by that, that’s just foundation. You think about all the truth and the word of God, all through paul’s epistles and how he explained things and so forth. And so when you when you think about that, and you think about how God intends for us to work, listen to what he says in first Corinthians now back in the second chapter And begin if you will in verse 10, he says for to us God revealed them through the spirit, for the spirit searches all things, even the depths of God for who among men knows the thoughts of a man, except the Spirit of the Man, which is in him. Even so, the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God. So that listen, if a person is an unbeliever, they have no spiritual discernment, you can’t have it. No one knows except the Spirit of God. Now we have received not the Spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given us of God, the basis of all true, genuine spiritual discernment. The Word of God, he says. Which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the spirit combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words. Now watch this, but a natural man, that’s an unbeliever. A natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God for their foolishness to him, and he can’t understand them because they are spiritually discerned. You said, that word is appraised. A greek word is discerned, he says. A lost person cannot understand the things of God, because they are spiritually discerned. You say, Well, then, how about a lost person? Ever get saved? His head? Lost person gets saved. To hear the truth and the Spirit of God from without takes the truth of God drives it to their haunt to their heart in their life and convicts them of sin and listen, and begins to reveal the truth the truth of salvation. And then following that. Of course, the Holy Spirit is there to give them direction. But here’s what he says, he says, the natural man does not accept the things of God because they are spiritually discerned, and he says, because they’re foolishness to him. But he who is spiritual appraises or discerns all things. Yet he himself is discerned by no one. Now. What are you simply saying? Is this that when you and I have the Spirit of God living within us, what happens? We have the discerning he’s the one who he’s the one who enables us to discern. And so there by a person who would judge us, for example, they can judge. There was we’re not talking about condemning somebody we’re talking about discerning, we’re talking about seeing what is the truth about that person. And so a lost person doesn’t mean that a lost person has no discernment doesn’t mean that, but they have no spiritual discernment because apart from the Spirit of God is not there and they don’t have it. Well, how do you develop a discerning spirit? You develop a discerning spirit by what? By practice you said, Well, suppose I fail. We all fail to begin with. We all make mistakes, but here’s what happens if I want to develop a discerning spirit, I will, first of all, I have to be a christian, I’ll ask God to give me direction and I will do what I believe he’s saying is best, I know at that point it may be exactly the right thing. It may not be, he said, well suppose it’s not how do we learn? We learn by making mistakes? Well I thought that’s what God said. But here’s the key. We go back to what we said in the beginning. If you have the word of God and we have it in our heart, the spirit of God will do what decision comes you want to be wise and what you do. He will bring back to our mind and heart the word of God. So here’s what God says now. If you don’t have the word of God in your heart, this is why I say read it, read it, read it, read it, read it. Because here’s what happens when you read the word of God, he’s putting it in your heart. The more you read, the more you understand you read it, you read it, you read it, you read it, what’s happening, We program our minds and our hearts, our spirit. To think the way God thinks you neglect the word of God, What happens? You neglect the word of God. You will begin to think the way the world thinks because think about it. Think about how much you hear from television or your job or whatever it might be. You listen to all these things, the bombarded with information, information, information and then there’s a little bit of time you spend reading the word of God, which will naturally overpower the other. If you’re not careful, you let the world’s viewpoint overpower God’s viewpoint, then you make wrong decisions. A discerning spirit is the greatest protection you have in a world of information that’s so full of mixture of truth and error. We all need a discerning spirit. And what do you get it? Remember? It’s a gift from God through the Holy Spirit who interprets things for us as we need to intervene. And then we have the book, we have the teaching and we have experience. So you say, well, I don’t think I’ve been doing too well. And here’s where you start Lord. Next time I have a decision, I’m coming to you ask for direction and here’s the big issue. What was the what what were the consequences of the last time I made that decision? And what happens is the Spirit of God will show you. Look, look, look how you’ve suffered from doing that before. Or look, look, look how I blessed you for waiting upon me and and and and taking my choice. You learn discernment, but you have the basis of the word of God, that’s the source of all discernment we need and it is my prayer. If you have never trusted jesus christ as your savior, You think, well, how does all this work with me? Well, it won’t work because he says the natural man receives not the things of God. When you trust jesus as your savior, That’s when the Holy Spirit comes in. That’s when he enables you. That’s when you begin to see things as they really and truly are. So I’ll ask you this question. Why would you wait to receive jesus christ the son of God as your savior, Lord and Master and he is the only savior? Why would you wait? Could you give me a good answer that? Why would you wait when your greatest protection is his presence within you and the power to discern rightly. Why would you wait? In a world of confusion and people being mixed up about so many things and not knowing which way to turn and how to make decisions and all the uncertainty that envelopes this world of ours. Why would you wait if you’ll think you shouldn’t wait because it can’t get better waiting. And I would challenge you to ask the Lord, jesus christ to forgive you of your sins and tell him that you need him in your life. You’re receiving him as your Lord and savior, Master. You want what’s best for you? You want? What’s best for your family? You’re trusting jesus christ as your personal savior? Why would you wait? Wait, frankly, I’d be a little bit afraid to wait. God does know how to get our attention, doesn’t he Amen? Yeah

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ABOUT DR.CHARLESSTANLEY Dr. Charles F. Stanley joined the staff of First Baptist Church of Atlanta in 1969 and became senior pastor in 1971. In 1982, Stanley...

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