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Discerning Good and Evil

For when for the time you ought to be teachers, you have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. For every one that uses milk is unskillful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. (Hebrews 5:12-13 AKJV)

The basic principles are "oracles" of God, meaning they are inspired teachings from God. Paul is speaking about the foundational teaching about Jesus and who God is. This is the "milk" we need to grow into mature Christians. Every Christian becomes a citizen of Heaven when they take Jesus as their Lord. We should be learning about our new kingdom and what our Lord expects of us. Until we learn about Jesus and God through the Bible, we are a "babe." If we continue reading this chapter in Hebrews, we see what we should be applying what we learn as we read to the Word of God.

 But strong meat belongs to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil. (Hebrews 5:14 AKJV)

There are a few words in this scripture that will help us rightly apply it if we look at the original words in Greek :


  • by reason of: Strong's G1223 dia (dee-ah') - by the means of, on the account of

  • senses: Strong's G145 aisthētērion - faculty of the mind for perceiving, understanding, judging OR an organ of perception; external sense

  • discern: Strong's G1253 diakrisis - a distinguishing, discerning, judging


"By reason of" means how we are going to accomplish something. Because this passage in Hebrews begins by reminding the reader to pay attention to the basic and first lessons about God (oracles), the definition for senses should be using our mind, our intellect, our understanding. We should be "exercising" or vigorously using our minds to judge what we are receiving.


As we learn, we should be looking at the world around us, at messages brought by leaders to judge whether they are good or evil. Evil is a strong word. It really means that which is opposed to God or not of God. When we are learning the basic principle of our new kingdom, we should look at teachers, pastors, prophets, evangelist, apostles and everything in the world around us to see whether or not it lines up with the Word of God.


Discerning of Spirits

But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal.... to another discerning of spirits… (1 Corinthians 12:7-10 KJV)

The Holy Spirit brings gifts to help us see what spirit is moving even when actions may seem benign or harmless. It is critical that the body of Christ learns to use the gift of discernment as they walk through life, allowing the Holy Spirit to guide them each and every day. The Greek word diakrisis is translated as discerning, is the same word used in describing the application of the Word of God, but now it is the Holy Spirit bringing spiritual discernment. The Holy Spirit would never contradict the Word of God, so this gift and what you receive should always line up with the Word of God.


When the Holy Spirit bring this gift to you, like all of the gifts of the Spirit, it should grow as we mature in the ways of God by reading and applying the Word. When we receive from the spirit realm, there is an enemy who may try to trick us by imitating how we usually receive the the Holy Spirit. Our own soul may also interfere in receiving from the Holy Spirit. Being well grounded in the Word will not only keep us from being manipulated by the enemy, but it also enables us to be of more use in the Kingdom of God.


The world is divided on the topic of modern-day witchcraft and curses. In some countries and cultures, the spirit realm, especially the demonic one, is as real as our physical world. In other countries, it is looked at as little more than superstition. In America, many believe that science disproves and outclasses many of these practices. It is hard to discern or perceive when the enemy is influencing something if you don’t believe it is possible in today’s world.


Recently, God made it very clear that His Word (the Bible) still very much applies today. This is the time of the Outpouring: God is moving more strongly than ever before. According to scripture, Earth belongs to mankind.  God is fair and just: when He moves, the enemy does as well. This means that during the Outpouring of God’s glory, the spirit realm is revealed and experienced more on the Earth, meaning God and Satan have contact with this world more than ever. We must look to the Bible to see what dangers from the enemy may be increasing.


In the Book of Acts, we find the account of Peter in prison. When an angel set him free, Peter went to Mary’s house, where his friends were gathered. The spirit realm and angelic visitations were so frequent that the woman who answered the door thought it was Peter’s angel instead of Peter himself. The Outpouring is on the horizon where signs, wonders, and miracles will be as present in the world as they were in the time of the Book of Acts. Are you ready to discern good from evil?

This gift works more ways than you might think. For many years, the Holy Spirit has shown me when someone is speaking with Him or without Him, guiding their sermons and messages. Word by word, I would actually feel when they were on target or off on their own, and then when they were back again.


My Counselor, the Holy Spirit, would also occasionally reveal spirits in people or upon them. A few of the spiritual characteristics He used with me are:


  • Twisted teeth in someone’s mouth, all yellow and jagged.

  • A head that looks too big with a pointy-tooth smile.

  • A smile that looks too big, like a reflection in a funhouse mirror.

  • An ammonia scent like cat urine, which is a likely indicator of demonic activity.

We must use the discernment that the Holy Spirit gives us, according to God and His ways. There is a trap the enemy lays as we attempt to discern which spirit may be influencing others. Not only will walking into this trap affect you and the authority you wield, but it could also hurt the person being afflicted by a demonic spirit. When discernment of spirits acting through people is handled incorrectly, it may leave you open to attacks of the enemy. I found this out the hard way as I began writing this article.


Revealing the Enemy’s Trap

I was so excited to discover all the ways the Holy Spirit was giving me discernment about spirits upon others – especially leaders in the Church. In exercising this gift, I would consult with other Christians whom I knew were proficient in using this gift. I would ask what type of spirit was upon someone to see if they were seeing the same thing. This sounds innocent, right?


For fear of bringing an attack upon herself, one of our team members commented, she was holding her tongue about what she was discerning on a certain leader of a ministry. She quoted the verse, “Judge not lest ye be judged.” (Matthew 7:1 KJV) That night after midnight, as I laid in bed so very tired, I asked the Lord if the team member was right.


Were we leaving ourselves open to attacks by stating the discernment the Holy Spirit brought us about a person? Surely, He was bringing this information so we could warn others? How could it possibly be wrong to declare what He was revealing to us?


I had always applied “judge not” to judging people for the mistakes of their past or even small mistakes they were currently making. None of us are perfect, not a pastor, prophet, evangelist, or apostle. Should I never judge someone, even when the Holy Spirit brings discernment?


The small, quiet voice of the Holy Spirit that sounds like my own thoughts said, “You are coming into agreement with the enemy’s right to be in that person’s life, which will increase that right.” Receiving discernment about which spirit is operating through someone is right; it is a gift of the Spirit, but how we are handling it needs work. He also brought the right scriptures which apply to this:

“Love your neighbor as yourself…” (Luke 10:27 AKJV)
Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace to the hearers. (Ephesians 4:29 KJV)

If we are operating in the highest level of love, we will not speak outside of love. We will edify and build up people. Speaking in agreement with a demonic spirit having a place in a person's life is judging the battle as already lost. We can heed what the Holy Spirit is doing, but we need to build up rather than declare the outcome for the demonic spirit.


If you are called to be a prophet, sometimes God will tell you to say something outside of an encouraging word, but then you are the mouthpiece of God. Unless the Holy Spirit is heavy upon us and tells us to bring a correction, we should not come into agreement with the enemy. This is the trap of the enemy. When we accuse our brothers, even rightly so, it allows the enemy to place charges upon us for coming out of our “love” walk and disobeying the prime directive of our Lord: to love one another!


This information was very hard to accept. However, I had known for many days that I was out of alignment with God because I had been under assault. Not only was I battling a cold, but I was exhausted. My thoughts were muddled. In prayer, the Lord said I needed to watch my words. I wasn’t sure what He was talking about, but as I lay there, the Holy Spirit said this was the issue.


The thought of leading people in the wrong direction was a heavy burden on my heart. “If this is really how we need to handle this gift, I need some proof. I am teaching people about discernment in two days!” I asked the Lord, “Let me be healed and free of this sickness if we really need to be this careful about how we handle discernment.”


It was 2 AM. I only had about six hours of sleep for the last several days. Suddenly, my nose was clear, super dry. I had a burst of energy. I felt like I could get up and start my day with zero sleep. The low energy had vanished. I had experienced mild vertigo, but only when I went from a lying to a standing position hurriedly. However, now I jumped up out of bed with no dizziness at all!


The energy lasted until almost 4 AM. God brought another revelation, which I will talk about another time. Before I went to sleep, I sent a thought to my Lord, “Thank You for these revelations, but they are so different from what I expected. I’m going to talk to the board members of Agape tomorrow. I trust they will see this is from You.”


I slept in until 10, waking with more energy than I had in a week. There was a message for me on Facebook: a mature Christian had received both revelations in her time in prayer that morning! This is what she said about discernment:


I see discernment as something we become aware of in the spirit. It’s not about flesh and blood. So, if I discern something on a book, on a picture, or on someone’s face, it’s all being made aware that there’s something spiritual on them. If we move it over to judging, then that’s where sin can come in. We discern to know if we should pray, walk away, or speak to them about it. All must involve the Holy Spirit.


Even though I didn’t speak out loud during my prayer session, the Lord spoke the same thing to another to confirm it!


This doesn’t mean we can’t give warnings or speak about what we are perceiving. During my time with the Lord, I asked how to handle what was revealed. He said to choose our words carefully.


What not to say:


  • “That person has a demon spirit upon them.”

  • “That person is operating through _____ spirit.”


What is okay to say:


  • “Be cautious when listening to that person.”

  • “Ask the Holy Spirit to give you discernment about that person.”


Taking Action When a Spirit is Revealed

As the Lord told the Agape CF Board, there are three ways to respond when we receive this discernment:


  • Pray

  • Walk Away

  • Say Something to the person

I asked the Lord, “What should we do when the Holy Spirit reveals there is a spirit upon someone?” Immediately this scripture came to mind:

Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints… (Ephesians 6:18 KJV)

When we discern that a spirit is influencing a brother or sister, pray for them. Ask God to grant them wisdom about what spirit is speaking to them. DO NOT confess in the prayer that a spirit is speaking through them. Just ask God to grant them wisdom about what spirit may be speaking to them.


We should also be cautious about listening to that person, knowing that there may be another spirit at work. If it is a ministry, pray and ask God if you should keep supporting that ministry in any way (either financially or by volunteering) or if you should walk away. The Holy Spirit is our guide: He knows if that person or ministry will be turning from their path quickly.


If you feel the Holy Spirit wants you to say something to that person, trust Him for the words. Speak with love, kindness, and understanding. Perhaps in the past, you have accused someone of:


  • Having a particular spirit.

  • Operating under a spirit.

  • A spirit operating through them.


Doing this puts you in agreement with Satan who is the accuser about his influence over that person.

And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brothers is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night. (Revelation 12:10 AKJV)

We don't want to agree with the enemy who is the accuser of God's children. An accusation is an assumption about the reason for a behavior. It is also assuming someone is guilty of an action without proof. It is tempting to complain to our friends or ask others "to pray" for someone, all the while assuming we know their motive or declaring they are working apart from God. Praying for others is good. Ask God to grant them wisdom. It is declaring motives and/or making assumptions that may open the door for us to be attacked. We should remember what the Bible tells us to do:

Be gentle and forbearing with one another and, if one has a difference (a grievance or complaint) against another, readily pardoning each other; even as the Lord has [freely] forgiven you, so must you also [forgive]. (Colossians 3:13 AMPC)
I therefore, the prisoner for the Lord, appeal to and beg you to walk (lead a life) worthy of the [divine] calling to which you have been called [with behavior that is a credit to the summons to God’s service, Living as becomes you] with complete lowliness of mind (humility) and meekness (unselfishness, gentleness, mildness), with patience, bearing with one another and making allowances because you love one another. Be eager and strive earnestly to guard and keep the harmony and oneness of [and produced by] the Spirit in the binding power of peace. (Ephesians 4:1-4 AMPC)

When we have a complaint about someone, we should give them grace, and underserved understanding. We should bring grievous complaints to the person if the Holy Spirit urges it. It may be an opportunity for both parties to grow in the fruit of the Spirit. When we complain to others, we are spreading the grievance, not pardoning it. If your words have been negative about others, especially where things of the spirit realm are concerned or if you have listened to others who are accusing Christians in some way, you should do the following:


  1. Confess that you have spoken wrongly and sided with the accuser of the brethren.

  2. Renounce all negative words you have said that are not according to God’s Word.

  3. Ask for the blood of Jesus to blot them out of all records in Heaven and Earth.

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