If there is any one gift that is needed more today in the Body of Christ and especially in the prophetic ministries--it is the Discernment of Spirits.
"By this time you ought to be teachers yourselves, yet here I find you need someone to sit down with you and go over the basics on God again, starting from square one baby's milk, when you should have been on solid food long ago! Milk is for beginners, inexperienced in God's ways; solid food is for the mature, who have some practice in telling right from wrong." (Hebrews 5:12-14 The Message Bible, emphases added).
The Amplified Bible teaches us very carefully in the way it is expanded on the root words,
"But solid food is for full-grown men, for those whose senses and mental faculties are trained by practice to discriminate and distinguish between what is morally good and noble and what is evil and contrary either to divine or human law." (Hebrews 5:13-15 Amplified, emphases added).
Hear what the New King James says,
"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." (Hebrews 5:14 NKJV, emphases added).
What is Discernment?
According to Sandy Warner (a long-time Bible teacher and author with whom I greatly value her spiritual insight and years of history to back up her knowledge of the Word of God), she explains discernment like this:
"Discernment in the Greek language means judicial estimation, discern, disputation. It comes from a word meaning to separate thoroughly, withdraw, oppose, discriminate, decide, hesitate, contend, make to differ, doubt, judge, be partial, stagger, and waver.
So if you wrestle with wavering in what you discern, now you know why. These words describe the process the receiver of discernment goes through! When the discerner is confronted with something that appears good on the outside, but isn't, it becomes a stumbling block to his spirit. His flesh sees good signs, but his spirit is disputing, opposing, hesitating, contending, differing, doubting, staggering, and wavering against the outward appearance. Discernment is an internal war as one grapples to line up what they perceive, with Who God is, and what is being offered." (Excerpts of Sandy Warner's book "Discernment-Separating the Holy from the Profane".)
If milk drinkers in the Kingdom of God are always waiting to have their bottle changed and replaced with easy-to-swallow milk, then discernment will never be a gift they can apply to their walk with the Lord. When I was a child, I spoke and acted like one. I need to get past childhood in the Kingdom and become a spiritual adult! It's like this: when I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child does. But when I grew up, I put away childish things.
"Now we see things imperfectly as in a poor mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God knows me now. There are three things that will endure--faith, hope, and love--and the greatest of these is love." (1 Corinthians 13:12-13 NLT, emphases added).
In Love, the Father will Discipline as Needed
"There are three things that will endure--faith, hope, and love--and the greatest of these is love." (1 Corinthians 13:13 NLT, emphases added)
It is the Love of the Father that we are disciplined to move forward with the meat of His Word and be able to incorporate discernment rather than ask for a prophet to always give a word on how to live, move, etc. The fullness of our being should be in the fullness of Christ, not the fullness of the word from a prophet! Yes, prophecy certainly has its place or we would not have the gift nor the office, but we must become mature Christians that can hear and follow the leading of the Lord ourselves. Prophets aren't around on a day-to-day basis to give you a word, but rest assured, Jesus Christ--THE PROPHET, will be there to give you the right word!
Hebrews 12:6-8 plainly states that those the Lord loves will be disciplined,
"For the Lord disciplines those He loves, and He punishes those He accepts as His child. As you endure this divine discipline, remember that God is treating you as His own children. Whoever heard of a child who was never disciplined? If God doesn't discipline you as He does all of His children, it means that you are illegitimate and are not really His children after all." (Hebrews 12:6-8 NLT, emphases added).
Babies Cannot Discern the Meat of God's Word
"For the Word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in His sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of Him with Whom we have to do." (Hebrews 4:12-13, KJV emphases added).
Before we get a really good grasp of discernment that will not be grasped in just one lesson, we must be transformed by the "renewing of our minds." Why would we remove a baby bottle from a child? Or even an adult adolescent used to sucking on a free dose of baby's milk and then put a chunk of meat in their mouths? They would literally choke to death on the "strong meat" that takes chewing and processing. This is a gradual process the Body will need to go through in order to become "Discernment Adjusted."
Once this adjustment period is complete (dependent upon obedience, dying to selfishness and cutting away cords of past fleshly habits), we can start receiving genuine training in discernment that will begin to take root and open the heart up--to the deep things of God. It is not a toy to simply know what someone is "thinking" about you. Discernment is not to be confused with conjuring in the occult realms and to know things about someone to draw them into your sphere of influence. No, "Discerning of the Spirits" is a vital gift of the Holy Spirit for the use in all areas of the Body of Christ, yet especially those who move in the Gift of Prophecy and the Office of the Prophet today.
"To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another diverse kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues." (1 Corinthians 12:10 KJV, emphases added).
This is a gift from the Holy Spirit. Yet, no babe in the Body of Christ will appropriate this gift without the grounding in of the real meat of the Word of God, and the process of applying this gift in genuine guided, discipleship care--to grow the person and the ability to properly use this gift. Gifts are given by God, but the ability to have the character to correctly dispense these gifts comes from proper processing in the journey of the calling from God. Motives then become invaluable to use the "gift of discernment" in knowing what kind of spirit is speaking! This takes time to grow into the fullness of Christ!
"Until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming.
Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into Him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From Him the whole Body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work." (Ephesians 4:13-16).
When you view someone operating in the prophetic gifts that literally bring forth edification, exhortation and comfort to the whole assembly or the entire Body of Christ, then you can be sure that person is on more than baby's formula from the Word of God! Know that this gift is more necessary today than ever to accomplish what God has given each person to accomplish within the Body of Christ. As we mature, we must apply ourselves to our own regimens of time in the Word, daily altars of prayer and fasting, and seeking to grow up in Christ.
Remember, especially in Prophetic Gifts--Discernment is Required!
Always a voice for our LORD,
John Mark Pool
Word to the World Ministries