Lesson: Basics of Discernment

Often we need to discern whether what we hear are in the right spirit or not.  While we tend to be more careful about what we hear from non-Christians, we are often too trusting to the things from Christians.  It is the wolf under the sheep's clothing that is most destructive, because we do not raise guards against our own brothers.

What are the sources of the wrong spirits?

  * putting oneself above God or God's will--God gives us free choice in our lives, and consistently choosing things in our own interests over God's will can only lead to us drifting away from God
  * grievance against someone, the church, God, or the system--while revenge is not always the objective, the results are almost always the same: to fight back by gaining recognition, agreements, reparations ; not forgiving someone will always lead to this and even revenge
  * emotional injury imposed by others or oneself--often such injuries cause one to seek comfort through getting others to agree with him
  * intentional or with ulterior motives--usually from a desire to gain power, prestige, wealth, or some other possession, including persons and things (e.g., Balaam)

Signs to tell that a spirit is not right:

  * elevating oneself--sinners never submit themselves to God, and thus they almost always try to make themselves look important
  * blaming others--it's always others' fault and whatever I do wrong is the result of others' actions...  If a Christian would admit that they are at fault, they are more likely to try to correct it; repentence is the first step towards any change in behavior or thought
  * accompanied by other sins--sin hates loneliness; it always come in a bunch
  * unable to love others sincerely or forgive--if they can, they would not be doing harm; lack of forgiveness is the first step towards seeking revenge or support for evil
  * unwilling to obey to a spiritual or earthly authority--these people are most likely to have large self egos, and thus obedience is hard for them to do
  * anger--although some can hide these well, most cannot because their heart is turned to evil, and evil minds harbor anger
sayings bad things about others behind their backs--evil seeks company and influence over others, and therefore it likes to spread rumors or lies to get support
  * making speculative statements without proof--suspicion causes distrust and division, and that's how evil can spread in a group and weaken it

How do we guard ourselves from becoming like these people?

  * forgive others--remove the grievance before it becomes anguish or desire for revenge
  * examine yourselves--know what you do wrong and not lay blames on others
  * humble yourselves--recognize our smallness can help prevent us from seeking to look great in others, which often means we present lies or cover our weaknesses

Some statements to evaluate:

  * "We need to keep an eye on the other small group.  They have been after our members and some of them have gone to that group instead.  They also have been saying bad things about us to our members."
  * "I don't want to go to your church anymore because the pastor told me that it's wrong for me to be with her.  What does the pastor know about love?"
  * "Your church is full of insincere, false Christians.  They said things about me so you would go to them instead."
  * "Your pastor drives an expensive car.  He stole the money from the church's donations."
  * "I was relieved of my duties because my small group leader didn't tell me what I should do.  He wanted me to fail so he can look good."
  * "The pastor was wrong in interpreting this passage.  I know what it means and he should have consulted me."
  * "John is complaining about my work because he is after my girlfriend Mary.  Mary likes me because I'm better and John is trying to discredit me."

This lesson was developed by George Huang.  Got a question or want to publish this lesson?  E-mail me.

Last updated: 2/10/2000