Unmasking the enemy
By Derrick Johnson
Of all the spiritual gifts talked about in the Bible, I believe discerning of sprits is the most misunderstood. Many Christians confuse discerning of spirits with natural discernment. They often misquote scripture by referring to it as “the gift of discernment.” Discerning of spirits is not a natural gift but a spiritual one. It is the ability to identify, recognize and distinguish spirits. Whereas natural discernment, which relies on our five senses, allows us to identify and recognize physical things.
A few years ago, during a prayer service I was asked to pray for people at the altar. When the altar call was made, I went up to pray for a man who was already standing at the altar. As I extended my arm to touch his chest, I immediately felt darkness emanating from him. This caught me off guard so I began to probe to find out his background. He told me that he had been involved in various forms of witchcraft and had participated in idol worship. I began to pray that he would release the idols in his life, but he refused.
You can see how the ability to discern spirits can be vital during church services. The gift can also allow a believer to determine the source of a given word. For instance, if someone stands up during a church service, claiming they have a “word” from the Lord, a person operating in discerning of spirits will be able to recognize whether the word is from the Holy Spirit, the human spirit or a demonic spirit. If the word given is not from the Holy Spirit, the pastor will be able to dismiss the word, and prevent the church from being misled.
We find an example of this in the book of Acts. In Acts 16:16 a young girl possessed with a spirit of divination went around edifying Paul and Silas to the people, saying they proclaim the way of salvation. To the natural man she appeared to be a believer, but Paul, discerning the demonic spirit within her, commanded it to come out of her.
One morning I attended a 6 a.m. prayer meeting. The pastor who led the prayer meeting decided to share with us what he had seen in the spirit during the prayer meeting. He operated in the gift of discerning of spirits, and mentioned that as we were praying he saw several angels marching around us in perfect harmony wearing white sashes. He said the last angel he saw was about two steps behind the rest, wearing a black sash, and looking around.
Saints we are fighting a spiritual battle! Ephesians 6:12 says for we are not fighting against flesh and blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world… Satan wants us to be ignorant of his schemes in order to keep us in deception. For the Bible says he transforms himself into an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14). Thanks to the Holy Spirit, we have been given the ability to discern spirits in order to expose an enemy that is unseen.