Phyllis Beveridge Nissila
In a comment on my previous post, Part 1 of this series, I promised a follow-up post, this one, on how to know if the God we are “hearing” is not some deceptive god.
Innumerable books and articles have been written on this very important topic, because, let’s face it, there are innumerable false gods out there, and prophecy indicates the number will escalate, particularly in the so-called “end of the age,” i.e., when the “Church Age” wraps up.
Many prophecy scholars believe we are in this era, and what with instant and readily-available forms of communication nowadays, it’s easy to see how all manner of not only theologies but also ideologies and philosophies, the good, the bad, and the ugly, can proliferate like wildfire.
So we are surrounded by many “voices,” thus discernment is in order as never before.
Fortunately, besides the natural gift of critical thinking that we all have the capacity to engage in, believers have the Holy Spirit-imbued, supernatural gift of discernment that we can tap into when something just doesn’t seem to line up with what we know about God, His patterns, ways, and commands.
On this, it is written,
The word discern and its derivatives are translations of the Greek word anakrino in the New Testament. It means “to distinguish, to separate out by diligent search, to examine.” Discernment is the ability to properly discriminate or make determinations. It is related to wisdom. The Word of God itself is said to discern the thoughts and intentions of one’s heart (Hebrews 4:12). (source)
And here are a few of the benefits:
“My son, preserve sound judgment and discernment, do not let them out of your sight; they will be life for you, an ornament to grace your neck. Then you will go on your way in safety, and your foot will not stumble; when you lie down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet” (Proverbs 3:21-24, ESV)
It’s amazing the stories you hear when this topic comes up “Have you ever had a ‘gut’ feeling about something?”
A teen-aged niece told me about a time when she and some friends were out in the country joy riding in the back-end of a pickup truck. They stopped for a few minutes and she had a strong feeling to get out of the truck and not go any further. She told the others to come back for her later. The rest of them hopped back in and the truck peeled out. Within a few minutes, the rig hit some kind of ridge in the gravel and flipped on its side. My niece would have been among those in the back who spilled out and sustained injuries.
A friend of mine and I were once traveling along another road threading through a beautiful wood in a rural area and both of us at the same time had a strong –and intensifying—feeling to turn back. We did. Found out later there was a drug-related double murder that had occurred just ahead of where we would have traveled that afternoon had we not heeded our “gut”. We both wondered if we would have been caught in the middle of the gunfire had we not turned back.
A Google search for “stories of how gut feelings saved lives” reveals myriad anecdotes of this kind of phenomena. Clearly, there are more than five senses available to us that help us intuit key information for our good and the good of others.
We are blessed this way spiritually, too. But, many wonder, how can we discern on that level, particularly as the days “wax worse,” prophetically speaking?
As your encourager and, I hope, helpful teacher, here are a few pointers I have learned (both the easy and the hard ways) over my 42 years as a Christian.
Be encouraged and strengthened.
PART 1: GET GOD’S WORD ON IT!
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness (2 timothy 3:16 NIV).
First and FOREMOST, get God’s Word–and words–on it!
Does this mean you have to memorize all 1,189 chapters; 31, 173 verses; and 807,361 words of the 66 books of the Bible?
For those of you in certain cults that teach that only certain people can understand the Scriptures does this mean that you can’t discern God’s Word on your own?
Does this mean you have to buy somebody’s book/CD/DVD/program or workshop series in order to understand what to do? Where to go? How to proceed?
No, no, and triple-no, although the more we know the Scriptures, hear them, and study them in a variety of venues the more available they will be when we pray for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training.
However, if the Scriptures are unavailable or if we are new believers and have not yet read the Bible, we are still not without resources; indeed, as believers, we never are.
How do I know this?
Well, as Gospel writer John put it, “(The) anointing you received from (the Holy Spirit) remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit–just as it has taught you, remain in him” (1 John 2:27).
But what does “remain in him” mean?
If you have received Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord, He has sent you “Another” to be “on call” for you, 24/7, as it were. Who? That same Holy Spirit (see John 14:16).
If our hearts and “ears” are tuned to Him (aka: remain in Him), if we sincerely seek Him, He will lead and guide us.
But that’s not all.
Sometimes, as many testimonies reveal, He surprises us with the unexpected! (Consider St. Paul’s dramatic conversion even as he was on his way to persecute more Christians.)
In short: the Holy spirit within is the preeminent source of spiritual “gut” information on which we can rely.
But how do we know if it truly is GOD’s guidance and not just the words or writings of some wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing on the take or someone merely misinformed?
Make sure what is “heard” and/or “sensed” (in the gut, the spirit, the mind, and/or literally) aligns with the will and the ways of God the Father, God the Son (Jesus), and God the Holy Spirit (see 1 John 5:8).
Ask, seek, and knock—and discern.
And if you are not sure, access the wisdom of other believers through whom God will assist you as well.
“Feed” on God’s Word, the Scriptures, daily, hourly, minutely, if needed. You’d be surprised when one or more will bubble up “just in time” when you turn to God for help.
And it might not always sound like the King James version.
God knows how to speak to you personally, be it by thought, word(s) and/or circumstances; be it by dreams, visions, a “still, small voice,” or some other manifestation of your “spiritual gut”.
And sometimes, perhaps even by blog posts.
For another look at discernment, this one focused on interpretation through the lens of a literature instructure, reader: Is It God’s Word, or Some Other god’s words? On Interpretation and a (Literary) Plan