10 Steps to Spiritual Discernment

DiscernmentSpiritual discernment, that is how to make godly decisions and choices, discern good from evil, and truth from falsehood. Discernment is also a prerequisite for godly living and spiritual, mental, relational and emotional health. I’ll never forget the lesson relayed to me about a very prominent Bible teacher being deceived by a wolf in sheep’s clothing. The story was recounted at a conference where the Bible teacher was speaking.

Human Wisdom and Knowledge is Not the Equivalent of Discernment

This popular teacher was apparently persuaded by one of her “followers,” a new believer, to baptize her because of the tremendous impact her books and teachings had made on her life. This teacher, after much prayer, and godly counsel baptized the woman, only to find out later that the woman she baptized was a complete fraud. 1 Corinthians 2:13-14 tells us that spiritual things can only be discerned by the Holy Spirit.

No One is Immune From Deception
There is not one individual who is immune from deception, because Satan rules the world through a web of deception. Spiritual discernment, like wisdom, provides protection from his

The list below is one of the tools I use to help me rightly judge my own life decisions. Whenever there is a weighty decision before me, I get out my pen and paper and write out and pray through the answers to the following questions. You may come up with a few of your own to add to this list…

1. Is my mind renewed and conformed by God’s word? Having a renewed mind is an ongoing process, which requires consistently and earnestly seeking God through His word and prayer. Additionally one must actively reject being conformed to the patterns, influences and customs of the world. (Romans 12:1-2)

2. Does it line up with God’s Word? Discernment requires us to take our thoughts captive. That means we must look at our thoughts and hold them up to the light of God’s word. In other words, if I am discerning a new business or ministry idea, I must examine all my thoughts and ideas about it and consider whether each aspect of the plan is in line with God’s word. (2 Corinthians 10:4-5). The concept, ideas and motives cannot in anyway violate God’s word or moral law which was summed up in the law of love (Galatians 5:14).

3. Am I willing to say yes? Am I willing to say no? Until we are at the place where we are willing to say both yes and no to our dream, vision or plan we run the risk of being deceived by our own motives. God desires obedience to His word over the work of our hands (1 Samuel 15:22). If we are clinging to an idea or vision so strongly that we are unwilling to let it go then there is a good possibility that there is too much of “me” in the mix and therefore “me” will distort my understanding of the word and my sensitivity to the prompting of the Holy Spirit.

4. What do I stand to gain? Paul wrote in Philippians 3, “But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. There is always something to gain from what we do… even those things we do exclusively for God. It’s not that gain is wrong, but we must be discerning of our motives by identifying and facing them full on.

5. What do I stand to lose/sacrifice? Jesus said (Luke 14:28) we need to count the cost. The cost of following Him. He expects us to give it all up for Him even our family relationships must not get in the way of following Christ.

6. Whose approval am I looking for? Whose approval will I get? Galatians 1:10 states, “Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.” Having been made for relationship the fear of rejection and the need for approval are extremely strong, often unconscious, motivators in our lives. Our motives must be examined to ensure that what drives us is the approval of God not men.

7. Am I willing to try and fail? Success is God’s work. Our work is to believe in and to know the Lord Jesus Christ and the One who sent Him (John 6:29, 17:3). God calls us to step out and walk by faith not sight (2 Cor 5:7). Many times it “feels” like God is calling us to do a certain thing when in reality it’s just the thing He’s using to get us to step out…it is just a stepping stone to the ultimate destination. Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails. (Proverbs 19:21)

8. What will others gain? The second commandment calls us to love our neighbors as ourselves (Matthew 22:39). Others should benefit in some way from the choices and plans we carry out in our lives.

9. What feedback have I received from wise counsel? Proverbs 15:22 states, Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed and make plans by seeking advice (Proverbs 20:18). Many a young couple has entered into marriage against the advisement of their parents and other godly counsel only to discover down the road, they should have listened.

10. Is my greatest desire to see God glorified? Colossians 1:17 states, for by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. Because God deserves all the glory, honor and praise in the whole universe He commands us to do everything for His glory so …whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God (2 Corinthians 10:31).

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