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Charles Stanley - The Power Of A Discerning Spirit




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Isn't it strange that sometimes we have difficulty determining the difference between good and evil? And sometimes we find ourselves being deceived by what we hear and what we see. And sometimes we have difficulty in discerning whether God is speaking to us or not. And then oftentimes in our conversations with other people, we don't get it. They're saying to us in their own way in their own words, their own expressions, "I'm hurting; I need help". And we just go right by it.

Well, one of the reasons all of those things are true is because we do not have a discerning spirit. Somewhere along the way, nobody's ever taught us what it means to be discerning. We just take things as they are; take them at face value. And living in the day in which you and I live, you cannot afford to do that. Neither we who are parents, nor our children, nor our grandchildren. In fact, this whole nation as a nation of people, we cannot afford to make decisions without a discerning spirit. We're in trouble, big time trouble, because we have not made decisions based on wise discernment; but on what appears to be something that'll pass for the moment without thinking about the future consequences. Could that be true of your life? That you've made a lot of decisions without thinking about the future consequences.

Well, David prayed a prayer to the Father that all of us should pray for ourselves. Now, I want you to turn, if you will, to the hundred and nineteenth Psalm and the sixty-sixth verse in that Psalm. The whole Psalm is about the Word of God. And it does you good once in a while, about every few months or so, I just read that whole Psalm just for myself, because it's all about God's Word and what it does in our life. And if you'll notice in this hundred and nineteenth Psalm, it's the long one, down the sixty-sixth verse. Look at the sixty-fifth verse and here's what he says, "You have dealt well with Your servant, O LORD, according to Your word. Teach me good discernment and knowledge, for I believe in Your commandments. Teach me good discernment".

So if you'll think about it, and think about the day in which you and I live, and the things that are happening today, and the fact that we live in a world that's full of counterfeit, lies, half-truths mixed with truth. We live in a day when you have to ask several times, "Am I hearing the truth or am I not? Is this really the truth or is this, or is this some counterfeit? Is something camouflaged about what I see and what I hear? A world of deception, lies, and so, we live in lots of turmoil because we don't know what to believe. You turn on the television and you hear one person say one thing and somebody else comes on next, has something absolutely opposite. And if you operate simply on the basis of information without truth, you're going to get in trouble sooner or later.

So what I want to talk about in this message is simply this. And that is, The Power of a Discerning Spirit. It is the will of God that all of His children have a spiritually discerning spirit. That is, when you think about what discernment is, discernment is all about making judgments. It's about right judgment. It's about looking beneath the surface of things to see what's really there. It's being able to hear what the person says and also hearing what they don't say. It's investigating something and not taking it for granted. It's evaluating; it's distinguishing; it's looking deep down inside to find out what is the truth. And God intends that every single one of His children have a discerning spirit. So what I'd like for us to do is I'd like to think about it in this light.

And that is, first of all, what's the real need for discernment? We talk about lots of information. Well, think about it from this perspective. If you're going to live in the will of God, you've got to have a discerning spirit because discernment says, "I'm able to understand truthfully and in reality what God is saying to me. He has a will and a purpose and a plan for every single one of us". And so the issue is do you know what the plan is? Do you understand God's purpose and plan for your life? You say, "Well, how would I find that out"? He's willing to tell you. He's willing to show you. He's willing to make it crystal clear, for the simple reason He is the One who designed the plan. He knows exactly what's best. And so, if you can't discern when God is speaking and when it's just yourself or what you choose, how are you ever going to know that you're in the will of God or doing the will of God? It's extremely important we learn to judge rightly.

And secondly, it's essential to distinguishing truth from error. And we're going to get from how in a few moments, but if you can't distinguish truth from error, you're going to make decisions that are going to be costly. They can be financially costly decisions, relationally costly, whatever it might be. And when you think about what's happening in children's schools, when they go to elementary school, and all the things that they hear about evolution and ignore the very idea of God. And now, for example, we have the whole issue, let's don't talk about Jesus. What do you expect? How do we expect them to grow up having a discerning spirit unless somebody teaches them? And the truth is, it's the parents' responsibility. You say, "Well, how do I teach my children to be discerning"? To be discerning yourself. "Suppose I don't know how"? Then you're in trouble, your kids are in trouble.

And the truth is, it's the will of God that His children follow His will; which means I must be able to learn to listen to Him, what He's saying, and to be able to discern what is truth and what is error. Now, there are a lot of folks who will mix truth with error. And there are sects and cults and so forth, that's what they do. They put enough truth out there to mix it with error so if you only hear what sounds good and what you've probably been taught, and you don't get this part over here; then you've got confusion. So it's very important we have a discerning spirit to be able to judge rightly, to know the truth. Also, I think about it in this light. And that is, it's essential for us to be able to overcome and to avoid being deceived by sin. Sin is a very, very convincing, persuading thing. And many things that are pleasurable in life that are the will of God.

There are many things that appear to be pleasurable in life, but only pleasurable for the moment. And one of the things that discernment helps us to do is ask this question. What are the consequences of this action? When the world talks about pleasure, it only talks about pleasure for the moment, or promises of the future that it cannot really fulfill. And so, a discerning person asks the question, "What are the consequences of this action? What are the consequences of this purchase? In other words, what follows after this? A discerning spirit doesn't just stop with what they see and what they hear or what they feel at the moment. It is a dangerous thing to live today with no discerning spirit. And it is a spirit that God offers His children. It's essential to distinguish in between what's good and what's best.

Now, a lot of folks say, "Well, you know, as long as I just sort of get along I'm fine. That's not in the Word of God. Because you and I are followers of Jesus Christ, and because He lives on the inside of us, and because we have the Holy Spirit within us, listen, He expects us to do our best and to be our best at whatever we do. Not better than somebody else necessarily, but to be our best. And here's what happens. If I sorta like good, I'll never strive for the best. What we have to ask is, "Lord, is this as far as You want me to go? Or do You have something else out here that I'm not even aware of"? And when a person has a discerning spirit, they don't make quick judgments when unnecessary.

Sometimes you have to make a fast judgment. If you have a discerning spirit, you're protected. But the truth is, unless a person has a discerning spirit, it's like going to battle with no shield and no weapon. You're wide open for defeat; because we're being confronted continuously with decisions we have to make that affect all kinds of things in our life that are very important. You say, "Well, surely there are some decisions I don't have to ask God about". Well, some decisions, the reason you don't have to ask God about, you've already asked Him about and you know. In other words, some things are crystal clear right, wrong. And yet, there are many things that, in people's minds, are in the gray area. But in God's mind, it's not gray. You say, "Well, is everything so black and white"? Not necessarily. That's why we have to have a discerning spirit, to know, "Lord, what is Your will? In this particular situation, what would You have me to do"? But I think likewise, it's essential to recognizing when God's speaking to us.

Now, if I ask you, "Do you know how to listen to God? What would you say? Do you know how to listen to God"? You say, "Well, I don't know that God's speaking". Yes He is. Listen, He created you with a plan and a purpose and a will for your life. It would be unlike God in His very character not to be willing to speak to you to give you direction and clear guidance in every aspect of your life. So He does speak. The question is, do you know how to listen to Him? Because, you see, when you learn to listen to God, you have a discerning spirit. And He will enable you to distinguish between what I want, what I feel and what is the will and purpose and plan of God in this situation. It's our greatest protection, not only for our children as they leave home, but for our daily life.

And so, when you think about it in your own personal life and when He's speaking, how would you say that you know when God is speaking to you? Well, I'm going to come to that in a moment. He does speak; He does give discernment, because it's His will that you and I make wise decisions. Therefore, I must be able to look beyond what I see, beyond what I feel, beyond what I hear, and be able to see how is it that God looks at it. Now, what's the source of real spiritual discernment? Well, the source of real spiritual discernment, first of all, it's a gift of God. You say, "Well, how can it be a gift of God"? Here's the reason. Jesus said to His disciples in the Upper Room the night before He was leaving, He said, "I'm going to send you a Helper. He is the Holy Spirit. He'll be in you, with you and upon you. He will enable you. He will give you direction. He will bring things to your remembrance. He will help you understand the truth". That's the promise that every single one of us who is a believer has. We have the Holy Spirit living on the inside of us to enable us and direct us to have spiritual discernment.

So, we have a Helper. And so as you think about your life and you come to make a decision, listen, you don't ever have to make a decision alone as a believer. You have the Spirit of God living within you, that's God in the Spirit living within you, and He says, "I'm sending Him as your Helper". So we have someone to help us. You say, "Help you how"? In every single aspect of life, we have Him. When you trusted Jesus as your Savior, He says He came to live in your life. Direction, guidance, your personal Helper. Naturally He's going to help you make wise decisions. So, when you think about it, we have the asset number one of the Holy Spirit to enable us to be wise in our judgments. But a second thing we have is this: we have the Word of God. He says, "The entrance of Thy Word gives light".

Now, so when it comes to making wise decisions and when it comes to having spiritual discernment, what is the basis of it? The basis of all discernment is the Word of God. Because every single situation and circumstance you and I are confronted with, there is an answer in the Word of God. You say, "Oh, I've got something". No you don't. You don't have any spiritual, moral issues in life for which there is not an answer in the Word of God. So when somebody says, "Well, how do I have a discerning spirit"? Well, listen carefully. Think about it in this light. You come to church week after week after week after week, or you listen or you watch, and you hear one principle after the other. One principle after the other, this is how God works; this is how God thinks. I'm just simply giving you what God says in His Word.

So what have you done? You have filled your mind with what? With biblical truths. Let's just take the Ten Commandments. If you just take the Ten Commandments and you say, "Well, I'm going to run everything by that". That's just the foundation. You think about all the truth in the Word of God. All through Paul's epistles and how he explained things and so forth. And so, when you think about that and you think about how God intends for us to work, listen to what He says in First Corinthians now back in this second chapter. And begin, if you will, in verse ten. He says, "For to us God revealed them through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God. For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God". So that, listen, if a person is an unbeliever, they have no spiritual discernment. They can't have it. "No one knows except the Spirit of God.

Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given us of God". The basis of all true genuine spiritual discernment is the Word of God. He says, "Which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words". Now watch this, "But a natural man," that's an unbeliever, a natural man, "does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned". You say, "That word is appraised". The Greek word is discerned. He says a lost person cannot understand the things of God because they're spiritually discerned.

You say, "Well, then how would a lost person ever get saved"? Here's how a lost person get saved. They hear the truth and the Spirit of God from without takes the truth of God, drives it to their heart in their life and convicts them of sin. And, listen, and begins to reveal the truth, the truth of salvation. And then following that, of course, the Holy Spirit is there to give them direction. But here's what he says. He says, "The natural man does not accept the things of God because they are spiritually discerned". And he says, because they're foolishness to him, "But he who is spiritual appraises," or discerns, "all things, yet he himself is discerned by no one".

Now, what he's simply saying is this: that when you and I have the Spirit of God living within us, what happens? We have the discerner. He's the one who enables us to discern. And so, thereby, a person who would judge us, for example, in other words, we're not talking about condemning somebody. We're talking about discerning. We're talking about seeing what is the truth about that person. And so a lost person, doesn't mean that a lost person has no discernment, doesn't mean that. But they have no spiritual discernment, because apart from the Spirit of God's not there. And they don't have it. Well, how do you develop a discerning spirit? You develop a discerning spirit by what? By practice.

You say, "Well, suppose I fail"? We all fail to begin with. We all make mistakes. But here's what happens: if I want to develop a discerning spirit, I will, first of all, I have to be a Christian. I'll ask God to give me direction, and I will do what I believe He's saying as best I know at that point. It may be exactly the right thing, it may not be. You say, "Well, suppose it's not? How do we learn"? We learn by making mistakes. "Well, I thought that's what God said". But here's the key. We go back to what we said in the beginning. If you have the Word of God, and we have it in our heart, the Spirit of God will do what? Decision comes; you want to be wise in what you do. He will bring back to our mind and heart the Word of God. So here's what God says.

Now, if you don't have the Word of God in your heart; this is why I say read it, read it, read it, read it, read it because here's what happens. When you read the Word of God, He's putting it in your heart. The more you read, the more you understand. You read it, you read it, you read it, and you read it. What's happening? We program our minds and our hearts, our spirit to think the way God thinks. You neglect the Word of God, what happens? You neglect the Word of God, you'll begin to think the way the world thinks. Because think about it. Think about how much you hear from television or your job or whatever it might be; you listen to all these things. You're bombarded with information, information, information. And then there's the little bit of time you spend reading the Word of God. Which will naturally overpower the other?

If you're not careful, you let the world's viewpoint overpower God's viewpoint. Then you make wrong decisions. A discerning spirit is the greatest protection you have in a world of information that's so full of mixed up truth and error. We all need a discerning spirit. And where do you get it? Remember, it's a gift from God through the Holy Spirit who interprets things for us as we need them to be. And then we have the Book, we have the teaching and we have experience.

So you say, "Well, I don't think I've been doing too well". Then here's where you start. Lord, next time I have a decision, I'm coming to You, ask for direction. And here's the big issue. What were the consequences of the last time I made that decision? And what happens is the Spirit of God will show you. Look how you've suffered from doing that before. Or, look how I blessed you for waiting upon Me and taking my choice. You learn discernment. But you have the basis of the Word of God that's a source of all discernment we need. And it is my prayer if you have never trusted Jesus Christ as your Savior, you think, "Well, how does all this work with me"? It really won't work, because He says, "The natural man receiveth not the things of God". When you trust Jesus as your Savior, that's when the Holy Spirit comes in. That's when He enables you. That's when you begin to see things as they really and truly are.

So I ask you this question: why would you wait to receive Jesus Christ, the Son of God, as your Savior, Lord and Master when He is the only Savior? Why would you wait? Could you give me a good answer to that? Why would you wait? When your greatest protection is His presence within you and the power to discern right, why would you wait? In a world of confusion and people being mixed up about so many things and not knowing which way to turn and how to make decisions and all the uncertainty that envelops this world of ours, why would you wait? If you'll think, you shouldn't wait; because it can't get better waiting. Now, I would challenge you to ask the Lord Jesus Christ to forgive you of your sins and tell Him that you need Him in your life. You're receiving Him as your Lord and Savior and Master. You want what's best for you and you want what's best for your family. You're trusting Jesus Christ as your personal Savior. Why would you wait? Frankly, I'd be a little bit afraid to wait. God does know how to get our attention, doesn't He? Amen.

Father, how grateful we are that You love us. Gracious, kind and so forgiving and so patient. You said that you'd give us the Holy Spirit who would live within us, and be a part of our life, give us direction and guidance all of our life. I pray that you'll sink these truths, God, sink them not just so deep, but Lord, as a vital part of our thinking everyday, "What's the will of the Father? What's the truth about this"? I pray for somebody seated here this morning Lord, I pray that you'll help them to understand that it is always wise to obey you and that it is the Spirit of God telling them what they should do. For somebody here that is unsaved and wondering why their life is such a mess. Give them understanding this morning. It doesn't have to be where it is, You can change it in a moment. And you're willing to if they're willing to trust Jesus Christ as their Savior. This is our prayer in His name, Amen.

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