How to Discern Spirits
“We can be triumphant in every area of life, especially as we discern the spirits!”
Discernment is the ability to see into the spirit world and to perceive the operation of that spirit world. The Bible tells us:
“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1 NKJV).
This is a command, not a suggestion or an option. For believers, it is clearly an order, and gives no “wiggle room” for any of us to leave to mere chance this crucial dimension of the spirit world that surrounds us.
Developing a close relationship with God is essential to a successful and productive life in every area—spiritually, emotionally, physically, relationally, and financially. The secret is really no secret—spending time in the Word and in His presence, and learning to listen to His guidance.
Being sensitive to the Holy Spirit will allow you to discern between His voice and the enemy’s voice. That discernment can mean all the difference in the world for you and those around you:
By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world. (1 John 4:2-3)
Knowing the Spirit of God is the key you and I need as we “try” or “test” the spirits. Knowing the Holy Spirit enables you to recognize other spirits. As you know Him better, you will be able to know the operation of other spirits, for truth is found only in the Holy Spirit.
If you know Him, you will know them, because you must compare them to the truth found in God’s Word and His Spirit.
Three Realms of Discernment
God places such an importance on discernment as one of the spiritual gifts:
Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be ignorant… There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all: for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills. (1 Corinthians 12:1-11)
Here are three quick examples in the Bible of the realms of discernment:
1. The Spirit of God
“And when the servant of the man of God arose early and went out, there was an army, surrounding the city with horses and chariots. And his servant said to him, ‘Alas, my master! What shall we do?’ So he answered, ‘Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.’ And Elisha prayed, and said, ‘LORD, I pray, open his eyes that he may see.’ Then the LORD opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw. And behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.” (2 Kings 6:15-17 NKJV)
The city of Dothan was completely surrounded by well-trained enemy forces. The prophet Elisha had the God-given ability to see into the spiritual realm, but his servant Gehazi did not. Elisha prayed for his assistant, and God opened his eyes to see the Almighty’s spiritual forces amassed on the hillsides around them!
2. The Spirit of the Enemy
“Now it happened, as we went to prayer, that a certain slave girl possessed with a spirit of divination met us, who brought her masters much profit by fortune-telling. This girl followed Paul and us, and cried out, saying, ‘These men are the servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to us the way of salvation.’ And this she did for many days. But Paul, greatly annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, ‘I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.’ And he came out that very hour. But when her masters saw that their hope of profit was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace to the authorities.” (Acts 16:16-19 NKJV)
Paul was followed by a woman who was actually speaking the truth. Some believers might have said she was of God, but Paul rebuked the evil spirit and commanded it to come out of her.
3. The Human Spirit
Genesis 27:22-23 tells the sad story of how Isaac, a mighty prophet of God, lacked discernment to tell which one of his sons came to receive the blessing. He depended on his natural abilities (what he felt, tasted, and heard) instead of God’s direction.
Jeremiah 28:1-3 and 15-17 also points out how the prophet Jeremiah discerned that a prophecy given by Hananiah regarding the sacred vessels was spoken from the false prophet’s own spirit, rather than from God’s.
Again, knowing the difference between the prompting of the Holy Spirit, the evil one, or one’s own spirit is crucial. But how do you learn, especially when it comes to false voices?
How to Recognize Demonic Spirits
Start by understanding this:
“The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly” (John 10:10).
One way brings thievery, murder, and destruction. The other way causes life and abundance!
And you can begin to learn the difference by recognizing satan’s wiles in many forms. Here are the ones the enemy of your soul uses most often:
- Regression: This means to draw back or pull away. The first thing to look for in recognizing demonic spirits is spiritual or emotional withdrawal. This person will also begin to lack hunger for the things of God. He or she will withdraw from church, God’s people, and His Word. This is very common, obviously, as most believers have been affected by drawing back and leaving one’s “first love” (Revelation 2:4).
- Suppression: Next, the person begins to suppress everything, unable to express emotions, rejoice in the Lord, or praise God. He or she becomes emotionally isolated and joyless.
- Depression: The next step away from God often involves a downward spiral toward depression. The spirit becomes broken and crushed. Unable to break through emotionally or spiritually, the natural tendency is then to become even more despondent, even to the point of giving up.
- Oppression: Somewhere between depression and oppression, demonic activity becomes noticeable. Satan will use any situation he can for his ultimate purpose, which is to “steal, kill, and destroy.” Depression is a big door that opens wide to allow more demonic activity. If depression isn’t dealt with, demonic forces can often gain more and more control of a person’s mind. A person can even become so weighed down and oppressed that he or she is unable to function as the devil binds one’s mind with past failures, sin, and guilt.
- Obsession: When someone becomes preoccupied with an idea, emotion, hurt, or anger, the doors are opened to oppression. Satan can gain a powerful stronghold when the focus is on a lie or half-truth.
- Possession: Obsession leads to possession, a condition where a person comes under total and complete control of a demonic force.
Here is the danger: regression, suppression, depression, oppression, and obsession are all centered on the emotions, which can affect both body and soul. However, possession is spiritual.
If a person doesn’t deal with the first five levels, the forces of evil will move from the body and mind into the spirit, seeking to seize control of that person’s entire life.
The good news is that at any point in this cycle, even with possession, a person can receive deliverance!
How to Battle Evil Forces
We do not wage war naturally:
“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12).
The secret is using spiritual weapons of war:
For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ. (2 Corinthians 10:3-6)
The gift of discernment enables you to battle in the spiritual realm. It is a gift from the Holy Spirit imparted into your life and developed as you grow more intimate with Almighty God.
Here are three ways to develop discernment:
1. Prayer and the Word
The most powerful spiritual weapon in a believer’s arsenal is prayer, and prayer is fueled by the Word of God. The Word gives you the ability to discern between good and evil: “And they shall teach My people the difference between the holy and the unholy, and cause them to discern between the unclean and the clean” (Ezekiel 44:23). Prayer reveals things you don’t understand in the natural: “Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know” (Jeremiah 33:3). Prayer moves you from the carnal to the spiritual, and the Word gives you the power and insight you need when you move into the supernatural.
My dear friend Kenneth Copeland says, “Praise is the big gun of faith.” Satan is crippled when you praise the Lord. Remember when Paul and Silas, imprisoned in a Philippian jail, began “praying and singing hymns” (Acts 16:25)? The result? “Suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were loosed” (Acts 16:26). It was no mere coincidence. Praise became their weapon. It can for you, too, no matter what breakthrough you need. Learn to activate the power of praise in your life!
3. Power of the Spoken Word
We are told, “Say to them, ‘As I live,’ says the Lord, ‘just as you have spoken in My hearing, so I will do to you’”(Numbers 14:28). You have the power of life and death in your tongue (Proverbs 18:21). Give no place to the devil (Ephesians 4:27), especially through the power of your speech. Start confessing God’s power and He will act upon what you speak. You overcome demonic forces by the blood of the Lamb and by the spoken word (Revelation 12:11).
As believers, we don’t have to be subject to satan’s wiles. We can rise above his falsehoods and deceptions.
You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. They are of the world. Therefore they speak as of the world, and the world hears them. We are of God. He who knows God hears us; he who is not of God does not hear us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error. (1 John 4:5-6)
With His help, you can be an overcomer every day, for “thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:57). We can be triumphant in every area of life, especially as we discern the spirits!
That is my earnest prayer for you today and always!
My Request to You
We have the weapons of spiritual war, but billions of people around the globe are not protected from the ravages of the evil one. Too many have never even heard the Good News of salvation. That should break the heart of every believer.
We know that God truly loves the world in ways we can only imagine:
This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again. (John 3:16-17, MSG)
We also know that we have been given this Great Commission:
Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. (Matthew 28:19-20)
We must go and share what was shown to us. And while salvation is free to all, the cost of spreading the Gospel never ceases. It seems to increase. So it is today, even as we continue to harness the latest technologies so that by any means possible we can present the Good News to the lost, needy, and hurting wherever they are.
My precious partner, through the years, you have stood with me with such faithfulness, and I am asking you from the deepest part of my heart that you give today for this mighty work of God so we can continue to make advance preparations for all the scheduled Miracle Services, broadcasts, internet and social media outreaches, and all that we do around the globe.
I need your help to take the Good News of Jesus Christ through the awesome doors that continue to be opened to us.
One of the greatest lessons any believer can learn is the importance of giving to the spread of the Gospel, and I ask you boldly and from the bottom of my heart to prayerfully consider helping me with your sacrificial gift today.
Multitudes of souls are waiting to hear the Gospel. We cannot delay. We must go now while the doors remain open.
Will you help me obey the command of our Master Jesus and sow your seed today for souls?
For the glorious and eternal cause of our precious Lord, Jesus Christ,