We believe that God does indeed speak to us and guide and direct us.
How do we know something IS really from the Lord?
With any guidance that we think we receive from the Lord, the issue becomes:
“How can we be sure that the guidance we are getting is actually from the Holy Spirit and not just our imagination or even from the devil?!”
As we grow in cooperation with the Holy Spirit, the gift of discernment becomes critically important.
As Christians it is all-important that we receive this guidance, otherwise we do not know what to do.
To do this we must pray for the gift of wisdom and the gift of discernment.
If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.James 1:5 (NIV)
Asking God for the Gift of Wisdom and Discernment
We start by asking the Lord for wisdom as well as the spiritual gift of discernment of spirits.
In 1 Corinthians 12:10, discernment of spirits is listed as one the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
To another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues.1 Corinthians 2:10 (NIV)
We need both wisdom and discernment for sorting out what is from the Lord, what is from the human mind, and what may actually be sown by Satan to deceive us and to induce fear.
Four Discernment Questions You Can Use:
1. Does it Give Glory to Jesus Christ?
The Holy Spirit will point to Jesus and bring you the words of Jesus, and Jesus alone!
The Holy Spirit has a single-minded focus on Jesus Christ as the truth, and will bring glory only to Jesus.
The Apostle John reminds us the Holy Spirit will point us to Jesus as we seek to discern what is true. and what promptings come from God:
“Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.
This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God.
This is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.”1 John 4:1-3 (NIV)
Today, many in the New Age Movement speak of Christ or the Christ Spirit, but this is detached from the revelation found in the Bible that Jesus is a real person who died on the cross for our sins.
This leads us to the second question.
2. Is it Consistent with Scripture?
God has spoken to us in scripture revealing His character, His will and His intentions.
God continues to speak directly and personally to His people, to guide, to comfort, and to address needs in their circumstances.
While not always verbatim from scripture, this immediate word of God will always be in accord with the teachings of Scripture and consistent with the character of God as revealed in scripture.
Scripture, as God’s self-revelation, is the standard by which all other revelation is to be measured.
After he was raised from the dead, his disciples recalled what he had said. Then they believed the scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken.John 2:22 (NIV)
While not always verbatim from scripture, whatever guidance we think we are receiving will always be in accord with the teachings of Scripture and consistent with the character of God as revealed in scripture.
Read more: 6 Ways God Speaks to You in Prayer
That God would call into existence something like a ministry with the purpose of growing disciples who can move in the gifts and power of the Holy Spirit.
And is consistent with the nature of the Church and the gift giving work of the Holy Spirit, see 1 Corinthians 12-14.
3. Do Other People Who are Filled with the Holy Spirit have a Confirming Witness?
If the guidance is from the Holy Spirit, the same Holy Spirit will confirm it in the hearts of others.
This is not the process of taking a vote and letting the majority rule.
It is rather the discernment of those who are born again and are being filled with the Holy Spirit.
Read more: What Do We Mean By Discernment?
Two or three prophets should speak, and the others should weigh carefully what is said.1 Corinthians 14:29 (NIV)
Those around you who walk with Jesus are also sensitive to discerning what is from God or not.
The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit. The person with the Spirit makes judgments about all things, but such a person is not subject to merely human judgments, for,
“Who has known the mind of the Lord
so as to instruct him?”
But we have the mind of Christ.1 Corinthians 2:14-16 (NIV)
4. Is there Confirmation in Objectively Verifiable Events or Facts?
God said, “Let there be light” and there was! This light could be objectively studied and observed. This is true for other words and actions by God. They are objective.
This is why Isaiah says, God’s words will not come back empty.
These objective results provide us with the fourth discernment test.
You may say to yourselves, “How can we know when a message has not been spoken by the Lord?” If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the Lord does not take place or come true, that is a message the Lord has not spoken. That prophet has spoken presumptuously, so do not be alarmed.Deuteronomy 18:21-22 (NIV)
Discernment will help us determine what really is from the Holy Spirit and what may not be.
Here is an example from Paul Stokes,
During my first year as a minister, I (Paul) was handed a note by a well-loved member who believed this was God’s prophetic message for us.
It read: You people of Plymstock love your warm comfortable houses. But you have neglected your central place of worship, my temple. It is cold and uninviting. Can’t you see what is happening?
You hope for a large harvest but have received a small one. And what you have gathered, I have blown away with the wind. Make provision to restore the warmth in my temple, and I, the Lord, will be with you. For confirmation please read the short book of Haggai (only a page and a half).
This was the first time I ever had to work out what to do with a prophetic word!
I brought the note before the elders and asked whether there was a shared sense of the message being authentic, and almost immediately there was a corporate “yes.”
It seemed too quick to me, as if the mention of a Bible reference had automatically made it “right,” and I felt uneasy.
So later that night I walked around the local streets, initially praying about the prophetic word but then dealing with other aspects of the church’s life as well.
I had almost arrived home and was no longer considering the prophetic word when I heard God say, “It’s me.” I don’t think it was an audible voice, but the words were clear as well as unexpected.
At that moment, I had peace in my own spirit, a confirming witness alongside that of the other elders. The wording and thrust of the message itself had been clearly an echo of God’s word through Haggai.
The Spirit sometimes takes portions of historically rooted Scripture and declares that they are his current message for our particular situation.
This happened when Peter quoted from the prophet Joel in Acts 2 and when the church considered the question of Gentiles becoming Christians in Acts 15.
Thus, I could see that this particular message was consistent with the character and intentions of God as revealed in Scripture.
Did the prophetic word bring glory to Jesus?
The answer is surely yes. Like the letters to local churches in Revelation, this word called us to be transformed, to seek first the kingdom of God, to make it our priority to honor him through practical action.
And what about confirmation in objectively verifiable events or facts?
For the next few years, we welcomed many new people into membership and saw even more people leave us.
The numbers fell by about 25 percent as the Lord “blew away” what we gathered. During that period, faith was clothed in obedience as the small church began to make changes to the premises with new heating, new well-insulated windows, comfortable chairs, new audio-visual equipment, and the refurbishing of one of the main meeting rooms and the kitchen facilities.
Other changes took place, too, in areas of prayer, fellowship, evangelism, and growing in the Holy Spirit.
Over the past five years, we have been increasingly aware of the Lord’s presence and have seen the church grow in numbers by more than 60 percent.
All four discernment questions received a positive response, affirming that a cautiously presented message truly was a prophetic word given under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.Growing the Church, Paul Stokes, pages 169-170
Three Ways to Apply the Discernment Questions!
- Ask these four questions as you hear someone teach, preach, give a word, or you see a manifestation of the Holy Spirit.
- Ask yourself these questions when you receive something from the Lord.
- Always discern each new word from the Lord.
Let’s Explore This Gift Even Further!
Found in this exclusive video from 2009, Brad Long shares about prophecies that have been given to him in conversations, and about the four discernment questions that we created to evaluate prophecies, guidance, or religious experiences.
We’ve prepared an excerpt from the Dunamis Project 2: In the Spirit’s Power: Cooperating with the Holy Spirit manual as a gift for you, to do the work of Jesus Christ.
It covers these four questions that we believe is from the Holy Spirit, quotes from Scripture, Ignatius, John Calvin and the Scots confession.
It goes much further in-depth with Scriptures and reason to support the use of these four questions.
As Christians it is all-important that we receive this guidance, otherwise we do not know what to do.
These printed bookmarks act as a reminder of the four discernment questions and they also can be used as a gift! They come in packets of 50 for $12 online and include free shipping!
We also have these bookmarks available in Spanish!
Put the free app Dunamis “Discernment Tests” in your Android Phone for handy reference. When you need to tell if it’s really the Holy Spirit at work, this app provides a simple and brief guide!
I Am Ready to Be Fully Equipped in Discernment!
As a ministry, PRMI uses the four discernment questions on a regular basis, whether at a Dunamis Project or PRMI event, they have served us well since we discovered them in 1991.
PRMI has developed a “Four Discernment Questions” list that we ask of anything that is believed to be a word from the Lord or guidance from the Holy Spirit.
Asking these four questions will help us start thinking in the right direction and keep us grounded in what God has revealed to us. Found in His Word, the Bible, about how to discern a word, prophecy, or manifestation of the Holy Spirit!