This is another article on discerning the spirits. I hope I can dig deeper now than I could do it before on this blog site. Actually, discerning the spirits is not about thinking, “The Bible is true and everything else that comes from this world or what was written in other religions is completely wrong.” Knowing the Living God, I realized that the eternal I AM always communicated His wisdom to human beings. The difference between all those other religions which had come before the book of Genesis was written and before the Hebrews were chosen to be God’s people that was allowed to get to know Him as the only God, is simply that there was a blend of God’s truth mixed with other religious stuff and God had not yet enabled man to discern the whole truth. Before Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection it was not yet time to do so (see Acts 17:30). Only God’s chosen prophets in the OT could utter pure divine wisdom through God’s Spirit dwelling on them. However, there were always wise men in the past who shared divine wisdom as well (though not perfectly, still truth mixed with lies at times) such as Seneca, Plato, Confucius etc. pp. However, since Christ has come into this world and is risen, we may know that we only find The Whole Truth by abiding in Him who “became to us wisdom from God” (1 Cor 1:30 ESV).
On my own way to find out the whole truth, there were some years when doubts had plagued me. It was not so that I doubted God’s existence, but I began to scour other religions for testimonies from other people about how they had experienced God. And I may tell you that I asked God beforehand to show me whether Jesus was truly the only way to Him – or not. Our loving God was never mad at me and I was so glad that He accompanied my many studies by giving me His wisdom which I really coveted and needed. I read the Koran and other (Holy) Scriptures like the Vedas and the Bhagavad Gita to some extent. Today I believe discerning the spirits is a gift He had begun to give me during that time as I started reading everything by dividing it in TRUE, FALSE, and NEUTRAL statements. Brothers and sisters, there is “something” inside us that tells us, often even without words, through a kind of echo in our mind and heart about it. Or in order to put it more biblical,
“But the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie—just as it has taught you, abide in him.” (1 Jn 2:27 ESV)
Note: the Scripture above stresses that abiding in Him is crucial. Not walking in the Spirit but after the flesh can make us blind toward the truth again. However, abiding in Christ and His love – always – will bring forth the spiritual fruit of which John 15:5-9 spoke of. I now want to give you an example regarding Islamic mystical writings which appeared centuries after Jesus had come and revealed God to us. The mystics in Islam are called Sufis. They devote their whole life to God with who they want to become one in the end. They know that there is only one God who is love and they make Him their only goal on their spiritual search. Well, here’s the excerpt that defines what Sufism is about.
According to the Sufis, all existence comes from God and God alone is real. The created world is but a reflection of the Divine ; “the universe is the Shadow of the Absolute”. The ability to discern God behind the screen of things implies purity of soul. It is only through an effort to withdraw from the world that one can approach God:
“Man is a mirror which, when polished, reflects God.”
The God that the Sufis discover is a God of love and the way to him is through Love : “whoever knows God, loves him ; whoever knows the world turns away from him.” – ” If you wish to be free, become a prisoner of Love. “
There is a lot of truth in this. Comparing it with the Bible, we know that indeed only those who have a pure heart will be able to see God (cf. Mt. 5:8). As for the effort to withdraw from the world, that is something I often hear or read in Christian circles as well. Basically, it is true that someone who belongs to God has nothing in common with this world. Nonetheless, no human being, Christian or not, is able to separate himself from the world and become a purified spiritual being that is eventually able to see Him everywhere on his own. There is much more to it. The Bible tells us,
“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.” (1 Jn 2:15-17 ESV)
What shall we do with this statement,“If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him”? We cannot do as if we didn’t love the world by separating ourselves from worldly people only, although, if indeed Christ’s Spirit indwells us, we will lose interest in all these things this world has to offer. Some people believe that being physically separated from this world might help them to get the world out of their hearts, too (thinking of particular monasteries and cults here). Alas, that is a fallacy. As we read in the Scripture above, it is necessary that God’s love has been poured into our hearts (Rom 5:5) so that we can STOP loving the world. We need to receive His Spirit first, His anointing. We need to be baptized with His Spirit. We must be born again, from above. Only through this divine birthing process that needs a long time to bring us to spiritual perfection we will be able to see God.
Some people might have been taught that we only need to believe in Jesus and to read the Bible in order to get to know The Word of God. But is that really enough for us? It is a starting point, for sure, but it is not yet the experience of having been born again. Without ever having received His Spirit in our hearts and minds, we are not yet born again. Also, we can neither see nor enter the kingdom of God without having been born again because our spiritual senses have not yet been awakened to new life. Instead, we are forced to seek God in everything that feeds our five natural senses: we look for him in everything man has to offer (religions, traditions, religious leaders etc.) Some of you might know that John Wesley was shocked after having worked for many years as a Christian theologian when he realized that he, in fact, had not yet been born again. He was deeply saddened, even in despair, as he realized that a Christian is someone who has Christ’s Spirit in his heart, as it is written,
“Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.” (Rom 8:9 ESV)
Afterwards, John Wesley often pointed in his sermons to this fact which had come true in his own life. You can also read about it in His exposition on that very verse.
Verse 9. In the Spirit – Under his government. If any man have not the Spirit of Christ – Dwelling and governing in him. He is none of his – He is not a member of Christ; not a Christian; not in a state of salvation. A plain, express declaration, which admits of no exception. He that hath ears to hear, let him hear!
(John Wesley’s Notes on the Bible, Epistle to the Romans, chapter 8)
I also want to show you the following explanations of two other verses that precede Romans 8:9. Here John Wesley strikingly points out the difference between a worldly/carnal/fleshly mind and a mind that has been spiritually awakened by Christ and already lives in the heavenlies with Him.
Verse 5. They that are after the flesh – Who remain under the guidance of corrupt nature. Mind the things of the flesh – Have their thoughts and affections fixed on such things as gratify corrupt nature; namely, on things visible and temporal; on things of the earth, on pleasure, (of sense or imagination,) praise, or riches. But they who are after the Spirit – Who are under his guidance. Mind the things of the Spirit – Think of, relish, love things invisible, eternal; the things which the Spirit hath revealed, which he works in us, moves us to, and promises to give us.
Verse 6. For to be carnally minded – That is, to mind the things of the flesh. Is death – The sure mark of spiritual death, and the way to death everlasting. But to be spiritually minded – That is, to mind the things of the Spirit. Is life – A sure mark of spiritual life, and the way to life everlasting. And attended with peace – The peace of God, which is the foretaste of life everlasting; and peace with God, opposite to the enmity mentioned in the next verse.
May we all experience His peace that gives us a foretaste of life everlasting…
"My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one." (Jn 10:27-30 ESV)