By Elizabeth Prata
I’m immensely grateful to these 4 men. They are, from clockwise, Todd Friel of Wretched Radio, Justin Peters of Justin Peters Ministry, Chris Rosebrough of Pirate Christian Radio and Kongsvinger Lutheran Church, and Phil Johnson of the GraceLife Pulpit and GTY.org.
The Spirit delivers His gifts to all that are converted, and in quantities He chooses, to whom he pleases. The spiritual gifts are listed in several places, but they are by no means exhaustive. Romans 12:6–8, 1 Corinthians 12:8–10, 1 Peter 4:11 are a few of the places these gifts are mentioned.
They are gifts of service, rendered unto God. It’s why we must gather in the local congregation, so as to employ these gifts as part of a body working together to glorify Him and to edify each other. The gifts are not meant to be operated in isolation or solely for the recipient’s benefit. The Spirit’s ministry is to point to God and He instills these gifts as part of that ministry, so that we may in turn point to God. (John 14:26, John 15:26, John 16:13-15).
As Charles Spurgeon wrote in his sermon, The Holy Spirit’s Chief Office,
IT IS the CHIEF office of the Holy Spirit to glorify Christ. He does many things, but this is what he aims at in all of them, to glorify Christ. Brethren, what the Holy Ghost does must be right for us to imitate: therefore, let us endeavour to glorify Christ.
One way we do that is to employ our gifts obediently and wisely.
Discernment, or distinguishing between spirits (1 Corinthians 12:10) is one of those gifts. It is given to some. We all have a responsibility to discern, we don’t stay on milk forever but grow and mature. But to some believers the Spirit gives discernment as your local body’s ‘early warning system’. You hear the tornado siren before you see the tornado. The discernment person hears the false creeping in before many other do and does his or her best to warn.
In the verse 1 Corinthians 12:10 the word distinguishing used in ‘distinguishing between spirits’ is diakrisos, literally meaning according to Strong’s Greek Lexicon, “deciding, passing sentence on; the act of judgment, discernment.” So when naysayers tell me or others who speak of, write about, or preach a discernment issue against so and so teacher or doctrine, they’re literally telling us not to make a judgment. It’s the same as telling us not to use our spiritual gift and it means the person is saying they know better than God who gave the gift, for the Holy Spirit IS God.
Several books of the Bible are lessons in discernment. 1 Peter, Jude come to mind. Tim Challies’ book The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment with foreword by John MacArthur is a good resource.
In addition, I’ve found the above named men wonderful resources in discernment. Please allow me to share my specific appreciation for each. I’ve named them and added the quality I have learned most from each man as I’ve traveled with the Spirit in my discernment journey.
Chris Rosebrough: Affirmation & Relief
Back when I got started digging in to the Bible and honing what to me was an obvious gift of discernment (the Spirit often makes His gifts obvious to the user and the observer), I came up against two items that ground my gears: The Henry Blackaby Experiencing God study and Beth Moore. I was perturbed, disturbed, and upset going through these church-recommended studies.
I was sure that there was something off about Moore. Moore was riding a rising crest of popularity at the time and most of what I found was uniformly approving of her material. I kept searching. Soon, I found only two discernment items regarding Beth Moore in those early days; The King’s Dale blog and Chris Rosebrough AKA Pirate Christian.
Pastor Rosebrough went through one of Moore’s Bible studies line by line, quote by quote, and closely compared what she said to scripture. I found not only confirmation for myself, which spurred me to curate this discernment gift as the gift it was, but obtained from him a hands-on tool guiding me how to do discernment with a Bible in one hand and honoring the Spirit in the other.
2. Todd Friel Wretched Radio: Teaching how to discern
It is hard to find a how-to directly teaching how to do discernment and to teach correctly what it is. Most of what’s out there regarding the how-to of discernment is wacky, to be blunt. Friel’s teaching series Drive By Discernment was a God-send at the time. It contains 72 short lessons (short enough to listen in the car on the way to work or school, hence the moniker) on what discernment is, why it’s important, and how to employ it- all for the glory of God.
He has since developed another series called Drive By False Teaching. I recommend his series. They can be found in his Wretched store.
3. Justin Peters: Attitude
Brother Justin’s work in discernment circles is well known. He produces many wonderful materials. One of them is a seminar Clouds Without Water: A Biblical Critique of the Word of Faith Movement. He has written a book called Do Not Hinder Them: A Biblical Examination of Childhood Conversion, has preached the Gospel all over the world, and has taught at many conferences, including The Strange Fire conference and the G3 conference.
His wisdom is evident. His years of discerning with all that entails (immersing himself in false doctrine in order to research, the ad hominems and push back, the rejection…) has not jaded him but in fact has made him more grace filled and loving. From Mr Peters I take away not only the importance of discernment but the trust that the Spirit can keep me humbly sharing and not aggressively blaring. The Spirit’s work in him is plain to see. I aspire to develop the same kind of attitude in employing this sometimes thorny and difficult gift. Watching him, I know that being lovingly graciousness is possible.
4. Phil Johnson: expositing discernment issues with courage
Pastor Phil edits most of John MacArthur’s major books, and is the executive director of Grace to You. He is also pastor of the GraceLife Pulpit, a Sunday School class at Grace Community Church (which has hundreds of members). I have enjoyed over the years many sermons he has delivered at GraceLife, especially his sermons on Jonah and the Psalms. I also enjoy his discernment ability and his courage in saying what needs to be said. He has a firm grasp of the Bible and isn’t afraid to name names when he deems it necessary. I have taken from him not only many biblical lessons and benefited from his exegesis, but I’m inspired by his unwavering stance for truth- so that Jesus is glorified.
So those are my go-to discernment men and the impact they have had on me. I praise God for their ministries.
I recommend the below online discernment conference. It’s free. Each of the men speak for about an hour with a few questions posed in between their segments. I especially enjoyed Todd Friel’s “Rules for Discernment” and found them helpful. Here is the Youtube link in case the below video doesn’t appear.
I also recommend Justin Peters’ recent video exposing the Health & Prosperity preachers and their false prophecies in the face of COVID-19.
Here is the Justin Peters modern prophets’ video link at Youtube in case the below embedded video doesn’t show up below.