Posted in theology

Discernment lesson, What is it, why do we need it? Part 1

By Elizabeth Prata

EPrata photo

On February 2 I was interviewed by two wonderful ladies of the faith, Amy Spreeman and Michelle Lesley. Their podcast is called A Word Fitly Spoken, a great title for a podcast!

The result of the podcast is here, it was broadcast already and I’m humbled by the opportunity to speak of Jesus, doctrine, and discernment as our wide ranging conversation went.

Their website for the podcast is here, where you can catch ALL their podcasts! I recommend the podcast and also their individual efforts in the faith, Michelle’s website Michelle Lesley- Discipleship for Christian Women and Amy’s at Berean Research and Naomi’s Table Bible Studies for Women. You can also check out her archives from earlier work at

When I was preparing for the interview, I made notes. I wanted to post those (I’ve gained Amy’s permission) and flesh the concepts out a bit. This is that post.

The Holy Spirit dispenses gifts as He wills (1 Corinthians 12:11) and it is my settled conviction He has given me a gift of discernment. I strive to employ this gift for the edification of the saints in my life and also online. Why? We are to use the gifts He dispenses for the common good. (1 Corinthians 12:7).

Let’s start with a quote from A.W. Tozer, who said,

“Among the gifts of the Spirit scarcely one is of greater practical usefulness than the gift of discernment. This gift should be highly valued and frankly sought as being almost indispensable in these critical times. This gift will enable us to distinguish the chaff from the wheat and to divide the manifestations of the flesh from the operations of the Spirit.”

What is Discernment?

Discern is from the Greek word diakrino. It means to separate thoroughly. Defined, it means,

The sound judgment which makes possible the distinguishing of good from evil, and the recognition of God’s right ways for his people. It is necessary for the understanding of spiritual realities and, on a practical level, for right government and the avoidance of life’s pitfalls.

Tool for Topical Studies. Martin Manser.

Types of Discernment

There’s the type of discernment every Christian should train up in, as this verse reminds us: But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to distinguish between good and evil. (Hebrews 5:14)

Then there’s discernment as a special gift of the spirit, above and beyond the training one receives as a Christian without that gift, as this verse states, and to another the effecting of miracles, and to another prophecy, and to another the distinguishing of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, and to another the interpretation of tongues. (1 Corinthians 12:10)

General Discernment verses:

The Bible is strong on discernment. It is important. Every book of the New Testament except Philemon warns about the dangers of false teachers and the potential destruction of the faith of a Christian who allows false doctrine into their life. It’s important. Discernment is not an extra. It is not negotiable. It is one of the most important skills any Christian can train up in.

Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not be partakers with them; for you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light (for the fruit of the Light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth), trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. (Ephesians 5:6-10)

Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. (1 John 4:1)

Focus on this verse for a moment, don’t let it slide by:

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:2)

Only the sure word transforms the mind. False doctrine does not transform the mind. When you deliberately ingest false doctrine, for every gain you make in your forward walk, you go backward two steps. Strive with all energy to stay in the pure word and don’t allow it to be polluted with lies from false teachers. You can read a short treatment on this thought here.

Why else did God give us discernment?

God gave His word to us for two reasons: In addition to revealing Himself, it’s to show us the way to salvation and to tell us how to live post-salvation. God has standards for holiness, worshipful living, morals, etc., and if we are to worship Him properly, we need to know who He is and what He expects. I always go to the verse in Acts 1:11,

Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven. [bold added]

We must worship this same Jesus as the one who had been revealed to us in the Bible. Not the liberal Jesus, not the boyfriend Jesus, not the woke Jesus, but this same Jesus. False teachers work hard to skew our vision of who Jesus is. How do we know if we are being fed a different Jesus? Discernment. What a tragedy it would be to get to heaven only to discover that you’d been worshiping, praying to, and learning about a different Jesus all along!

If you desired a job with, say, Coca Cola, a good job seeker learns as much as she can about the company so when you go into an interview you can demonstrate your interest and loyalty by sharing what you know about Coke. But if you’d instead listened to someone else tell about Coke and never checked their facts, and never read a Coca Cola annual report yourself, and in the interview you discover all the facts you proudly shared was from the company Pepsi- its competitor! Would you get the job? No!

How much more is learning about Jesus important?

Proper Discernment is not Judging nor is it Criticalness

Let’s separate discernment from “being critical.” We can use the word discern for the judgment that God encourages, and criticize for inappropriate judgments. And God DOES enocourage good judgment:

Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment. John 7:24

Discerning is not judging unto condemnation. Discerning is judging (evaluating, deciding, determining) whether a teaching aligns with the Bible.

You discern all day long, in other words, evaluate. You discern that the tuna sandwich in the break room cafeteria looks little ragged and choose to eat the ham sandwich instead. You interview two candidates for a job and discern which to choose. You discern which rental application to accept. You sift through information all day and make choices as to which is good and which is not so good and you pick one.

How much more important is discerning which teaching to accept and which is not so good? These are the words of the King of the Universe, the Ancient of Days, the Sustainer of Worlds we’re talking about. Holy God!

Pure teaching is holy, false teaching is profane. False teaching will always have good teaching laced within it. It’s like a fake M&M. There’s candy coating on the outside to make it look attractive, but a worm on the inside to poison you. But you can discern a real M&M from a fake one. The candy coating isn’t as bright. The ‘M’ is not a capital. The Ampersand is crooked. You discern.

Paul even likened false teachings to gangrene, a disease that rots flesh by cutting off blood supply. (2 Timothy 2:17). It is incumbent on all of us to be able to spot the symptoms of a disease of false teaching before it spreads- for others’ health and our own. Most importantly for the name of Jesus Christ

Discernment is ultimately about Jesus.

Part 2 tomorrow!


Christian writer and Georgia teacher's aide who loves Jesus, a quiet life, art, beauty, and children.

4 thoughts on “Discernment lesson, What is it, why do we need it? Part 1

  1. Thank you! I left a pentecostal church of which I was not a member so could not vote) a few years ago that voted in a new pastor. The “board” (did not call themselves elders) was looking for a pastor to bring “more” and at that time I didn’t know what they meant. Well, I stayed for about a year and a half and because I volunteered in the office, I was able to hear things that was not discussed from the pulpit. This new pastor and his wife brought in teachings (books, people, etc) from Bethel Redding. I knew something was off right away. I printed out material and brought it to my pastor to discuss. I got no answers so I told him it was time for me to leave as we were not in agreement of who Jesus and the Holy Spirit are. Those people loved God and expected by faith that the Holy Spirit was bringing in “more” which by then I understood to be experiences, healings (cancer free zone), etc. One time in Sunday School someone said the Holy Spirit makes people bark like dogs. I piped up and said where is that in the Bible? I was told not to put God in a box. Hence gettiing to my point. There are some people who haven’t unfriended me and one person just posted on the healings that A.A. Allen did back in the early 60s by posting “evidence” in a newspaper article. I commented that this man was not a healer, please do your research. Well, of course the people from the church that believe this starting liking it. I went back in and posted an article telling about the life of this man. They will obviously go with what was posted in the newspaper article because that is what they believe unless the Holy Spirit convicts them with the truth. Are these people saved because they were basically following false teaching from the beginning? I believe they know the gospel and love God, but they were taught a different jesus, believing all can have the gifts of tongues, etc. I am grieved. I know I should continue to speak out but know they think I’m the one who is in the wrong. Thank you for listening!


Comments are closed.