Summary: A message on spiritual gifts (1 of 4)
THE GIFT OF DISCERNMENT
INTRO: Several years ago there were many Auburn-Alabama jokes going around. One of the best is the story of the Auburn student who got his first pair of shoes at age 20. He was so proud of his shoes that he started walking backwards to see what nice tracks he was making. Because he was having such a good time, he had walked to Tuscaloosa before he realized it! As the story goes, the boy never did get back to Auburn because, when the folks at Alabama discovered that he could count up to twenty without taking off his shoes, they made a professor out of him.
There are many advantages to gaining an education, and this is just one of them! In this day of “knowledge explosion,” we do well to get all the education we can. The church is also faced with a constant flood of ideas. How do we know which ones are from God and which ones are not? God has gifted His church with special people who can be very helpful here.
I. A GOOD DEFINITION.
Spirits could mean ideas, influences, feelings, writings, or inspirations. All of these are not from God. Satan is an artist at disguises. For every good thing God provides, Satan produces a counterfeit. Where there is Christ, there is Antichrist. Where there are prophets, there are false prophets. Where there is gospel, there are false gospels. The person with the gift of discerning the spirits has an uncanny ability to detect the ring of reality. He can spot a phony, he can sift wheat, and he can “smell a rat.”
Everyone who smiles and talks piously is not from God! Religious charlatans are everywhere seeking gullible people and churches. Jesus warned about wolves in sheeps clothing. In a day without a New Testament, this gift was sorely needed; but today — with so many voices crying for our allegiance and money, the gift is as needed as ever!
II. A GOOD EXAMPLE.
An excellent example of the use of this gift by Jesus is found in Matthew 16 (quickview)  as the Lord sifted the words of Simon Peter. At one point Jesus said, “Blessed are you, Simon...flesh and blood...but my Father.” (v. 17) Then later the Lord said to that same disciple, “Get thee behind me Satan!” (v. 23).
III. GOOD USE OF THE GIFT.
If ever a gift were needed by today’s churches, this is it! When our people are being challenged by immorality, by cults, and by astrology, we need to uphold the gift of discernment. In a world swirling with Moonies, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, amateur exorcists, astrologers, and the like, we must be called back to the acid test of 1 John 4:2-3 (quickview) . What place does Jesus Christ have in these things?
What kind of person might have this great gift? If you can screen out ecstasy and emotion; if you are a good student of God’s Word; if you are a careful listener and reflective person who carefully weights what he sees and hears; if you are a steady person who can’t be flattered; and if you are not easily confused; you may have this gift.