As Philip, the evangelist preached the good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ in Samaria, a magician named Simon believed the gospel and was baptised along with others who also believed. Then, Simon continued with Philip in the gospel work.
When the Apostles in Jerusalem heard of the new believers’ community (church) in Samaria, they sent Peter and John out to serve the church. They arrived and God used them to bless the brothers and sisters to receive the Holy Spirit by the laying on of their hands. Though Simon was present, he didn’t receive this blessing — he was more interested in buying the power that he too might lay his hands on others to receive the Holy Spirit Acts 8:4-19. Was Simon a believer and part of the assembly? Yes!
But, Peter’s reply to his request was revelatory and instructive. Here is the apostle’s reply: Acts 8:20-23
May your silver perish with you! Why the threatening reply?
Because Simon, thought he could obtain the gift of God with money!
You have neither part nor lot in this matter! Why?
Because this disciple’s heart was not right before God.
Repent! Of what?
The wicked intent of his heart. How?
By praying to the Lord, if possible, for the wicked intent of his heart to be forgiven him.
For I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and in the bond of iniquity!
While the first three comments of Peter centred on Simon’s action of wanting to buy God’s gift, the fourth focused on his heart. Also, in a different scene, Peter prophetically commented on Ananias’s heart, “why has Satan filled your heart…?” and why is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? Acts 5:3 & 4. Was Peter’s utterance to Simon and Ananias, right? Is revelatory prophecy not meant only for exhortation? Well, what do you know!
As we read the scriptures, the Holy Spirit can use it to expose our hearts to us as well as use us prophetically to expose one another’s heart with the intent for us to repent. But, if we fail to humble ourselves and repent, eventually, our hearts actions (imaginations) which are tangible to God plays out physically Psalm 14:1. This is the reason Christ’s life starts in our hearts. A “heart set on God” may sin and recover — but it’s not so with a “heart set on sin” Romans 4:8. Why? “… In whose spirit (heart) there is no deceit” Psalm 32:2b. Selah!
Careful study of the scriptures reveals something strange about believers who did not “set their hearts on God” (failed to guard their hearts) and Satan used it as his factory. They hardly ever recovered. They either died or never got mentioned again in the bible. Examples: Ananias and Sapphira, Sual, Judas, Simon, the strayed widows, Demas et al. Given this ugly possibility, scriptures exhort and admonish us to embrace the faith (Christ) wholeheartedly and keep good conscience 1 Timothy 1:19.
Simon’s response authenticated Peter’s insight about the condition of his heart. “And Simon answered, pray for me to the Lord that nothing of what you have said may come upon me Acts 8:24.” Again, he was more interested in avoiding “perishing” than the state of his heart for which Peter advised him to seek God. Simon’s heart was unlike David’s. David’s reply and reaction after Nathan confronted him mirrored the kind of “heart that is set on God” and commended 2 Samuel 12:1-4, 5-7, 9, and 13, Acts 13:22b.
As disciples, we need to set “our hearts on God” and not let poison in because, it can affect our relationship with God — separating us from having part in the business of the Holy Spirit while being active with “Churchianity”. Twisting Hebrews chapters 7, 9 & 10 in order to console ourselves, ‘All sins — past, present, and future — have been dealt with once and for all” will not heal a “heart set on sin” and take away its deep seated guilt.
It’s doubtful any human can live a guilt free life without Jesus Christ.
As Christians, only Christ’s sacrifice, a sincere and humble walk with Him deals death blow to guilt. It makes us fall at His feet as He exposes our hearts and actions of sin(s) to us by the Holy Spirit and we actually experience increasingly the double cure of His blood. Firstly, He cleanses us from the sin(s) we’ve fallen into and it becomes history. Albeit, people may still hold it against us but not God — the sign is, we enjoy His peace within and not guilt. Secondly, the sin(s) lose its or their grip over us and we neither cherish it in our hearts nor carry on practising it or them Joel 2:13 NLT, Micah 6:8.
But, if we continue cherishing the sin(s) we fell into in our hearts or — and, practice the sin(s), then, guilt will not go away. No theological analysis, psychologist or psychiatrist has the power to take away guilt’s power over a person.
Scriptures indicates that nursing iniquity (letting out the room of our hearts to Satan) is a different kettle of fish from falling into sin through overzealousness and carelessness. I am not saying circumstance justifies sin, just highlighting the truth that God, knows each of our hearts. ‘God looks on the heart’ 1 Samuel 16:7. This is why God’s understanding and judgement differs from ours and we’re not qualified to judge (condemn) anyone. We can state our understanding of God’s position but, is God’s to condemn or justify anyone.
Hence, Jesus’s words to His body (the Church) is always pointed to the inside of the cup (heart) because it’s where God looks on. While, it’s not optional to keep outside the cup clean, for God, as aptly narrated by Jesus, outside cleanliness of our cups must come from the inside cleanliness His blood has achieved and is achieving for us Matthew 5:20, 1 Peter 3:4. This is the kind of righteousness that exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees Matthew 23:25, 5:8.
So, to think or teach that the evils we may harbour in our hearts is less evil compared to when it’s actualised for others to see is deceptive. Whilst physical murder has more consequences for a victim’s family and friends unlike a victim of hatred, God, who is Spirit, understands how hatred of anyone (even those who make us their enemies) equates to murder 1 John 3:15, Matthew 5:43-48, 1 Peter 1:22 . We have the option to agree or disagree with God but not the luxury of moderating His judgement, period!
We can best serve our communities and bring healing to those battling with guilt by encouraging them to walk heartily with Christ.
God takes the things we permit, contrive, cherish and hold in our hearts towards other people and our spouses very seriously 1 Chronicles 15:29, Malachi 2:15 NKJV, Proverbs 4:23. A teaching that diminishes this truth is deadly Proverbs 25:28 NKJV, Proverbs 16:32 NKJV.
Paul stated it clearly: Think aright — and act rightly Philippians 4:8-9. It’s opportunity that restrains whatever we have in our hearts (hatred or love) from translating to physical murder or act of kindness.
It’s a faithless generation that fails to guard her heart. Guard YOUR heart!
There’s a difference between having discernment and having the gift of discernment of spirits. The understanding of their difference is getting narrower in the Church today. Yet, the importance of keeping them wide apart and praying God to bless the church with both is needed now more than ever before.
A simple definition of discernment is, to have the ability to distinguish between things—knowing the difference between a male and a female (so we don’t marry a man thinking he is a woman and vice versa), a plane and a helicopter, an ocean and a creek, facial expressions, economies etc. To this extent, every human has discernment though, at varying levels especially when the distinction required gets more technical e.g., the ecology of an ocean compared to a creek or reading humans beyond facial expressions.
So, the more complex and technical a thing is required to be discerned, the more the depth of knowledge required to accomplish the task of discerning. Besides the intuitive knowledge all humans are born with which is limited, education plays an important role to condense and deepen our knowledge in specific fields e.g., while we may have a basic understanding from biology about the human body, medical doctors know far better.
Discernment for God’s people
Consistent heart involvement in reading the bible educates us to know or discern between good and evil ordinarily. This leads us to loving, praying and reverencing God and helps us to obey God in the things He instructs. It teaches us to love others and do right by them and to receive love from them as they do right by us. To this extent, all Christians know right from wrong.
Over time, consistent fellowship with the Holy Spirit, study of the scriptures and both pleasant and unpleasant practical experiences within and outside of the community of the faith, we acquire discernment at the level of our individual walk with God.
In Acts 17, the Berean Christians exercised discernment by checking the scriptures after Paul and Silas (Apostles) taught them the word of God. They understood that the word of God is light and it exposes lies and darkness. Every child of God is commanded to study consistently and meditate always on God’s word because it reveals God’s will for man. It renews the mind and a renewed mind is en-graced to do God’s good and perfect will which is the essence of all discernment.
This kind of discernment that comes from a relationship with Christ, study of His word and fellowship with the saints is used for one’s benefit and for others. A person with spiritual discernment gains protection and blessings for him or herself and others.
How does it benefit others?
By sharing the same insight with others—this is possible because Christ speaks to His sheep and speaks through them by the power of the Holy Spirit Heb 3:13.
Negative sources of discernment
Many people undertake studies and practical training to acquire dark knowledge within and outside religious circles to enable them gain discernment. The fields mostly used to gain this dark knowledge are rooted in ESP (extrasensory perception).
Those who subject themselves to these studies and its practical exercises acquire skills which can enable them discern or read people beyond the surface and so know how to predict them and possibly gain mastery over them for whatever purpose! More often than not, it’s used primarily for gaining power and control and only secondarily for material gain. The point I’m making is this; most of the people who get involved in this craft, are not so much money hungry as much as they’re hungry to have control of souls to rule. Discernment is a big thing with rulership or leadership. Those seeking discernment from sources other than God understand the preciousness of the soul and know that to have one soul under them is to advance over that soul as its god, master or guru. The god or master status can be nicknamed any circular or religious title depending on the purpose of the persons involved. Those in the business world take on the title suited for them and those in religious empires take on religious titles and mix their theology with HPM (human potential movement) teachings or its latest versions.
To achieve their objective, they can sacrifice and endure anything knowing that whatever they lose in the short term can be gained even much more if they chose to be materialist after souls are under their control. It’s for this reason, that some become super rich through fooling and exploiting others or their congregations without any application of force. Still, others will even chose to be modest but have multitudes all over the world follow and worship them as their guru. For those sitting over religious people, their words carry more weight than even God’s word in the bible to their subjects. They become the source for authenticating the truth of God’s word and not the word itself. Regrettable disaster!
Though there are limitations to this type of discernment, I just want to state its two major limitations which are:
It deals primarily at the mind level (the soul realm). It works by influencing people’s minds. This is why both the people who practice it and those it is practiced on get demonized.
It can’t discern the mind of God.
The Gift of Discernment of spirits
The difference between the gift of discerning spirits and having discernment is like the distant between continents. Majorly, it does not just deal with the mind realm and its motive but detects the kind of spirit in operation. It bypasses whether the motive is good or bad. This is an important point to note. A deceived person may have good intentions but is controlled by satanic spirits. It’s for this reason God has gifted some in His body with the gift of discernment of spirits which travels deep into a thing or being to discover if the propelling spirit is of God or the devil. People who have this gift can be uneducated because it has nothing to do with intellect.
The scripture warns believers to discern the body of Christ. In other words, we’re to recognize Christ’s Spirit in the midst of the gathering of saints and reverence His presence by sincerely loving and honouring one another. This includes esteeming God’s word above ourselves and subjecting everyone’s teaching and service to a healthy scrutiny through God’s word.
Having this gift does not make the bearer a Prophet. However, a Prophet not just a prophetic person carries this gift. All those with ministry gifts have it— especially Apostles and Prophets for the sake of their foundational work in God’s great house (Church) in the earth. While Simon had a bitter spirit and bond in iniquity which separated his heart from Jesus and denied him any portion with Christ though a believer, he was active in evangelism with Philip the Evangelist till, an apostolic team arrived to strengthen the gathering of the saints who were seeing new believers added to them. Please see Acts 8:9-25. Jesus knew when Satan entered Judas though he was participating in breaking of bread John 13:27. Also, Jesus knew when Satan spoke through Peter though Peter had good intentions Matt 16:23. By discernment, Peter knew that Ananias heart was overtaken by Satan—not that he made a slip of tongue Acts 5:3.
Possessing this gift doesn’t mean one can’t be tricked by people with wrong motives. Paul had this gift yet he suffered in the hands of false brothers 2 Cor 11:26.
Its focus is discerning which spirit is at work and not reading people’s minds or motives. Having a wrong motive is not always a sign of the presence of an evil spirit. For example, many zealous Christians want to eradicate poverty from the world. So, they work harder and smarter to make lots of money for charitable purposes than they devote themselves for intimacy with God. If the example startles you, it means you need to study and meditate on the scripture more and devote yourself to a lifestyle of prayer.
Today, we’re fighting the deceiving spirits the early Church fought with an added tilt. While, one of the major focuses of the early church was to withstand those who wanted to take the church back to Judaism, ours is the infiltration of occult teachings by many false teachers with loads of doctrines to mislead the undiscerning. With so many occult words becoming increasingly acceptable for Christian leaders to use, the lines are vanishing fast.
The depth of the mixture of truth and error is showing that the end is nearer than any other prophetic sign I know in the bible. They have succeeded in misleading many vibrant and good intentioned Christians who have the trust of God’s people. Therefore, the danger has become even more wide spread and harder to detect. In time past, a Christian has to deliberately go out of his or her way to be able to join occult organizations but now, one can easily imbibe occult teachings and even practice it while in a supposedly decent Christian community. Think of yoga, the different forms of transcendental meditation, crowd or mind control techniques blatantly used in the Church today.
In the early Church, those who exercised their spiritual gifts and those with the five-fold ministries, especially the Apostles and Prophets fought against these dangers with all they had—but in our time, there has been a lot of failing to do this. As a result, diviners and sorcerers are now ministering in the camp and are even highly respected as they do so!! Acts 16:16, 8:9-21 and 5:3, 1 Tim 1:19-20. Voo doo doctors are springing up in the gatherings of saints all over the world. They have abandoned their dressing styles by which they are usually known and are now dressed in clean suits or stylish modern jeans and T-shirts with leather bibles in their hands. It would have been marvelous if they had also dropped the spirit of their trade but no, they haven’t—they don’t have the Spirit of Christ.
There are many young and vibrant men and women (26-50 years old) in the church now who have imbibed occult teachings and are perfecting blending it with Christian doctrines. These are leadership minded folks who’ll do anything to sustain their ambition. Now and in no distant time, they are causing and will yet cause the church such problems as never before. There is much need now to stop the mouth of some people in the church. The leaders who have nurtured these people should have been stopped decades but it didn’t happen. No one wants to be seen as a trouble maker. No one wants to lose their reputation. Most people want acceptance, great following and to accomplish some great things for God—all at the expense of God’s pleasure. A pleasure God sacrificed His only Son to purchase.
We’re in need of not only discernment but also the gift of discernment of spirits.
If you have the gift of discernment of spirits (not the gift of suspicion), may the Lord our God strengthen you to speak out in the community of saints where God has set you Isaiah 62.
Exposing the false spirits that have come into the church gatherings and warning and sharply rebuking those who may have unknowingly been ensnared is within the context of the word edify. And those who’ve understood their error but are bent on travelling that route must be handed over to Satan by the church that they may be ashamed and repent—turning again sincerely to the Spirit of the Lord of glory, Christ Jesus.
2 Tim 3:16, tells us that the word of God is the substance of discernment and edifying as His Spirit through His sheep use the instrumentality of teaching, reproofing, correcting, and training in righteousness (participation in divine nature or character). The prompt application of these instruments of God is crucial for the assemblies of God’s people to abide in the mind of Christ (have one mind) Rom 15:5, enjoy unity of the spirit Eph 4:3 and its attendant benefits Ps 133:1-3.
Check out this picture and see how it amazingly portrays the appearance of FALSE DOCTRINE.
The light from above the plant seems bright enabling photosynthesis.
The fruit of the plant is white, attractive and the leaves really green and looking like life giving.
But look CLOSELY and OBSERVE the thistles beautifully and systematically arranged on the fruits and edges of the leaves. This at least to me is the best pictorial expression of false teaching I have ever seen.
It is funny to me how having looked at the plant, my mind associated it with deception. Creation is speaking to mankind about the glory of God and at the same time sending out messages of warnings to man. It’s like before earthquakes, tsunamis and droughts occurs less intelligent creatures- beast of the fields and birds of the air get the sign, prepare and flee for safety.
Lord help us, your children, to understand the seasons not by observing the weather but by giving ear to your word and spirit. Amen
Human Intelligence is no match to forces of darkness in the day of battle but the Lord of all wisdom who Himself is wisdom has given us His tested word that cannot fail. It will guide us into victory over the enemy as he is already slain and defeated by the Captain of our salvation.
All we need do is keep in step with Him (Gal 5:25).
In contrast, those who come under the law of the spirit of life IN Christ Jesus by believing, accepting and relying on His finished sacrifice on the cross and His subsequent resurrection from the dead are forgiven their “sin” and sins. They are brought into and are being taken from one degree of glory to another IN Christ Jesus as they meditate on God’s law taught by the Holy Spirit through the scriptures that Christs’ stature (life) might abound more abundantly in them and through them .
Those who enjoy verse 1 primarily must set their mind on the spirit because they are empowered to do so now unlike when they were under a different law. Setting the mind on the things (laws of God- which Jesus has become for us -(Rom 10:4), we then follow after Jesus who is the fulfillment of the law for those IN Him (Heb 5:9). This whole blessing culminates to life (righteousness), peace and resurrection. (Rom 8:3-11)
Romans 12:1 is predicated on the FACT that those being exhorted have been called into the privilege of Rom 8:1 and as such have been “given” the GRACE i.e, POWER (John 1:12) to enable them obey verse 1 of Romans 12. And this is the way God intends for us to let His word to become flesh in us for the praise and glory of His Holy name. The sacrifice associated with the new law is not like the old law that needed repeated sacrifices that neither cleaned the spirit of the worshipers nor sanctified them (Heb 7:27 and 10:1).
The premise of this big claim of not being under the old law is that one is lead by the spirit not an Apostle, Teacher, Pastor, Prophet, Evangelist or small group leader (Gal 5:18, Rom 8:9 “If in fact” and 2 Cor 13:5). This emphases is not to diminish the five-fold ministry and other spiritual gifts that God has blessed the Church with for her instruction and edification. I am a product of the benefit of those invaluable ministries having been in the Church for close to three decades only (only because I’m privileged to have those who have been in Christ far longer and God keeping me alive, the journey has only just began).
So grace and truth that God gives to us His sons is to enable us glorify Him while we are yet clothed with mortal bodies and waiting for our resurrection bodies with which we (His sons- male and female) will worship and praise Him forever.
The beginning and the journeying through to the end of our salvation and redemption is by the grace of the one who foreknew us and predestined us to be CONFORMED to the image of His first begotten Son by whom He is bringing many other sons to glory. The Grace of God makes the believer this or that and work IN the believer who then serve or work as a conduit for the out flowing of the work grace is accomplishing within him or her (1 Cor 15:10)
May the grace of God upon you and I not be in vain. For grace is given to us that we might labour (serve fervently) the course of Christ to whom be praise forever. Amen
Let NO ONE deceive you with empty philosophy- use not the freedom of the grace as license for laziness, lasciviousness and sin. Has the type of grace you received helped mortification of your carnal instinct? If not, forget what your theological camp is saying and reach out to the throne of grace (Heb 4:16 and Phil 4:13)
Take Delight in Honouring Each Other (Rom 12:10)
Respect must be given to those who it is due, but undue respect is an evil that must also be avoided at all costs. Those who have won the trust of the people of God based on their fear, love and devotion to scripture (God’s infallible word) must persevere in the preservation of God or they will rightfully lose the respect and love they had from God’s household (body of Christ). Some wouldn’t mind given that their denominational firms and associates in theological camps will still support them to their own shame and destruction.
The happenings in present day Christendom are really disturbing to those who are truly alive in the Spirit and keeping in step with its leading (Gal 5:25-26). I know some will say it is the sign of the end time but as true as that is, God wants to save many (though few in comparison to those who will reject Christ) we must preach and teach the undiluted word of God which is able to save our souls to the utmost and that of our hearers (Jude 1:3 and 2 Tim 2:15).
Always be glad because of the Lord! I will say it again: Be glad. Always be gentle with others. The Lord will soon be here – Maranathan! (Phil 4:4-5).
The catch-up with antinomianism mentality is fast sweeping MANY across all facets of Christendom. Refusing the “in-crowd” mentality which is more often than not remotely driven by narcissism is readily seen as pride.
The fact remains that we are NOW paying a huge price for the error of some decades back when false teachers and prophets were empathized with in direct disobedience to scriptures that “command” that they should be REBUKED SHARPLY AND PUT OUT OF FELLOWSHIP OF SAINTS. Also, WARN brethren to avoid their materials and give them no funding or support of any sort (Titus 1:10-16, 1 Tim 1:20 and 2 Tim 4:15). The intention of this is to encourage and push them to reconsider their ways and repent.
Those most respected today in Christendom are the very ones that are selling out so fast that I’m honest to say it is frightening. Their subtle arrogance and impetus beats the imagination. May the Lord show mercy on us and help us!
Well when men have enough follower-ship to sustain their invented godly (actually ungodly) ambition to reach the whole world for Christ (for themselves) they cannot but be insistent in their error and misleading the people for whom Christ suffered, died and resurrected to save.
“We’re justified by grace so that we’re able to do good works. The works don’t save us; they’re the result of our salvation!”- Shane Raynor. This statement is so simple the unschooled can understand it and love, fear, praise and worship God joyfully. Why those who claim to be “big” ministers that love and fear God would want to complicate it and intimidate people with high sounding academic philosophies which at best destroys people’s pure faith is hard to understand. But it is actually not hard to understand, it’s the work of deceiving spirits as predicted by scriptures (1 Tim 4:1).
Things that can be seen came out from things that cannot be seen. So also, activities took place in the unseen and have been proven by what we can see -creation- (Heb 11:3). The things we can see testify to the things that we cannot see. Those who are saved keep their mind on the things of the Spirit and bear visible fruit (Christ’s stature) that gives light to the world pointing her to Jesus Christ the only saviour of all men (Acts 4:12)
In the same manner, the workings of the Holy Spirit within a believer is exhibited by visible proof of goodness (Eph 5:9, Gal 5:22) and not (Gal 5:19-22) which are visible fruit of a mind set on the flesh and subject to the old law.
Romans 8:1-2 KJV states a heartwarming and indisputable truth. Verse 2 clarifies how verse 1 came to be- the “LAW” of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus accomplished it in those who are gifted with the privilege of verse 1. The people who are now enjoying the privilege of verse 1 were under the “LAW” of sin and death before. On one hand, this law teaches those under it right from wrong but does not empower them to fulfill its demands because their minds are carnal but the law is spiritual ( Rom 7:14, Gal 5:25).
On the other hand, the second law (law of the spirit of life IN Christ Jesus) empowers those under it to fulfill the law. So those enjoying verse 1, are under the second law. And that law is being written in their mind. God has not permitted that any soul should be without law for that will lead to lawlessness and acrimony which describes the devil and his activities.
The greatest evidence that points to those under the law of sin and death is their practice of much effort to clean the outside of the cup (outward actions) while the inside of the cup (inward actions) are unclean. They do this because they are aware that salt cannot make itself salty. Sinners cannot by themselves save themselves period!