The house was in quiet chaos. Each of us scurrying every which way, gathering into huddles of prayer and bewildered laughter. Sydney asked us if we could pray over her room.
Lydia and I followed her up the creaky, wooden staircase and into her room. Sydney and I sat side by side on her bed together. Lydia sat Indian-style on the floor. The ambience of the small room was unsettling and untrustworthy, so much that it was unnerving to close my eyes. Sydney explained that she hadn’t felt safe in her room lately, and that she felt as though something were in there.
Yeah, we felt it, too. There was a bad spirit in this room.
Lydia began praying first. As she spoke to our God aloud for us all, I hugged Sydney’s shoulders for comfort. Perched on the edge of her bed, her small body trembled, as if the spirit in the room were refusing to leave.
My turn came to petition to the Lord, and the Spirit gave me words to speak as He did for Lydia. As I neared the end of my prayer, I commanded the enemy to leave, relying on the authority of the Father to banish whatever evil spirit was in this room.
With my eyelids shut, there stood a giant angel, armored in the color of the most precious pearl. He held a tall staff of a matching hue. Gripping it firmly in both hands, he slowly raised the staff and plunged it deep into the ground with a deafening boom. Immediately, a ghostly, black figure scurried as if out of control from the small room.
I stopped praying for a moment.
Sydney was no longer shaky, and she sat calmly with her head rested on my left shoulder.
What does this have to do with anything? The Lord gave us another gift, and by His Spirit, we were able to use it that night: distinguishing between spirits.
“to another, faith by the same Spirit, to another, gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another, the performing of miracles, to another, prophecy, to another, distinguishing between spirits,..” 1 Corinthians 12:9-10.
This is one of the more obviously unworldly gifts that the Holy Ghost endows us with, and yeah – it’s real. And what does it mean? Well, check out dictionary.com’s definition:
Distinguish (v): to recognize as distinct or different; recognize the salient or individual features or characteristics of; to perceive clearly by sight or other sense
We can do this with spirits. Sounds daunting, doesn’t it? It is – but it’s not impossible, because the God has given us this ability Himself – the ability to distinguish between the Spirit of God and an evil spirit, the spirit of the enemy. And not only are we capable of performing this task, but we’re also meant to do this.
“Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to determine if they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” 1 John 4:1
How can we possibly do that? Well, we know what the fruit of God’s Spirit produces.
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, self-control. Against such things there is no law.” Galatians 5:22-23
Let me tell you: we sensed none of these things in Sydney’s room that nice – especially not peace, kindness, love or joy. If it had been occupied by the Spirit, wouldn’t we have felt at least one of these fruits? But no, we didn’t. Instead, we felt unsafe and unsettled, experiencing anxiety and negativity. That was a bad spirit.
Discerning spirits doesn’t just refer to situations like the one my friends and I experienced above. This also goes for people, and the spirit that is in them; whether they are truly Christ followers and have the Spirit of God in them, or if they are frauds, and have the spirit of the enemy in them.
Yeah, we can distinguish the real from the fake.
However, the Lord has given us even further guidelines in His Word:
“This is how you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit who confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God. But every spirit who does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist; you have heard that he is coming, and he is already in the world now.” 1 John 4:2-3
Straightforward enough, huh? If one claims someone other than Jesus to be the Messiah, his spirit is not from God.
But it gets tricky.
First, some claim to know Jesus and believe Him to be the Son of God, but they don’t live like it – nor do they seem to feel convicted about it – or maybe you don’t feel convicted about it yourself. What’s that mean? Go back to Galatians 5:22, and if the fruit of their lives (or of your own) produce the opposite of these things consistently and unrepentantly, you’ve got reason to be wary.
Then, some confess that Jesus is the Messiah, but they preach things that are not in the Bible nor are they consistent with what the Bible says. Ironically, what does the Bible say about them?
“Anyone who does not remain in the teaching about Christ, but goes beyond it, does not have God. The one who remains in that teaching, this one has both the Father and the Son.” 2 John 9
All that Abba has for us to know at this point He has revealed to us in His Word, and He has given us the gift of knowledge through His Spirit to understand what He desires for us to understand for now.
We have to be careful in this world, for there are those that try to deceive us, and there are spirits that try to hinder us from the Way, and from the good work that the Lord is doing in us and through us. Rely on Scripture and seek the Spirit, and you will be able to distinguish spirits.