Spiritual Discernment: Then you will know

Spiritual discernment

Let us know, Let us pursue the knowledge of the LORD. Hosea 6:3 (NKJV)

How do we become better at discernment?”  We now know that we have the means to be discerning.  We have God’s Word which establishes the standard for truth which is the cornerstone of discernment.  In addition, believers have the Holy Spirit, the very presence of Deity within them to help (John 16:13-15).

Let me be clear to distinguish between personal discernment and the gift of spiritual discernment that is given to certain believers within a Church.  This discernment is available to all believers to assist them in navigating the error traps and poor choices presented in this broken and fallen world.

In Hosea 6:3 the prophet encourages the nation of Israel to “know” and to “pursue” the knowledge of the LORD. The literal translation is this:   “Then shall we know if we follow on to know”. The conjunction, “if” supposes that a certain condition is needed to accomplish the specific task.  In this case, to know the knowledge of God—His mind and His will—one must first “follow on or pursue” Him.  It requires action on pursuer’s part.  Such is the case with the pursuit of discernment; to have it you must be committed to pursuing it.


The pursuit of discernment requires that we know “what we are looking for”.  It is not only “what to choose” but as importantly, we need to know “how to choose”.  This eliminates the need for checklists of “do’s and don’ts”.  How do we “follow on to know”?  How do we increase our spiritual discernment?

Spiritual discernment begins with the desire for it.

Watchman Nee, in his book Spiritual Discernment, puts forth the thought that believers already have within them the ability to discern rightly.  This is possible because of our new nature—the old man is dead and we are now new creatures in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17).  Man simply needs to be “trained” to obey the spirit man within him.

In addition the Holy Spirit is gifted to everyone who believes to help us discern correctly.  That is why the unregenerate, natural man, cannot discern the things of God (1 Cor. 2:13-14).  Watchman Nee further contends that the training in discernment begins with the “breaking of man’s self-will”—to bring him into submission so that he will choose God’s way versus his own.  This breaking is accomplished through our trials and tribulations (James 1:2-3) which help to reshape our wills for God’s purposes versus Satan’s and the world’s (Rom. 12:2).

Our intellect cannot help us gain discernment (Prov. 3:5). It is God’s discernment that is needed to “separate, understand, and make known the right choices”.  Nee offers the position that to discern God’s truth, man must die to self in order follow God’s way.  Spiritual discernment starts with our desire for it.   

Spiritual discernment requires BELIEVERS to be THOUGHTFUL and intentional.

In his book, The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment, Tim Challies urges believers to be vigil and steadfast in pursuit of discernment.

A lack of discernment leaves Christians unable to protect themselves and others, and allows sin to flood in.  God offers you the cure when he offers you spiritual discernment.  Empowered by His Spirit, you can be equipped to distinguish “light from darkness, truth from error, best from better, righteous from unrighteousness, purity from defilement, and principles from pragmatics.

It is our responsibility as believers  to test and examine everything that comes into our sphere of influence and insure that it conforms to God’s standard.  This requires that we not only affirm and accept the accuracy and the sufficiency of Scripture but that we, as believers, accept its authority over our life.

Such spiritual conviction requires that we spend quality time with Jesus—receiving His instructions and directions.  It is in our quiet time that we can train our ear to hear His voice above the crowd and do the right things (John 10:27).  This will be critical as the sounds of the world cry out for our attention and for our loyalty.  We will “know in our spirit” when something is “not right” because we have genuine truth provided by God as our standard of excellence.    Spiritual discernment requires believers to be thoughtful and intentional.    

Spiritual discernment focuses on the goodness and excellence of God

I remember when I received my first pearls from my parents.  It was a single strand necklace with matching earrings (non-pierced).  I cherished those pearls because they helped in shaping my new identity as a young woman.  No more “plastic pop beads” (Am I dating myself?)  While the plastic beads were “OK”, the pearls my parents gave me, were “the best.”

Discernment not only helps us identify error but it also helps us to choose God’s best for our lives—the more excellent things in life. Jesus taught this concept in His parable of the Pearl of Great Price (Matt. 13:44-52).  Are believers settling for “OK” when “God’s best” is awaiting them?

Hannah Anderson in All That’s Good:  Recovering the Lost Art of Discernment, uses Paul’s final words in Philippians 4:8 to define what is good and excellent.  Recognition of God’s goodness and excellence can assist believers in their development of spiritual discernment.

Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy — meditate on these things.  

  • Truth stands under the scrutiny of God’s Word and God’s truth. “Only in the light of truth can we be safe; only in the light of truth can we know what is truly good.”
  • Noble or honorable requires that we respect and regard the life of our fellowman, created in God’s image. “When we fail to honor those whom God honors, we will miss goodness because we lose access to their unique gifts, capacities, and experiences.  As we pursue honor, we become honorable people.”
Justice is more that kind words.
  • Justice requires fairness. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn wrote, “The line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor classes, nor between political parties either—but right through every human heart.”   
  • Purity judges things against the standard of God’s holiness and faithfulness—it seeks out deceitfulness and unfaithfulness. “The solution to impurity is not simply abstinence or ignorance; it is to pursue what is pure.”
  • Lovely requires us to seek those things worth being loved. The primary thing in the life of the believer that is “worth loving” is Jesus.  When we consider “things that are lovely” we lift our eyes above this world to the things of heaven (Col. 3:1-2).  “We find goodness binding our hearts to Him, drawing us on, ever pursuing, ever seeking, ever searching until the beauty of the Lord finally rests upon us.”
  • Good report (commendable) deals with “speaking well” and refers to speech that is thoughtful, appropriate, considered, and careful. What we talk about says a lot about who we are.  “We are all curators, collectors, and exhibitors of information.  How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.  If we spend our days sharing trivialities, life will be trivial.  If we spend our days focused on fear, life will be filled with anxiety.”  Spend your days talking about good, worthy, glorious things and see your life change.

Spiritual discernment focuses on the goodness and excellence of God.


Gaining spiritual discernment is not only about what we choose but also about how we choose.  It begins with having a true desire to discern—even in the midst of resistance and persecution from the world.

Spiritual discernment requires believers to be thoughtful and intentional—committed to unearthing the truth through the filter of the Holy Spirit and God’s Word.

Lastly, spiritual discernment focuses on the goodness of God including the excellence of His character outlined in His ways and His works.

Let us know, Let us pursue the knowledge of the LORD.  Let us pursue spiritual discernment.

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