What is biblical discernment and how can Christians practice it?
There are two types of discernment in the Bible. The first comes right from wisdom literature and the ability to be wise. The second comes from a gift of the Spirit called distinguishing of spirits. It is slightly different. Every Christian can demonstrate wise discernment but not every Christian has the gift of distinguishing of spirits.
Every Christian can possess discernment. This is the ability to understand, evaluate, and wisely choose in every situation. It is part of wisdom. Godly wisdom is knowing what God expects and desires from us and choosing to do that thing that pleases him.
Discernment allows us to pick up on the attitudes, personalities, and abilities of other people. It gives us the wisdom to know what to do when we face certain situations. Discernment, like all other parts of wisdom, comes from the Lord.
Discernment accompanies other wisdom words we know, like understanding, knowledge, fear of the Lord, skill, insight, and some other words that all describe different types of wisdom. Discernment takes knowledge from the Lord and applies it to the situation.
Every Christian can practice discernment, and as we grow in the Lord we should gain more discernment and wisdom. He gives us the power to make wise choices and to discern people and situations in our lives. It keeps us from running into problems.
The second type of discernment is a spiritual gift called distinguishing of spirits (1 Corinthians 12:10). This is the ability given by the Spirit to certain Christians to distinguish and decipher between spirits.
This Christian can tell the difference between an evil spirit, a malicious spirit, a demonic spirit, evil spiritual forces, principalities, and other types of spiritual beings. This is the kind of person who can walk into a room or talk to someone and know if they are demon possessed or if the room is heavy with a demonic presence. They know the difference between the Spirit of God and other spirits.
The spiritual realm is full of spiritual beings. Having spiritual discernment means that you know what you’re dealing with when you interact with people and places. It gives you the ability to see into the spiritual realm and the forces controlling a place or person.
So Christians can practice godly and wise discernment in their lives. It gives them the ability to please God and have spiritual success. But only some Christians have the gift of discernment of spirits. This is very useful for spiritual warfare and intercession.