At a fundamental level, when we come to Christ, we receive His Spirit and a built-in alarm for discerning the devil’s activities. He will rise to the task and help us know when God is speaking or acting, or when it is something else.
But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all: … to another discerning of spirits … (1 Cor. 12:7, 10).
When the Holy Spirit is in us, we are spiritually-minded. We live in a world with the unredeemed spiritually, the carnally minded (Christians not residing within the guidance of the Holy Spirit), and the spiritually-minded. It is spiritually-minded people who can discern the activity of the devil in the spirits around us.
Let’s go back to 1 John 4. We see in verse seven that we are never more like Jesus than we are loving people. Having Biblical knowledge without loving others as Jesus did is empty. God is love. If we love God, we will love others, and we will know the truth through the Holy Spirit.
The proof of our walk with God is love. Love is the Holy Spirit’s presence in us. When we are filled with God, we will love and move in a different spirit. We will be people who are discerned as being Christ-followers. The way we are to know if someone is operating in God’s spirit (and whether we are running in God’s love) is laid out throughout 1 John 4. Here are the eight signs of a true spirit of God.
1) They must confess that Jesus has come in bodily form. (vs. 2-3)
This might seem a no brainer. But throughout history, heresies have arisen which confessed that Jesus did not have a body. This is a lie. He was fully man and fully God. End of story.
2) They must not come in the spirit of the world. (vs. 5)
God spends a lot of time purifying our motives. When someone has the wrong purpose and tries to speak the word of God, they will fall into worldly patterns and harm others. God has to burn our agendas away, so we are pure for Him.
3) They must listen to the truth. (vs. 6)
Too many “Christians” are running around with no accountability, claiming to speak for God. Someone speaking for God needs to be submitted to the truth of God first and foremost before they can talk for God. “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8).
4) They must demonstrate love. (vs. 7-8)
God is disappointed when we are one way in public—loving and caring—and another way in private—mean and irritable. We need to be people of love, publicly and privately.
5) The Spirit of Truth must be in them. (vs. 4-6)
When someone is living a Kingdom life, they will have the Holy Spirit in them, the Spirit of Truth. Their lives will not contradict the word of God. God never tells us to do something that conflicts with scripture. How we live needs to line up with scripture. “Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you seems to be wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise” (1 John 1:8).
6) They must remain faithful to the written Word of God. (vs. 6)
When someone comes to us with a “new” revelation, be wary. If an angel tries to give you a word from God, be cautious. The word of God is our foundation and our standard. God will not and does not speak outside of the laws of His word.
All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness… (2 Timothy 3:16).
7) They must overcome with Jesus.
People who haven’t conquer their inner battles with Christ are ones we should love on but not receive spiritual insight from. If they haven’t done the work, why should you submit to their teachings or theories? The most powerful thing we can give people is the stories of our personal struggles and how we have overcome with Jesus.
8) They must be committed to the body of Christ.
The church was and is Jesus’ idea. It is His body. Anyone not committed to the church, to the body of Christ, is not someone we should follow or draw counsel. When we gather together, though we are flawed, the Holy Spirit is present to help us in our walks with Christ. If a person says they love God, but hates the church, they are in error and should not be followed.