Discernment is a spiritual gift, hence the processes of its acquirement and use in specific situations are governed by spiritual laws specified in the Bible.
Requires a new birth
For real spiritual discernment the primary and absolute requirement is that the person be born again. Until the human spirit is indwelt by the Holy Spirit a person is still confined to the finite and natural realm. In John 3: 3 and 8:47, Jesus made it clear that unless a person is born again they cannot see the Kingdom of Heaven. Since discernment is actually a matter of seeing with spiritual eyes, being born again is the first requirement to see a person or situation as God sees them.
Furthermore, Paul tells us that without the Spirit one cannot understand spiritual things (2 Cor. 2:15). While we may have a measure of natural discernment without the Spirit indwelling us we can neither hear nor understand, let alone discern spiritual things. This is why it is impossible to explain the new birth to an unregenerated (not born again) person.
Trusting God and being in communion with Him
As mentioned earlier, the Psalmist David operated with remarkable discernment. The secret for him was that he received a revelation and acknowledged that the Lord Himself is the fountain of life and light and only in Him do we see light (Psa. 36:9; 87:7).
King Solomon, acknowledged to be the wisest man, summed up this secret. 'Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding" (Prov. 3:5-6).
David, Solomon and the Old Testament saints did not only think about God as light, they believed it and drew their life from it. I am learning that to speak and declare these truths to myself and into the spiritual realm allows this Word to work in me. The more I declare it and acknowledge Him as my light, even in the midst of situations, the more His discernment arises in me. Not drawing from our own cisterns
In Jeremiah 2:13 the prophet declares that God's people have forsaken Him as the spring of living water and have dug their own cisterns.
A cistern collects water from various sources and holds it for future use. In a sense we are all merely cisterns. We collect information from various sources including: experience, books, teachings and our own natural observations. When a question or a situation arises we draw from this cistern coming to the best conclusion our cistern's content affords. This falls far short in that it draws only from our own natural resources.
True spiritual discernment is available from only one source: the spring of living water. Only by drawing on God, the true spring, can we always be provided with fresh living water. Like the water flowing from a spring, it is not intended to be held for future use, but to be drawn fresh every instant. This allows us to draw a unique and current answer for each situation. His living water will penetrate and impart insight beyond any human capacity. Let us learn to bypass our cistern and draw from Him alone.
It is also good to note that our cisterns are broken and cannot hold the fresh water. The real water, which we received yesterday cannot be held or used again. We must learn to draw afresh from His spring every day in each situation. f Constant exercise of our spirit
The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that testifies that we are children of God (Rom. 8:16). We must learn not to quench the Spirit but to allow our spirit to ascertain the Lord's mind and even to test prophecies (1 Thes. 5:19-22). By the exercise of our spirit we no longer see others according to the flesh but according to the spirit (2 Cor.5:16).
The apostle John refers to the Spirit moving in our spirit as the anointing and affirms that we can live in Him by this anointing (1 John 2:27). In fact he declares that by this anointing we can know the truth without someone else telling or teaching us. This inspires me to come to know and exercise my spirit in every situation.
Here is a riddle. Is it possible to know and not know that we know? Many times we know in our spirit, but we do not know that we know until someone else mentions it. This indicates that we have not learned to trust our spirit or are somewhat dull of hearing. It is only after we hear it from someone else that we acknowledge what our spirit has been trying to communicate to us before. We must come to the place of abiding in Him where we have no need for someone to tell us because we do have an anointing that teaches us. Knowing others by the spirit
2 Corinthians 5:16, 'Therefore from now on we recognize no man according to the flesh; even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him thus no longer." This verse was a mystery to me for years. Eventually I learned that it is quite possible to know people by the spirit and actually, it does not take long to recognize them in this realm.
One day a godly man recommended me to another Christian leader who I had not previously met. I said to the first man that I appreciated his recommendation but was somewhat surprised since we had only met once or twice and had never had an in-depth conversation. The godly man replied, "I know your spirit and I don't need years or even days to know what you think about everything. The time has come to know others by the spirit." I have now known both these men for years and that initial reading has held true and constant.
This experience confirmed a deep longing in me because I longed to walk in such a realm which I had touched occasionally. But it had been deeply ingrained in me that we t must have many things in common, and know a person's education, interests, theology, doctrines, and history or culture in order to really know someone. Yet I was often disappointed when I eventually discovered that even after all this I really didn't know them. I realize now that there is a deeper knowing which goes beyond soulish compatibility.
If we exercise our spirit we can very quickly gain a sense of another person's spiritual dimension. Their comparative maturity, their degree of flexibility and openness, their spiritual hunger, their degree of self-trust, and their personal transparency are just a few aspects that can be discerned in a very short time. How do we know? Our spirit knows, we must learn to hear it and trust it! Abiding in Him and letting the Word abide in us
John 15 gives us a beautiful picture of how our spirit can be joined to the Holy Spirit. Without this union we can do nothing. In other words whatever we do apart from Him is of no consequence relative to God's purposes and is without eternal value (John 15:4, 7).
As we daily draw the Word into our spirit it enlivens and activates our spirit to commune more effectively with the Holy Spirit and to discern His mind. I used to think that I should study the Word so I will know how to act in accordance with the Word. But there is a dimension far beyond this. In John 6, Jesus declared Himself to be the bread of Life and whoever eats this bread can live by it! Today He is available to us as food in the Word and as we eat Him (i.e, the Word,) we can live by Him!
"When your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart's delight" (Jer. 15: 16). Our spirit is often starved and too weak to hear and His voice becomes inaudible. Daily eating by feeding our spirit with the Word can enliven and strengthen our spirit until it becomes strong and clear in it's speaking. Worship and singing is like water which refreshes our spirit. But only the meat of the Word is solid food which gives strength.
What we feed grows and what we starve weakens. Feed your mind and soul and you will become more intellectual and psychological. Feed you spirit and you will become more spiritual and more discerning.
Praise and worship not only feeds our spirit, but it draws us into the presence of the Lord. In His presence our faith is increased and our capacity to hear and recognize His
Taking captive every thought unto obedience to Christ
In the meantime we still live in a fallen environment and are constantly bombarded by evil influences. If our mind is allowed to wander freely it will no doubt become polluted and lose its sensitivity to the Spirit. Being well aware of this Paul advises us to actively take captive every thought into obedience to Christ (2 Cor. 10:5).
Sometimes just thinking about something is not enough. It is a good practice to leam to take charge and speak to our mind. "Sorry mind, you are not going there. Those thoughts are out of bounds and I reject them. I hereby set you on the Word. Romans 8: 6 tells me that the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace. I choose Life."
Sometimes I say, "Mind I'm not interested in your opinion. Be quiet and concentrate on what the Lord is saying in my spirit."
The mind seems to be attached to the self like a ball on an elastic. It must be stretched and set on the spirit. If I don't exercise to set it there and hold it, it will continually snap back to the self. The more I exercise the weaker the elastic becomes and the more the mind learns to submit to the Spirit in my spirit. Activated by obedience
Many times we waste time anticipating some great revelation or profound experience, but Jesus' word in Luke 16:10 and 17:19 advises that we must be faithful in the little things if we wish to be entrusted with great things.
John 7:17 tells us that if anyone is willing to choose God's will then He will make it known.
Psalm 25:14, 'The Lord confides in those who fear Him; He makes known His covenant to him."
Oswald Chambers said, "You cannot think your way out of a spiritual muddle. The way is to obey your way out of it and it will become clear." [Sept 14th My Utmost For His Highest]
The first word that a child often learns is "NO!" Until he learns this he cannot go much further. This is true spiritually; until we learn to hear and obey the Lord when He says, "NO," we will learn and hear little else.
When the Lord says, "Don't say that," or, "don't look at that picture or movie," our response will determine how much more He will say to us in the future and what we will hear in the future and also our discernment potential. If my child throws away the pennies I give him, I will not trust him with dollars.