Lesson 8

Discernment: The Safeguard of Revival

(Matthew 12 & 24, Mark 9, Acts 2)
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Introduction: One of the gifts of the Holy Spirit is the discerning of spirits. 1 Corinthians 12:10. Why would God give this gift? Apparently, because not all spirits are good. Jesus warns in Matthew 24:24 that false Christs and false prophets will perform miracles with the goal of deceiving Christians. This means that we are to be alert to those who falsely claim the power of the Holy Spirit. At the same time, Jesus warns us of the extreme danger of attributing to Satan the works of the Holy Spirit. Matthew 12:32. Let's dive into our study of what the Bible teaches about how discernment can safeguard rival in the church!



  1. Caution Discerners!


    1. Read Matthew 12:22-23. Jesus performs a great miracle, what are the people asking? (Read John 7:41-42 and Isaiah 35:4-5. The people knew Isaiah prophesied that the Messiah would perform this kind of miracle. They believed the Messiah would come from the line of King David, therefore they are asking, "Is this the promised Messiah?")


    2. Read Matthew 12:24. What is the opinion of the religious leaders about Jesus' miracle-working? (They say Jesus' miracles come from the wrong spirit, they come from Satan.)


    3. Read Matthew 12:25-26. What is Jesus' logical argument against the opinion of the religious leaders? (Satan cannot drive out Satan. If he did, Satan's kingdom would collapse.)


    4. Read Matthew 12:27-29. What logical argument is Jesus' making about tying up a strong man? (Jesus is driving out demons. How is it possible to drive out demons unless you first tie up the head of demons - Satan?)


    5. Read Matthew 12:30. What does this teach us about discerning spirits? (We look at the big picture. Is this person advancing the Kingdom of God?)


    6. Read Matthew 12:31-32. What terrible warning are we given about calling the work of the Holy Spirit Satanic? (It is the sin which cannot be forgiven!)


      1. Would you prefer to be given a less dangerous gift than the discerning of spirits?


      2. The Holy Spirit is just one part of the Trinity, why is blasphemy against the Spirit worse than blasphemy against Jesus? ( John 16:7-8 tells us that the Holy Spirit convicts us of sin. If we cannot discern the Holy Spirit from demonic power, we are in big trouble when it comes to understanding sin.)


    7. Read Matthew 12:9-13. Recall this occurred before the Pharisees alleged that Jesus performed miracles by the power of Satan. What role does the Sabbath play in the Pharisee's opinion of Jesus' miracle?(Likely the Pharisees thought Jesus' miracle came from Satan because of their theological differences on the Sabbath.)


      1. What lesson does that suggest to Sabbath-keepers? (This is another caution.)


  2. The Discernment Test


    1. Read Mark 9:38-40. By what spirit was this man driving out demons? (The Holy Spirit.)


      1. How do we know? (Jesus gave His stamp of approval to his work.)


      2. What test did Jesus use to discern spirits, and what test did John use to discern spirits? (John's test was "Is he one of us?" Jesus' test was "In whose name did he perform the miracle?")


        1. How would you state John's test in today's terms? (Is he a member of our church?)


      3. Look again at Mark 9:39-40. What should we conclude if someone does a miracle in Jesus' name? (Jesus' approval is very broad. This is the same logic as He used in saying that Satan cannot drive out Satan: miracle-workers are on one side or the other.)


    2. Read Isaiah 8:19-20. Mediums and spiritists are obviously the wrong spirits. What test is applied here to discern that? (Consulting the dead is an obvious clue. The broader test is whether the spirit speaks in accord with the Bible.)


      1. Read John 16:12-15. What does this say about how the Holy Spirit will speak? (He will only speak in accord with the other Members of the Trinity. We can test the spirit speaking to us by asking whether the message is in accord with the Bible generally.)


      2. Does this square with Jesus' statements that miracle workers are on one side or the other? (This is where the Pharisees and the Sabbath healing are important. The test is not whether a fellow Christian agrees with us on all points of doctrine. The test is whether the miracle-worker is promoting Jesus or not. If we make the test too narrow, we may find that we are blaspheming the Holy Spirit!)


    3. Assume you saw a man smoking a large cigar and he told you that he had been healed by the power of the Holy Spirit. Would his smoking be relevant to the issue of what power healed him? (No! The relevant question is whether he is promoting Jesus, not the minor theological issue of smoking. How many people who fail to exercise, eat unhealthy food, are overweight, or fail to take their medicine pray for healing? The relevant question is whether the person promotes Jesus. A God who only healed those who perfectly followed the health laws would only forgive those who perfectly followed the moral laws.)


  3. Spiritual Discernment and Excitement


    1. Read Acts 2:1-3. Those of you who know this story, what was the purpose of this Pentecost experience to the early Christian Church? (It is the kick-off of the revival movement just after Jesus returned to heaven.)


      1. Why is the kick-off like this? (This gets the attention of the people.)


    2. Read Acts 2:5-8 and Acts 2:12. What actually happened because of the sound, fire and tongues? ("A crowd came together." A crowd who wanted to know more. A crowd who was asking questions.)


      1. What should we think about a revival that has exciting things happen? (It is consistent with the first great Christian revival.)


    3. Read Acts 2:13. What spirit did this group think was behind all of the sound, fire and tongues? (Wine! A spirit of drunkenness.)


    4. Read Acts 2:15-16. What test does Peter suggest should be applied to the issue of which spirit is behind this event? (He uses logic - it is too early to be drunk. More important, he turns to the Bible and cites the prophecy of Joel.)


    5. Read Acts 2:18-19. What does Joel predict will happen when the Spirit of God is poured out in the last days? (Signs and wonders. Smoke, fire and blood.)


      1. If we are living in the last days, and our revivals do not involve signs and wonders, what should we conclude?


    6. Read 2 Thessalonians 2:9-12. What will Satan orchestrate in the last days? (Counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders.)


      1. What does this teach us about signs and wonders? (Signs and wonders are not the test. Both the true and the false use signs and wonders.)


      2. What test can we find in these verses? (The point of Satan's revival is to disbelieve the truth and to delight in wickedness.)


      3. Why does the Bible refer to "counterfeit" miracles, signs and wonders? (This shows the true work of God also has miracles, signs and wonders.)


    1. Look again at 2 Thessalonians 2:10-11. How difficult is it to apply the proper discernment test? What does this say about the people who are deceived? (They want to be deceived. They delight in wickedness.)


    2. Read Matthew 24:23-24. How difficult is the test here? (Jesus says it is a powerful deception.)


    3. Read Matthew 24:26-27. How difficult does the test seem to be to you? (Comparing a world-wide event to local claims seems easy.)


      1. Notice something. Recall that earlier we concluded that a broad test - does the person promote Jesus - was the proper test. Here, we have a test that is much more narrow. What does this teach us? (We need to know our Bibles to really understand what promotes Jesus and what does not.)


    4. Friend, will you pray for the ability to discern spirits? Will you pray that the Holy Spirit will power your revival efforts?

  1. Caution Discerners!


    1. Read Matthew 12:22-23. Jesus performs a great miracle, what are the people asking? (Read John 7:41-42 and Isaiah 35:4-5. The people knew Isaiah prophesied that the Messiah would perform this kind of miracle. They believed the Messiah would come from the line of King David, therefore they are asking, "Is this the promised Messiah?")


    2. Read Matthew 12:24. What is the opinion of the religious leaders about Jesus' miracle-working? (They say Jesus' miracles come from the wrong spirit, they come from Satan.)


    3. Read Matthew 12:25-26. What is Jesus' logical argument against the opinion of the religious leaders? (Satan cannot drive out Satan. If he did, Satan's kingdom would collapse.)


    4. Read Matthew 12:27-29. What logical argument is Jesus' making about tying up a strong man? (Jesus is driving out demons. How is it possible to drive out demons unless you first tie up the head of demons - Satan?)


    5. Read Matthew 12:30. What does this teach us about discerning spirits? (We look at the big picture. Is this person advancing the Kingdom of God?)


    6. Read Matthew 12:31-32. What terrible warning are we given about calling the work of the Holy Spirit Satanic? (It is the sin which cannot be forgiven!)


      1. Would you prefer to be given a less dangerous gift than the discerning of spirits?


      2. The Holy Spirit is just one part of the Trinity, why is blasphemy against the Spirit worse than blasphemy against Jesus? ( John 16:7-8 tells us that the Holy Spirit convicts us of sin. If we cannot discern the Holy Spirit from demonic power, we are in big trouble when it comes to understanding sin.)


    7. Read Matthew 12:9-13. Recall this occurred before the Pharisees alleged that Jesus performed miracles by the power of Satan. What role does the Sabbath play in the Pharisee's opinion of Jesus' miracle?(Likely the Pharisees thought Jesus' miracle came from Satan because of their theological differences on the Sabbath.)


      1. What lesson does that suggest to Sabbath-keepers? (This is another caution.)


  2. The Discernment Test


    1. Read Mark 9:38-40. By what spirit was this man driving out demons? (The Holy Spirit.)


      1. How do we know? (Jesus gave His stamp of approval to his work.)


      2. What test did Jesus use to discern spirits, and what test did John use to discern spirits? (John's test was "Is he one of us?" Jesus' test was "In whose name did he perform the miracle?")


        1. How would you state John's test in today's terms? (Is he a member of our church?)


      3. Look again at Mark 9:39-40. What should we conclude if someone does a miracle in Jesus' name? (Jesus' approval is very broad. This is the same logic as He used in saying that Satan cannot drive out Satan: miracle-workers are on one side or the other.)


    2. Read Isaiah 8:19-20. Mediums and spiritists are obviously the wrong spirits. What test is applied here to discern that? (Consulting the dead is an obvious clue. The broader test is whether the spirit speaks in accord with the Bible.)


      1. Read John 16:12-15. What does this say about how the Holy Spirit will speak? (He will only speak in accord with the other Members of the Trinity. We can test the spirit speaking to us by asking whether the message is in accord with the Bible generally.)


      2. Does this square with Jesus' statements that miracle workers are on one side or the other? (This is where the Pharisees and the Sabbath healing are important. The test is not whether a fellow Christian agrees with us on all points of doctrine. The test is whether the miracle-worker is promoting Jesus or not. If we make the test too narrow, we may find that we are blaspheming the Holy Spirit!)


    3. Assume you saw a man smoking a large cigar and he told you that he had been healed by the power of the Holy Spirit. Would his smoking be relevant to the issue of what power healed him? (No! The relevant question is whether he is promoting Jesus, not the minor theological issue of smoking. How many people who fail to exercise, eat unhealthy food, are overweight, or fail to take their medicine pray for healing? The relevant question is whether the person promotes Jesus. A God who only healed those who perfectly followed the health laws would only forgive those who perfectly followed the moral laws.)


  3. Spiritual Discernment and Excitement


    1. Read Acts 2:1-3. Those of you who know this story, what was the purpose of this Pentecost experience to the early Christian Church? (It is the kick-off of the revival movement just after Jesus returned to heaven.)


      1. Why is the kick-off like this? (This gets the attention of the people.)


    2. Read Acts 2:5-8 and Acts 2:12. What actually happened because of the sound, fire and tongues? ("A crowd came together." A crowd who wanted to know more. A crowd who was asking questions.)


      1. What should we think about a revival that has exciting things happen? (It is consistent with the first great Christian revival.)


    3. Read Acts 2:13. What spirit did this group think was behind all of the sound, fire and tongues? (Wine! A spirit of drunkenness.)


    4. Read Acts 2:15-16. What test does Peter suggest should be applied to the issue of which spirit is behind this event? (He uses logic - it is too early to be drunk. More important, he turns to the Bible and cites the prophecy of Joel.)


    5. Read Acts 2:18-19. What does Joel predict will happen when the Spirit of God is poured out in the last days? (Signs and wonders. Smoke, fire and blood.)


      1. If we are living in the last days, and our revivals do not involve signs and wonders, what should we conclude?


    6. Read 2 Thessalonians 2:9-12. What will Satan orchestrate in the last days? (Counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders.)


      1. What does this teach us about signs and wonders? (Signs and wonders are not the test. Both the true and the false use signs and wonders.)


      2. What test can we find in these verses? (The point of Satan's revival is to disbelieve the truth and to delight in wickedness.)


      3. Why does the Bible refer to "counterfeit" miracles, signs and wonders? (This shows the true work of God also has miracles, signs and wonders.)


    1. Look again at 2 Thessalonians 2:10-11. How difficult is it to apply the proper discernment test? What does this say about the people who are deceived? (They want to be deceived. They delight in wickedness.)


    2. Read Matthew 24:23-24. How difficult is the test here? (Jesus says it is a powerful deception.)


    3. Read Matthew 24:26-27. How difficult does the test seem to be to you? (Comparing a world-wide event to local claims seems easy.)


      1. Notice something. Recall that earlier we concluded that a broad test - does the person promote Jesus - was the proper test. Here, we have a test that is much more narrow. What does this teach us? (We need to know our Bibles to really understand what promotes Jesus and what does not.)


    4. Friend, will you pray for the ability to discern spirits? Will you pray that the Holy Spirit will power your revival efforts?

  1. Next week: Reformation: The Outgrowth of Revival.

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