Keys to Discerning YHWH’S Leading
By Brother Michel Lankford
Oh, I wish I could tell you that with the understanding of the great truths of Who Jesus Is, and what he did, every question and confusion is erased, but unfortunately that is not the case. Yes, Jesus Is the Truth, but unfortunately not everything that is done in His name honestly reflects His desires, His teachings, or His character.
I wish that I could sincerely tell you that you can go into any church, and that except for very rare exceptions, everyone there authentically wants to please God, is rightly dividing Scripture and everyone is using their spiritual gifts with cautious respect for God, and the unselfish desire to see their neighbor built up until they succeed. That’s the way it’s supposed to be, and I wish I could tell you that that’s the way it is, but it’s not. The truth is that in my experience there is an overwhelming lack of maturity and discipline in the church at large. The truth is that sometimes sermons and messages are given with the manipulation motive, a financial motive or control motives. Sometimes words of knowledge are filtered through our own emotional or mental garbage, and sometimes what we feel lead to say and do in Christ’s name, may not be Christ centered or approved. Since only about a third of Americans claiming to be born again actually read their Bible on a regular basis, our theological bases for believing we’ve heard from God can be way off the mark sometimes.
Unfortunately, one of the difficulties of living in the last days is that both preachers and congregations are facing a greater temptation than ever to let go of sound doctrine, but Scripture warned that this is what would happen 2 Timothy 4:3. That’s why we are told not to believe every spirit, but to thoroughly put everything to the test, hold on firmly to what is good and abstain from every form of evil (1 John 4:1; 1 Thessalonians 5:21-22).
Unfortunately, not everything we are told in God or Christ’s name is truly the word of God. Not every sermon, prophecy, word of knowledge or teaching we are presented with will be a true reflection of God’s heart or God’s truth and character. Knowing that is all well and good, but it left me with a struggle.
How do I know what to accept and what not to accept? It’s good to know that I have the right and responsibility to test everything and hold fast to that which is good (1Thessalonians 5:20-21), but that statement presumes that I will know and perceive what is good when I see it. Let’s face it, in a world where we are presented with all kinds of ungodly ideas, how do I keep from getting good and evil confused? How do I make sure that I don’t believe every spirit, but I do believe and obey the Holy Spirit? How do I make sure in a practical way that I do hold fast to that which is good, but successfully abstain from every form of evil?
Straightforward Bible Instruction
Many people struggle with testing what they hear, especially when they are being told that what they’re hearing is a message from the Almighty. Is it okay to question and scrutinize what we are being told? They don’t want to miss something that the Heavenly Father has for them. The fact is, that we had straightforward clear Bible Instructions that tell us that not only is it okay to scrutinize and test what we are being told, it’s REQUIRED. If we do not question what were told, if we do not test it, and if we do not scrutinize it carefully, we are in fact sinning. We would be violating clear Biblical Instructions if we don’t scrutinize and test the preaching, the teaching, the Word of prophecy, or the Word of knowledge that is being presented to us.
There are about 17 times throughout the Scriptures where we are specifically told things such as, “See to it that no one deceives you,” and words to that effect. 17 times we are told that it is each believer’s individual responsibility to make certain that they are not deceived, (e.g. Matthew 24:4; Ephesians 5:6; 2 Thessalonians 2:3; 1 John 3:7; etc. etc.) So, not only is it okay to scrutinize and test what we are being told, we are commanded to do it
As It Is Written:
“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world.(1 John 4:1 NKJV)
As It Is Written:
“Now we exhort you, brethren, warn those who are unruly, comfort the fainthearted, uphold the weak, be patient with all. See that no one renders evil for evil to anyone, but always pursue what is good both for yourselves and for all. Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies. Test all things; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil.(1 Thessalonians 5:14–22 NKJV)
There is no way that the biblical instructions could be more specific or clear. We are REQUIRED to test what we hear and what we are being told, and to make certain that it is truly from the Almighty.
Even when we are given something that is supposedly a word from, “The LORD in church, those with prophetic gifts are required to test it and confirm it first. The reason for this is that if there is an error in a word that is given, it must be corrected in the presence of those who heard the message, before they go out and spread falsehood in the world. We especially don’t want to spread incorrect or false information in the Heavenly Father’s Name. That’s serious business. (See 1 Corinthians 14:27-29). Keep in mind, that if we do not carefully follow the instructions of 1 Corinthians 14 in our public gatherings, then anything we have done, “In the Name of the Spirit, is NOT considered VALID.
As It Is Written:
“If anyone thinks he is a prophet or spiritual, let him recognize that the things which I write to you are the Lord’s commandment. But if anyone does not recognize this, he is not recognized.(1 Corinthians 14:37–38 NASB95)
Elohim is the God of order. Let everything be done decently and in good order, (1 Corinthians 14:40). If somebody refuses to acknowledge and apply the Commandments of first Corinthians 14, they are not prophetic. They are not even spiritual according to Scripture. They are being carnal and not spiritual.
How Do I Test Everything?
Well, it’s good to know that I am allowed and in fact required to test everything to make sure that what I’m hearing and what I’m being told is truly from the Almighty. It’s good to know that the Heavenly Father has an order to everything. Since God does have in order to everything, then He must have provided some practical methods that I can use to successfully evaluate what I’m being told., So, the question is, how do I go about testing everything to make sure that what I’m hearing is truly from the Heavenly Father?
I believe that the Bible provides 8 practical biblical tests that we can use to evaluate what we are being told, to make certain that it is truly from the Heavenly Father. The eight tests are as follows:
- The Fruit Test– Genesis 1:11; Matthew 7:15-20; Galatians 5:22-23; 1 Corinthians 13:4-8; John 16:9).
- The Jesus Character Test-1 John 4:2-3; John 14:6,21; Matthew 7:24-25; Matthew 28:11-30; 1 John 2:1-6).
- The Commandments Test (Deut.6:5,10:12; Matthew 7:12, 22:35-40; Matthew 19:17).
- The Weight of Biblical Evidence Test (Deuteronomy 17:6, 19:15, Matthew 18:16 2 Corinthians 13:1; 1 Timothy 5:19; Hebrews 10:26-28)
- The True Wisdom Test– (James 3:13-18).
- The Ambitions Test– (James 3:17; Philippians 2:3).
- The Balance & Moderation Test (2 Timothy 4:5; Titus 2:2, 2:5-6; 1 Peter 1:13, 4:7, 5:8).
- The Inner Peace Test (John 14:27; James 3:18; Romans 14:19).
Note: Something I hear, MIGHT fail the, “Inner Peace Test,” and still be valid, but if it fails any of the other of the seven above tests, I will put it on the shelf. I will pray about it, and I will continue to seek confirmation. I will try NOT to believe it, NOT to digest it into my being, and I certainly will not act upon it if it does not pass the top seven of these eight tests.
The Fruit Test– Genesis 1:11; Matthew 7:15-20; Galatians 5:22-23; 1 Corinthians 13:4-8; John 16:9) – The fruit test is the one that I use most often. The reason is that it applies one of the oldest spiritual laws in Scripture “Then God said, “Let the earth sprout vegetation , plants yielding seed, and fruit trees on the earth bearing fruit after their kind with seed in them”; and it was so. (Genesis 1:11). Now, there is no doubt that this is talking about physical plants in creation. You don’t plant seeds from oranges and get Apple trees. You don’t plant peaches and get lemons. The same is true about character. If God is really working or talking through someone by way of a sermon, teaching, prophecy, or word of knowledge, it will never violate God’s character, His nature, His commands or His promises. If you hear someone speaking in God’s name saying anything that violates any of these characteristics, he or she is not speaking from God, period! The other reason that I use this test most often is because it is the test that Jesus Christ Himself said we should use:
“Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. “You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they?Matthew 7:15-16
The bottom line is that it any sermon, presentation, teaching, prophecy or word of knowledge is not consistent with the fruit of God’s character; then it is not Him. The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Galatians 5:22-23 So we must question: Is what I’m hearing agreeable with the fruit of the Holy Spirit and the character of God’s love? Is it spurring me and empowering me to turn away from sin and to pursue love and holiness before God? If it is, then then sound and reliable. It is probably a message from the Father, and we can pursue testing it further. If it’s not, then don’t follow it.
The Jesus Character Test (1 John 4:2-3; John 14:6,21; Matthew 7:24-25; 1 John 2:1-6) Is what I am being taught or presented truly consistent with who Jesus is, what Jesus did, what Jesus said, taught, or commanded? If so, you are on solid ground, and you should proceed to the next test. If not, then you are proceeding on dangerous presumption to believe that you have heard from God if it does not truly match Messiah’s Character and Deeds.
The Commandments Test (Deut.6:5,10:12; Matthew 7:12, 22:35-40; Matthew 19:17)- Is what I’m being told or taught directing me to love and put God first with all my heart soul mind and strength, and to treat others with the kind of love and consideration that I would like for myself? Is it helping me to better succeed at obeying specific Commandments in Scripture? If it is, then you are on solid ground to proceed to the next test. Anything that doesn’t spur you on and help you to succeed at better obeying the Commandments, at better loving God, and at better loving your neighbor as yourself, you should treat with serious suspicion, because the odds are that such a message might be giving you permission to indulge your sinful nature, and it’s not from God at all.
The Weight of Biblical Evidence Test (Deuteronomy 17:6, 19:15, Matthew 18:16; 2 Corinthians 13:1; 1 Timothy 5:19; Hebrews 10:26-28) Scripture tells us that out of two or three witnesses every truth or fact is established. This test simply means that the greater number of biblical writers God used to say the same thing, the stronger and more secure and solid your doctrinal position. Let’s take just the principle we’re addressing right now for example. God used Moses, Matthew, Jesus, Paul, and the writer of Hebrews to tell us that every fact needs to be established through multiple witnesses. With this many proofs, the weight of biblical evidence supports that position. All Scripture is good and profitable (2 Timothy 3:16-17), you are just less likely to get the wrong idea or draw the wrong conclusions if you can confirm a particular position from multiple sources in Scripture. (cf. Num 35:30; Deut 17:6; Matt 18:16; John 8:17; 2 Cor 13:1; 1 Tim 5:19; Heb 10:28).
The True Wisdom Test (James 3:13-18) Is what I’m being taught or presented unquestioningly and obviously pure, then peaceable & gentle? Is it easy to be entreated? In this case that means is it persuading me to seek and pursue godliness? Is it full of mercy and good fruits, impartial, and without hypocrisy? If what I’m being taught misses any of these things, then it’s not from heaven above.
The Ambitions Test (James3:17; Philippians 2:3) Most people who fall into teaching falsely do so because they have an ulterior motive or agenda. Sometimes they’re even unaware of it themselves. Sometimes they have so convinced themselves that they’re acting for the greater good, that they have compromised truth along the way. When you hear something that sounds a little off, ask yourself, “Is there ambition here? Is there competition, combativeness or strife, an I’ve just got to win attitude? Is there bitterness here? Is there confusion in this teaching or presentation? When you see any of these things, be extremely leery and cautious of what you’ve been told. Scripture says that every other evil enters through these gateways. It’s demonic. So, if you smell any ambition in it, be extremely cautious and be ready to reject it quickly when necessary.
The Balance & Moderation Test (2 Timothy 4:5; Titus 2:2, 2:5-6; 1 Peter 1:13, 4:7, 5:8). It is sad to see so many zealous believers mock and make fun of the balance and moderation test. They are clearly being ignorant of the Scriptures, and do not understand what they are mocking. If you look at these references in the Greek, they all urge us to be “sober minded” i.e. moderate, temperate, balanced, and self-controlled. So important is this idea that in the original languages, being balanced, and moderate or temperate is considered the SAME as being in one’s right mind or sound judgment. From the BIBLICAL point of view, if you are NOT balanced, not sober minded, not moderate, if you are not temperate, if you are not self-controlled, it is the SAME as NOT being in your right mind. Does this teaching, presentation or word of knowledge I’m getting consider all of Scripture and Godly characteristics, or does it focus on one or two that seem to fit my theory at the exclusion or overshadowing of the others? Extremism in almost all cases is dangerous. Watch out for it. Think about it for a moment. If you are accustomed to being balanced and moderate, you will look at all sides of an issue and carefully consider things biblically before you proceed, but if you are accustomed to being an extremist, something may have to be way off the mark before you spot it as being off. When you are balanced and moderate, you will be more cautious when you see extremist ideas being put forward, and you will be less likely to fall into the ditch, either on the right side or the left side of the road. Don’t forget that narrow is the way that leads to life, and few be they who find it (Matthew 7:13-14). The more zealous and extremist you are, the more likely you are to fall into error. The more balanced and moderate you are, you will be able to recognize more quickly when you are tempted to fall into the ditch either on the right side or the left side of any road. It will be that much quicker and easier to correct yourself when you notice that you are in error, because you will notice error faster.
The Inner Peace Test (John 14:27; James 3:18; Romans 14:19) This is the test that many people who teach on God’s leading use the most. Ironically enough, it’s the one I recommend you use the least. Why? It’s way too subjective. The premise of this test is that God through the Holy Spirit will put a check or caution feeling inside your spirit and you’ll see a lack of peace about a particular situation. Let me point out first that God absolutely will, and does do such things; however, this presupposes that we understand the difference between God’s true peace and merely a lack of conflict. For example, all of us have the ability to deny or deceive ourselves about our sin at some point or other. Just because I don’t feel convicted about something which I am in denial, doesn’t mean that God stopped caring about it. Likewise, just because I’m feeling a lack of peace, some internal pain or a struggle inside with what I’m being told, it doesn’t mean that it isn’t God; just because I don’t feel peaceful about it at that moment. The peace test presupposes that my conscience is accurately calibrated to God’s highest desires. Since it’s easy to fall into situations where my conscience and desires are not so calibrated, I recommend you only use the peace test after you’ve thoroughly applied the others.
One More Protection
Now we have some real grassroots biblical tests that we can use to evaluate what we are being told. With practice, evaluating things in this manner will become more natural. There is one other scriptural method that will help us become more “deception proof or deception resistant.”
We must practice DOING and PRACTICING the Word of God. I know it sounds basic, but not DOING the word of God is one of, if not the biggest gateways to deception:James 1:21-25 (NASB)
James 1:21-25 “Therefore, putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls.  But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.  For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror;  for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was.  But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does.
The same principle is taught again in Hebrews 5:12-14.
The point is that true spiritual maturity and discernment only comes from regularly hearing and practicing and doing of the word of God. We should be taking in the word of God regularly. In the process of taking in God’s word however, we should be diligent to prayerfully seek God to make action plans to put what we read and hear into practice. We should then write those in a journal and share those action plans with someone that we trust to keep us accountable for actually following through those godly action plans.
Anyway, Abba YHWH Almighty Bless you. I hope you found this helpful.
Brother Michel Lankford