Is That God Talking, or Somebody Else?

Is That God Talking, or Somebody Else?

Is That God Talking, or Somebody Else?

Sometimes, something old becomes new again…

There is a difference between Discernment (a process of sifting out a wise decision) and Discernment of S/spirits (a gift of the Spirit enabling believers to know whether something is divine, merely human or Satanic in origin). Not many authors note the (significant) difference. Few interact with the Bible to study into and understand how these approaches work…

Quite convinced of the singular lack of current writing from the Scriptures on these matters in our present day, my wife and I went to church to worship—and were pleasantly surprized.  

We found ourselves hearing a preacher deliver an excellent sermon. He quoted a short summary of A.W. Tozer’s method of, what else?—discernment of S/spirits! Fascinated, I went to unearth the original material, and found it sitting unread on my dusty shelf… Chapter 29 of “Man, The Dwelling Place of God.” Tozer passed away in 1963, yet there is much to glean from a great writer of two generations ago. Here is short summary of A.W. Tozer’s seven points to test out whether something is from God, of human origin, or whether something has a demonic source…  The words quoted below are completely Tozer’s, though I have added some formatting for easier reading, some bracketed insertions for clarity, some numbering to make his lists clearer and have quoted only a “bare-bones outline” from a thorough chapter. Those who wish to go much deeper, should click the link at the bottom of this article to read the full content in its entirety…  A. W. Tozer said:

It is my intention to set forth here a method by which we may test the spirits and prove all things religious and moral that come to us or are brought or offered to us by anyone… Briefly stated the test is this: This new doctrine, this new religious habit, this new view of truth, this new spiritual experience—how has it affected my relation to:

  • God,
  • Christ,
  • The Holy Scriptures,
  • Self,
  • Other Christians,
  • The World and
  • Sin?

By this sevenfold test we may prove everything…  and know beyond a doubt whether it is of God or not. By the fruit of the tree we know the kind of tree it is.

1) One vital test of all religious experience is how it affects our relation to God, our concept of God and our attitude toward Him.

  • Any doctrine, any experience that serves to magnify [God] is likely to be inspired by Him.
  • Conversely, anything that veils His glory or makes Him appear less wonderful is sure to be of the flesh or the devil…

The heart of man is like a musical instrument and may be played upon by the Holy Spirit, by an evil spirit or by the spirit of man himself… If this new view of truth… has made me love God more, if it has magnified Him in my eyes, if it has purified my concept of His being and caused Him to appear more wonderful than before, then I may conclude that I have not wandered astray…

2. The next test is: How has this new experience affected my attitude toward the Lord Jesus Christ?

There are psychic experiences that thrill the seeker and lead him to believe that he has indeed met the Lord and been carried to the third heaven; but the true nature of the phenomenon is discovered later when the face of Christ begins to fade from the victim's consciousness and he comes to depend more and more upon emotional jags as a proof of his spirituality…

If on the other hand the new experience tends to make Christ indispensable, if it takes our interest off our feelings and places it in Christ, we are on the right track. Whatever makes Christ dear to us is pretty sure to be from God.

3. Another revealing test of the soundness of religious experience is, “How does it affect my attitude toward the Holy Scriptures?”

Did this new experience… spring out of the Word of God… or was it the result of some stimulus… outside the Bible…? However high the emotional content, no experience can be proved to be genuine unless we can find chapter and verse authority for it in the Scriptures… [which are] the last and final proof…

If the new doctrine, the influence of that new teacher, the new emotional experience fills my heart with an avid hunger to meditate in the Scriptures day and night, I have every reason to believe that God has spoken to my soul and that my experience is genuine. Conversely, if my love for the Scriptures has cooled even a little, if my eagerness to eat and drink of the inspired Word has abated by as much as one degree, I should humbly admit that I have missed God's signal somewhere…

4. Again, we can prove the quality of religious experience by its effect on the self-life.

A good rule is this: If this experience has served to humble me… in my own eyes it is of God… Nothing that comes from God will minister to my pride or self-congratulation. If I am tempted to be complacent and to feel superior because I have had a remarkable vision or an advanced spiritual experience, I should go at once to my knees and repent of the whole thing. I have fallen a victim to the enemy.

5. Our relation to and our attitude toward our fellow Christians is another accurate test of religious experience.

As we grow in grace we grow in love toward all God's people (1 John 5:1). This means simply that if we love God, we will love [God’s] children. All true Christian experience will deepen our love for other Christians… Therefore, we conclude that whatever tends to separate us in person or in heart from our fellow Christians is not of God but is of the flesh or of the devil. And conversely, whatever causes us to love the children of God is likely to be of God. "By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another" (John 13:35).

6. Another certain test of the source of religious experience is this: Note how it affects our relation to and our attitude toward the world.

By "the world" I do not mean, of course, the beautiful order of nature which God has created… Let an apostle say it for us: "All that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passes away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abides forever" (I John 2:16,17) …

Any real work of God in our heart will tend to unfit us for the world's fellowship… It may be stated unequivocally that any spirit that permits compromise with the world [as defined above] is a false spirit. Any religious movement that imitates the world in any of its manifestations is false to the cross of Christ and on the side of the devil...

7. The last test of the genuineness of Christian experience is what it does to our attitude toward sin.

The operations of grace within the heart of a believing man will turn that heart away from sin and toward holiness… Anything that weakens [our] hatred of sin may be identified immediately as false to the Scriptures, to the Saviour and to [our] own souls. Whatever makes holiness more attractive and sin more intolerable may be accepted as genuine.

(For the whole chapter by A.W. Tozer click on the link below)