I have a confession to make. I am a Christian and I am a Trekkie. There are some who say that those two things can’t be synonymous. After all Gene Roddenberry, the creator of Star Trek, believed in a utopian society in which religion was quaint and God an anathema. Yet, all throughout my childhood and teenage years (and even today, truth be told), I loved the idea of traveling to distant worlds and experiencing the wonders of God’s creation.
So as a Trekkie, I made sure to buy a ticket to the latest entry in the Star Trek movie franchise reboot, Star Trek Beyond, to once again marvel over my dream of space of travel. Unfortunately, I was horrendously disappointed. Although there has always been violence in these movies with space battles and, at times, hand-to-hand combat, it has been presented in such a way that furthers the storyline or character development. What I witnessed in this recent release was a level, well, beyond.
It was malevolence. Evil for the sake of evil. Horror to shock and scare. In short, Satan ran rampant. And so, about 1/3 of the way through, I left.
While this isn’t meant to be a scathing review of Star Trek Beyond, it’s writers, directors, and producers, it is meant to be an example of the gift of discerning of spirits. I left that movie early because I felt and saw the evil that was being promoted and, as a spirit-filled Christian, I couldn’t sit there in silence.
Early on in my life, even before I received the baptism of the Holy Spirit, I knew intrinsically when things “just weren’t right.” I could sense a person’s motives and read a situation, offering insights that would occasionally surprise the adults in my life. I’ve come to realize that this is the gift of discerning of spirits and that not every Christian has it.
That’s not to say one couldn’t ask for and receive it, but it isn’t in the spiritual DNA of every believer. How do I know? I have several Christian friends, pastors and pastor’s kids included, who regularly watch horror movies, read authors who specialize in the occult, and get sucked into binge watching TV series whose level of violence keeps them relegated to premium cable channels. And yet, they aren’t bothered by it. They don’t lose sleep. It doesn’t haunt them. To them, they have simply experienced rollicking good entertainment. Others listen to and sing lyrics at the tops of their lungs that glorify killing others, objectify women, and preach indiscriminate sexual relations, and to them its merely a good beat. I don’t say any of this to judge, merely to heighten awareness. This day and age it can be very difficult to distinguish evil, especially when its packaged so prettily in great special effects or a driving, danceable bass.
Given that not everyone has the gift of discerning of spirits, are all Christians supposed to do it? Absolutely! The Apostle John gave simple and clear instructions in 1 John 4:1. “Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to determine if they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.”
I already know your next question: so if we’re supposed to do this, how do we test the spirits? You’re not the first to ask that question because John answers it in verse 2. “This is how you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit who confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God. But every spirit who does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist; you have heard that he is coming, and he is already in the world now.”
I can hear your wheels turning. That’s all well and good, but testing a spirit is different from testing a movie or a song. Neither of those are going to answer when you ask. Actually, they will. There’s simply a different line of questions to use. Check out Paul’s instructions to the Philippians. What does he say we are to think on? “Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable–if there is any moral excellence and if there is any praise–dwell on these things.”
So if the movie you’re watching or the song that’s playing doesn’t fit those categories, you know it isn’t from God, which leaves only one other alternative. That, my friends, is discerning of spirits. I encourage everyone, especially if the gift is not in your spiritual DNA, to practice this. You are the temple of the Holy Spirit. Think about how you’re decorating His home. Will that horror movie make pretty wallpaper? Will that book be a cool backsplash? Will that song be the best stain for the hardwood? I pray that you’ll be able to answer “yes” to each of those questions and that the Holy Spirit will love his crib.
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