In 1 John 4:1, we are told, “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.” This verse is referring to the spiritual act of discernment, the proper judgment of the actions or words of someone else using Biblical principles and leaning not on our worldly knowledge, but rather leaning on the guidance of the Holy Spirit and on Scriptural wisdom. There is a time and a place where you will be called upon to discern the actions of someone else because there is something important at stake or a higher principle of love and desire to protect ourselves and our loved ones from harm, for example. But discernment is an act that must come from guidance of the Holy Spirit. This is the principle that 1 Corinthians 2:14 is referring to: “But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”
I thought it was important to point out the use of spiritual discernment which we occasionally must exercise out of necessity in case we are faced with someone teaching wrong doctrine or trying to deceive us in a monetary exchange or sale or perhaps we are faced with someone that is trying to get entry into our home and there is the risk that they may bring harm to us or our loved ones. There are times when we should be on our guard in certain situations, recognizing the danger, whether physical or simply spiritual. Jesus even warned us that there would be times when we should be on guard and “keep our wits about us” as the old saying goes. In Matthew 10:16, Jesus warns us, ” Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.” I believe that Jesus is telling us to use discernment in certain situations and keep our guard up, but to do so without resorting to evil ourselves.
I do believe, however, that being “wise as serpents” may even allow us deception against those with evil intent. I have noted before the example of the World War II scenario with the Nazi soldier at our door if we were trying to protect Jews that we had hidden in our attic. That is such a situation in which we might spiritually discern the evil intent of the soldier and might even use deception in order to avoid having the soldier coming into our home and harming those we were trying to protect. In such a situation, we would maintain the innocence of doves as we would be adhering to a higher moral principle of protecting life. But again, as in this situation and all such situations when there are conflicting moral values, we should always be careful to lean not on our own understanding but rather seeking out the guidance of God.
I pray that you would walk in close fellowship with Him today and be guided in all your ways by the wisdom of the Holy Spirit.