The Fruits of the Holy Spirit Aid My Discernment
We live in a time where there is simply too much information to process. We also live in a time when we are faced with more choices of data than we know what to do with. So how do we discern the truth? Or simply good sources to learn from when the truth is a bit “squishy”?
As a Christian, I desire to be led into the truth by God’s Holy Spirit, a promise I believe is given to believers in God’s Word (John 16:13). But, what if there are Christians on opposing sides of an issue? Is there a way I can discern if a person is being led by the Holy Spirit or not? That’s a question I have been asking recently, along with why does this happen if Christians are all supposed to be people of truth?
I have concluded there are many reasons why there are opposing viewpoints, and not all of them negative, but one of the more dangerous reasons is that some people who claim knowledge about whatever subject they are talking about are really wolves in sheep’s clothing trying to lead God’s flock away from biblical truth and wisdom.
So, is there a biblical way I can discern what resources are more credible than others? Yes, I think so, and it’s based upon what I learned years ago: which person better reflects the fruits of the Holy Spirit? Or another way to put it is which source produces the fruits of the Holy Spirit within me?
One of the catches in my spirit when judging a resource or a talking head (especially among people who claim to be Christians) is if after I listen to or read their comments, do I sense in them and in myself as a result of what they are saying the fruits of the Holy Spirit or the fruits of flesh.
For example, years ago, I used to like reading a particular news commentator. At first I really enjoyed their point of view, but then I noticed being stirred up in my carnality when this commentator’s views became more and more extreme. I began to realize I walked away from what I read feeling fear, which I know is not of God despite my propensity to it (1 Timothy 1:7), as well as anger, hatred, discord, and dissension, all of which are fruits of the flesh.
I began learning that after I listen to something, even if it’s telling me hard truth or things that challenge my point of view, and I feel kindness, gentleness, purity, goodness, etc., and even “cleansed” from within, I discern this is a better source of information through which I will profit learning from.
All that to say, this does not mean Christians cannot hold to differences of opinion or perspectives, but it is to say there are ways we can discern what source or what person is or is not credible in a biblical way when we judge their character—and our character as a result of what they are saying—through the lens of Galatians 5:19-24:
Now the practices of the sinful nature are clearly evident: they are sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality (total irresponsibility, lack of self-control), idolatry, sorcery, hostility, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions [that promote heresies], envy, drunkenness, riotous behavior, and other things like these. I warn you beforehand, just as I did previously, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit [the result of His presence within us] is love [unselfish concern for others], joy, [inner] peace, patience [not the ability to wait, but how we act while waiting], kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature together with its passions and appetites. (Amplified Version)
Christians, it may benefit us all to ask God before we read, follow, or listen to anyone to open our eyes to discern what fruits they produce in their character, and in us, to determine if this is really a spiritually nourishing source of information we should be entertaining. Non-Christian, you could simply check your emotions and the character of the person giving you your information to aid your discernment.
Will you join me in this challenge?
Cassy (pronounced like Cassie but spelled with a ‘y’) Benefield is a wife and mother, a writer and photographer and a huge fan of non-fiction. She has traveled all her life, first as an Army brat. She is a returned Peace Corps volunteer (2004-2006) to Romania where she mainly taught Conversational English. She received her bachelor’s in journalism from Cal Poly Technical University in San Luis Obispo, California. She finds much comfort in her Savior, Jesus Christ, and considers herself a religion nerd who is prone to buy more books, on nearly any topic, than she is ever able to read. She is the associate editor of FāVS.News.