This is a gift of the Holy Spirit. It helps to know whether a person is led by the Holy Spirit or is an instrument of the enemy, or whether a message or a situation is controlled by evil spirits.
Why do we need this gift?
Satan knows that in the end he can only offer suffering, shame, despair and ruin. Therefore, he has to win people over by deception. This is the case, on the one hand, when he tries to get people to give in to their momentary desires without thinking of the consequences for others or the longer-term consequences for themselves. These include the pursuit of honor, sex, wealth and power. To have total control over individuals, over groups, or even over entire nations or the world is an often underestimated but nevertheless very strong temptation. However, goals that sound noble and selfless are often given in the seduction, such as “helping the disadvantaged,””helping the oppressed,” “saving nature,” “social justice,” “saving the world.”
The devil can even disguise himself into an angel of light (2 Cor. 11:14), quoting Bible passages and giving thoughts and thought structures that look positive and very Christian so that we will fall for him and his goals. The deception can become so strong that even mature Christians with a great knowledge of the Bible and a sound Christian doctrinal foundation are deceived. That was the case with a very good and mature Bible school teacher, who was the director of studies of a very good Bible school and later even became its director. Books by him I read with great profit. At that time he was very positively impressed by Adolf Hitler at a time when the full extent of the horrors of National Socialism was not yet apparent. If such a good man in the kingdom of God could fall for Adolf Hitler, who are we to believe that without this gift of the Holy Spirit we will be equal to all the temptations that come to us now or in the future?
Unfortunately, however, the need for this gift seems to be little seen in much of the Body of Christ, and except in seminars dealing with the gifts of the Holy Spirit, I have never heard a sermon or Bible study on the gift of discernment of spirits. Almost never have I witnessed people asking God for this gift. But this means that large parts of the body of Christ should be extremely endangered and probably not up to refined temptations. However, this should lead to enormous damage in the Body of Christ and to gigantic catastrophes in this world, if Satan can work unhindered to a large extent without the Body of Christ effectively opposing him.
What does this gift look like in practice?
When the Holy Spirit warns of deception, people with this gift suddenly have an inner turmoil or physical uneasiness about a person, a sermon, or a fact. In this case, one must ask God to confirm this impression so that one can directly recognize and label the misalignment or wrong. If one then occupies oneself more intensively with the person in question or the circumstance, it becomes increasingly clear what is going on here.
Persons with this gift are very necessary, but sometimes they go a very lonely way, when all around them are enthusiastic and applaud loudly, but they feel sick to their stomach, because they see that something is fundamentally wrong here, and when their well-founded warnings are not taken seriously. They then also share God’s pain over so many missed opportunities and avoidable disasters.