Spiritual Discernment?
Criticism or Judgment?

True discernment is marked by our ability to love others with God’s redemptive sacrificial love. One who has invited Jesus Christ to be Lord of their life, should have humility, peace and a desire to minister the unconditional love of God. False discernment is based in criticism, mistrust, suspicion and fear. Our ability to discern ourselves, others and the Holy Spirit, depends on our ability to perceive correctly. Our perceptions are discolored by our past experiences, if they have not been healed and redeemed.

Rev. Barbara Yoder says that many people often confuse their critical or judgmental spirit with a Spirit of discernment. They may sense an urgency to point out the weakness of another and think that it is spiritual discernment. Have you ever been given a word that was technically correct but it defiled you because it was not given with the redemptive grace of God?


To discern rightly, we have to take our urge to criticize and judge to the cross to be crucified. Most people give others a piece of their mind instead of a word from the Spirit. We have to be willing to renounce all our ungodly reactions - past, present and future - so that we can be the pure in heart, who see God. We have to be willing to demonstrate His great grace, at all times.

1 Cor. 2:16 says “Who has known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct Him, but we have the mind of Christ.” To express discernment from the mind of Christ, we have to have the heart of Christ. In John 12:47, Jesus said He didn’t come to judge the world but to save the world. His motivation was not to judge but to rescue or save people out of death and into permanent safety. It's not that a minister never feels a hurt but that they chose a lifestyle of forgiveness before the other sins; they never take offense in the first place.

2 Tim 2:24-26 describes the true discernment: 24 “And a servant of the Lord must not strive but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, 25 in humility correcting those who oppose themselves, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, 26 and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will.”

Rev. Barbara Yoder says that spiritual discernment is the grace to see in the spiritual realm, to see into the heart of their spirit, to see the secrets of men’s hearts or to see beyond the veil. The veil that keeps us from perceiving correctly, is the veil over our own heart. Until we can perceive ourselves correctly and deal with the impurity in our own hearts, we will not clearly see what is in the heart of another.

Hebrews 5:1-2 speaks of priests who have great compassion because they can so clearly see their own weaknesses; the extent of their own need became evident as the veil was removed from their own eyes. Carnal perceptions are typified by a compulsion to point out how others are not getting it right. Their motivation may be to judge, gossip or expose rather than to save, restore and cover with the love of God. As Jack Deere said, “Any jackass can kick a barn down, but it takes a skillful carpenter to build one.”

People will gravitate to those who are able to confront with restorative words, without reacting out of their own wounds and experiences. They will choose someone who is able to minister to the root of the matter without reacting to their surface behavior. When God calls us to partner with Him to restore another, we must not take offense at immature behavior and must automatically forgive every weakness.

Mark 3:28, “Whoever shall speak a word against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven him.” Jesus was prepared to forgive us before we ever sinned against Him. His mission was to give up his life so that we could have Life. Paul said we must die daily that others might live. He died to his own right to a natural reaction and chose to become a expression of Jesus, in the flesh. It’s not that a minister never feels a hurt but that they chose a lifestyle of forgiveness before the other sins; they don’t take offense in the first place.

John 17:18 “As You sent Me, I sent them.” We have the same mission that Jesus had; we can choose to let Him manifest love and peace through us. We are called to have covenant relationships where we love others with the unconditional love and acceptance of Jesus Christ, when they need it the most. True spiritual discernment sees the weakness of the other as an opportunity to bear them up in prayer and will die to its own convenience so that the other can live.

False discernment is slow to hear, quick to speak and quick to anger. They may judge by surface symptoms and surface causes, without discerning the heart intent or root causes of outward behaviors. They are not motivated by love and peace. They may be unaware of the anger that is inside of them that comes out of their own dysfunctional past or injustices suffered. For instance, we might judge that one who is dependent on prescription drugs, when we should minister healing to the pain and rage that is smoldering inside.

Those operating out of a critical spirit will have a desire to expose the other’s weakness, will attempt to elevate themselves and will forget their own deep need for the grace of God every day. Rick Joyner says that when we sow criticism, we reap blindness to our own faults, which in turn causes us to reap more criticism of ourselves.

True discernment will not gossip but may report a matter to spiritual Leadership. It will only report the facts without adding fleshly interpretations, suspicions, innuendos or conclusions. It is motivated by Christ’s heart of love, to restore that person to life and godliness.

Before God can give us a spirit of discernment, love and forgiveness must mature in us. We cannot be used to free others from captivity, until we can be trusted not to react sinfully to their carnality or immaturity. We cannot react to what they think, say or do. To walk in offense, criticism or judgment is to walk in self-deception ourselves. We cannot prevent feelings from coming but we can choose not to add sinful reactions, which produce sinful emotions.

When we are in self-deception about our own hurts, sins and strongholds, our thoughts about the behavior of others are not trustworthy. Often we will project our own woundedness or sinful motivations onto others. It's not that a minister never feels a hurt but that they chose a lifestyle of forgiveness before the other sins; they never take offense in the first place.

Have you noticed? Accusers accuse you of the self-deceptions in their own life?

Prophetic people can be the first to mistake suspicious thinking for prophetic perception if they are operating in pride. (A wise counselor hears both sides of a story.) A prophetic gift is no substitute for a humble heart that repents readily and keeps short accounts with God. A tendency to “slice and dice” others is not prophetic gifting, but judgment with condemnation. Rom 2:1-2 states, “Therefore you are inexcusable, O man, whoever you are who judge, for in whatever you judge another you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things.”

The gifts of the Holy Spirit have to pass through the condition of our own heart as they are ministered. God’s law says that we will reap what we sow, more than we sow and later than we sow. If we have sown seeds of judgment and dishonor when ministers have appeared harsh, contentious and high pressure, we will reap that seed sown in our own ministry.

I grieve for those who are bitter, blaming others who have not recognized their “call to ministry.” They feel self-righteous when they judge and criticize those who will not support their “mission.” A spirit of accusation has caused them to think they are discerning others rightly, when they are actually projecting what is in their own heart. Their friends and leadership know that they will not see clearly to minister restoration until the instinct to judge, blame or accuse has been crucified.

When we receive the grace of God to see the log in our own eye, we will not rush to accuse another of having a spec in their eye. When others find us trustworthy to minister without judgment or condemnation, they will ask for our discernment and value our insights. Can God trust us to be ambassadors of His grace to those who have failed miserably, who justify their sin and can barely feel remorse, much less true repentance?

To receive true spiritual discernment, we must still ourselves before the Lord – on the inside – as a lifestyle. We must choose to aggressively become calm and be willing to hear His heart and mind in the situation. As we receive His love, peace and grace, we will be able to overflow it to others. God’s desire to bring an outpouring of great grace that will enable the church to be healed and to have enlarged hearts that discern by agape love and will not judge by outward behavior.

Can God trust us to take that one by the hand – who was the perpetrator, not the victim? To guide them to the throne of grace, where there are won by the kindness and mercy of God? To be a safe harbors for ships which are in serious danger of shipwreck? To be happy when He not only restores but promotes them?

If so, God will trust us with the secrets of men’s hearts and enable us to discern the roots of the matter. Probably, they have lost the ability to trust a perfect God, much less fallible ministers. They don’t care how much we know; they want to know how much we care. They need trustworthy people to help them to trust again. When we remember how much grace it takes for God to love us, the “unlovable” will come to us for His unconditional love and true discernment.