Fine Line Between Imagination and Discernment

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False prophets like wolfs

When we deal with deception and falseness within the prophetic, we need to understand there is a definite move of the counterfeit by the devil to challenge the true prophetic move of the Lord. Just as there is a fine line between divination and prophecy, with the one being spoken not in the Spirit of the Lord, just so there is a fine between imagination and discernment. A true prophet walks in discernment and not imagination.

Imagination flows from the soul (the mind) and true discernment flows from the spirit as led by the Holy Spirit. After all, the prophet needs discernment to know what is real and what is false, what is counterfeit, and what the truth of the Lord is. We need to be so careful, yes, very careful that we do not confuse discernment with imagination. This is a warning by the Lord. For without true discernment, we will be led to confusion and deception. For a prophet, being led by the Spirit is critical, and must guard against being led by the flesh of the mind.

The definition of discernment is the ability to judge well. In its simplest definition, discernment is nothing more than the ability to decide between truth and error, right and wrong. Discernment is the process of making careful distinctions in our thinking about truth. In other words, the ability to think with discernment is synonymous with an ability to think biblically. First Thessalonians 5:21-22 teaches that it is the responsibility of every Christian to be discerning: “But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; abstain from every form of evil.” The apostle John issues a similar warning when he says, “Do not believe every spirit but test the spirits to see whether they are from God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1). According to the New Testament, discernment is therefore not optional for the believer-it is required.

Spiritual discernment ultimately has to do with wisdom and the ability to distinguish truth from error. For some, it is also being able to be aware of evil or good spiritual presences. Taking consideration therefore for our need to walk in wisdom and sound doctrine, and to be able to discern spiritual activity at times, this is why we can only walk in true discernment when we walk in the Spirit, so that the Spirit of the Lord reveals the true nature of things, be it natural or the supernatural, and so that the Lord in wisdom, knowledge, counsel and understanding can lead us to discern right and wrong and to make the right decisions. John 14: 26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things.

See also
Making Room For the Prophetic

The definition of imagination is the act or power of forming a mental image of something not present to the senses or never before wholly perceived in reality. It can also be understood to be the thinking or active mind or the faculty or action of forming new ideas, images, or concepts of external objects not present to the senses.

Let us consider 2 Corinthians 10: NKJV: The Spiritual War: 3 For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. 4 For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, 5 casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, 6 and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled.

Our focus in the above Scripture, which deals with SPIRITUAL WARFARE, is “every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.” Therefore this deals with thoughts that are not in alignment with the Holy Spirit. Let us understand that it is within the realm of the imagination where thoughts and ideas are born, but these are thoughts and idea that flows from our soul and not from the Spirit of the Lord. A prophet who deals with this realm can easily speak words that deceive, or mislead, for such words will be altered by his own mind and thoughts. Such words can easily set themselves up against the Lord.

It is so easy, when not always led by the Spirit, to imagine things – and then we are not talking about positive creativity. Without the guidance solely of the Spirit, it becomes easy to imagine stuff that is not even the truth or reality, such as for example to imagine that someone has an agenda against you, that you are under spiritual attack, or that there is a conspiracy against you. We can come up with thoughts and ideas that are negative or destructive. We can so easily imagine truths in the Scripture that are not even true! We can come up with doctrines and teachings that are erroneous because they have been formed by our imagination and not taught by the Spirit (this then leads to doctrines that are merely myths, fables, and lies). These negative, deceptive, and destructive thoughts are what Paul refers to in 2 Corinthians 10 – thoughts that are ultimately unwise, and that is contrary to the truth and reality of our Lord.

See also
The Mandate and the Journey

For a true prophet, it is very dangerous to operate from such a position. A true prophet can never allow himself to speak words that are influenced by his feelings, thoughts, or emotions. He must only be led by the Holy Spirit, and not his imagination. A prophet who deals with imagination will speak imaginative words that are void of truth or the Spirit of the living Lord.

Our mind after all is very powerful. Our imagination has tremendous creative power but also the tremendous power to conjure up ideas and thoughts that are not always real or based on truth. And when we operate in the reality of these thoughts and ideas, imagining so-called truths and realities, we end up walking not in the Spirit of the Lord but in the flesh.

Out of imagination flows suspicion, and out of suspicion come paranoia, fear, and anxiety. If a prophet allows his imagination to run wild, not curtailed by the leading of the Holy Spirit, he ends up dealing with assumptions, allegations, and accusations, which all flow from the premise of deception, manipulation, and trickery. It is these thoughts that need to be taken captive, which is done by walking solely in the truth of the Spirit.

Scriptures admonish us to grow in discernment according to Philippians 1:9-10: And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment so that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ … And also Psalm 119:66: Teach me good discernment and knowledge, For I believe in Your commandments. As a prophet grows in discernment, which comes by the wisdom of God, the prophet develops the ability to know the authentic from the counterfeit, and when one deals with the imagination or with the Spirit of the Lord. By knowing and obeying the Word of God, the prophet will be “trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.” The prophet will know God’s character and will. This is the heart of spiritual discernment – being able to distinguish the voice of our imagination from the voice of God, to have a sense that “this is right” or “this is wrong.”

In Ezekiel 13:17 we read: “Now, son of man, set your face against the daughters of your people who prophesy out of their own imagination” … and also “Isaiah 65:2 All day long I have held out my hands to an obstinate people, who walk in ways not good, pursuing their own imaginations.” It even says in “Psalm 73:7: From their callous hearts comes iniquity; their evil imaginations have no limits.”

See also
A Prophet of Character?

Our imagination can become a huge problem when we are not led by the Spirit of the Lord. And this is especially true for the prophet. This is when the prophet starts moving in the realm of the soul and flesh, speaking things that come not by the Lord. After all, our imagination can be so powerful that we THINK the Lord is speaking to us or has given us a word but then it is not so. For this reason, we need the absolute guidance of the Holy Spirit to lead us in all things and at all times. It says in “Ephesians 1:17-18 – That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him …”

The prophet needs to grow in the wisdom, discernment, and knowledge of the Lord so that the prophet walks in the Truth of the Lord and so avoids the pitfalls of suspicion, assumptions, allegations, deceptions, and paranoia. If the prophet lets his imagination run wild, the prophet can easily end up causing more harm when it comes to the supernatural than good. The prophet, therefore, needs the Holy Spirit above all to test all things, to make wise decisions, to discern the reality of all things, and to walk in God’s Truth. Then the prophet shall be battle-ready for the spiritual war, a soldier operating not according to the imagination but the Spirit.

Riaan Engelberecht

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