So, as I entered the world of all things iPhone, I discovered this really cool little app (application, in iPhone-speak) called Shazam. It seems like such magic. You open it up, hold your phone toward any source of recorded music being played and hit the "Tag Now" button...and in a few seconds, it tells you exactly what song you're listening to and who is playing/singing it!
I was sitting in Barnes & Noble with a friend last week when she abruptly dropped her line of thought and said, "What is this song? It's something famous, like from an opera..." So, I whipped out my phone, punched up Mr. Shazam and put him to work. In about 4.5 seconds, he came back with the results: Nessun Dorma, Jeff Beck. And my friend promptly marched herself to the music counter and bought the CD. (Way to go, Shazam - you're really just an evil marketing ploy, aren't you...) Even though I have used Shazam many times, I am still so impressed and amazed that the little chip in my phone can connect with the soundwaves from a single song being played, match those notes and phrases with an expansive database somewhere and tell me with pinpoint accuracy the very song I am hearing at any moment. Genius.
It kind of reminds me of one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit....have you ever heard of the "discerning of spirits"? It's kind of like Shazam - except better.
When your life has been filled up with the Holy Spirit, He releases gifts in you that provide you power for living and accomplishing God's purposes. There's a list of all the gifts the Holy Spirit gives us in I Corinthians 12:7-11. But I just want to talk about "discerning of spirits" for today.
Sometimes when people talk about this gift, they mistakenly call it the gift of discernment. While discernment is important, this is not really what the Scripture says. It says discerning of spirits - implying that there are different spirits at work around us and we need to know how to identify them. (Shazam!) And the Scripture says this is a gift. When you have been baptized in the Holy Spirit, you have a toolbelt of gifts bestowed upon you. This is available to everyone who has given their lives to Jesus and has recognized Him as Savior and Lord. All you have to do is ask for it! I came from a church background that did not believe in this third baptism, so I was leery about it and tried to skirt the Scriptures that talked about it for a large part of my life.
(Third baptism: First is the baptism into the Body in salvation; second is baptism in water; third is baptism in the Holy Spirit. Helpful resources on this topic: Jack Hayford's books and Robert Morris's sermon series My Best Friend: The Holy Spirit and The Holy Spirit Revealed)
After some face-in-the-carpet time with God while I was in college, I became convinced that there was definitely something missing in my Christianity. I found myself desiring the intimacy with God that I observed in friends who told me they had received baptism in the Holy Spirit. So I grappled with the Lord over it for a long time. I pored over the Scriptures and fasted and prayed for several days to try to get to the bottom of the whole subject with God. Long story short, I prayed and asked Jesus to baptize me in His Holy Spirit - all alone in my apartment in Nashville one night as a 20 year old college student. And everything began to change...
One of the things I noticed was that I had these new "antennae" that were very sensitive to unseen things going on. I could walk into a group of people in the middle of a conversation and have a sense of what was really going on - whether I belonged in that conversation or not, whether I had an assignment from the Lord with one of those people...and so on and so forth. This was the gift of discerning of spirits being activated in me.
One of the best examples I have from personal experience is watching a cartoon with my daughter a couple of years ago. We watched this cute little show with a bear and all his animal friends for months thinking it was harmless. But whenever I would sit down to watch it with Claire, it made me feel weird for some reason. I repeatedly dismissed it, thinking I was just annoyed with the writing or the voices or whatever. (I'm kind of critical at times...) Then one day, we were watching the show and the bear was in the woods painting a picture. He took great care to paint an ugly monster with fangs and spikes and scary eyes...and then he laughed out loud and said, "That's funny! It makes me laugh!" and proceeded to laugh some more.
And something clicked.
I stopped the recording and looked at Claire and said, "I'm so sorry, honey, but we can't watch this show anymore." I went on to explain to her that the bear was trying to make her think that a bad thing was actually good and funny. Without a major back story, we had worked through a lot of fear with Claire over "monsters" when she was 2 and 3. So, when I saw that monster being painted and then condoned and accepted as something okay and even fun and funny, a fire shot through my bones. My antennae were on point. Shazam gave me the results. The gift of discerning of spirits identified an intruder in my home - a spirit that was NOT the Holy Spirit.
Can you see how valuable this gift is?! Can you see that we all need it? I never knew how much I needed it until I became a mom and felt such fierce guardian instincts over my children. Being able to discern what kind of spirit is behind something enables you to protect your little ones like a sentinel in your home. You're the one who lets things in and out. You're the one who has authority to bind and to loose what you want in your home. Jesus bestowed this authority on you and the Holy Spirit gave you the tools to enforce it.
Call me crazy. Call me what you will. But you'd better believe I'm serious about knowing what is influencing my children - and ME, for that matter. The spirit realm is real and there is a battle going on all the time. The cool thing is, we can influence that battle by our participation! The final result is already established - Jesus wins. But we get to enforce His victory by pushing back the darkness. We push back the darkness with Light. And we wield that Light through the power of the Holy Spirit in us.