One of the most vital gifts of the Spirit that a believer can walk in is the gift of discerning of spirits. The discerning of spirits is a revelatory spiritual operation that partners several spiritual senses to rightly identify the spirit working through a person or behind a situation. It can be a life-saving manifestation of the Spirit that peels back the curtain and creates an open window into the realm of the spirit.
"…to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another
discerning of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, and to another
the interpretation of tongues."
1 Corinthians 12:10
In my own life, I can think of countless times when this gift has manifested in the form of a warning about a person or situation. A prophetic minister must have the discerning of spirits in operation. Many people with improper motives and even strange fire will come at apostolic and prophetic leaders. These leaders must discern the spirit that is operating undercover. This happened in the life of the Apostle Paul in Acts 16 when the girl with the spirit of divination followed him around. What she was saying was not scripturally or morally wrong but there was a foul spirit behind her declaration. This spirit wanted to derail the apostolic mission of Paul but he rightly discerned and broke it.
There is a genuine prophetic operation of discovering spirits and avoiding deception. Yet, there are many offended, wounded and misguided believers and ministers who believe that they are being prophetic when, in fact, they are actually just manifesting a critical spirit. They continually find fault and identify perceived flaws with everyone except themselves. I have seen this foul spirit partner with a religious spirit to choke out the prophetic anointing and replace it with a disempowering deception.
While we are called to be a prophetic people, we are not called to be a critical people and there is a vast difference!
"For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone among you, not
to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with
sound judgment, according to the measure of faith God has distributed to
every man. For just as we have many parts in one body, and not all parts
have the same function, so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and all
are parts of one another. We have diverse gifts according to the grace that
is given to us: if prophecy, according to the proportion of faith."
A critical spirit is empowered by pride. A person steps beyond the boundaries of their particular assignment and through pride begins to judge what they are not called to steward. This often happens in ministry when prideful leaders elevate themselves in their own mind. That leader then begins to point fingers of judgment against others because what they do may look and sound different. The reality is that there are different levels of authority that God gives and it is key to “stay in your lane.” There are many different flows and functions of the Holy Spirit and His multi-faceted ministry. Just because someone has a ministry that looks very different from ours, does not mean that it is wrong.
There are major differences between the discerning of spirits and a critical spirit. The discerning of spirits is not based in the mental realm. It will often uncover something that is contradictory to a person's natural thoughts or understanding because it is a prophetic gift.
A critical spirit fault finds. A critical spirit is often rooted in insecurities or offense. The person that manifests a critical spirit may be overcompensating for their own insecurities, hurts and wounds. A critical spirit identifies things that are bothersome to a particular person's own preferences or ideas. It is a soulish and carnal manifestation that is totally disconnected from Holy Spirit leading. It is not based upon spiritual leadings but carnal impressions or thoughts.
A critical spirit often partners with a slanderous spirit to release vile accusations and tear down godly people. A critical spirit undoes the work of the Holy Spirit by blocking kingdom connections and releasing word curses. We know that to swing open spiritual doorways, words are keys in the spirit realm. Word curses release demonic forces upon the minds, ministries and lives of people. An evil counterfeit spirit does the exact opposite of a prophetic spirit by declaring vile and slanderous things in order to disrupt and disturb.
A prophetic anointing is filled with hope and redemption because true prophetic ministry releases the heart of the Father. Even when a warning or correction is released, there is still the loving nature of the Father present.
"…for whom the Lord loves He disciplines, and scourges every
son whom He receives."
A critical spirit manifests through pure negativity with no measure of hope or redemption. A person with a critical spirit can be very two-faced, smiling in front of you and ripping you apart behind the scenes. This spirit has no honor and justifies it’s wrong actions with a false understanding of the prophetic.
"Let no unwholesome word proceed out of your mouth, but only that
which is good for building up, that it may give grace to the listeners.
Our words carry a lot of weight in the spirit realm. We have to make
sure that we are building up, walking in love and using wisdom before
The best way to get free and stay free from a critical spirit is to pray a radical Psalm 51:10 prayer, “Create in me a clean heart, O God,and renew a right spirit within me.”
Let the Holy Spirit shine His spotlight upon the crevices of your heart and reveal anything that does not look like the Father. One of my mentors told me that it is critical to do a daily heart check-up. A radical and honest Psalm 51 prayer exposes your heart to the healing and cleansing power of God. If you are honest and humble before the Lord, you will not remain influenced by a critical spirit.