Philippians 1:9 And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, (NKJV; emphasis mine)
(Previous devotionals can be found at www.seriousfaith.com)
I would consider a lack of discernment to be easily one of the top three problems in Christianity today. That’s an ambitious statement given the Laodicean parallels (Rev 3.14-22) of the modern church. The irony is, without discernment, you cannot even recognize 1) the general state of Christianity today; and 2) the degree to which discernment is missing, and needed.
The irony is, that without discernment, you can’t recognize a
lack of discernment, or understand the need for it.
That’s a real Catch-22. It’s like the person who is doing something to ruin their health or business, but doesn’t have the ability to understand, recognize or see what it is they are doing that is causing the problem. So when the problem is pointed out to them, they have several options to consider:
- They can see results of the problem (“something is obviously wrong”), and decide to listen (gain discernment).
- They can see there is a problem, but ignore it.
- They can see there is a problem, but pursue the wrong solution.
- They can’t or won’t see the problem in the first place (lack of discernment).
So when we talk about lack of discernment in the average Christian today, some of the typical responses are:
- “Huh?” (lack of discernment keeps one from seeing the lack of discernment)
- “You’re wrong.” (lack of discernment causes one to believe things are okay, and not even the consideration is possible)
- “Don’t touch God’s annointed” or “don’t go against what God is doing”. (anything truly of God never has to fear, and indeed welcomes, the chance to defend itself Biblically; it is easy, and lazy to avoid explaining, defending or supporting something by declaring unilaterally that it is “of God, and you better not question it”.)
- “You’re being divisive or legalistic.” (lack of discernment stemming from Biblical ignorance and immaturity causes people to fall back on defensive responses: stereotyping, labeling, name calling, ‘tired cliches’, and the constant repeating of what they hear others say, especially the ‘leaders’ of such ideas; ie, “your’e just a heresy hunter”; “quit judging others”; “we just love people, not condemn them”; “you’re always looking for what is wrong instead of participating in what is happening”, etc.)
- “You’re part of the religious establishment that Jesus rebuked; you’re missing the new and fresh move of the Holy Spirit.” (lack of discernment again retreats to the easy position of ignoring diligent Biblical examination of all things that claim to be ‘of God’ and labeling anyone who does have discernment as spiritually dead)
Lack of discernment is a very insidious and deceptive state of existence because it allows people to sincerely believe they are RIGHT, when in fact they are wrong, and sometimes dangerously wrong.
Lack of discernment is not necessarily a lack of sincerity or conviction.
That is why most people don’t even see this as an issue to consider. Sincerity, especially in our post-Christian/humanist-pop-pyschology society, is seen as the King Daddy of validation running a close race with feelings and self-esteem. If you really, really, really believe something is true and right, then it just MUST be. This is the direct result of “relative truth” (no absolute source of truth that is above all humankind; we decide what is true based on societal consensus). This is like the inmates of a prison deciding on the rules rather than all prisoners being subject to an authority that is outside and above them. It’s like school children deciding for themselves the rules of conduct in class, rather than all the kids being submissive to the set of rules set forth by mature adults.
As well, it would be like a society making up its laws based on majority opinion and feeling rather than on a set of principles that are right and good, and transcend the individual selfish desire to have laws that either 1) benefit them personally despite hurting society as a whole; or 2) allow them to do something evil because it is easier or more convenient than doing what is right. UH-OH… wait a minute… that is exactly what is happening in most countries today isn’t it? Need some examples?
- We murder babies out of selfish convenience by the millions and call it a “right to choose”
- We encourage and cultivate entire segments of society who don’t work or take responsibility for themselves at the expense of those who do
- We decide what is right and wrong based on majority opinion rather than appealing to an unchanging source of objective truth
When we look to ourselves for “truth” we can be sincere, and we can be sincerely wrong (and very often are). This is devastating to a society, and even more devastating for the Christian. Discernment is a particularly difficult issue to address, explain and get people to honestly consider, because lack of discernment causes us to consider that we might be wrong about many things. That impinges on human pride which is the most stubborn and entrenched of all human flaws.
I want to finish up today by giving you some symptoms that are the result of this lack of discernment, and over the next two days we will look at 1) What is discernment? and 2) How do you develop discernment? All of that is too much to cover in one day, so I hope today’s thoughts will cause you to consider this notion of “spiritual discernment” and want to learn more about it, and become a discerning Christian yourself.
Problems and situations caused by a lack of discernment throughout the Church today:
- Seeking after and chasing of new and more exciting spiritual “experiences” coupled with a decreasing amount of diligent Bible study and fundamental holiness.
Ephesians 4:14 that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, (NKJV; emphasis mine)
- The reliance upon and elevation of extra-Biblical sources of “truth” (self-help and pop psychology) and the declining view of the sufficiency of Scriptures as our absolute source and measurement of truth and standards.
2 Peter 1:3 as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, (NKJV; emphasis mine)
2 Timothy 3:16-17 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. (NKJV; emphasis mine)
- The dependence on feelings, sincerity, group consensus and pragmatism to determine what is right, good, profitable and acceptable in Christian life and experience.
Jeremiah 17:9 “The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it? (NKJV; emphasis mine)
- The acceptance of practices, standards and beliefs that are not Biblically based or supported.
1 Thessalonians 5:21-22 Test all things; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil. (NKJV; emphasis mine)
Acts 17:11 These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so. (NKJV; emphasis mine)
- An increased value of image over substance. The disciplines of study, prayer and due diligence to Scripture are replaced with what is popular, what works (pragmatism), and what feels good (dependence on the “senses” rather than the mind). This is a serious, wide-spread, and rapidly growing trend in the church that Christianity is “all in the heart” and “not intellectual”. The idea is promoted that true Christians are led by the Holy Spirit with “led” being defined as “how you feel God is directing you” rather than it being defined as “God’s direction based on a mind that has been renewed and saturated with God’s Word, judging every feeling and impression first and foremost by the unchanging Word of God”.
2 Timothy 3:5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away! (NKJV; emphasis mine)
2 Timothy 4:3-4 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. (NKJV; emphasis mine)
I hope you’ll join me over the next two days as we take a look at what discerment is, and how you develop it in your life.
Lord God, help us to understand what discernment is, the need for it, and how to teach others about it. We ask that You will give us discernment even today as we go about in a world full of confusion, conflicting ideas and endless sources claiming to be the “truth”. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Application: Discernment is a primary Christian “skill” which is becoming increasingly critical as religious deception and choices expand dramatically. It is something that we should be developing in our own lives, and actively passing on (discipleship).
James 1:22 – But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. (NKJV)
- What is the most obvious Bible truth you have learned today?
- What change in your life needs to be made concerning this truth?
- What specific thing will you do today to begin that change?