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Preached at Straightway Bible Church on April 13th, 2013.  Below you will find the study notes I handed out. We begin a look at WISDOM, in particular “Godly Wisdom”.

(Click here to see the entire series of “The Book of James – Practical Faith”)

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Here are the study notes:

James 3 – Wisdom, Part One

brent@brentriggs.com | www.seriousfaith.com

Christian discernment is the ability to recognize
and understand truth, and then know what to do
with it (a.k.a WISDOM)

James 3:13 (NKJV)  13 Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom.

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A lack of discernment:
Churches full of Christian who don’t recognize false teaching
Churches full of Christian who  are easily swayed by fads and sensationalism
Makes Christians lack confidence in their faith and beliefs
Promotes weak, carnal and worldly churches

1 Corinthians 3:1–4 (NKJV) And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal,

You can’t recognize and understand Truth (discern) if you don’t know it.  The study of discernment doesn’t mean much to you if you don’t understand the damage being done because of a lack of it…

Problems that a Lack of Discernment Causes (this is WHY discernment is important):

  • Seeking after and chasing of new and more exciting spiritual “experiences” coupled with a decreasing amount of diligent Bible study and fundamental holiness.  Eph 4: 14
  • 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. 2Pe 1:3 ;  2Tim 3:16
  • The dependence on feelings (emotion), sincerity (emotion), group consensus (emotion) and pragmatism (does it work?) instead of Scripture to determine what is right, good, profitable & acceptable in Christian life & experience.
    YOU CANNOT TRUST YOUR EMOTIONS/experiences; Jer 17:9
  • The acceptance of practices, standards and beliefs that are not Biblically based or supported. 1 Thess 5:21-22; Acts 17.11
  • An increased value of image over substance (personality worship, marketing, pragmatism, sensationalism).
  • 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).

Digger deeper into discernment:

  • Discrimination (discernment plus knowledge): the ability to distinguish or select what is true, appropriate or excellent.
  • Acumen (discernment plus observation): the ability to pick out, distinguish or see what is not apparent to the average mind.
    A lack of acumen causes us to follow the majority and get swept away by fads and the “herd” mentality.
  • Perception (discernment plus feeling): the ability to have sympathy or insight into others based on what you see and feel.
  • Insight (discernment plus sympathy): the ability to understand and to see from another point of view (“put yourself in my shoes”).
  • Penetration (discernment plus depth): the ability to search deeply into things to see the truth of the matter.
  • Comprehension (discernment plus grasp): the ability to know the truth and understand the implications and consequences.
    A lack of comprehension means that we may know the truth but not understand the results or how it affects real life.
  • Discretion (discernment plus sensitivity): the ability to know how to proceed with truth or how to handle it.
    A lack of discretion causes us to be insensitive about how to rightly handle and impart truth once we have hold of it.

Defining Discernment More Thoroughly:

  • The act or process of exhibiting keen insight and good judgment
  • The cognitive condition of someone who understands
  • Understanding of the nature, meaning, quality or magnitude of something
  • Delicate discrimination
  • Perception of that which is obscure
  • Knowledge gained by perceiving
  • The trait of utilizing knowledge and experience with common sense and insight
  • The trait of judging wisely and objectively

Developing Discernment

  • Philippians 1:9 And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, (NKJV; emphasis mine)

The Only Source of Discernment… Consider what the Bible claims about it’s content:

Psalm 19:7-9 The law of the Lord is perfectconverting the soul; The testimony of the Lord is suremaking wise the simple; The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; The commandment of the Lord is pureenlightening the eyes; The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether. (NKJV; emphasis mine)

All these meanings taken together could be read something like this:

  • The Bible is God’s instruction to us and is whole and complete; refreshing us and turning us back to Him.
  • The Bible contains the evidence of God, and is established and trustworthy; making us knowledgeable in the ways of God.
  • The Bible gives us God’s directions for living an upright and fitting life which will in turn make us happy.
  • God’s Word contains our marching orders and will open our eyes to real spiritual truth.
  • The Bible reveals the true awesomeness of God and is morally and ethically pure for all times and will never change.
  • The Bible reveals God’s decisions on matters pertaining to man. Those decisions are reliable, sure and just.

What is the result?

  • Verse 10 – God’s word is VALUABLE… more to be desired than gold, but not just gold, FINE gold…. God’s Word is worth more than the best of the best from this world.
  • And is sweeter than honey… God’s word is more valuable the any possession and more satisfying than any food.
  • Verse 11 – God’s Word teaches us and warns us… and keeping it brings great reward.

Discernment starts with Truth.
Truth must be transcendent of mankind
and absolutely unchanging in order to be trusted.

The Bible is that source of transcendent Truth.

Discernment begets discernment. 

James 1:5-6 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.

1 Thessalonians 5:21-22 Test all things; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil. (NKJV; emphasis mine)

  • Test all things.
    Bring all things to Scripture and prayer, ask God for wisdom.
  • Hold fast what is good.
    Discernment is not only differentiating between good and bad, but being able to stand strong once you make a determination.
  • Abstain from every form of evil.
    Discernment quickly diminishes and suffers when we allow ourselves to indulge in sin

Contemplation: Do you or can you have an absolute measure of what is acceptable to God? What’s your opinion about the growing trend that only “love” is important, and “doctrine” (truth) is divisive and legalistic?

Contemplation: Do you believe the Bible’s claims about itself? Are you convinced that the Bible is the only book that is truly a product of God, outside of man, and above all men? If not, where or what is your source of truth? What makes it reliable? On what basis do you place your faith and eternal destiny on it?

Contemplation: Have you ever considered this idea of discernment? How do you determine what is right, wrong or acceptable? Do you have an absolute measure of what is acceptable to God? What’s your opinion about the growing trend that only “love” is important, and “doctrine” (truth) is divisive and legalistic?

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).

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