“Discernment”

The Pastor’s Perspective

February 2004
“Discernment”
Pastor Mike Wing
Grace Community Bible Church

While in the Air Force, my unit was engaged in a training exercise in the brush country of east Texas. In the midst of this exercise, it became necessary for me to quickly find cover in some brush. Within moments I saw a beautiful red, black and yellow colored snake crawling close by. Though not an expert on snakes, I did remember from my training that there were at least two snakes who lived in the area, who had very similar markings. The Scarlet King Snake has a red snout followed by black and yellow bands. This particular snake poses no real threat to humans. The Coral Snake, however, had a black snout followed by yellow and red bands and was known for its potentially lethal venom. As I sat watching the snake, I found myself asking the following questions, “Is the Scarlet King red, black and yellow or black, red, and yellow or yellow black and red? Or is it the Coral snake that is black, yellow, and red or … you get the idea. Though there was some rhyme devised to help you remember which snake has what colors, I could not remember it. Since my understanding of the facts concerning the color scheme of this snake was uncertain, I was unable to discern between the non-threatening and the lethal. Fortunately, I could leave the area. My inability to discern the difference between the two snakes would pose no threat to my life this time.

“Discernment” can be defined as being able to separate and discriminate. It involves an intenseinvestigation of a particular subject resulting in a judgment between what is right and what is wrong. For the Christian, discernment is necessary so that we can make an accurate determination of what is God-honoring and what is not. Though I had the opportunity to leave a potentially harmful situation, Christians today do not have that luxury. We have been called by God to share the gospel to a lost and a dying world. We are His ambassadors (II Corinthians 5:20), and as such live as spiritual aliens in an increasingly hostile land (I Pet. 1:1).

The land in which we live and serve is being impacted by two competing “philosophies”:

1. Worldly “Philosophy”.

It is a mindset that is in rebellion against God and establishes that man is supreme. It is everywhere around us. Our educational system teaches our children that they are the products of evolution. The entertainment industry has flourished by appealing to man’s sinful nature. This godless, man-centered philosophy of the world has affected the way we conduct business and the goals we pursue. “For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the

world.” (I John 2:16) Though this philosophy poses a threat to the souls of men, it can be presented in a way that is intended to deceive people. Speaking of those who would propagate false teaching into the church, involving worldly philosophies, the apostle Paul warns, “For such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. No wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. Therefore it is not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness, whose end will be according to their deeds. ” (2 Corinthians 11:13-15)

The other “philosophy” that stands in opposition to the self-centered, rebellious nature of the world is;

2. Godly “Philosophy”.

This philosophy is grounded in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and is evidenced in a increasing submission to God and His Word. This godly philosophy is not reserved for our worship services on Sunday only, but will mold who we are, what we think, and what we do.

These two philosophies do not mix and are, in fact, at war with each other. “Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” (I John 2:15). “You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. (James 4:4)

The word “discernment” is used in Mt. 16:2,3. The religious leaders had approached Christ and sought to challenge His authority. “But He replied to them, ” When it is evening , you say , ‘ It will be fair weather , for the sky is red .’ “And in the morning ,‘ There will be a storm today , for the sky is red and threatening .’ Do you know how to discern the appearance of the sky , but cannot discern the signs of the times ? ” Our Lord’s point was that these men could closely observe the color of the sky and accurately determine the weather for that day, but when it came to the claims of Christ they had no discernment. Though Christ fulfilled the Old Testament prophecies concerning the Messiah and though He performed miracles that verified His claims these religious leaders could not judge correctly. They had knowledge without discernment. We know that this was because they were blinded to spiritual truths because of their lost condition. The unsaved (those who have never committed themselves to Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior) will never be able to exercise biblical discernment. “But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. ” (1 Corinthians 2:14)

This lack of discernment has dulled the senses of individual Christians as well who are increasingly embracing teaching that is in direct opposition to the truth of Scripture. “Professing” Christians make decisions based upon what they feel or think rather than what God’s word says. An illustration of this can be seen in the lack of discernment evidenced by the people to whom the prophet Jeremiah ministered. Jeremiah was rebuking the Jews who lived in the land of Egypt because they had become involved in idolatry (Jeremiah 44). Their response to his rebuke was startling. ““As for the message that you have spoken to us in the name of the Lord, we are not going to listen to you! ” (Jeremiah 44:16). Their reasoning was simple; when we worshipped God we sometimes suffered. While worshipping these idols “… we had plenty of food and were well off and saw no misfortune. ” (Jeremiah 44:17) These people did not use biblical discernment. They reasoned that since they were, in their minds, happy and had their needs met while worshipping idols, then such idolatry is acceptable. In fact, idolatry is even better for them than faithfully serving the one true God! No thought was given to biblical instruction concerning the place of suffering in the believer’s life, let alone the faithfulness of God to sustain His people. Ignoring the facts of Scripture and the history of God’s dealings with His people, these people chose to follow that which seemed best to them at the momentNo discernment. Is this any different from the many “professing” Christians through the ages who have been willing to follow the philosophies (Idols) of the world because they find instant gratification in it for themselves in doing so?

Gary E. Gilley, in his recent book has rightly observed: “Many believers who would never think of taking a drink or dressing immodestly are nevertheless quite worldly in philosophy. In other words, they think like unbelievers. They approach the issues of life like unbelievers. They solve their problems like unbelievers. They make decisions like unbelievers, and usually they have no concept that this is how they live.” (“This Little Church Went To Market”; Gary E. Gilley; Xulon Press; Pg. 98)

Can anyone seriously question the fact that the church today is suffering from a severe lack of discernment?Psychology, with its man-centered teaching has permeated almost every aspect of the church. Biblical truths that offend those who embrace the worldly philosophy are diminished with the result that we are witnessing a doctrinal tailspin that shows no end. Worship services are planned to mimic worldly entertainment. Parents allow their children to run their household and determine the spiritual direction, or lack of it, within the home. So many Christians are in turmoil because they try to blend both philosophies into their lives depending upon the situation and their desire at the moment.

Biblical discernment is needed when judging between which teaching is correct and which teaching is in error. But Biblical discernment goes far beyond a discussion of doctrine. Biblical discernment is living your life by ensuring that your thoughtsmotives, and actions are all brought into conformity with the Word of God. It is allowing God’s Word, rather than worldly philosophies, to mold every aspect of your life.

But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discerngood and evil.” (Heb. 5:14)

If you have any questions about your relationship with God, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Pastor Mike Wing
Grace Community Bible Church
(308) 534-3008

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