Christianity 201

February 17, 2018

Discernment: Helpful for All, Necessary for Leaders

Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. I John 4:1

Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. Acts 17:11

Today we offer highlights from a variety of articles which are not included in full. Starting with Floyd McClung of Youth With A Mission (YWAM):

Leading With Discernment

Effective leaders must be discerning. It’s important to look below the surface of people’s words and actions to see the deeper motives and character issues.

Exercising discernment is not about being critical or judgmental, but about looking beyond appearances. Leaders must be discerning if they are to know the strengths and weaknesses of those they lead or work closely with. Jesus was discerning. John 6:61-64 says,

“When Jesus knew in Himself that His disciples complained about this, He said to them, ‘Does this offend you? There are some of you who do not believe.’”

There is a great difference between being a cynic and being discerning. Leaders who have been hurt, experienced betrayal, or have been wounded by criticism and rejection, sometimes become wary of people. They perform their ministry duties—perhaps with great flair—but at the core, they carry an offended spirit. Such leaders sow seeds of mistrust and suspicion in their followers.

A discerning leader reads people’s hearts without withdrawing from them. Discernment and judgment come from the same root word in the Greek language, but are very different in practice. “To judge” comes from the Greek word krino, meaning to judge and separate (and in some cases, to condemn). “To discern” comes from diakrino, which means to distinguish, to hesitate, to investigate thoroughly. The prefix dia means into or through.
 To judge, then, is to pass sentence on a person, to label them, and potentially write them off. On the other hand, to discern means to see through a façade (beyond face value), to look deeper into something, to see what others may not readily see.

Discernment is a vital leadership quality because it creates depth in a leader. Discerning leaders foresee trouble before it arises and prepare for it. They see the difference between talent and character, between right actions and wrong motives. They spot frauds, false prophets/teachers, and those with secret sins before others do. Discerning leaders are not easily deceived. They appreciate good endeavors by others, but notice when actions are not aligned with genuine values. Paul warned the Galatians about the need for discernment:

“But there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the Gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other Gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed…” – Gal. 1:7–9

My father was a Pentecostal pastor. Sadly, he came across many frauds and charlatans in his day. Because Pentecostals place a high value on personal experience, they tend to be more vulnerable to those who can imitate genuine spiritual experience but lack godly character.

Though my dad was a man of passionate spirituality, he was not fooled by superficial emotion. He was ardent for the things of the Spirit, but learned not to confuse spiritual passion with emotional hype. He placed great value on the fruit of the Spirit, which can be imitated for a time by the immature, but cannot be sustained under pressure.

To those who are discerning, people who wear a phony piety come across tinny, shallow, and are easy to spot. It can seem easier and less costly to wear spirituality like a coat, but true spirituality comes from deep within. It is developed through obedience to God’s Word, and through sacrifice and surrender to the work of the cross in one’s life.

The writer of Hebrews says mature Christians have so absorbed the Word of God that they can discern what is of God and what is not, and see the difference between what is great and what is good. They develop a sensitivity to what is true and what is false, to what may be good but is not the best in a situation. Here’s how Hebrews 5:13–14 describes this level of discernment:

“For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the Word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.”  …

From the website Precept Austin:

Today in the Word

… Paul doesn’t waste any time in his letter to the Galatians before addressing the dire problem he sees in their churches. False teachers have been given standing in the churches, and the Galatians have been deceived. The error of the Galatians actually threatens their standing in Christ. Paul accused the Galatians of having abandoned God the Father and the gospel of Jesus Christ. They have deserted the One who called them and embraced another gospel.

What Paul wants to emphasize is that the message that the Galatians have now believed is really no gospel at all. The Galatians, of course, didn’t see it that way. Most likely, the false teachers hadn’t asked the Galatians to renounce their faith in Christ. No, their message was probably much more subtle. They’ve criticized Paul’s ministry, trying to discredit him and expose what they see as the error of his preaching and teaching. They’ve elevated their teaching as the “true” gospel. To Paul’s horror, they’ve preached the necessity of circumcision to Gentile believers (cf. 5:2).

Paul answers back emphatically: May all of God’s curses fall on them, or on anyone in fact who preaches anything other than the gospel of Jesus Christ! Paul was not going to cede any ground to these false teachers. He would not compromise the gospel, nor would he give up on the Galatians so easily.

What we start to see in this letter is Paul as a man who’s fiercely committed to the Galatians and who wants to secure their total commitment to Christ…

I believe that every believer should have a measure of discernment. The problem is we often speak of “the gift of discernment” and immediately some people concludes that this isn’t for them; they feel that they are as likely to have this gift as they are to speak in tongues or perform healing miracles (which they regard as unlikely.) That’s unfortunate.

This is from a longer article on the gifts by Susan Ream at LetterPile.com:

Gifted with Discernment?

How do you know if you have the gift of discernment? Here’s a hint. Those who possess the spiritual gift of discernment can see right through smokescreens and obstacles as they uncover the truth.

The source of the gift of discernment is God. Discernment springs from the truth taught in His word. The insights that come from discernment stem from solid knowledge, understanding, and a firm belief in God’s word.

Let me share some manifestations of the gift of Discernment. If you have this gift the following expressions will ring true to you:

  • Are you passionate about truth?
  • When you are placed in a situation where discernment is needed, do you experience an uncanny sense of knowing?
  • Does scripture flood your mind as you weigh the happenings?
  • Do you read between the lines?
  • Are you gifted with the ability to uncover wrong or evil?
  • Do you expose lies and bring them into the light of sound reason and truth?

If this depiction of discernment describes you, thank God for entrusting you with this extraordinary gift. There are many ways to use this ability. If you possess the gift of discernment, you will have the aptitude to minister as:

  • a counselor – adept at exposing the missing piece that stands in the way of healing
  • arbitrator – brings resolution and peace, between parties, by shedding a light on the truth, in the midst of a dispute
  • decision maker – see’s the answer and quickly moves from a decision to an action
  • the person in leadership – knows how to lead and discerns pitfalls and strengths in team members

Every Church is blessed with members who possess the gift of discernment. God uses those gifted to discern truth from lies; pure motives from evil intentions; and to help to settle disputes by communicating a clear picture of what the truth looks like.

I know we’re running long today, but I also wanted to include some excerpts from an article by author Laura J. Davis:

What is the Spiritual Gift of Discernment?

Everyone has a certain level of discernment. Some might call it intuition, or their “Spidey sense”, whatever you want to call it, we all have it. But, the spiritual gift of discernment is somewhat different…

The Greek word diakrisis is translated as “distinguishing, discerning or judging” and so this gift is used in various ways. In the verse above Paul points out one of its uses – that of discerning spirits, in other words, those with this gift are able to distinguish between good and evil. Now, you would think that is something most people are able to do. After all, don’t the Ten Commandments teach us the difference between right and wrong? Ah! But discernment isn’t about knowing right from wrong, it is about distinguishing between good and evil and yes there is a difference. For example, those with the gift of discernment have the uncanny ability to meet a person for the first time and perceive if that person is hiding something, has good or evil intentions, is trying to manipulate them, or is lying…

…An excellent example of how this gift was used, happens in Acts 5:1-11, where the Apostle Peter was able to discern that Ananias was lying to him when he and his wife Sapphira told Peter that they had sold land and were donating all the proceeds of the land to the church. But Peter knew they were both lying. How did he know? He had been given the gift of discernment and was able to clearly see through to their true nature and knew immediately that their motives were evil.

Most believers have a certain amount of discernment which increases as they mature in their faith (Hebrews 5:13-14)…

However, as I stated above, there are certain believers, who have “the uncanny ability to meet a person for the first time and perceive if that person is hiding something, has good or evil intentions, is trying to manipulate them, or is lying.” They also have the spiritual gift of being able to distinguish between the truth of the Word and deceptive doctrines. We are all exhorted to be spiritually discerning (Acts 17:11; 1 John 4:1), but some in the body of Christ have a unique ability to listen to a message on Sunday and know without a doubt that something was “off”…

If you know someone who has the gift of discernment, pay careful attention to their perceptions as they are usually right. Those with this gift are invaluable people to have on church boards, as Bible Study leaders, or in establishing new ministries. If you are looking for a minister of any kind in your church, you definitely want someone with the gift of discernment on the search committee!…

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