Christianity 201

March 11, 2019

Discernment: Hard to Define

NIV 2.Tim.3.12-14 In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evildoers and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it

NLT.Phil.1.9 I pray that your love will overflow more and more, and that you will keep on growing in knowledge and understanding.

CEB.Col.1.9 Because of this, since the day we heard about you, we haven’t stopped praying for you and asking for you to be filled with the knowledge of God’s will, with all wisdom and spiritual understanding.

TPT.1Cor.1210b And to another the gift to discern what the Spirit is speaking.

NCV.1John.4.1 My dear friends, many false prophets have gone out into the world. So do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see if they are from God.

CSB.1Pet.5.8 Be sober-minded, be alert. Your adversary the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion, looking for anyone he can devour.

13 months ago we ran a devotional containing short excerpts from four different websites on the subject of discernment. If you missed it, you can connect at this link. (Pay special attention to the third and fourth sections.)

I return to this topic frequently because I think that discernment is the gift needed in these times, and in particular this internet age.

Imagine for a moment someone you know is with you looking for insight on a particular Bible passage. They type, “Meaning of Philippians 4:6,” or if they know the language, “Philippians 4:6 commentary.” As they click the search results, you’re not looking at the main body of the screen, but instead you’re checking out the web address (URL) at the very top of the page.

The first link is to a site of a ministry you know and recommend. The second link is to a site that is very obviously connected to what is considered, to be polite, a marginal organization.

But then a third site pops up, “GodThings.com.” (Don’t bother, I made it up, it’s unassigned.) You don’t know who is behind the site. Clicking the ‘about’ page isn’t helping. So you read the commentary with your friend. It sounds great. Then you click another random page on the site, and suddenly something doesn’t feel right.

That’s an example of discernment kicking in. You can’t go by the information you already have, so you need to take a look at the content and discern whether or not this is a voice you want to be speaking to your friend.

Eight years ago we looked at this topic using an article by the late Dr. Greg Burts, at the blog Dying to Live, with the unusual title Are There Too Many Milk Drinkers? But then he goes on with something that suggested to me that perhaps many Christians lack discernment because they’re thinking in terms of the supernatural gift that’s mentioned in a list of other supernatural gifts that perhaps they see as outside their spiritual reach.

Throughout 2,000 years of church history, there have always been those who distorted the Scriptures. Paul provides a “who’s-who” list of false teachers to avoid in 2 Timothy. With increased television and Internet exposure for anyone who wants to promote his ‘take’ on Christian teaching, has there ever been a greater need for Christians to exercise discernment?

We need people with discernment who can detect false teaching (Heb. 5:14), and spot impostors who try to mislead them and others (2 Tim. 3:13-14). You may be saying, “but I don’t have the gift of discernment.” But Paul is not talking about the “gift of discerning spirits” found in 1 Corinthians 14. He is talking about discernment as a quality each of us is expected to grow in (Phil. 1:9).

And you can sense Paul’s frustration as he writes: “You have been Christians a long time now, and you ought to be teaching others. Instead, you need someone to teach you again the basic things a beginner must learn about the Scriptures. You are like babies who drink only milk and cannot eat solid food. And a person who is living on milk isn’t very far along in the Christian life and doesn’t know much about doing what is right. Solid food is for those who are mature, who have trained themselves to recognize the difference between right and wrong [discern] and then do what is right” (Hebrews 5:12-14 NLT).

 

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!…

November 11, 2016

Developing and Practicing Biblical Discernment

Today we’re paying a return visit to Revive Our Hearts, though with a different author, Terri Stovall. This is a women’s ministry blog but I obviously felt there were some principles here that could be beneficial to a broader audience. Please support the various sources we use here by reading the articles at source by clicking the titles like the one below.

Get Off the Roller Coaster: 4 Ways to Practice Biblical Discernment

discernment-articleI am fascinated with roller coasters and just love riding them. Did you know that when a roller coaster is being constructed, if the builders are off even a half inch at the bottom of the first lift hill (the upward-sloping section of the track), it can be off as much as three feet at the top of the lift hill, depending how tall it is? That’s a coaster I don’t think I want to ride!

This past year has felt a bit like being on a roller coaster. Many of us have been shocked by the events and news reports that seem to challenge the very core of our beliefs. We live in a time when women are talking about transgender issues, political elections, and Supreme Court decisions on the one hand while struggling to know what really is true, noble, just, and pure (Phil 4:8–9).

Perhaps the place in which we find ourselves today is like the proverbial roller coaster that was a quarter of an inch off at the bottom of the lift hill. The issues that a decade ago didn’t seem like a big deal to slide a half-inch have now set us on a course where we feel we are about to fly uncontrollably off the track.

…We may not be building roller coasters, but we are mentoring, discipling, and influencing the lives of others. And it’s important to recognize there are many things that can move us off course from the truth.

We have the responsibility to make sure we are not even a half-inch off.

Warnings of Twisted Truth

Scripture warned that there will come a time when some will try to twist truth and deceive, even to the point of calling evil “good” and good “evil” (Matt. 24:4–51 Tim. 4:12 John 7; Isa. 5:20–21). Additionally, we have been commanded to grow in our ability to discern in order to test all things and to approve those that are excellent so we can hold fast to what is good (1 Thess. 5:21–22Phil. 1:9–11; Eph. 5:8–11). But I fear we have loosened our grip, and we are about to fly out of the seat.

Biblical Discernment: Four Ways to Develop

Discernment is being able to decide, determine, distinguish, or discriminate what is truth and what is error. So what is truth? It’s whatever God decrees. How do we, as women, build up those discernment muscles in order to know truth and recognize what is error? Jude 20–23 gives four admonitions that help us develop biblical discernment, which will keep us on track.

  1. Build your faith (v. 20) by being secure in knowing what and in whom you believe. The only way to do that is to continually read, study, and be consumed by the Word of God. You must engage and immerse yourself in what is truth so that when you encounter error, it can’t help but be obvious. How much does the Word permeate your typical day? How secure are you in your knowledge of who God is?
  2. Pray in the Holy Spirit (v. 20). You can have true biblical discernment only in and through the Holy Spirit. Pray without ceasing, being in constant communication with heart and ears wide open. Are you staying in constant communication with the Spirit, or do you have an on-again/off-again connection?
  3. Keep yourselves in the love of God (v. 21). How are you to love God? By being obedient to all He has commanded and walking accordingly (2 John 6:1, John 15:9–10). Are you picking and choosing some things to obey and letting others slide, or are you daily striving to walk obediently?
  4. Look for the mercy of our Lord (v. 23). That is, keep your eyes fixated on Christ. Paul puts it this way in his letter to the church at Colossae: “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth” (Col. 3:2). When we take our eyes off those things above, we become distracted and frightened by all that is going on around us. What are your eyes fixated on today? What things easily divert your eyes away from Christ?

Biblical Discernment: Four Ways to Practice

As women’s ministry leaders, we have an added responsibility when it comes to the women we influence.

  1. Know what you believe, why you believe it, and be able to articulate it. If you can’t articulate it, you can’t counter lies with truth.
  2. Help the women you lead develop biblical discernment by teaching the whole counsel of God, not just the easy, feel-good parts we like.
  3. Recognize your responsibility to be on guard for the “savage wolves” that will come in attacking the flock ( Acts 20:28–29). You are the gatekeeper for what is let in and exposed to the women you lead. Keep your guard up, testing everything.
  4. Be willing to redeem and rescue. Jude 22–23 makes it clear that there is a time to be compassionate and redeem those who have strayed off course and there is a time to sound all alarms, rescuing someone before they are lost.

Yes, it does feel a bit like a roller coaster ride today, and you may wonder how in the world you are going to be able to navigate all that is to come. The answer? Look to Jesus, the One who can keep you from falling out of your seat.

Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen (Jude 24–25).

March 4, 2011

Discernment: Two Gifts in Scripture

It was the title of this post that caught my eye.  Dr. Greg Burts, at the blog Dying to Live, called this post Are There Too Many Milk Drinkers? But then he goes on with something that suggested to me that perhaps many Christians lack discernment because they’re thinking in terms of the supernatural gift that’s mentioned in a list of other supernatural gifts that perhaps they see as outside their spiritual reach.

Throughout 2,000 years of church history, there have always been those who distorted the Scriptures. Paul provides a “who’s-who” list of false teachers to avoid in 2 Timothy. With increased television and Internet exposure for anyone who wants to promote his ‘take’ on Christian teaching, has there ever been a greater need for Christians to exercise discernment?

We need people with discernment who can detect false teaching (Heb. 5:14), and spot impostors who try to mislead them and others (2 Tim. 3:13-14). You may be saying, “but I don’t have the gift of discernment.” But Paul is not talking about the “gift of discerning spirits” found in 1 Corinthians 14. He is talking about discernment as a quality each of us is expected to grow in (Phil. 1:9).

And you can sense Paul’s frustration as he writes: “You have been Christians a long time now, and you ought to be teaching others. Instead, you need someone to teach you again the basic things a beginner must learn about the Scriptures. You are like babies who drink only milk and cannot eat solid food. And a person who is living on milk isn’t very far along in the Christian life and doesn’t know much about doing what is right. Solid food is for those who are mature, who have trained themselves to recognize the difference between right and wrong [discern] and then do what is right” (Hebrews 5:12-14 NLT).

Dr. Greg Burts.