13 October 2014

A CALL TO DISCERNMENT


1 Kings 3:6-13

An elderly woman stood on a very busy street corner in rush hour traffic. She was fearful, confused, and therefore hesitant to cross by herself. Finally, a man came up to her and asked if he could cross the street with her. Grateful and very relieved, she took his arm and stepped into the busy intersection. As they proceeded, she grew progressively alarmed as he zigzagged randomly across the street, to the blare of horns and screech of locked brakes. Finally, after reaching their destination, she turned to the gentleman and complained, "You almost got us killed! You walk like you're blind." "I am," he replied. "That's why I asked if I could cross with you." That dear lady did not make the best choice. The man who she thought was a steady arm and sufficient guide, was actually desperate for guidance himself. He didn't have a clue! Remember what Jesus said when it came to following after one another Jesus. When the blind lead the blind, they both end up in the ditch! Matt 15:14. We sometimes don’t make wise choices or examine things clearly! We sometimes go in like a blind man accepting whatever happens. Or say that it’s ok. We are constantly blitzed by powerful influences such as the media, peer pressure, social trends, moral relativism, culture driven religion and cults, each of which can lead us astray! The one thing the church is desperately lacking is discernment! The Church needs to reclaim this truth. Discernment is the synonym for the word ‘discriminate’ which in a way has a negative connotation, but the word itself is not! It simply means “to make a clear distinction”. People used to call someone “a discriminating person” if he or she exercised keen judgment. The same goes for someone who displays discernment in their life. Discernment signifies a positive line between good and evil, true and false, right and wrong. In today’s society! A person who was discerning (discriminating) would be considered radical bigotry!

For example:
  • Homosexuality is immoral (1 Cor 6:9-10) (1 Tim 1:9-10)
  • Women are to submit to their husbands (Eph 5:22) (Col 3:18)
  • Children are to obey their parents (Eph 6:1)

In fact the Greek verb translated ‘discern’ in the New Testament means “to make a distinction” It is commonly translated into English as ‘insight’ or ‘understanding’. In essence it means to separate things from one another at their points of difference in order to distinguish them.......Jay Adams said this about discernment “the process by which one comes to know or understand God’s thoughts and ways through separating things that are differ.” Discernment is the process of making careful distinction in our thinking about truth. Discernment is a skill we need to live a life that is morally and ethically pleasing to God. John MacArthur said “Discernment is black and white thinking..... the conscious refusal to color every issue in shades of gray. No one can be truly discerning without developing skill in separating divine truth from error” How do we do that? First of all Paul penned these words to the church in Thessalonica. “but test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil.” 1 Thess 5:21-22
Why are we to have discernment? And why is this so important to the church? As Paul continues in (v23) “Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” I like what Tim Challies said “we need to be discerning first in what we believe and then in what we do. Spiritual Discernment doesn’t come from within. Paul said “the natural man can’t discern the things of God” Remember what Paul said to the church about the unconverted man and woman? “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one.” 1 Cor 2:14-15. 

There is something we need to understand as Solomon made this request! See Solomon had very big shoes to fill. His father was a righteous and honorable King, despite his many downfalls and failures as a man. But none the less! David according to the word of God “was a man after God’s own heart” 1 Sam 13:14. So here is this young boy in charge of governing and ruling his people. This by the way is around 4 million. Here is a man, born into leadership and has unlimited power at his finger tips and he asks the Lord something that each and every one of us should ask on a daily basis. Look what Solomon asks for! “Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, that I may discern between good and evil, for who is able to govern this your great people?" (v9) He was seeking discernment so that He could govern his people properly. To be able to determine right from wrong….justice to injustice. Innocent to proven guilty, to know the truth from error. He did this not for himself, but for the good of his people in whom God entrusted to him.

The same principle could be said of our lives. 
  • A discerning heart when it comes to my relationships with opposite sex.
  • A discerning heart when it comes to being more involved when finding a church.
  • A discerning heart when how to deal with conflict with friends and loved ones.
  • A discerning heart when I’ve wronged someone.
  • A discerning heart so that I can determine what truth from error is. 

This has become a problem in the church today! From so-called Christian movies to books and false teachers who stand behind pulpits with their pretty faces trying to convince you of untruths. Charles Spurgeon said of his generation in the 1800’s “it’s a remarkable fact that all the heresies which have arisen in the Christian Church have had a decided tendency to dishonor God and to flatter man.” The Christian life is a life that tests all things….proclaim what is genuine and true. The Christian life is not being swayed or gullible to everything someone has to say. Paul wrote in Romans 12:9 “abhor what is evil”. See “abhor” means to hate; to turn from, to avoid. The word “evil” has reference to wickedness, or unkind. How can we avoid or turn away from evil? How can a young man govern his people according to God? By requesting for a discerning heart, not a critical heart condemn or to judge everything ignorantly. A discerning heart because your passion is for truth and for truth to be known for the glory of God.

SPIRITUAL DISCERNMENT IS A GIFT FROM GOD

God grants Solomon this request in (v11) This is something only God can give through the transforming work of the gospel. As Jesus said “….I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children;” Matt 11:25. We need to be discerning with everything we do, because He has granted us this gift to understand through the work of the Spirit! Whether that is our relationships, friendships, business partners and so on. This gift must be guarded as a priceless treasure instead of treating it as a Walmart special. Question is…… do you have discernment? Have you felt a special responsibility to protect the truth of God's Word by exposing that which is wrong? Do you often make a swift assessment of someone or something that was said, that others did not see but yet proved to be correct? Are you keenly aware of moral sin and doctrinal heresy? Can you read a book or hear a teacher and almost immediately uncover any false teaching?
This gift is to be used to keep us sharp and aware as we make decisions in this life.
  • For our family
  • Our marriages
  • Our children
  • Who we hang out with
  • Who we will marry
  • What we watch read and listen to and so on

This gift is to help, guide our lives to make right choices in a perverse world that wants us to be quit, be a clone and do as I say and stand in line with the world system.

SPIRITUAL DISCERNMENT IS A SIGN OF MATURITY AND GROWTH.

Heb 5:13-14 says “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.” Solid food relates to those who are growing and maturing in Christ. The understanding of God’s word and digging deep into His word can only be understood and appreciated by those who are advanced in Christian experience. To discern both good and evil - That is, in doctrine. They will appreciate and understand what is true; they will reject what is false. That’s what happens when we grow deep each and every day, year under His grace. Every Christian over time should be a great theologian and a beautiful example of the gospel to their families, communities and so on. God in Christ has granted understanding! Something the common man knows nothing of. He has given us a discerning heart to see the difference between truth and error. Those things that is wrong and right in this life. As this verse says in Hebrews 5:14 "constant practice to distinguish good from evil". As a child who is no longer an infant is and will be able to distinguish between sound and unsound doctrine. A child can put into its mouth things that are hurtful and things nutritious all at the same time, without discernment………..but not so for the maturing adult. For what purpose?  So that you will NOT “….be carried about with various and strange doctrines.” Heb 13:9

SPIRITUAL DISCERNMENT REQUIRES A TEACHABLE AND EAGER SPIRIT.

As Luke penned these words “Then the brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea. When they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. 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.” Acts 17:10-11. Are you teachable? Are you excited to learn what the bible says and are you ready to conform to the bible says for your life, instead of the bible conforming to you ideologies? That only comes though discernment and testing everything to scripture.As Joseph Stowell said “Discernment in Scripture is the skill that enables us to discern. It is the ability to see issues clearly. We desperately need to cultivate this spiritual skill that will enable us to know right from wrong. We must be prepared to distinguish light from darkness, truth from error, best from better, righteousness from unrighteousness, purity from defilement, and principles from pragmatics". John MacArthur said “That is what the God-fearing and “noble-minded” Jews of Berea did when they first heard the gospel from Paul. They tested Paul’s word against what they knew of God’s Word, and because the two words matched they believed that what he preached was from God and not from demons. That is what every believer should do with every message that claims to be from God. No preacher or teacher of the gospel should resent having what he says judged against Scripture.” We need to test and hold to what is truth! According His word not ours but that only comes when we have a teachable spirit. The longer someone spends in the Word, the more they desire to be taught. Sadly though! Many people in our churches have become stale and are not reading or meditating on the blessed truth of our Savior, but have turned from truth and are following after men of this world for wisdom and understanding. “tickling ears” They are never growing spiritually and continue to be "babes in Christ." To some degree because they become unteachable and unwilling to listen to truth.

Discernment overlaps the Christian life at every point. And God's Word provides us with the needed discernment about every issue of life. According to Peter, God "has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence" 2 Peter 1:3. We are to continue, persevere, and hunger for the Word. We must have a desire for the spiritual food which can only come through reading and meditating on the Word. As the Psalmist says, “as the deer pants for water, my soul desires after you and your precious Word.” Jesus said "but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life." John 4:14. If a person has no desire to grow, then there is only one thing that will happen. The flesh will take up residence and will control your behavior and actions because the flesh only knows how to sin! And your discerning radar will be turned off! My challenge for you this week is this! Are you seeking Him today with a request for discernment? Do you desire to discern between false and truth statements? If you are incapable of discerning truth from error. You must seek the Lord today? Do you desire that understanding heart like Solomon? Are you aware of wolves in sheep clothing? Are you resting in the wisdom of God? As the apostle Paul said “and it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment.” Phil 1:9. This was Paul’s prayer for the church and it should be our prayer for one another here as well.

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