Thursday, March 27, 2014

Types/ Kinds Of Biblical Discernment

Part 2 in the "What is Discernment" series.

What is discernment? Is it as simple as just telling the difference between what is “right” and what is “wrong”? If so, then what is “right” and what is “wrong”?

Ultimately, yes, discernment is telling the differences between what is right, be it lawful, good, meaningful, needed, desired or any other word you place on something that needs a decision to be made between two or more options. That leads to another question - “Does discernment have to be between something that is “good” and something that is “bad”? Could discernment between two or more “good” things? Which, at the surface level, would be answered with a yes.

This series of questions is why the Charles Spurgeon quote:
“Discernment is not a matter of simply telling the difference between right and wrong; rather, it is telling the difference between right and almost right.”
has rung in my mind for years. This quote puts into focus verses such as Matthew 7:15 and 2 Timothy 4:3-4 which we are told that their will be teachers, preachers, leaders that will so much appear to be men of God, but are actually tools of the enemy who have come to deceive, to kill and to damn.

So, this first post in this series on discernment I would like to define what Biblical discernment is and what the types of discernment are. In the upcoming lessons we will dive in and see why if we need to be discerning, should we be discerning and why we should be discerning. Although I do not want this series to be an all out assault on false teachers and things that are perceived as Biblical by many within evangelicalism, that will invariably happen as I use examples that are all around us. Daily.

The dictionary’s definition of discernment is:
dis·cern·ment noun \di-ˈsərn-mənt, -ˈzərn-\
: the ability to see and understand people, things, or situations clearly and intelligently

Would this be the same as the Bible’s definition and reasonings for being discerning? To a certain degree it would be as we are to discern each of the things listed in the secular definition of the word. Of course, scripture goes into more detail.

Let’s look at the different types of discernment listed in the Bible.

The first is what I will call “learned” discernment. This is not to say that discernment is something in and of itself that can be taught, but that learning brings discernment.
Hebrews 5:14 makes this point, that “those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil”. The writer of Hebrews is talking about those that have a stunted growth, who are not growing in knowledge, who are not discerning. Paul also touches on mental growth in Ephesians 4:14 equating lack of knowledge in the things of God as being tossed around, deceived by everything that we hear or that proclaims to be of God.

Paul links knowledge and discernment in Philippians 1:9-10 and that we may “approve the things that are excellent”, which would be the things of God, Kingdom things. Paul also gives the straight forward definition and goal of discernment in 1 Thessalonians 5:21 telling us to “test all things” for the reason of holding onto what is “good” which are the things of God. 

This type of discernment is gained knowledge of the Word of God, gained through the study of scripture, prayerfully seeking God’s guidance. Knowing what God says, within context, about all things. Knowing the heart of God in all facets of your being while here on this planet. This is where so many professing Christians fail right off the bat in their walk. They are ignorantly deceived into accepting all professions of being “Christian” as true, because they do not know what being a Christian truly is. Every wind of doctrine is blindly accepted as orthodox because there is no desire to prove something or someone in light of what God has said in His Word. 

Knowledge is lacking in the non-discerning. This does not mean that these people are not Christians, but their reaction to being confronted about their lack of discernment and willful acceptance to things blatantly anti-God will be very telling, which we will explore in the next section. Gaining knowledge in the things of God, through study, through discipleship, through prayer are all a must. We cannot be lazy and expect to grow in knowledge to be able to be discerning as God wants us to be. 

Sadly many people want to stay in this willful state of ignorant bliss. They grasp onto the ear tickling false teachers on TV or pick up the latest trending book at the local Lifeway. They usually grasp hold of teachers, books and things that make them feel good about themselves or give a false stamp of approval to something they enjoy, which more than likely is something that does not bring glory to God. This is the reason the prosperity “gospel” is so rampant these days, because it is all about “me”. Who do we love more than anyone else when we are self focused? Me. How can I make “me” richer? Healthier? Successful? More loved? God takes a backseat to “me” and the only time the Bible is mentioned is as a proof verse, out of context, to say “Hey, see that, God wants you to have money”. That is not saying that someone with money is not discerning, but the desire of the heart for personal prosperity really exposes the desires of the heart, which is in polar opposition to the desires of the heart that mentioned in Psalm 37:4. 

In summary of the first “type” of discernment - It is to “know” what God says in His Word and to properly test all things against His Word, to actively and purposefully judge what we do, consume, say, desire, read, sing, listen to, talk about. Basically how we live our life in light of God’s Word in pursuit of knowing Him more and becoming more Christlike each day.

The next “type” of discernment I see in scripture is a “spiritual discernment”. This is when the Spirit bears witness with a Christian and they just “know” that something is of God. This is NOT merely a “feeling” or emotion, but the Spirit of the living and True God “making real” to someone what is true of God. This is the exact thing that Paul exhorts us to in 1 Corinthians 2:14
“But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”

Jesus also addresses the Spiritual discernment aspect of a believer in Matthew 13:11-17. He equates knowing the mysteries of God as a gift given to us, when it has not been given to the worldly person, the non-Christian. This is why a believer can read the Bible and be moved, enthralled, encouraged and more as opposed to someone who does not have the Spirit of God reading and in that the Bible is seen as dull, boring, full of rules, full of hate, etc. Jesus calls this in this passage as “eyes to see and ears to hear”, which are gifts of God, given by the Spirit, not learned, not “knowledge” from study or academics, but purely as Spiritually imparted. 

John sums this up perfectly for us in 1 John 2:27

But the anointing which you have received from Him abides in you, and you do not need that anyone teach you; but as the same anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true, and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you will abide in Him.

There may be other “types” of discernment in scripture but they will stem from these 2 branches from the same vine. Ultimately discernment is simply “knowing” what God says and desires for us, His children, Christ’s body, to bring more glory to Him. There are also only 2 ways to have true godly discernment; given by God Himself, training and studying God’s Word (2 Timothy 2:15). Continual pointing and reliance on the Word of God as our “proof” for anything is the motivation and desire. The goal is to glorify God. 

In the next post we will look into the desire for discernment. Should we have that desire? What if we do not have a desire to be discerning? What does it mean if we are complacent, seemingly feeding on milk and never growing in knowledge of the things of God? 

Footnotes and citations:
Matthew 7:15
New King James Version 
15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves.

2 Timothy 4:3-4
New King James Version
3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; 4 and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.

Hebrews 5:14
New King James Version 
14 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.

Ephesians 4:14
New King James Version 
14 that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting,

Philippians 1:9-10
New King James Version 
9 And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, 10 that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ,

1 Thessalonians 5:21
New King James Version 
21 Test all things; hold fast what is good.

Psalm 37:4
New King James Version 
4 Delight yourself also in the Lord,
And He shall give you the desires of your heart.

1 Corinthians 2:14
New King James Version 
14 But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.

Matthew 13:11-17
New King James Version 
11 He answered and said to them, “Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. 12 For whoever has, to him more will be given, and he will have abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him. 13 Therefore I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. 14 And in them the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled, which says:
‘Hearing you will hear and shall not understand,
And seeing you will see and not perceive;
15 For the hearts of this people have grown dull.
Their ears are hard of hearing,
And their eyes they have closed,
Lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears,
Lest they should understand with their hearts and turn,
So that I should heal them.’
16 But blessed are your eyes for they see, and your ears for they hear; 17 for assuredly, I say to you that many prophets and righteous men desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.

1 John 2:27
New King James Version 
27 But the anointing which you have received from Him abides in you, and you do not need that anyone teach you; but as the same anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true, and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you will abide in Him.

No comments: