Written Word

How important Is discernment?

Recent polls conducted by Gallup and Barna in America do not present a healthy image of the lifestyle of many who follow Christ. Divorce among Christians is now the same as the rest of the population, promiscuity among teenage Christians is marginally better than that of their peers who make no profession of the Christian faith and the average financial contribution of church-going Christians is a paltry 2.6%. The type of movies Christians attend, the programmes they watch on television, the type of literature they read, the views they hold on a variety of moral issues are improper for God’s holy people. (see Ephesians 5:3) The emerging picture is that Christians are not very different from the world. So what is going wrong?

If a warning system had been in place, the tsunami on December 26, 2004 would have caused a fraction of the fatalities it did. People would have had time to escape to higher ground. Instead, this event rates among the worst natural disaster the world has witnessed. Every day there is a tsunami pouring devastation into the lives of Christians. In this case, there is a warning system in place, but it is being ignored.

The Cause of the Problem

The world’s agenda is contrary to the will of God. However, Christians don’t have to be “of the world”. Our sinful culture does not have to gain influence over us – if we exercise discernment. For example, it is because people do not exercise discernment that same sex “marriage” is finding approval today and seriously flawed arguments advanced to support the practice are left unchallenged. There are Christians who think it is not politically correct to voice an objection. Of course the churches who give their blessing to such “marriages” are not being helpful. The acceptance of this and other moral issues results from failing to take seriously what the Bible teaches. “Test everything,” the Bible says. “Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil.” (1 Thessalonians 5:21-22) Every kind of evil is to be avoided, which includes illicit sex, the love or abuse of money, injustice, war, racism etc. To avoid evil we have to be discerning and we do that by “testing everything”.

The word “test” is an interesting word; it was used to describe how to distinguish genuine coins from counterfeit coins. If one does not know the difference between what is genuine and what is counterfeit, one cannot conduct a test. However, we are to “test” everything by measuring it against what the Bible says, which is the perfect standard, and whatever fails the test must be rejected. The power of the word of God helps us to be discerning: “For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12)

Discernment was a high priority item on Paul’s prayer list. “And this is my prayer,” he tells the saints at Philippi, “[that you might have] depth of insight… that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ.” (Philippians 1:9-10) “Depth of insight” comes, not from a world that does not knows God and holds to flawed values, but from God who answers our prayer for insight and discernment. Spiritual insight enables us to discern what is best, to draw the line between good and evil. But becoming discerning is attained only by spending time in the word of God, by allowing it to inform our mind and shape our conscience. If we are to be discerning we must make an investment of our time in pursuing the things of God. The Bible says, “But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.” (Hebrews 5:14) Constant training will be rewarded with a discerning heart and mind, which is pleasing to God.